July 9, 2019 (Steven O’Reilly) – The “Benedict is Pope” (BiP) theory is still limping along. Having already countered the BiP arguments in a number of articles, I was hoping I would never feel the need again to do so. Some of the articles deal with questions related to whether Benedict’s resignation was forced (see Thoughts on Free Will and Hypothetical Papal Plots) or was it a “partial” or bifurcated one (see Benedict is NOT pope; Benedict is STILL not Pope; and Benedict is really, really still not pope! Really!). In addition, articles addressed other questions as well (e.g., see Against the Arguments that Claim Benedict XVI is STILL Pope, Benedict is Still Pope and Other Errors). One reader even penned a “testimony” regarding the reader’s former beliefs on the question, which Roma Locuta Est printed (see The Testimony of a former Benevacantist). These articles form something of a “Summa Contra BiP.”
My position remains as I have written before:
“The Church teaches to be in communion with the Successor of St. Peter is necessary for salvation (cf. Unam Sanctam and CCC 2089). Therefore, the stakes are quite high for those Catholics who would reject – and lead others to reject – the legitimacy of Francis, who by all outward appearance of canonical form, process and procedure was duly and validly elected pope.”
Clearly, Francis appears to offer a ‘target rich environment’ when it comes to serious questions about the status of his pontificate, such as the non-response to the Dubia (potentially “favoring” heresy), the Open Letter accusing him of the delict of heresy, and various documents (e.g.., the Manifesto, the Declarations of Truths, etc) which seem to indirectly suggest he holds or has at least permitted heretical positions to flourish. Questions linger about the role played by the St. Gallen mafia in the election (and or perhaps a homosexual network), and about oddities before the 2013 conclave with possible implications with regard to Universis Dominici Gregis (e.g., here, here and here) and other issues that could impact the validity of Cardinal Bergoglio’s acceptance (see Curiouser and Curiouser: Who Dispensed Jorge Bergoglio SJ from his vows?).
But, for any of these claims to “carry the day” at some point, one needs a case with excellent evidence. But even so, ultimately, we are going to need to wait for a valid authority, perhaps a future conclave, synod, council or pope to sort through it all and make a judgment of one kind or another. I am not saying that this can’t happen, or even that it won’t — somehow, some day. Personally, I think it will happen. But, with all the many uncertainties, one thing does appear certain. The “Benedict is Pope” (BiP) theory is a distraction, which unnecessarily divides the “filial resistance” (see discussion of filial resistance here: Dr. Mattei and “Filial Resistance to the Pope”) to Pope Francis.
In my opinion, a compelling case for BiP has not been made. The theory is a conflicted one, unable to decide between separate paths. One sub-theory seems to believe Pope Benedict XVI used a bizarre theory of the papal office, hoping to bifurcate it some way — thus rendering his resignation invalid. This theory puts Benedict in the odd position of having committed an act of heresy, as well as put him in the uniquely strange position of being in schism from himself, given he denies that he is the true Roman pontiff.
The FromRome website seems now dedicated to the proposition that Pope Benedict intentionally sabotaged his resignation in order to make it null, all the result of a death threat! In a recent article entitled the “Imprisonment of Pope Benedict XVI,” FromRome writes:
I will summarize in this article the suppositions and analysis which the volunteers and members of Veri Catholici have worked out in recent days about what really went on in the Vatican in 2012 — 2013. I will do so in a Timeline, which makes understanding what was going on easier. This will be a recitation of facts, with an interpretation which explains them all elegantly.
In March 2012 Pope Benedict XVI established a Commission of Cardinals to investigate leaks of reserved and confidential documents on television, in newspapers, and in other communications media (in what is known as the Vatileaks scandal). It first met on Tuesday, 24 April 2012. Cardinal Herranz served as the Chair, and was accompanied by Cardinals Jozef Tomko and Salvatore De Giorgi. (Wikipedia: Vatican Leaks Scandal)
Someone leaks the results of the Vatican Commission on Gays in the Vatican to Team Bergoglio, which in response begins feverish activity at Rome (Documented by Dr. Sire in the Book, The Dictator Pope). This activity aims for the forced abdication of Benedict.
Early November: The Coup d’etat is hatched. Team Bergoglio demands the resignation of Pope Benedict to prevent the revelations of the Dossier to be presented by Vatican Commission on Gays in the Vatican. The contents of the dossier will implicate all the key members of Team Bergoglio and thus all force and expediency must be employed to stop its publication.
The conspiracy includes not only Team Bergoglio, but all named in the Dossier, the names of whom are given to Team Bergoglio by someone working in the Commission.
The terms of the Coup d’etat are as follows:
- Pope Benedict will resign
- Pope Benedict will not publish the contents of the Dossier
- Pope Benedict will continuously testify that he resigned willingly
If Pope Benedict refuses, Team Bergoglio threatens the Pope with assassination, citing the published testimony of an Italian Journalist on Feb. 11, 2012 saying that the assassination will be within 1 year. The date Feb 11, 2013 is chosen for the resignation to signal to the Lavender Mafia round the world, that the abdication has been forced precisely to defend their evil institution.
Pope Benedict, taking counsel from no one, because he trusted no one, decides to go along but to leave tell tale signs for the Catholic world, so that any intelligent observer will discern what is going on. He extracts the condition of the promotion of his personal secretary to the position of the Pontifical Household, believing this will keep him safe and to signify that after his resignation, He is still the only one true Pope.
As said, I reject the notion Benedict did not resign, or that he failed to do so properly. But, even setting that aside, the theory suggested above, “elegantly” or not, does not make any sense. I’ll just cite a few points.
First, it is not only improbable Pope Benedict XVI would have resigned out of fear of assassination, it is unlikely. I think FromRome’s theory makes a coward of Benedict. The theory in effect requires us to believe that Benedict was willing to allow a counterfeit pope to seemingly be the real “pope” who could lead a billion Catholics astray with false doctrine and discipline, etc. But why? All for the sake of saving his own life? Ridiculous. But that is what the theory must mean. This is hard to believe, especially given his advanced age. Surely, a man as Benedict who is a strong Christian, who fears God, who wore the scarlet of a Cardinal, and was willing to accept election to the papacy would not surrender to an assassination threat–especially not near the end of his natural life. Surely, most heads of state know living with such risks is part of the job. The attempted assassination of John Paul II surely served as an example to Benedict of what could theoretically happen to him, especially in our age of terrorism. In sum, the suggestion is absurd on its face.
Second, FromRome’s theory does not account for Pope Benedict’s post-resignation letters to Cardinal Brandmuller. In these, among other things, he refers to himself as a “former pope” (see discussion of these letters here: Benedict is really, really still not pope! Really!).
Third, the theory does not explain why Benedict does not simply signal his many visitors he is “imprisoned.” Just the other day on Twitter, I saw picture of him with the American Ambassors to the Holy See (Mrs Gingrich) and her husband Newt Gingrich. Surely, by now, Benedict could have found a way to let someone know of his plight! Or, wouldn’t it have been simpler for Team Bergoglio to hide him away in some remote monastery? The theory doesn’t make sense.
Also, if Team Bergoglio could credibly threaten Benedict with death unless he resigned, why would not the same Team Bergoglio — after taking over all the reigns of power in Vatican See — not simply “off” Benedict after his effective resignation to tie up a obvious loose end? Surely, they could cover their tracks at that point. Again, it doesn’t make sense.
In sum, the assassination-threat theory is ridiculous. There may be other theories that might make more sense, and I discussed one of these in a prior article (see Thoughts on Free Will and Hypothetical Papal Plots). In that article, I did wonder aloud if Benedict was possibly influenced by the specter of trumped up (and false) accusations related to his brother, Fr. Georg Ratzinger, and the potential for scandal. I previously wrote:
“The controversy surrounding Pope Benedict XVI’s brother, Fr. Georg Ratzinger, might have played a part in the Bendict XVI’s resignation. Note, I do not believe Fr. Georg Ratzinger is guilty of anything beyond what he has freely admitted—but he would not have to be guilty. In this day of modern media, it is not always the truth which matters, but what is reported as the truth which does. The latter can do as much or more damage than the former. The appearance of this story is bad, whatever the truth of the matter. Plotters could have influenced (without coercing) Benedict XVI through the counsel they gave him, by echoing and egging on his worst doubts and stoking his worst fears about the potential for a media storm to embarrass the See of St. Peter, etc. If this story played a role in his resignation, one could easily see Benedict XVI freely deciding to resign, all for the good of the Church.”
Now, I don’t mean to suggest to FromRome that he/they use this theory in place of their death-threat theory – though I do suggest they drop the death-threat theory! Even in the hypothetical above, at worst, Benedict would have been manipulated to think he was saving the Church from a potential scandal by resigning, but even so, I believe his decision would still have been a “free” one.
My point is only, I think it is silly to suggest that Benedict would resign to protect himself. There is no reason to think he was such a coward that he would allow a counterfeit pope to usurp the See of Peter, simply because he was afraid of a death threat. Rather, what is conceivable is that he might resign if he thought doing so would be for the benefit of others, namely the Church. But this is, in fact, what we have in his actual resignation, i.e., he felt he could no longer adequately fulfill his Petrine ministry (even if I believe he was wrong in his conclusion). Benedict is NOT pope.
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, entitled Pia Fidelis, set during the time of the Arian crisis. The first book of the Pia Fidelis trilogy. The Two Kingdoms, should be out later this summer or by early fall 2019 (Follow on twitter at @fidelispia for updates). He asks for your prayers for his intentions. He can be contacted at StevenOReilly@AOL.com (or follow on Twitter: @S_OReilly_USA).
4 thoughts on “Did Pope Benedict XVI resign because of threats? No.”
This is another of those ideas that sound plausible at first hearing, but tend to deflate
with examination. Thanks for discussing this.
Skeinster, thanks for the comment. Much appreciated.
Steven: Sadly, most of the BiP proponents/supporters completely ignore the actual published statements of PE Benedict, Card Brandemuller, Msgr. Ganswein and every serious canonist in the Church, are convinced that every one of these people are wrong or confused, and that their interpretations and conclusions can be the only correct ones. I’m not sure it is possible to even debate with them anymore.
DC, I agree that BiP is a nonstarter. We are living through a chastisement. By it’s nature, it is not intended to have a clear “out” that is immediately seen to be a safe harbor. Our faith is being tested. The disciples scattered during the Passion of Our Lord. It seems the Mystical Body of Christ is going through that something like that now. Confusion. fear, etc.
I think we should look for “the” solution, but I sense that the piece or pieces of evidence that would lead to the “aha” moment to explain it all is withheld at the moment–precisely because it is Faith which is being tested.
Thanks for reading the blog.