The oath sworn by the Cardinal electors in the Sistine Chapel is a litmus test of the health of the Church. There’s a saying that a fish rots from the head down. If Cardinals can’t keep this solemn oath preserving the secrecy of the Conclave, what hope that others throughout the Church take their oaths and promises seriously. Pray that Cardinal electors are not tempted to break their oath of secrecy during and after the Conclave. Let’s not hear any stories about how the new pope reacted when asked the question of his acceptance of the election to the See of St. Peter. This is a profoundly personal moment that should remain private, unless revealed by the pope himself.
Cardinal Re invites his fellow Cardinal electors to process into the Sistine Chapel with these words:
Once within the Sistine Chapel Blessed John Paul II’s Apostolic Constitution Universi Dominici Gregis sets out the oath sworn by the Cardinal electors in the Sistine Chapel before voting:
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.’
Protect the Pope comment: This solemn oath makes it absolutely clear that the Cardinal electors are bound to keep the actions of the Conclave secret both during and after the election of the new Pontiff, unless they have explicit authorization from the same Pontiff. So unless authorized by Benedict XVI it has been quite wrong for a certain cardinal to give interviews to The Guardian, The BBC and Sky which disclose intimate details of the 2005 Conclave such as Benedict XVI’s initial reaction on being elected pontiff. But then maybe Benedict XVI gave him explicit authorization. Here’s hoping that the current Cardinal electors will respect this solemn oath. The failure to observe solemn promises and oaths plays a large part in the erosion of the authority of the Church. If gold rusts what will iron do! We must all keep our vows and promises, the vow of celibacy for priests, the vow of fidelity and openness to life for married couples, the vow of loyalty to the Pope for Cardinals.