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ANGELS AND DEMONS: A LEGAL REVIEW

Author: Deon Dylan Fernandes, II year of B.A.,LL.B.(Hons.) from School of Law, Christ (Deemed to be) University, Bangalore

Co-author: Kartik Tripathi, II year of B.A.,LL.B.(Hons.) from School of Law, Christ (Deemed to be) University, Bangalore


Angels and Demons, a book by Dan Brown, is a fictional narrative that intertwines the religion of Christianity and Science within the anatomy of a riveting and quite enthralling plot. The legal implications and insinuations that are present in the book itself are inconspicuous to say the least. However, the storyline has a plethora of legal intricacies involved. First, we explore the world of the Vatican along with the protagonist, Robert Langdon, and its laws.


The first aspect of law that arises in the book is with regard to the Pope’s influence. In accordance with ancient Canonical Roman Law, “the Pope enjoys, by divine institution, supreme, full, immediate, and universal power in the care of souls.” This goes to show that the word of the Pope is regarded as the final word in Christianity. The influence of the Canon Law of the Catholic Church is the most significant type of law in the Vatican City State.


The Canon law of the Catholic Church is the most supreme in the civil legal system of Vatican City State. The Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, a dicastery of the Roman Curia and the highest canonical tribunal, is also the final court of cassation in the civil legal system of Vatican City State. Its competence includes appeals concerning legal procedure and judicial competence. According to a law issued by Pope Benedict XVI in 2008, the civil legal system of the Vatican City State recognizes Canon law as its first source of norms and first principle of interpretation. Pope Francis has stated that principles of Canon law are essential to the interpretation and application of the laws of Vatican City State. In the book as well, the incumbent Pope follows Canonical Law to justify the Canonisation of the Camerlengo, the Bishops and the Priests.


One of the central focal points of the book is the Papal Conclave, or in other words, the congregation of Cardinals who elect and vote the new Pope. In the book, the bishops are unable to come to a consensus and display indetermination and ambiguity such that the conclave is delayed. The College of Cardinals, the Church's highest-ranking officials who are appointed by the Pope and often ordained bishops, selects the pope. They are called to a conference at the Vatican, where the Papal election, or Conclave, takes place. Currently, there are 203 cardinals representing 69 nations. All cardinals who are 80 years of age or older are not permitted to vote in the Conclave, thanks to a regulation modification made in 1975. There can be a maximum of 120 cardinal electors. A pope is chosen under conditions of secrecy that are unheard of in the modern world. The meaning of the word conclave is that the cardinals are actually locked up "with a key" in the Vatican until they come to an agreement. Elections can go on for days.


In previous ages, conclaves lasted for weeks or months and even resulted in the deaths of certain cardinals. The procedure is intended to stop any information about the voting from becoming public during or after the conclave. Those who are tempted to break this quiet are surrounded by the prospect of excommunication. John Paul II altered the Conclave's procedures so that a Pope might be chosen by a simple majority. But Benedict XVI modified the specifications. Over two millennia, the procedures for choosing the Pope have evolved. The bishops of Rome, like those in other places, were chosen by acclamation of the local clergy and people prior to the establishment of the College of Cardinals in 1059. Following the decisions made by the magistrates of Viterbo during the interregnum of 1268–1271, Gregory X published the Ubi periculum in 1274, establishing procedures that are comparable to the current system. With his 1621 bull Aeterni Patris Filius, Gregory XV significantly improved the procedure by establishing the two-thirds majority necessary for cardinal electors to elect a pope. The requirement that two-thirds of the cardinals be present in order to elect a pope was first established by the Third Lateran Council in 1179.


Another issue that is brought up is the handling of the Vatican Library. In the book, the protagonist Robert Langdon surfs through a multitude of classified holy scriptures and manuscripts in order to find some clues to solve the murder mystery. The Vatican library, contrary to the book, does not encourage such a handing of their collection. There are various rules and regulations with respect to admission, handling, obligations, security concerns, penalties and copyright laws. The law of the land is quite stringent with respect to following these rules and there can be no deviation from the same.The book also features a lot of religious symbolism which comes in the form of ambigrams, church symbolism as well as the four elements. The ambigram that reflects the Illuminati symbol and the symbols of the Church reflect within the ambit of Canonical Law.


The Preferiti or the Senior Cardinals who are favorable candidates for the position of the Pope, and who represent the four elements (Earth, Air, Fire and Water) are mentioned offhandedly through the course of the book. The Preferiti are also governed by Canon Law and are supposed to follow conclave procedures in accordance with their election. Finally, the book contains plenty of references with respect to the Swiss Guard that is supposed to protect the pontificate from adversaries. There are laws in place to not only determine the selection of the guards but also cutting to the very essence of their being such as their uniform and shelter.