A reader of Abyssum wrote to me as follows:
I am aware that the Benedict vs. Francis debates have continued and reached even greater intensity since I last wrote, confirming me in my view that there must be an investigation to end this confusion. 

I have just finished reading David Martin’s commentary on Bp. Schneider’s article, which Your Excellency posted here. Bp. Schneider believes that those who are excommunicated can participate validly in conclaves, while Martin claims that this position “is only a theological opinion, and one that contradicts the Apostolic Constitution Cum Ex Apostolatus”. He questions Bp. Schneider’s citation of Romano Pontifice Eligendo due to controversy over the document’s legitimacy and authorship. Even if this document is indeed illegitimate, Martin’s refutation appears to be a bit out of line, because Popes Pius X and Pius XII legislated the same thing: “None of the Cardinals may be in any way excluded from the active or passive election of the Sovereign Pontiff under pretext or by reason of any excommunication, suspension, interdict or other ecclesiastical impediment”. —Pope St. Pius X, Vacante Sede Apostolica, 1904“None of the Cardinals may, by pretext or reason of any excommunication, suspension, or interdict whatsoever, or of any other ecclesiastical impediment, be excluded from the active and passive election of the Supreme Pontiff”. —Pope Pius XII, Vacantis Apostolicae Sedis, 1945

To participate “actively” in a conclave is to take part in selecting a new pope, while to participate “passively” means to be elected. The legislation of both Pius X and Pius XII (who, despite abrogating his Predecessor’s Apostolic Constitution, repeated this specific part) prove that a man who is excommunicated can not only participate in the selection process, but can also be elected. Both texts use the word “whatever”, indicating that this principle applies regardless of whether the excommunication was latae or ferendae sententiae, of the internal or external forum, or for whatever crime. All types are included, so even a heretic who had incurred excommunication in the external forum (meaning the penalty was subsequently declared by an ecclesiastical tribunal) can be elected pope, or assist in the election process. 

One may rebut this point by saying that although a heretic can be elected validly, he would lose his office immediately upon accepting it, due to his heresy. However, it seems to me that this interpretation would strip away the essential meaning of the legislation itself. The laws were promulgated to protect the validity of papal elections, so to say that an excommunicated person could be elected, but cannot really hold office because he would lose it immediately, would defeat the very purpose of the text itself. Because this would be an interpretation that is self-contradictory and clearly contrary to the mind of the legislators, it can be immediately excluded. 

This challenges the assertion that it is a doctrine of the Church that a heretical pope would lose his office ipso facto due to his heresy; because legislative documents throughout canonical tradition have stipulated various different things concerning this issue, it appears that we are dealing with ecclesiastical law, rather than divine law. (I understand I very well could be in error because this is mere conjecture.) 

The main issue this brings up is this: how do we reconcile Cum Ex Apostolatus, if this portion of the document is indeed doctrinal, with the legislation of Pius X and Pius XII? 


Abyssum believes that the following is the proper response to all of the above.

The concise and true answer is that all of these questions are governed entirely by what Pope John Paul II wrote and published in the contents of the Apostolic Constitution, Universi Dominici Gregis.  While Universi Dominici Gregis may happen to repeat what some previous Pope legislated about conclaves, the fact that a previous Pope made an even identical rule, is more or less meaningless.  Universi Dominici Gregisintegrates in one document the applicable law, and replaces whatever Popes legislated previously about these matters, including once valid and licit single sentences in a constitution or other single statements made by a previous Pope, as clearly provided in the promulgation clause at the end of Universi Dominici Gregis:


“Wherefore, after mature reflection and following the example of my Predecessors, I lay down and prescribe these norms and I order that no one shall presume to contest the present Constitution and anything contained herein for any reason whatsoever. This Constitution is to be completely observed by all, notwithstanding any disposition to the contrary, even if worthy of special mention. It is to be fully and integrally implemented and is to serve as a guide for all to whom it refers.

“As determined above, I hereby declare abrogated all Constitutions and Orders issued in this regard by the Roman Pontiffs, and at the same time I declare completely null and void anything done by any person, whatever his authority, knowingly (scienter) or unknowingly (inscienter), in any way contrary to this Constitution.”

Just because a prelate, priest or another member of the faithful may quote from what a previous Pope stated does not make what that previous Pope stated apply to the organization, conduct or significance of what may have occurred at a conclave governed by Universi Dominici Gregis.  Pope John Paul II in Universi Dominici Gregis clearly intended to supplant entirely whatever any previous Pope may have provided about these matters.  This understanding of the vast sweep of the Universi Dominici Gregis is especially clear when one considers the preambulary language of Pope John Paul II in Universi Dominici Gregis:“Precisely for this reason, down the centuries the Supreme Pontiffs have deemed it their special duty, as well as their specific right, to establish fitting norms to regulate the orderly election of their Successor. Thus, also in more recent times, my Predecessors Saint Pius X,2 Pius XI,3 Pius XII,4 John XXIII 5 and lastly Paul VI,6 each with the intention of responding to the needs of the particular historical moment, issued wise and appropriate regulations in order to ensure the suitable preparation and orderly gathering of the electors charged, at the vacancy of the Apostolic See, with the important and weighty duty of electing the Roman Pontiff.
If I too now turn to this matter, it is certainly not because of any lack of esteem for those norms, for which I have great respect and which I intend for the most part to confirm, at least with regard to their substance and the basic principles which inspired them. What leads me to take this step is awareness of the Church’s changed situation today and the need to take into consideration the general revision of Canon Law which took place, to the satisfaction of the whole Episcopate, with the publication and promulgation first of the Code of Canon Law and subsequently of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches. In conformity with this revision, itself inspired by the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, I then took up the reform of the Roman Curia in the Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus.7 Furthermore, Canon 335 of the Code of Canon Law, restated in Canon 47 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, makes clear the need to issue and constantly update the specific laws regulating the canonical provision for the Roman See, when for any reason it becomes vacant.
While keeping in mind present-day requirements, I have been careful, in formulating the new discipline, not to depart in substance from the wise and venerable tradition already established.
It is in fact an indisputable principle that the Roman Pontiff has the right to define and adapt to changing times the manner of designating the person called to assume the Petrine succession in the Roman See. .   .   .

Finally, I have deemed it necessary to revise the form of the election itself in the light of the present-day needs of the Church and the usages of modern society.”

Thus, the Cardinals and all the faithful must accord unique significance to what Pope John Paul II stated as universal law, including what he legislated in Paragraph 76 of Universi Dominici Gregis: “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.”

With the exception of Paragraph 55 which requires that “every effort to preserve that secrecy by ensuring that no audiovisual equipment for recording or transmitting has been installed by anyone”, yet provides that: “Should any infraction whatsoever of this norm occur and be discovered, those responsible should know that they will be subject to grave penalties according to the judgment of the future Pope.”, because both Paragraph 76 and the “Promulgation” language at the end of Universi Dominici Gregis apply universally, any man once having been a valid Cardinal who otherwise (except for Paragraph 55) violates Universi Dominici Gregis instantly loses that status as a valid member of the College of Cardinals by operation of law without any further judgment or declaration on the matter, and is therefore no longer a valid Papal elector, regardless what any previous Pope legislated or stated on the matter.  This is abundantly clear also because of the use of the Latin word “scienter” in the promulgation of the Latin original of Universi Dominici Gregis, a word of great legal significance and logical import never used by another Pope in any previous apostolic constitution on these matters.  

That is why it is so important for those valid Cardinals to unite and to deal with the many invalid cardinals.  If those valid cardinals determine that the supposed conclave election of Monsignor Bergoglio was “null and void”,  then they should determine to the extent possible a new and proper list of valid cardinals, likely a daunting task which requires much prayer and grace.  The reason so many Cardinals accept the validity of the last Conclave may be that 57 out of 122 age-eligible as Electors were appointed since then:

Distribution of living Cardinals according to the Pontificate in which they were created

Created by Electors Non-Electors Total 
Giovanni Paolo II18 56 74 
Benedetto XVI47 28 75 
Francesco57 16 73 
Total 122100222


About abyssum

I am a retired Roman Catholic Bishop, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Ratiocinations says:

    To VeriCatholici: If you read the current Code of 1983 and its translation you will find the following:

    Canon 332, 2: ”Si contingat ut Romanus Pontifex MUNERI sui renutiet, …”

    English given on the opposing page [Codex Iuris Canonici (Typis Polyglyottis Vaticanis, 1983) Translation throughout by the Canon Law Society of America], one finds the following:

    “If it should happen that the Roman Pontiff resigns his OFFICE,…”

    You did not read carefully what I said in my last post. I did not repeat your own reasoning but used it in the negative.

    Nonetheless, to contend what you hold you are going to have to ignore many sources in which ‘munus’ and ‘officium’ are utilized in overlapping contexts.

    And since one is not a subject of certain ‘munera’ except when one is elected to an ‘officium,’ said ‘munera’ are concomitants of the ‘office,’ and therefore to resign the office is to forfeit the ‘munera.’

  2. We announce to day the launch of the official website #PPBXVI for the restoration of #PopeBenedict to the #PapalThrone! and the consequent election of a valid successor! https://www.ppbxvi.org His renunciation, not being in conformity with Canon 332 §2, he remains true Pope! Bergoglio’s election is invalid, for not be in conformity with UDG!

    We humbly ask your Excellency, to be the patron and leader of the Movement.

  3. The Editor says:

    As a Bishop you can bring a case in the Roman Rota to constrain the Officers of the College of Cardinals to reveal if they ever verified the conformity of the renunciation to canon 332 §2 and if so, when and how they verified it, and again, against the same, on the grounds that they have not convened a meeting of the Cardinals to quiet the scandalous and public revelations of impropriety in the conduct of the Conclave, especially since the perpetrators have denied nearly nothing of the accusations which are now notorious. Such a lawsuit while perhaps not prevailing, will give the publicity necessary to raise the issue among all Cardinals and Bishops, who together will prevail to get the case of the 12 cardinals heard by 12 cardinals.

  4. Dear Ratiocinations,

    You replied to our rebuttal by repeating your assertion. That is no way to argue. Also, you seem to think that if there are synonyms for munus in canon law, that proves that ministerium is a synonym or could be a synonym. That is not a syllogism, its a minor of an argument without a major premise. We invite you to think about it. Our position on this point of Canon Law is manifested in https://vericatholici.wordpress.com/2018/12/19/how-and-why-pope-benedict-xvis-resignation-is-invalid-by-the-law-itself/ And if you wish to formulate a canonical rebuttal we would be glad to see one, though we believe that such a rebuttal is impossible without a violation of canon 17.

  5. abyssum says:

    A group of cardinals having had the authority to constitute the pre-conclave General Congregation which governs the Universal Church during Interregnum is free to meet, to confer, and to decide pursuant to Universi Dominici Gregis that the supposed election of Monsignor Bergoglio was null and void, and that therefore the duty and right to hold (continue to hold) a General Congregation because the Church remains in Interregnum is the proper and only legal path for governance of The Catholic Church unless and until a proper Conclave is convened. That proper conclave should not include any man a Cardinal-Elector who is the subject of a public admission that he violated a certain (among many) provision of Universi Dominici Gregis, for example, having admitted seeking or giving a commitment to vote for a particular man as part of the Sankt Gallen Mafia.

  6. Ratiocinations says:

    Re: the observation of VeriCatholici:

    Canon Law is not isolated from the history of Roman and anterior Canon Law. If one looks at the utilizations of ‘munus’ and ‘munera’ one will often find the terms rendered ‘officium’ and other cognates.

    Regardless, to utilize the assumption postulated by VeriCatholic, since one does not find within Canon Law a clear stipulation that ‘munus’ or ‘munera’ may not connote ‘officium,’ it is equally licit to infer that one may follow a long-established juridical custom of rendering the former as overlapping and even being, in certain contexts, a synonym of the latter term.

    To arbitrarily extrapolate a univocal sense to a term from a text or context, when there is not any stipulation indicating that said meaning is utilized consistently throughout said text, is to ignore not only the history of terms by to abuse the text and the intention of its author(s).

  7. The problem with Ratiocinations argument, is that his implicit minor, that ministerium means an office, is no where supported in the Code of Canon Law, and if he wants to read Non solum propter using his sui generis definition of ministerium, he has transgressed Canon 17.

  8. The Editor says:

    Regarding the rule in UDG that Cardinals even those excommunicated must be allowed to attend and vote, I believe this should be understood of merely penal excommunications or those which are incurred occultly, not of those who were publicly excommunicated or judged to be outside the Faith by the previous pope or popes. Thus it merely means that no Cardinal can object to another voting on the basis of something which was not publicly dealt with by the previous pope, whose lack of action would be tacit consent to allow him to vote. Thus, I think its wrong to think that this UDG clause has anything to do with electing a public heretic as pope or allowing a public heretic or excommunicate to vote, understanding public here as one who has been judged by the Church as such.

  9. Ratiocinations says:

    From what is indicated here and in anterior postings, Universi Dominici Gregis now is the rule or measure governing all legitimate papal elections.

    And given the specific allegations and indications of at least 3 violations of its stipulations, there should be an investigation of the last conclave. This, and this alone, is central.

    Those who argue about the validity of Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation by quibbling over his use of words, it seems to me, are not facing the fact that the term ‘munus’ historically has had a very wide range of meanings in juridical discourse, including serving as a synonym for ‘officium.’ So, if one explicitly, without coercion (which should be presumed until and unless definite evidence is presented to the contrary, resigns an ‘officium,’ this ‘ipso iure’ is to relinquish the concomitant ‘munera.’

Comments are closed.