“CanvassingGate”: The Historical Perspective
Those who know their Church history know that corruption on a huge scale to gain the vote of Cardinals was certainly not a historically rare event. And if you care to travel to Viterbo during your next stay in Rome you will see, still standing, the palace where in 1271 the Cardinals were first locked and fed only with bread and water, then had even the roof removed so that they felt, ahem, gently encouraged to make a decision. The decision was not considered invalid. Nowadays, we bicker about the number of valid votes in any one day.
If the election of a Pope were to depend on corruption or undue pressure not taking place, the entire history of the Papacy would have to be rewritten, and one wonders by what gymnastics any modern Pope could be claimed to be the Successor of Peter in the proper sense. And if this is true – and it most certainly is – for corruption, just imagine for the – which leads us to today's issue – “canvassing”.
In addition, it must be said that – humans being usually prone to communicating with each other – the one or other preference can be communicated in one thousand and one ways. If Cardinal Murphy O'Connor likes Bergoglio, well clearly
he is an idiot he likes Bergoglio. If we were to consider any expressions of esteem for a colleague to constitute “canvassing”, then no human communications among Cardinals should be allowed at all before the Conclave begins. Yet, we all know that these expressions and communications convey exactly the desired meaning: he who is such a good Cardinal, can certainly be seen as an acceptable Pope.
“But Mundabor!” – you might say – “this was a concerted effort! This isn't just a Cardinal talking to another Cardinal at dinner!”. This may or may not be what has happened. But I cannot see how the terrible sin committed by these Cardinals (a sin which would cause their excommunication) could or should invalidate the election. Not only the present rules for the election of a Pope explicitly say that this is not the case, even if such a behaviour should take place; but reason and common sense shout it altogether, so that even if the rules penned by JP II were not to explicitly include such provision, the same conclusion would have to be reached anyway, out of sheer common sense.
Not for the first time I must warn from getting overexcited. The Papacy is not a fantasy land where everything works in the right way, and at three cardinals canvassing the election is put into doubt. Heavens, how many Pope would have been invalidly elected? Fifty? Eighty? One hundred?
Let us, therefore, not get excited again about the recent “revelations” of “canvassing” Cardinals. Even if true, it would not affect the validity of the election in the least. Common sense says so, Church history shouts so, even JP II's (and current official) rules say so!
For worst or for even worse than worst, Francis is the Pope. He was elected by Cardinals whose average integrity and faith left much to be desired anyway. We already knew that characters like Nichols, Danneels and Kasper were allowed to participate, so it's difficult to see how any recommendation coming from Murphy O'Connor would negatively influence any decent Cardinal, or how any non-decent Cardinal would not be influenced by the above mentioned chaps once the Conclave has begun.
Socci's book, all the Sedevacantist theories, and now even the questions of “validity” linked to the alleged “canvassing” are, if you ask me, a flight from reality. It amounts to an attempt of dreaming oneself out of a situation that is so tragic because it's so real. And this dream has no resemblance whatsoever with the earthly Church as she has lived, breathed, corrupted, and fornicated these two thousand years.
Francis is Pope.