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One soon-to-be-moot point, and one maybe not so moot

March 6, 2013

A couple items caught my eye today.

1. From a good news source, this: “The conclave cannot begin until all of the cardinal-electors are present, but a date could be set while some are absent.” Hmmm. I agree that the question is going to be mooted soon by the facts, but, still, let’s be careful.

A majority of cardinal electors (such as are present in Rome already) can indeed set a conclave start date provided it is after 8:00 pm on March 15 (or 12:00 AM on March 16, depending on which reading one gives to “fifteen full days”). But even the 113 electors now present in Rome cannot, in my opinion, set a start date prior to March 15 and impose such an earlier date on absent cardinals, not if UDG 37 means what it plainly says. The last two electors are expected today, and the College could then set a start date for tomorrow if it wanted, but a start date prior to March 15 cannot be set and imposed until every last elector is accounted for, not without endangering the conclave.

2. There is talk about the three cardinals who produced a special report for the pope regarding Roman curial malfunctioning giving a summary of said report to the electors. Hmmm.

There seems no doubt but that Benedict entrusted the report itself exclusively to a future pope. That was certainly his prerogative; others can debate the prudence of the decision. But now the question arises as to what level of confidentiality those who drafted the report are under.  If, as seems possible, they were under an obligation, perhaps even a sworn obligation, of confidentiality or pontifical secrecy (and such confidentiality obligation ranks second only to seal of confession) it would almost certainly be an obligation that could be lifted only by a pope. Those who prepared the report for the pope, and who are now being asked to share “summaries” of same with others, need to be very clear as to what their obligations are in this regard. But I’m sure they know that.

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