Xaverio Castiglioni was born 20 November, 1761; like the preceding two
"post-deadly wound" pontiffs, he was of noble birth. He was educated by
the Jesuits and studied canon law in Bologna and Rome. In the latter
university he co-authored a book on canon law with Professor Devoti.
When the professor was appointed Bishop of Anagni, Castiglioni commenced
his experience in clerical administration as the Bishopís vicar-general.
Later Castiglioni served in the same office under
Bishop Severoli of Cingoli. These two men were later top candidates for
election to the highest office of the church in 1823 but Severoli, the
favorite of the cardinals, was vetoed by Austria; and Castiglioni, the
candidate promoted by Austria, was rejected by the cardinals. Severoli
never did grace the papal throne. His erstwhile vicar-general proved to
be more fortunate.
Castiglioni was himself elevated to a bishopric, that
of Montalto. But his refusal to swear allegiance to Napoleon led to his
arrest in 1808 and imprisonment until 1814. Pius VII rewarded him,
appointing him as Bishop of Cesena and named him a cardinal in 1816,
promoting him to the See of Frascati. Popes appeared to possess no end
of Bishoprics in Italy to distribute to their favorite sons.
Castiglioni well knew what it was to narrowly miss
election as a pope and the scheming involved in defeat and victory
alike. While the Roman Catholic church not infrequently presents a
picture of the participants in Papal conclaves praying, seeking to
discern Godís choice for this office, in fact in most conclaves the
rules of politics, if such exist, appears a more appropriate description
of the process. Not infrequently the two most preferred cardinals, and
perhaps the most able, are so locked in battle that the supporters of
both are quite intransigent, and while unable to achieve success for
their preferred candidate, they are bent on preventing the other from
receiving the mandatory two-thirds-plus-one votes. Thus a compromise
emerges, one who is somewhat approved by the majority in both parties.
This situation was reported to have occurred in the
1978 conclave when the archbishops of Genoa and Milan were locked in
such a contest for election. Locked they may have been but deadlocked
they became. When this situation became evident, the body of cardinals
moved to Cardinal Karol Wojtyla of Poland who had received only minor
support in the early ballots.
Characteristically popes are elected by ballot with
periods of discussion and bargaining between ballots which fail to
provide the Roman Catholic Church with a Pope. It must not be overlooked
that self-interest is not always forgotten by those who make the choice.
They may not hold any realistic hope of election themselves, but there
is little doubt that the maintenance of their posts or the hope of
preferment to positions of influence beyond those already held
frequently color the voting patterns. It should be remembered that
unlike the papal office, positions in the Curia are not guaranteed for
life. The new pope can promote or stifle ambition.
A further significant issue is the theological
philosophy of the candidates. Some cardinals lean to liberal
philosophies while others are reactionary. John Paul II certainly
elevated many of the latter persuasion to the College of Cardinals.
There is also a long history of political involvement
in the election of popes. Indeed, in the earlier years of elections
politics was entrenched as the clergy and the people of Rome shouldered
the responsibility to select the pope. It was inevitable in such a
system that powerful nobles were able to control many elections, their
own relatives and friends thus being elected.
This led, in 1059, to Pope Nicholas II decreeing that
only cardinal-bishops should elect popes. There are only six
cardinal-bishops, cardinals whose see is in the precincts of Rome. The
great majority of cardinals are cardinal-priests, with fewer cardinals
of the third tier being cardinal-deacons.
In 1179 Pope Alexander III, during the Third Lateran
Council, extended the right of papal elector to all cardinals. While in
theory Pope Nicholas II had annulled the right of the emperor of the
Holy Roman Empire to confirm or veto papal appointments, the expansion
of the electors to include cardinals from all parts of the Empire was
used by the rulers of the European states to make their choice for the
new pope emphatically known to the cardinals from their territory. Thus
political influence remained, as in the 1823 conclave. The
Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1963 edition, Vol. 6, p. 259 recorded, "It
had of course long been the practice to instruct the cardinals of their
nation to do their utmost to eliminate distasteful candidates; and they
might even make public their desire to exclude certain candidates."
In the sixteenth century these potentates claimed the
right to directly exclude candidates. The Austrian emperors exerted this
claimed authority to the full as late as the election of 1903 when
Austria vetoed Cardinal Rampollaís election and the conclave heeded the
emperorís wishes and elected Cardinal Sarto, Pope Pius X. That same
nation had attempted to influence all the six papal elections of the
nineteenth century with the exception of the election of Pope Leo XIII
in 1878. These historic facts should be fully weighed when assessing
claims to papal infallibility.
While two secret ballots are held every day of a
conclave until the requisite two-thirds plus one vote is obtained, this
had not been the sole means of election. Although rarely used, popes
have been elected by "inspiration." This form of election occurred when,
on the first day of the conclave, the gathered cardinals unanimously
proclaimed the election of the agreed pope. There have even been
occasions when deadlocked conclaves have appointed three to seven of
their number to serve as a form of nominating committee, nomination of
which was final. But it is doubtful whether "inspiration" or "nominated
compromise" will form a method of election in the modern era. However,
in January, 2001, John Paul II decreed that if no one receives the two
thirds plus one number of votes within thirteen days, election will be
by simple majority. This alteration will markedly change the dynamics
and tactics of the electors. Voters supporting a candidate who has
obtained more than fifty per cent of the vote in an early ballot, but
less than that now required, may stall the final decision until the
thirteenth day and thus achieve their desire.
We wonder, when the cardinals sit in conclave in the
Sistine Chapel, whether they take time to consider more than the
artistic qualities of Michelangelo Buonarrotiís masterpiece, "The Last
Judgment"? While not in any way minimizing the artistic genius displayed
in that massive work of art which Michelangelo commenced in 1534 in his
sixtieth year, in respect of the Biblical description of the Last
Judgment, it was, by comparison, little more than a cartoon. He depicted
Christ as a semi-clad muscular he-man presiding with the redeemed on one
side of a river and the damned in torment on the other side. In view of
the times in which he lived, it was not surprising that he chose to
portray Martin Luther, who was yet living when he commenced the
painting, on the side of the damned. Luther died five years after the
painting was completed in 1541. But it is possible that Luther, in
accord with Roman Catholic theology, was added to the painting after his
demise, since Michelangelo outlived him by eighteen years.
One individual whom he most certainly made a later
addition to that work of art, was a prominent contemporary cardinal.
Incredibly Michel-angelo placed this unfortunate man with the damned,
where he may still be seen. This was an act of spite since the cardinal,
who supervised his artistic works in the Chapel, withheld Michelangeloís
payment for his efforts, not on the ground that the painting was a
pitiful parody of the Last Judgment, but because too many of the figures
in the painting displayed nudity and thus desecrated the Chapel.
The cardinal, humiliated by the glee of many Romans
over this insult, pled with Pope Julius III to force Michelangelo to
erase his visage from the work of art. Unfortunately Julius had no
liking for this cardinal, who had been appointed by an earlier pope, and
was not of a mind to assist him in his request.
It may have been because, as Joseph Brusher asserts,
Julius III was "more fond of ease and jollification than suited either
his state or the times" that he excused his failure to comply with the
request of the cardinal, pointing out, no doubt tongue in cheek, that
although his word had power in heaven, he had no control over hell. Thus
the cardinal was, in Michelangeloís view, destined for hell while still
alive. This could well have been the case with Martin Luther also.
As the cardinals in the conclave peer at
Michelangeloís masterpiece, we would question how many of those princes
of the Roman Catholic Church are reminded of the genuine last judgment
of God, and whether they contemplate tható