May 29, 2020 (Steven O’Reilly) – This article is the third and final part of my rebuttal of Dr. Mazza’s BiP (Benedict is [still] Pope) position, as well as a general rebuttal of all BiP theories. Dr. Mazza’s position was outlined in an appearance on Dr. Taylor Marshall’s Youtube podcast (see here), a position paper, and most recently an appearance on an Ann Barnhardt podcast (see #112) on which Mark Docherty also appears. The outlines followed in this rebuttal has been 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
This article, the third of the series, will now address the speech made by Archbishop Ganswein in May 2016. I do not currently expect to add to this series.
Archbishop Ganswein’s Speech
In May 2016, three years following Benedict’s resignation, Archbishop Ganswein, Prefect of the Papal Household under Pope Benedict, and until recently, under Pope Francis as well, gave a speech at the Gregorian in the Rome (see Translated Speech here). It was a speech which at the time raised many eyebrows among Vatican watchers, as Mr. Mazza in his position paper rightly observes: “Gänswein’s musings left many veteran Vatican commentators nonplussed.” This one speech, more than any other thing as I reckon it, helped launch the “Benedict is (still) Pope” (BiP) theory in all its ‘glory.’
I recommend the reader — who has stoically and heroically persevered with patience through this three part series — to take a look at the Ganswein speech (see Translated Speech here) if not already familiar with it. There are indeed portions that raise an eyebrow. For example, Ganswein speaks of witnessing Benedict’s “spectacular and unexpected step” (i.e., resigning to become “pope emeritus”), and then somehow, oddly, likens this decision to what John Duns Scotus had posited about the Immaculate Conception. Here is the basic core of the problematic passages (emphasis added):
The momentous resignation of the theologian pope represented a step forward primarily by the fact that, on February 11, 2013, speaking in Latin in front of the surprised cardinals, he introduced into the Catholic Church the new institution of “pope emeritus,” stating that his strength was no longer sufficient “to properly exercise the Petrine ministry.” The key word in that statement is munus petrinum, translated — as happens most of the time — with “Petrine ministry.” And yet, munus, in Latin, has a multiplicity of meanings: it can mean service, duty, guide or gift, even prodigy. Before and after his resignation, Benedict understood and understands his task as participation in such a “Petrine ministry.” He has left the papal throne and yet, with the step made on February 11, 2013, he has not at all abandoned this ministry. Instead, he has complemented the personal office with a collegial and synodal dimension, as a quasi shared ministry (als einen quasi gemeinsamen Dienst); as though, by this, he wanted to reiterate once again the invitation contained in the motto that the then Joseph Ratzinger took as archbishop of Munich and Freising and which he then naturally maintained as bishop of Rome: “cooperatores veritatis,” which means “fellow workers in the truth.” In fact, it is not in the singular but the plural; it is taken from the Third Letter of John, in which in verse 8 it is written: “We ought to support such men, that we may be fellow workers in the truth.”
Since the election of his successor Francis, on March 13, 2013, there are not therefore two popes, but de facto an expanded ministry — with an active member and a contemplative member. This is why Benedict XVI has not given up either his name, or the white cassock. This is why the correct name by which to address him even today is “Your Holiness”; and this is also why he has not retired to a secluded monastery, but within the Vatican — as if he had only taken a step to the side to make room for his successor and a new stage in the history of the papacy which he, by that step, enriched with the “power station” of his prayer and his compassion located in the Vatican Gardens.”
Before addressing some of the above elements of Ganswein’s speech, I’d draw the reader’s attention to the concluding remarks in Dr. Mazza’s position paper, which were also echoed in his appearance on the Dr. Marshall video podcast [01:09:05]. I think his remarks nicely summarize the BiP punchline with regard to the speech:
“Or as Archbishop Gänswein (quoting Scotus on Mary’s Immaculate Conception) said: “Decuit, potuit, fecit.” It was fitting…God could do it, therefore he did it. In this case, so did Pope Benedict. If he truly separated Peter’s Primacy from the Roman See, then Gänswein’s gushings over Benedict’s maneuver, at last, appear apt: “profoundly transformed,” “extraordinary courage,” “daring,” “spectacular,” “unexpected,” “a new phase,” “turning point,” “historic,” “entirely different,” “never been a step like it,” “unprecedented,” terms that fall flat describing a simple bishop’s retirement—even a pope’s! Only a “Captain Kirk” “Kobayashi Maru” solution by Pope Benedict could justify the use of such superlatives while simultaneously answering all the criticisms of his “renunciation” and satisfying all the parameters of the “Pope Emeritus” controversy.”
My thanks to Dr. Mazza for pithily crystallizing the point. But is what he asserts really true? Is it really true to say (emphasis added): “Only a ‘Captain Kirk’ ‘Kobayashi Maru’ solution by Pope Benedict could justify the use of such superlatives while simultaneously answering all the criticisms of his ‘renunciation’ and satisfying all the parameters of the ‘Pope Emeritus’ controversy?” Elsewhere Dr. Mazza makes a similarly strong statement that (emphasis added) “There is only one explanation that satisfies all and it’s been staring us in the face for seven years.”
In other words, is it true that the one and only possible explanation for Ganswein’s “superlatives” and comments about Benedict and the “Petrine ministry” is that Benedict believes himself to still be pope in some way? Is that the only possible explanation that makes possible sense? That is a strong statement to say there is only one explanation. The reality is, a great many of the critics of Ganswein’s speech have lost sight of the forest for the trees, focusing as they do on the problematic passages apart from the full context of the speech. I, for one, do believe there is another explanation. It is one that doesn’t require the accusation Benedict concocted a potentially heretical theory, or that he changed, or somehow altered the Petrine Primacy without telling us beforehand.
Unfortunately, Ganswein’s speech is the launching pad into the realm of BiP. Benedict’s actions and words seem to be often understood — or rather misunderstood — first through it. However, I think BiP-ers have things backwards. Instead, if we are to understand what Benedict XVI did in his resignation and in his use of “pope emeritus,” then we must understand Benedict through Benedict, not Benedict through Ganswein. We must focus first on Benedict’s own words as pope, such as in his Declaratio, Normas Nonnullas, and his last audience. This we have done in Part 1 and Part 2 of this rebuttal thus far.
These documents do not demonstrate or support the claims of the BiP theory. All these cited documents, including the last audience, support the view Benedict fully resigned as Supreme Pontiff. Furthermore, Benedict’s last audience does give us a sense of how he sees himself as a “former pope” – just as he called himself in his letters to Cardinal Brandmuller (discussed here). Benedict does not claim to be pope in any real sense any longer. Rather, he sees himself as a former or ex-pope (“pope emeritus”) who still retains the bonds of charity for his “sons and daughters” he came to know as pope — this is his ‘spiritual mandate,’ his ‘spiritual connection’ spoken of in his Peter Seewald interview (see here). In that interview, Benedict compares himself, as a former pope, to a father who has given up his worldly responsibilities as he grows old. Though Benedict resigned his office as universal pastor of the Church, the bonds of charity he felt and had for the flock (his ‘sons and daughters’ and ‘brothers and sisters’) remain, just like the “spiritual side of the fatherhood” remains for the father in the analogy in the Seewald interview. This sentiment is present in Benedict’s last audience as pope as I pointed out in Part 2.
The above established, we can address Ganswein’s superlatives and “Petrine ministry” commentary. To understand Ganswein’s rhetoric, we must first understand the context of his speech — something I have not seen any BiP-er actually do. We must keep in mind that Ganswein’s speech was not given at some theological forum where we might expect special care and precision in language and expression. Rather, Ganswein spoke “at the presentation of a new book by Roberto Regoli entitled Beyond the Crisis of the Church — The Pontificate of Benedict XVI” (see here).
Usually, such retrospectives on a pope’s life and papacy are written after the pontificate when the subject is dead — something noted by Ganswein in his speech. However, on this occasion, the subject involved a living Benedict. Given Ganswein was quite close to Benedict, and still served him, it should not be unexpected this retrospective on Benedict’s life and work would be excessively flowery, effusive, and even full of panegyrical language of praise we might more expect to hear at a eulogy. But here, the speaker’s task was especially unique in that the subject was not yet dead [NB: I would not be surprised he was also mindful Dante had consigned the first pope to resign to the Inferno]! In this light, it should be understandable Ganswein, while singing glowing praise of Pope Benedict (of the past), would also paint a flattering picture of Benedict (of the present, and future), giving his post-resignation life as “pope emeritus” great meaning and purpose in the same panegyrical style.
Thus, with this in mind, we might understand — even if we roll our eyes as we groan — Ganswein’s application of Duns Scotus’ axiom (“Decuit, potuit, fecit”) to Benedict’s decision to resign and become “pope emeritus.” But even in saying this Ganswein still affirms a true resignation occurred from the Petrine office (e.g., “it was fitting, because Benedict XVI was aware that he lacked the necessary strength for the extremely onerous office“).
Benedict said of himself in his last audience he remains “in a new way at the side of the crucified Lord” – i.e., not as pope. He says he “no longer bear(s) the power of office for the governance of the Church” – i.e., not as pope. However, in “service of prayer” he remains “so to speak, in the enclosure of Saint Peter.” Thus, ‘so to speak’, or in a manner of speaking he continues his Petrine ministry — but not really as pope; but instead praying for those toward whom he formed a bond of charity – and they toward him – as a father for “sons and daughters” by having been the pope. Thus, in this limited ‘figurative’ sense he ‘participates’ in the Petrine ministry. In this way we should understand Ganswien when he says “…Before and after his resignation, Benedict understood and understands his task as participation in such a “Petrine ministry.” Indeed Ganswein broadly defines the word munus (e.g., “service, duty, guide or gift, even prodigy”) and even puts “Petrine ministry” in scare quotes to signify he is using the term in a special, unique sense. Furthermore, Ganswein immediately affirms Benedict has “left the papal throne” — i.e., he is no longer pope.
Next a BiP-er might point out that Ganswein says Benedict “has complemented the personal office with a collegial and synodal dimension, as a quasi shared ministry,” suggesting Benedict intended to be some sort of co-pope. However, it should be observed that Ganswein speaks only of a “quasi shared ministry,” i.e., shared in a qualified sense only. We have already seen how it can be said in a qualified way Benedict can be said to ‘participate’ in the “Petrine ministry” — understood in something of a figurative sense. Following this reference in the speech, Ganswein references Benedict’s Coat of Arms and in a letter of the Apostle John to “fellow workers in the Truth” (cf 3 John 8). One can share a ministry of the truth without sharing the same office in any real sense, e.g., a layman can be a “co-worker of the truth” with a priest, bishop, or pope.
Ganswein also affirms Benedict hasn’t “abandoned this ministry…” similar to when he says of Benedict that “…he has not abandoned the Office of Peter — something which would have been entirely impossible for him after his irrevocable acceptance of the office in April 2005.” Both references are generally consistent with Benedict’s last audience, wherein he says: “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.” Again, Benedict is remaining in a “new way” – i.e., not as pope, as he no longer bears the “power of office” to govern, but in the “service of prayer” he remains “so to speak,” i.e., in a qualified not equivalent sense.
And it is in this way we can understand Ganswein when he speaks of an “expanded ministry” immediately after saying “there are not therefore two popes.” It should also be noted that Ganswein makes statements which make it unmistakable Benedict is no longer pope at all. Ganswein affirms Benedict “left the papal throne,” and speaks of him as having “stepped down,” and references Francis as “his successor.” He makes other references making it clear Benedict is no longer pope, e.g.: “I was present when Benedict XVI, at the end of his mandate, removed the Fisherman’s ring, as is customary after the death of a pope, even though in this case he was still alive!”
Dr. Mazza in his position paper said of the Declaratio that “…the “key word” in that statement, as Gänswein first pointed out in 2016, “is munus petrinum.” However, it seems clear enough that beneath the superlatives and rhetorical flourishes of the speech, Ganswein in describing Benedict as “emeritus” was neither speaking of a real expansion nor even change in the “Petrine ministry” whether as “munus” or “ministero.”
If Ganswein might be criticized for potentially troublesome or unguarded panegyrical praise of Benedict as pope and “emeritus,” he might be forgiven for being taken quite so literally on the occasion of a release of a book covering Benedict’s papacy. But, for those who want to interpret Ganswein’s talk of an “expanded ministry,” or a continued “participation” in the “Petrine ministry” in a real, strict sense; how then do these same folks interpret Ganswein when he says of the book’s author (Roberto Regoli) at the end of the same speech (emphasis added):
“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 of which I spoke. Like Peter Seewald and others before him, Roberto Regoli — as a priest, professor and scholar — also thus enters into that enlarged Petrine ministry around the successors of the Apostle Peter; and for this today we offer him heartfelt thanks. “
Ganswein says the author Roberto Regoli now takes part in the munus Petri! Ganswein even goes farther saying Regoli, Peter Seewald, and others(!) enter into that “enlarged Petrine ministry!” Where are our “Benedict is Pope” interpreters on this? Is Ganswein speaking literally or figuratively of Regoli taking “part in the munus Petri?” I will answer for them. Clearly, Ganswein is speaking figuratively of Regoli now also taking part in the “munus Petri,” and also when he says Regoli and the others have entered “into that enlarged Petrine ministry around the successors of the Apostle Peter.” But that of course is the point…that is how Ganswein should be taken throughout his speech regarding Benedict’s post-resignation participation in the “Petrine ministry.”
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
 Technically, these rebuttals are aimed at those BiP theories which allege one of the following: (1) Benedict’s Declaratio is either deficient by not being “properly manifested” in some way (canon 332.2); (2) Benedict fell into “substantial error” in his resignation in some fashions; or (3) Benedict in his Declaratio sought, either erroneously or without error, to remove the Petrine Primacy from the See of Rome. My recent rebuttals do not address any claim that Benedict resigned under duress. That said, I do not see any evidence this was the case, but would be happy to entertain any evidence offered.