My question to those familiar with RC conclave is this....is it possible for a monk to be elected as Pope? I realize that it is probably unlikely but what are the actual rules?
Actually any male can be elected Pope....even from the laity!
Theoretically, any male Catholic can be elected by the conclave Cardinals.
However, that person has to be at least a priest, because of the necessity of ordaining him immediately a bishop upon his acceptance of his election as Pope.
Realistically, therefore, the next Pope will come from the ranks of the College of Cardinals, more specifically, from among the Cardinal electors themselves as will be shown shortly.
The 1996 Apostolic Constitution "Universi Dominici Gregis"
is a "special law" governing the election and qualifications of the Roman Pontiff. The Codes of Canon (Catholic East and West) are "general laws."
It abrogates or supercedes the general laws as far as the election and qualifications of the Pope. However, where the provisions are not in conflict, the special law "adopts" the provisions of the general laws. The qualifications of the Roman Pontiff is one such provision.
The UDG requires that the person elected, if not already a Bishop, must immediately be consecrated as a Bishop to validly exercise the authority and powers of the Supreme Pontiff. The Code of Canons contains the provisions for the valid ordination of a person to the episcopacy, thus:
Can. 378 -Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Âº1 To be a suitable candidate for the episcopate, a person must:
1-Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¦ be outstanding in strong faith, good morals, piety, zeal for souls, wisdom, prudence and human virtues, and possess those other gifts which equip him to fulfill the office in question;
2-Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¦ be held in good esteem;
3-Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¦ be at least 35 years old;
4-Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¦ be a priest ordained for at least five years;
5-Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¦ hold a doctorate or at least a licentiate in sacred Scripture, theology or canon law, from an institute of higher studies approved by the Apostolic See, or at least be well versed in these disciplines.
-Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Âº2 The definitive judgment on the suitability of the person to be promoted rests with the Apostolic See.
In the bolded subsection 4 above, the person thus elected must not only be a priest, he must have been a priest for at least 5 years!
Since the Apostolic See is vacant (during the Conclave), the College of Cardinals is the sole authority to interpret the provisons of UDG and that interpretation points to the upholding of the current norms for the valid ordination to the episcopacy.
A layman or any "male Catholic" simply does not possess the antecedent qualifications.