February 11, 2019 (Steven O’Reilly) – Pope Benedict XVI resigned seven years ago today. It was unfortunate that he did so as it has given us the last seven years of Pope Francis. Over the course of these seven years, Francis has sowed division and confusion in the Catholic Church in a variety of ways.
Roma Locuta Est shares the concerns of the many faithful Catholics around the world regarding the course of this pontificate. Perplexity and confusion over the words and acts of Pope Francis have led many to wonder what is really going on. Was the 2013 conclave valid? Is Francis an anti-pope? Is Benedict still pope instead?
These are confusing times. Catholics are operating in something of a “fog of war,” and trying and praying hard to understand what is going on in Rome. Personally, I cannot fault folks for going down certain paths in the midst of this “fog.” Still, I think it important to critically examine theories that might be offered as an explanation of the Francis pontificate. Based on available evidence — which, obviously, is all we have to go on — it would be rash in my opinion for an individual to definitively declare and act upon the belief that “Benedict is Pope.” Given this anniversary of Benedict’s resignation, I thought it an opportune to collect in one place all my articles rebutting the “Benedict is Pope” theory (NB: “BiP” coined in 2017) in one place.
- Thoughts on Free Will and Hypothetical Papal Plots (July 23, 2017)
- Benedict is NOT Pope (September 4, 2017)
- Benedict is STILL not Pope (September 14, 2017)
- A Filial Correction of those who believe Benedict is still Pope? (September 25, 2017)
- Benedict is really, really still not pope! Really! (September 22, 2018)
- Against the Arguments that Claim Benedict XVI is STILL Pope (November 25, 2018)
- Benedict is Still Pope and Other Errors (January 15, 2019)
- The Testimony of a former Benevacantist (A Letter from a Reader of RLE: May 3, 2019)
- Did Pope Benedict XVI resign because of threats? No. (July 9, 2019)
An Overview of Summa Contra BiP
No real evidence has been provided to demonstrate that Benedict resigned under pressure, so any theory dependent on this premise is suspect. The main BiP argument is based on the belief that Benedict resignation letter was flawed, or that he had a deficient intent based Benedict supposedly believing he could split the papacy into “active” and “passive” parts.
To sum up the case against the latter BiP theory…We must remember that Benedict had signaled a possible resignation before he actually issued his resignation letter. Next, Benedict’s resignation letter is valid. There is no precise or prescribed formula for a papal resignation and. regardless, he stated in the letter the “See of Peter” would be vacant on the day in question (NB: a point made several places in the articles above). This made Benedict’s intention to resign the papacy clear. Regarding Benedict’s final audience…this, in my opinion, has been grossly misunderstood by many. His words which could easily be understood in a more natural sense and context and in an innocent light, are instead read by BiPpers through a BiP prism which only allows Benedict’s words to be read in a contorted sense fitting the BiP theory (see #2 and particularly #3 above). Moving on, in letters to Cardinal Brandmuller, Benedict refers to himself as a “former pope.”
Some BiPpers have attempted to suggest that Benedict before he was pope had edited some papers for a theological review that may have incorporated bizarre views of the papacy, and this somehow shows Ratzinger moved among some who might have viewed a papal diarchy, or some such thing, possible. However, based on the evidence that these BiPpers have thus far provided, we can say (see #7 above) that these assertions are (1) without any substantial foundation in fact and (2) an unfair reading of Joseph Ratzinger’s words that incorrectly attributes to him the theories of others. Further, it is hard to imagine that Benedict, being the theologian he was, would have resigned in the novel way imagined by BiPpers without first teaching and explaining as pope the licitness of this possibility before doing so. As to how Benedict dresses now (i.e., in papal white), and how he is addressed (e.g., “your holiness”)…yes…this is all unfortunate. However, all these things do not in themselves make him pope.
As far as Ganswein’s speech–on which BiPpers have placed great emphasis, I would say what I did in article #6 (though I touch upon Ganswein in the other articles as well). 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 (i.e., the release of a book on Benedict’s now completed pontificate), it is not unexpected that flowery or something of panegyrical language, as well as the praise and compliments heaped upon Benedict 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. In sum, BiP does not work. It fails as a theory.
However, none of the above is meant as an “attack” on anyone who holds the BiP theory–neither specifically nor generally. I fully sympathize with the Francis-angst which might dispose one to accept something like the BiP theory to explain the theological questions posed by a Francis pontificate. Indeed, there are questions about the election of Francis and Francis himself that need some answers. Pope Francis’s writings (e.g., Amoris Laetitia, the Abu Dhabi statement), his interviews with Eugenio Scalari (e.g., discussed in Why blame Scalfari?), etc., raise significant questions. The Open Letter penned last year by 19 scholars outlined over a half dozen potential heresies that should be examined by cardinals and bishops. On this blog we’ve supported the idea of an imperfect council on several occasions (e.g., here, here, and here)] to examine these questions.
An imperfect council should look into the issues raised by the Open Letter, the Scalfari interviews, the Abu Dhabi statement, etc., and yes — the questions surrounding the 2013 conclave. Areas of examination might include the role of the St. Gallen mafia (see 2013 Conclave: Was there a violation of Universi Dominici Gregis 12?), and potential outside influence on the conclave (see The “Influential Italian Gentleman”), and questions around Cardinal Bergoglio’s acceptance of his election (see Curiouser and Curiouser: Who Dispensed Jorge Bergoglio SJ from his vows? and A Discussion of Cardinal Bergoglio’s Jesuit Vows and the 2013 Conclave).
Certainly, such a council should look into issues surrounding Benedict’s resignation. But here I have in mind the reason for it, and whether there was a plot to influence Benedict in some way so that he resigned, i.e., to finesse him out the door. I do reject the theory that suggests Benedict’s resignation was flawed due to its wording or due to a supposed error Benedict held regarding a papal diarchy. There is no reason or evidence – certainly not any known to us – that should lead one to reject the validity of Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation. The burden of proof is on those who claim Benedict is still pope (and thereby making Francis an anti-pope for this reason). It is abundantly clear they have simply not met that burden.
In sum, I think it’s best for all of us to await the judgement of the Church, and not declare something so definitively that we have neither the authority nor evidence. In the meantime, I’d suggest maintaining the course of “recognize and resist” and when or if some new evidence is discovered….to “re-evaluate.”
Steven O’Reilly is a graduate of the University of Dallas and the Georgia Institute of Technology. A former intelligence officer, he and his wife, Margaret, live near Atlanta with their family. He has written apologetic articles and is author of the recently published Book I of the Pia Fidelis trilogy, The Two Kingdoms. (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)
- 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.