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Two quick thoughts on this morning’s press conference

February 21, 2013

1. The director of the Holy See Press Office has stated that the date of the conclave is established by the congregation of cardinals during the sede vacante, independently of a possible motu proprio from the Holy Father that could specify some details of the apostolic constitution Universi Dominici Gregis.

This is strictly speaking true, but it is liable I fear to misunderstanding.

The congregation of cardinals does establish the start-date of the conclave, but within a window of time (15 to 20 full days from the vacancy of the see) as determined by pontifical law (UDG 37). They are not free, in my opinion, to pick a date outside of that window except to accommodate unforeseen impossibility.* The proposed motu proprio will, I trust, address this precise issue.

* Could I make a purely practical observation? If a single eligible elector does not show up before 15 full days have run, no one remotely suggests that the conclave could legally start without him. Now, several cardinals have expressed opposition to advancing the conclave start date. If so much as one of them declines to be hurried into the assembly, all talk of advancing the start-date would be moot. Only if the pope authorizes an earlier start date could the reluctant be required to show up before 15 full days have run their course.

Added: Point One now in French at Riposte Catholique.

2. Regarding the issue of the Society of St. Pius X … Benedict XVI has decided to entrust the matter to the next Pope, therefore, a definition of relations with that society should not be expected by the end of this pontificate.

This, too, sounds right to me. I was wondering what value a last-minute accord would be if it were prompted by the news of Benedict’s departure. Would not the temptation have been great to enter an accord with a pontiff that the SSPX respects, with the mental reservation that, if the next pope were found wanting in their view, the deal could be broken off again? Words are very important, certainly, but the solution to a crisis of communion usually goes deeper than paper.

Added: Fr. Z’s remarks on this development are well worth reading, too.

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