Becoming Pope

This is about Ian’s Staff Report on “How Does One Become Pope?” , which has been referenced in threads in other SDMB forums, but doesn’t seem to have been addressed in here yet.

First, according to JPII’s write-up on how to choose a pope, all that is required is to be a baptized Catholic. If you aren’t a bishop, priest, or deacon yet, you get ordained one before being enthroned as Pope. (Hopefully Tom~, who seemingly has this stuff at his fingertips, will comment on this and link to the proper Vatican writeup on it.)

But what provoked me to post to this is the “Cardinal Priests and Cardinal Deacons” comment:

Actually, most of the red-clad church dignitaries who have converged on Rome are, technically, “Cardinal Priests.” The terms don’t mean what they sound like, and the distinction lies in a legal fiction.

The Pope is, of course, the Bishop of Rome. While that sounds like restating the obvious, it has a very significant application to the theory and practice of being a Cardinal.

The Catholic Church is, of course, a worldwide organization, with Bishops and Archbishops on every continent (well, except Antarctica, but you know what I mean!). The leading Archbishops are, of course, named Cardinals.

But a Cardinal is not merely an additional honorific bestowed on an Archbishop that gives him a Pope-electing franchise. It also has a historical meaning.

The Bishop of Rome is head of the Archdiocese of Rome in the same way as the Archbishop of Sydney, Wolverhampton, or Kansas City is head of that archdiocese, separately from his capacity as Pope to be head of the worldwide church.

So each Cardinal is also a titular official of something in the Archdiocese of Rome.

The seven Cardinal Bishops are heads of the “suburban sees” – the seven cities in the Rome metropolitan area that had suffragan bishops under the Archbishop of Rome from earliest times. Usually this is, like the British Lord Privy Seal and similar jobs, something of a sinecure for an elderly Cardinal whose expertise is desired, with an assistant bishop doing most of the “bishing” for the diocese.

The Cardinal Deacons, of whom I think there are six, are the heads of the Congregations which make rules and decisions in the Vatican Curia. They are analagous to deacons in a diocese, sent out by the bishop to perform particular ministries and answerable to him. In this case, they do the Pope’s work of passing on issues brought to that Congregation, making decisions and teaching, according to what their particular Congregation’s task is.

The rest of the Cardinals are Cardinal Priests. And each Cardinal, in addition to being Archbishop of Manila, Sao Paulo, Paris, New York, or wherever, is also officially a priest of one of the historic churches in Rome, principally in a strictly titular sense, though he’s expected to celebrate Mass at that church when convenient when he’s in Rome.

But the whole idea is to parallel the worldwide structure of Catholicism within the single diocesan system of Rome, making real the sense in which the Pope is both head of the Church worldwide and Bishop of Rome, through the dual roles of the Cardinals.

The basic documents are the Apostolic Constitutions, the most current being 1996’s “Universi Dominici Gregis” (Of the Whole of the Flock of the Lord). Link courtesy EWTN

One interesting element is that it does provide to immediate episcopal ordination of anyone not already a Bishop, but it does NOT address the possibility of election of someone not already a priest. This could run into the time-in-service-as-priest requirements for elevation to the episcopate, which a sitting Pope can waive but the Constitution does not mention if the College of Cardinals can.

Aha… and here’s the Code of Canon Law where it says:


Normaly, the interregnal authority during Sede Vacante cannot change/suspend Canon Law or exercise functions that that are constitutionally the exclusive power/function of the sitting Pope, and University Dominici Gregis so reiterates. But I’d need a Canon Lawyer to tell me if granting dispensation of these requirements is one of those functions or can be handled by the Collegium.

Hey, even though I consider myself a soft atheist, I was baptised Roman Catholic. I wonder if they will choose me? :wink:

Should “the Apostolic See” here be read as synonymous with “the Pope”? Under ordinary conditions, I would assume so, but while there is no sitting Pope (as now), I would interpret that to refer to that body which is temporarily carrying out the papal duties.

Yeah, the canon law was what I was going by when I wrote that first part about eligibility and education requirements, and the Dominici Gregis was what I referred to as the “new rule instituted by Pope John Paul II”. That was written in the days before we were asked for rigorous citation in the answers, but dammit, I was close, wasn’t I? Thanks to JRDelerious for the links. I admit I fuddled the Cardinal Priest/Bishop/Deacon thing (although I intentionally waffled on the details so as not to be called out on it), but thanks also to Polycarp for clarifying it for me and everyone else.

Well, I guess we’ll find out for sure how that shakes out next time a layman is elected. Which I’m guessing will be around the next 30th of February. :slight_smile:

Ahhh! That’s very interesting. I wondered what it meant when it said that the Archbishop of Montreal, Cardinal Turcotte, is Cardinal Priest of Nostra Signora del SS. Sacramento e Santi Martiri Canadesi (Our Lady of the Holy Sacrament and the Holy Canadian Martyrs).

It turns out that there is an actual Chiesa dei Santi Martiri Canadesi in Rome, which I’m seeing listings for as a church serving Canadian expats.

Actually the capital SS is probably an abbreviation for Santisimo (Latin Sanctissimus) – “…of the Most Holy Sacrament…” But yeah, that’s him. Are the Holy Canadian Martyrs the French missionaries who were matryred in 1640-something?


Isaac Jogues, Jean de Brebeuf, Charles Garnier, Anthony Danile, Gabriel Lallemant, Noel Chabanel, Jean de Lalande, and Rene Goupil