Ms. Ann Barnhardt vs. the Law of Non-Contradiction: Ms. Barnhardt loses

May 30, 2022 (Steven O’Reilly) – In this article, we take a closer look at part of our article on Archbishop Ganswein’s speech (see Regarding Ganswein’s speech). In that article, we examined Ganswein’s speech and various Benepapist objections to the validity of Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation based on it.  Please see that article which includes a link to Ganswein’s speech, my take on Ganswein’s speech, as well as comments on how the Benepapists have misunderstood that speech. [NB: Please also check out the full “Regarding” series for arguments against Benepapism, including Objections and Replies in The Case against those who claim “Benedict is (still) pope”].

Earlier this month, Ms. Barnhardt reposted some of her comments on Ganswein’s speech and the Principle of Non-Contradiction (see here), based on one of her prior articles (see Note 1). While I addressed her original comments as a Reply to an Objection in Regarding Ganswein’s speech, I provide my reply to her comments here as its own article.

In Regarding Ganswein’s speech, we examined Ganswein’s speech, and various Benepapists Objections based on it, as noted above. From that article, in Objection #5, the Objector – Ms. Ann Barndhardt – attempts to cite the Principle of Non-contradiction to prove her point regarding Archbishop Ganswein’s speech.

Naturally, in the tug of war between Ms. Barndhardt and the Principle of Non-Contradiction, Ms. Barnhardt loses. Below, is the aforementioned Objection based on the musings of Ms. Barnhardt, and my reply (emphasis added):

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.[1]

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 of Non-contradiction is not “something can not BE and NOT BE at the same time.” Rather, the Law of Non-contradiction is more properly put, something can not be and not be at the same time and in the same sense.”  Ms. Barnhardt neglected that the law of non-contradiction includes “in the same sense.”  As we will see, that is key to understanding the false contradictions that arise in her objection.

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”?

Yes, Ganswein says explicitly that Benedict “introduced into the Catholic Church the new institution of “pope emeritus.” However, we may note that canon 185 says anyone whose ‘loses an office due to resignation’ may use the title “emeritus.”

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.[2]

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.  Thus, “emeritus” refers to having lost an office, i.e., in the case of the papacy, a “former pope.”

Thus, 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 is true to say in another sense that Benedict was not the first “pope emeritus” in fact. One must recall that in his exchange of letters with 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 in his reply, 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, Benedict is not the first ‘pope emeritus’ even if he was the one who introduced the title. That is, he only gave the name to the historical reality. So, in one sense Benedict is the same as other retired popes, but in another sense different in that he was the first to assume the title.

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 in Regarding Benedict’s Last Audience); 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”[3] mandate to continue in the service of prayer for the Church.

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 constructively do for the Church, and what a pope emeritus might be for the Church in retirement.

And, indeed, Benedict is the first to say so and do so. Here too, in one sense Benedict is the same as other retired popes but in this other sense, different. 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, i.e., 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.”

[Source: see Translated Speech]

Ganswein tells us his perspective as to why Benedict’s role is unique in retirement. 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 terms of how he approaches his role as “pope emeritus” — and in this sense he is different from prior retired popes.

Consider, 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[4]. So, it certainly seems Benedict, by his resignation, also hoped to establish a precedent for future popes to follow. Further, he wanted to 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 a weak, and enfeebled state – think John Paul II – when the Church might be better served by a having a more energetic pope on the throne of Peter. And, here, Ganswein could only wonder if futures popes might follow Benedict’s new example in this regard.

Final Thoughts

For those interested in the controversy over Ganswein’s speech, pleas see Regarding Ganswein’s speech, for an explanation of how the Benepapist reading of Ganswein is wrong. In addition, the article looks at several Benepapist Objections, and provides Replies to them.  Also, it is suggested for those interested in the Benepapist controversy, and the proofs against the Benepapists, to read The Case against those who claim “Benedict is (still) pope”.

Furthermore, to see how the current internecine debate amongst the Benepapists serves as an argumentum ad absurdum against Benepapism, see A Benepapist Civil War? and Benedict XVI: strategic genius or theological fool?.

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  or (or follow on Twitter: @S_OReilly_USA or on GETTR, Parler, or Gab: @StevenOReilly).


[1]  From Ann Barnhardt’s article:

[2] see Code of Canon Law…ed. Coriden, Green, et al, p. 109

[3] See for example the Seewald interview, “Benedict XVI: A Life (Vol II)”, p669. When Seewald asks about Benedict’s use of the honorific title “emeritus”, Benedict says: “In this formula both things are implied: no actual legal authority any longer, but a relationship which remains even if it is invisible.” Indeed, Benedict told Seewald explicitly this “legal-spiritual formula avoids any idea of there being two popes at the same time: a bishopric can only have one incumbent. But the formula also expresses a spiritual link, which cannot ever be take away.”

[4]  Peter Seewald. Light of the World. published 2010. p. 39). Benedict said: “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”

3 thoughts on “Ms. Ann Barnhardt vs. the Law of Non-Contradiction: Ms. Barnhardt loses

  1. These endless legal arguments that Catholics get consumed with are as boring as hell. Who cares? Francis is destroying the church, whether or not he is legally the pope. Can we focus on that for a change?


    1. G. Poulin, thanks for the comment. The arguments may be boring but the issue at stake is not inconsequential. The Leading Benepapists are on track to take themselves; and lead others as well into a schism.

      Francis is a huge problem that must be faced. However, it must be faced with reality; not the fantasy of Benepapism.




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