Thought for today
“The day that a sizable body of Roman Catholics, clergy and laity, become convinced—rightly or wrongly—that the then occupant of the apostolic throne of Peter is not, perhaps never was, a validly elected pope, that day the presently continuous piece-by-piece deterioration of the organizational structure will be quickened into a muffled collapse of the entire organization. The already schism-split and heresy-ridden Roman Catholic body will then be a headless thing, a complicated machine exploding in all directions into fragments, because its secure casing and capstone cover were shattered.
“For the only tangible guarantee Roman Catholics have that a man has truly become Pope is the legal guarantee of valid election in a legal Conclave of legal cardinals. Their faith then assures them that through this man and his predecessors they are in historical relationship with Jesus Christ, who founded the Church, and in supernatural relationship with Christ as he now is in the Heaven of God’s glory. The legality—or validity, to use the ecclesiastical term—of a papal election depends on the exact observance, in the presence of witnesses, of the various visible and controllable procedures laid down in the rules for papal elections.
“The final outcome of the election—a validly elected pope—is attained only with the freely pronounced Accepto of the Pope-elect. This is why Cardinal Laurenti, who became Pope-elect at the Conclave of February 1922, could never be regarded as Pope: He did freely decline to accept the pontificate, having been validly elected by the due majority. No one has to accept the Petrine Office. A pope-elect who refuses to accept is not obliged to explain why he has refused it, just as a pope who resigns the office is not obliged to explain why he has resigned.
“What does the term “freely” mean when we say that the Pope-elect must freely accept or reject his election to the pontificate? Take, for example, the Conclave of 1903, which produced as Pope Pius X Giuseppe Melchiorre Cardinal Sarto. But Sarto was not the prime choice of those sixty-two Cardinal Electors. After one voting session and scrutiny of the votes, on August 1, the first day of the Conclave, it was clear that the required majority (twenty-nine in this instance; Sarto got only five votes in that session) went to Italian-born Mariano Cardinal Rampolla del Tindaro. Rampolla, if allowed, would have pronounced the required Accepto, would therefore have become Pope automatically. But he was not allowed to accept the pontificate.