Norms Aim to Keep Pressure off Cardinals

From External Influences as Well as From the Electors Themselves

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VATICAN CITY, APRIL 18, 2005 (Zenit.org).- The primary objective of Pope John Paul II’s norms for the conclave was to spare cardinals from external pressures — and even coercion from other electors.

The Holy Father’s 1996 apostolic constitution “Universi Dominici Gregis” in No. 80 punishes with “excommunication latae sententiae,” that is, automatically, “each and every Cardinal” if they accept “from any civil authority, the task of proposing the veto,” to any of the possible candidates.

It is enough to incur excommunication “even under the guise of a simple desire,” “both before the election begins and for its duration.”

“I intend this prohibition to include all possible forms of interference, opposition and suggestion whereby secular authorities of whatever order or degree, or any individual group, might attempt to exercise influence on the election of the Pope,” wrote John Paul II in the document.

“The Cardinal electors shall further abstain from any form of pact, agreement, promise or other commitment of any kind which could oblige them to give or deny their vote to a person or persons,” continues the document.

“If this were in fact done, even under oath, I decree that such a commitment shall be null and void and that no one shall be bound to observe it; and I hereby impose the penalty of excommunication ‘latae sententiae’ upon those who violate this prohibition,” added the Pope.

“It is not my intention however to forbid, during the period in which the See is vacant, the exchange of views concerning the election,” he stated.

The cardinals are also forbidden “to enter any stipulations” before the election, “committing themselves of common accord to a certain course of action should one of them be elevated to the Pontificate,” the Holy Father wrote. “These promises too, should any in fact be made, even under oath, I also declare null and void.”

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