The papal election: What history teaches us about cardinals

Feb 28, 2013

As cardinals gather to choose Pope Benedict  successor XVI, Dr Stella Fletcher, Honorary Researcher at The University of Manchester, uses history to think about how the election will pan out. A historian, she has studied cardinals for over 25 years.

"Between the retirement of on 28 February 2013 and the election of his successor, the Catholic Church will be led by the Sacred College of Cardinals.  They will have one task: to choose the next supreme pontiff.  All other ecclesiastical business will be suspended.

"The cardinals come to their task with a wealth of experience in pastoral ministry, scholarship and administration, but they are also conscious of being heirs to traditions that go back centuries.  

"Cardinals have been the exclusive electors of popes since the twelfth century and have entered sealed conclaves since the .  They have elected by inspiration, delegation and ballots of varying degrees of secrecy.  They have collaborated with and had their candidatures vetoed by the secular powers of Europe."

She added: "Aside from the politics and politicking, the practical side of life has had to continue within the walls of the conclave enclosure.  Cardinals and their servants required temporary accommodation in dormitories or purpose-built wooden cells, together with furniture and food.  

"Sometimes life did not go on.  In 1287–8 six cardinals died of malaria during the conclave.  Later deaths were less predictable: in 1655 an elderly cardinal died of pneumonia after falling on a cold floor when he was frightened by a young cardinal pretending to be a ghost, and in 1730 another died of shock when he was told as a joke that he had been elected.

"By looking at patterns in the history of papal elections it's reasonable to assume that  this year's conclave, which is likely to last only two or three days.  Some popes have taken their papal names from the saint on whose feast their election took place.  

"If this year's concludes on 17 March, might the next pope be Patrick I?  One precedent that will certainly not be followed is that of the electors being addressed by a woman before they begin voting: that has happened only once."

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User comments : 10

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mvg
2 / 5 (4) Feb 28, 2013
Just a bunch of "Cross dressers".
antialias_physorg
3 / 5 (4) Feb 28, 2013
The cardinals come to their task with a wealth of experience in pastoral ministry, scholarship and administration, but they are also conscious of being heirs to traditions that go back centuries

That seems a somewhat naive view. Tradition doesn't matter in the least - this is bare-knuckles power politics. If you look how Benedict got to power (despite the odds during his election process) you know how this works.

No coincidence that he was head of the part of the church that was formerly called "the holy inquisition". If you are head of an organization that is tasked with digging up dirt on any and everyone in the church then you can bring a lot of pressure to bear.
VendicarE
4.2 / 5 (5) Feb 28, 2013
History teaches me that altar boys should avoid bending over if they know a Cardinal is near by.

"A historian, she has studied cardinals for over 25 years." - Article

Now there is a completely wasted life.
VendicarE
4 / 5 (4) Feb 28, 2013
By the way... What the hell is a Papal Electron?

Aren't they repulsed by like charges?
geokstr
1 / 5 (9) Feb 28, 2013
History teaches me that altar boys should avoid bending over if they know a Cardinal is near by.

History teaches me that altar boys should avoid bending over if they know a homosexual Cardinal is near by.

FIFY

I'm sure it's a total coincidence that the run of abuse of little boys happened concurrently and after the large influx of gays into the priesthood seeking to avoid the draft in the 1960's.
Birger
5 / 5 (3) Feb 28, 2013
geokstr, pedophiles are not gay. They are pedophiles.
rwinners
3 / 5 (4) Feb 28, 2013
What we know about the cardinals? They are in it for the power.
sennekuyl
1 / 5 (3) Mar 01, 2013
History teaches me that altar boys should avoid bending over if they know a Cardinal is near by.

History teaches me that altar boys should avoid bending over if they know a homosexual Cardinal is near by.

FIFY

I'm sure it's a total coincidence that the run of abuse of little boys happened concurrently and after the large influx of gays into the priesthood seeking to avoid the draft in the 1960's.

And the explanation for the favourite past time before the 60's?
Neinsense99
1 / 5 (5) Mar 02, 2013
Cardinal directions?
mvg
1 / 5 (2) Mar 02, 2013
Cardinal sins?