May 22, 2022 (Steven O’Reilly) – There has been an interesting, recent development in the world of those arguing “Benedict is (still) pope” or BiP. I will get to this development in a moment. Readers of this blog are well aware that we here at Roma Locuta Est reject Benepapism, and have compiled various sets of articles arguing against it, including the Summa Contra BiP and the recently updated series The Case against those who claim Benedict is (still) pope.
Now, with regarding the interesting development, those following the Benepapist controversy are, no doubt, aware there are two general brands of Benepapism.
The first is what we might call here “Barnhardtian Benepapism” which argues Benedict XVI’s resignation was invalid due to the fact he held erroneous views of the papal office, e.g., that it might be bifurcated, etc. The “Barnhardtians” argue Benedict’s erroneous views led to a “substantial error” (cf. Canon 188) in his act of resignation in the Declaratio, thereby invalidating it. The “Barnhardtians” include the original founders of this movement, Ms. Ann Barnhardt, Mr. Mark Docherty (www.NonVeniPacem.com), and late-comer to the party, Dr. Edmund Mazza (NB: Roma Locuta Est has published recent rebuttals of Dr. Mazza’s various, ever-evolving takes on Benepapism. See: A closer look at Mr. Coffin’s evidence: Dr. Mazza’s Thesis 3.0; and for an prior version of Dr. Mazza’s theory: The Summa Contra Dr. Mazza).
The second brand of Benepapism is what we will call here “Cioncian Benepapism,” after the Italian journalist Andrea Cionci. The “Cioncians” argue Benedict essentially sabotaged his own resignation intentionally in order to make it invalid — all to fight the modernist Church, etc. The leading ‘Cioncians’ include Mr. Andrea Cionci, Ms. Estefania Acosta, and Br. Bugnolo…and it now appears, late-comer to the party, Mr. Patrick Coffin.
Although each of the Benepapist groups have reached the same, albeit wrong, conclusion that “Benedict is still pope,” the two theories are mutually exclusive on the key question of Benedict’s intent with regard to the resignation. For quite some time, the two sides have peacefully coexisted alongside the other. This has been the case even as the positions of the leading lights of each side further developed their respective theories over the last few years. Still, while the positions of the “thought leaders” on each side have hardened, the general Benepapist believer seems to be less dogmatic as to the competing theories than do the Benepapist personalities whose blogs, books, videos and podcasts they follow. Indeed, the Benepapist believers seem open to either argument, and may even argue either or both on the same occasion, as if hedging their bets.
However, it appears this period of peaceful coexistence between the ‘Barnhardtians‘ and ‘Cioncians‘ may be nearing the end, there are signs a Benepapist Civil War may be emerging. The first salvo was fired by Andrea Cionci who in an open letter to Ms. Barnhardt and Dr. Mazza –published on Patrick Coffins site — laid out the case for his theory against Barnhardtian Benepapism (see Cionci’s letter; entitled on Coffin’s site as “Andrea Cionci Replies to Ann Barnhardt and Dr. Ed Mazza on Substantial Error vs The Ratzinger Code“).
Mr. Cionci’s opening salvo received counter fire from Mr. Mark Docherty of the NonVeniPacem site in an article entitled “Four Questions for the BiP crowd who maintain Benedict knew what he was doing, did it on purpose, and remains the only true pope with his own full knowledge.” While I fully disagree with Mr. Docherty’s Benepapist beliefs, I can agree with several points he made against Mr. Cionci’s theory which parallel some of the points I’ve made before.
For example, I have previously argued Cionci’s theory would effectively make Benedict into a monster who created a situation in which millions of Catholics have followed an anti-pope for years, some to perdition. Mr. Cionci’s theory lacks common sense and logic. How can pretending not to be pope be a wiser and more preferable course of action than actually remaining as the visible, and active pope? How can one do more good for the Lord’s flock by pretending not to be its shepherd rather than by being that shepherd and doing precisely what the Lord commanded, ‘tending’ and ‘feeding’ the flock (cf. John 21:15-17)? See my full arguments against Cionci’s “Plan B” thesis (see Benedict’s Plan “B” from Outer Space and Benedict’s Plan B from Outer Space – the Sequel). Also, I have previously pointed out the apparent gnosticism of Mr. Cionci’s “Ratzinger Code” (see Regarding the “Ratzinger Code”).
Although Cionci’s and Docherty’s articles have a respectful tone toward the other, the fundamental differences between the two competing theories cannot be papered over. One should probably now expect a series of articles to be lobbed back and forth between each side [NB: Update as of 5/23/2022. Ann Barnhardt reposted Mr. Docherty’s article, introducing it with a few comments of her own (see here). A response by the Mr. Cionci is now likely guaranteed at this point]. While it once seemed sufficient among the Benepapists to agree that “Benedict is (still) pope,” it appears this may no longer be the case. The mechanics of why “Benedict is (still) pope” seems to be taking on greater importance, at least among some of the leaders of the movement.
Why this question would arise now is an interesting one. Part of the explanation may lie in Mr. Cionci’s revelation in his article that he will soon be releasing a “340-page investigative book entitled the “Ratzinger Code.”” However, that this disagreement might surface now may also be due to the fact Benedict grows increasingly more frail, and that there are rumors that Francis is in poor health.
Thus, there may be a nascent realization among the Benepapists that their messaging must soon become more intelligible and tighter than it is now for it to succeed with a wider Catholic audience if their cause is to survive, and prevail following the seemingly relative imminent demise of Benedict and or Francis.
That is, Benepapists cannot expect to be taken seriously if the public argument is “Benedict is still pope because he is either a strategic genius or theological fool.” Thus, perhaps it was inevitable that it might come to a Benepapist Civil War to decide the question once and for all, and if so, the ‘Cioncians‘ fired the first shot.
While it may be fun to pull out a bag of popcorn and watch the Benepapists now go at each other, the leading Benepapists might have better served their followers if they had put more effort into trying to resolve some of the questions that perplex them. As I argued in A Suggestion for Beneplenists before it’s too late, the leading Benepapists might have jointly agreed on a list of 5-10 simple questions to submit to Benedict that might resolve their doubts, one way or the other. There were ways to get these to him.
Instead, as I have written before, these leading lights of the BiP theory are making absolute statements such as ‘Benedict is definitely still pope,’ and that ‘Francis is definitely an anti-pope.’ Some have launched a petition for Catholics (see here) to sign, in which the petitioners declare they “remain faithful to Pope Benedict XVI.” Incredibly, their petition, amongst other things, declares that any future conclave held under certain conditions contrary to those specified by them would be invalid! The specified, invalidating conditions are said to include any conclave held while Benedict still lives, any conclave with the participation of cardinals named by Jorge Bergoglio, or any conclave held under provisions created by Jorge Bergoglio.
To say this is imprudent would be a gross understatement. It is utter folly. One can readily see the potential for schism is very real. One can only hope that some among the luminaries in the BiP movement might try to pull back some of their colleagues from the edge of the abyss that looms before them, and which they, like so many pied pipers, are leading others toward. Some leading Benepapists are painting themselves into a corner — or rather, walling themselves into one; one from which they and their followers may find it difficult to extricate themselves.
As a resource for those interested in arguments against the Benepapists, please take a look at The Case against those who claim Benedict is (still) pope. This series of articles looks at the arguments of the various Benepapists mentioned in 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 Parler or Gab: @StevenOReilly).
 While I coined the acronym “BiP” back in 2017 (see https://romalocutaest.com/2017/09/14/benedict-is-still-not-pope/), at least one leading Benepapist thought I had intended the term as a pejorative, even though it was literally an acronym for “Benedict is pope” theory. While I still occasionally use BiP, I have opted increasingly in recent months for the term “Benepapist” or “Benepapism,” which appear to me to be both more accurate and descriptive than other terms in use, such as “Beneplenist” or “Benevacantist.”
8 thoughts on “A Benepapist Civil War?”
A civil war? That’s extending the situation more than a little.
Coinci takes the base premise (invalid resignation, Benedict XVI never stopped being Pope because he never resigned the Papal Office as required by Canon Law) and draws conclusions from it – new conclusions, expanded; not essentially different in any fundamental way.
Discussion is not civil war. The discussions I’ve seen are interesting, civil, illuminating.
The true civil war is much deeper than you currently imagine … it is the one, true Roman Catholic Church, now hidden, whose Doctrine and Apostolic structure under one visible Pope has never essentially changed since it was founded by Our Lord, against the Novus Ordo NewChurch of the Freemasonic OWG anti-church which is fully exposed, highly visible, to be judged on its own merits which cannot be denied, upon which it and all who follow it will be judged. *That* is the real civil war – and vast numbers of souls are being lost for eternity, just as Our Lady of Fatima warned one hundred years ago.
Aqua, thanks for the comments.
I am not denying there are other conflicts within the Church that might be viewed as a “civil war.” But they were not the topic of this specific article.
It is certainly interesting and noteworthy that the leading Benepapist camps may be about to turn on the other. It makes sense this was bound to happen, because ultimately, with the approaching passing of Benedict and Francis, the potential messaging to the wider Catholic audience is at present scattered and confused and contradictory. Benepapism needs a tighter message if it is going to survive.
Beyond the conclusion “BXVI is still pope”, the two theories are incompatible. One cannot simultaneously hold that Benedict is a super-genius strategist who feigned a resignation, and that he is at the same time a theological fool who messed up something easy like a resignation. I’ve been arguing against BOTH views…it is long past time for the Benepapists to wrestle internally over the question.
Which is it, Aqua? Benedict the strategist, or Benedict the erroneous theologian?
“a list of 5-10 simple questions to submit to Benedict that might resolve their doubts”. I read early on that the problem with submitting questions and if they are answered by B16, then the resignation would have been invalid. The law essentially states that if the resignation is in doubt it is invalid. Answering the questions “officially” would confirm that there has been doubt. At that point he could actually abdicate and not just give up his duties (like he’s been in a coma), thus confirming the bi-papacy / anti-papacy of the last few years.
John, thanks for the comments.
I am not suggesting the questions be asked to overturn the resignation . I do think there are some basic questions where an answer might help many, more open-minded Benepapists see that the theory is false.
As for the danger answers might pose, I think there is greater danger in not answering — as some folks are already heading full speed into schism, such as in the recent Declaration and Petition mentioned in the article. My suggestion is intended to head that off, or at least minimize the damage.
They could ask questions like “in using the term ‘ministerium/ministero’ in the Declaratio, did you intend to retain any part of the papal office?”
There are ways to get these questions to BXVI, and for those he respects to prevail upon him the necessity of answering them to try to head off a Benepapist schism. However, the fact the leading Benepapists haven’t compiled such a list damages their overall credibility.
One Benepapist, in private correspondence, essentially said they wouldn’t believe anything Benedict did say to try to put their doubts to rest. The Benepapist said Benedict is “…in error, incapable of objectivity judging the reality that he has departed from.” This is a rather amazing stance to take, i.e., that nothing from Benedict could ease their doubts. If this were to be the position of leading Benepapists in response to actual answers from BXVI, I think the absurdity of their theories would be clearly exposed. Then again, perhaps that is why they have not opted to pursue a credible effort to get questions to BXVI — i.e., the leading Benepapists are afraid of the answers.
Thanks for the comments.
So you think B16 would really be truthful? I assume then you think he was being truthful that there were no black cassocks in Rome for him to change in to?
John, thanks for the reply.
It is clear that BXVI resigned. He said so in his Declaratio. His last audience supports it. The publishing of Normas Nonnullas supports it. His statement to the pilgrims of Albano shortly before 8pm on 2/28/2013 explicitly states it…’I will no longer be Supreme pontiff’…and his interviews with Seewald demonstrate he resigned.
Now, in terms of the black cassock. It is a bizarre statement. Was he making a joke? Who knows. But…wearing white does not make one still pope. He wears now only a simple white cassock. He stopped wearing the red shoes and the mozzetta, all symbols of authority as far as papal clothing goes. Benepapists never talk about the counter indicators on the white cassock thing. And, he no longer wears his papal ring. Gansweins in his speech spoke of it being removed.
So, is one really going to make a white cassock, minus the mozetta, and red shoes, and papal ring, a supporting pillar of Benepapism?
Mr. O’Reilly says, “So, is one really going to make a white cassock, minus the mozetta, and red shoes, and papal ring, a supporting pillar of Benepapism?”
As you well know, Mr. O’Reilly, it’s much, much more than that. That’s simply the small portion of “stained glass window” evidence for us uneducated Catholics. But you already know that.
thanks for the comment. The line you quote from my response above is in reply to a specific point about Benedict’s attire as emeritus. As it turns out, that is something many Benepapists focus a lot of time on — and for whom it is a big hang-up.
Unfortunately, they focus on the “white” but neglect to remember Benedict removed certain items from his attire to make clear he no longer held his former office, e.g., wearing a simple cassock, no mozzetta, no red shoes, and no Fisherman’s ring. The last three of these are symbols of authority. Never have gotten an answer about how that favorably fits into the BiP argument.
But, as to the rest of the “stained glass window” of ‘evidence’ behind Benepapism; I have provided detailed responses to BiP Objections. Those interested can read the key arguments against Benepapism here:
Thanks again for the comments.