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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Canon lawyer believes leading supporter of Pope in Conclave violated the oath of secrecy

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While the conclave assistants’ oath of secrecy set out in UDG 48 binds both in conscience and under penalty of law (Canon 1399 per UDG 48, excommunication per UDG 58), a cardinal elector’s oath (UDG 53) gravely binds only in conscience, not under penalty of law; electors who violate the oath they took in public (nb: before Extra omnes is called, per UDG 52) are accountable to God for their deed.*

Enforcing conclave secrecy is very difficult, and there is always a tendency to up the penalties when enforcement of a law is problematic. But, considering the range of information that could be leaked, I think that excommunication, a one-size-fits-all sanction, is too severe. Interdict seems more reasonable, as does a just penalty under Canon 1399.

Catholic journalists should have no part in tempting an elector to break his oath. That would be to act as an occasion of sin in another. Repeating or reporting on information, however, alleged to have been leaked is not, in my opinion, a violation of law.

* (A) Cdl. Kasper, unprompted, stated “Cardinal Bergoglio was from the beginning my candidate and I have from the beginning of the Conclave voted for him.” This seems to me a direct violation of the terms of conclave secrecy. 

(B) Cdl. Mahony stated “when the first blank ballot was given to us, and when it was time to write down a name, something powerful—and strange—happened. I picked up my pen to write, and I began. However, my hand was being moved by some greater spiritual force. The name on the ballot just happened. I had not yet narrowed my thinking down to one name; but it was done for me.” This very odd comment does not, in my opinion, violate the terms of conclave secrecy, but it shows poor judgment

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