And how the Election of Pope Francis on January 30, 2023 met all the conditions
by Br. Alexis Bugnolo
Saint Peter left to the Church of Rome the right to elect his successors in perpetuity, so that the Church founded by Christ might always have a supreme pastor who by the gift of grace He obtained by His High Priestly prayer, She might be led by one whose faith would never fail and whose conversion would be guaranteed.
This truth, which I just reiterated, is gathered from both Apostolic Tradition, Sacred Scripture and the infallible perennial Magisterium of the Church. But the rules which govern the validity of such an election are extracted from an attentive examination of papal elections throughout history, to see which elections were and are regarded by Holy Mother Church as valid, and which are not.
Anyone can do this. Just read a history of the Papacy. I have read several histories of the papacy, not to mention every biography of every pope in the Catholic Encyclopedia. I am not a grifter who lets my mouth run to pontificate. I base what I say on laws, teaching and facts.
So here goes with a cursory presentation of the observations which can be made regarding Papal Elections by Apostolic Right.
Which elections are by Apostolic Right?
If you ask regarding the principle of the right, that is the authority granted which makes the election have the possibility of being valid, then all papal elections are by apostolic right, because whether they be conducted with or without written rules, or according to Canons laid down by popes, or special papal laws, ordinances, bulls or apostolic constitutions etc., the authority which grants their capacity to validly elect a Roman Pontiff comes from Saint Peter.
Which elections are by Divine and Evangelical Right?
Since Our Lord per-emptorially confirmed in heaven all the decisions of Saint Peter and His Successors, when He declares, “Whatsoever you bind on earth, shall be bound in Heaven…”, it follows that all elections by apostolic right are also by Divine Right and by Evangelical Right.
This means that if one refuses a valid election of the Roman Pontiff, one cannot be saved in this world or the next. It is a most grave matter. It is a sin which God will damn with the entire force of all the fires of Hell, for calling His Eternal Son a liar, by implication.
So it follows that we, as Saint Bonaventure says in regard to the utterances which regard the things of God, “circumcise our lips”, so that we say nothing which contravenes the Divine Law.
When can the Roman Church have recourse to an election by apostolic right?
When there are no papal laws or canons which specify someone else as having this right under exclusive conditions. In the present code, Canon 349 says the Church looks to the Cardinals to elect the Roman Pontiff according to the norms of the special law. The special law is Universi Dominici Gregis, which says that the Cardinal Electors must enter into conclave no later than the 21st day. Failing do to that, they canonically cannot do anything which will have an effect, as per canon 38 which governs the application of canon 349. And thus only after the death of a true pope, when failing to elect his successor, can such an election, under the present legal arrangements, be called for.
When is the only time a valid Papal election by apostolic right can be undertaken?
After the death or valid renunciation of a valid Roman Pontiff. As can be seen through the examination of the historical record, immediately after the death of a true Pope, within days or weeks the election was held. BUT, this can only be done IF NO OTHER ELECTION HAS YET TAKEN PLACE.
There are cases in which certain factions enthroned someone as Pope without proceeding first to an election. And then an assembly was held and elected the true Pope, who was someone else. See the case of Pope Alexander II and the antipope Honorius II in 1061 A. D..
Can an election by apostolic right be delayed?
Yes, for grave reasons, such as the election of Pope St. Cornelius in 251 A. D., whose election was delayed 14 months, because the Roman Emperor was eagerly searching for Catholics to put them to death and no gathering of any kind could be risked.
Who are the valid electors in such an election?
The Faithful of the Roman Church, without specification, as the right belongs to the Church and to no one group or class or individual in the Church. We can see this from the fact, that in 236 A. D., when a dove landed on the head of St. Fabian, as he returned from working in the countryside, and encountered the Faithful gathered in such an assembly, that the popular acclamation by the laity let to his election.
This is confirmed from a different point of view, by St. Cyprian, who regarded the election of St. Cornelius as valid, because:
… Cornelius was made bishop by the choice of God and of His Christ, by the favorable witness of almost all of the clergy, by the votes of the laity then present, and by the assembly of bishops.
So you see, not everyone need be present, and unanimity was not a requirement. The Church in St. Cornelius day was torn by a schism, wherein the followers of Novatian, who included clergy, religious and laity, held another assembly an elected him. Novatian was the runner-up in the election of St. Cornelius, and his faction took a large part of the Church of Rome into schism, after they consecrated him Bishop and set him up as antipope.
Here, the precise condition for a valid election is seen from special cases not general rules. When the Church is free, a valid election contains all the Faithful of the Roman Church who come to the Assembly.
Can the electors come from different dioceses or Churches?
Not from different Churches, but since all the suburbican dioceses of Rome are by ancient right considered part of the Roman Church, the faithful in those regions can also participate. This is demonstrated by history, in which the Cardinal Bishop of Ostia since the 4th century A. D., has always participated in the election of the Roman Pontiff, when he was able to do so, and was not part of an antipapal faction. To doubt this traditional inclusion of the 7 suburbican dioceses, is to doubt the validity of all papal elections in the last 1600 years.
Do the electors have to be verified as having residence in the Roman Church to be qualified as valid electors?
There is nothing in the historical record which shows that any election was ever disputed on the grounds that one or more persons voted, who were not from the Roman Church. While this does not mean the elections included outsiders, it means that in past ages in which there was no such thing as a residency permit or photographic identification, persons were identified by their dress and manner of speech.
Obviously in modern times, this does not excuse such an assembly from meticulously avoiding the intrusion of outsiders, since we have such a capacity today, and canon law requires such for ecclesiastical elections (cf. canons 166 ff), it is a sound practice to remove doubt as to the validity of any election.
Do all the electors have to be notified and do all have to come?
In the historical record there never has been any election whose validity was challenged because all the potential electors were not notified or did not come. In fact, from the testimony of St. Cyprian, cited above, we can see that it is sufficient that some come.
That the true pope has renounced or died is a public fact, however, which guarantees that every Catholic know at least the election is imminent. And so responsible electors have the duty to keep informed.
How many electors is too few?
There is nothing in the historical record on this matter, since no election was ever held to be invalid because of too few electors present. Anyone who advances such a theory is proposing a complete juridical novelty out of thin air. But obviously there has to be at least one.
Since the right to elect the Roman Pontiff is for the spiritual benefice of the Faithful of the Roman Church, and the Church exists whenever two or three are gathered, and since this right is more needed when there are no clergy, than when there are many clergy, it follows that it is a sound practice to consider the election valid even if as few as 2 or three laymen come to the assembly.
But where as one can construe an argument to defend the validity, which is reasonable, no one can build an argument to deny validity on the basis of numbers, because there is no evidence in the historical record, nor papal or canon law on this matter. Even in a Papal Conclave according to the present Papal Law THERE IS NO MINIMUM NUMBER OF CARDINAL ELECTORS WHO HAS TO VOTE. The vote of even one Cardinal, in the eventuality that no other cardinals come to the election, is sufficient for a valid election (cf. Universi Dominici Gregis, n. 62).
This is a point which must be taken into consideration, as a sort of precedence or intimation of the correct juridical position on this question.
What percentage of the electorate has to vote for a candidate for his election to be considered valid?
From the historical record there is little evidence regarding how many votes runner-up candidates received. Most frequently we see that the elections are reported as having no internal dissent. And so one assumed the election was unanimous. In disputed elections, the constant theme in the historical record is that the true pope was elected by the greater part. And certain points in the history of papal Elections, the popes required 2/3 majority, to guarantee a united Church after the election. And from this we can infer, that previously, a simply majority of 50% +1 vote was sufficient.
No unanimous elections were ever regarded as invalid.
Who can or cannot be elected?
Any adult male baptised Catholic who is not married, can be elected.
Can an antipope be elected?
Yes, it happened in 964, when the antipope Leo VIII was acclaimed by the Roman Faithful.
Can a heretic be elected?
The correct question is, “Can a person whom I think is a heretic be elected? And this question has to be specified further, as to whether you are the pope, whether the person is a heretic only in your private judgement, or whether the person has been publicly condemned as a heretic by an authority competent to judge him.
I will assume you are not the pope. And I will reply to the other two cases.
Then if the person has not yet been condemned by any Church authority, with this right to issue a binding condemnation, for heresy, then the person is a valid candidate. Cardinals are immune from all condemnations, except from the Roman Pontiff himself (CIC 1983, canon 1405 §1 n. 2). Pope Benedict XVI never excluded any Cardinal on this basis.
If this irks you, then you are confusing, your own power of discernment, with the authority which alone can deprive someone of his canonical rights. See here for more on this.
The Papal Election on Monday, January 30, 2023, met all these conditions
I testify to the entire world, that the election held to elect Pope Francis by apostolic right, on Monday January 30, 2023, met each and every condition for validity:
- It was held 30 days after the death of the Roman Pontiff, Pope Benedict XVI, who never renounced the munus petrinum. The Death of the Roman Pontiff being a public fact known by all the Catholics of the Roman Church.
- The College of Cardinals entirely failed to observe every aspect of the Papal Law for Elections, Universi Dominici Gregis, in total violation of Canon 349, and thus they cannot ever elect his successor as per canon 38. Therefore, there was the extraordinary juridical necessity of having recourse to an election by apostolic right.
- The Assembly to do this was publicly announced, to the potential electors, 7 days before and each day thereafter.
- No one was admitted to the assembly who was not a member of the Roman Church. — To be admitted each elector had to prove ecclesiastical residency by an official document of the Italian Republic or the Vatican, and membership in the Catholic Church by a document issued by a parish anywhere in the world, regarding Baptism, Confirmation, or Marriage.
- The number of electors met the rule of Jesus Christ, for the minimum sufficient.
- The election was unanimous in its choice: Jorge Mario Bergoglio, a Cardinal of the Roman Church never sanctioned by any previous true Pope.
Moreover, unlike other elections, this election was held without the coercion of military forces, as the Assemblies of the past had to suffer, for example in 964 A. D., after the renunciation of Pope Benedict V, when the German Emperor Otto II demanded the Roman Faithful accept his antipope Leo VIII and they consented.
Again, this was also the first such Assembly ever in which every person admitted was authenticated by documentation, recognized as valid by the Apostolic See.
Again, this was also the first such Assembly which was publicized on radio, tv and social media, to the knowledge of everyone interested. More than 250,000 had heard that the election would take place when I warned the Cardinals, and the same number actually came to the official website for the Assembly, ChiesaRomana.Info. The publicity was aired more than 200 times in the course of 7 days. More than 200 journalists were informed. A press conference was held 5 days before. More than 8 thousand looked at the information at ChiesaRomana.Info regarding the event and the qualifications necessary for participating.
The result was not what many outside the Church of Rome wanted. Even clergy from outside Italy, who recognized the election valid, and I myself, are receiving demands that we stop recognizing the election valid. I believe I have valid grounds to fear for my person. I believe those who came and voted also have valid grounds to fear physical violence and calumny.
But, as I said before, if you doubt the validity of a papal election, which met all the necessary requirements, then you are calling Jesus Christ a liar, and denying Apostolic Tradition. You are also setting yourself up as the authority to determine validity. And all who are doing this, to my knowledge, have never even read a history of the papacy, do not know how to read Latin, and have never studied Canon Law, though there may be a few exceptions.