When Pope Benedict XVI announced his intention to resign as of February 28, the whole world took notice. We took notice, too. No sooner had we learned the news than questions were going the rounds of the team:
- What would we need to do to prepare for a new pope?
- Is it really possible to distinguish cleanly between 262.1309 History of papacy and 282.0922 Collective biography of popes?
- What would be the number for the upcoming conclave?
So that you'll be in the know before you even need to know, let's address those questions.
First, does a new pope get a new number the same way a new president (often) gets a new number? No, the DDC does not develop the history of the papacy by ecclesiastical administrations the way that it develops the history of countries by political administrations. Instead, the history of the papacy in the 2010s would be classed, in the standard way, in 262.13090512 Roman Catholic papacy, 2010–2019 (built from 262.13 Papacy and patriarchate, plus T1—090512 2010–2019). (Note the standard-subdivisions note at 262.13: "Standard subdivisions are added for . . . Roman Catholic papacy alone.")
So, is it really possible to distinguish cleanly between 262.1309 History of papacy and 282.0922 Collective biography of popes? Can you talk about the history of the papacy without discussing the lives of individual popes? Can you talk about the collective lives of popes without talking about the history of the papacy? Maybe not, but still we can make a case for when one number is more appropriate than the other. If the emphasis of the work is ecclesiological, as in The chair of Saint Peter: a history of the papacy, 262.1309 History of papacy is more appropriate. If the emphasis of the work is biographical, as in Their name is Pius: portraits of five great modern popes, 282.0922 Collective biography of popes is more appropriate.
What about the process whereby a new pope is elected? What's the number for a papal conclave? The LCSH Popes—Election includes 450 fields for Conclaves—Papal and Papal conclaves, so we might assume that those two questions are driving at the same thing. But perhaps it is again a matter of emphasis. If the emphasis is on the overall process, as in Papal elections in the age of transition, 1878-1922, or on the newly elected pope, as in The making of the Pope: the selection of Pope Benedict XVI and what this choice means for Catholics today, 262.13 Papacy and patriarchate, is more appropriate. But if the emphasis is specifically on the actions of the College of Cardinals, as in Les faiseurs de papes: les cardinaux et le conclave [The makers of popes: the cardinals and the conclave], then 262.135 College of Cardinals is more appropriate. (Standard subdivisions can be added in either case.)