The Conclave of the Future

Source: FSSPX News

While repeated influenza conditions hitting the Sovereign Pontiff are giving the media the opportunity to raise the prospect of a future conclave, other voices are being heard seeking to change the course of the election of Peter's successor, by taking into account the new challenges arising from the digital revolution and artificial intelligence.

“Slow down the conclave.” The article – Rendere il conclavo piu lento – appeared on February 20, 2024 in Il Mulino, signed by Alberto Melloni, renowned professor of the History of Christianity at the University of Bologna. He is known for assuming a vision of Vatican II in rupture with the pre-conciliar era. The author is also a member of the International Academy of Religious Sciences and the International Council of the Revue d'histoire ecclésiastique: suffice to say that the ecclesiastical world listens when he speaks.

In his contribution, Alberto Melloni is surprised by the “extraordinarily short duration” of the last two conclaves and is concerned that a future successor to Peter could be elected too quickly, under pressure from the media, without the necessary perspective.

To overcome what he considers to be a major drawback in the more or less near future where the weight of digital technology and artificial intelligence (AI) are likely to weigh ever more heavily, the historian suggests situating the election of the Roman Pontiff in a longer period conducive to reflection. How? One proposal is reducing the number of daily ballots from four – as currently provided for by Church law – to just one.

Mr. Melloni notes that the last two conclaves only lasted around 24 hours each. If this short duration were to repeat itself, the weight of the media could prove decisive in bringing out a particular candidate or, on the contrary, triggering a press campaign against another so as to influence the vote of the porporati who, when they return to their apartments at St. Martha’s House, would not fail to be affected by the flow of the day’s information concerning them.

The representative of the School of Bologna recalls an event that occurred during the 2013 conclave: just before the first round of voting, they learned that one of the most prominent relatives of a papabile – Cardinal Angelo Scola, Archbishop of Milan, who embodied a “Ratzinguerian” line – was being prosecuted for a case of corruption.

It didn’t take anything less – according to Alberto Melloni – to bring down Cardinal Scola’s candidacy, knowing that at the same time, the candidacy of a certain Jorge Bergoglio was supported by powerful porporati, such as the cardinals Kasper, Danneels, and O'Connor.

As FSSPX.News has already noted, the influence of the media will be all the more important as the members of an increasingly internationalized Sacred College know each other less. What then can be said about the impact of a media campaign for or against a particular porporato, whether they come from inside the Church or from outside, not to mention the famous “fake news” boosted by AI? 

The historian concludes that Francis will probably launch a reform of the proceedings of the conclave before the end of his pontificate, without knowing in which direction it will go. “How will he conceive it? It is difficult to say, but the canonists to whom he has already entrusted the previous reforms do not appear to have the ecclesiological talent of Eugenio Corecco nor the legal virtuosity of Mario Francesco Pompedda.”

“Let us hope that no state and no leading player in the information market succeeds in altering the election of the Pope resulting in an impasse fatal to the unity of the Church, as in 1378.”