Where Does The Authority To Elect A Pope Reside?

Where Does The Authority To Elect A Pope Reside? In the body of Bishops.

Currently, the College of Cardinals elects each successive Roman Pontiff. But this does not occur of necessity. The first Pope, Saint Peter, was “elected” (chosen) by Christ directly. Successive Popes seem to have been chosen simply by the choice of who would lead the diocese of Rome, as the Pope is the Bishop of Rome. At times, the choice of the next Pope was made by a relatively small number of persons, just a handful of Cardinals.

In Universi Dominici Gregis, Pope Saint John Paul II states about a conclave comprised of Cardinal-electors: “this institution is not of its nature necessary for the valid election of the Roman Pontiff”. [UDG preface] In other words, the Church could choose, at some point in the future, a different way of electing the next Pope. However, John Paul II decided to continue the ancient tradition of the Cardinals electing the Pope in a conclave: “I once more affirm that the College of electors of the Supreme Pontiff is composed solely of the Cardinals of Holy Roman Church.” And the reason that the College of Cardinals is fitting is that “the universality of the Church is sufficiently expressed by the College of one hundred and twenty electors, made up of Cardinals coming from all parts of the world and from very different cultures.” [UDG preface] So John Paul II states both that a conclave of Cardinals is not absolutely essential to a valid election, and that, for the time being, this will be the way the Church chooses each Pope.

But do the Cardinals elect the Roman Pontiff as representatives of the whole Church, or as representatives of the body of Bishops? Jesus did not choose only one Apostle, but Twelve. And though Peter is the head of the whole Church, even binding in Heaven what he binds on earth, he leads the Church with the other Apostles, whose successors are the Bishops of the Church. Not every Cardinal is a Bishop, so not every Cardinal is a present-day Apostle, a successor of the Twelve.

When the Church is, for a time, without a successor of Peter, the Church is led by the other successors of the Apostles. Since they hold the authority of Christ as Apostles, the authority to elect the successor of Peter must rest with them. The faithful cannot choose a Roman Pontiff by popular election. For the Bishops are appointed by Christ to rule over the faithful.

Therefore, though the Cardinals have long elected each Roman Pontiff, they do so as representatives of the body of Bishops, in which resides the persistent and irreformable authority to elect each Pope.

Jesus chose the first Pope, Peter. But once He ascended to Heaven, He left that authority with the body of Bishops. The Roman Pontiff can make rules for future conclaves, and so can an Ecumenical Council with the approval of the Roman Pontiff. But they are not constrained to only choose Popes through a conclave of Cardinals.

If a future Pope or Council wished to do so, a conclave could consist of Bishops as well as Cardinals, with Bishops having the same ability to vote for the next Roman Pontiff as any Cardinal. But since there are so many Bishops in the world, the conclave could consist of a subset of Bishops, as long as they represent the body of Bishops dispersed in the world.

Will the Church allow Bishops to vote in a conclave in the near future? In my speculative eschatology, I conclude that She will. As the great apostasy of the first part of the tribulation unfolds, during a time of war and civil unrest, few Cardinals will both remain faithful and be available to travel for a conclave. So the Cardinals will decide, in consultation with prominent Bishops, to make new rules for the conclave, so that Bishops and Cardinals will vote. This conclave will take place in Washington, D.C., in a time when many governments of Europe will be in exile there.

Some persons will claim that this conclave is not valid, as it violates the rules for Councils by being located outside of Rome (which will have been captured in war), and by allowing Bishops to vote. But since the authority to elect a Pope resides with the body of Bishops, they can vote and they can change the rules of the conclave out of grave necessity.

The tribulation draws near. We are at the very threshold. The conservative Catholic schism is well underway. Soon the schismatics will depart, and next many will fall away from Christianity altogether. For when the branch is separated from the vine, it withers. Unfaithful liberal Catholics will also fall away, under the next conservative Pope. The Church will suddenly become much smaller and yet much holier. And the Bishops will elect the successor to the next conservative Pope.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

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4 Responses to Where Does The Authority To Elect A Pope Reside?

  1. Alex says:

    Ron, good writing! I agree to disagree on who the next pope might be. I see him as more liberal than pope Francis. Not necessarily cardinal Marx, maybe not cardinal at all. But most cardinals support the reform and I don’t see any logic for them to vote someone “moderate” that would essentially stop the reform, even less a conservative that would return things back. And here I do not mean the rebel cardinals Sarah, Muller and Burke that have no chance whatsoever and may opt for their own “conclave” that paradoxically will leave the rest of the Church cleaned from ultraconservatives and even more open for reform than today.

    As of Washington DC, well…if you ask the Russian patriarch and president, they might not agree with you, believing of Moscow as the “third Rome” :) Perhaps you have seen the latest from the Russian patriarch that the antichrist will rule with the help of internet and mobile devices, and while he believes that time can be postponed he practically says the infrastructure for the antichrist’s reign already exist.

    Washington is currently in deep political crisis and only God knows what will come out of it. (I may have my views but frankly I am afraid to post them online). Washington was, is, and will be a primary target in a nuclear conflict, so why a future pope will risk the Church leadership by moving there or staying there if elected there? Especially after Rome being hit, as you and many prophecies say? To risk a second hit?

    Maybe for you the German and European bishops many of them will make a liberal schism, but I do not necessarily agree with that. The majority of bishops support those changes. Maybe indeed Rome will cease to be the place for the successors of pope Francis. There are enough holy, beautiful and big cathedrals throughout Europe that have enough space to accommodate the next popes and their offices, also with the necessary for the common people magnificence. God has given much grace to Europe with countless saints and martyrs, shrines and apparitions.
    I thought to write more political comment the last days but then decided not to post it.

  2. Alex says:

    I just read again the latest message of Our Lady in Medjugorje, it proves my point in previous comments of the importance of Love as cornerstone of everything we do because Love is God. Here I post one especially beautiful part of that message on Dec 2, that frankly I did not expect to be inside a message, rather inside a love poem of a great poet….

    “Among those who love my Son and who love each other through Him, words are not necessary. A gaze is sufficient for the unspoken words and unexpressed feelings to be heard. There where love reigns, time no longer counts. We are with you.”

    it seems to me everything has been said, and if time no longer counts, could it be that we are going now towards the realization of all? As Ron you said end times draw near, be it one way or another. Marija said in 2017 that she expects soon the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (before the secrets or between?) At the end of 2019 we may well be inside all that.

    • Ron Conte says:

      I think the triumph of the immaculate heart occurs at the end of the first part and again at the end of the second part of the tribulation. So even the first triumph is a couple of decades away.

  3. dom64verona88chrysostomos says:

    Mon cher Ami,
    C’est très simple: à chaque conclave, les portes une fois fermées, les cardinaux conclavistes, ainsi que leurs secrétaires privés(en général des religieux de haute spiritualité) célèbrent la Messe dédiée à l’Esprit-Saint) . Vous connaissez les antiennes: Veni Sancte Spiritus et Veni Creator Spiritus… Puis, chacun se retire dans la cellule qui lui est réservée. Messe réitérée chaque jour, autant que Dieu le permet…Autant de votes que nécessaire, puis vient la décision finale, d’abord à la majorité des deux tiers, puis à la majorité simple. Résultat: “Habemus Papam!

    Très humblement vôtre,

    Le pauvre pécheur que je sais être.

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