Speaking the Truth about Oneself and the Barrier of Presumptuous Hebetude

It came to pass this morning soon after our breakfast with the children, and when they had already gone to their studies or play and music in another room, that my German wife turned to me and posed several searching and sincere questions about the Church. In addition to some historical questions, she asked about the sacramental doctrine of the Catholic Church, and especially moral doctrine. Having been received into the Church ten years ago, she is still gratefully striving to understand the truths and implications of the Faith more fully; and she has been formed by her own teachers in Germany to ask disciplined and challenging and such sincerely searching questions.

In our conversation I mentioned what I recently had heard from a well-informed friend, namely that “even an excommunicated Cardinal of the Church may still participate fully in the conclave charged to elect a new Pope.” This apparent canonical fact stunned us both and got us thinking. Could that excommunicated Cardinal be validly elected as the Pope, or would that election be inherently invalid, instead, and from its inception therefore null and void? We do not know, and we do not yet even know where to find the sufficiently authoritative and properly differentiated answer.

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