One of the very many beauties of the Only Church is that it is always so logical. One of the effects of this beautifully logical edifice is that Catholic thinking does not bring anyone to go against sound common sense in matter pertaining the way she is run and functions. of course, Christianity itself seems to fly in the face of reality in certain things – and only at first sight, whereas a deeper and well-instructed look actually discloses a world of deeper wisdom -; but as to everyday decisions and the way the Church runs her course, one can say that robust common sense is always the best way to recognise how the Church thinks.
Common sense tells us that Francis is the Pope, because if it looks like a pope, swims like a pope, and quacks like a pope, then it probably is a pope. You know Francis is Pope. You know it with the same immediacy with which you know that that thing up in the sky is the Moon. It’s there. That’s it.
Unfortunately, whilst the existence of the moon is not particularly obnoxious to everyone, the existence of this particular pope is a tragedy to every sincere and well-instructed Catholic. True as this certainly is, it does not mean that we can cancel this Papacy out of existence more than we could the Moon. He’s there. That’s it.
Every now and then, this or that ground is advanced to explain why the Pope would not be the Pope, which to me always seems like being told that the Moon is actually a squirrel. The last wave of delusion took its course when cardinal Danneels, succumbing to an obvious attack of “I am the Queen of England”-itis, decided to come out of the closet as the self-appointed Great Manipulator of the 2013 conclave which gave us the Evil Clown.
Predictably, the Emergency Exit fans were all excited. Alas, they must not know much of Church history, or else believe the popes of the past were elected by way of the Holy Ghost spreading some kind of Sanctity Dust over the head of the electors. If they knew the truth, they would know that intrigues and conspiracies of the one now adduced as ground for the lack of validity of the Evil Clown’s election were simply there all the time. Apart from the obvious corruption of the clergy during long centuries of the Church’s history, the widespread custom of electing very old and frail popes – called “transition popes” – was meant to do nothing else than allow the decision about the “durable” pope to go on in a softer way behind the scene. Basically, it was permanent negotiation, and the real conclave was only the way the choice was formally sanctioned; pretty much in the same way as a law is voted in the legislative chamber after months of patient negotiations, and the necessary weighing of the interests of several parties have gone through the various phases of drafting and discussion at committee level.
Nor can anyone say that hey, in the past there were other rules, but since JP II everything has changed. Who would seriously believe – even without being a Canon Law expert – that a Pope would make the legitimacy of each and every one of his successors uncertain?
No. Common sense says that it cannot be so.
It common sense is not good enough for you, this here is the canon law argument.
The part you are looking for is this one:
Thus, it is hard to see what canonical consequences a cardinal would have to fear if he were to admit to a canonical crime punishable by latae sententiae excommunication. If it turns out that one or more cardinals violated, say, Universi 81, they might (and I stress, might) be “automatically” excommunicated, but “automatic” excommunication impacts—I hate to put it this way—only the liceity of ecclesiastical acts, not their validity. So, while it might be distressing to see appointed to synodal service some cardinals who could be “automatically excommunicated”, whatever acts such men might place at a synod would be, by the plain text of canon law, valid.
It is perfectly clear. It makes perfect sense. It’s the only way things can go.
The Church is run by logical, not emotional rules. Her divine edifice is, at the same time, beautifully sound when seen with a simple, logical common sense approach. There would be no certain papacy, and in the end no Church, if the legitimacy of a Pope could be called into question for reasons like Danneels’ and others’ behaviour.
Those who seem to like such outlandish propositions should stop looking for the emergency exit and delve into church history a bit more instead. It will disabuse them of this idea of the “invariably good pope elected by holy men under the guidance of the Holy Ghost”.
The Church is not indefectible because of the popes she had. On the contrary, the popes she had are the best practical evidence that she is indefectible.
Stop looking for the emergency exit.