April 9, 2021 (Steven O’Reilly) – The whole “Benedict is (still) Pope” (BiP) controversy will simply not fade away. Consider, yet another book on the question was recently published, “Benedict XVI: Pope “Emeritus”? by Estefania Acosta. Why it won’t die away is understandable. The Francis pontificate goes from one train wreck to another. The few good bishops and cardinals there seem to be have been happy to produce “Manifestos”, “Declarations of Truth,” etc. While these are all edifying, they really do not, in my opinion, confront Francis directly as he should be, as say Paul confronted Peter (cf Galatians 2:11-21). Promises of “corrections” have fizzled away into nothingness. Perhaps these prelates are doing much we do not see, or indeed, perhaps in fairness, they cannot as a matter of prudence do that “something” more. However, whatever the case, in the absence of that “something” many Catholics are trying to fill the gap and provide the solutions. Nature abhors a vacuum as is said.
Personally, I think it would be great if one of these “somethings” turned out to be true. For example, Roma Locuta Est has researched an idea presented to it from Jesuit circles on Cardinal Bergoglio’s vows and their potential implication in a conclave (see HERE); and we continue to look at the conclave (see The Conclave Chronicles). However, all the various “something” theories need not only more evidence, but also the authority of the Church behind them, specifically a future pope, to make a declaration should the evidence appear. Now, with regard to the evidence provided to date by BiP-ers which I have endeavored to fairly consider, I cannot say they have demonstrated their case — and certainly no where near the degree to claim the metaphysical certitude with which they assert its absolute truth. Since I cannot say it, I won’t. In fact, Roma Locuta Est will continue to provide the reasons and arguments the BiP case fails. To date these arguments are presented in a compilation of articles for reference (see Summa Contra the BiP Theory (Why Benedict XVI is NOT the pope).
Now, all this brings me to the purpose of this post. Dr. Edmund Mazza recently published another article on BiP (see It’s nothing business, it’s strictly personal”: The Psychic Powers of Pope Emeritus Part One). Dr. Mazza has previously argued in favor of the “Mazza hypothesis,” both on Dr. Taylor Marshall’s show and in articles, which claims Benedict intended to resign as Bishop of Rome, but did not intend to resign the Petrine office. I argued against this “Mazza hypothesis” in a series of articles, the compilation of which is found in the The Summa Contra Dr. Mazza. Whether Dr. Mazza’s latest article signals his abandonment of this hypothesis in favor of a more “Barnhardtian BiP-ism,” I cannot say for certain.
The recent Dr. Mazza article does not appear to break any new ground from the standard BiP position. There are the same questions as to why Pope Benedict XVI uses “munus” here or there in the Declaratio but then switches to “ministerio” when it comes to the actual renunciation. I do not believe I ever have heard Dr. Mazza or other BiP-ers adequately explain what Benedict meant when he wrote in the Declaratio he renounces the Petrine ministry ‘in such a way’ that the ‘See of Peter will be vacant.’ If the See of Peter is vacant as Benedict in fact wrote, there is no occupant of it holding either “spiritual munus,” or a “spiritual ministery” — or whatever else BiP-ers allege Benedict intended to retain. The statement is clear. In addition, Benedict goes on to say as a consequence of the See of Peter being vacant, a conclave is to be called to elect a “new supreme pontiff.” That Benedict intended this “new supreme pontiff” in the accepted sense, i.e., a true successor of Peter, is clear in consideration of another document he released before the conclave, entitled Normas Nonnullas. I make that case in the article Addendum: Normas Nonnullas explodes Dr. Mazza’s BiP theory.
When reviewing the arguments of BiP-ers like Dr. Mazza, Ms. Barnhardt, and Mr. Docherty, one of the most glaring problems with the arguments, in my opinion, is that they don’t address nor even consider the possibility of simpler, less forced interpretations of Benedict’s words than their own. Take for example Dr. Mazza’s article under consideration. He argues that Benedict believed that becoming a pope made an ontological change in him, or any pope for that matter, which cannot be renounced. Below, Dr. Mazza introduces a quote from Benedict:
This is what Pope Benedict told journalist Peter Seewald about his resignation in the 2017 book, Benedict XVI, Last Testament: “The Pope is no superman…If he steps down, he remains in an inner sense within the responsibility he took on, but not in the function…the follower of Peter is not merely bound to a function; the office enters into your very being.” (Emphasis Dr. Mazza)
And indeed later on in his article, Dr. Mazza states the following (my emphasis):
Let us now return to our discussion of psychic powers.
In February 2013 Benedict saw the munus Petrinum as an essentially spiritual, invisible, ontological, PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY he accepted back in 2005. This one thing or munus consists of active and contemplative “ministerii” Acting on this knowledge, he chose to renounce the “active” ministry “ministerio” of the Bishop of Rome, but not the Petrine munus or office itself, which by its nature enters into your very being and thus is incapable of renunciation.
Now, there are a few things that might said here, but I’ll restrict myself to observing that if Benedict believed as Dr. Mazza suggests — i.e., Benedict believed that the Petrine munus or office enters “your very being and thus is incapable of renunciation”; then does it not then follow Dr. Mazza must say Benedict believes any and all prior papal renunciations (e.g., Celestine V) were invalid? But, it is clear Benedict does believe such prior renunciations were valid. So what can we draw from this? For one, Dr. Mazza is reading Benedict in an overly strict and limited sense when he says the office “enters into your very being,” if by this Dr. Mazza really means Benedict believes one is incapable of renouncing the Petrine munus.
The above said, that this is not Benedict’s meaning or intent can be demonstrated from Benedict’s own words elsewhere. Revisiting the Benedict quote above as provided by Dr. Mazza, I was curious to see the full quote, in context. However, when I looked in my copy of Peter Seewald’s book (Pope Benedict XVI: Last Testament in His Own Words), I found something interesting. The part quoted above by Dr. Mazza beginning with “The Pope is no superman…” line comes from page 73, while the “follower of Peter is not merely bound to function; the office enters into your very being” line comes from page 66. So, if Dr. Mazza takes his quotes from Peter Seewalds “Last Testament” book, the quote is constructed out of sequence. The first part of the quote as provided by Dr. Mazza occurs eight questions after the second part, and does not include the context, i.e., what questions were Benedict responding too. I am not suggesting anything nefarious here; but the quote as presented is simply not accurate if it comes from Seewald’s “Last Testament”.
Let’s look at the full context the quotes as it related to Dr. Mazza’s overall ontological argument, beginning with Seewald’s question in each case, but taking them in proper order (emphasis mine):
Seewald: In the resignation speech the reason you gave for relinquishing your office was the diminishing of your energy. But is the slowdown in the ability to perform, reason enough to climb down from the chair of Peter?
Benedict: One can of course make that accusation, but it would be a functional misunderstanding. The follower of Peter is not merely bound to function; the office enters your very being. In this regard, fulfilling a function is not the only criterion. Then again, the Pope must do concrete things, must keep the whole situation in his sights, must know which priorities to set, and so on. This ranges from receiving heads of state, receiving bishops — with whom one must be able to enter into a deeply intimate conversation — to the decisions which come each day. Even if you say a few of these things can be struck off, there remain so many things which are essential, that, if the capability to do them is no longer there — for me anyway; someone else might see it otherwise — now’s the time to free up the chair.
(Benedict XVI: Last Testament in his own words, Peter Seewald, p. 66, Kindle Version)
The “office enters your very being” quote is now above seen in the context of the question. First, consider, Benedict does not deny Seewald’s premise, i.e., that Benedict had ‘relinquished your office.’ Rather, the focus of the question and Benedict’s answer is solely on whether the reasons for doing so, i.e., relinquishing the office, were sufficient. And on this point, Benedict explains his why; i.e., that when the “capability” is no longer there to do the ‘concrete things’ required of a pope, then in his view “now’s the time to free up the chair.” Such a statement echoes the Declaratio where Benedict says he is resigning in ‘such a way’ that the See of Peter is vacant. Nothing can be clearer. Benedict is no longer pope in any sense. The quote does not support Dr. Mazza’s argument.
Now, let’s take a look at the other part of the earlier quote used by Dr. Mazza but now in full context (emphasis mine):
Seewald: One objection is that the papacy has been secularized by the resignation; that it is no longer a unique office but an office like any other.
Benedict: I had to accept that question, and consider whether or not functionalism would completely encroach upon the papacy, so to speak. But similar steps had already been made with the episcopacy. Earlier, bishops were not allowed to resign. There were a number of bishops who said ‘I am a father and that I’ll stay’, because you cannot simply stop being a father; stopping is a functionalization and secularization, something from the sort of concept of public office which shouldn’t apply to a bishop. To that I must reply; even a father’s role stops. Of course a father does not stop being a father, but he is relieved of concrete responsibility. He remains a father in a deep, inward sense, in a particular relationship which has responsibility, but not with day-to-day tasks as such. It was also this way with bishops. Anyway, since then it has become generally understood on the one hand the bishop is bearer of a sacramental mission which remains binding on him inwardly, but on the other hand this does not have to keep him in his function forever. And so I think it clear that also the Pope is no superman and his mere existence is not sufficient to conduct his role; rather, he likewise exercises a function. If he steps down, he remains in an inner sense within the responsibility he took on, but not in the function. In this respect one comes to understand that the office of the Pope has lost none of its greatness, even if the humanity of the office is perhaps becoming more clearly evident.
(Benedict XVI: Last Testament in his own words, Peter Seewald, p. 73, Kindle Version)
In the answer above, Benedict compares and contrasts himself with the bishops. Although bishops long ago may have thought they could not resign, it is now understood “on the one hand the bishop is bearer of a sacramental mission which remains binding on him inwardly.” However, “on the other hand this does no have to keep him in his function forever“, i.e., being a bishop of a particular see. Benedict then adds a pope can step down from his function as well, and comparing this by analogy to the case of the bishops, he means the position of pope, bishop of Rome.
But what does Benedict mean when he says he remains “in an inner sense within the responsibility he took on“? Well we have already seen what it does not mean! It certainly does not mean he can’t leave the office given Benedict, as quoted above, talked about it being “time to free up the chair (of Peter).”
Benedict XVI’s Last Audience
In his article, Dr. Mazza also attempts to use Benedict’s final audience as a proof that Benedict was only resigning the “active ministry”. However, I think the use of the “last audience” by BiP-ers is, in my opinion, a clear example of how BiP-ers neglect to even consider a simpler, and natural reading of Benedict’s words. Rather, as in the case of the Seewald interview, with the last audience the leading BiP-ers opt for an overly elaborate, and unnatural interpretation of Benedict’s words, trying to force them like a square peg into a round hole. I have discussed their forced interpretations before (see re Benedict and or Ganswein HERE, HERE, and HERE). [NB: One BiP-er (see HERE) recently accused those who deny their interpretations of certain audiences/speeches as being “liars,” lacking integrity, and being “FINANCIALLY DEPENDENT UPON THE INSTITUTIONAL CHURCH IDEOLOGY”, etc! (see my response here: On the 8th Anniversary of the Resignation of Pope Benedict XVI)].
Yet, as clear as the last audience is in my opinion, some like Dr. Mazza suggest that Benedict XVI’s final audience shows he intended to keep part of the Petrine ministry and or munus. I think, instead, the unbiased reader will see that Benedict explains something of the “inward” responsibility he feels, like the father in the Seewald interview. 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)
It is clear that “always” and “for ever” refers to Benedict’s privacy, not an indelible mark of the papacy. Obviously, anyone elected to the papacy and who either dies in office or resigns it subsequently, will always be a public persona in some way given they ‘belong’ to the Church and history. Benedict has already talked about the election to the papacy as eliminating, in a manner of speaking, the private dimension of his life – but then also he speaks of what this loss gains for him (i.e., now belonging to all, and all to him). He then says his resignation does not change this, i.e., he will not lose this belonging, nor will he lose his love of all 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 was 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 explaining this “inner responsibility”, 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 one’s 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. The interpretation suggested here is more natural to the text, and a reasonable understanding of what Benedict meant when he later spoke in his Seewald interview of how he remains “in an inner sense within the responsibility he took on.”
I have said it before…and again now. The reality is, Benedict has rejected such BiP theories as ‘absurd,’ and in a letter to Cardinal Brandmuller, undisputed, makes reference to himself as a “former pope.” Furthermore, no visitor he has received, nor any cardinal, bishop, etc., he has communicated with since his resignation have ever suggested Benedict believes himself to still be pope–certainly none that I am aware of. Thus, the anathemas (and ad hominems) hurled by some BiP-ers against those who reject BiP, must also be hurled at Benedict as well. That is to say, Benedict must be considered in schism from himself because he believes himself to have resigned; and therefore, he does not accept himself to be the true pope. In sum, the BiP-ers create as many problems for the papacy, Vatican I, etc., as they earnestly but erroneously hope to solve. Now, eight years after the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, I hope we may yet still move closer to at least putting the BiP theory to bed.
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 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 StevenOReilly@ProtonMail.com (or follow on Twitter: @S_OReilly_USA or on Parler or Gab: @StevenOReilly).