https://canonlawblog.wordpress.com/2017/09/28/francis-was-never-pope-call-me-unpersuaded/ Francis was never pope? Call me unpersuaded. September 28, 2017 (Note: I am giving this one shot. If it sways some adherents of the ‘Francis-was-never-pope’ group, great; but if it only reassures observers who, regardless of what they think about how Francis is governing, are disquieted by the suggestion that his papacy itself is a chimera, that satisfies me as well.) Two small but persistent arguments attack the very foundation of Francis’ papacy: first, Benedict XVI’s resignation was invalid (take your pick as to reasons why, but mostly because of pressure allegedly brought on Benedict, as supposedly evidenced by his resignation wording), so there was no vacant Holy See to fill, and so a conclave could not elect a pope; or, second, various irregularities were committed before or during the conclave itself, so the election of Francis was invalid. Both sets of arguments are offered in inexcusable ignorance ofCanon 10 (which sets a high standard indeed for declaring any kind of ecclesiastical acts invalid, etc.), but the arguments alleging the invalidity of Benedict’s resignation are so vacuous that no time will be spent refuting them here. On the other hand, some (okay, basically one) of the claims that irregularities allegedly committed in the conclave itself resulted in an invalid election do have a modicum of plausibility and deserve at least a brief hearing. So here goes. These latter arguments seem to fall out along three lines, two of which are patently groundless: Contrary to Universi Dominici Gregis 78, before or during the conclave some electors might have entered into simoniacal agreements to vote for Bergoglio subjecting themselves to latae sententiae excommunication and rendering, under older law, the election of the pope invalid. But, in that same ¶ 78, John Paul II (for the peace of the Church) expressly provided for the validity of a papal election achieved in simony—even if it involved the new pope himself. So much for that argument. Contrary to Universi Dominici Gregis 79, 81, before or during the conclave some electors pretty clearly entered into gratuitous agreements to vote for Bergoglio subjecting themselves to latae sententiae excommunication and, in contrast to the simony provision, no rehabilitation clause is offered for electors so stained. But the reason a ¶ 78 type rehabilitation is not offered them is simple: no rehabilitation is needed. People who might labor under an undeclared latae sententiae excommunication place ecclesiastical acts (such as voting and/or accepting election) illicitly but validly. See1983 CIC 1331. So much for that argument. Et poenae latae sententiae delendae sunt! Finally, some hold that other plausibly alleged conclave anomalies, especially in the balloting itself, resulted in an invalid election perUniversi Dominici Gregis 76, which states: Should the election take place in a way other than that prescribed in the present Constitution, or should the conditions laid down here not be observed, the election is for this very reason null and void, without any need for a declaration on the matter; consequently, it confers no right on the one elected. There is some initial plausibility to this argument. As I understand things—and beyond that some voting pacts were illegally entered into—because, supposedly, a ballot that elected another candidate was vacated on an ambiguous technicality and/or the ballot that elected Bergoglio was an illegal fifth on a day limited to four, the election of Bergoglio “[took] place in a way other than that prescribed” by UDG and so is invalid. There are doubtless more theories of invalidity out there, but I can only address these two. Now, as noted above, I can see why a few people would think that UDG 76 means that a papal election which takes place in ‘any other way’, as alleged here, is invalid, and I think such concerns for the good of the Church deserve a response. But in proposing a conclusion of “invalidity” one has already, wittingly or not, offered acanonical interpretation of what the phrase “[took] place in a way other than that prescribed” means and, if that interpretation is canonicallydisputable, so too is a conclusion that rests on it. I think the conclusion of election invalidity as arising from either or both of these alleged balloting irregularities rests on a misreading of the special conclave law that UDG is and of the wider canon law of which UDG is a part—which brings me to the first point. Notice that I have already cited two canons (cc. 10, 1331) from the 1983 Code in discussing a papal election. I do this because I know that all of canon law works together to direct Church affairs and, while UDG is special law for a special event, it is not independent of the rest of canon law. UDG must be read in light of canon law generally and the 1983 Code specifically. For these alleged balloting anomalies (assuming they can be factually proven) to have any canonical consequences, they must fall within what UDG 76 means by an election “tak[ing] place in a way other than that prescribed in this constitution” and not just what common English parlance might mean by the phrase. Interpreting what the words in UDG 76 mean requires finding a meaning that canon law, and not simply conventional vernacular usage, would support. That is not as easy as it might at first seem. cont.