Conservative Cardinal Calls for Conclaves to be Limited to Rome-based Cardinals

President emeritus of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences, Brandmüller is also considered a leading critic of Pope Francis pontificate and was among the four authors who in 2016 submitted dubia on Francis’s post-synodal apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia

Newsroom (03/09/2022 1:55 PM Gaudium Press) German Cardinal Walter Brandmüller, a once influential conservative prelate, known to be at odds with several aspects of the Francis papacy, has asked that the right to vote in a conclave be limited to those residing in Rome.

Card. Brandmüller said that too many cardinals come from faraway places, so they lack experience with the Roman Curia and do not know one another, making them vulnerable to lobbies attempting to push a specific candidate forward.

In a speech given during this week’s meeting of cardinals, Brandmüller said that in his view, a “serious reflection should be given to the idea of limiting the right to vote in conclave, for example, to cardinals residing in Rome, while the others, still cardinals, could share the ‘status’ of cardinals over eighty,” who are ineligible to cast a vote.

It is, therefore, “desirable,” he said, “that the office and competence of the college of cardinals be updated.”

Brandmüller, 93, was one of some 197 cardinals who gathered in Rome this week for an Aug. 29-30 meeting of the world’s cardinals to discuss Pope Francis’s recent reform of the Curia. The meeting took place after an Aug. 27 consistory, in which 20 new cardinals received red hats.

President emeritus of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences, Brandmüller is also considered a leading critic of Pope Francis’s pontificate and was among the four authors who in 2016 submitted dubia on Francis’s post-synodal apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia. Only two of the authors, Brandmüller and American Cardinal Raymond Burke, are still living.

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In his remarks, published on the Settimo Cielo blog of veteran Italian journalist Sandro Magister, Brandmüller noted that the last meeting of the world’s cardinals took place in 2014, shortly after the election of Francis.

He said that meeting after such a long stretch “prompts a reflection on the nature and task of the cardinalate, especially in the current circumstances.”

Brandmüller noted that the role of a cardinal is not just to elect a new pope, but also, regardless of their age, to advise him either individually or as a group on “questions of major importance” in the life of the Church.

The remarks of Cardinal Walter Brandmüller for the consistory of August 29-30 2022

The convocation of a consistory after such a long time prompts a reflection on the nature and task of the cardinalate, especially in the current circumstances. It must also be emphasized that the cardinals are not only members of the conclave for the election of the supreme pontiff.

The actual duties of the cardinals, regardless of their age, are formulated in canons 349 and follow the code of canon law. It reads: “The cardinals assist the Roman Pontiff either collegially when they are convoked to deal with questions of major importance, or individually when they help the Roman Pontiff through the various offices they perform, especially in the daily care of the universal Church.” And they “especially assist the supreme pastor of the Church through collegial action in consistories” (canon 353).

In ancient times this function of the cardinals found symbolic and ceremonial expression in the rite of “aperitio oris,” of opening the mouth. It meant the duty of frankly expressing one’s conviction, one’s advice, especially in consistory. That frankness – Pope Francis speaks of “parresía” – was particularly dear to the apostle Paul.

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For now, unfortunately, that frankness is being replaced by a strange silence. That other ceremony of the mouth closing, which followed the “aperitio oris” did not refer to the truths of faith and morals but official secrets.

Today, however, there is a need to emphasize the right and duty of cardinals to express themselves clearly and with frankness precisely when it comes to the truths of faith and morals of the “bonum commune” of the Church.

The experience of recent years has been entirely different. At the consistories – convened almost exclusively for the causes of saints – forms were distributed to request speaking time, followed by obviously spontaneous remarks on any topic, and that was it. There has never been a debate, an exchange of arguments on a specific topic—obviously an utterly useless procedure.

A suggestion presented to the cardinal dean to communicate a topic for discussion in advance so that remarks could be prepared went unanswered. In short, the consistories have ended without dialogue for at least eight years.

The primacy of the successor of Peter, however, in no way excludes a fraternal dialogue with the cardinals, who “are obliged to cooperate assiduously with the Roman Pontiff” (canon 356). The more severe and urgent the problems of pastoral governance, the more necessary the involvement of the college of cardinals.

When Celestine V, in 1294, became aware of the particular circumstances of his election and wanted to renounce the papacy, he did so after intense conversations and with the consent of his electors.

A completely different conception of the relationship between pope and cardinals was that of Benedict XVI. He – a unique case in history – made his resignation from the papacy, for personal reasons, without the knowledge of the college of cardinals that had elected him.

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Until Paul VI, which increased the number of electors to 120, there were only 70 electors. This near doubling of the electoral college was motivated by the intention of accommodating the hierarchy of countries far from Rome and honouring those Churches with the Roman purple.

The inevitable consequence was that cardinals were created who had no experience of the Roman Curia and, therefore, of the problems of the pastoral governance of the universal Church.

All this has serious consequences when these cardinals of the peripheries are called to elect a new pope.

Many, if not most of the electors, do not know each other. Nonetheless, they are there to elect the pope, one from among them. This situation facilitates the operations of groups or classes of cardinals to favour one of their candidates. The danger of simony in its various forms cannot be excluded in this situation.

In the end, it seems that serious reflection should be given to limiting the right to vote in a conclave, for example, to cardinals residing in Rome. In contrast, the others, still cardinals, could share the “status” of cardinals over eighty.

In short, it seems desirable that the office and competence of the college of cardinals be updated.

– Raju Hasmukh

(Via Crux Now and Sandro Magister)

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