Dr. Mazza’s “daring hypothesis” fails miserably

August 2, 2020 (Steven O’Reilly) – Over two months have passed since Dr. Mazza first appeared on Dr. Taylor Marshall’s popular YouTube podcast (see here) to explain the “Mazza Hypothesis.”  In Dr. Mazza’s view, Pope Benedict XVI in his resignation intended and succeeded in splitting the Primacy of Peter from the See of Rome. Thus, Benedict, according to the “Mazza hypothesis,” remains the Successor Peter, the Vicar of Christ; while Francis is the true bishop of Rome.

Over the last couple months, Dr. Mazza has gone on to further explicate his theory on another episode of Dr. Marshall’s podcast (see here), as well as on a number of Ann Barnhardt podcasts (episodes 112, 113 and 115), her blog, as well as his own blog (see here). Dr. Mazza reiterates his argument in a recent article on his blog (EdmundMazza.com), wherein he asserts:

“My own examination of the data led me to the rather daring hypothesis that perhaps Benedict used his plenitudine potestas to separate the role of Vicar of Christ from Bishop of Rome!”

As noted, over two months have gone by since he first surfaced his hypothesis. However, the same amount of time has passed without Dr. Mazza replying to my rebuttals of his theory (see Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Addendum).  Granted, he may not have seen them as Roma Locuta Est is but a wee, humble blog. But I did attempt to reach him via Ann Barnhardt, Mark Docherty, and via the contact/comment form on his blog. All to no avail.

Given his theory has apparently attracted the attention of Professor Enrico Maria Radaelli (see here), I thought I’d return briefly to the subject of the “Mazza hypothesis.”  I am most interested in seeing Dr. Mazza’s reply to Addendum: Normas Nonnullas explodes Dr. Mazza’s BiP theory — if he is able, as I think the article gets to the heart of why his hypothesis, and BiP, in general, fail as theories.

Briefly, after Pope Benedict XVI announced his renunciation in his Declaratio (February 11, 2013) but before the actual effective date of it (February 28, 2013), he modified the then existing rules for conclaves (Universi Dominici Gregis) in specific anticipation of the upcoming conclave his renunciation necessitated. He made these changes on February 22, 2013 in an Apostolic Letter (motu proprio), Normas Nonnullas.

Thus, the changes set forward in Normas Nonnullas, taken together with what is left unchanged in UDG for the coming conclave, should give us insight into what Benedict understood and intended regarding his renunciation, as well as the authority of his successor to soon be elected.  Among the conclave modifications made by Pope Benedict XVI in Normas Nonnullas was a change to UDG 87. Of particular note, having changed UDG 87, Benedict made no change at all to UDG 88. These two paragraphs — the updated UDG 87 and untouched UDG 88 — read together as follows (emphasis added):

87. “When the election has canonically taken place, the junior Cardinal Deacon summons into the hall of election the Secretary of the College of Cardinals, the Master of Papal Liturgical Celebrations and two Masters of Ceremonies. Then the Cardinal Dean, or the Cardinal who is first in order and seniority, in the name of the whole College of electors, asks the consent of the one elected in the following words: Do you accept your canonical election as Supreme Pontiff? And, as soon as he has received the consent, he asks him: By what name do you wish to be called? Then the Master of Papal Liturgical Celebrations, acting as notary and having as witnesses the two Masters of Ceremonies, draws up a document certifying acceptance by the new Pope and the name taken by him.” [NB: as amended by Benedict XVI in Normas Nonnullas, February 22, 2013]

88 . After his acceptancethe 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.

If the person elected is not already a Bishop, he shall immediately be ordained Bishop. [NB: as promulgated by John Paul II in UDG, and left untouched by Benedict XVI in Normas Nonnullas]

What ought to be clear in a common sense reading of the passages above is that Benedict understood and intended the then coming conclave would elect a man who is “immediately Bishop of the Church of Rome, true Pope and Head of the College of Bishops” and “he thus acquires and can exercise full and supreme power over the universal Church.” The preceding verbiage from UDG 88, e.g., “full and supreme power over the universal Church,” certainly refers to the Petrine primacy (cf Pastor Aeturnus 4, 2).[1]

Therefore, it is clear as day that Benedict understood and intended that the conclave would elect a man who is, at the same time Bishop of Rome, and the Vicar of Christ. That this is what he must have intended and understood is clear from what he modified and what he left intact in the conclave rules. Benedict understood and intended that the upcoming conclave — necessitated by his renunciation — would elect a true successor, who would be the Vicar of Christ and bishop of Rome.  This, in itself, demonstrates Dr. Mazza’s theory fails.

Had Benedict intended what Dr. Mazza suggests, theoretically, he could have changed the wording of UDG 88. If Benedict intended something like Dr. Mazza suggests, he would have changed the wording of UDG 88. If Benedict intended something like Dr. Mazza suggests, he should have changed the wording of UDG 88.  Yet, while Benedict made some changes to UDG, he made none that are either consistent with or which are supportive of  Dr. Mazza’s theory.

The unavoidable fact is, though Benedict did modify UDG via Normas Nonnullas, he left UDG 88 untouched. Incredibly–but not surprisingly, Dr. Mazza’s “daring” hypothesis fails to account for Normas Nonnullas, indeed it fails to address it at all. I don’t know the reason why he does not even acknowledge Normas Nonnullas. What I do know for certain is, is that Dr. Mazza’s “daring” hypothesis has not yet “dared” to address Normas Nonnullas.  I do know Normas Nonnullas is utterly incompatible with Dr. Mazza’s theory. In sum, Dr. Mazza’s hypothesis – “daring” or not – fails miserably.

Perhaps readers can ask him, or Ann Barnhardt, or Mark Docherty — or to ask Dr. Marshall to ask Dr. Mazza — next time Dr. Mazza appears on their podcasts or blogs, to explain how Normas Nonnullas is consistent with the ‘Mazza hypothesis’?”

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 the author of 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 may be contacted at StevenOReilly@AOL.com or, securely, at StevenOReilly@Protonmail.com.  Or,  follow on Twitter: @S_OReilly_USA or on Parler: @StevenOReilly.


(1) “…What is more, with the approval of the second Council of Lyons, the Greeks made the following profession: “The Holy Roman Church possesses the supreme and full primacy and principality over the whole Catholic Church. She truly and humbly acknowledges that she received this from the Lord himself in blessed Peter, the prince and chief of the apostles, whose successor the Roman Pontiff is, together with the fullness of power. And since before all others she has the duty of defending the truth of the faith, so if any questions arise concerning the faith, it is by her judgment that they must be settled.”

“Then there is the definition of the Council of Florence: “The Roman Pontiff is the true vicar of Christ, the head of the whole Church and the father and teacher of all Christians; and to him was committed in blessed Peter, by our lord Jesus Christ, the full power of tending, ruling and governing the whole Church.” (Vatican I, Pastor Aeturnus, 4, 2)










28 thoughts on “Dr. Mazza’s “daring hypothesis” fails miserably

  1. Very convincing Stephen. Could you please re-iterate for us the true standing as you understand it of Pope Francis and Benedict.

    As I understand it, your position is that Francis was elected Pope and Benedict fully and completely resigned. Today Benedict is an ex-Pope. However, Francis has now become a questionable Pope due to his heresies along with concerns about possible illegitimacy of the electoral process employed to elect him.

    Thank you.


    1. Michael, thanks for comments and questions. My view is:

      Benedict is not pope; and has not been since Feb 28, 2013 at 8pm Rome time.

      Francis is pope by all appearances of form and procedure was validly elected in 2013. There are some oddities regarding his election, e.g., the status of his Jesuit vows; and possible violations of UDG and NN. Further; there is strong case to be made he is possibly a formal heretic.

      However; the laity cannot rule on these things and decide the question. An imperfect council should consider these matters, at a minimum. Unfortunately, what could be done has only ever been speculative….and regardless….there are not a significant enough body of bishops and cardinals who have the courage to raise the questions.

      Therefore; unless this status quo changes…we are stuck in this miserable situation. It pains me to say.



  2. ‘Normas Nonnullas’ nulls Dr. Mazza’s concept.

    The crime committed by Benedict XVI is to create the impression that there are two popes: he broke the visible head of the Church into two parts in a perfectly visible manner. Jorge the Apostate actively supports this fiction as it is a killing blow to the Roman papacy. The college of cardinals, actively or passively, also participates in this masquerade.
    This hoax is reflected in the 3rd Secret of Fatima: “We had the impression that this was the Holy Father”, but in fact it was a Bishop in White – this is the real status of the ex-Pope B16.”


    1. Myron, thanks for the comments.

      Regarding the Fatima secret…I don’t think we can say it definitely had something to do with BXVI’s resignation or not.

      Based on what Cardinal Ciappi and Malachi Martin have separately said (assuming we can credit the latter’s account), and Fr. Michele, is that the secret deals with an apostasy in the Church that “begins at the top”…seeming to suggest an apostate, heretical, or a heresy favoring pope.




  3. Bishop Emeritus Ratzinger could have ended the controversy long ago when it first surfaced.

    He could have stopped wearing white

    He could have stopped calling his own self Pope (Emeritus)

    He could have stopped giving the apostolic blessing

    It seems reasonable to assume he did not do those things because he is a liberal who has long been interested in novelties and this novelty of Pope Emeritus is one he treasures no matter how much scandal it causes or how much damage it does.

    In The Inferno, Dante Aligheri puts Pope Celestine V who abdicated in A.S. 1294, Canto 3 the craven one who made the great denial…


    1. Vermont, thanks. While I don’t believe he is still pope; BXVI certainly screwed up. He left us Francis; and he’s confused the heck out many faithful Catholics. If Dante were writing today…I think we could safely venture a guess as to where he’d put him.




  4. 87. “When the election has canonically taken place, ”

    IF the resignation is doubtful and therefore invalid how could an “election” “canonically” take place?


    1. Clan, sorry for the delay in a personal response to this. I’ve been “on the road.”

      Dr. Mazza’s thesis is that the resignation is *not* doubtful. He believes BXVI resigned as Bishop of Rome in actuality, but did not resign the Petrine office. So…in this regard, the article defeats Dr. Mazza’s argument.

      However, with regard to BiP…the article does here as well too. BiPers, more generally, hold with some exceptions that BXVI *intended* to keep the *munus* while resigning the *ministry*…or some variation of this. Others suggests it was all a ruse.

      However, Normas Nonnullas was written *specifically* in anticipation of the conclave necessitated by the Declaratio. Therefore, NN 87 and UDG 88 together demonstrate reveal BXVI has sufficient intent to give up the See of Rome and the Petrine office. So…BiP fails as well…not just the Dr. Mazza variation of it.




  5. Benedict’s alteration of UDG makes no difference at all. OF COURSE a “conclave” is called to “elect a pope.” Of course, the law governing a “conclave” is going to make references to some man who is to be “elected pope.” How likely is it that any pope would include in the text of the law an acknowledgment that “by the way, this is all smoke and mirrors”?

    Not one word of Benedict’s emendation of UDG comes close to changing the meaning of the words of his instrument of resignation–in which he renounces the exercise of the ministry of the Bishop of Rome, and does not renounce the Office of the Papacy.


    1. Arthur, thanks for the comments. Sorry for the lateness in this response….I’ve been traveling and unable to devote much time to Internet stuff.

      Normas Nonnullas was issued in *specific anticipation* of the then-upcoming conclave in March of 2013. Thus, what’s included in the revised rules is evidence of BXVI’s intent for who and *what* his successor would be. It is clear in UDG 88 — untouched by NN – that BXVI’s successor would have the full and supreme authority inherent in the Petrine office. Thus, that undermines the argument that BXVI intended something else for either himself or his successor. BiP fails (again).

      thanks for the comments.



  6. Dr. Mazza has indeed seen your earlier essay. His answer is simple, and shared by many who have studied the logical progression of events of February 2013. Benedict’s actions beginning 11 Feb were so deleterious, he was being called out left and right by theologians, Canonists, and Latinists… within HOURS of his reading out the Declaratio. Then in the following days, he proceeded to go “all in:” Announcing his intention to remain physically (and spiritually) within the enclosure of St. Peter, to wear white, to retain the papal title, to retain the form of address “His Holiness,” intervened to prevent destruction of the Fisherman’s Ring, etc. Vaticanistas were howling at this. What better way to “reassure” everyone that a “conclave” was really, really, going to take place, yes, really, really, trust me… what better way than by tinkering with UDG on 22 Feb, six days before he got in a helicopter but never really left. He had to be sure the “conclave” was held… this should be obvious. Your entire argument is that Benedict needed to change the key phrase in UDG 88 (“full and supreme power”) in order to have retained some part of the papacy… which means you still don’t understand that “conclave” itself was invalid. No conclave took place. It was a Cardinals’ retreat, nothing more, which means the entirety of UDG is moot.


    1. Mark, You don’t understand Dr. Mazza’s argument. He, originally, argued BXVI *successfully* split the Petrine primacy from the bishopric of Rome; there was no error; and the conclave validly elected Francis bishop of Rome. The fact BXVI left UDG 88 alone demonstrates he intended no such thing… thus, Dr. Mazza’s hypotheses fails.

      Now; if he now wishes to argue 188 like other flavors of BiP do….again the same UDG 88 shows BXVI understood his successor who be the “true pope”, bishop of Rome, and the one holding the Petrine Primacy. If his Declaratio intended anything else….Normas Nonnullas would have changed more than it did.

      Dr. Mazza’s hypotheses and the BiP edifice has crumbled.



    2. Mark; as to Dr. Mazza’s “answer”…I would like to see him commit himself on “paper.” But the answer you suggest is ridiculous about going “all” in. Normas Nonnullas was published Feb 22…and it demonstrates BXVI was not all in on anything remotely close to any BiP theory. He modified the conclave rules specifically with the upcoming March conclave in mind. His edits to the rules…and what he left intact demonstrates he fully expected his successor to be true pope, bishop of Rome, and he who has the Petrine primacy. Thus…BXVI did not intend to keep anything of his former office and or ministry.



      1. Steve, you say: “BXVI did not intend to keep anything of his former office and or ministry.”

        When you reviewed the Mazza Thesis, did you read the BXVI quotes from the 2017 Seewald book/interview, as well as the latest May 2020 book/interview? BXVI explains, over and over again, his irrevocable connection to the papacy that will always remain. This is substantial error, and is at the heart of the matter. In Professor Radaelli’s words, “it strikes a decisive blow to the act in its substance.”

        A null act.

        UDG pertains to papal conclaves, and there was no papal conclave in March 2013. UDG is moot.


      2. Mark,

        Dr. Mazza’s hypothesis #1 is BXVi successfully split the Petrine primacy from the bishopric of Rome. If you are now disavowing that option, fine. Dr. Mazza’s back Up hypothesis seems to be BXVI’s attempt if erroneous would then result in a null resignation. But here too…UDG/NN demonstrates there was no such intent – erroneous or not. NN was published in anticipation of the approaching conclave—-this is not a matter of debate. Thus, BXVI expected that conclave to elect a “true pope”…..bishop of Rome…and the one who would hold the Petrine primacy. Therefore, this demonstrates BXVI did NOT believe he would be “true pope”, bishop of Rome, or holder of the Petrine primacy following his renunciation that necessitated the coming conclave for which he had just modified the rules.

        As for Seewald…I did address his interview. I don’t believe it says what Dr. Mazza or Bipers in general wish it to say. (https://romalocutaest.com/2020/05/07/yet-again-benedict-is-still-really-not-pope/).



    3. If he who abdicated really was intent on splitting the papacy, why did he say he wanted to be called Father?

      Elise Harris

      Vatican City, Dec 9, 2014 / 01:08 pm MT ().- Rather than being called by his papal name “Benedict XVI,” the retired pontiff revealed that since his retirement he has wanted to return to his original priestly title and be called simply “Father Benedict.”

      Father Benedict made his comments in a private conversation with journalist Jorg Bremer, who published bits of them in a Dec. 7 article for German newspaper F.A.Z.

      According to the journalist, Benedict explained that when he initially stepped down he wanted to be called “Father Benedict” rather than Pope Emeritus or Benedict XVI, but “I was too weak at that point to enforce it.”

      At least part of the reason for wanting his new title to simply be “Father” rather than Pope Emeritus or Benedict XVI is to put more space between him and the role of the pope, so that there is no confusion as to who the “true Pope” is, Bremer reported.

      The retired pontiff encouraged the journalist to write about his desire, saying “Yes, do that; that would help.”


      1. Vermont…interesting. I had not seen that. Sorry for the delay in moderating/posting some of the comments. I’ve been out of town until recently.




    4. Mark…as a follow up to my other replies to you on Dr. Mazza’s hypothesis and BiP in general….I was hoping you might clarify *your* position:

      1. Do you now reject Dr. Mazza’s hypothesis? Afterall…he asserts the March 2013 conclave really elected Francis as Bishop of Rome…and this, at least, Francis really is. Do you reject his thesis on this point?

      2. I have addressed the last audience and Seewald’s interview with Benedict in various places on this blog. However, I am curious….while you continue to point to these as part of the record that speaks to Benedict’s intent regarding his resignation and his successor, how is it that Normas Nonnullas — an official act by Benedict as pope — does not speak to his intent and understanding relative to the coming conclave AND his own resignation which necessitated it? After all, he issued NN with the March conclave in mind….if he–as is clear (cf NN 87, UDG 88)–intended it to elect the bishop of Rome, holder of the Petrine office, surely he intended and must have believed he gave up this authority in his resignation,

      3. You put scare quote around “reassure” and “conclave.” Is it your belief BXVI was disingenuous in this “reassurance”? Please clarify what you believe his state of mind was at time of Normas Nonnullas…was he trying to deceive someone that the coming conclave would be true conclave?

      4, Could you clarify…do you believe BXVI *intended* to botch his resignation, or that he intended to truly resign, but did so in an erroneous manner?

      Interested in your responses to the above.




  7. If Pope Benedict validly resigned according to Canon Law, then why does he still continue to wear the Papal white after 7 years? Why does he continue to be addressed as Pope “Emeritus?” Something just doesn’t feel right about the whole thing. Why are two men wearing Papal white? This has never occurred in the history of the Catholic Church. There is such a thing as “Visibility” as regards the Papacy. There is also the mystical vision of Catherine Ann Emerich which saw a time when there would be “two popes” accompanied by violent societal upheaval that brings to mind the lawlessness and chaos visible in Western society today. And this is just for starters as regards doubts related to the resignation of Pope Benedict.


    1. Stemmons, thanks for the comments. I’ve addressed many of these points in the Summa Contra BiP on this site. As to wearing white…it is unfortunate that BXVI just didn’t retire to a remote monastery. However; the wearing of white no more makes him still pope, than wearing a Stetson makes him a cowboy.




  8. Steven,

    I am not a theologian nor any form of Catholic scholar. I am a lay Catholic Man that strives to be faithful. My default position is that Francis is Pope, but I am not 100% convinced by this and would not be surprised if it is revealed that he is not the pope and never was. I find Dr. Mazza’s thesis to be interesting and plausible, but I am not yet convinced. My first impression of your “Normus Nonnullus” counter-argument is that it is not a slam dunk. Unless I have misunderstood something, you are presuming that B XVI’s change of #87 means that he was thinking in terms of a unified position whereby the Supreme Pontiff and the Bishop of Rome are the same. When I read it, it seems to me that, if he did intend to bifurcate the roles, then his change could be his attempt to reunite them once he passes on and a new conclave is called. This is just my first impression after reading your blog.


    1. Kyle, thanks for the comments.

      Dr. Mazza’s thesis is that BXVI successfully separated the Petrine office from the episcopacy of Rome. He claims Francis was duly elected by the March 2013 conclave. However, that conclave operated under the NN amendments penned by BXVI just days before the effective date of his resignation. These rules were intended in toto for that conclave and all future conclaves (until some other pope might modify them, of course). Thus…BXVI fully expected his successor was to be BOTH bishop of Rome and the one holding the Petrine office. Thus…there was no separation. It also means, if BXVI intended his successor to be Bishop of Rome, and successor of the Petrine office…that obviously means BXVI did NOT intend to hold on to any piece of it. Therefore, BiP and Dr. Mazza’s theory fall to piece together.

      Thanks for the comments and reading the article.



    1. Catholic Knight, thanks for your feedback.

      As for Peaceful and Universal Acceptance, I agree but with a caveat. Papal Infallibility was only defined by Vatican I in 1870. Theories as to under what conditions, and as to how far infallibility extended ran gamut before 1870.

      Thus, if we take something like UA, it has not been defined as far as I am aware. Might there be conditions around it that need to be better understood and defined–in a way analogous to papal infallibility?

      I am not necessarily saying this *is* the case, but the Francis pontificate raises serious questions. Personally, although I believe Francis is pope, I would *not* at all be surprised if a future pope were to declare for reasons X, Y, and Z Francis was never a true pope. Given how far off the rails Francis is…I simply cannot exclude that possibility.

      Thanks again for the comments.


      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks for your response. It is correct that PUA has not yet been defined (I rather wish it had been because I imagine sedevacantism and lately beneplenism would come into being so much). For that reason, I don’t generally bring that up among sedevacantists very much. I’m honestly not convinced how sure Dr. Mazza is that Benedict is still Pope himself. At another time he called JP2 “saint” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kDFCm3jFiAE, although (1) he was canonized by Pope Francis and (2) Pope John Paul II, as Mazza mentions, isn’t very popular in most traditional crowds.


      2. CK, thanks for the comment.

        Dr. Mazza does call his argument the Mazza “hypothesis.” He can speak for himself as to how firmly he believes it all.

        But, in my opinion…it seems he is expressing something which he holds to be more than just a mere hypothesis or a theory. It is my understanding he is aware of at least some of my counter-arguments, but he has never engaged them, particularly on Normas Nonnullas–which in my opinion blows his hyothesis/theory/belief/argument out of the water.



        Liked by 1 person

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