Against the Arguments that Claim Benedict XVI is STILL Pope

November 24, 2018 (Steven O’Reilly) UPDATED 11/26/2018; 11/28/2018 and 11/29/2018 – The “Benedict is Pope” theory (BIP) has regained steam of late. Ms. Ann Barnhardt recently released a two hour plus video outlining her case for the claim (see here). The well-respected Italian writer and journalist Antonio Socci has written a soon to be released book (see here) which appear to argue Benedict is still pope. Also, Br. Alexis Bugnolo has posted recent articles on the subject as well on the From Rome site (see here and here). While I respect these three individual as very intelligent and learned (an am certain share many observations about the pontificate of Francis), I believe the evidence for the claim “Benedict is still pope”–based on what we know publicly to date–to be utterly lacking. Granted, perhaps Mr. Socci has developed new and additional evidence to be revealed in his forthcoming book, in which case I would certainly re-evaluate my conclusion (NB: I have since read through Mr. Socci’s book–with my rusty Italian–and did not see anything that would change my conclusions found in this article).

All the above said, my objection to the claim “Benedict is still pope” is not in any way a defense of Pope Francis or his pontificate. It ought to be clear to readers of this blog that I have long voiced grave concerns over its course (NB: for example, read my recent three-part rebuttal of Stephen Walford’s defense of Amoris Laetitia.  See here  Part I, Part II and Part III). However, I do not believe an inadequate theory is a substitute for a proper understanding of reality. And, I do believe the “Benedict is pope” arguments to be weak.

Given that the acceptance of bad arguments may lead not only to wrong conclusions but to wrong actions, I have felt it necessary to challenge these arguments. Given the “Benedict is still pope” arguments have regained steam, I felt it necessary to provide a reply, again. I have already written a number of articles on Benedict’s resignation and various question related to it, e.g., was it forced (see Thoughts on Free Will and Hypothetical Papal Plots) or was it a “partial” or bifurcated one (see Benedict is NOT popeBenedict is STILL not Pope; and Benedict is really, really still not pope! Really!). This article grew out of a request or two I received on twitter asking I respond directly to Ms. Barnhardt’s arguments as presented on her video. As Brother Bugnolo’s article appeared about the same time, I decided to expand the scope of this article to include it as well.

This article will address arguments made by Br. Bugnolo (see Objection 1) and Ms. Barnhardt (see Objections 2-6). I urge the reader to read and listen to the links provided,  allowing each of these individuals to best state their own case. Brother Bugnolo’s argument can be found here and here. Ms. Ann Barnhardt’s argument may be found in her video presentation (see The Bergoglian Anti-Papacy).

My position is as follows.  Pope Benedict XVI stated in his Declaratio that he intended to resign the papacy, fully and completely, without intending, or thinking he could retain any part or portion–or share of any part or portion–of the Petrine office and or ministry. This is clear from Pope Benedict XVI’s declaration (emphasis dded):

I have convoked you to this Consistory, not only for the three canonizations, but also to communicate to you a decision of great importance for the life of the Church. After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry. I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering. However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the barque of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me. For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.

Dear Brothers, I thank you most sincerely for all the love and work with which you have supported me in my ministry and I ask pardon for all my defects.  And now, let us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the Cardinal Fathers with her maternal solicitude, in electing a new Supreme Pontiff. With regard to myself, I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer.  (Declaratio, Pope Benedict XVI, February 11, 2013)

However, despite what seems to be a clear statement, objections are offered suggesting Pope Benedict XVI committed “substantial error” (cf canon 188) in his act of resignation and or in his intent. That is, Pope Benedict XVI either resigned out of fear or — whether or not he freely resigned — his intent to resign was defective because he believed he could, somehow, in whole or part, retain a part or a portion or a share of the Petrine office and or the Petrine ministry. Thus, because a pope cannot “share” a portion of the papacy, or make it a synodal or collegial office and or ministry, Benedict committed a “substantial error” (cf canon 188) which rendered his resignation invalid.  Thus, Benedict is still pope.  The following appear to me to be the key objections to a valid resignation, and these are each immediately followed by my reply.

Objection 1

Br. Alexis Bugnolo on the website From Rome (see here) argues the question “Whether Pope Benedict XVI by means of the act expressed in his address, “Non solum propter”, resigned the office of the Bishop of Rome?” Br. Bugnolo then answers this question as follows:

“And it seems that he did not:

1. First, because substantial error, in an act of resignation, regards the vis verborum, or signification of the words, as they regard the form and matter of the act.  But the act of renouncing a ministry regards one of the proper accidents of the office by which that ministry can be rightfully exercised.  Therefore, if one renounces a ministry, he does not renounce the office. And if he believes to have renounced the office, by renouncing one of the ministries, he is in substantial error as to the signification of the words he has used. But in the text, Non Solum Propter, Benedict XVI renounces the ministerium which he received as Bishop of Rome, when he was elected.  Therefore, to understand that act as a renunciation of the office is to be in substantial error as to the effect of the act. Therefore as per canon 188, the resignation is invalid.

2. Saint Peter the Apostle exercised many ministries in many places. But no one is the real successor of Saint Peter except the Bishop of Rome (canon 331). If one renounces a petrine ministry, therefore, he does not renounce the office of Bishopric of Rome (cf. canons 331 & 332), who has other ministries in virtue of his office. Therefore, if one believes he has renounced the Bishopric of Rome by renouncing a petrine ministry, he is in substantial error, and thus as per canon 188, the resignation is invalid.

3. According to Saint Paul (1 Corinthians 12) there are diverse graces, ministries and offices in the Church, inasmuch as the Church is the Body of Christ. Therefore, since the Bishop of Rome can exercise several of these ministries, it follows that one does not renounce the Bishopric of Rome if one renounces one of these ministries, since no one ministry is coextensive with the Bishopric of Rome. Ergo in such a renunciation, if one believes he has sufficiently signified the renunciation of the Bishopric of Rome, he is in substantial error. Therefore, as per canon 188, the resignation is invalid.

4. According to Seneca (Moral Essays, vol. 3, John W. Basore, Heineman, 1935), one must distinguish between benefices, offices and ministries. Benefices are that which are given by an alien, offices by sons, mothers and others with necessary relationships, and ministries by servants who do what superiors do not do.  The Petrine ministry is a service to the Church. But the office of the Bishop of Rome is a duty to Christ. If one renounces the ministry of a servant, he does not renounce the office of a son. Ergo in such a renunciation etc…

5. The validity of an act of resignation cannot be founded upon the subjective definition of words, or the mere intention of the one renouncing. If that were the case, the interpretation would make the act an act of resignation. The act itself would not declare it. But the Church is a public society founded by the Incarnate Living God. Therefore, the renunciation of offices must be not only intentional but public, to give witness to the fact that the office was established by the Living and Incarnate God. But the office of the Bishop of Rome is such an office. Ergo in such a renunciation etc..

6. As Msgr. Henry Gracida argues on his blog, abyssum.org: If Christ did not accept the resignation of Benedict as valid, because the act itself was not canonically valid per canon 188, then Christ would be obliged in justice to deprive Bergoglio of grace, so that his lack of being pope be MOST EVIDENT to all with Faith, Hope and Charity. But it is MOST EVIDENT to everyone, even non Catholics, that he has NOT the grace of God in him or in his actions. Ergo, either Christ is unjust, or Christ is just. He cannot be unjust. Ergo, Bergoglio is not pope!

7. Christ prayed for Peter that his faith might not fail, and so that he could confirm his brethren in the Apostolic College. Now this prayer of Christ must be efficacious, since Christ is God and the Beloved Son of the Eternal Father, and because of the office of Saint Peter is not something merely useful to the Body of Christ, but necessary in matters of faith and unity. Therefore, Christ’s prayer for the Successors of Saint Peter must be efficacious in some manner as regards the faith and unity of the Church. But Bergoglio manifestly attacks both the faith and unity of the Church. Far be it, therefore, to judge that in this one man Christ’s prayer was not intended to be effective. Ergo, Bergoglio is not a valid successor of Saint Peter!

8. From the text of the act of resignation. Pope Benedict admits in the first sentence that he holds the munus petrinum. But further down, he says he renounces the ministerium which he had received as Bishop of Rome. Therefore, he has not renounced the munus. But munus means office and gift of grace (cf. Canon 145 §1). Therefore, he has not stated that he has renounced the office and gift of grace. Therefore, in such a resignation etc..

9.From the sense of the Latin tongue, which lacks the definite and indefinite article. When you say: Renuntio ministerio, you do not say whether you have renounced the ministry or a ministry. Therefore, you leave unsaid what ministry you have renounced. Therefore, in such a resignation etc..

10.From the papal law Universi Dominici Gregison Papal elections:  One is not elected to the Petrine Ministry, but to be the Bishop of Rome.  Therefore, unless one renounce the Bishopric of Rome one has not vacated the See of Saint Peter. But in public statements Pope Benedict XVI after March 2013 says only that he has renounced the ministerium. Therefore, he is in substantial habitual error as regards what is required in an act of resignation of the office of the Bishopric of Rome.  Therefore, in such a resignation etc..

11. From the Code of Canon Law:  Canonical resignations are valid if 3 things are valid: liberty from coercion, right intention, unambiguous signification. This is confirmed in canon 332, § 2 which expressly denies that the acceptance of a resignation affects is validity or non-validity. But Pope Benedict admits in his letters to Cardinal Brandmueller that his intent was to retain something of the Pontifical Dignity. His private secretary also publicly has affirmed that he occupies the  See of Peter. This is incontrovertible evidence that the act of resignation is ambiguous. For either it means he has renounced the See or has not renounced the See.  Therefore, in such a resignation etc..

12. From Pneumetology, that is, from the theology of the Holy Spirit. After Feb 2013 the whole Church still recognizes and accepts Pope Benedict with the title of pope and with papal prerogatives. All call him Benedict, not Ratzinger or Joseph. But the whole Church cannot be deceived. Nevertheless, according to Divine Institution, the Papacy cannot be held by more than one person at one time. And he who holds it first, has the valid claim to the office. Therefore, the Church does not understand the act as one which renounces the office. Therefore, in such a resignation etc..

13. From insufficiency of intention:  If a Pope renounces eating bananas, he has not renounced the office of Bishopric of Rome. Therefore, if he says, “I have renounced eating bananas, to vacate the See of Rome”, he is in substantial error as to the effect of his act.  But in his text of renunciation he says he has renounced the ministry so as to vacate the see of Saint Peter [ut sedes Sancti Petri vacet]. But that is a substantial error, since the ministry is only a proper accident of the Bishopric of Rome, for to be the Bishop of Rome is the first act of its being [esse primum], to exercise the ministries of the Bishopric of Rome is the second act of its being [esse secundum]. Therefore, since the second act of being is in potency to the first act, and potency is divided from act as accident to substance, to renounce a or all ministries of an office is an act regarding the accidents not the substance of the office. Therefore, one could just as well renounce any or all of its ministries and retain the office. Therefore, by renouncing a or the ministry he does not renounce the office. Indeed, in public statements, he explicitly affirms only to have renounced the ministry. Therefore, his insufficiency of expressed intention does not save the act from substantial error.  Therefore, in such a renunciation etc.”

Reply to Objection 1:

Pope Benedict XVI made it clear he was fully aware of the seriousness of his act of resignation. The Pope said he was resigning in “such a way…the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant” (emphasis added):

For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.

The above text is taken from the Vatican’s translation of the Latin it provides on its site.  Below, I provide Br. Bugnolo’s translation of the Latin from the same Vatican website (emphasis added):

On which account, well aware of the weightiness of this act, I declare in full liberty, that I renounce the ministry [ministerio] of the Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, committed to me through the hands of the Cardinals on April 19, 2005, so that on February 29, 2013, at 20:00 Roman Time, the see of Saint Peter be vacant, and it is suitable that a Conclave to elect a new Supreme Pontiff be convened by these same [competit convocandum esse]. (Translation provided on From Rome by Brother Alexis Bugnolo, accessed 11/24 2018)

Looking at Br. Bugnolo’s translation we see there is some minor variation in the translation in comparison to the Vatican’s, as might be expected. However, I did find it notable that the Latin and English on the Vatican’s site does contain “Sedes Romae” or the “See of Rome” in the sentence “the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant” while “See of Rome” is missing in Br. Bugnolo’s translation. I am by no means a Latin scholar or even a neophyte student, so I cannot stress enough my inability to comment on the merits of Br. Bugnolo’s decision not to translate “Sedes Romae” (NB: I have since been told by someone with knowledge of Latin that the translation of “Sedes Romae” would be more  along the lines of “Roman time”–as giveny by Br. Bugnolo).  I will leave the Latin scholars to debate the finer points.

Regardless, let us use Br. Bugnolo’s translation given above. As is manifestly clear from this statement, Pope Benedict XVI declared that as of February 29, 2013, that “the See of Saint Peter be vacant” as of the time given. Benedict did not say it would be partially vacant. He said vacant. He would not have said this if he hoped, thought or expected he could retain – in part or in whole – a share in anything pertaining to the See of Rome and or the See of Peter. As we know from the principle of non-contradiction, something cannot both be and not be vacant at the same time in the same sense.

Furthermore, Pope Benedict called for a conclave to elect a “new supreme pontiff.” He said new pontiff, not an additional pontiff. It is clear: Pope Benedict intended to resign, and that this intent was not defective.

Therefore, with the above in mind, I now reply to Br. Bugnolo’s 13 point argument as follows:

Br. Bugnolo argues: “1. First, because substantial error, in an act of resignation, regards the vis verborum, or signification of the words, as they regard the form and matter of the act.  But the act of renouncing a ministry regards one of the proper accidents of the office by which that ministry can be rightfully exercised.  Therefore, if one renounces a ministry, he does not renounce the office. And if he believes to have renounced the office, by renouncing one of the ministries, he is in substantial error as to the signification of the words he has used. But in the text, Non Solum Propter, Benedict XVI renounces the ministerium which he received as Bishop of Rome, when he was elected.  Therefore, to understand that act as a renunciation of the office is to be in substantial error as to the effect of the act. Therefore as per canon 188, the resignation is invalid.”

O’Reilly replies: Pope Benedict XVI made clear that he is renouncing the Petrine ministry in such a way that “the See of Peter” will be vacant.  The See is vacant when there is no occupant. Where there is no occupant there is no one holding either the office or the ministry.  Therefore, Benedict XVI by declaring “the see of Peter” vacant made clear he did not intend to retain any part of the Petrine office or ministry.  The argument #1 fails.

Br. Bugnolo argues: “2. Saint Peter the Apostle exercised many ministries in many places. But no one is the real successor of Saint Peter except the Bishop of Rome (canon 331). If one renounces a petrine ministry, therefore, he does not renounce the office of Bishopric of Rome (cf. canons 331 & 332), who has other ministries in virtue of his office. Therefore, if one believes he has renounced the Bishopric of Rome by renouncing a petrine ministry, he is in substantial error, and thus as per canon 188, the resignation is invalid.”

O’Reilly replies: Pope Benedict XVI made clear that he is renouncing the Petrine ministry in such a way that “the See of Peter” will be vacant.  The See is vacant when there is no occupant. Where there is no occupant there is no one holding either the office or the ministry.  Therefore, Benedict XVI by declaring “the see of Peter” vacant made suffciently clear he did not intend to retain any part of the Petrine office or ministry.  The argument #2 fails.

Br. Bugnolo argues: “3. According to Saint Paul (1 Corinthians 12) there are diverse graces, ministries and offices in the Church, inasmuch as the Church is the Body of Christ. Therefore, since the Bishop of Rome can exercise several of these ministries, it follows that one does not renounce the Bishopric of Rome if one renounces one of these ministries, since no one ministry is coextensive with the Bishopric of Rome. Ergo in such a renunciation, if one believes he has sufficiently signified the renunciation of the Bishopric of Rome, he is in substantial error. Therefore, as per canon 188, the resignation is invalid.”

O’Reilly replies: Irrelevant with regard to the facts. Pope Benedict XVI made clear that he is renouncing the Petrine ministry in such a way that “the See of Peter” will be vacant.  The See is vacant when there is no occupant. Where there is no occupant there is no one holding either the office or the ministry.  Therefore, Benedict XVI by declaring “the see of Peter” vacant made clear he did not intend to retain any part of the Petrine office or ministry.  The argument #3 fails.

Br. Bugnolo argues: “4. According to Seneca (Moral Essays, vol. 3, John W. Basore, Heineman, 1935), one must distinguish between benefices, offices and ministries. Benefices are that which are given by an alien, offices by sons, mothers and others with necessary relationships, and ministries by servants who do what superiors do not do.  The Petrine ministry is a service to the Church. But the office of the Bishop of Rome is a duty to Christ. If one renounces the ministry of a servant, he does not renounce the office of a son. Ergo in such a renunciation etc…”

O’Reilly replies: Irrelevant with regard to the facts. Pope Benedict XVI made clear that he is renouncing the Petrine ministry in such a way that “the See of Peter” will be vacant.  The See is vacant when there is no occupant. Where there is no occupant there is no one holding either the office or the ministry.  Therefore, Benedict XVI by declaring “the see of Saint Peter” vacant made clear he did not intend to retain any part of the Petrine office or ministry.  The argument #4 fails.

Br. Bugnolo argues: 5. The validity of an act of resignation cannot be founded upon the subjective definition of words, or the mere intention of the one renouncing. If that were the case, the interpretation would make the act an act of resignation. The act itself would not declare it. But the Church is a public society founded by the Incarnate Living God. Therefore, the renunciation of offices must be not only intentional but public, to give witness to the fact that the office was established by the Living and Incarnate God. But the office of the Bishop of Rome is such an office. Ergo in such a renunciation etc..

O’Reilly replies: Agreed, at least in so far as an act of resignation cannot be founded upon the subjective definition of words, and that the a renunciation of office must be not only intentional but public.  These are things Benedict XVI did do in his public renunciation.  Pope Benedict XVI made clear that he is renouncing the Petrine ministry in such a way that “the See of Saint Peter” will be vacant.  The See is vacant when there is no occupant. Where there is no occupant there is no one holding either the office or the ministry.  Therefore, Benedict XVI by declaring “the see of Saint Peter” vacant made clear he did not intend to retain any part of the Petrine office or ministry.  The argument #5 fails.

Br. Bugnolo argues: “6. As Msgr. Henry Gracida argues on his blog, abyssum.org: If Christ did not accept the resignation of Benedict as valid, because the act itself was not canonically valid per canon 188, then Christ would be obliged in justice to deprive Bergoglio of grace, so that his lack of being pope be MOST EVIDENT to all with Faith, Hope and Charity. But it is MOST EVIDENT to everyone, even non Catholics, that he has NOT the grace of God in him or in his actions. Ergo, either Christ is unjust, or Christ is just. He cannot be unjust. Ergo, Bergoglio is not pope!”

O’Reilly replies: The argument is fallacious. While it may be valid in logic to say that if we accept the premise (i.e., Christ did not accept Benedict’s resignation) as true, then it necessarily follows Christ would deprive Bergoglio of the grace of office, etc. However, the argument in reverse does not necessarily follow.  That is to say. granting arguendo that it is evident Bergoglio lacks the grace of office, etc., it does not necessarily follow that Benedict is still pope. That is to say, there might be other reasons that Bergoglio is not a valid pope, without assuming Benedict is still pope (e.g., perhaps some violation of conclave rule, or perhaps some deficiency in Bergoglio’s acceptance of the election (see Curiouser and Curiouser: Who Dispensed Jorge Bergoglio SJ from his vows?, etc). Therefore, the argument #6 fails.

Br. Bugnolo argues: “7. Christ prayed for Peter that his faith might not fail, and so that he could confirm his brethren in the Apostolic College. Now this prayer of Christ must be efficacious, since Christ is God and the Beloved Son of the Eternal Father, and because of the office of Saint Peter is not something merely useful to the Body of Christ, but necessary in matters of faith and unity. Therefore, Christ’s prayer for the Successors of Saint Peter must be efficacious in some manner as regards the faith and unity of the Church. But Bergoglio manifestly attacks both the faith and unity of the Church. Far be it, therefore, to judge that in this one man Christ’s prayer was not intended to be effective. Ergo, Bergoglio is not a valid successor of Saint Peter!”

O’Reilly replies: See my reply to Br. Bugnolo’s #6.  While one might arguably make the case the premise is true in #7 above, and that therefore Bergoglio must not be a valid successor of St. Peter; it is evident that this argument in itself does not prove that Benedict XVI is still pope.  Therefore, the argument #7 fails with regard to Br. Bugnolo’s explicit goal with regard to the question:  “Whether Pope Benedict XVI by means of the act expressed in his address, “Non solum propter”, resigned the office of the Bishop of Rome?”

Br. Bugnolo argues: “8. From the text of the act of resignation. Pope Benedict admits in the first sentence that he holds the munus petrinum. But further down, he says he renounces the ministerium which he had received as Bishop of Rome. Therefore, he has not renounced the munus. But munus means office and gift of grace (cf. Canon 145 §1). Therefore, he has not stated that he has renounced the office and gift of grace. Therefore, in such a resignation etc..”

O’Reilly replies: Pope Benedict XVI made clear that he is renouncing the Petrine ministry in such a way that “the See of Saint Peter” will be vacant.  The See is vacant when there is no occupant. Where there is no occupant there is no one holding either the office or the ministry.  Therefore, Benedict XVI by declaring “the see of Saint Peter” vacant made clear he did not intend to retain any part of the Petrine office or ministry.  The argument #8 fails.

Br. Bugnolo argues: “9.From the sense of the Latin tongue, which lacks the definite and indefinite article. When you say: Renuntio ministerio, you do not say whether you have renounced the ministry or a ministry. Therefore, you leave unsaid what ministry you have renounced. Therefore, in such a resignation etc..”

O’Reilly replies: Pope Benedict XVI made clear that he is renouncing the Petrine ministry in such a way that “the See of Saint Peter” will be vacant.  The See is vacant when there is no occupant. Where there is no occupant there is no one holding either the office or “the ministry or a ministry.”  Therefore, Benedict XVI by declaring “the see of Peter” vacant made clear he did not intend to retain any part of the Petrine office or ministry.  The argument #9 fails.

Br. Bugnolo argues: “10.From the papal law Universi Dominici Gregison Papal elections:  One is not elected to the Petrine Ministry, but to be the Bishop of Rome.  Therefore, unless one renounce the Bishopric of Rome one has not vacated the See of Saint Peter. But in public statements Pope Benedict XVI after March 2013 says only that he has renounced the ministerium. Therefore, he is in substantial habitual error as regards what is required in an act of resignation of the office of the Bishopric of Rome.  Therefore, in such a resignation etc..”

O’Reilly replies:  What matters is Pope Benedict’s Declaratio as an instrument of his resignation.  What any pope says subsequent to his valid resignation and the see becoming vacant in fact is, ultimately, irrelevant. Otherwise, we might face the unhappy prospect of any pope having remorse for his decision after leaving office and then declaring he never meant it. Regardless, Pope Benedict XVI made clear that he is renouncing the Petrine ministry in such a way that “the See of Saint Peter” will be vacant.  The See is vacant when there is no occupant. Where there is no occupant there is no one holding either the office or “the ministry or a ministry.”  Therefore, Benedict XVI by declaring “the see of Saint Peter” vacant made clear he did not intend to retain any part of the Petrine office or ministry.  The argument #10 fails.

Br. Bugnolo argues: “11. From the Code of Canon Law:  Canonical resignations are valid if 3 things are valid: liberty from coercion, right intention, unambiguous signification. This is confirmed in canon 332, § 2 which expressly denies that the acceptance of a resignation affects is validity or non-validity. But Pope Benedict admits in his letters to Cardinal Brandmueller that his intent was to retain something of the Pontifical Dignity. His private secretary also publicly has affirmed that he occupies the  See of Peter. This is incontrovertible evidence that the act of resignation is ambiguous. For either it means he has renounced the See or has not renounced the See.  Therefore, in such a resignation etc..”

O’Reilly replies: In the aforementioned letters, Benedict explicitly refers to himself as a “former pope” (see my earlier article on this correspondence: Benedict is really, really still not pope! Really!) Further, it is not accurate to say that Benedict’s secretary (i.e., Archbishop Ganswein) “affirmed that he occupies the See of Peter.” I request Br. Bugnolo produce any quote that says that, rather than Br. Bugnolo assigning it that interpretation.  I think it is accurate to say Ganswein has spoken of a ‘expanded’ or ‘enlarged ministry’–but I address that in my reply to objection #3 wherein I discuss Ganswein.  Thus, contrary to the assertion above, what has been outlined is not “incontrovertible evidence the act of resignation is ambiguous.” Further, no evidence of coercion has been brought forward.  Therefore, the argument #11 fails.

Br. Bugnolo argues: “12. From Pneumetology, that is, from the theology of the Holy Spirit. After Feb 2013 the whole Church still recognizes and accepts Pope Benedict with the title of pope and with papal prerogatives. All call him Benedict, not Ratzinger or Joseph. But the whole Church cannot be deceived. Nevertheless, according to Divine Institution, the Papacy cannot be held by more than one person at one time. And he who holds it first, has the valid claim to the office. Therefore, the Church does not understand the act as one which renounces the office. Therefore, in such a resignation etc..”

O’Reilly replies:  It is not true to say the “whole Church still recognizes and accepts Pope Benedict with the title of pope and papal prerogatives.” For example, while Benedict is still addressed by “Holiness”, he is called “Pope Emeritus” to distinguish him from being called “pope” or acknowledged as such.  Further, Benedict denies he is pope in that he admits he is a former pope (see Benedict is really, really still not pope! Really!). Granted, the wisdom of his selection of style is questionable and confusing; however, it is a stretch to say the “the Church does not understand the act as one which renounces the office.” Therefore, the argument #12 fails.

Br. Bugnolo argues: “13. From insufficiency of intention:  If a Pope renounces eating bananas, he has not renounced the office of Bishopric of Rome. Therefore, if he says, “I have renounced eating bananas, to vacate the See of Rome”, he is in substantial error as to the effect of his act.  But in his text of renunciation he says he has renounced the ministry so as to vacate the see of Saint Peter [ut sedes Sancti Petri vacet]. But that is a substantial error, since the ministry is only a proper accident of the Bishopric of Rome, for to be the Bishop of Rome is the first act of its being [esse primum], to exercise the ministries of the Bishopric of Rome is the second act of its being [esse secundum]. Therefore, since the second act of being is in potency to the first act, and potency is divided from act as accident to substance, to renounce a or all ministries of an office is an act regarding the accidents not the substance of the office. Therefore, one could just as well renounce any or all of its ministries and retain the office. Therefore, by renouncing a or the ministry he does not renounce the office. Indeed, in public statements, he explicitly affirms only to have renounced the ministry. Therefore, his insufficiency of expressed intention does not save the act from substantial error.  Therefore, in such a renunciation etc.””

O’Reilly replies: Pope Benedict XVI made clear that he is renouncing the Petrine ministry in such a way that “the See of Saint Peter” will be vacant.  The See is vacant when there is no occupant. Where there is no occupant there is no one holding either the office or “the ministry or a ministry.”  Therefore, Benedict XVI by declaring “the see of Saint Peter” vacant made clear he did not intend to retain any part of the Petrine office or ministry. His intention is clear. His act of resignation is clear. There is no substantial error.  Therefore, the argument #13 fails.

[NB: I direct the reader to Br. Bugnolo’s article to read it and more fully understand his arguments in full].

 

Objection 2:

In Ann Barnhardt’s video at 20:07-27:18, the argument is made that Benedict XVI’s address in his final audience shows he intended to keep part of the Petrine ministry [NB: In fairness to Ms. Barnhardt’s argument–i.e., that she be allow to state it, I urge the reader to watch her video, especially the time stamp window provided above, specifically related to this objection]. Since, one cannot keep a part of the Petrine ministry, Pope Benedict was in “substantial error” (cf Canon 188) in his resignation, therefore his resignation is invalid (e.g., thinking he could give up the “active” ministry, while retaining the “passive” ministry”).  Consequently, Benedict XVI is still Pope. Ms. Barnhardt refer to this portion of Pope Benedict’s final audience where he speaks of his resignation (emphasis added):

Here, allow me to go back once again to 19 April 2005. The real gravity of the decision was also due to the fact that from that moment on I was engaged always and forever by the Lord. Always – anyone who accepts the Petrine ministry no longer has any privacy. He belongs always and completely to everyone, to the whole Church. In a manner of speaking, the private dimension of his life is completely eliminated. I was able to experience, and I experience it even now, that one receives one’s life precisely when one gives it away. Earlier I said that many people who love the Lord also love the Successor of Saint Peter and feel great affection for him; that the Pope truly has brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, throughout the world, and that he feels secure in the embrace of your communion; because he no longer belongs to himself, he belongs to all and all belong to him.

The “always” is also a “for ever” – there can no longer be a return to the private sphere. My decision to resign the active exercise of the ministry does not revoke this. I do not return to private life, to a life of travel, meetings, receptions, conferences, and so on. I am not abandoning the cross, but remaining in a new way at the side of the crucified Lord. I no longer bear the power of office for the governance of the Church, but in the service of prayer I remain, so to speak, in the enclosure of Saint Peter. Saint Benedict, whose name I bear as Pope, will be a great example for me in this. He showed us the way for a life which, whether active or passive, is completely given over to the work of God. (excerpted from the last general audience of Pope Benedict XVI, February 27, 2013)

According to Ms. Barnhardt, Pope Benedict XVI demonstrates his mistaken notion of the Petrine ministry, thinking he could remain within the “enclosure of St. Peter.”  This, according to Ms. Barnhardt is Pope Benedict XVI’s “substantial error”.

Reply to Objection 2:

Some say Benedict’s comments in his last audience prove he intended an expanded Petrine office comprised of an “active” pope and a “contemplative” pope.  It is here, these folks suggest – such as Ms. Barnhardt, that Benedict XVI exhibited his “substantial error” which demonstrates his resignation is invalid. I have read this final audience many times over, and I cannot help but conclude that those who think it demonstrates “substantial error” have instead fallen prey to a case of pareidolia, i.e., seeing something that is simply not really there.

The main difficulty with Ms. Barnhardt’s overall argument is her interpretation of Pope Benedict XVI’s address at his final audience. Her argument does not even attempt to address or refute simpler and more plausible interpretations that do not require the great assumptions she must make to support the claim Benedict XVI is still pope.

I have already provided the complete relevant text under “objection 2” and include it again below with my running commentary in RED, which will be followed by a summary of my interpretation of what it appears Pope Benedict XVI was more likely saying (emphasis added):

“Here, allow me to go back once again to 19 April 2005. The real gravity of the decision was also due to the fact that from that moment on I was engaged always and forever by the Lord. Always – anyone who accepts the Petrine ministry no longer has any privacy. He belongs always and completely to everyone, to the whole Church. In a manner of speaking, the private dimension of his life is completely eliminated.”

O’REILLY Comments: It must be remembered, the resignation (see Reply to #1) is manifestly clear: Benedict intends to vacate the Chair of St. Peter, and he calls for a conclave to elect his successor. Here, in his final audience, Benedict speaks of what his life will be after he steps down.  He speaks of anyone who is elected pope losing privacy. As he says of him who is elected a pope: “He belongs always and completely to everyone, to the whole Church.” It is because of this, he says “in a manner of speaking“, his privacy is eliminated.  In other words, Benedict is speaking of the private dimension of his life being always lost, but only in a sense – not due to some indelible mark of papal office or ministry he cannot lose or freely surrender.

“I was able to experience, and I experience it even now, that one receives one’s life precisely when one gives it away. Earlier I said that many people who love the Lord also love the Successor of Saint Peter and feel great affection for him; that the Pope truly has brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, throughout the world, and that he feels secure in the embrace of your communion; because he no longer belongs to himself, he belongs to all and all belong to him.”

O’REILLY Comment:  Earlier, we see what Benedict XVI describes to be any pope’s loss upon election–the private dimension of his life. Here, he speaks not of what he loses, but of what he gains–or what any pope gains.  That is, a Successor of St. Peter gains the love of the whole Church: “he belongs to all, and all belong to him.”  He “truly has brother and sisters, sons and daughters, throughout the world.” But let us look as Benedict explains his meaning regarding the ministry not being revoked (emphasis added):

“The “always” is also a “for ever” – there can no longer be a return to the private sphere. My decision to resign the active exercise of the ministry does not revoke this. I do not return to private life, to a life of travel, meetings, receptions, conferences, and so on. I am not abandoning the cross, but remaining in a new way at the side of the crucified Lord. I no longer bear the power of office for the governance of the Church, but in the service of prayer I remain, so to speak, in the enclosure of Saint Peter. Saint Benedict, whose name I bear as Pope, will be a great example for me in this. He showed us the way for a life which, whether active or passive, is completely given over to the work of God.” (excerpted from the last general audience of Pope Benedict XVI, February 27, 2013)

O’REILLY COMMENTS: Benedict has already talked about election to the papacy as eliminating, in a manner of speaking, the private dimension of his life – but then what this loss gains for him (i.e., belonging to all, and all to him).  Now, he wants to assure us that his resignation does not change this, i.e., he will not lose this belonging, this loving of those who had become his daughters and sons, sisters and brothers as pope.  Thus, Benedict tells us: “I no longer bear the power of office for the governance of the Church, but in the service of prayer I remain, so to speak, in the enclosure of Saint Peter.” Benedict tells us, again, he will no longer be pope, but even though he no longer is our pope, that his life will be devoted to praying for the whole Church, i.e., for all of those who became his sons and daughters, sisters and brothers as pope, and it is in this way – “so to speak” – he remains in the enclosure of Peter, praying for the whole Church. But again note, here he says he remains “in the enclosure of Peter” only in a sense (“so to speak”), i.e., not in fact.

Therefore, what seems clearly to be Benedict’s logic may be briefly summarized as follows: (1) one who is elected pope belongs to the Church and the Church to him, the private dimension of his life in a “manner of speaking” is lost; (2) yet, one (a pope) receives ones life when one gives it away in this manner, that is to say, he truly gains in return brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, throughout the world; (3) a Pope loves them and truly feels secure in their embrace because he “no longer belongs to himself, he belongs to all and all belong to him;” (4) however, resigning the papacy does not revoke this loving attachment or this bond of love the pope has felt (i.e., I may be gone, but I still love you), and thus the resigning pope (Benedict) will always retain his love for all (i.e., for we the Church, his brothers, sisters etc.), and thus (5) he will in love continue to pray in service for the Church; and it is in this qualified sense – “so to speak” – he remains in the “enclosure of Peter,” but not in fact.

That is, Benedict sees himself figuratively still in the enclosure, not in a legal, ecclesiastical or literal sense. Benedict is saying he is no longer actively pope, but in a manner of speaking-‘so to speak’–remains in the “enclosure of St. Peter” (i.e., figuratively so) doing what he can do ‘passively’…i.e., prayer in service of the Church–prayers for those he loves…us the Church.

This is far simpler and more plausible explanation of Benedict’s words, and it has the benefit of not requiring us to forget he was a good theologian and had familiarity with Church history. Nor does this explanation require us to make Benedict a heretic who proposed there could be two popes or two men sharing the papacy.

Objection 3:

In the above referenced video at 27:18-41:12, Ms. Barnhardt comments on an address given by Archbishop Ganswein wherein he lays out the mind of Pope Benedict XVI with regard to his resignation, i.e., along the lines of Ms. Barnhardt’s interpretation of Pope Benedict XVI’s final audience (See Objection 2 above). Further, there are eyewitness who say that Pope Benedict XVI apparently approved Ganswein’s speech and gave it his “blessing”– demonstrating that Ganswein’s speech does reveal the mind of Benedict regarding his resignation. In this speech, Ganswein speaks of an expanded Petrine office with an “active member and a passive member,” etc. Thus, taken all together, this proves Pope Benedict’s invalid intent.

Reply to Objection 3:

I grant, Archbishop Ganswein, Benedict’s aide, did make some confusing statements that helped fuel the theory we are rebutting. However, I would say the following.

  1.  We should understand Benedict XVI through his own words first, and not Ganswein’s.  Doing so, we have already seen he declare his intent to vacate “the See of Saint Peter” (see Reply to Objection #1) and that his words from his final audience explain how Benedict XVI views himself ‘in a manner of speaking’ still within the enclosure of St. Peter (see Reply to Objection #2).
  2. However, even if the doubters prefer to read Benedict through Ganswein, it seems clear enough that Ganswein’s statements are consistent with the rebuttal (see reply to Objection #2), i.e., a less provocative understanding of an expanded ministry is possible, one that is expanded in a ‘manner of speaking.’ For example, Sandro Magister writes of Ganswein: “And most recently the archbishop in closest contact with him, Georg Gänswein, has told us that Benedict “has by no means abandoned the office of Peter,” but on the contrary has made it “an expanded ministry, with an active member and a contemplative member,” in “a collegial and synodal dimension, almost a shared ministry.” But, these words of Ganswein (in bold above) quoted here by Magister can be understood in a figurative sense (see Reply to Objection 2). Indeed, Ganswein says it is “almost a shared ministrybut to say in this context that someone is “almost” something is to also imply clearly the same someone is not that something; e.g., just as Hillary Clinton might say “I was almost president”…yes…but the fact remains she is not. Therefore, Ganswein indirectly tells us that Benedict does not share the papal ministry with Francis.
  3. Also, it must be remembered Archbishop Ganswein’s now controversial speech was given “at the presentation of a new book by Roberto Regoli entitled Beyond the Crisis of the Church — The Pontificate of Benedict XVI” (see here). On such an occasion, it is not unexpected that flowery or panegyrical language, praise and compliments might be over the top.  If Ganswein might be criticized now for unguarded panegyrical praise of Benedict, he might be forgiven for being taken quite so literally on such an occasion. But, for those who want to interpret Ganswein’s talk of an “expanded ministry” literally, how then do these same folks interpret Ganswein who says of the book’s author (Roberto Regoli) at the end of the same address: “Thus, this book once again throws a consoling gaze on the peaceful imperturbability and serenity of Benedict XVI, at the helm of the barque of Peter in the dramatic years 2005-2013. At the same time, however, through this illuminating account, Regoli himself now also takes part in the munus Petri.  Where are our “Benedict is Pope” interpreters on this? Is Ganswein speaking literally or figuratively of Regoli taking “part in the munus Petri?” What they might say, they must say it…but it is clear to me that Ganswein is speaking figuratively of Regoli, obviously, and it was in this same sense Ganswein spoke in the same speech of Benedict’s post-resignation role.
  4. Furthermore, Ganswein has since clarified he never meant to suggest Benedict maintained any part of the office of the papacy (see here).

 

Objection 4: 

In the above reference video at   41:13- 55:58, Ms. Barnhardt quotes canon 188 wherein it is said that “a resignation made out of grave fear that is inflicted unjustly or made out of malice…” is invalid. Ms. Barnhardt relates how sodomites, satanists, etc., all hate and hated Pope Benedict XVI because he had taken active steps to clean up the filth in Church.  Ms. Barnhardt in her video describes how Pope Benedict was an obstacle to them, and that his enemies wanted him out, e.g., St. Gallen mafia.

Reply to Objection 4:

I do not dispute Ms. Barnhardt’s description of the situation of the Church, or the state of mind of Pope Benedict XVI’s enemies.  As I have previously indicated, I think we both would agree on quite a lot. However, while Ms. Barnhardt’s description of the state of the Church is quite on target in my opinion, she does not provide what is necessary for her objection to qualify as a proof that Benedict XVI was forced to resign or did so out of fear.

She gives us reason to think there were folks who hated Benedict, and wanted him gone. However, she has not produced evidence to date that this actually happened. I am not saying it did not happen, only that she does not provide evidence it happened.  After all, while there may have been many cardinals and others in high places who wanted Benedict gone, it could also be true at the same time that Benedict resigned freely without being subject to fear or coercion. Therefore, objection 4, at least as enunciated by Ms. Barnhardt fails–until actual proof is provided.

NB: I have previously commented on questions regarding the St. Gallen Mafia and Benedict’s free will regarding the question of his resignation:  Thoughts on Free Will and Hypothetical Papal Plots).

 

Objection 5: 

In Ms. Barnhardt’s video starting at 55:59, certain visual evidence is pointed out as proving Benedict XVI still thinks of himself as pope, such as he “continues to wear the papal white and the papal ring” and he “retains his papal name and papal style (Holiness)” and he “continues to reside in the Vatican and make public appearance.”  To this, Ms. Barnhardt displays Archbishop Ganswein’s words:

“From the election of his successor, Pope Francis — on 13 March 2013 — there are not then two popes, but de facto an enlarged ministry with an active and contemplative member. For this reason, Benedict has not renounced either his name or his white cassock. For this reason the correct title with which we must refer to him is still “Holiness.” Furthermore, he has not retired to an isolated monastery, but [has retired] within the Vatican as if he had simply stepped aside to make space for his Successor, and for a new stage in the history of the Papacy, which he, with that step, has enriched with the centrality of [prayer] and of compassion placed in the Vatican Gardens.” (Archbishop Ganswein as quoted by Ann Barnhardt in her video, The Bergoglian Anti-Papcy, accessed 11/24/2018 at time stamp 1:01:21)

Reply to Objection 5:

It cannot be denied that Benedict XVI’s wearing of the papal white, etc., is unprecedented. Further, as I believe is noted by Ms. Barnhardt, Benedict’s stated reason for this choice–he did not have a black cassock on hand(!)–is simply bizarre. I agree with her.  There are clerical outfitters within yards of the Vatican, and certainly he had time to order one before his resignation was effective–and certainly since that time! On top of that, Ganswein’s explanation (as quoted by Ms. Barnhardt) is at variance with Benedict’s earlier explanation. Odd, to say the least.

However, oddities duly granted, this does not constitute evidence Benedict XVI is still Pope. We must remember, as is clear enough from my Replies #1 and #2; (1) that Benedict XVI understands he vacated the “the see of St. Peter” and (2) that he only remains within the “enclosure of St. Peter” in a manner of speaking (“so to speak”), through his continued prayers in service of the Church and (3) that Ganswein denies he ever meant to suggest there are two popes. Granting the oddity of it all, it appears the answer rests somewhere here, i.e., speculatively, that being ‘in manner of speaking’–but not in fact–in the enclosure of St. Peter by serving the Church through prayer for all, Benedict may have thought retention of the papal white made sense.

Further, it may also be Benedict thought to set a modern example of the retirement option for future popes; by setting a precedent of ‘how to do it’–perhaps thereby making it an easier choice for others–as if to break a taboo against resignation. That is to say, seeing how ill and weak John Paul II was in his final years, perhaps Benedict XVI wanted to make the retirement option more concrete for future popes so that the Church is not in a state of suspension during the enfeebled years of an old pope.  That is just my speculation–but this only shows there are other plausible speculations for the retention of the papal white without jumping to the extreme speculation that therefore, Benedict is still pope.

As to titles used, Benedict as Emeritus attempts to explain his choice to retain the papal style to Cardinal Brandmuller. I discussed their correspondence in Benedict is really, really still not pope! Really!.  Thus, I will not go into detail here, other than to point out that in one of the letters, Benedict XVI is squabbling with Brandmuller over his use of titles as former pope and “Papa Emeritus”, not over the fact of whether he is still pope. Benedict stated he wanted to be inaccessible to the media so that “it is completely clear that there is only one Pope”  (see the linked article above). 

So, while I grant the unprecedented nature of Benedict’s choice, he still maintains — despite it all — “it is completely clear that there is only one Pope.”  The wearing of the papal white, continuation of papal style, etc., are choices which are undoubtedly intended by Benedict — these are not accidental. However, since he says of himself he is a “former pope” and thatit is completely clear that there is only one Popewe must conclude — whatever the reasons for or merits of these choices, he has not made them because he believes himself pope.  Therefore, the objection that holds Benedict still thinks of himself as pope because he continues to wear papal white, maintain the papal style, etc., fails.

 

Objection 6: 

Ms. Barnhardt refers directly and indirectly to various prophecies (1:02:46 to 1:05:20), such as those referring to apostasy beginning at the top, to a time of “cardinal vs. cardinal and bishop vs. bishop”, etc.

Reply to Objection 6:

I have great respect for Catholic prophecy as well, and believe it quite likely some or all of those mentioned by Ms. Barnhardt pertain to our time. However, I do not believe that any of the prophecies–or all of them together–to which Ms. Barnhardt alludes demonstrate her conclusion, that Benedict is still pope. The prophecies may appear consistent with that opinion, but that is no proof.  The prophecies are consistent with other theories, too. For example, even if we were to hypothesize Francis is not a valid pope, there are various ways that might happened without assuming Benedict is still pope.

Thus concludes my rebuttal of the current arguments which allege Benedict is still pope. I respect those making the arguments, and those who accept them. We live in strange times that faithful Catholics are put into the horrible position to even consider the possibility. However, I do not believe the evidence supports this particular theory.

Steven O’Reilly is a graduate of the University of Dallas and the Georgia Institute of Technology. He and his wife, Margaret, live near Atlanta with their family. He has written apologetic articles and is working on a historical-adventure trilogy, set during the time of the Arian crisis. He asks for your prayers for his intentions.  He can be contacted at StevenOReilly@AOL.com (or follow on Twitter: @S_OReilly_USA).


9 thoughts on “Against the Arguments that Claim Benedict XVI is STILL Pope

  1. You explain the opposing view very well. That is a rare thing, intellectually honest.

    But to all the many facets of the opposing argument, your response apppears to me to boil down to just one argument in the affirmative: “Benedict resigned; the seat is vacant by his words. Nothing more can be said after you read his resignation text”.

    It does not seem to me that you take the *next* step and refute the premises of each of their counter-arguments. You just assert your own premise over the top of them. But your premise does nothing to refute the alternate premise: *the resignation statement itself is invalid in content (ministerium/munus) and (just as important) in its visible aftermath (expressed intent).

    I read through your summarized list in favor above and find every statement persuasive that those words of “resignation” are thereby rendered meaningless.

    I read through your counter-arguments against and find that it would be impossible to persuade you otherwise until such time that you were willing to question your base premise that the resignation statement itself might be invalid when made, but also, more fully in the aftermath as time and subsequent action proves the invalidity by expressed intent.

    I can think of no better example than a recent (parallel) *valid* abdication (similar in form to Pope Celestine V’s): Prince Edward VIII’s abdication of his English Throne . He chose an illegal marriage over his rightful royalty. He made an abdication statement. He travelled the abdication path for the rest of his life as Duke of Windsor, in exile for life. He was not allowed back; not allowed to participate in any ceremony. No “always and forever” for him. No forever within the enclosure of Windsor Castle for him. No partial claim to royal prerogatives that are indelibly imprinted and can never be removed. Words. Deeds. Reality and truth affirmed.

    He took his pension and his lover and left. Forever.

    Pope Benedict did *not* return to Bavaria as a Priest.

    Pope Benedict XVI? He is still consecrating Cardinals. This photo says it all for me: https://www.romereports.com/en/2017/06/28/benedict-xvi-receives-the-new-cardinals-and-speaks-with-them-in-various-languages/

    Completely unacceptable. Out of step with Sacred Tradition. Why should I accept such a thing as this when it has never been seen or thought of before? Where in Scripture or Tradition is there support for this? I find this offensive, in the extreme. This picture summarizes why a Catholic can never accept your premise that the prior resignation was valid. This can never, never happen again. That image is blasphemous, a corruption of Christ’s Cornerstone; the visible representation of Christ’s Vicar bifurcated into two Holy Fathers by word, by deed. You cannot possibly in good conscience call it otherwise.

    And the product of this strange bifurcated sight? Endless, persistent heresy and revolution at the heart of our Faith, sourced at the partial “resignation” that leaves us with that horrible picture, linked above. I have an answer for that. You do not. And it starts with these two Popes in white consecrating Cardinals together, smiling for the cameras, side by side; unified with the new Princes of the Church.

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    1. Aqua, thanks for reading the article and for you comments. There are no specific words or formula for a papal resignation. It just needs be clear what he is intending to do. I don’t believe it can be reasonably argued it is unclear what BXVI intended to do. Whatever he is doing…he did it in “such a way” or “so that” the “see of Rome, the see of Peter” is vacant. I don’t know what more I need to establish to defeat invalidity arguments based on the Declaratio.

      As for the “enclosure of St. Peter” comment in the last audience; I offer, I think, a more than plausible interpretation of it–which has the benefit of not having to resort to introducing theological oddities into the mix. Please take a look at it. One key point is that BXVI said he remains “so to speak” in the “enclosure of St. Peter.” That is NOT the same thing as saying he “remains in the enclosure of St. Peter.” That is, he speaking by way of a metaphor or figuratively–NOT literally. He remains loved as if he were ‘so to speak’ still Peter, and he will continue to pray for the Church were still ‘so to speak’ Peter. I don’t find the last audience as proof of anything more than a proof of BXVI’s love of the Church.

      Certainly, it would have been best if BXVI went off to a monastery somewhere.

      God bless,

      Steve

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    2. Aqua, thanks for reading the article and for you comments. There are no specific words or formula for a papal resignation. It just needs be clear what he is intending to do. I don’t believe it can be reasonably argued it is unclear what BXVI intended to do. Whatever he is doing…he did it in “such a way” or “so that” the “see of Rome, the see of Peter” is vacant. I don’t know what more I need to establish to defeat invalidity arguments based on the Declaratio.

      As for the “enclosure of St. Peter” comment in the last audience; I offer, I think, a more than plausible interpretation of it–which has the benefit of not having to resort to introducing theological oddities into the mix. Please take a look at it. One key point is that BXVI said he remains “so to speak” in the “enclosure of St. Peter.” That is NOT the same thing as saying he “remains in the enclosure of St. Peter.” That is, he speaking by way of a metaphor or figuratively–NOT literally. He remains loved as if he were ‘so to speak’ still Peter, and he will continue to pray for the Church were still ‘so to speak’ Peter. I don’t find the last audience as proof of anything more than a proof of BXVI’s love of the Church.

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  2. Mr, O’Reilly, I do appreciate your blog very much. I read it whenever you post something new. I appreciate your effort to summarize here so thoroughly and honestly the opposing view that sees the precedent abdication as invalid. I appreciate your response to my carefully considered views in conscience. I take this very seriously, indeed. I know you do as well. Serious stuff we are dealing with.

    I don’t wish to come across as insulting with this next comment. But, I just do not understand how you can see the linked preceding picture of the two identical Popes, taken with the newest members of the College of a Cardinals, after the two Popes *shared* their consecration (if memory serves it is possible only BXVI consecrated), and not feel shock and awe (the awful kind). After all the careful explanations for why the abdication words were incomplete and partial (word and subsequent deed); this picture is like, but far worse, than seeing a family photo with two fathers smiling in front of their children.

    Still, at the very least, it must be acknowledged that in the long history of the Church, there has never been an abdication that left us in this position at the Throne.

    That photo actually makes my stomach turn every time I see it. It is revolting to me.

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    1. Aqua, thanks again for the comments. I don’t take your comments as insulting. We just have an honest disagreement. Certainly, I believe, we probably share similar views of Francis.

      But, I have heard what you describe as “the careful explanations of why the abdication words were incomplete” and I find them insufficient. BXVI, as I’ve noted before, makes it clear that what he is doing results in the See of St. Peter being “vacant.” That means, logically, he is no longer “there.” If he is not “there” he is not sharing the See with anyone. If he vacates the See of St. Peter of his free will, he is giving up all that it is and means, whether or not he uses the words “munus” or “ministerium.”

      That to me is the obstacle that those supporting BXVI as the still reigning pope have not, and cannot overcome. Their task is all the more difficult because BXVI has called himself a “former” pope. You claim a man to be still be pope who says he is not.

      Now, with regard to his dress, ring, staying in Vatican, etc., I agree, this is not helpful….but…it still does not amount to a proof. I do believe that a future pope will–or at least should– lay down some suggested guidelines for future papal resignees–such as “please go away.” go to a monastery, get a change of clothes, etc.

      Regards. God bless.

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  3. Greetings,

    It seems to me that the crystal clear language that Benedict used in his official resignation document is a necessary, but not sufficient condition for a valid resignation. Since Canon 188 states “A resignation made out of grave fear that is inflicted unjustly or out of malice, substantial error, or simony is invalid by the law itself.” This would seem to imply that it is possible for “open and shut case” language to be used in the resignation (which is the core of your argument), but if, say, the resigner had been bribed to resign (i.e. simony), then the resignation would not be valid. Since it is possible for the case of simony to have crystal clear language but an invalid resignation, it seems like it ought to be possible for the case of “substantial error”, also. Crystal clear language is necessary, but not sufficient.

    Canon 188 presumes that a resignation that may or may not be valid, would at least _look_ valid, since how would one judge it to _be_ a resignation whose validity needs to be ascertained if it does not look like an actual resignation in the first place? If clear language is all that is required, wouldn’t Canon 188 read something like “All resignations that clearly indicate that the resigned position will be vacant due to the resignation are ipso facto valid, regardless of the circumstance?” It is hard for me to see how the actual Canon 188 does not presume that a resignation could look properly stated in every important respect, and yet, not be valid. Your argument seems to be that the resignation is properly stated in every important respect, and therefore _must_ be valid. This goes against the core logic of Canon 188, if I am thinking this through correctly.

    –Matteo

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    1. Matteo, thanks for your comments. I don’t disagree with you. I am not suggesting that a properly stated resignation is by that fact alone valid. As you point out, there might be coercion.

      However, in the specific case of BXVI, no evidence has been brought forward to demonstrate that he resigned against his will. That is the point I make in my Reply to Objection #4 in the article. Ann Barnhardt essentially describes the existence of motive, but she provides no evidence of the crime–i.e., coercion of a resignation.

      Thanks again for reading the article.

      Regards, Steve

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  4. Steve,

    Thanks for your response. I’m more focused on the substantial error rather than the coercion aspects of the question. In terms of substantial error, it seems that we have what looks like cut and dried language for the resignation (necessary but not sufficient according to the logic of Canon 188) combined with the “resignation is as resignation does, and what is being done does not look like a resignation” aspects of maintaining papal dress, continuing to be called “His Holiness”, not reverting back to his original name, strange talk of a bifurcated Papacy or new mode for it, etc. A reasonable expectation upon a valid papal resignation is that none of these things would be happening. So while the language meets the proper requirements of a valid resignation, the behavior afterward testifies to “substantial error”. If it were not possible for a Pope to use the proper language for a resignation, but then via actions afterward call into question whether the resignation has really taken place, why would Canon 188 attempt to cover “substantial error” at all? Combine all of this with the manifest lack of infallibility displayed by his purported successor, and I don’t see how concluding that a “substantial error” has been made would be unreasonable.

    I don’t really have an axe to grind. I find Barnhardt convincing except for the points which you bring up which would be absolutely fatal to her position, but I’m also not sure if your points are lock-tight when I really think about Canon 188 in the way I’ve explained.

    –Matteo

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    1. Matteo, thanks for the feedback. With regard to the continued use of papal white and style, etc., I do not make excuses for it. Bad idea. But, bad ideas do not invalidate a prior resignation, it seems to me. Now, BXVI tried to address his reasoning for some of these things to Cardinal Brandmueller. Again, I don’t feel I need to defend BXVI’s reasoning; other than to point out (as I do in reply to Objection #5 – recently updated) that whatever the merits or reasons for Benedict’s choice of clothes,etc., the decision was NOT made because he believes himself still pope. In those letters he calls himself “a former pope” and states he wanted to make it clear he was no longer pope, etc. So, his intention is clear. As for “confusion”…that really is in those of “us” who see his dress, not in him–who has made clear his intent. So, I don’t see anything here to invalidate his resignation.

      But, I think we’d agree, his decisions in these matters do not appear to be wise. I think a future pope should make some strong suggestions and guidelines, perhaps in canon law, mandating (as much as you can a pope) that he comport himself in specific ways so as not to give rise to even the slightest of doubts.

      Regards, Steve

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