May 30, 2020 – (Steven O’Reilly) – In this article I continue to review Dr. Mazza’s position on BiP (“Benedict is [still] Pope”) as he outlined in his appearance on Dr. Taylor Marshall’s youtube podcast (see here), and his position paper. In the interim period following Part 1 of my rebuttal, Dr. Mazza appeared in a podcast with Ann Barnhardt, co-hosted by Mark Docherty (See Ann Barnhardt podcast #112).
My originally announced intent was to make this a two-part rebuttal, but the additional commentary and discussion between Dr. Mazza, Ms. Barnhardt, and Mr. Docherty in the podcast led me to “call an audible” as they say in American football, i.e., make a change in the original plan. In Part 1 owing to space, I provided only links to my prior comments on Pope Benedict’s last audience. However, given some of the comments about this last audience on the aforementioned Barnhardt podcast — as well as my own feeling it needed to be included in greater detail in this series of responses; I will make the last audience the subject of Part 2 of this rebuttal series. Furthermore, Ganswein’s speech will now be the subject of Part 3. Therefore, the new outline of my rebuttal series is as follows:
- “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
I decided to “call the audible” and focus in more detail on the “final audience” here for two reasons. Firstly, it is claimed to be an important piece of evidence by BiP-ers; and secondly, because of something Ann Barnhardt stated in her podcast with Dr. Mazza. Ms. Barnhardt stated that all of what Benedict said or did between February 11th (when he announced his resignation in the Declaratio) and February 28th (when it went into effect) is ‘legally germaine’ to the BiP thesis (see Barnhardt #112, [25:50]). Ms. Barnhardt then noted that if ‘you want a smoking gun’, it is Benedict’s “last address” (February 27th).
Briefly Revisting the Declaratio, and where BiP-ers never go: Normas Nonnullas
I will get to the supposed “smoking gun” of the BiP theory in a bit. But, before doing so, I want to underline that I agree with Ms. Barnhardt’s point about looking at all that is “germaine” to the period of February 11-28, 2013. I agree with her because if we look at the evidence in this period, we see that BiP-ers leave out a key document, Normas Nonnullas, which I discussed in Part 1. BiP-ers never mention or discuss it. None have attempted to incorporate it into their analysis. If they tried and considered the ramifications, I am confident, they would – or at least should – cease to be BiP-ers.
BiP-ers have made much over the fact that Benedict in his resignation did not explicitly use the word “munus” (i.e., “office) in the key phrase wherein he renounces the papacy. Here is the key portion of Benedict’s Declaratio wherein he renounces the papacy:
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)
BiP-ers note that Benedict says he renounces the “ministero” (i.e., ministry) of the Bishop of Rome. Observing this, they then cite the canon on papal resignations, which really is the crux of the matter. This canon states:
“If it happens that the Roman Pontiff resigns his office (i.e., munus), it is required for validity that the resignation is made freely and properly manifested but not that it is accepted by anyone” (canon 322.2)
Reading this canon, BiP-ers observe that while canon 332.2 speaks of resigning the “munus”; Benedict specifically only renounces the “ministero.” This, they conclude, means that Benedict thought he could either (1) separate the ministry/ministero from the office/munus, thus keeping the munus and a share of the papacy for himself, or (2) that he could separate the ministery/ministero of Bishop of Rome from the munus of Peter (e.g., see Barnhardt podcast #112 at 1:25:15). This leads BiP-ers to claim either the resignation was invalid due to “substantial error” (cf canon 188), or that Benedict still holds the Petrine Primacy (the “munus”) and Francis received only the ministry (ministero) of the Bishop of Rome in his election.
I will not bother going into the question of whether “ministero” in Latin can be a synonym of “munus” — it is (see Ryan Grant); or whether it is a proper synonym under canon law for “munus.” There is no need to get into the minutiae of that debate to determine the validity of Benedict’s resignation. There is no need to get into the distinction between ministero and munus, real or imagined.
The problem for the BiP-ers of whatever stripe is that canon 332.2 does not require the word “munus” to appear in a valid papal resignation. The canon only requires that for a valid resignation of the office/munus, it is “required for validity that the resignation is made freely and properly manifested.” To be clear, the canon specifically and clearly states there are only two requirements for a valid resignation:
- That it be made freely
- That it be properly manifested.
Those are the only requirements despite the attempts of BiP-ers to erroneously attempt to add a third, i.e., that the word “munus” be used in the renunciation. There is no such requirement for the word “munus” [NB: Indeed, for example, when a man is elected by a conclave, the word “munus” is not used when he is offered the papacy, nor is it used by him when accepting it]. Therefore, assuming the resignation is freely made, the only remaining requirement is that it is properly manifested.
Thus, in terms of actual language used in a resignation, common sense dictates only that it be sufficiently clear to understand that the pope is in fact resigning. It is a rather low bar which is met by Benedict’s Declaratio, in that he communicates the why and the what of the resignation. He tells us he is resigning due to weakness, i.e., not because he is resigning against his will. Benedict communicates to us that he is renouncing the “ministry of the Bishop of Rome.”
That Benedict is giving up the “ministry of the Bishop of Rome” appears sufficiently clear to intend the papacy, not some part of it. Remember, the use of the word “munus” is not a requirement of canon 332.2. But even if we concede arguendo that “ministry of the Bishop of Rome” by itself in isolation is not immediately clear, the context of the whole statement makes it sufficiently if not abundantly clear what Benedict is doing. Consider, Benedict tells us he is resigning the “ministry of the Bishop of Rome…so that” (1) “the See of Peter be vacant” and (2) that a conclave is now suitable to elect a “new Supreme Pontiff.” I addressed points 1 and 2 in the first part of this response (here).
To recapitulate briefly, in telling us the “See of Peter” is vacant, Benedict is clearly manifesting that by his renunciation the Chair of Peter is vacant. A vacant See of Peter means “no pope.” Next, Benedict tells us a new conclave is required to elect a new Supreme Pontiff, obviously necessitated by his resignation as Supreme Pontiff. Certainly, all this together “properly manifests,” and can only mean, Benedict’s resignation. That much is sufficiently clear.
In addition, as I argued in Part 1 of my rebuttal, Benedict’s promulgation — within Ann Barnhardt’s “germaine” time frame — of the motu proprio (Normas Nonnullas) in anticipation of the approaching conclave makes clear Benedict’s intent. Why would Benedict rush before the effective date of his resignation to update the norms for conclaves, one of which he knew as imminent? Why would he reaffirm through his motu proprio that a conclave, such as was imminent, elects a sole “Supreme Pontiff” who alone exercises universal jurisdiction in the Church, unless in fact Benedict had intended to fully step down as Supreme Pontiff? The BiP-ers have never, and can never offer a satisfactory explanation for Normas Nonnullas and its implications for their theory.
Benedict’s Last Audience
With Benedict’s Declaratio and his motu proprio Normas Nonnullas addressed, let us turn now to Benedict’s final audience, which for BiP-ers like Dr. Mazza, Ms. Barnhardt, Mark Docherty, et al is the “smoking gun.” Now, in fairness to them, they are not alone in seeing oddities in Benedict’s last audience [e.g., see Sergio Russo’s article on Marco Tosatti’s site (“Two Impelling Questions which necessitate an urgent answer“), or discussion in a recent Edward Pentin article (“Debate Intensifies Over Benedict XVI’s Resignation and Role as Pope Emeritus“)]. These are all smart people, and their arguments should be fairly and charitably examined.
However, that above said, while BiP-ers may think the Last Audience is a “smoking gun,” a closer examination will reveal their argument is more of a pop-gun without a cork. I have excerpted part of the final audience below (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)
Some say Benedict’s comments above prove he intended an expanded Petrine office comprised of an “active” pope and a “contemplative” pope. It is here, these folks suggest, that Benedict XVI exhibited either (1) his “substantial error” which demonstrates his resignation is invalid (as per Barnhart, Bugnolo, Docherty, et al) or (2) that he kept the Petrine Primacy having separated it from the See of Rome (as per Dr. Mazza).
I have read this final audience many, many times over, and I cannot help but conclude that those who cite it as a “smoking gun” are the ones in “substantial error” — not Benedict. Indeed, they have instead fallen prey to a case of pareidolia, i.e., seeing something that is simply not really there.
It must be remembered when reading the “Last Audience” of February 27, 2013, the resignation (see Declaratio) is manifestly clear: Benedict intends to vacate the Chair of St. Peter, and he calls for a conclave to elect his successor, a “new Supreme Pontiff.” Furthermore, subsequent to the Declaratio of February 11, 2013, Benedict issued a motu proprio (Normas Nonnullas) on February 22, 2013, which updated some of the rules for electing a pope in anticipation of the coming conclave. Benedict’s Normas Nonnullas is explicitly and expressly concerned with an election of a solitary and singular Supreme Pontiff with universal jurisdiction in the Church (cf UDG 88; and NN 87). More damning to the BiP thesis, Benedict makes absolutely no provisions for anything suggested by any stripe of BiP-er: there is no provision for a bifurcated papacy, or a Supreme-Pontiff lite, or a Supreme Pontiff who has been stripped away from the See of Rome. None of this.
The reader must keep that in mind reading Benedict’s final audience, which occurs after both the Declarato and Normas Nonnullas. Remembering this, Benedict in his final audience 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 his own privacy being forever lost, but only in a sense – not due to some indelible mark of papal office or ministry he cannot lose or freely surrender. What does a Pope gain when he loses the ‘private dimension’? Benedict continues on in this vein saying the Successor of Peter is loved by the whole Church: “he belongs to all, and all belong to him.” But let us look again 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.”
The “always” and “for ever” refers to Benedict’s privacy, not an indelible mark of the papacy. Obviously, anyone elected to the papacy and who resigns it subsequently, will always be a public persona in some way. 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). He then says 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.” Here, Benedict tells us, again, he will no longer be pope(!), and that his life will now be devoted to praying for the whole Church (i.e., 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. Benedict tells us he has not “abandoning the cross” but remaining in a “new way” – i.e., not as pope – “at the side of the Crucified Christ.”
Benedict’s logic, in brief summary, runs 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 receives ones life when one gives it away, i.e., the Pope truly gains brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, throughout the world; (3) a Pope feels secure in their embrace because he “no longer belongs to himself, he belongs to all and all belong to him;” (4) resigning the papacy does not revoke this loving attachment (i.e., that which has been gained by the loss of the private dimension of one’s life), as he will always retain that love for all (i.e., for we the Church), and thus (5) he will 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.
When one resigns something like the papacy, one does not simply walk away and put the job and former responsibilities out of mind, perhaps as one might in a secular job upon retirement. Benedict, even though an ex-pope, feels the bonds of charity for those he considered spiritual sons and daughters in Christ as pope, and he will continue to pray for us, his sons and daughters. Indeed, only a pope alone, not even other bishops, can claim the members of the whole Church as spiritual “sons and daughters,” but even stepping down as pope, Benedict retains the bond of charity to those he came know as “sons and daughters,” i.e., he does not forget us, he’ll pray for us.
This, it seems to me, is all that Benedict intends as the “spiritual connection” or his ‘spiritual mandate.’ That is, though he left behind the office, he will continue to love and pray for all in the Church whom he came to know and or lead as pope. Though he leaves behind his office, he retains the love and desire to care — through spiritual prayer — for those he no longer serves as pope.
This is far simpler and natural explanation of Benedict’s words from his last audience, 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; or make us believe Benedict would make a substantial change to the papacy (removing the Petrine primacy from the See of Rome) without a clear explanation or forewarning.
The BiP-er explanation of the last audience is overly elaborate and forced; and it only allows for a contorted, narrow construction of Benedict’s meaning that fits their theory. If they reject the interpretation of Benedict’s last audience proposed here, can they tell us why it is definitely and certainly wrong and their interpretation must be the correct one?
If they cannot offer such an explanation — and I doubt they will even try, then they must admit this simpler and natural explanation offered here that accounts for all of Benedict’s pre- and post- resignation documents (e.g., the Declaratio, Normas Nonnullas, the last audience, Benedict’s letters to Cardinal Brandmuller wherein he refers to himself as a “former pope”, etc) is to be preferred to their forced interpretation. However, to admit this, is to admit their BiP theories must be abandoned.
That concludes Part 2 of my rebuttal.
Part 3 — to follow shortly — will address the May 2016 speech by Archbishop Ganswein.
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)