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A reasonable suggestion, reasonably made

January 13, 2015

Antonio Cdl. Canizares Llovera of Valencia, Spain, has suggested raising the number of cardinals eligible to vote for the pope from 120 to 140. It is a reasonable suggestion and, if adopted, would be preferable to simply disregarding, as more than one pope has done in recent memory, ecclesiastical law on the subject (Universi Dominici gregis, Intro & n. 33). Always better, I think, to consider a rule, adopt it if it seems good, stick with it (even if it’s inconvenient), and be willing to re-consider it if circumstances change—as they inevitably will over time.

Now, while we’re considering modifications in regard to conclaves (c. 349), might we give some renewed thought to Bl. Pope Paul VI’s idea, twice floated in March of 1973, about allowing the Synod of Bishops (and Eastern Patriarchs) to play some role in papal elections? I’d be happy to make the argument for this inclusion (and against it, for that matter*), but for now, I simply want to remind folks that the idea is out there, and warrants, I think, a closer look.

For an English version of Paul’s ideas see The Pope Speaks 18 (1973-1974) 58-59 and 67-69. + + +

* Permit me to say, though, just briefly, about the negative argument attributed to Cdl. Siri (that expanding electors beyond cardinals is a bad idea because cardinals do not have to meet anyone’s expectations, while bishops do), well, I can’t imagine the great prelate meant it the way it seems to have come out.

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