Rome, YOU Have A Problem Re. Cardinal Bishop Precedence

Please read the linked post. Anura Guruge

Clause #90 of John Paul II’s (#265) 1996 Universi Dominici Gregis (in the English translation provided by the Vatican), THE current Apostolic Constitution that governs sede vacantes, conclaves and papal elections is at odds with the 1983 Code of Canon Law Canon 355 § 1 (per the English translation provided by the Vatican).

Moreover, Clause #90 of Universi Dominici Gregis is at odds with its own Clause #9! Clause #9, correctly, tries to anticipate the POSSIBILITY that you could have a conclave with no Cardinal Bishops in attendance. Yes, it can happen, in theory. At any one time we only have about 9 Cardinal Bishops, some of them Eastern Rites Patriarchs. Because of the 80 year age limit, vacancies, illness and in the case of the Patriarchs possible travel restrictions could result in a conclave with no Cardinal Bishops. This is NOT a problem. Clause #9 caters for this. Clause #90 does not. But, it appears that in Latin, Clause #9 is rather mangled! It is said to talk about the oldest by birth of the cardinal electors. Suffice to say … there is now confusion and growing agreement that there is indeed some inconsistencies in Universi Dominici Gregis. Please read << this >>.

The 1983 Code was formulated under the auspices of John Paul II, and Universi Dominici Gregis is meant to complement it, not to contradict it (especially with no mention, at all, that it is changing a Canon Law).

The Constitution repeatedly cites various Canons from the 1983 Code, with paragraph three of the Preamble even confirming that that Constitution is to provide for the ‘Special Laws’ cited in Canon 335.

Yes, this is ALL to do with my one man QUEST to find whether the 1731 Clement XII (#247) ruling as to the precedence among Cardinal Bishops, after that of Dean and Sub-Dean, have changed post-1913.

Please refer to these three recent posts and all the links to prior posts contained within them:

1/ Does Italian Cardinal Re Really Have Precedence Over Nigerian Cardinal Arinze? << click here >>

2/ College of Cardinals, The Jus Optionis Preferment Rules << click here >>

3/ Precedence Among Cardinal Bishops — Rationalization << click here >>


I have done everything in my power to get the Vatican to tell me WHEN the rules were changed … such that Cardinal Re now has precedence over Cardinal Arinze (not counting the Dean and Sub-Dean who are both over 80).

Given their stonewalling, I, per my right, am contending that they got it wrong and are loathe to admit it.

Prove me wrong, PLEASE.

That is all I ask.

Just give me the facts, and tell me I was wrong. I will be delighted. All I seek are the facts.

That expression about a British Bull Dog not letting go off a bone in its mouth is really not adequate to describe my tenacity when I am seeking a FACT.

So I continue to gnaw and today my goal was to show that the CURIA is far from infallible.

I already had a list … off the top of my head … but I just wanted to check this one thing … because … I kind of know where to look.


So I can NOW PROVE that the curia has screwed up at least ONCE when it comes to the VERY issue of Cardinal Bishop precedence.

So, I ask again. Prove me wrong.


1983 Code of Canon Law, Canon 355 § 1 says:

The cardinal dean is competent to ordain as a bishop the one elected as Roman Pontiff if he needs to be ordained; if the dean is impeded, the assistant dean has the same right, and if he is impeded, the oldest cardinal from the episcopal order.

Canon 355 from on June 11, 2010

Clause #90, paragraph 2 of John Paul II’s 1996 Universi Dominici Gregis (Vatican’s English translation) talking about the very same situation says:
If the newly-elected Supreme Pontiff is not already a Bishop, his episcopal ordination, referred to in Nos. 88 and 89 of the present Constitution, shall be carried out according to the usage of the Church by the Dean of the College of Cardinals or, in his absence, by the Subdean or, should he too be prevented from doing so, by the senior Cardinal Bishop.

Clause #90 from Universi Dominci Gregis from from June 11, 2010

Oldest and Senior are NOT the same.

Right now Cardinal Martins of Portugal is the OLDEST Cardinal Bishop.

But, when it comes to SENIORITY it is either Cardinal Arinze or Re — with me still contending that it is Arinze UNLESS the 1731 law was changed — and if it was … then WHEN (I can work out who the pope would have been).

Yes, John Paul II had the right and the power to unilaterally override the Canon. But, I if he did, there would typically have been some notation about it in the ‘References’ at the end. As it is the 1984 Code is cited thrice in the References section.

My point is simple. In 1983 we had one ruling, in 1996 another.

Yes, I fully understand that it is unlikely that any of us will see a non-bishop elected as pope in our lifetime … but we are talking here about precedence.

This is NOT the only inconsistency in Universi Dominici Gregis. There are others. I mentioned them, diplomatically as possible, in my ‘The Next Pope‘ book. I will now enumerate them in a separate posting because it confirms my contention — the curia drops the ball quite often.

Watch this space.

Anura Guruge


One thought on “Rome, YOU Have A Problem Re. Cardinal Bishop Precedence”

  1. Anu
    You should definitely be alongside a Papal lawyer given your expertise of the details. We are in a fallible system of government like all other governments on earth. Yes, you will find things of conflict to one another and the raising of questions that aim to correct and cite laws as a matter of a working and human system of government.

    To me, infallibility is simply infallible and it is a product of a worthy or unworthy pope who practices prayer and service as is reflective in addressing administrative matters and details. Popes are all different and all are sinners like we are all a mustard seed size in faith. These are the generalities and vague words by which we rely on for wisdom and faith, and from which, comes the details of our administration. One question is “when” does this authority take effect and “what” are the surrounding circumstances at that given time? Our contributions in service to this system of faith generates an outcome born of process and finality at a given time. So what were the circumstances at that given time?

    He is one with his people and loves us as humanity allows. This belief then in turn trickles down as a government being run in a spiritual manner. It is not like trickle down economics and monetary concrete matters and expertise of this sort, although our system can be likened to similar structures in human process. Our spiritual foundation is what ultimately remains entact despite trials and hardships, and to what degree is a decision going to be pivotal of this foundation? A dire decision of this degree is worthy of infallibility. The gifts of wisdom in knowledge is of God to which we all are capable. If in a critical circumstance wisdom should be a lacking, then a spiritual infallible intervention should protect the foundation. All the other structures and details of our governing system may break down but in the end the foundation still remains from which we can rebuild and preserve that which Christ ordered.
    Juan R. Carrillo

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