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.”