Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Motu Proprio Normas nonnullas

A scene from the Papal Conclave of 2005, Anno Domini.

Yesterday, 25 February, it was made public that Pope Benedict XVI had signed previously, on 22 February 2013, the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter, the Motu Proprio letter Normas nonnullas, "on some modifications of the norms concerning the election of the Roman Pontiff."

The full text of the Motu Proprio can be found here: http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/motu_proprio/documents/hf_ben-xvi_motu-proprio_20130222_normas-nonnullas_lt.html

The Vatican Information Service blog has provided an English translation here:

 Of course, the binding Church law on the process of the Election of a new Sovereign Pontiff and Successor of St. Peter is contained in the Apostolic Constitution of Pope John Paul II, Universi Dominici Gregis, promulgated 22 February 1996, on that same Feast of the Chair of St. Peter.  That document can be found at this link in full text: http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/apost_constitutions/documents/hf_jp-ii_apc_22021996_universi-dominici-gregis_en.html

What, then, was altered by this new Motu Proprio, Normas nonnullas?  Pope Benedict XVI saw fit to alter certain paragraphs of Universi Dominici Gregis, and changed these particulars:

 In paragraph 37 Benedict XVI inserted a clause, which I highlight, as follows: "from the moment when the Apostolic See is lawfully vacant, the Cardinal electors who are present must wait fifteen full days for those who are absent before beginning the Conclave; however, the College of Cardinals is also granted the faculty to anticipated [sic] the beginning of the Conclave if all the Cardinal electors are present as well as the faculty to defer, for serious reasons, the beginning of the election for a few days more."  This will allow for a conclave to commence earlier than the previously required 15 days after a vacancy.  This is the change that made all of the headlines, and, frankly, this blogger anticipated.

The Vice Camerlengo (Chamberlain) is added as one to assist the Cardinal Camerlengo and Substitute of the Secretariat of State in paragraph 43 of Universi.  Further the Cleric Prelates of the Chamber are charged, specifically, with ensuring "that no one approaches the Cardinal electors while they are being transported from the Domus Sanctae Marthae to the Apostolic Vatican Palace."

Paragraph 46 was altered in that Benedict XVI allows now for eight Master of Ceremonies rather than two to assist the conclave from within.

Pope Benedict XVI now requires that the oath taken prior to entry into the Conclave be administered in the presence of "two numerary participant Apostolic Protonotaries" rather than two Masters of Ceremonies.

Further, in all of the sections dealing with the penalty incurred for breaking the secrecy of the conclave, Benedict XVI has restored the latae sententiae excommunication for such an offense, in place of the punishment-to-be-determined-by-the-next-pontiff penalty of John Paul II.

To paragraph 50 of Universi Dominici Gregis, Benedict adds to the list of Cardinal-Electors several particular notables in the procession to the Sistine Chapel: "The Vice Camerlengo, the General Auditor of the Apostolic Camera, and two members of each of the colleges of numerary participant Apostolic Protonotaries, Prelate Auditors of the Roman Rota, and Cleric Prelates of the Chamber will participate in the procession."

The change to paragraph 62 introduced by Pope Benedict is that it now reads "I therefore decree that, for the valid election of the Roman Pontiff, at least two thirds of the votes are required, calculated on the basis of the total number of electors present and voting" where prior it had read "...of electors present."  Thus, the two thirds is now assessed not from simply the number of Cardinal-Electors present, but of the Cardinal-Electors casting a ballot.

Pope Benedict XVI added to paragraph 64 those portions with my emphasis: "The voting process is carried out in three phases. The first phase, which can be called the pre-scrutiny, comprises: 1) the preparation and distribution of the ballot papers by the Masters of Ceremonies—called meanwhile into the Hall together with the Secretary of the College of Cardinals and with the Master of Papal Liturgical Celebrations—who give at least two or three to each Cardinal elector."

To paragraph 70, the words "at least" were added in the sentence: "The Scrutineers add up all the votes that each individual has received, and if no one has obtained at least two thirds of the votes on that ballot, the Pope has not been elected; if however it turns out that someone has obtained at least two thirds of the votes, the canonically valid election of the Roman Pontiff has taken place."

Paragraph 75 is generally reworked.  It now reads: "If the votes referred to in Nos. 72, 73, and 74 of the above-mentioned Constitution do not result in an election, a day will be dedicated to prayer, reflection, and discussion. In subsequent votes, in accordance with the procedure established in No. 74 of this same Constitution, only the two whose names have received the greatest number of votes in the immediately preceding ballot will have the passive electoral right. There can be no waiving of the requirement that a valid election takes place only by a qualified majority of at least two thirds of the votes of the cardinals who are present and voting. Moreover, in these ballots, the two persons who enjoy the passive electoral right lose their active electoral right."

This provides for the maintenance of the two thirds requirements throughout the conclave, but allows for a run-off between the top two candidates, who then lose their vote, if the conclave reaches this point.

Finally, regarding the actual election, he made those changes indicated by my emphasis:
87. "When the election has canonically taken place, the junior Cardinal Deacon summons into the Hall of election the Secretary of the College of Cardinals, the Master of Papal Liturgical Celebrations, and two Masters of Ceremonies. The Cardinal Dean, or the Cardinal who is first in order and seniority, in the name of the whole College of electors, then asks the consent of the one elected in the following words: 'Do you accept your canonical election as Supreme Pontiff?' And, as soon as he has received the consent, he asks him: 'By what name do you wish to be called?' Then the Master of Papal Liturgical Celebrations, acting as notary and having as witnesses the two Masters of Ceremonies, draws up a document certifying acceptance by the new Pope and the name taken by him."  Here, essentially, Benedict envisions the Master of Ceremonies being there from the beginning of this process of the consent of the one elected, rather than being summoned "at that moment" to witness as had previously been described.

I will be revisiting the topic of conclaves and their history & procedure in the coming weeks!

Live well!

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