04 March 2013

Voting Pacts & The Law

Odilo Cardinal Scherer

There has been some talk in the press about an election “ticket” for the Papal election. Some well-respected Vatican reporters (vaticanisti) are saying that some Italian Cardinals are coming together in support of a South American (apparently, the Brazilian, Odilo Cardinal Scherer) as Pope, so long as an Italian is selected as Secretary of State (apparently, Mauro Cardinal Piacenza).

Are there legal implications of this? Even though the document Universi domenici gregis applied specifically to the Papal election, the norms of canon law continue to apply. And Canon Law actually says something about conditions for an election. Specifically, Canon 172 §2, which says:
Conditions attached to a vote before an election are to be considered non-existent. 
In other words, conditions attached to a vote in an election have no force of law whatsoever.

The Cardinals may vote for a person hoping that their choice for Secretary of State will be chosen. And that desire may even be express and explict, rather than merely a sort of vague hope.  But what happens if the new Pope changes his mind? That is, is the new Pope bound to the agreement made in the election? The answer is, obviously, no. Nor would not affect the validity of the election or legally call into question its outcome. No Cardinal could say later that the election was invalid because an agreed-upon condition for his vote was not observed.

I have no idea whether the reports of this “Papal ticket” agreement are true. In the end, though, it does not really matter, because it would have no legal force whatsoever even if were true.