by Anura Guruge
I still can’t find any reference as to whether the 1731 precedence rules for cardinal bishops got changed at some point post-1913. I have faxed and emailed the Vatican. The head of the Vatican Library gave me the fax number for Archbishop Manuel Monteiro de Castro, Secretary to the College of Cardinals, and told me to ask him. I did over two weeks ago. I contacted the Holy See Permanent Delegation to the U.N. in New York. I solicited help from two other archbishops. NOTHING.
So, as ever, I have a theory. Maybe I have unearthed a can of worms. MAYBE, the folks had forgotten about the 1731 rule as it applied to cardinal bishops. Lets face it. I have found enough folks who claim to be experts on papal and cardinal stuff that did not know of it. One tried to brush it off as ‘the obscure 1731 ruling.’ Very amusing. That obscure 1731 ruling was what set ALL rules of precedence vis-à-vis the College of Cardinals. So it can’t be that obscure. So my current theory. The 1731 rule was possibly never changed! Hey, it is MY THEORY. Prove me wrong.
Just in case you are new to this please start by reading this post … and the links referenced therein.
SO LET US REVISIT 1978
The August 1978 conclave, that elected John Paul I (#264), is of particular interest because it was the first instance where both the Dean and Sub-Dean could not participate in a conclave because they were beyond the 80 year cut-off that came into play as of January 1, 1971. The same was true at the October 1978 conclave, but I am willing to believe and concede that whatever took place in the first conclave got repeated at this conclave since the cast of characters was 98% the same. [Both the Dean, the now pope, and the Sub-Dean, Cardinal Angelo Sodano attended the 2005 conclave.]
Until I started to question the precedence issue, it had been taken as a given that the chain-smoking, French Cardinal, Jean-Marie Villot, the Camerlengo and the Secretary of State to the deceased Pope, i.e., Paul VI (#263), had deputized for the Dean (and Sub-Dean). Yes, I myself, state this in my book — because I went by what I had found in other sources. But since I have started question the precedence issue I have emails to prove that the so called definitive lists on who attended the 1978 conclaves might be in doubt!
Given conclave secrecy what do we ACTUALLY know as to who deputized as Dean at the August 1978 conclave.
We actually know very little. Go look. Hardly anybody mentions the Dean or Sub-Dean, or that they had to be deputized, in the context of this conclave.
In this post I enumerate all the duties of the Dean (or his deputy) during a a conclave.
Start looking. All we know, and the original source here appears to be Andrew M. Greely in his 1979 ‘The Making Of the Popes 1978,’ is that Villot is SUPPOSED to have asked Albino Luciani whether he accepts his canonical election as the Supreme Pontiff. Yes, this is a defining task of the Dean. But, do we REALLY know that it was Villot who asked the question? This quote appears in a section of the book which is in bold, italic. Those sections are supposed to be ‘best guess’ conjecture.
So we have two key possibilities:
1/ Greely, who is far from infallible, got it wrong. He assumed that it is the Camerlengo who asks that question. Easy enough ‘confusion.’ Definitely sounds like a task that would be done by the Camerlengo.
2/ Villot, in all the excitement, overstepped his mark. Possible.
OK, MAYBE IT WAS VILLOT
To check this out I compiled this table of the four suburbicarian see cardinal bishops that did attend the August 1978 conclave.
But, notice that Villot was the first among those four to be made a cardinal. So he, from pure ‘straight-line’ seniority, had been a cardinal longer than the other three.
Now, per the 1731 precedence rules, ‘straight-line’ seniority is what determines seniority for cardinal priests and cardinal deacons, even once a deacon uses jus optionis to become a cardinal priest.
So … following 1961-1962 did the 1731 precedence for cardinal bishops get changed so that ‘straight-line’ seniority applies across the board. When you are appointed cardinal determines precedence even if you are elevated to a higher order.
SO NOW LET US LOOK AT THE CURRENT FOUR CARDINAL BISHOPS
So I compiled a similar table for the current suburbicarian see cardinal bishops — under 80.
Draw your own conclusions.
If we go by the 1731 rule it is Cardinal Arinze.
If we go by the first to be made a cardinal, it is again Cardinal Arinze.
If we go by the oldest (per the 1983 Code of Canon Law reference) it would be Cardinal Martins.
Cardinal Re only gets the nod, IF the rule was changed to say, first to be made a cardinal bishop.
So … that is where we are.
Thank. All the best. Enjoy.