Open main menu
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
828
CONCLAVE

emperor. In fact, after the death of Clement II. the delegates of the Roman clergy did actually go to Polden to ask Henry III. to give them a pope, and similar steps were taken after the death of Damasus II., who reigned only twenty days. Fortunately on this occasion Henry III. appointed, just before his death, a man of high character, his cousin Bruno, bishop of Toul, who presented himself in Rome in company with Hildebrand. From this time began the reform. Hildebrand had the elections of Victor II. (1055), Stephen IX. (1057), and Nicholas II. (1058) carried out according to the canonical form, including the imperial ratification. The celebrated bull In nomine Domini of the 13th of April 1059 determined the electoral procedure; Election reserved to the cardinals. it is curious to observe how, out of respect for tradition, it preserves all the former factors in the election though their scope is modified: “In the first place, the cardinal bishops shall carefully consider the election together, then they shall consult with the cardinal clergy, and afterwards the rest of the clergy and the people shall by giving their assent confirm the new election.” The election, then, is reserved to the members of the higher clergy, to the cardinals, among whom the cardinal bishops have the preponderating position. The consent of the rest of the clergy and the people is now only a formality. The same was the case of the imperial intervention, in consequence of the phrase: “Saving the honour and respect due to our dear son Henry (Henry IV.), according to the concession we have made to him, and equally to his successors, who shall receive this right personally from the Apostolic See.” Thus the emperor has no rights save those he has received as a concession from the Holy See. Gregory VII., it is true, notified his election to the emperor; but as he set up a series of five antipopes, none of Gregory’s successors asked any more for the imperial sanction. Further, by this bull, the emperors would have to deal with the fait accompli; for it provided that, in the event of disturbances aroused by mischievous persons at Rome preventing the election from being carried out there freely and without bias, the cardinal bishops, together with a small number of the clergy and of the laity, should be empowered to go and hold the election where they should think fit; that should difficulties of any sort prevent the enthronement of the new pope, the pope elect would be empowered immediately to act as if he were actually pope. This legislation was definitely accepted by the emperor by the concordat of Worms (1119).

A limited electoral body lends itself to more minute legislation than a larger body; the college for electing the pope, thus reduced so as to consist in practice of the cardinals only, was subjected as time went on to laws of increasing severity. Two points of great importance were established by Alexander III. at the Lateran Council of 1179. The constitution Licet de vitanda discordia makes all the cardinals equally electors, and no longer mentions the lower clergy or the people; it also requires a majority of two-thirds of the votes to decide an election. This latter provision, which still holds good, made imperial antipopes henceforth impossible.

Abuses nevertheless arose. An electoral college too small in numbers, which no higher power has the right of forcing to haste, can prolong disagreements and draw out the course of the election for a long time. It is this The conclave. period during which we actually find the Holy See left vacant most frequently for long spaces of time. The longest of these, however, gave an opportunity for reform and the remedy was found in the conclave, i.e. in the forced and rigid seclusion of the electors. As a matter of fact, this method had previously been used, but in a mitigated form: in 1216, on the death of Innocent III., the people of Perugia had shut up the cardinals; and in 1241 the Roman magistrates had confined them within the “Septizonium”; they took two months, however, to perform the election. Celestine IV. died after eighteen days, and this time, in spite of the seclusion of the cardinals, there was an interregnum of twenty months. After the death of Clement IV. in 1268, the cardinals, of whom seventeen were gathered together at Viterbo, allowed two years to pass without coming to an agreement; the magistrates of Viterbo again had recourse to the method of seclusion: they shut up the electors in the episcopal palace, blocking up all outlets; and since the election still delayed, the people removed the roof of the palace and allowed nothing but bread and water to be sent in. Under the pressure of famine and of this strict confinement, the cardinals finally agreed, on the 1st of September 1271, to elect Gregory X., after an interregnum of two years, nine months and two days.

Taught by experience, the new pope considered what steps could be taken to prevent the recurrence of such abuses; in 1274, at the council of Lyons, he promulgated the constitution Ubi periculum, the substance of which Laws made by Gregory X. was as follows: At the death of the pope, the cardinals who were present are to await their absent colleagues for ten days; they are then to meet in one of the papal palaces in a closed conclave; none of them is to have to wait on him more than one servant, or two at most if he were ill; in the conclave they are to lead a life in common, not even having separate cells; they are to have no communication with the outer world, under pain of excommunication for any who should attempt to communicate with them; food is to be supplied to the cardinals through a window which would be under watch; after three days, their meals are to consist of a single dish only; and after five days, of bread and water, with a little wine. During the conclave the cardinals are to receive no ecclesiastical revenue. No account is to be taken of those who are absent or have left the conclave. Finally, the election is to be the sole business of the conclave, and the magistrates of the town where it was held are called upon to see that these provisions be observed. Adrian V. and John XX. were weak enough to suspend the constitution Ubi periculum; but the abuses at once reappeared; the Holy See was again vacant for long periods; this further proof was therefore decisive, and Celestine V., who was elected after a vacancy of more than two years, took care, before abdicating the pontificate, to revive the constitution of Gregory X., which was inserted in the Decretals (lib. i. tit. vi., de election. cap. 3).

Since then the laws relating to the conclave have been observed, even during the great schism; the only exception was the election of Martin V., which was performed by the cardinals of the three obediences, to which the council of Constance added five prelates of each of the six nations represented in that assembly. The same was the case up to the 16th century. At this period the Italian republics, later Spain, and finally the other powers, took an intimate interest in the choice of the holder of what was a considerable political power; and each brought more or less honest means to bear, sometimes that of simony. It was against simony that Julius II. directed the bull Julius II. Cum tam divino (1503), which directed that simoniacal election of the pope should be declared null; that any one could attack it; that men should withdraw themselves from the obedience of a pope thus elected; that simoniacal agreements should be invalid; that the guilty cardinals should be excommunicate till their death, and that the rest should proceed immediately to a new election. The purpose of this measure was good, but the proposed remedy extremely dangerous; it was fortunately never applied. Similarly, Paul IV. endeavoured by severe punishments to check the intriguing and plotting for the election of a new pope while his predecessor was still living; but the bull Cum secundum (1558) was of no effect.

Pius IV. undertook the task of reforming and completing the legislation of the conclave. The bull In eligendis (of October 1st, 1562), signed by all the cardinals, is a model of precision and wisdom. In addition to the points Pius IV. already stated, we may add the following: that every day there was to be a scrutiny, i.e. a solemn voting by specially prepared voting papers (concealing the name of the voter, and to be opened only in case of an election being made at that scrutiny), and that this was to be followed by the “accessit,” i.e. a second voting, in which the cardinals might transfer their suffrages to those who had obtained the greatest number of votes in the first. Except in case of urgent matters, the election