May 29, 2020 (Steven O’Reilly) – [Update: May 30, 2020] There have been many times over the last few years when I was certain — and hoped — I had written my last article on what I long ago called the BiP or BisP theory (i.e., Benedict is [still] Pope). But that hope has proved fleeting. I believe this will now be the 11th article on the topic, and it too will be added to compilation of Roma Locuta Est articles on various aspects of the debate over BiP (see Summa Contra BiP.).
This article is a response and refutation of a new BiP theory recently discussed on a Dr. Taylor Marshall’s Youtube podcast, or perhaps it’s better to call it a variant of the BiP “Standard Theory.” This response — at least as I envision it at this moment — will be comprised of three parts [NB: the series outline below has been expanded to three parts, instead of the the two as stated in the original version of this article as of May 30, 2020]:
- “A Response to Dr. Mazza’s BiP Theory Discussion with Dr. Taylor Marshall – Part 1” which will discuss evidence against Dr. Mazza’s thesis as found in Pope Benedict’s Declaratio, his last audience, and his motu proprio Normas Nonnullas; and John Paul II’s Universi Dominici Gregis.
- “A Response to Dr. Mazza’s BiP Theory Discussion with Dr. Taylor Marshall – Part 2” which will address Pope Benedict XVI’s final audience, and explain why it does not support any BiP theory.
- “A Response to Dr. Mazza’s BiP Theory Discussion with Dr. Taylor Marshall – Part 3” which will address Dr. Mazza’s appeal to Archbishop Ganswein’s May 2016 speech, which contrary to Mr. Mazza’s position, is evidence which does not, in the final analysis, support his thesis.
- Addendum: Normas Nonnullas explodes Dr. Mazza’s BiP theory
The aforementioned “standard theory” would be the BiP theory advanced most notably and earnestly by Ann Barnhardt, Br. Bugnolo, and Mark Docherty. I suggest that those interested in the topic refer to these sites in question, if they have not done so already, to become familiar with their arguments in their own words. To be brief here, the standard BiP theory claims Pope Benedict XVI committed a “substantial error” (cf canon 188) when he attempted to resign. The standard theorists believe Benedict intended to bifurcate the papacy; creating something of a papal diarchy with an active pope and a contemplative pope (Benedict). Given the papacy cannot be so split, Benedict’s resignation was invalid due to this “substantial error” (cf canon 188); and thus being invalid, he remains the pope per the ‘standard theory.’
A variant on this “standard theory” now comes from Dr. Edmund Mazza. On May 27, 2020, Dr Mazza appeared on Dr. Taylor Marshall’s Youtube podcast to explain his own BiP theory (see Is Benedict XVI still the Pope? Did Pope Benedict XVI Fully Resign the Papacy or Just a Part of It?). I’ve recently received some emails on the Benedict question, along with the request to review and respond to Dr. Mazza’s argument on Dr. Marshall’s podcast. Dr. Mazza also penned an article which appeared as a guest post on Ann Barnhardt’s site (see Dr. Mazza’s Position Paper). Dr. Mazza’s bio appears on Dr. Marshall’s youtube site as follows: “He is host of The Bar of History on VirginMostPowerfulRadio.org. He is the author of The Scholastics & the Jews from Angelico Press. His videos can be seen at the Disover Christ YouTube channel.” I had not heard of Dr. Mazza or his unique theory before now; but that means or implies nothing, as I am quite sure far, far fewer folks are aware of this wee, humble and insignificant blog. I do recommend readers review Dr. Mazza’s article referenced above, and watch the full episode of Dr. Marshall’s podcast in order to gain a better appreciation of Dr. Mazza’s thesis than I can possibly provide here.
As noted briefly before, the “standard theory” claims Benedict’s resignation is invalid because he attempted to bifurcate the papacy — or perhaps create a diarchy, which is impossible. Dr. Mazza’s theory claims instead that Benedict, in his resignation, intended to split the Petrine privileges from the See of Rome. In so doing, Dr. Mazza believes Benedict resigned only as bishop of Rome while retaining the Petrine primacy and prerogatives…thus remaining the true Successor of St. Peter. That is, Benedict resigned in such a fashion that Francis was elected the Bishop of Rome but Benedict retained the Petrine office. Referring back to Pope Benedict’s resignation (Declaratio) in his article, Dr. Mazza summarizes this thesis in his own words (original emphasis belongs to the good Doctor):
“And here we come to it at last: the ultimate solution to the “Emeritus enigma” is not to conclude that Benedict has divided the Petrine munus—but that he has divided the Petrine munus from the episcopal See of Rome!
Now, it is of Faith that Christ made St. Peter an Apostle and that he conferred on him the Keys of the Primacy—but nowhere is it recorded in Scripture that Christ made him bishop of Rome. Peter made Peter bishop of Antioch and then Peter made Peter bishop of Rome. As De Mattei once wrote: “He is bishop of Rome in that he is pope, and not pope in that he is bishop of Rome.”
Being, in fact, Pope, Benedict had/has by his munus, all the authority of Peter, so what did he do on February 28, 2013? It seems he separated Peter from the See of Rome: “The papal ministry is therefore no longer what it was before. It is and remains the foundation of the Catholic Church; and yet it is a foundation which Benedict XVI has profoundly and permanently transformed…” If true, Benedict still retains his Primacy—but is only a former bishop of Rome. Conversely, Pope Francis would now occupy the chair—but would not be the Vicar of Christ (something of which he, himself, is seemingly unashamed to boast).” (Source: Pope Emeritus Enigma: An Explanation at Last, Edmund J. Mazza, PhD)
Dr. Mazza believes Francis is truly the bishop of Rome but that Benedict retains the primacy, i.e., “all the authority of Peter.” So, unlike the standard theory’s claim, Dr. Mazza does not believe Benedict committed any error whatsoever; rather Benedict separated the Petrine primacy from the Roman See in his Declaratio. As discussed between Dr. Mazza and Dr. Marshall, the theological question as to whether it is possible to separate “Peter from the See of Rome” does in fact appear to be an open or unsettled one.
However, I neither intend nor find it necessary to delve into the specific question deeply. Only as an aside, my opinion is that God willed the identification of the See of Peter (understood as the Petrine primacy) with the See of Rome. For example, Pope Agatho in his letter to Emperor at the Sixth Ecumenical Council writes of the Apostolic See of Rome being “undefiled unto the end,” implicitly teaching in my view that the Petrine primacy will never be separated from the See of Rome. If past popes had thought such a separation possible, one might think of several times in history where popes out of personal or political interests might have tried to do it, such as during the years of the Avignon papacies. Yet they did not. Instead, a pope yielded to the plea of a saint to return to Rome.
But be that as it may, I concede for the sake of argument that Dr. Mazza’s opinion on the question is the correct one, i.e., there could be a separation of Petrine primacy from the See of Rome. Given this concession arguendo, there is no need to address Dr. Mazza’s proofs that a separation is possible. The question now only becomes, did Benedict intend and make this separation a reality when he resigned, thereby keeping for himself the Petrine primacy, as suggested by Dr. Mazza, while Francis became Bishop of Rome?
Dr. Mazza adduces various documents in an attempt to support his theory, beginning with Ganswein’s speech in 2016, and then the Declaratio — Pope Benedict’s instrument of resignation. Part 1 of my response will address only those papal documents or speeches prior to the effective date of Benedict’s resignation (February 28, 2013). I will address Archbishop Ganswein, and other post-resignation evidence in Part 2 and Part 3.
So let us look at the Declaratio of February 10, 2013 in which Pope Benedict XVI announced his decision to renounce the papacy. In the Declaratio, Pope Benedict declares the following (emphasis added):
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 10, 2013)
The Declaratio, whether by itself, or taken together with other papal documents deals one blow after another to Dr. Mazza’s thesis that Benedict only resigned as Bishop of Rome but held on to the Petrine primacy. While there is much that could be said, such as on the Dr. Mazza’s discussion of the munus and ministerium, I will confine myself to the following as it is sufficient to disprove his thesis.
First, Benedict in his Declaratio in renouncing the “ministry of the Bishop of Rome, Successor of St. Peter,” declares “the See of Peter will be vacant.” Now, if Benedict had intended to separate the See of Rome from the See of St. Peter, leaving himself in place as Successor of St. Peter — i.e., the one who sits in the Chair of Peter — it is unlikely he would have said the See of St. Peter will be vacant. For under the hypothesis Peter could be separated from the See of Rome, his place of authority would still be the “chair” or See of St. Peter. We might expect that Benedict would have only stated the ‘See of Rome to be vacant.’ However, we see in the Declaratio that the See of Peter is said to be vacant. If the see of Peter is vacant, there is no one then holding the primacy over the Church as Peter’s successor. Thus, Dr. Mazza’s thesis regarding Benedict’s intent fails on this ground.
Second, Benedict’s Declaratio continues on to declare that an election is now required to elect a “new Supreme Pontiff.” Now, again, granting arguendo both the thesis the Primacy could be detached from the See of Rome and that this is what Benedict intended to do, it would be Benedict who remained “Supreme Pontiff” following the renunciation. Yet, Benedict says there must be an election of a “new Supreme Pontiff.” This completely undermines Dr. Mazza’s argument. Dr. Marshall himself called Dr. Mazza’s attention to the problematic appearance of a “new Supreme Pontiff” in the Declaratio. If one watches the video [00:45:25 – 00:47:45], Dr. Mazza’s expression — at least as it struck me at the moment — appeared that of the proverbial deer in the headlights. Dr. Mazza stumbled on this point which clearly contradicted him. He responded to Dr. Marshall, in part, as follows:
“…perhaps he is referring to the “Supreme Pontiff” there because that is a traditional title associated with the See of Rome, but he doesn’t really intend to use it in that strict sense of the word…” [00:45:25 – 00:47:45][NB: this is Roma Locuta Est’s transcription of the dialogue in question; emphasis added]
With all due respect to Dr. Mazza, on something so critical to understanding the precise meaning of the Declaratio — upon which his theory and the identity of the true pope hinges; it does not suffice to simply say “perhaps” the title is used only because it is ‘traditionally associated’ with the See of Rome, or that Benedict perhaps “doesn’t really intend to use it in a strict sense of the word.” This deflection is absurd on its face. “Supreme Pontiff” is a traditional title associated with Rome precisely because the title is associated with both the Petrine Primacy, as well as papal legislation on elections! There was no parallel development of this title apart from its association with Peter and the Primacy. Nor can one rely on Dr. Mazza’s attempt at mind reading to discern Benedict’s intent so as to facilely dismiss–without any other evidence–the obvious plain meaning of a term which has precise meaning in Catholic theology, canon law, and pontifical legislation on papal elections.
The evidence makes clear the gaping hole in Dr. Mazza’s thesis. Benedict declares: “…the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked…” (cf Declaratio). The use here of “new Supreme Pontiff” clearly has reference to an office which will be vacant, and for which an election is required to fill that vacancy with a new Supreme Pontiff. This is an official declaration, and it will not suffice to suggest “Supreme Pontiff” is not meant in a strict, ecclesiastical sense. The Latin for “Supreme Pontiff” in the Declaratio also appears in the introductory paragraphs and elsewhere within Universi Dominici Gregis (UDG), John Paul II’s legislation governing papal elections. Most devastating to Dr. Mazza’s position is that UDG requires the one elected by the cardinals to be asked: “Do you accept your canonical election as Supreme Pontiff? (cf UDG 87)” and in the very next paragraph of UDG it is affirmed the one accepting his election as “Supreme Pontiff” holds the Petrine Primacy: “After his acceptance, the person elected, if he has already received episcopal ordination, is immediately Bishop of the Church of Rome, true Pope and Head of the College of Bishops. He thus acquires and can exercise full and supreme power over the universal Church” (UDG, 88). The significance cannot be simply downplayed. Benedict’s use of “Supreme Pontiff” in the Declaratio is fatal to Dr. Mazza’s theory, and indeed to the “standard theory” of BiP as well.
Third, it is noteworthy in this discussion regarding Benedict’s intent to observe that subsequent to his Declaratio (February 10, 2013), but prior to the effective date of his resignation (February 28, 2013), Benedict issued a motu proprio (February 22, 2013) to modify some of UDG’s election rules in specific anticipation of the coming conclave necessitated by his resignation. If Benedict had separated the Petrine Primacy from the Bishop of Rome, we could expect this to be reflected in the motu proprio which was written after the Declaratio. Do we see any such suggestion, or perhaps a change in the understanding of UDG’s use or meaning of “Supreme Pontiff”? No. We do not. The motu proprio, Normas Nonnullas, makes no changes to suggest Benedict separated the Petrine Primacy from the Bishop of Rome, such as making separate election regulations for the election of the “Supreme Pontiff” and the “Bishop of Rome.” We see no such attempt because there was no separation. Rather, Benedict actually reiterates in the motu proprio that the one elected by the Conclave is elected to be the “Supreme Pontiff” (cf Normas Nonnullas on paragraph 87), and Benedict made no alterations to the next paragraph wherein it is stated the one so elected “…thus acquires and can exercise full and supreme power over the universal Church” (cf UDG 88). None of the changes made by Benedict XVI to UDG via Normas Nonnullas, or what Benedict XVI left untouched in UDG for that matter are consistent with Dr. Mazza’s thesis. Benedict clearly expects the conclave immediately following his resignation to elect a new Supreme Pontiff who would hold the Petrine primacy. He could expect this because Benedict had neither bifurcated the papacy nor separated the Petrine primacy from the See of Rome.
Fourth, another problem with Dr. Mazza’s thesis is that it is improbable, at best, that a theologian of Benedict’s status would have resigned in the manner suggested by Dr. Mazza — or by the “Standard Theory” for that matter — without first clearly stating before the actual fact that he would be resigning in a completely new and unique way; whether it be bifurcating the papacy per the “standard theory” or the separation of ‘Peter from the See of Rome’ per Dr. Mazza. For example, in a similar situation, Pope Celestine V, before resigning, issued a document declaring papal resignations were indeed possible for a pope. We would have rightly expected a great theologian such as Pope Benedict XVI to have done something similar prior to his Declaratio had he really intended to change the nature of the papacy as the BiP theorists suggest. However, there was no such decree or declaration from Benedict. Therefore, we can be confident no such change was ever intended by Pope Benedict XVI.
Fifth, and finally, if Benedict had maintained the primacy as Dr. Mazza asserts, why then has he not acted liked a pope, exercising his full teaching authority to address the various crises and heresies rampant in the Church, many of them due to the pontificate of Francis? Dr. Marshall also raised this very point in the video (see 01:06:00 – 01:07:00). However, Dr. Mazza could offer no adequate or plausible explanation in response — thereby manifesting the weakness of the thesis. Dr. Mazza attempted to suggest Benedict’s recent defense of priestly celibacy as an example; but most Catholics following the debacle over the release of the book authored by Benedict and Cardinal Sarah will recall the image of the two men, by Sarah’s own account, weeping over the controversy (see here). Aside from the fact the weeping image hardly bespeaks of Benedict believing himself to still hold the Petrine primacy; the celibacy question still appears an open one–so Benedict has settled nothing.
I have no doubt that Dr. Mazza and other BiP theorists are acting in good faith in pursuit of proving their positions. However, it appears, to me at least, they often fall into the trap of strictly construing words in one place to help the BiP thesis, and then construing other words loosely where they may prove fatal to it. For example, I believe we’ve seen this in Dr. Mazza’s approach to the Declaratio, specifically with regard to “new Supreme Pontiff.” I, for one, would like to see him more thoroughly explain why we either (1) should not take “Supreme Pontiff” in a strict sense, or (2) if he now admits it should be taken in the strict sense, how that stricter sense is not fatal to his thesis.
As this article is already running long, I will only make a few brief comments on Pope Benedict’s last audience, which is often appealed to by BiP theorists. In the Summa Contra BiP, I have elsewhere provided an analysis of Benedict’s final audience, particularly in Benedict is NOT pope and Against the Arguments that Claim Benedict XVI is STILL Pope (see Reply to Objection 2); and do not believe the final audience supports the BiP position.
In conclusion, I think it is clear that not only does Pope Benedict’s Declaratio not support the various BiP theories, it is decisive evidence against them. In addition, other documents from Pope Benedict’s pontificate [e.g., his final audience, his motu proprio on papal elections (Normas Nonnullas)], as well as John Paul II’s papal legislation support the case against the various BiP theories as well.
See Part 2 of 3 here.
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)