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Faith/Spirituality Forum: Impeded Roman See

by Catherine Frakas 05 Apr 2001

Impeded Roman See QUESTION from A. Basto September 26, 2001
+ Pax Christi. Congratulations for the excellent website. I don’t know whether or not this is the appropriate forum for this question or if it should have been posted in the Church History Forum. Anyway… I would like to know, firstly if there is any rule or set of rules providing for the government and guardianship of the Holy Apostolic See if ­ God forbid - the Supreme Pontiff becomes absolutely unable personally due to grave illness or other lasting inability. (the rule of the canon 335 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law seems to call for a specific law on the subject. Canon 335 states: When the Roman See is vacant, or completely impeded, no innovation is to be made in the governance of the universal Church. The special laws enacted for these circumstances are to be observed).
I know that the rules regarding the vacancy of the Holy See and the election of the new Pope are set out in the Apostolic Constitution Universi Dominici Gregis, but, is there a law in force dealing with the second addressed by the above-mentioned canon: the impeded Holy See?
Secondly, if there is presently no specific rule regarding the impeded Apostolic See, the general rule regarding impeded sees (canons 412, 413, 414 and 415 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law) applies to the Holy See? Even if there is to be no innovation in the governance of the Church, and consequently, no new law, teaching document, disciplinary rule, who is to keep the Church running, appointing the Bishops, Cardinals and heads of the dicasteries of the Roman Curia and deciding all other matters related to the daily administration of the Apostolic See, under the existing laws, which cannot wait for the restoration of the Pope’s ability to rule in person?
Thirdly, if there is no law providing for a papal regency or for other arrangement for the conduct of the daily administration of the Holy See in the event of it becoming impeded on account of the Pope’s physical incapacity to reign in person, and if the general rule regarding impeded sees is incompatible with position of primacy enjoyed by the Roman See, how would the problem be solved in practical terms if, in the future, the Successor of Peter becomes unable to act?
ANSWER by John-Paul Ignatius, OLSM on September 28, 2001 Dear Mr. Basto:
It is to my understanding that whenever there is a vacancy in the Chair of Peter the basic daily business of the Church is turned over to the Cardinal, specifically the Apostolic Camera headed by the Camerlengo. The Apostolic Camera administers the property of the Holy See during a vacancy. This committee of people keep running the Vatican in its essentials until a new pope is elected. The Camera and other Cardinals merely take care of daily necessities. Business as usual ceases and nothing new can be done.
There are no specific provisions for the incapacitation of the Pope, but clearly, without the Pope who has the power of jurisdiction, those issues requiring his jurisdiction cannot be accomplished. The Cardinals, in this case, as in the case of a vacancy, can merely run the daily and urgent affairs probably also within the limits of parts of the constitution Universi Dominici gregis and perhaps the provisions for bishops in cc 415-415, and even 428.1.
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