What if…

What if…

Something I heard on a radio program got me thinking along a morbid line, but what if a terrorist blew up the Sistine Chapel during the conclave? What would we do about a pope?

I would suppose that the two remaining cardinals under the age of 80, and thus eligible to vote, would become the entire conclave. They are Cardinal Jaime Sin, emeritus of Manila, and Cardinal Adolfo Suarez Rivera, emeritus of Monterrey, Mexico, both of whom were too sick to travel to Rome and participate. Of course, they would have to be brought together and I suppose their vote would need to be unanimous because it’s difficult to get a two-thirds majority or even a simple majority with just two people.

The new pope would not have to be one of them. As we know, the pope can be any Catholic man eligible to be ordained a bishop and would probably be some archbishop somewhere who was in line to become a cardinal at the next consistory. Or it could be one of the 80+ year old cardinals, who are too old to vote. Then the new pope could quickly name a whole bunch of new cardinals and we’d be back to where we are now.

Like I said, a morbid line of thought, but interesting nonetheless. Thankfully we wouldn’t have to resort to some of the other methods used to select popes throughout history, like appointment by political rulers or popular acclaim of the people of Rome.

Just some idle speculation for the week before the conclave.

  • It seems that Cardinals Sin and Rivera are the equivalents of the one cabinet secretary who, when the president addresses a joint session of Congress, is kept in “an undisclosed location” rather than in the House of Representatives chamber.

  • I am sure they have.  Those Italians are not all as stupid as I am.  But the possibility is there.

    Another rumour I read on another blog (and keep in mind that it is a rumour), is that the Cardinals are entertaining the idea of choosing a non-Cardinal bishop.  Now that would present the opposite scenario: 3000+ to choose from.  Of course in that case it is possible that they have one person in mind.

  • If two cardinals were left, couldn’t they vote to rase the voting age so that more cardinals could vote for the new pope?

  • I would think that should such a thing happen, the bishops, metropolitans perhaps or some other just configuration, could validly, in so much as they are successors to the apostles, and if there were NO cardinals left, elect a new pope with God-given authority since they do indeed have God-given authority.  But hey, this is only my two cents worth and I do believe it is worth only two cents too.

  • “I would think that should such a thing happen, the bishops, metropolitans perhaps or some other just configuration, could validly, in so much as they are successors to the apostles, and if there were NO cardinals left, elect a new pope with God-given authority since they do indeed have God-given authority.”

    That would only be the case if *all* the cardinals were wiped out, which isn’t going to happen in this month’s conclave, since two cardinals won’t be there. 

    Now *if* the disaster happens, and *if* the remaining two cardinal electors were wiped out either at a subsequent conclave, or before the beginning of such a conclave, but only if those things happen, then it would be literally impossible to comply with Universi dominici gregis, and maybe we’d have to fall back on a mechanism such as the one suggested by Giulio.

    But in that case, I’d be inclined to go back to the traditional procedure:  election by the clergy and people of the diocese of Rome.  (Some of us RadTrads are *really* traditional. <g>)

  • Last message was meant to reply to comment by Patrick Coffin. On the question of what to do if there were no remaining cardinal electors at all, I too would prefer the traditional approach suggested by Seamus, but I think something along the lines of the suggestion made by Giulio is what would probably happen, and I believe that would be valid as well.

  • I just read the constitution, and JPII was *very clear* that not body except the conclave of cardinals could have anything to do with the election of the new pope.  That being said, I do remember reading somewhere that in event of the extinction of the College of Cardinals, the pope would be elected by the clergy of Rome.

  • Hmmm . . . Monterrey, Manila – I suppose, in the horrible circumstance that the need arose, that the “last” two cardinal electors could, perhaps, meet at an “undisclosed” location in Hawaii, a convent or monastery, splitting the difference? No, I guess they would have to go to Rome and follow the rules, wouldn’t they.

  • That’s the most morbid thing I’ve ever heard you say, Domenico….

    Seriously I think the difficulty all runs in the other direction.  The powers-that-be are only interested in us because of our global nature and ability to galvanize public opinion.  They wouldn’t allow us to be demolished, I don’t think.  To empire builders of all stripes we look like this big freebie they’re always trying to co-opt.

  • Rather, they want us to be a community, be global, be a mess of consumers with one mind, be a political bloc we can use….but don’t make truth claims!!!

  • Of course, there could always be Cardinal X who had just gone out to the Men’s, and Cardinal Y who left his pencils in his room (I was often a pencil short in college) and went back to get one (with an escort of course). So, you know, it didn’t get “all” of them. Or maybe a crappy homemade bomb that “only” got 2/3 or 3/4 of the electors . . . what a strange line of thinking, it seems, yet nothing seems impossible, these days.

  • Have any of you geniuses spent any energy praying that such a scenario not happen instead of engaging in irrelevant speculation?

  • Ah yes, jump into a conversation with people you don’t know with angry sputtering and insults. I bet you read Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence Enemies.” I can tell that with your razor sharp insight you must have.

    I will know respond in kind: Of course we have you dunce. How could you possibly say it is irrelevant in a world that saw 9/11 and the War on Terror? And if it is irrelevant, then why should we bother praying for it?

    Obviously, elementary logic has not been high on your priority list.

    So, how do you like being insulted by a stranger? Not very nice, is it? Learn a lesson from it.

  • Oh wait, Iron John is really the banned Joseph D’Hippolito.

    Joe, did you really think you could fool me? Sorry, not going to work, especially since your screed is so much like your email telling all bloggers that if they don’t post something you want on their web sites that they’re all spineless losers or somesuch nonsense.

    Goodbye Joe!

  • Re: ‘what if’

    After 9-11 and the rantings of Al Queda, an attack on the conclave would be a stellar opportunity to demoralize the Church.

    A morbid possibility yes … but I thought of the same myself—especially during the funeral.  I’m sure Rome authorities are aware of this issue, and we really don’t know what kind of precautions are in place.

    Over the past few years Al Queda is known to have planned attacks on ‘a prominent church landmark in Italy.’ These plans were thwarted, Deo Gratias.

    It would be reasonable if Vatican and Rome authorities have already taken precautions for such a possibility. I’m no security expert but thank God other people are.


  • DN makes a good point. I would hope that the high-tech de-bugging of the Sistine Chapel signals that the Vatican is very much aware of security issues. I would be surprised if they hadn’t done quite a bit of strategic plannin in that regard. Of course, savy counter-terrorism measures include not letting the terrorists know what your defenses are. We may never know what steps have been taken by Vatican and Roman officials. And I think that’s probably a good thing. ‘Cause if we knew, then so would the bad guys.