As a couple of readers have informed me Pope Benedict has issued a Motu Propro today. Though before you get excited the one released changes conclave legislation. As Fr. Z spells it out.
The Motu Proprio is called Constitutione apostolica.
John Paul II had changed the legislation to permit "simple election". Under the legislation of Pope John Paul II, if there were a certain number of ballots, which required a 2/3 majority for an election, that did not in fact produce an election, it was then possible to pass to an election by a simple majority. Benedict XVI has abolished this and returned to the earlier form. Now it will require 2/3 majority of electors no matter how many ballots it takes.
So, if the Cardinals become deadlocked and cannot get an election, they are to have a day of prayer and dialogue. After that, the two Cardinals at the top of the last balloting are the only candidates for election (and they may not vote – they have only a vox passiva) but the number required for a valid election will continue to be 2/3 majority rather than the simple majority established by John Paul II in 1996.
This in interesting in a couple of ways. Some such as John Allen Jr. in his later book on Pope Benedict believes that it was partly the change made by Pope John Paul II that helped lead to Cardinal Ratzinger’s election. The contention is that once he had the majority of votes others switched their votes to him because with a deadlock resulting in his election by a simple majority that it became inevitable that he would be elected.
Now how true this was in the last election is pretty much impossible to determine, but no doubt having the possibility of a simple majority does change the dynamics of the voting. The irony is of course if that if the 2/3 rule had remained in place it might have been more difficult for him to be elected in the first place, though considering that he was planning on retiring to a quite academic life this was an outcome he would have preferred.
What I can say is I certainly hope it will be a long time till the next conclave. Long live Pope Benedict XVI!