2013 Conclave: Was there a violation of Universi Dominici Gregis 12?

July 31, 2019 (Steven O’Reilly) – A few weeks back, I posted a few articles on Roma Locuta Est dealing with the mysterious figure of the “influential Italian gentleman.”  This “influential Italian gentleman” visited McCarrick (see video here) in early March before the General Congregations (began March 4) and asked him to ‘talk up Bergoglio.’

I had wondered for some time who he might be, but I hit upon what I believe to be the likely answer when I was updating an article I had written on Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, S.J., and issues involving his acceptance of his election to the papacy (see Curiouser and Curiouser: Who Dispensed Jorge Bergoglio SJ from his vows?).  In the course of researching that update, I coincidentally hit on other information that led me to develop the theory on the “influential Italian gentleman,” i.e., who he was, and who sent him, and why he was sent to McCarrick. If this theory is correct, then it becomes clearer why Pope Francis & company would not and do not want a deeper investigation into McCarrick, as it might reveal his importance in helping Cardinal Bergoglio win the papacy (again, is all discussed in The “Influential Italian Gentleman”).

But, as I began to research and develop a theory on McCarrick’s Italian, I then came upon evidence that strongly suggested — to my admittedly amateur eyes (i.e., not being a canonist)  — that one or more cardinals possibly violated Universi Dominici Gregis (UDG), specifically UDG 12 by conveying information related to deliberations regarding the election of the Roman Pontiff to a non-cardinal. The evidence for what appears to me to be a violation of UDG 12 comes from Gerard O’Connell’s book, The Election of Pope Francis. I will lay out the evidence below.

The Two Secrecy Oaths of Universi Domenici Gregis

Per Universi Domenici Gregis (UDG), the Cardinal-electors took an oath of secrecy upon entering the 2013 conclave. This oath in UDG 53 (see Note 1) pertains to secrecy regarding the actual conclave. In addition to the oath of UDG 53, there is yet a separate oath (UDG 12) that both the Cardinal electors and all other Cardinal (i.e., those ineligible to vote in the conclave) took a week before the conclave in March of 2013.

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. This oath was taken by all cardinals present on this day, 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 the cardinal-electors only (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, covering any matter “in any way related” to the election of the Roman Pontiff.

St. Gallen and other Cardinals meet on the eve of the conclave

We know from O’Connell’s book that Cardinals who supported the candidacy of Bergoglio met together on the eve of the conclave (March 11, 2013) at Cardinal Nicora’s apartment in the Vatican to discuss the election.

According to O’Connell, there were “around 15 or more cardinals.” The participants included Italian Cardinals (Nicora, Antonelli, Bertello, Coccopalmerio, and Poletto), other European Cardinals (Brady, Kasper, Tauran and Murphy-O’Connor (“the only non-elector” per O’Connell in attendance), also “key figures from Latin America, Africa and Asia,” Cardinals Maradiaga, Turkson and Gracias.

One key thing to remember, as it will be important later, Cardinal O’Connell, due to his age, was “the only non-elector” in attendance at this meeting.  O’Connell writes, in part, of this gathering (emphasis added):

“When they had all given their input, Coccopalmerio, who was keeping a tally of what was being declared, added up the numbers. The result showed that Bergoglio had at least twenty-five votes. They concluded the evening knowing that Bergoglio would enter the conclave with between twenty and thirty votes. “It was crucial that he had the support in the first ballot,” the English cardinal told me later; he understood this after his experience at the 2005 conclave.”

A mistaken hypothesis — But only in Part!

In a prior article, I had hypothesized that Andrea Tornielli had obtained knowledge of this vote count above either directly from one of the attending cardinals or perhaps from Bergoglio himself. This hypothesis was based on two premises, (1) that Tornielli had had dinner with Bergoglio on the eve of the conclave (March 11), and (2) that Tornielli’s remarkable prescience as to the outcome of the conclave–seemed to suggest (I speculated) he had received such intelligence re the meeting.  I previously wrote and also quoted an article by Fr. Mark Drew who first observed the odd fact:

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?

I was mistaken with regard to the first of my two premises. Now having my own copy of O’Connell’s book, and going by his timeline, Cardinal Bergoglio dined alone on March 11, and thus would not have been dining with Tornielli as I had originally supposed (see here).  However, while that premise was erroneous, O’Connell’s book does demonstrate that Tornielli’s prescience was in fact based in part on intelligence obtained from the meeting at Cardinal Nicora’s apartment.  I shall explain.

In his book O’Connell reports that it was he himself who gave the information and his analysis based on it to Tornielli on March 12, the first night of the conclave. Where, pray tell, did O’Connell get this information on March 12 re the meeting in Cardinal Nicora’s apartment that occurred the night before (March 11). O’Connell tells us in his book. He writes (emphasis added):

“It was that Tuesday evening, after finishing my analysis of the papal election for CTV, that I happened to meet a source who shared a crucial piece of information with me on condition that I not publish it until long after the papal election. He confided the story I have previously described, that on the previous evening, March 11 the eve of the conclave, Cardinal Attilio Nicora had hosted a meeting in his Vatican apartment attended by more than a dozen cardinals from different countries and four continents, all of whom had declared their intention to support Bergoglio, and had mentioned the names of others they knew were thinking along the same lines.”

Who is Mr. O’Connell’s unnamed source? Well, Mr. O’Connell had already reported, as I quoted earlier, that the meeting in Cardinal Nicora’s apartment was attended by cardinalsThus, obviously, the ultimate source of the information had to have been a cardinal. But, one might wonder, how is this possible? After all, Mr. O’Connell received this information from his source on March 12 when all the cardinal-electors would have been locked away in the conclave.

The answer, I think, is pretty clear as to whom O’Connell’s source was in all likelihood.  Mr. O’Connell, as I noted earlier, tells us explicitly that at the conclave eve meeting at Nicora’s apartment Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor was “the only non-elector” present. As the only non-elector present, obviously, Murphy-O’Connor would not have been locked away in the conclave the following evening, and thus was the only attending cardinal from that meeting available to be the “source.” Therefore, Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor who contributed much to O’Connell’s book elsewhere as a named source, is in all probability, if not certainly, the unnamed source about the meeting in Cardinal Nicora’s apartment.

Even if, somehow, Murphy-O’Connor is not the source (which is still conceivable), some Cardinal from that meeting provided that information to O’Connell, or to someone known to O’Connell. This raises a number of questions. Again, to be clear, I am in no way a canonist—but it appears to my admittedly amateur eyes, that the information obtained by O’Connell certainly fell within the scope of “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” (cf UDG 12). (NB: I welcome a canonist to comment on whether such an action, if it occurred, would constitute a violation of UDG 12, and, if so, what implications might follow).

Mr. O’Connell’s source seemed to have cognizance of guilt in breaking this oath, as the source per O’Connell “shared a crucial piece of information with me on condition that I not publish it until long after the papal election.” If the source was Murphy-O’Connor, the thing I find very interesting is that while he didn’t care about breaking the oath, he did seem to care enough that no one would know the information “until long after the papal election.”  Why would that be?

All the above said, even if a cardinal attending the conclave eve meeting at Cardinal Nicora’s apartment violated UDG 12 by talking about it to a non-cardinal before the conclave, it is not clear to me what – if any – canonical/UDG penalties would apply. However, there is something else to consider. If Murphy-O’Connor was the source of O’Connell’s information and if the provision of this information constituted a violation of UDG 12; should it impact our view of Murphy-O’Connor’s credibility when assessing his denials of other potential or supposed violations of UDG involving himself or others in the St. Gallen mafia?

For one, Murphy-O’Connor (along with Cardinals Kaspar, Daneels, Lehmann) quickly denied accounts in Austen Ivereigh’s book that the four cardinals “first secured Bergoglio’s assent” for an election campaign. Personally, I find it hard to accept at face value Murphy-O’Connor’s denials of having first secured Bergoglio’s assent or of there not being a Bergoglian campaign (NB: And that was before it seemed to me he was O’Connell’s earliest source for the conclave eve meeting at Nicora’s apartment). I outlined in my article (The “Influential Italian Gentleman”) why I believe it more likely than not there was such a campaign. And, as stated earlier, in that same article I outlined my theory on the “influential Italian gentleman,” that is, who he was, who sent him, and why he was sent to McCarrick.

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).


Note 1: 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.

Note 2: In a LifeSiteNews article, by Peter Baklinski (see here), observed that Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor had used this line as well with writer Paul Vallely (see here). Vallely in his article wrote: “”Four years of Bergoglio would be enough to change things,” Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor, and an old friend of Francis, told me.””


9 thoughts on “2013 Conclave: Was there a violation of Universi Dominici Gregis 12?

  1. If I may, it’s an accumulation of vast evidence. It must be dealt with and a side chosen. To stay in the middle, claim it is for others to decide, and not draw conclusions leading to action one way or another is in fact a decision. What you describe here, is widely known and has been for some time and but another piece of the vast pallet of evidence.

    There are only two possible choices, and no middle ground.

    Bergoglio is valid Pope and due our deference, respect, obedience as the mouthpiece of God as Christ’s Vicar. Honor him. Defend him. Obey him.

    Bergoglio is antipope and due our vigorous resistance at the inner core of our soul, working outward to specific acts of resistance and defense against the mouthpiece of Satan as Satan’s Modernist apostate tool.

    Between those two realities there is no room for indecision, deferral and non-choice. One or the other is mandatory for a Catholic. Christ and His Church must be defended starting at the Throne of St. Peter, depending on who sits there: Holy Father or satanic squatter.

    I have literally been working this problem out for the entire six years since his election. It has only been clear to me for less than one. It has been a tremendous burden. I am now firmly convinced before God.


    1. Aqua, thanks for the note.

      I don’t know that we have had rock solid evidence that a specific UDG provision was broken by a specific cardinal. We’ve had theories, hints, and speculation.

      As I show in the article, the evidence was essentially hiding in plain site. Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor in all probability, if not certainty–had to be O’Connell’s source for the vote count from the Nicora meeting of March 11. This is essentially admitted or demonstrated by the words of a “hostile” witness (i.e. O’Connell) who is a Bergoglian partisan.

      If M-O did as it now appears to be certain he did, then he violated the oath of UDG 12, and this undermines M-O’s credibility with regard to his denials elsewhere (e.g., saying they didn’t get Bergoglio’s approval first). It doesn’t necessarily mean he lied elsewhere…but it does mean we have a right not to take his denials at face value. He violated one UDG provision, might he have others?

      Unfortunately…even if we assume the worst of UDG violations that are in play, I haven’t seen a single canonist give an analysis that would invalidate the conclave on those grounds. That is not a ploy to be balanced, it is a simple fact which must be admitted. They might exist…but I haven’t seen a canonist agree.

      Regarding Francis. Lots of folks had a bad feeling about him early on. But “feelings” are not enough. While I do not exclude the possibility he is a false pope, I haven’t seen credible theologians step forward with a theory to explain that. The evidence for the proposition may exist somewhere, but it has not been discovered–yet. So, we must keep digging, whether it be UDG violations, or other theories (e.g., https://romalocutaest.com/2018/07/31/curiouser-and-curiouser-who-dispensed-jorge-bergoglio-sj-from-his-vows/).

      This article was offered in that spirit…setting the historical record straight on this incident involving M-O. In itself, this incident may be minor, insignificant and even irrelevant…but it may yet be a bit of a broader puzzle that some other theologian, canonist, regular Catholic, blogger, or whomever is looking into.

      I do agree that PF must be resisted. What he has done to JPII institute is just a recent outrage, and we haven’t even gotten to the Amazon synod yet. Cardinals and bishops need to call him out, directly. No more indirect “Declarations” and “appeals”.

      However, as bad as it all really is, apocalyptic even (truly), we don’t have a smoking gun to say “he is not (now/ever) pope” on *this* specific ground.

      Clearly, you are convinced Benedict is still pope–and this is *that* ground. I understand that. For myself, I find the evidence, as i have said many times on this blog, *less* than underwhelming. I truly believe you are barking up the wrong tree.

      I see all the same errors you see, and feel the same outrage at them you feel–but still reject your BiP conclusion at the same time. That is not a question of indecision, deferral or non-choice; and I reject that characterization. I don’t believe the view “It’s the BiP way or the highway” flies.

      Thanks for the comments. Regards,



      1. “I do believe Pope Francis must be resisted.”

        Is there any one program or initiative, an isolated act, a Cardinal elevation, a writing, a plane interview, a spiritual initiative, evangelistic efforts, is there anything that Pope Francis has ever done over the past six+ years that you can point to that can be supported, incorporated into our spiritual kit, used to grow in the Faith, or be at least neutral about? Or “must everything be resisted”?

        Because I can’t think of one thing. Not one. Perhaps you can.

        As I said above …. the Pope (valid, not anti-) must be supported, loved, honored above all else on earth. We must listen carefully and try to follow where he leads as best we can as from the Lord God whom he serves as Vicar.

        So … “must be resisted” doesn’t really follow from your firmly held convictions and above conclusions. Francis must be *supported*, defended, honored, to include the *occasional* correction where necessary – that would be in accord with Sacred Tradition regards the true Pope which you firmly maintain is Francis.

        Must be resisted on everything, as if your eternal souls depends on it, is a whole different thing. It implies to me a disconnect between belief and action. Which circles back to frdbelland’s comment above.


      2. Aqua, thanks for the comments. Not all popes have been good Alexander VI, for example, would have been a difficult one to stomach at that time. Honorious was atrocious on monothelitism. John XXII held opinions on the Beatific Vision, which if held today, would be formally heretical.

        We may not *want* him to be the pope, and he may be unworthy of the office, etc., etc., etc… but these things in themselves do not make i so.

        PXVI does not believe he himself is pope. Is he in schism from himself? He accepts papacy of Francis. What then about PXVI, is he a heretic and schismatic?




  2. Pope Benedict XVI actually *does* believe he is still the Pope. That’s always been the central issue: according to his original Latin resignation text, subsequent explanations and acts.

    Pope Benedict XVI gave Bergoglio the See. He kept the Papal Munus. That is objectively true.

    And the result of that is an antipope in the See Of Rome governing the Church. Which, as I said, and anyone can see, is not just a “bad Pope” who holds this, that, or another incorrect theological opinion (in history, always repented of at some point). No, everything is wrong, aggressively wrong, increasingly wrong, nothing is right, with the clear intent of aiming at central Dogmatic Truth and overturning it and the goal of a new Church through structural change.

    You cannot conflate this Papacy with any other in history. You have made the mistake of ignoring the elephant in the room and declaring it not an elephant at all. Benedict XVI still in the Vatican is a fact. A Church rapidly apostatizing from the top down is a fact. To see it and not act on it is what frdbelland referred to above. This cannot be “resisted” until the central premise is overturned which is an antipope without Divine protection sitting on the Holy See. And it will not be overturned without widespread inner conviction, followed by insistent action from the Faithful against the usurpers.

    Absent that, we must wait for Divine retribution. God will act, if we don’t. And according to the Seers’ visions, I suspect the latter will prevail.


    1. Aqua, thanks for the comments.

      I absolutely reject the notion or suggestion I have “ignored” anything, or any “elephant in the room”–or that I have ‘conflated’ this papacy with any other. If one has been a reader of this blog, one should know such a statement is both inaccurate and unfair.

      Beyond that…I’ve stated my reasons and provided evidence why I find BiP to be lacking as a theory, claim or assertion. I’ve done that in the comment boxes, and I’ve done it in a half-dozen or more articles. It was not simply a passing whim. I point the reader who might still be following along at this point to those. Other than that…I think we are going round in circles at this point.




      1. “Pope Benedict XVI does not believe he himself is Pope.”

        That is simply not true.

        To say he is simply making a strange wardrobe choice and ignore his present residence (Bergoglio doesn’t live there), and most importantly render his clear, precise resignation text (the Latin original, not the various Vatican translations) as not relevant to the conversation (Munus vs Ministerium); all subsequent explanations by himself and those close to him, not relevant, his chosen unprecedented title (*Pope* Emeritus) as not relevant, “His Holiness” a title notnreoevant as evidence of retained Papal authority (as if any Catholic Joe might do the same) and then all subsequent *predictable* spiritual fruit as not relevant is ignoring something essential. The size of an elephant as far as I’m concerned.


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