1731 Cardinal Bishop Precedence. We Have THE ANSWER. English Translation Is Wrong!

On May 10, 2010, just over a month ago, I started questioning WHETHER Clement XII’s (#247) January 10, 1731 constitution, Pastorale officium, had been changed post 1913-1914 because if it had not, I could not see how Cardinal Re was deemed to have precedence over Cardinal Arinze.

In the English translation of Pastorale officium it said that in the case of Cardinal Bishops their precedence would be based upon their original date of episcopal consecration.

Once you discounted the Dean and Sub-Dean, Cardinal Re would not have had precedence over Cardinal Arinze per this criteria. This is what was driving me nuts. I live for facts.

So by all means check all my posts. I was very consistent. I kept on asking … did the 1731 rule get changed and if so WHEN? This post, of June 6, 2010, will give you context. PLEASE check all the links. I have NOTHING to hide. I kept on saying … this doesn’t make sense. Tell me what the rules are.

People told me that the 1731 rules got changed in 1917 (Code of Canon Law), 1961, 1962 and 1983 (Code of Canon Law).

I kept of saying I couldn’t find the papal edict. HELP ME!

Somebody, who should have known better, told me to FORGET 1731 because it was an OBSCURE law!

I hit the roof. The 1731 rulings set the basis for all the precedence rules that apply to the College of Cardinals.

But last night, viz. Friday, June 11, 2010, after 48 hours of frantic two-and-fro emailing with a new collaborator in Turin, Italy, we now have an answer.

Mr. Andrea Mondello, http://avemundi.host-ed.net/, PLEASE take a bow. You are a hero. A credit to Italy. THANK YOU, Andrea.

Andrea Mondello who solved the 1731 puzzle

Andrea and I had been communicating via e-mail on papacy-related issues for a couple of weeks. To begin with he sought anonymity. Anybody who has dealt with me knows that I always honor and obey their wishes. Andrea, understood, that I was getting increasingly frustrated with this 1731 ruling issue — especially the lack of ANY HELP from the Church. Thursday night he asked me for details so that he could look into it in Latin. [I have never claimed to even marginally proficient in Latin. Sinhalese was my mother tongue. Now I only speak two languages: reasonably good English with an heavy accent, and extremely foul English, with an ease that baffles most given my usual demeanor, in the rare occasions when I pretend to be angry.]


The English translation of the 1731 Constitution is in error.

What is stated in the 1913 (English) Catholic Encyclopedia, at http://newadvent.org/cathen/03333b.htm, is WRONG!

New Advent, 1731 ruling, screen shot, June 12, 2010. Translation is in error.

This translation, which is wrong, is reproduced in Salvador Miranda’s ‘ The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church‘ Web site,
http://www2.fiu.edu/~mirandas/guide-xviii.htm (as of July 12, 2010):

Salvador Miranda's 'The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church,' screen shot on June 12, 2010 ... referencing the 1731 ruling
Salvador Miranda's 'The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church,' screen shot on June 12, 2010 ... referencing the 1731 ruling

[[ Salvador will rush to update this. So, do a right-click, ‘Page Info’. If what you see is different and the update date is post June 12, 2010, Dear Salvador, has updated the page. ]]


What Andrea found was that the translation is wrong. The Latin does not, in anyway, talk about ‘episcopal consecration.’!

What it does say is that seniority within the order of Cardinal Bishops is based on when one became a Cardinal Bishop.

That makes sense. But it is DIFFERENT to the precedence rules for Cardinals Priests and Deacons. It is NOT when one became a cardinal, it is when one became a Cardinal Bishop.

Per that, Cardinal Re does have precedence over Cardinal Arinze … but NOT if the pope-elect is not a bishop and as such has to be consecrated. That might be Cardinal Martins! The oldest. Yes, we have a translation error here too.

I still have to check Cardinal Villot’s credentials. << please read >> I have yet to locate the announcement on Dec. 12, 1974 which elevated Baggio, Samorè and Villot to that of Cardinal Bishops on the same day. Yes, of the three Villot was the first to be created a cardinal. So that would be the logical tie-breaker — but it would be interesting to see the order in which the name were listed in the Dec. 12, 1974 announcement.


So, I am finally cool. I understand. Thanks to Andrea I got the facts I was seeking.

1731 NEVER did get changed. I am GLAD. I couldn’t find anything that said that it got changed. That was my problem.

So 1731 still rules, but the English translation is wrong.


The Catholic Encyclopedia entry with this WRONG translation has been there for 96 years!

I am the first to have agitated about it. WOW. I feel special.

I know Salvador’s entry has been there for at least 3 years. I learned off the ‘incorrect’ ruling from his Web site.

So all these years. Nobody spotted these errors. Nobody questioned. Just like two years ago, when I first argued that I really can’t find any proof that St. Gregory I the Great (#64) was a Benedictine. There were folks who were very upset with me. I kept on saying … give me proof. With this 1731 rule it was the same. I knew that something was wrong. Andrea solved the mystery.

Thank YOU. Here is a fragment of Andrea’s e-mail FINALLY nailing this issue.

Andrea's pivotal June 11, 2010 email NAILING this issue. Thank YOU.

Hope this is all clear.

To summarize.

Clement XII’s 1731 precedence rules continue to be the basis for precedence within the College.

The English translation WAS WRONG.

The rules for Cardinal Bishops are different.

It is NOT when you first became a cardinal but when you became a Cardinal Bishop.

But, in the absence of the Dean and Sub-Dean, it is the OLDEST cardinal bishop, as opposed to the most senior, that gets to consecrate a pope-elect who is not a bishop. [But, we have a debate on this right now. OLDEST too might be a bad translation! It might be senior …]

Anura Guruge


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