July 1, 2019 (Steven O’Reilly) – [Updated 7/12/2019]
Updated 7/31/2019: The thesis in the article below has been revised. Please see 2013 Conclave: Was there a violation of Universi Dominici Gregis 12? instead.
This article is part III of an examination of events leading up to the 2013 conclave which elected Cardinal Bergoglio. Part I on Roma Locuta Est explored the enigmatic “influential Italian gentleman” who visited then-Cardinal McCarrick. Part II raised various questions regarding this mysterious visitor (see Questions Regarding the “Influential Italian Gentleman”). The questions posted in Parts I and II mostly focused on events which transpired between February 11, 2013 through March 4, 2013, with particular focus on the February 27-March 2nd time period.
As I looked into the case of the mysterious “influential Italian gentleman,” my research raised a number of additional questions for me. This research surface some other facts, which were touched upon briefly in the notes section in Part I. Here, in part III, I will focus more on these questions in light of the papal legislation governing conclaves (i.e., Universis Domenici Gregis,and Normas Nonnullas).
The Two Secrecy Oaths of Universis Domenici Gregis
Per Universis Domenici Gregis (modified in part by Normas Nonnullas), the Cardinal-electors take an oath of secrecy upon entering the conclave. In the case of the 2013 conclave, the following oath would have been taken by all Cardinal-electors on March 12 per UDG 53 (emphasis added):
53. In conformity with the provisions of No. 52, the Cardinal Dean or the Cardinal who has precedence by order and seniority, will read aloud the following formula of the oath:
We, the Cardinal electors present in this election of the Supreme Pontiff promise, pledge and swear, as individuals and as a group, to observe faithfully and scrupulously the prescriptions contained in the Apostolic Constitution of the Supreme Pontiff John Paul II, Universi Dominici Gregis, published on 22 February 1996. We likewise promise, pledge and swear that whichever of us by divine disposition is elected Roman Pontiff will commit himself faithfully to carrying out the munus Petrinum of Pastor of the Universal Church and will not fail to affirm and defend strenuously the spiritual and temporal rights and the liberty of the Holy See. In a particular way, we promise and swear to observe with the greatest fidelity and with all persons, clerical or lay, secrecy regarding everything that in any way relates to the election of the Roman Pontiff and regarding what occurs in the place of the election, directly or indirectly related to the results of the voting; we promise and swear not to break this secret in any way, either during or after the election of the new Pontiff, unless explicit authorization is granted by the same Pontiff; and never to lend support or favour to any interference, opposition or any other form of intervention, whereby secular authorities of whatever order and degree or any group of people or individuals might wish to intervene in the election of the Roman Pontiff.
Each of the Cardinal electors, according to the order of precedence, will then take the oath according to the following formula:
And I, N. Cardinal N., do so promise, pledge and swear. Placing his hand on the Gospels, he will add: So help me God and these Holy Gospels which I touch with my hand.
The oath above, as noted, pertains to secrecy regarding the actual conclave. However, in addition to this oath, both Cardinal electors and those Cardinal ineligible to vote took a separate oath of secrecy nearly a week before the conclave.
This oath, per UDG 12, is to be taken at the outset of the General Congregations, or preparatory meetings for the conclave. Following the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI in 2013, these preparatory meetings began on the morning of March 4, 2013. Thus, it was at this time (or at least no later than March 6th, 2013 (see here)) that this first secrecy oath would have been taken by all cardinals participating in these meetings — almost a full week before the conclave. This first oath is similar to the one taken on entrance into the conclave (i.e., UDG 53). UDG 12 and its oath reads as follows [emphasis added]:
12. In the first General Congregations provision is to be made for each Cardinal to have available a copy of this Constitution and at the same time to have an opportunity to raise questions about the meaning and the implementation of its norms. The part of the present Constitution regarding the vacancy of the Apostolic See should also be read aloud. At the same time the Cardinals present are to swear an oath to observe the prescriptions contained herein and to maintain secrecy. This oath, which shall also be taken by Cardinals who arrive late and subsequently take part in these Congregations, is to be read aloud by the Cardinal Dean or by whoever else presides over the College by virtue of No. 9 of this Constitution, in the presence of the other Cardinals and according to the following formula:
We, the Cardinals of Holy Roman Church, of the Order of Bishops, of Priests and of Deacons, promise, pledge and swear, as a body and individually, to observe exactly and faithfully all the norms contained in the Apostolic Constitution Universi Dominici Gregis of the Supreme Pontiff John Paul II, and to maintain rigorous secrecy with regard to all matters in any way related to the election of the Roman Pontiff or those which, by their very nature, during the vacancy of the Apostolic See, call for the same secrecy.
Next, each Cardinal shall add: And I, N. Cardinal N., so promise, pledge and swear. And, placing his hand on the Gospels, he will add: So help me God and these Holy Gospels which I now touch with my hand.
While the oath of UDG 12 taken by all Cardinals is a little different from the one taken by cardinal-electors (UDG 53) in some respects, it is explicitly stated each Cardinal from the outset of the General Congregations (March 4, 2013) swore they would (emphasis added): “maintain rigorous secrecy with regard to all matters in any way related to the election of the Roman Pontiff or those which, by their very nature, during the vacancy of the Apostolic See, call for the same secrecy.”
The scope of the oath is quite broad. Any matter “in any way related” to the election of the Roman Pontiff.
Two Separate Gatherings on the Eve of the Conclave
Having noted the scope of this secret, let us consider two separate gatherings on the eve of the conclave and ponder whether there are implications related to the oath of secrecy taken per UDG 12.
The first gathering we will consider is discussed in LifeSiteNews article from April 15, 2019. This article is Maike Hickson’s book review of Gerald O’Connell’s book, The Election of Pope Francis. We pick up Ms. Hickson’s article (“New book on Pope Francis’ election reveals the main kingmakers“) where she writes about events that transpired on the eve of the conclave, quoting O’Connell in part as well (emphasis added):
“But let us now also return to the above-mentioned “crucial meeting” at Cardinal Nicora’s apartment on the eve of the conclave, on 11 March. Nicora himself had been for many years the auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Milan before coming to Rome, so he worked many years with Cardinal Martini. At this gathering, there were “around fifteen or more [cardinals] from many countries and different continents, including Roman Curia cardinals and Italians,” O’Connell explains. “All, it turned out, were supporting Bergoglio’s candidacy,” he adds. Among them were Cardinals Coccopalmerio, Nicora, Kasper, Murphy-O’Connor, Maradiaga, Turkson, Gracias, and Tauran. The author continues saying: “During the meeting, each one confirmed or revealed that he had decided to support Bergoglio on the first ballot, and also mentioned other cardinals that he believed were thinking along the same lines and could vote for him then.” Coccopalmerio, keeping a tally of the promised votes, came up with “at least twenty-five votes” for Bergoglio.” (Source: LifeSiteNews: “New book on Pope Francis’ election reveals the main kingmakers” by Maike Hickson, April 15, 2019)
We see here from O’Connell’s account, a group of Bergoglian Cardinals met on the eve of the conclave. At this meeting Cardinal Coccopalmerio kept a tally of the votes for Bergoglio, and came up with “at least twenty-five votes.” [NB: I would suppose in the midst of their strategizing and vote tallying that they likely would have made an estimate of how many votes the other top contenders, such as Cardinals Scola and Oullet, might have as well.]
So, this group of Bergoglianistas met, plotted and planned for the conclave. They tallied twenty-five votes for Bergoglio. One obvious question is, what did they then do with this information? The obvious course of action, it seems to me, would be to tell Cardinal Bergoglio how the campaign for his election was shaping up. We may dismiss any suggestion, later put about by his supporters, that Bergoglio was surprised by his election. Cardinal Bergoglio well knew there was an ongoing campaign for his election. Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor had approached him at least several days earlier to seek his consent and to tell him to “watch out.”
However, this portrayal paints Cardinal Bergoglio as something of a passive creature in this whole affair, which seems to me improbable. It is evident Bergoglio knew what Benedict XVI’s resignation likely meant for him, as was clearly outlined in Henry Sire’s The Dictator Pope (see Note 1). Bergoglio’s actions upon reaching Rome suggest he was an active agent for his election from the moment of his arrival. For example, Cardinal Bergoglio met and had dinner with Andrea Tornielli the day he arrived in Rome (February 27) for the papal resignation (see The “Influential Italian Gentleman”), and he met with Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor on March 1st, the day after the effective date (February 28, 8pm — Rome time) of Benedict’s resignation. The very next morning (March 2), the famous phrase “Four years of Bergoglio would be enough to change things” appears as the very first sentence of Andrea Tornielli’s Vatican Insider article. In addition, this same line appears to have been something of a talking point/elevator pitch used by at least two cardinals (e.g., one of them being Murphy-O’Connor who dined with Bergoglio the night before!) with three different journalists (see here). Also, a quite similar line was used on McCarrick the very same day (March 2nd) it appeared in Vatican Insider, or certainly no later than March 3rd (see “influential Italian gentleman“) [NB: McCarrick might have been visisted by the “influential Italian” as early as March 1].
In sum, I am of the opinion the active campaign for Bergoglio started no later than March 1, and that he was a far more active participant in its planning and execution than his acolytes suggest. Given Cardinal Bergoglio’s interest in the papacy (per Sire’s book), it seems a reasonable hypothesis to suppose he’d request and expect Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor, or perhaps Cardinal Coccopalmerio to update him on the eve of the conclave, i.e., bring him news of the latest and last vote tally going into the conclave the next day.
I do believe this a reasonable hypothesis. But, did one of the Cardinals either stop by or perhaps call Bergoglio by telephone with the tally results on the eve of the conclave? At this point, I don’t think we know. But, we do know who was with Cardinal Bergoglio on the eve of the conclave. Returning once again to Maike Hickson’s review of Gerald O’Connor’s book, we do know at least one person who was with Cardinal Bergoglio on the eve of the conclave — Andrea Tornielli. Ms. Hickson writes (emphasis added):
“Another person playing a somewhat important role in this time period ought to be mentioned here, as well. Andrea Tornielli – today the Pope’s editorial communications director – met Bergoglio the day the prelate arrived in Rome – 27 February – for dinner at the house of some friends, as well as on the eve of the conclave, 11 March.”(Source: LifeSiteNews: “New book on Pope Francis’ election reveals the main kingmakers” by Maike Hickson, April 15, 2019)
Roma Locuta Est Note 7/31/2019: The citation is incorrect. Andrea Tornielli did not have dinner with or meet with Bergoglio on the eve of the conclave.
Andrea Tornielli (see Note 2) has popped up a few times, as noted by Ms. Hickson, and observed over the last couple articles (see The “Influential Italian Gentleman” . Questions Regarding the “Influential Italian Gentleman”). His presence, as I noted in one of the earlier articles, forms something of bookends around Cardinal Bergoglio’s time in Rome. Tornielli met and had dinner with Bergoglio the day of his arrival in Rome (February 27), and now again — per O’Connell — on the eve of the conclave.
Questions for Pope Francis and Andrea Tornielli
As we’ve seen, Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor and about 15 cardinals met on the eve of the conclave and tallied the potential votes for Bergoglio. Also on the eve of the conclave, Andrea Tornielli is at some point with Cardinal Bergoglio. It seems to me, if only for historical purposes, at least a couple of questions naturally arise. The questions here are:
- Did Cardinal Bergoglio receive the results of Cardinal Coccopalmerio’s vote tally on the eve of the conclave or on the morning of March 12?
- And, if so, did Andrea Tornielli who was with Cardinal Bergoglio on the eve of the conclave — per O’Connell’s book — learn the results of the tally from Bergoglio and or some other Cardinal?
These seem to me to be obvious and fair questions, suggested by the publicly available time line. Yet, considering these fair questions, we must also recall our earlier discussion of the secrecy oath taken by all cardinals before the outset of the General Congregations — and thus before the eve of the conclave. Each Cardinal swore to “…maintain rigorous secrecy with regard to all matters in any way related to the election of the Roman Pontiff or those which, by their very nature, during the vacancy of the Apostolic See, call for the same secrecy.”
I am not a canonist. However, if the answer to #2 above is “yes,” i.e., Cardinal Bergoglio or some other Cardinal shared the vote tally results with Andrea Tornielli, this seems to pose a problem. Certainly on the face of things, this appears to be a violation of the oath (UDG 12) to maintain secrecy on all matters “in any way related to the election of the Roman pontiff.” It seems to me that sharing even an informal tally of Bergoglian votes is a matter in some way related to the election of the Roman pontiff. A tally is in some way related, therefore it falls into the category of something which is in fact “any way related” — and this is prohibited. But, I am not a canonist.
But did Andrea Tornielli actually learn this vote tally? I certainly don’t know. Certainly it is a fair and reasonable question to ask. However, there is this curious post-conclave analysis by Fr. Mark Drew of the Catholic Herald entitled “Did the pundits get this year’s conclave spectacularly wrong?” Fr. Drew comments in part (emphasis added):
“In fact, some of the best-informed Italian journalists had noticed that his name (NB: Bergoglio’s) was recurring in the talk during the final days of the build-up. Andrea Tornielli, that oracle among vaticanologists, not only mentioned him on the morning the conclave began, but later the same day brazenly offered his own version of the state of the deliberations still under way among the sequestered cardinals.
As all know, the participants in a conclave are vowed to the strictest secrecy. Nonetheless, once it is over the details usually come out in dribs and drabs until something like a clear picture can be formed. It is now known that Bergoglio was the only other serious contended to rival Ratzinger in 2005. Tornielli, however, seemed to have inside information even as the voting proceeded. Perhaps this was merely a priori calculation on the basis of information obtained beforehand, but in any case, Tornielli’s analysis proved remarkable prescient. He averred confidently that there was a deadlock in the conclave, but he mentioned Bergoglio, along with Scola and Ouellet, as one of the three front-runners.” (Source: Catholic Herald. “Did the pundits get this year’s conclave spectacularly wrong?” by Fr. Mark Drew, March 25, 2013).
Was it prescience or did Tornielli, who met Bergoglio the day he arrived in Rome (February 27), and was with him on the eve of the conclave know something of what was going on? For example, did Tornielli have inside knowledge of the Cardinal Coccopalmerio vote tally from the eve of the conclave?
And if a Cardinal (such as Bergoglio) passed this information to Tornielli, did that Cardinal violate the oath (UDG 12) in which he swore to “…maintain rigorous secrecy with regard to all matters in any way related to the election of the Roman Pontiff or those which, by their very nature, during the vacancy of the Apostolic See, call for the same secrecy”?
Comments on Universis Domenici Gregis
Still, even if Tornielli had such knowledge, would a Cardinal have violated the oath (UDG 12) in sharing with him an informal vote tally from a group Bergoglio supporters? I am not a canonist, and cannot state what “the” answer is with certainty. But, I can say from a plain, layman’s reading of the text, it would appear to be a violation of the oath because an informal vote tally it is in ‘some way related‘ to the election of the Roman pontiff.
Okay, let us assume it was a violation. What if Bergoglio did tip off Tornielli with regard to the conclave-eve vote tally? What if such a tip violated the oath, what would be the penalty? Again, I am not a canonist. But, reading through the text of UDG, it appears to me that UDG only explicitly applies a penalty of excommunication latae sententiae with regards to violations of the oath (UDG 12) to various staff surrounding the Conclave (see UDG 58) — but, strangely enough, not explicitly to Cardinals.
What about UDG 76 which states (emphasis added): “Should the election take place in a way other than that prescribed in the present Constitution, or should the conditions laid down here not be observed, the election is for this very reason null and void, without any need for a declaration on the matter; consequently, it confers no right on the one elected“? Yet, again, I am not a canonist. But, I suspect this section applies to the election proper, and not to violations of conditions (e.g., UDG 12) laid down for the General Congregations.
As I’ve said a few times already, I am not a canonist. While it does appear to me (as a layman) some Cardinal may have violated the oath of UDG 12, there does not appear to be a punishment for such an act in UDG, or any impact on the election results. If an actual canonist happens upon this article, I welcome your comments and analysis (see my contact info below).
The above said, while it may have to wait for a future Pope, I do think there is enough smoke here that the events surrounding the 2013 conclave should be investigated more thoroughly by appropriate Church authorities. In the meantime, perhaps some reporter could begin by clarifying the historical record. Questions he/she might ask include:
- Did Andrea Tornielli receive information on any vote tallies made by pro-Bergoglio Cardinals on or before March 11, the eve of the 2013 conclave (or even as late as March 12)? For that matter, did Tornielli receive any information from any Cardinal on any informal vote tallies related to Cardinals Scola or Oullet?
- Did Andrea Tornielli ever meet with then-Cardinal McCarrick between February 11 and March 11, 2013? Did Andrea Tornielli ever meet with then-Cardinal McCarrick on either March 1st, 2nd or 3rd of 2013 at the North American College?
- Were Andrea Tornielli and Cardinal Bergoglio in contact with one another before the Cardinal’s arrival in Rome (which seems probable, if not certain) on February 27, 2013? What was the nature of these communications? Were there any discussions regarding the Cardinal’s chances in the upcoming conclave? Were there any discussions regarding election strategy, or how his election might be accomplished?
- What did Andrea Tornielli and Cardinal Bergoglio discuss when they met on February 27, 2013 — the day the Cardinal arrived in Rome. Were there any discussions regarding the Cardinal’s chances in the upcoming conclave? Were there any discussions regarding how his election might be accomplished?
- Prior to the conclave, Did Andrea Tornielli relay to Cardinal Bergoglio or to anyone on “Team Bergoglio” any information related to the upcoming conclave which he learned, obtained or acquired from any other Cardinal?
Steven O’Reilly is a graduate of the University of Dallas and the Georgia Institute of Technology. A former Intelligence Officer, he and his wife, Margaret, live near Atlanta with their family. He has written apologetic articles and is working on a historical-adventure trilogy, entitled Pia Fidelis, set during the time of the Arian crisis. The first book of the Pia Fidelis trilogy. The Two Kingdoms, should be out later this summer or by early fall 2019 (Follow on twitter at @fidelispia for updates). He asks for your prayers for his intentions. He can be contacted at StevenOReilly@AOL.com (or follow on Twitter: @S_OReilly_USA).
February 11 — Pope Benedict announced his intent to resign the papacy, as of February 28, 2013. Henry Sire’s book, The Dictator Pope, reports that when Pope Benedict XVI publicly announced on February 11, 2013 his intent to resign, the news “took almost the whole world by surprise; not Bergoglio and his associates, however, as eyewitnesses discovered” (p.46). Sire’s book reports Cardinal Bergoglio received “calls of personal congratulations” (p.46) and he was said to be “exultant.” As the author’s source reported (emphasis added):
“One Argentinian friend, however, less well informed than the others, rang up to ask about the extraordinary news, and Bergoglio told him: “You don’t know what this means.” (Source: “The Dictator Pope: The Inside Story of the Francis Papacy.” Marcantonio Colonna. Regnery Publishing. Washingon, DC. 2017, p. 46)
It seems rather evident from the evidence that an “exultant” Cardinal Bergoglio desired to be elected pope, and believed Benedict’s resignation meant just that. Apparently, so did those who called him with “personal congratulations.”
Therefore, claims that Bergoglio was surprised by his election are utter bunk. He clearly knew others thought he could be pope, and it is evident he wanted to be pope. Therefore, it is improbable he was passively waiting for others to act on his behalf in the time between Benedict’s resignation (February 11) and the conclave (March 11).
Tornielli’s Vatican Insider has long been close to Pope Francis, and has defended him all things Francis-related, whether it be Amoris Laetitia or the accusations of Archbishop Vigano. Edward Pentin named Tornielli as being one of three of Pope Francis’ “unofficial spokesmen” (see here). The Vatican Insider has defended all things Bergoglio since day one. Tornielli even developed something of a Bergoglian enemies list (see here and here), and he is known for his attack on Archbishop Vigano (see here).Tornielli avid defender of Bergoglio in the face of the Vigano charges (e.g., here). He appears to share Pope Francis’ high opinion of the late Cardinal Martini, writing a book of him (see here) published in September 2012 after the Cardinal’s death. Seems close to Francis (see here).