Regarding Ganswein’s speech

March 19, 2022 (Steven O’Reilly) – Over the last few weeks, Roma Locuta Est has published articles on key documents which have a bearing on the “Benedict is (still) pope” (BiP) controversy. My first four articles in this series cited Benedict’s own words, written and or spoken on four different occasions, to prove he truly intended to fully resign the papacy.  These Roma Locuta Est articles include:

  1. Regarding Benedict’s Declaratio
  2. Regarding Benedict’s Normas Nonnullas
  3. Regarding Benedict’s comments to the Pilgrims from Albano
  4. Regarding Benedict’s Last Audience

The Beneplenists only cite two of these sources (i.e., Benedict’s Declaratio, and his last audience) but  ignore the other two (i.e., Normas Nonnullas, and Benedict’s words to the pilgrims from Albano). The latter are clearly incompatible with and are unexplainable by the BiP theory — something readily obvious as well from the fact that BiP theorists never address them.

The documents referenced above are all either written or spoken words of Pope Benedict XVI prior to his resignation. In this article, I will address another document — not authored by Benedict — which the BiP theorists cite as proof of their claims that “Benedict is (still) pope.” This document in question is Archbishop Georg Ganswein‘s speech in 2016 at the Gregorian University in Rome (see Translated Speech here). [NB: As with my other articles in this series, this will likewise be lengthy. I wanted to address in detail the errors and fallacies inherent in the Beneplenist arguments, and in so doing, make this and the other article, along with the others, a resource for those interested in the topic. As with most of the other articles in this series, a section for Objections and Replies follows immediately after the article below].

Background to Ganswein’s Speech

It was probably Ganswein’s speech and the Gregorian University in 2016, more than any other one thing, that launched a new phase of controversy over the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI.  This is unfortunate for two reasons. First, a closer examination of what he said and its context will show the speech’s import is overblown. But, second, and I think more importantly, it focused, in my opinion, unwarranted attention on the “substantial error” and away from potentially more promising areas of research[1].

This article presumes the reader has some general familiarity with Ganswein’s place in the controversy. It is important to remember that Ganswein’s speech occurred three years after after Benedict’s resignation. The previously referenced ‘Benedictine sources’ are all dated to within seventeen and fewer days before, and one even on the date of Benedict’s effective resignation (2/28/2013). In light of these facts, it should be obvious to the reader that if we are to understand Benedict’s thinking, the earlier documents must take precedence to Ganswein’s. In other words, we should interpret Benedict through Benedict, and not Benedict through Ganswein as the Beneplenists do.

And what do we know of Benedict’s thinking just prior to his resignation? In a brief high-level summary, from the Declaratio, we know that he stated he was resigning the Petrine ministry “in such a way” that the ‘See of Rome, the See of Peter would be vacant,’ and that a new conclave would be necessary to elect a new Supreme Pontiff (see my article on the subject here).  If there is no occupant of the See of Rome, the See of Peter — there is no pope. We also know that Benedict made changes to the rules for the conclave necessitated by his resignation, doing this via the motu proprio Normas Nonnullas [2]  Had he intended a partial resignation, a papal diarchy, or intended to maintain something of the Supreme Pontificate for himself, as alleged by the Beneplenists; Benedict would have needed to make that change in Normas Nonnullas. However, this he did not do, proving that he knew his immediate successor would be Bishop of Rome, and Supreme Pontiff with the full powers of the papacy (see my article on the subject here). We also know that – just hours before the end of his pontificate – Benedict told a group of Catholic pilgrims from the Italian diocease of Albano that:

I am no longer the Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church, or I will be until 8:00 this evening and then no longerI am simply a pilgrim beginning the last leg of his pilgrimage on this earth.

The above words cannot be reasonably explained by the BiP theorists, as they contradict their theory’s assertion that Benedict somehow maintained part of the Petrine munus. Then, are Benedict’s words in his last audience about the “always” and “for ever.” In my article Regarding Benedict’s Last Audience, I suggested a simpler, more natural interpretation of Benedict’s words which are consistent with the intent to fully resign the papacy. I recommend to those interested in this controversy to read my article on the Last Audience but I here provide a summary of Benedict’s logic and meaning, as it will be useful backgroun in understanding Ganswein’s comments on “pope emeritus,” “an expanded ministry,” etc. Benedict’s logic may be summarized 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, i.e., the Pope becomes a “father”; (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 bond of love, 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) — just as a “father” would for his sons and daughters, and thus (5) he will continue to pray in service for his “sons and daughters”, the Church; and it is in this qualified sense – “so to speak” – he remains in the “enclosure of Peter,” but not in fact. [NB: As will be seen in the Objections section, a beneplenist objected to this interpretation, saying the “enclosure of Peter” is simply the Vatican.  That’s fine with me…it does make sense…but such an understanding does not help the BiP interpretation of the last audience].

[Source: Regarding Benedict’s Last Audience]

Having now briefly recalled some of our prior points offered either as proof of Benedict’s intent to resign, or as evidence in refutation of the BiP theory, we can now move on to consider Ganswein’s speech.

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. It was a speech which at the time raised many eyebrows among Vatican watchers, as Dr. Edmund Mazza – a Beneplenist – rightly observes in a position paper: “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.’ For those who have not read it, you may find Ganswein’s Translated Speech here.  There are indeed portions that raise an eyebrow or two. 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 most problematic passages (emphasis added):

And I, too, a firsthand witness of the spectacular and unexpected step of Benedict XVI, I must admit that what always comes to mind is the well-known and brilliant axiom with which, in the Middle Ages, John Duns Scotus justified the divine decree for the Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God:

“Decuit, potuit, fecit.”

That is to say: it was fitting, because it was reasonable. God could do it, therefore he did it. I apply the axiom to the decision to resign in the following way: it was fitting, because Benedict XVI was aware that he lacked the necessary strength for the extremely onerous office. He could do it, because he had already thoroughly thought through, from a theological point of view, the possibility of popes emeritus for the future. So he did it.

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.[3] But is what Dr. Mazza 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” or “expanded 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 seemingly problematic phrases and 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 of a ‘papal diarchy’, 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, the Beneplenists have things backwards. Instead, as I suggested earlier, if we are to understand both what Benedict XVI did in his resignation and his use of “pope emeritus,” then we must understand Benedict through Benedict, and 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, etc. This we have done in Regarding Benedict’s Declaratio, Regarding Benedict’s Normas Nonnullas, Regarding Benedict’s Last Audience and Regarding Benedict’s comments to the Pilgrims from Albano.

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 argued in Regarding Benedict’s Last Audience.

The above established, we can address Ganswein’s superlatives, and his references to the “Petrine ministry” and an “expanded ministry.” 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. Regoli’s book was 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 still living former pope, 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, over the top, and even full of panegyrical language of praise we might more expect to hear at a papal eulogy. But here, the speaker’s task was unique in that the subject was not yet dead. We might probably suspect that Ganswein was well aware and mindful that Dante had consigned the first pope to resign to the Inferno! Though that much is speculative, Ganswein was surely well aware that many of Benedict’s closest friends and associates were deeply disappointed in his resignation. He said as much. 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), even justifying his post-resignation life as “pope emeritus,” giving it some greater meaning and purpose in the same panegyrical or poetic 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 here, I think we might take note that Ganswein has exaggerated the case, or simply was not aware of Benedict’s thinking on the use of “emeritus.” Ganswein says explicitly that Benedict “introduced into the Catholic Church the new institution of “pope emeritus.” First, we may note that canon 185 says anyone whose ‘loses an office due to resignation’ may use the title “emeritus.”[4] Granted, the context in the Code of Canon Law does not explicitly apply this to the Roman Pontiff but certainly the analogy was there for Benedict to find an appropriate title in his own case, as he would “lose his office” due to resignation. Further, one of Benedict’s letter’s to Cardinal Brandmuller after his resignation clearly suggests Benedict believed prior popes who had resigned had been “emeritus” in fact though they had not been explicitly so by name.[5] Regardless, 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“ – clearly implying that he surrendered that office, that munus).

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 Ganswein 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 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 in the speech, Ganswein references Benedict’s Coat of Arms and its inclusions of words from a letter of the Apostle John, i.e., “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 — while not being any of them.  St. Paul makes an even stronger reference to being a God’s “co-workers” and “fellow workers” (for example, see 2 Cor. 3:9, 6:1) without suggesting any sort of equivalency or sharing of an office in the true sense. Thus, Francis and Benedict may be spoken of, in a sense, sharing a ‘Petrine-like’ ministry in that both focus on the whole Church; however, Francis does so as the true pope, while Benedict as a former pope, continues, due to the bonds of charity formed at his election, to pray for the whole Church.

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.

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.” That is to say, there is, for Ganswein, Pope Francis who is the real pope with authority over the Church as Supreme Pontiff, and then there is Benedict, who continues to pray for the sons and daughters he gained when he became pope, but does not forsake when he resigns.  That is, he continues to pray for the Church.

It should also be noted that Ganswein makes various other 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!” Also, Ganswein specifies in his speech that Benedict’s pontificate had beginning and an end: “…Benedict XVI, at the helm of the barque of Peter in the dramatic years 2005-2013.” None of these expressions are accounted for in the beneplenist interpretations of Ganswein speech.

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 a real change in the “Petrine ministry” or “Petrine munus” properly, and strictly understood.

If Ganswein might be criticized for potentially troublesome or unguarded panegyrical praise of Benedict as pope and as “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 spokeLike 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?” Is Ganswein speaking literally or figuratively when he says of Regoli, Seewald, and others that they have entered into that “enlarged Petrine ministry”? 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.”

Objections and Replies to those Objections

Objection 1: Pope Benedict’s attempted resignation was canonically invalid.

Pope Benedict XVI himself made this perfectly clear in his “last audience” on 27 February, ARSH 2013, and it was reconfirmed WITH HIS APPROVAL on 20 May ARSH 2016 by his personal secretary (and incredibly suspicious character) Archbishop Georg Ganswein in a speech at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome laying out Pope Benedict’s mindset vis-a-vis his failed partial-resignation.  To deny the clarity of these words is FUNDAMENTALLY DISHONEST. As in, you have to LIE in order to argue that these words mean anything other than their plain meaning.  In my experience, every person who has made this argument is FINANCIALLY DEPENDENT UPON THE INSTITUTIONAL CHURCH IDEOLOGY, be it for a salaried position, paid editorial writing gigs, a pension, or donations/blegging. To deny objective reality is pretty much the textbook definition of having no integrity.“[6]

Reply to Objection 1:  The above objection is also cited in my article Regarding Benedict’s Last Audience. The Objector accuses anyone who disagrees with their reading of Benedict’s last audience, or Ganswein’s speech of being “fundamentally dishonest,” a liar, and “financially” compromised, etc. This objection comes from one of the leading lights, if not the founding one, of the BiP movement.

The objection is ad hominem. I have replied to this objection and its specific accusations (see On the 8th Anniversary of the Resignation of Pope Benedict XVI; and again in Regarding Benedict’s Last Audience in the Replies to the Objections section).

Anyone who has read this blog for any length of time knows that I believe there are some serious problems with Francis’ pontificate. I suppose nothing would bring me greater joy than to see a slam dunk demonstration that Benedict is still pope, or that Francis is not pope for some other reason.[7] Unfortunately, no such slam dunk has yet been advanced.

The problem with the Objector’s absolute assertions about the “plain meaning” of the aforementioned texts is that she and others fail to consider or to even address the possibility more innocent readings might exist, and indeed might be — and in fact are – more probable than their own. No consideration is given to the possibility the words used might might mean anything other than how the Objector interprets them, or that speaker’s (in this case Ganswein) words might be used in some other sense, possibly figurative, or in a looser, or extended sense. For example, this is very clear in the last paragraph of Ganswein’s speech where he speaks of Regoli and Seewald and others entering into the “expanded ministry” as well:

“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 spokeLike 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, Regoli, now also “takes part in the munus Petri” of which he spoke, i.e., the “expanded ministry”!  Clearly, Ganswein is speaking in a figurative, and loose sense.  But nowhere does the Objector express the slightest pause about this paragraph, or what it might mean to the Beneplenist reading of Ganswein.  Clearly, the Objector does not address the context of the speech, as I do above, and the obvious use of panegyric language used by a speaker who was close to Benedict XVI. Indeed, Ganswein is one who both opposed Benedict’s resignation but who must now say kind words about it in the face of of the criticisms of it put forward by many of even Benedict’s closest friends and associates who believed it an absolute disaster.

Specifically, with regard to Benedict’s “last audience,” I made the case in this article for a more innocent reading of the last audience, which I honestly believe to be far more reasonable, and for more probable one than the one offered by this Objector, or any other objector for that matter.

Regarding Archbishop Ganswein’s speech, I have provided my reading on Ganswein above, and the reasons for it.  As with Benedict’s last audience, I have essentially gone through the debated sections of this documents line by line.

The onus is on the Objector to explain how this reading or one like it cannot possibly be the true one; and demonstrate that Objector’s reading is the only possible one. This is a challenge the Objector fails.

Objection 2:  Archbishop Gänswein said that Pope Francis and Benedict are not two popes “in competition” with one another, but represent one “expanded” Petrine Office with “an active member” and a “contemplative.” “Therefore, from 11 February 2013, the papal ministry is not the same as before,” he said. “…before and after his resignation” Benedict has viewed his task as “participation in such a ‘Petrine ministry’. Not in its “Office”, the governance of the Church in the world, but in its “essentially spiritual nature”, through prayer and suffering. [8] Therefore, Ganswein, as a close confidante of Benedict and familiar with his thought, demonstrates that Benedict still considers himself to be pope in some way.

Reply to Objection 2:  As I pointed out in my article above, reason and common sense dictate we must interpret Benedict through Benedict’s last acts as pope that touch upon the resignation – and not Benedict through Ganswein.  I have detailed in four separate, recent articles (here, here, here, and here) how the last acts and or words of Benedict XVI all demonstrate, conclusively, that he intended to fully resign the papacy, whether considered as “munus” or “ministerium.” As but one quick example, on the last day of his papacy, Pope Benedict XVI told pilgrims from Albano that as of 8pm on the evening of February 28th, 2013, he would ‘no longer be Supreme Pontiff’ (see discussion here). There is nothing Ganswein could say one day later, or three years later as in the case of his speech, and or there is absolutely no beneplenist reading of Ganswein that can change or adequately explain this. Yet, the beneplenists do not even bother to offer a credible interpretation of Benedict’s words to these pilgrims which could possibly squares with their theory or their interpretation of Ganswein. Instead, we get silence and ad hominems.

In response to the objection, we note Ganswein clearly states the Catholic Church “continues to have one legitimate Pope.” By this, he meant Pope Francis. He does goes on to state “but today we live with two living successors of Peter among us — who are not in a competitive relationship between themselves.” That statement is true, certainly in a sense, that both Francis and Benedict are two men who are or have been “successors of Peter” and both still yet live. Later on in the speech, Ganswein states “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 line again echoes what we just quoted from Ganswein, i.e., there is only one “legitimate” Pope – one true pope, and this is in context is clearly Francis, and not Benedict.  Benedict is no longer the true pope.

But what is this de factoexpanded ministry“? What Ganswein appears to intend is what Benedict essentially stated in his last audience (see my discussion of it here). In Benedict’s last audience, as I recapitulated earlier in this article, Benedict spoke of gaining “sons and daughters”, the sense of mutual “belonging”, etc., upon becoming pope, and that resigning the papacy will not revoke this bond of love, as he will continue in service of these ‘sons and daughters’, the Church, through prayer. This is something of a moral responsibility for Benedict, as one does not simply walk away from one’s loved ones. So, he continues on in this personal “ministry,” with this spiritual mandate – to pray for the Church (i.e., his “sons and daughters,” his “brothers and sisters”).

Ganswein speaks of “an expanded ministry” that is “de facto“, i.e., he is not speaking of an official expanded ministry, or office.  Ganswein is making something of a poetic point. In as much as Benedict’s felt moral mission as a former pope to continue in prayer encompasses the whole Church; Benedict’s moral mission is, in a manner of speaking, “Petrine-like” with regard to this scope, i.e., the whole Church. Thus, there is something of a remote similitude or analogy to Francis, who now in office as pope, has care of the whole Church. It is in this sense, Ganswein speaks of an “expanded” Petrine ministry. Indeed, he calls it “quasi-shared ministry” – but quasi means resemblance or likeness to a thing, but not really the thing itself.

Thus, in Ganswein’s poetic allusion, Francis is the “active member” of this expanded ministry, and Benedict the “contemplative” one. That does not mean Benedict is papal in any true sense, because Ganswein himself has already said there is only ‘one legitimate pope’, i.e., Francis, and not two. In no sense then is Ganswein asserting an equivalency of participating in the true Petrine munus or office. Indeed, Ganswein references Benedict’s Coat of Arms and its inclusions of words from a letter of the Apostle John, i.e., “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 — while not being any of them. St. Paul, for example, makes an even stronger reference to God’s “co-workers,” and God’s “fellow workers” (for example, see 2 Cor. 3:9, 6:1) without suggesting any sort of equivalency to God!

It might also be noted, that Ganswein on a couple or more occasions since the speech has strenuously rejected any controversial interpretations of his speech (e.g., here, and here). For example, in a CNA article regarding a Ganswein interview, CNA provides the following on Ganswein’s reaction to various interpretations of his speech:

“I saw from among the reactions that I was imputed to have said a number of things that I did not say. Of course, Pope Francis is the legitimate and legitimately elected pope,” Archbishop Gänswein said.

“Any talk of two popes, one legitimate, one illegitimate, is therefore incorrect.” What he did in fact say, Archbishop Gänswein added, was that Benedict continues to be present in prayer and sacrifice, which bears spiritual fruit.

[Source:  CNA report on Paul Badde’s interview of Ganswein]

And, then, from Diane Montagna’s LifeSiteNews article:

Presenting these concerns to Archbishop Gänswein, we asked him: “Did Pope Benedict intend to resign the Petrine munus as named in canon law (canon 332.2), or just the public actions that pertain to that munus?”

“I have already cleared up the ‘misunderstanding’ several times,” he responded. “It makes no sense at all, no, even more, it is counterproductive to insist on this ‘misunderstanding’ and to quote me again and again. This is absurd and leads to self-harm [Selbstzerfleischung]. I have clearly said that there is only one Pope, one legitimately elected and incumbent Pope, and that is Francis. Amen.”

[Source: Did Benedict really resign? Gänswein, Burke and Brandmüller weigh in by Diane Montagna. LifeSiteNews.  February 14, 2019]

Consequently, it is clear that Ganswein did not intend to suggest there is more than one pope, or any sort of papal diarchy, as these options are excluded in his interview responses above. Thus, the suggested reading of Ganswein offered in this article, and the replies to the objections, is a far more reasonable and plausible one than demanded by the Objectors – at times, to the point of ad hominem.

Objection 3:   Ganswein said of Benedict that: “He left the Papal Throne and yet, with the step he took on 11 February 2013, he has not abandoned this ministry.” Also, later on his his speech, Gänswein stated Benedict “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.” [9] According to Ganswein, Benedict has not “abandoned the office of Peter” and he speaks of an “irrevocable acceptance” of this office at the time of his election. Therefore, Ganswein, as a close confidante of Benedict and familiar with his thought, demonstrates that Benedict still considers himself pope in some way.

Reply to Objection 3:  Before proceeding to answer the objection above, we must remember what even Ganswein admits in his speech. There was opposition to Benedict’s resignation. Ganswein himself opposed it. However, here, in a speech on the occasion of a book release about Benedict XVI’s pontificate, Ganswein certainly wishes to cast only positive light on Benedict; not only on Benedict’s pontificate, but even on his decision to resign, and his role as pope emeritus.

Recalling this, we can understand that Ganswein does not wish to portray Benedict as having “abandoned” the office of Peter, as if by cowardice or neglect of duty. No, he immediately follows that statement by expounding on Benedict as “pope emeritus.” Unlike Pope Celestine V who resigned to become once again a hermit (but ended up locked away in prison); Benedict in contrast sets a new example as a former pope who will continue to pray for his “brothers and sisters”, the Church, as his personal, spiritual mandate, mission, or ministry. This echoes what Benedict said in his last audience about his resignation not ‘revoking’ the bond of love for his ‘sons and daughters’ he gained upon his election (see my discussion on this point in Regarding Benedict’s Last Audience). Having gained them, and formed a relationship with them, he does not “abandon” them by forgetting them upon his resignation. Rather, Benedict will continue on in the service of prayer for them, the Church, but just not as pope.  And indeed, Benedict 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.”

Benedict says by his resignation he is not “abandoning the cross” but remains “in a new way” by the crucified Lord.  He remains “in a new way”, not the same way, i.e., not as pope. Benedict’s spiritual mandate as a former pope, pope emeritus, is to pray for the Church – which as I pointed out in the article above, and in the Reply to Objection 2, and in Regarding Benedict’s Last Audience is ‘Petrine-like’ in its scope, i.e., for the whole Church.

Objection 4:  Ganswein uses the poetic traditional formulation from Duns Scotus in describing Mary’s Immaculate Conception in its appropriateness, its causality, and its reality: “Decuit, potuit, fecit” (“It was fitting; He could do it; He did it.”).  Ganswein applies this formulation to Pope Benedict’s “decision” to institute, on his own authority, a new “quasi shared ministry.” If that doesn’t tell you how profoundly he, or rather both of them, believe this action has fundamentally transformed the ontological reality of the papacy, I got nothing else. It’s sheer madness, unless it is a strategic deception, in which case it may be sheer brilliance. Remember, there is eyewitness testimony that Benedict approved this text. [10]

Reply to Objection 4:  Benedict did not “institute” an expansion or change of the Petrine office or Petrine ministry in any true sense. Ganswein himself said there is only one true, “legitimate” pope, and this is Francis. While Ganswein does speak of a “quasi shared ministry,” this does not mean an “actually shared ministry.” Ganswein is equivocating. “Quasi” means a resemblance to a thing, but not the thing itself. Ganswein speaks of “an expanded ministry” that is “de facto“, i.e., he is not speaking of an official, expanded ministry, or office — and certainly not the Petrine office or ministry. A more plausible understanding of his meaning is offered in the article above, and in the Reply to Objection 2 which applies to Objection 4 as well.

Objection 5: If Pope Benedict’s “resignation” was just like every previous Papal resignation, and “Pope Emeritus” is just a way of saying “resigned Pope”, why is Pope Benedict XVI referred to by +Ganswein, with Pope Benedict’s approval, as having created a “new institution” as “history’s first Pope Emeritus?”

How can Pope Benedict be simultaneously just exactly like all other resigned Popes, but at the same time “history’s FIRST Pope Emeritus”, “entirely different” from all previous Popes that resigned, and that “to date there has never been a step taken like that of Benedict XVI”?

That is a stone-cold violation of the Law of Non-contradiction.  Something can not BE and NOT BE at the same time.  Pope Benedict cannot both be and not be the first “Pope Emeritus”.  Something cannot be both “entirely different” and “entirely the same” as something else.  So, something MUST be wrong with the base premise, because the logical truth table here is yielding first-degree corollaries in violation the Second of the Three Laws of Thought.[11]

Reply to Objection 5: The Objector has misstated the Law of Non-contradiction, or perhaps, we might say more charitably, she has stated it incompletely. The Law on Non-contradiction is not “something can not BE and NOT BE at the same time” but rather, it is more properly put, something can not be and not be in the same sense at the same time.”

Having clarified the Objector’s error on this point, we can proceed to address her question: “How can Pope Benedict be simultaneously just exactly like all other resigned Popes, but at the same time “history’s FIRST Pope Emeritus”, “entirely different” from all previous Popes that resigned, and that “to date there has never been a step taken like that of Benedict XVI”?

As to the title of “pope emeritus,” it is true to say Benedict is the first to use the title. So, in this sense, he is the first “pope emeritus.” However, it’s not true to say, certainly in Benedict’s mind, that he was the first “pope emeritus” in fact. One must recall that in his exchange of letters to Cardinal Brandmuller, who had publicly taken exception to Benedict’s use of the title of “pope emeritus,” Benedict responded (emphasis added):

In your recent interview with the FAZ [Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung] you say that I created, with the construction of the Pope Emeritus, a figure that does not exist in the entirety of Church history. Of course, you know very well that popes have retired, even if very rarely. What were they afterwards? Pope Emeritus? Or what instead?

[Source: Two letters written by Benedict XVI to Cardinal Brandmüller were published in part in the German paper, Bild.  Edward Pentin of the National Catholic Register published these letters in full, and these may be read in their entirety in his article on the subject (see here).  This letter is from November 9, 2017.  I discussed this and the other letter here.]

In context, it is clear that Benedict is defending his use of “pope emeritus”.  Benedict takes issue with Brandmuller, who said “pope emeritus” does not exist in Church history. Benedict’s implicit argument, whatever its merits, is that there have been other retired popes in history, like himself, what were they, he asks, if not “pope emeritus.” Therefore, we can see Benedict believes the prior retired popes were “pope emeritus” in fact if not by title. So, in this sense, in Benedict’s thought, he is not the first ‘pope emeritus.’

Then, in what other sense might we understand Benedict is the first “pope emeritus”?  Well, it is clear he is the first to take the title, as noted above. However, beyond that, in the context of Ganswein speech which hearkens back to Benedict’s last audience (see discussion here); Benedict is the first to speak of the bond of charity between him and the “sons and daughters” (i.e., the Church) he gained upon becoming pope, and that his decision to resign does not revoke this bond. He continues to have this bond of love, and because of it, believes himself to have a moral responsibility, a spiritual, and “invisible” mandate “invisible”[12] to continue in the service of prayer for the Church. Here, in the words of Ganswein, Benedict is to be a “power station” of prayer; which again hearkens back to the last audience where Benedict speaks of ‘remaining in the service of prayer.’ In this sense, Benedict is the first to put some thought into what a “pope emeritus” might do for the Church, and what a pope emeritus might be for the Church.

And, indeed, he is the first to say so and do so. To underline this point, Ganswein points to the example of Pope Celestine V — who like Benedict — is the only other pope to retire on his own, without doing so in response to some surrounding crisis, such as in the Great Schism.  Speaking of Benedict, Ganswein notes in his speech:

Since then, his role — allow me to repeat it once again — is entirely different from that, for example, of the holy Pope Celestine V, who after his resignation in 1294 would have liked to return to being a hermit, becoming instead a prisoner of his successor, Boniface VIII (to whom today in the Church we owe the establishment of jubilee years). To date, in fact, there has never been a step like that taken by Benedict XVI.

Ganswein tells us his perspective as to why Benedict’s role is unique. Whereas Celestine V wanted to resign in order to return to living as a hermit in seclusion, Benedict wanted to stay at the Vatican in the service of prayer for the whole Church.  Again, in this sense, Benedict’s decision is unique.

In his interviews with Seewald, Benedict has spoken, certainly in his own case, of having a moral responsibility to resign the papacy when he no longer had the strength to fulfill its duties. So, it certainly seems Benedict, by his resignation, also hoped to establish a precedent for future popes to follow. That is, provide a positive example of how a former pope can continue to serve the Church through prayer, rather than continuing on the papal throne in weak, and enfeebled state – think John Paul II -when the Church might be better served by a more energetic pope on the throne of Peter. And, here, Ganswein could only wonder if futures popes might follow Benedict’s example.

Objection 6:  Ganswein speaks of a ‘defacto’ expanded ministry of which Benedict is the contemplative member, and that this is “why Benedict XVI has not given up either his name, or the white cassock.” Ganswein also explains this is “why the correct name by which to address him even today is “Your Holiness.”  Given Benedict’s style of address, and manner of dress, it is clear – both to Ganswein and Benedict – that Benedict still believes himself to be pope in some way.

Reply to Objection 6: In establishing this precedent, Benedict attached to it the title, “pope emeritus,” and attire (dressing in white), and the style of address (“his holiness”). I don’t intend to defend these choices, but I do believe more has been made of them than should be. However, it should be noted, Benedict issued no formal document defining “pope emeritus”, its style and dress, etc.  All this was done in a press release.

Still, as I have point out in this series of articles, the use of “emeritus” does have a basis in canon law where it is said one who loses an office due to resignation[13] may use the title ’emeritus’ – thus an honorific title that connotes the reality of a “loss of office” — which in itself clearly demonstrate Benedict knew he “lost the office” of the papacy, something denied by the Beneplenists.

As to Benedict’s wearing of white, this certainly may be a cause of confusion. I am not here to defend it. But, here to, I would point out things are not as bad as the Beneplenists make out.  Though Benedict continues to wear white, he wears a simple cassock but without the mozetta, a symbol of authority (see here). Furthermore, he no longer wears red shoes, also a symbol of authority.

So, this only goes to show that the Beneplenists often focus on what appears to be potentially problematic but without addressing points that may counter their position. Above for example, that “emeritus” does have a precedent in canon law, or that Benedict has given up the wearing of the mozetta and the red shoes, all symbols of authority.[footnote on apostolic blessings]

Further, I would just call to mind what I said in the article earlier. That is,  Ganswein makes various other 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”, and that Francis is the “legitimate”, i.e., true, pope. 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!” Also, Ganswein specifies in his speech that Benedict’s pontificate had beginning and an end: “…Benedict XVI, at the helm of the barque of Peter in the dramatic years 2005-2013.” None of these expressions are accounted for in the beneplenist interpretations of Ganswein speech.

Final Thoughts

I am open to receiving additional “Objections” which I will address, and include in this series of articles as appropriate. The reader is invited to send them to my email, provided below.

In the article above, and in my Replies to the Objections, I have offered a more plausible interpretation of Ganswein’s speech that is consistent with Benedict last acts and words as pope, and which is consistent with Ganswein’s rejection of Beneplenist interpretations of his speech, as well as Benedict himself calling such theories “absurd.”

The onus is on the Objectors to explain how this reading or one similar to it cannot possibly be the true one; as well as demonstrating that Objectors’ reading of Ganswein is the only possible one. This is a challenge the Objector fails.

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).

Notes:

[1] Here I mean the controversy over the St. Gallen mafia, and its pre-conclave efforts to influence the election of Cardinal Bergoglio, as well as to potentially influence Benedict so that he would resign. See my discussion of other lines of investigation into Benedict’s resignation that might be more promising [see Benedict’s Resignation: A Theory of the Case (Part 1 of 2)Benedict’s Resignation: A Theory of the Case (Part 2 of 2)Benedict’s Resignation, Canon 188, and Fraud]. Still, even if evidence were to arise to prove this theory/hypothesis; it would still be up to the canonists, “Universal Acceptance-ers”, and of course, a future pope, to undo such a Gordian Knot]

[2] See Pope Benedict XVI’s motu proprio, Normas Nonnullas and my discussion of it in Regarding Benedict’s Normas Nonnullas.

[3] Actually, in matter of giving due credit, the BiP website Non Veni Pacem operated by Mark Docherty was the first, to my knowledge, to call attention to Ganswein’s reference to Duns Scotus. Due credit aside, Mr. Docherty’s analysis of the import of the BiP question is wrong as outlined in the article and the Replies to the Objections.

[4] Canon 185: The title of emeritus can be conferred upon the person who loses an office by reason of age or by a resignation which has been accepted. (see Code of Canon Law…ed. Coriden, Green, et al, p. 109)

[5] See Benedict;s letter to Brandmuller on former popes being emeritus in fact, if not name.  I discuss this here, with links to the letters.

[6] Source: Eight years ago today, in a packed Piazza San Pietro, Pope Benedict made it clear that he was not validly resigning the Papacy.  Ann Barnhardt, February 28, 2021

[7] Roma Locuta Est has explored — and continues to do so — certain curiosities surrounding Benedict’s resignation (see herehere, and here); as well as mysteries surrounding the 2013 conclave (see The Conclave Chronicles). However, we here at Roma Locuta Est believe that only the Church can ultimately decide on any evidence uncovered; what it may or may not mean regarding the pontificates of Benedict and or Francis; and what, if anything, should be done about it. To anticipate that judgment, as the Objector and others certainly do, is exceedingly rash…to say the least.

[8] This objection is based on Mark Docherty’s article: https://nonvenipacem.com/2022/03/13/nine-years-ago-today-nothing-happened/

[9] This objection is based on Mark Docherty’s article: [https://nonvenipacem.com/2022/03/13/nine-years-ago-today-nothing-happened/].

[10] This objection is based on Mark Docherty’s article: [https://nonvenipacem.com/2018/12/09/was-the-immaculate-conception-a-proxy-for-the-expanded-petrine-ministryarchbishop-ganswein-thinks-so/]

[11]  From Ann Barnhardt’s article: https://www.barnhardt.biz/2018/12/10/if-pope-benedict-is-the-first-ever-pope-emeritus-doesnt-that-mean-that-his-ontological-state-is-different-from-the-popes-who-actually-resigned/

[12] See Seewald interviews.

[13] See note 4; Canon 185: The title of emeritus can be conferred upon the person who loses an office by reason of age or by a resignation which has been accepted. (see Code of Canon Law…ed. Coriden, Green, et al, p. 109)


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