December 23, 2021 (Steven O’Reilly) – Various “Benedict is (still) pope” or BiP theories appeal to canon 188 for support. This article examines this canon in light of Benedict’s own comments on his resignation, to see whether there might remain some sliver of daylight to defend the suggestion Benedict’s resignation could be potentially invalid on some ground.
There are two canons for consideration here. The first, canon 332.2, states that a Roman pontiff must be “free” (see Canon 332.2). The second canon used most often by BiP theorists is Canon 188 states:
“A resignation submitted out of grave fear, which has been unjustly inflicted, or because of fraud, substantial error or simony is invalid by the law itself.” (Canon 188)
(Source: The Code of Canon Law: Text and Commentary. Commissioned by The Canon Law Society of America. ed. James A. Coriden, et al. p. 109)[see note 1]
So the question is, might the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI be shoehorned into one of the invalidating conditions found in canon 188. No one has suggested Benedict resigned due to simony, so we need not bother with it. I see no basis for “grave fear” or “substantial error” that withstands closer scrutiny. I will provide some brief comments on those conditions. The question of “fraud” or “deceit” seems a more interesting one. As suggested at the outset of this article, let’s examine what Benedict says about his own resignation.
For one, while still pope, Benedict is on record before his resignation, stating a pope cannot resign due to some “danger.” In a 2010 interview with Peter Seewald, then Pope Benedict XVI said (emphasis added):
“When the danger is great one must not run away. For that reason, now is certainly not the time to resign. Precisely at a time like this one must stand fast and endure the difficult situation. That is my view. One can resign at a peaceful moment or when one cannot simply go on. But one must not run away from danger and say that someone else must do it.”
(Source: Peter Seewald. Light of the World. published 2010. p. 39)
In response to Seewald’s question, ‘is it possible to imagine a situation in which you would consider a resignation by the Pope appropriate?’, then Pope Benedict XVI replied:
“Yes. If a pope clearly realizes that he is no longer physically, psychologically, and spiritually capable of handling the duties of his office, then he has a right and, under some circumstances, also the obligation to resign.”
(Source: Peter Seewald. Light of the World. published 2010. p. 39)
Clearly, Benedict affirms a pope “must not run away” from a ‘great danger,’ and must only resign either at a “peaceful moment” or “when one cannot simply go on.” Benedict reiterated these conditions in a retrospective interview with Seewald after his resignation. In this later interview, Seewald questioned the Pope Emeritus about the Vatileaks scandal. When Seewald asked Benedict whether this scandal made him fatigued in his office, Benedict replied: “No, I mean, that can always happen. above all, as already said, one is not permitted to go in the moment of the storm, but must then stand firm” (Last Testament, p. 230). In a follow-up question, Seewald asked whether Benedict resignation involved Vatileaks as suggested by the Italian media. Benedict responded:
The “Benedict is (still) pope” theories (BiP) that suggest Benedict was forced out of office against his will, as if in response to some ‘grave danger,’ are untenable. For one, Benedict’s stated views of resignation, consistent with canon law, make clear he would not — and did not — resign in fear of some “grave danger.” Benedict affirmed both before and after his resignation that a pope cannot resign in such a moment of danger, and in later interviews, when speaking as Pope Emeritus, Benedict says he resigned only after the “storm” (i.e., Vatileaks) had passed, and in a “peaceful moment.”
Further, Benedict as Pope Emeritus over the last eight years or so has entertained multiple guests, given many interviews, engaged in correspondence with friends, and has even co-authored at least one book. None of these visitors, to my knowledge, has ever suggested that Benedict has stated, hinted, or given any indication he believes himself to be pope, or that he lives in “grave fear.” Therefore, theories which suggest he intentionally faked, or muffed his resignation, with the intent of keeping the papacy – whole or in part – are absurd, as they run counter to the evidence, and — aside from the evident lunacy of pretending to give up the papacy in order to save it as some suggest Benedict did — such theories make Benedict into a liar and a monster (see, for example, my responses Andrea Cionci’s theory: Benedict’s Plan “B” from Outer Space, Benedict’s Plan B from Outer Space – the Sequel).”
Another BiP argument claims Benedict’s renunciation (see Declaratio) was deficient in some way, e.g., it is suggested Benedict attempted or intended to bifurcate the papacy in some fashion, and or either intended to or believed he would remain in some sense a pope after his resignation. It is then argued that given such supposed beliefs and or intentions were erroneous, and thus constituted “substantial error” which invalidate Benedict’s resignation.
Roma Locuta Est has examined and rejected those BiP theories which argue Benedict offered a deficient resignation riddled, intentionally or unintentionally, with “substantial error.” The arguments against such theories have been compiled in the Summa Contra BiP. It suffices to say here, that the reasons for the resignation given in the Declaratio are consistent with Benedict’s statements to Seewald both before and after his resignation. Benedict told Seewald in 2010, before the resignation, that “One can resign at a peaceful moment or when one cannot simply go on” such as when Benedict said a pope “realizes that he is no longer physically, psychologically, and spiritually capable of handling the duties of his office.” Such statements are consistent with the reasons given by Benedict in the Declaratio, e.g., “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.”
In a later Seewald interview, reflecting back on his incapability to exercise his office any longer, Benedict said “now’s the time to free up the chair (of Peter)” (Last Testament, p. 20). Such a statement is consistent with what he intended, and stated in the Declaratio: “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.”
But what of fraud or deceit?
Given the considerations above, based on Benedict’s own words, there are no real grounds to reject the validity of the Benedict’s resignation on the basis of either “grave fear” or “substantial error.” But what about fraud or deceit as a potential grounds to question the validity of Benedict’s resignation?
In Benedict’s Resignation: A Theory of the Case (Part One and Part Two), we considered the hypothesis that Benedict might have been deceived via the Vatileaks scandal into submitting a resignation. Given the things Benedict has said about Vatileaks and his resignation, is a hypothesis of fraud or deceit tenable? As quoted earlier, Seewald directly asked Benedict about this speculation in the Italian media, i.e., that his resignation was due to Vatileaks. Benedict replied:
Thus, to the question of whether fraud is a viable hypothesis, at first blush, based on Benedict’s answer, the answer would appear to be a firm “no.” After all, Benedict affirmed he could not resign when “things are going wrong“, and only did so when Vatileaks was “completely resolved” at which point he could then “resign because calm had returned to the situation.”
This appeared to be what happened. In response to Seewald’s query as to when he had made his mind up to resign, Benedict answered: “I would say during the Summer holiday of 2012.” This would have been after the arrest of Paolo Gabriele, the butler, who was accused of being behind the document leaks. Cardinal Bertone, the Vatican Secretary of State at the time, also confirmed Benedict’s decision came after the release of a Vatican commission report on the Vatileaks scandal in July 2012 (see here). Benedict’s indication he decided to resign around this point is consistent with his statement he resigned when “calm” had returned, as it had, at least in the sense that Gabriele was in now custody, and a report on the scandal had been produced. Other reports seem to suggest the delivery on December 17, 2012 of a dossier on the ‘gay mafia’ in the Vatican led to Benedict’s final decision to resign (see here). Either way, the reports seem generally consistent with Benedict’s pre and post-resignation comments that he could not resign ‘during a storm‘ but only when things were at peace. Certainly by December 2012, the Vatileaks trial had already been concluded in October; the butler had been sentenced and was now in prison; and. Benedict had received the so-called ‘dossier.’
Okay, so based on Benedict’s comments, does this rule out even the possibility fraud may have led him to resign — even if he was and remains unaware of any deceitful plot? While I am not asserting there was in fact a fraudulent plot, the Vatileaks timeline, and Benedict’s own comments on the resignation (e.g., he resigned when the “storm” was over, etc) do not foreclose the possibility of fraud, in my opinion. Consider, in 2010, Benedict had essentially “given” the St. Gallen mafia a road map of a kind which explained the general conditions under which he might resign. In a published Seewald interview in 2010, as cited earlier, Benedict had said of papal resignations that “when the danger is great one must not run away” but “one can resign at a peaceful moment or when one cannot simply go on.” Given Pope Benedict XVI’s April 2009 visit to the tomb of Celestine V, a previous pope who had resigned, and upon whose tomb Benedict had left his pallium — it must have seemed Benedict just needed only a little nudge to get him out the door.
What does seem clear in Benedict’s interviews, at least implicitly, is that Vatileaks and the associated financial and sexual scandals were indeed the last straws for Benedict. This appears to be the case because Benedict moved forward with his resignation once these scandals were ‘resolved’ in his mind by either mid-Summer or mid-December 2012. He could then, in his own words, move forward with his resignation “because calm had returned to the situation.” Obviously, Benedict had have reached the conclusion he “cannot simply go on“, but had to away that “peaceful moment” to resign – which would only come after December 2012.
My point above is that while Benedict’s interview comments rule out Vatileaks as the direct cause of his resignation, his words certainly seem to implicitly suggest the scandals were an indirect cause of it, i.e., as they led him to conclude he “cannot simply go on.” It is here, I think, where there might still be room for a viable fraud theory to be investigated. Certainly, the most obvious fraud hypothesis would be that Cardinal Martini, Cardinal Bergoglio, and or the St. Gallen mafia were ultimately behind Vatileaks in the hopes the scandal would convince Benedict he no longer had the strength or capacity to govern the Church.
A St. Gallen mafia “fraud-” or “deception-induced” resignation theory hinges on the actions of Cardinal Martini. In Part One of Benedict’s Resignation: A Theory of the Case, we saw how Cardinal Martini threw his support in the 2005 conclave behind Ratzinger’s candidacy. Given Martini was the founder of the St. Gallen mafia — a group whose reason for being included combating and thwarting Ratzinger — it is more than reasonable to doubt Martini’s stated motives in support of Ratzinger’s candidacy, and to conclude Martini was disingenuous. It is important to keep in mind that Martini’s ‘price’ for his electoral support in the 2005 conclave was the suggestion that Ratzinger must resign if he fails to reform the Roman Curia.
One cannot help but surmise that Martini, faced with the inevitable election of Ratzinger, did his utmost to best play the losing hand he and the St. Gallen mafia held in the 2005 conclave. If we fast forward to June 2012, we enter the tail end of the Vatileaks scandal, i.e., after the butler’s role in Vatileaks had been discovered. It was now — as the “storm” seemed to be passing, and a period of “calm” began to be restored — Cardinal Martini played his cards; suggesting to Benedict that he should now resign, not because of Vatileaks per se, but because Benedict had failed to reform the Roman Curia — a fact that the Vatileaks scandal merely highlighted. Indeed, it would be only be in a few more weeks after Martini had followed up on his IF-THEN proposition — “during the Summer holiday of 2012“– that Benedict reached the conclusion he “simply cannot go on.”
While Cardinal Martini’s actions are not a definitive proof of fraud in themselves, they certainly raise an eyebrow. Was the St. Gallen mafia behind the Vatileaks scandal, as a way to push Benedict out? Was Martini and St. Gallen planning something like Vatileaks as far back as 2005 in case their candidate, Cardinal Bergoglio, did not win the papacy — hence Martini’s IF-THEN suggestion to Ratzinger? Martini certainly appears to have been disingenuous in throwing his support to Ratzinger in 2005, as well as in his conversations with Ratzinger as Cardinal and latter as Pope Benedict XVI regarding a papal resignation. What were Martini’s real motives? What we do know is, even before 2005, Martini and the St. Gallen mafia wanted Ratzinger out of the way.
One cannot say at this point there was such a plot. Certainly, more evidence would need to be uncovered to establish there was an actual fraud plot. That said, there certainly appears to be grounds for further research and investigation. While there is no “smoking gun,” there are tantalizing items for further research and investigation.
1 ) It is clear, as we noted above and HERE, that Cardinal Martini had suggested to Benedict an “IF – THEN” resignation condition during the 2005 conclave, and seemingly came to collect on the “THEN” in June 2012.
2 ) As discussed in Part Two of Benedict’s Resignation: A Theory of the Case, Cardinal Bergoglio sent money to the Vatican Bank as a loan, over the objections of members of the university, and this loan was later converted to a gift. Henry Sire’s book, The Dictator Pope, suggests this was used to gain “influence” in Rome for Bergoglio. Also, on this loan, see Henry Sire, Cardinal Bergoglio of Buenos Aires: Some More Unanswered Questions, OnePeterFive, September 11, 2018.
3) There is the Pope’s curious relationship with Cardinal Becciu. I refer the reader back to the discussion of this point in Part One.
4 ) Cardinal Sodano. Robert Mickens says of Sodano, that “For some three decades he was the man in the Vatican no one dared to cross…Even the popes he served were careful to gain his consent because of the loyalty he commanded from many key people at all levels of the Roman Curia.” Yet, Pope Benedict XVI replaced the powerful Cardinal Sodano as Secretary State and appointed Cardinal Bertone in his place. Again, per Mickens:
“By doing so he lost the vital support of most of the Vatican diplomats in the Roman Curia, yanked on the command of Angelo Sodano who fed the narrative that the pope had marginalized them by choosing the non-diplomat Bertone.
Just 14 months after becoming Bishop of Rome, Benedict XVI had made a major tactical blunder. From that point onwards his pontificate lurched from one major crisis to another, both inside the Vatican and on the world stage. After nearly eight agonizing years, he and his tiny circle of trusted aides were largely isolated. In the face of all this, the aging theologian-pope resigned.
(Source: Robert Mickens, Twilight time for the Vatican’s ‘Godfather’)
Writing for Time magazine back in May 2012 on the Vatileaks scandal, Stephan Faris observed (emphasis added):
Many Vatican watchers have speculated that the drama is the fall out of a struggle for power between Pope Benedict XVI’s second-in-command, Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, and rival cardinals and the Vatican’s veteran diplomatic staff, which has resented him since his arrival. “Bertone is effectively under fire,” says Magister. “If the government of the church is in such disastrous condition, then it’s clear that the head of the state needs to answer for these.”
So, certainly many observers at the time in 2012 saw the Vatileaks scandal as part of a “struggle of power” between Cardinal Bertone on the one hand, and rival cardinals, and the Vatican’s diplomatic staff on the other. Given the loyalty he commanded at “all levels of the Roman Curia,” is it conceivable that Sodano was ultimately behind such a “struggle for power“? Is it conceivable that he was not?
Given that Vatileaks ultimately led to the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI and the election of Cardinal Bergoglio as pope, it is here we note, as we did in Part Two of Benedict’s Resignation: A Theory of the Case, that Cardinal Sodano campaigned for Cardinal Bergoglio’s election in the 2013 conclave, and, as Mickens noted, “Francis was and remains well aware of that.” Curious, the one man with the power and connections in the Vatican, and therefore, the one most able to pull off Vatileaks — IF it was a plot — is a Bergoglian, as well as someone with potential scores to settle with Pope Benedict and Cardinal Bertone.
5 ) The Butler. We already discussed some of the questions regarding the case of Benedict’s butler, Paolo Gabriele, in Part One. Gabriele’s leaks of documents to an Italian journalist (Gianluigi Nuzzi) in January of 2012 resulted in what we know now as the Vatileaks scandal. Unfortunately, the ability to further question Gabriele was lost when he passed away in November 2020. Dead men tell no tales, they say. That is not to suggest his death resulted from foul play but only that it would have been interesting to see what might have been gleaned from an interview about the network of people Gabriele described to Nuzzi (see Part One), or his thoughts, in retrospect, of the possibility others might have had a hand in directing him. This would have been particularly interesting in light of what Gabriele had told Nuzzi about his network (emphasis added):
“Over the years, I spoke with colleagues and friends who live and work in the Vatican. We realized we shared the same concerns, had the same criticisms, and felt frustrated because we could do nothing against to many abuses, personal interests, hidden truths. We are a group of people who want to collect evidence and act. Some of us work at APSA, the body that deals with the patrimony of the Holy See; some at the Governorate, which is responsible for tenders and procurement contracts; some at the Secretariat of State; some in the Gendarmarie and so on. Nobody knows the full extent of the network.”
(Source: Ratzinger was Afraid: The secret documents, the Money, and the Scandals that overwhelmed the Pope, Gianluigi Nuzzi. Adagioe)
Certainly, as reported by Nuzzi, the butler was part of a network that “nobody knows the full extent of.” He was a part of a larger group who wanted to “collect evidence and act.” Apparently, the network included individuals throughout the Vatican, including the Governorate, Gendarmarie, and Secretariat of State. Given it has been suggested that Sodano commanded loyalty at “all levels of the Roman Curia“, one cannot help but wonder if he or those loyal to him were well aware of this network, and if so, did they have any role in directing its activities?
While the network appears to have considered itself an ally of Benedict, was there in reality a ‘false flag’ operation behind it, directing the network’s activities toward the destruction of Benedict’s pontificate. The butler’s motivations for leaking documents were as bizarre and they were apparently sincere. Gabriele naively believed that providing sensitive documents to a journalist would help Pope Benedict XVI. However, rather than helping Benedict’s papacy, the ensuing scandal only served to hasten the end of it. In a post-resignation interview, Benedict still puzzled over the supposed motivation (emphasis added):
“It was simply unintelligible to me. Even when I see the person I can’t understand how someone would want to do something like that – what can have been expected from it. I cannot penetrate this psychology.” (Last Testament, p. 227)
Consequently, questions remain about the “network”, and how such a man as Gabriele ended up as Benedict’s butler. In an interview with Seewald, the Pope Emeritus disclaimed any responsibility for Gabriele, saying: “…the Paolo Gabriele affair was a disastrous business. But first I was not to blame – he was checked by the authorities and put in post by them…” (Last Testament, p. 23). Clearly, Benedict was not the one who vetted Gabriele for his sensitive position. Who then was responsible? That brings us to another curiosity of the Vatileaks scandal. How did Gabriele end up as the pope’s butler? According to Jason Horowitz of the Washington Post (emphasis added):
Corriere della Sera, Italy’s leading newspaper, set the Vatican buzzing when it reported that Argentina’s powerful Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, a potential Vatican secretary of state who has also emerged on shortlists of Benedict’s possible successors, had sponsored Gabriele’s introduction to the pontifical household.
(Source: The pope’s butler, still a mystery, Washington Post, February 15, 2013)
Based on this reporting, it seems the Argentine Cardinal Sandri was a long time trusted associate of the powerful Cardinal Sodano, who commanded loyalty at “all levels of the Roman curia.” And, Sodano, as we know, campaigned for the election of another Argentine for pope, i.e., Cardinal Bergoglio. To understand the sort of man Sandri, one should consult Archbishop Vigano who described Sandri as “a person of unfailing loyalty to Sodano” (see Abp Viganò raises concerns about Cardinal in charge of next papal election. LifeSiteNews, January 31, 2020).
The events and personalities surrounding both the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, and the election of Cardinal Bergoglio are certainly curious. Roma Locuta Est continues to look into these oddities, even if the result in the end is only of possible historical interest.
The curiosities surrounding the election of Cardinal Bergoglio, and a discussion of the possibility the election of Bergoglio was engineered may be found in the The Conclave Chronicles. Some of the key points were summarized in my recent LifeSiteNews article (see There are still many unsolved mysteries surrounding the 2013 election of Cdl. Bergoglio to the papacy). A more detailed treatment of the very suspicious “October Surprise.” which torpedoed the candidacy of Bergoglio’s main competition — Cardinal Scola — on the morning the conclave was to begin, may be found in The Forgotten ‘October Surprise’ of the 2013 Conclave and The Forgotten ‘October Surprise’ (Part II): Cui Bono?.
In this current article, we set out to take a look at Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation in light of canon 188, and Benedict’s own comments about papal resignations — made both as pope and pope emeritus. With regard to canon 188 and its listing of conditions that would invalidate a papal resignation if proven, it seems rather clear that “grave danger” and “substantial error” do not apply in the case of Benedict’s resignation. However, in my opinion, the question of potential “fraud” remains an open one — not as certain or proven or even only “likely”; but in the hypothetical sense, with some oddities and important questions needing answers.
If there truly was a real plot to fraudulently induce Benedict’s resignation — and that is certainly a very big “if” at this point; I am absolutely confident the evidence for it will one day come to light (NB: And, as always, those with relevant information are always welcome to contact me privately and confidentially with any evidence in their possession, or of which they have knowledge. My contact info is below this article).
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 GETTR, Parler, or Gab: @StevenOReilly).
1 ) The English translation on the Vatican site is given as: “Can. 188 A resignation made out of grave fear that is inflicted unjustly or out of malice, substantial error, or simony is invalid by the law itself.” (see here). The Latin on the Vatican site is given as: “Renuntiatio ex metu gravi, iniuste incusso, dolo vel errore substantiali aut simoniace facta, ipso iure irrita est.”
The English translation on the Vatican site does not seem to give the sense of “fraud” or “deceit”. However, an algorithmic translation of the same Latin does: “A resignation made out of grave fear, unjustly struck, by deceit, or substantial error, or simony, is invalid by the law itself.”
The translation given in the article (see the source in body of article) seems to my untrained, and non-Latinist eye to provide a translation more faithful to the Latin.