A Tailored Conclave for the Successor of Francis? (1)

Source: FSSPX News

Cardinal Gianfranco Ghirlanda receives the cardinal’s biretta on August 27, 2022

On November 4, 2023, The Pillar website announced that a reform of the papal conclave would be under consideration. The information had been relayed by Il Sismografo and by Aldo Maria Valli but was immediately denied by the Press Office of the Holy See and Cardinal Gianfranco Ghirlanda, SJ, Pope Francis’ canon lawyer. What was it about, exactly? And what would be the risks of such a reform if it occurred?

A Conclave to Ensure Succession

The same day, November 4, Diane Montagna of the Remnant—an always well-informed journalist—also affirmed that Francis was currently examining, with Cardinal Ghirlanda, a document to reform the conclave.

This reform would exclude cardinals over the age of 80 from the preparatory phase, would modify the form of general congregations, and would revolutionize the rules relating to the election of a Pope, by the introduction of laity and men and women religious into the electoral college, making up 25% of the vote.

According to Aldo Maria Valli, “the idea would be that the cardinal electors, chosen for the most part by Pope Francis, have 75% of the votes, while the remaining 25% would be allocated to the laity and to religious, appointed by the Pope before the vacancy of the apostolic seat. The document in question would exclude all non-voting cardinals—that is to say, those who have reached the age of 80—from the general congregations preceding the start of the papal election.”

The Italian journalist comments: “It’s important not to forget that, in the opinion of many, the new Pope is chosen precisely in the general congregations, because it is in this preparatory phase that the problems of the Church and the qualities which should characterize the appropriate candidate are discussed.”

Aldo Maria Valli brings up the potential establishment of “small working groups with a leader to guide the discussions, in the manner of what happened during the synodal assembly in October,” as well as the extension of 25% of the vote to laity, including women, appointed by Francis,--which in practice would make it possible to find in the conclave, as we saw during the Synod, pro-LGBTQ+ nun Jeannine Gramick or alter-globalist Luca Casarini.

This desire to “synodalize” the conclave reminds some Roman observers of the electoral redistribution that some politicians engage in before elections they fear losing.

In 1811, the governor of Massachusetts in the United States, Elbridge Gerry, became famous for this way of doing things, to the point of giving it his name. In fact, gerrymandering refers to an operation of “electoral optimization” that the French refer to, in a less nuanced way, by the expression “electoral surgery.”

The Cardinal Denies

Since Sunday, November 4, the Vatican Press Office has denied it, and the next day, so did Cardinal Ghirlanda himself, who, contacted by LifeSiteNews, responded: “Before your email I had no news about the Conclave reform that you mention.”

And he called the news circulating on the internet “absolutely false.” In a response to EWTN reported by the Catholic News Agency, he affirmed: “I do not know anything about it and any implication I have in it is a pure lie.”

Is Cardinal Ghirlanda as ignorant or innocent as he claims to be? His past role with Francis marks him as the right man for such a reform. Indeed, he played a key role in drafting Praedicate Evangelium, the document reforming the Roman Curia.

He was also the originator of contested ideas, like the 2022 statement, according to which “the power of governance in the Church doesn't come from the sacrament of Holy Orders, but from the canonical mission.” It is difficult to see him as innocent as a lamb. Furthermore, the Pope himself recently expressed the possibility of a conclave reform.