Does Italian Cardinal Re Really Have Precedence Over Nigerian Cardinal Arinze?

by Anura Guruge

Please read the linked post. 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.

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.

To check this out I compiled this table of the four suburbicarian see cardinal bishops that did attend the August 1978 conclave.

Three of the cardinal were appointed cardinal bishops on the same day, viz. December 12, 1974.

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 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.

7 thoughts on “Does Italian Cardinal Re Really Have Precedence Over Nigerian Cardinal Arinze?”

  1. Anura, according to the “The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church” website, the precedence of Cardinal Bishop is determined by the date they were elevated to that dignity, not the date of the Episcopal Ordination. Therefore, I guess it is Re who is in precedence. Also, Villot would have made sense because although it was a tie, he had seniority as a Cardinal.

    1. John, John, John,
      Dear Salvador is a friend. I have a WHOLE email trail with Salvador on this and other issues. John, have you seen my Errors Books About Popes. Here have a look.
      I have been seriously thinking of creating a companion Web site for ‘Errors in The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church’ Web site. Right now I have a LONG LIST. I used to send them to Salvador … but I feel bad. He should be allowed to enjoy his retirement. So, I don’t like to bother him.
      Salvador, made THIS change … on May 13, 2010 following an e-mail from me.

      I have all of the emails to clarify this. Salvador was following the 1731 rule. So his listings for some of the conclaves between 1731 and now are SHOT.

      I have just demonstrated errors in Universi Dominci Gregis. Look it up.

      I guess they don’t teach you much Canon Law in seminary these days. 1731. Clement XII. Look it up.


    2. John,
      Please also read this … with a screen shot from the ‘Cardinals’ Web site:

      Note, Salvador now states: ‘Within the order of cardinal priests and deacons, their precedence is determined by the date of cardinalitial creation.’

      NO MENTION of Cardinal Bishops.
      There might be references in other sections. Consistency is hard to maintain on a huge Web site like that.

      Look up the 1731 rule … on the same Web site:

      Better still, YOU have my book. Check it out in it.

      Check out the errors in Universi and then tell me that the curia is not capable of making mistakes.


    3. John,
      Just some examples of the recent errors I have spotted on Salvador’s “The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church” website — BUT have not told him about, so as not to distress him.
      Look up: (as of today, June 10, 2010. You can tell when Salvador updates his pages, following my comments by doing a RIGHT CLICK … ‘view page info.’
      It says (right now): ‘Elected pope on October 12, 642. Took the name Theodore I.’
      Well he DEFINITELY didn’t take the name ‘Theodore I.’ As you MIGHT KNOW John Paul I (#264) was the FIRST POPE to include the ordinal ‘I’ in his name.
      So ‘Theodore’ certainly didn’t say ‘I will be Theodore I’.
      We do NOT know whether ‘Theodore’ [Greek for God’s gift] is an assumed name! [[ John, do YOU have my ‘Popes and the Tales of Their Names’ book?
      So, as far as I am concerned that statement has TWO ERRORS.
      Want more. My list is long and in general it grows weekly.
      Here is one that appears trivial but is indicative and will appeal to YOU … given that YOU probably have lots of dealings with them.
      Check the entry for pope-maker, Card. Baggio.
      Salvador, INSISTS on talking about S.C. for Bishops. Since he doesn’t list his abbreviations/acronyms one has to assume he means Sacred Congregation for Bishops. That works. But, alas, ‘sacred’ got dropped in 1965. So to refer to it as S.C. in 1978 is kind of cute.
      But it gets better. He also mentions S.C. Consistorial. Well Sacred applied to that one but it should, per his notation read S. Consistorial C.!
      It goes on and on.
      Read his new bios on the early popes. Be good for your soul. See what ERRORS you can pick.

      So …. sorry.
      All the best. I now have to try and do some real work.

      I will add to this … later today. OK?

  2. “Sacred” was dropped from the names of Congregations by the 1983 Code,not in 1965…the lists of Cardinals in the World Almanac always called their Congregations “Sacred” in the 1970s.

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