Author, Cardinals Differ Over Claim of Conclave Campaigning

Austin Ivereigh’s new book The Great Reformer: Francis and the Making of a Radical Pope states that four cardinals promoted Pope Francis’ candidacy.

VATICAN CITY — The 2013 papal conclave that elected Pope Francis is news again, now that four cardinals have denied a new book’s claim that they campaigned for Pope Francis to be elected — though the book’s author has clarified the Pope himself was not a part of their supposed campaign.

The London-based Catholic journalist Austen Ivereigh, in his new book The Great Reformer: Francis and the Making of a Radical Pope, contends that a group of cardinals on what he bills as “Team Bergoglio” worked during the last conclave to promote the election of Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires as pope.

According to Ivereigh, Cardinals Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, Walter Kasper, Gottfried Daneels and Karl Lehmann orchestrated a behind-the-scenes lobbying campaign that led to the election of Pope Francis.

Ivereigh wrote that the members of “Team Bergoglio” toured private dinners and other gatherings of cardinals the day before the conclave.

According to Ivereigh, a key role was played by Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, for whom Ivereigh worked as a spokesman from 2004-2006.

Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor of England had turned 80, and he could not take part in the conclave due to age limits. However, Ivereigh claims that the cardinal teamed up with other cardinals in order to promote Cardinal Bergoglio’s candidacy, as he earlier had done in 2005, when the archbishop of Buenos Aires was the main competitor of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who would become Pope Benedict XVI.

“They had learned their lesson from 2005, and they first secured Bergoglio’s assent,” Ivereigh wrote. He added that the 76-year-old Cardinal Bergoglio’s advocates “got to work, touring the cardinals' dinner to promote their man, arguing that his age should no longer be considered an obstacle, given that popes could resign.”

The report of this campaigning has caused a certain media frenzy. Some have argued that if the report is true, the election of Pope Francis may be invalid.

An article of the of the apostolic constitution Universi Dominici Gregis, which regulates papal elections, has established that cardinals before the election “shall further abstain from any form of pact, agreement, promise or other commitment of any kind which could oblige them to give or deny their vote to a person or persons.”

The conclave rules in the apostolic constitution, issued by St. John Paul II in 1996, stressed that automatic excommunication is incurred by cardinals who commit to an electoral agreement for a papal conclave.

However, the apostolic constitution explicitly states that it does not forbid cardinals from exchanging their opinions during the vacancy of the papal chair.


Father Lombardi

Questions on the issues raised by Ivereigh’s claims drew a response direct from the Holy See Press Office director, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi.

On Dec. 1, he stated that the four cardinals “explicitly denied this reporting, both concerning the request of approval from Cardinal Bergoglio and concerning the conducting of a campaign to push his election.”

The four cardinals, Father Lombardi added, “wish that it is known that they are surprised and displeased by what is written.”

Ivereigh responded in a Dec. 2 statement, focusing on his book’s statement that the four cardinals “first secured Bergoglio’s assent.”

He said he “never meant to suggest” that the four cardinals had “some kind of agreement” with Cardinal Bergoglio. Rather, he had meant to suggest that, unlike the 2005 conclave, the cardinals believed that “this time Cardinal Bergoglio would not resist his election.”

“I am sorry for any misunderstanding arising from my choice of words,” he said, adding that his book’s future editions will have revisions to this statement. The new text will read, “In keeping with conclave rules, they did not ask Bergoglio if he would be willing be a candidate. But they believed this time that the crisis in the Church would make it hard for him to refuse if elected.”

Ivereigh said that he had found no evidence that Cardinal Bergoglio had been approached about his potential election to the papacy. He also found no evidence of “any violation of the conclave rules.”

Ivereigh also stressed that his book’s chapter on the conclave, read in its entirety, “makes clear” that Cardinal Bergoglio “played no role whatsoever in the bid for his election.”

However, Ivereigh on Dec. 1 also reiterated the point on Twitter that “what the cardinals are denying is an agreement with a particular candidate. They are not denying they urged his election.”

He said it is “normal for cardinals to urge voting for candidates,” citing as examples Cardinals Jorge Medina Estevez and Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, who backed Cardinal Ratzinger in the 2005 conclave.