No, Patrick Coffin, Benedict is NOT “our pope”

December 2, 2022 (Steven O’Reilly) – Patrick Coffin recently produced and released a new video promoting Benepapism. The video is entitled Benedict Our Pope.  This is a follow up to his previous video titled Seven Pieces of Evidence That Francis Is an Antipope. I previously provided a rebuttal to the first of these two videos (see A Critical Review of Mr. Coffin’s “Seven Pieces of Evidence”).  Before that, I provided commentary on Mr. Coffin’s interview of Dr. Mazza on the topic of Benepapism (see A closer look at Mr. Coffin’s evidence: Dr. Mazza’s Thesis 3.0). 

In this present article, I will address Mr. Coffin’s most recent video and its “killshot” evidence.  The article will address follow points:

  1. “BiP” or “Benepapism”?
  2.  A “fair hearing” for Benepapism?
  3. Priests who refuse to say the name of Francis in the canon of the mass — But ONE who definitely will
  4. Benedict intentionally created an “impeded” see?  Really?
  5. The munus and the example of the Baptismal Formula?
  6. Munus is a ministry; and the principle of logical entailment
  7. Synonyms for the “Papacy,” and thus, which in turn entail the munus
  8. Instead of Declaratio, Mr. Coffin prefers the title Renuncio — But has he seen the title in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis?
  9. Renunciation of the papal administration entails renunciation of the papal office
  10. Apostolic Blessings and other stuff

Mr. Coffin’s video ran about 25 minutes, so my apologies for the length of this response in advance.  I did number and organize the segments so the reader can digest the article in bite sized segments if they do not have the time to feast upon it all at once.

With regard to Mr. Coffin’s references to Benepapists who accept Ms. Barnhardt’s “substantial error” version of Benepapism as opposed to the version he espouses; though it is tempting to comment on  Mr. Coffin throwing other Benepapists under the bus, I’ll pass in the interest in space. However, I will point the reader to my sideline commentary on this catfight between Benepapists (see A Benepapist Civil War?, and Benedict XVI: strategic genius or theological fool?).  The funny thing is, the central controversy at issue between the two opposing Benepapist camps is whether Benedict is still pope because he is a strategic genius or is it because he is a theological fool!  But I digress.

Some of the content below is taken from existing articles, and or my book Valid? The Resignation of Pope Benedict XVI.  So, without further ado, my rebuttal of Mr. Coffin’s video and supposed “kill shot” evidence follows.

1. BiP or Benepapism?

Mr. Coffin complains that opponents of the “Benedict is (still) pope” theory use “cutesy” and “condescending” terms for the theories, like “Beneplenism“, “Benepapalism“, etc.  The term he says prefers is “BiP”.  Here, I’d point to Mr. Coffin I am the one who coined the term “BiP” as a straightforward acronym for “Benedict Is (still) Pope” (see here).  I point that out because some Benepapists found even that condescending, such are their sensitivities, apparently.

For example, some BiP adherents, like Br. Alexis Bugnolo, attacked me for my use of the term “BiP” as being condescending! All I can say is, I never intended BiP to be condescending or insulting.  I just wanted a shorthand way to refer to the controversy for ease of writing. That said, when I began drafting my book (Valid? The Resignation of Pope Benedict XVI) I settled on the terms “Benepapism” and “Benepapist” to signify a belief that Benedict remained pope after February 28, 2013.

Why the change in my use in nomenclature? Well, given that Benedict is ever more advanced in years, and ever weaker; I thought “BiP”  or “Benedict IS pope” would not be a term that has a long shelf life ahead of it.  Clearly, it would awkward to use after his death. Therefore, I opted to pivot to another term less contingent on Benedict’s situation. I didn’t think “Beneplenism” or “Benevacantism” were accurate terms for various reasons. Thus, I coined “Benepapism” and “Benepapist.”  Again, as with BiP, neither term is intended to be insulting or condescending.  The “things” needs to be called something.

But, if Mr. Coffin still likes BiP, he might have to deal with Br. Bugnolo who despises the term as condescending!

2.  A “fair hearing” for Benepapism?

Around the 15:15 mark of the video, Mr. Coffin speaks of supposed reasons some Catholic don’t want to give a “fair hearing” to the arguments which claim Benedict is still pope. Mr. Coffin goes on a tear, making various accusations, e.g.:  Catholics who oppose Benepapism have come up with “unlimited list of reasons” why they don’t want to give a “fair hearing” to the evidence Benedict did not validly resign the papacy, and why Francis is an antipope…Mr. Coffin says it’s almost as if they are more “comfortable” with Amoris Laetitia being official teaching, and “who am I to judge” and promoting people like James Martin SJ, or the abuse of  Cardinal Zen of Hong Kong, than they are with the idea that Benedict is the true pope in an impeded see…it’s as if they “prefer” everything that Francis has done is Catholic teaching, etc.[1]

As to Mr. Coffin’s assertions above, I cannot speak for the others who oppose Benepapism. But, for myself, I will say this.  Anyone who has ever read my blog, or at least even just fairly sampled its topics, knows that in no way can I be lumped in with any bit of what Mr. Coffin describes above.[2] I have long considered the current pontificate with a wary, and critical eye; and have examined all sorts of explanations, theories, and solutions to this pontificate. This search for solutions included an initial, favorably pre-disposed, open-minded examination of Benepapism.

At the very first, I was hoping there was something to Benepapism. But then I started looking at the evidence of the Last Audience, the Declaratio, etc., and the claims made for these document by the Benepapists. As much as I detest and detested what Francis is doing to the Church, and as much as I wanted an easy solution, it was clear Benepapism did not hold up to critical examination (see my first article on it here: Benedict is NOT pope). No one can say I didn’t give it a “fair hearing.”

I have continued to research and evaluate Benepapist arguments, and write on the subject. I have written a Summa contra BiP, updated it in The Case against those who claim “Benedict is (still) pope”, and penned a book against it (Valid? The Resignation of Pope Benedict XVI).  So, I am very acquainted with the topic. The more I have looked into Benepapism, and the arguments advanced by Benepapists such as Mr. Coffin, Ms. Acosta, Br. Bugnolo, Mr. Cionci, Ms. Barnhardt, Dr. Mazza, et al, the more convinced I have become it is nonsense, relying on bad logic, faulty readings of canon law, gross misinterpretations of the key documents (e.g., for example, see Regarding Benedict’s Last AudienceA closer look at Mr. Coffin’s evidence: Dr. Mazza’s Thesis 3.0), etc.

I am confident Mr. Coffin and I probably share many views about Francis. Setting aside Mr. Coffin’s sanctimonious assertions as to the motives of those who deny Benedict is still pope; I can assure Mr. Coffin and the reader it is certainly not out of any particular love or loyalty to Francis that I argue against Benepapism.  It is out of love of the truth and common sense. Whatever the solution to Francis is, it will come in God’s time. Whatever that solution is, it will be one that must and can withstand scrutiny, and must and will stand solidly on its own merits.  Something Benepapism cannot do. A bad theory is no substitute for a good one; and Benepapism is a bad theory in all its popular variants. Whatever the solution or explanation of this pontificate is in the end, it will not be a Benepapist explanation.

3.  Priests who refuse to say the name of Francis in the canon of the mass — But ONE who definitely will

Early in his video (1:10), Mr. Coffin reveals he knows of priests who do not feel they can say the name of Francis in the mass for the pope. I have no reason to doubt Mr. Coffin. But, certainly, this is no proof that Benedict is pope, as there are far more good priests, active ordinaries, and cardinals who do say his name.

That said, while I do not know the names of these priests who can’t or won’t say the name of Francis in the mass, we are able to say the name of one priest who is not numbered among them. That priest is the former pope himself, Benedict XVI. The evidence is that Benedict does, in fact, say the name of Francis in the canon of the mass  This evidence comes by way of Br. Bugnolo’s blog, Br. Bugnolo’s transcription of Don Minutella, and out of the mouth of Don Minutella himself in a video (see Benedict names “always and only Pope Francis” in the mass).

This evidence alone demolishes the particular brand of Mr. Coffin’s Benepapism which is based on the belief Benedict intended to keep the papacy for himself even as he created a self-impeded see.  However, if Mr. Coffin’s thesis is true, why does Benedict say the name of Francis in the mass? Mr. Coffin can have no credible explanation for this.

4. Benedict Intentionally created an “impeded” see?  Really?

Beginning briefly at the 4:40 mark, and later continuing at the 17:00 mark in the video, Mr. Coffin advocates for the theory that Benedict intentionally created an “impeded see.” That is, Benedict intentionally resigned only the ministerium/ministry of the papacy; but retained the munus/office of the papacy. In other words according to Mr. Coffin, he resigned the doing of the papacy, not the being of the papacy. Consequently, he remains pope in the view of Mr. Coffin.  There are other variations of that theory. For example, some might deny the resigning of the ministerium has any effect at all, since, they argue, it is a meaningless act with respect to canon law. But, the net effect is the same.  This theory has been given the name of Benedict’s “Plan B” by Andrea Cionci.  I previously had an internet back and forth exchange with Mr. Cionci on this “Plan B”.  See my articles Benedict’s Plan “B” from Outer Space and Benedict’s Plan B from Outer Space – the Sequel.

Why on earth would Benedict do such a thing?  Essentially, the Benepapists suggest that Benedict was “surrounded” by modernist enemies, and was unable to govern the Church.  He resigned the ministerium to keep the papacy out of the hands of the Church’s enemies.  Not able to deal with corruption, in Mr. Coffin’s words, “What he could not fix, he featured.”

However, such a theory is, to put it as charitably as possible, absurd.  Such a theory necessarily implies Benedict is guilty of dissembling and lying to the faithful.  Despite Mr. Coffin’s attempt to deny it — Benedict “never deceived a soul” he claims, this theory does in fact make Benedict a monster because he allowed an anti-pope to assume practical control of the Vatican and the entire Catholic Church, thus leaving the vast majority of the faithful to believe Francis is a valid pope, and leaving the faithful without a true pope who would protect them.

Mr. Coffin and his fellow Benepapists, as much as they try, cannot sugar coat this. Quite simply, such a theory means that Benedict has left the flock of the Lord unprotected against ravaging wolves, and against whom Benedict has taken absolutely no corrective action to protect the faithful — even though he supposedly remains true pope.  Such a theory essentially means that Benedict thought he could better protect the faithful by pretending not to be pope, than to actually be the pope — and do what a pope should do to protect the faithful.  Utter. Nonsense.

The theory suggests there is nothing else that the Benedict of this theory might have done differently, but again that is absurd.  To insure the election of a good pope, this Benedict might have changed conclave rules so that only a small group of his most trusted cardinals (at the time, for example, Caffara, Meinser, Brandmuller, Burke) would be eligible to vote in a conclave. He had the authority to do it, and there is precedent in Church history. Yet, instead, Francis has now appointed a majority of vote eligible cardinals, and appointed many bishops throughout the world, etc.  In the end, the Benedict of this theory has left the Church in worst shape, and with worst prospects than it had when he ‘faked’ his own resignation. Under this theory, Benedict motivations and action make absolutely no logical sense.

Then, Mr. Coffin mentions the ridiculous Ratzinger Code, wherein it is alleged Benedict is communicating the truth in obscure and indirect ways to those who believe. But wait. The lead advocate of this theory, Andrea Cionci, published a best-selling book about this code — so now Benedict’s enemies know Benedict ‘secret’ code now too!!  Huh, what? Doesn’t that blow Benedict’s cover?  The reality is, the Ratzinger Code exemplifies the level of cognitive dissonance present amongst the leading Benepapists.  Cognitive dissonance among these Benepapists has been cranked up to level 11.

In the interest of keeping this rebuttal as short as possible, I won’t go into a detailed dissection of the Ratzinger Code here. However, the reader should check out the unintended humorous example that appeared on Br. Bugnolo’s website, which I commented upon in Ratzinger Code: “Don’t believe your lying eyes”.  The example given lays bare the level 11 cognitive dissonance.  In addition, there is my rebuttal of Mr. Cionci’s response to my article (see my article: A Response to Andrea Cionci and his “Ratzinger Code”). I have also addressed the Ratzinger Code here, as well as in Chapter 1 and Chapter 4 of my book, Valid? The Resignation of Pope Benedict XVI.

If the reader, having first perused my articles/book on Cionci’s Ratzinger Code, believe my assessment harsh, then he or she should read Dr. Robert de Mattei’s assessment of Cionci and his writings (see About Andrea Cionci).

Ok…now having gotten the preliminaries out of they way, we can move on Mr. Coffin’s “kill shot” evidence.

5.  The munus and the example of the Baptismal Formula?

First, let us quote the key portion of Benedict resignation declaration in his Declaratio:

For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry (ministerio) of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.

Around the 6:24 point in the video, Mr. Coffin cites his ‘most important evidence,’  what he calls — drum roll please — “the KILL SHOT.” This involves the claim Benedict did not resign the munus as required by Canon 332§2; but that he instead used ministerium/ministerio, or the “ministry”, in the Declaratio.  Mr. Coffin says words are important.  He cites the scandalous case of a priest who had been involved in a larage number of invalid baptisms because he had used the invalid formula “we baptize...” instead of “I baptize you.

Yes, words are of vital important in the sacraments. However, Mr. Coffin’s analogy fails because, unlike Baptism, a papal resignation is not a sacrament.  The relevance of Mr. Coffin’s example is thus doubtful.  There is no formula for papal renunciations.  Common sense suggests why there is none. Imagine an extreme example of a pope who simply sailed away into the sunset, ignoring all entreaties to explain himself, and appeals to return.  Maybe he had a nervous breakdown. Maybe the pope fell into a permanent vegetative state. Maybe he came down with some undiagnosed mental disorder unknown to everyone else? Maybe he silently went into apostasy?  Who knows. For the example it does not matter.  The point is only, the pope simply walked off.

If after some interval of time the pope simply would not be prevailed upon to either reply or return, or was incapable of responding to such pleas, the Church would rightly consider the Chair of Peter vacant, and move on to elect a new pope. The Church would rightly conclude this pope withdrew his will from being pope any longer — and thus had renounced the papacy.  No “words” would be necessary in the least. The Church would not be bound to wait indefinitely for the vacating pope to return.

In the case of Benedict, setting aside for the moment the debate over ministerium and munus, Benedict said he resigned “the ministry of the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of Peter…in such a way…that the See of Rome would be vacant” and he said a new conclave is now necessary to elect a successor.  It is clear what Benedict intended to do, and was doing. If the See of Rome, the See of Peter is vacant, then there is no pope.   Further, since the time of his resignation, he has not attempted to govern, to correct heretics, to appoint bishops, to appoint cardinals, etc.  In sum, he has not acted as a pope would or should.  He has made no attempt to act as pope. It is evident what this means to anyone with common sense: Benedict gave up the papacy, certainly by an act of his will, evidenced through his actions and inactions; as well by his expressed will to vacate the See of Rome, the See of Peter, and to call for a new conclave to elect a “a new Supreme Pontiff.”

The point isn’t really even debatable.

6.  Munus is a ministry; and the principle of logical entailment

Now, while there is a formula for valid baptisms, as well as for other sacraments, there is no formula, canonical or not, for a valid papal renunciation. Mr. Coffin will not be able to produce a canonically required formula for a valid papal renunciation.  Indeed, Canon 332§2 which governs papal renunciations explicitly mentions two requirements for a valid resignation.  Neither of those requirements involves any necessary formula of what word or words may or may not be used for a valid resignation.[3] In fact we know other words might be used, for example, one might say “I renounce the papacy“, and this would be sufficient (see Liber Sextus[4]).

Mr. Coffin goes on to cite Ms. Estefania’s Acosta’s study of the use of munus and ministerium in canon law.  However, there are problems with her study on a couple of grounds. First, our search to understand ministerium or munus need not be restricted to meanings found in canon law, for example, see Canon 17.[5]  Br. Bugnolo made various specious arguments to reject this use of Canon 17 to justify looking outside of canon law for clarifications, etc., but it was demonstrated conclusively Bugnolo’s logic, and Bugnolo’s understanding of canon 17 was faulty and erroneous [NB:  to understand why, see Br. Alexis Bugnolo’s Faulty Logic, and Faulty Comprehension with Respect to Canon 17 which gives Bugnolo’s initial objections.  The reader is invited to read the exchange between us and decide for themselves why Bugnolo made no further reply].

At the around the 12:45 point in his video, Mr. Coffin, lauding Cardinal Ratzinger’s knowledge of Latin, and emphasizing that Ratzinger had “direct supervision” and “input” over the editing the new code of Canon Law in 1983, says that Ratzinger would know that “munus can be used sometimes interchangeably with ministerium, but not the reverse!”  Again, we are not bound to only use canon law per Canon 17.

Per Canon 17, we can look at other documents outside of canon law like Lumen Gentium to clarify our understanding of Canon 332§2.  For a more detailed treatment of the meaning of  munus and ministerium in light of Lumen Gentium, see Chapter 1 of my book or the recently updated treatment of the same topic in my recent article Lumen Gentium Destroys Benepapism in Toto.

I will not provide the full restatement of that article here, but will list some brief points from the linked article above to demonstrate the validity of Benedict’s resignation.  That article examines Lumen Gentium 18 and Lumen Gentium 20 for what light it sheds on the ministerium vs. munus debate . The text of Lumen Gentium 20 explicitly states:

Latin, from LG 20:
…Constituerunt itaque huius modi viros ac deinceps ordinationem dederunt, ut cum decessissent, ministerium eorum alii viri probati exciperent. Inter varia illa ministeria quae inde a primis temporibus in Ecclesia exercentur, teste traditione, praecipuum locum tenet munus illorum qui, in episcopatum constituti, per successionem ab initio decurrentem, apostolici seminis traduces habent. (source: Here)

English, from LG 20
…They (the apostles) therefore appointed such men, and gave them the order that, when they should have died, other approved men would take up their ministry.  Among those various ministries which, according to tradition, were exercised in the Church from the earliest times, the chief place belongs to the office of those who, appointed to the episcopate, by a succession running from the beginning, are passers-on of the apostolic seed. (Source: Here)

As can be clearly seen, the text is explicitly teaching that among the “various ministries” is the “office (munus) of those” appointed to the episcopate.  That is to say, given it is said a munus is among the various ministries, the text is clearly stating of the relationship between the two: a munus is a ministry. Thus, because the munus is a ministry (ministerium), the ministry “entails” or “includes” the munus.

There is more. In Lumen Gentium 18 (again, read my article for more detail), we also see that the papacy is clearly listed as one of a “variety of ministries,” instituted by Christ, and so we can speak of the Petrine ministry.[6]  Two sections later, Lumen Gentium 20 goes on to speak of “the office (munus) granted (by the Lord) individually to Peter, the first among the apostles, is permanent and is to be transmitted to his successors.” So, among the “variety of ministries” instituted by Christ (cf LG 18), aside from the apostles and the office of their successors (cf LG 20); Christ also instituted the Petrine office (munus).  But still, we are speaking of one and the same event, whether of the Lord “instituting” the Petrine ministry/ministerium among a “variety of ministries” (cf LG 18), or the Lord “granting” the Petrine office/munus to Peter (cf LG 20). Therefore, given a munus is a ministry, it is manifestly clear in the case of the papacy, the Petrine ministry/ministerium instituted by Christ logically entails or includes the office/munus granted by the Lord to Peter, and which is “transmitted to his successors.”

The import should be clear to the reader at this point. Given the Petrine ministry logically entails the Petrine munus, then if one resigns the Petrine ministry, one necessarily resigns the Petrine munus.[7]  Therefore, by resigning the “Ministry of the Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter”, Benedict resigned the Petrine munus.  Therefore, the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI is valid.

Now, the answer above is sufficient to refute Mr. Coffin, Mr. Cionci, Ms. Acosta, and Bugnolo on all having to do with the debate over the ministerium vs. munus debate.

But still, let’s look at a few other points.

7.  Synonyms for the “Papacy,” and thus which in turn entail the munus

Canon 332§2 speaks of resigning the munus, but as we have seen, the word itself, munus, is not required.  We have also seen that other words such as papacy may be used in a valid papal resignation, e.g., “I resign the papacy” would be a valid resignation formula.  This is admitted by the Benepapists like Acosta, and Cionci, et al. Therefore, it is true that any word or words that are synonymous with the papacy logically and necessarily entail or “include” the concept of the munus; and would thus similarly could be part of a valid papal renunciation.

In Benedict’s Declaratio he used such a phrase when he said the “ministry of the bishop of Rome, successor of Saint Peter.” It should be self-evident that this is a reference to the papacy, especially in light of our earlier treatment of Lumen Gentium, where the papacy is clearly listed among the “various ministries” instituted by Christ (cf LG 18).

Other similar expressions have been used to describe the papacy. Up to and including the election of Pope Paul VI, papacies were officially inaugurated by a papal coronation mass. At this mass, the pope would receive the symbols of his office to symbolize the commencement of his papacy. For example, a new pope would receive the pallium, and the Fisherman’s ring; all symbols of his office.

However, Pope John Paul I did not have a coronation mass using the papal tiara given that following the council the papacy had moved away from some of the pomp historically associated with the office. So, instead of a papal coronation mass to inaugurate John Paul I’s assumption of the Throne of St. Peter, there was a mass to “inaugurate the Petrine Ministry of the Bishop of Rome,”[8] where the new pope received the pallium and the Fisherman’s ring. The phrase is essentially identical to that used by Benedict in his Declaratio. The opening of his homily, which is here translated from Latin, reads:

In this sacred celebration, which takes place as the solemn beginning of the ministry [ministerii] of the Supreme Pastor of the Church, placed on our shoulders, we turn our minds primarily to adoring and praying to God, the infinite and eternal, who, by his inexplicable design, human arguments, and his most kind condescension, has raised us to the chair of blessed Peter.[9]

Given the context of the mass, the reception of the pallium and Fisherman’s ring, it is clear he is speaking of the papacy. John Paul further speaks of the “fearful ministry (ministerio) to which we have been chosen.”[10],

When we look at the inauguration mass of Pope Benedict XVI’s papacy, we find similar language to that used for John Paul I. The mass to mark Benedict’s assumption of the papacy was called, in Latin, “Sollemne Initium Ministerii Summi Eccelesiae Pastoris,”[11] or the “solemn commencement of the Ministry of the Supreme Pastor of the Church.” Again, it is clear that by “ministry of the Supreme Pastor of the Church” that Benedict is speaking of the beginning of his papacy.

Soon after his election, Pope Benedict XVI in a homily during a mass in the Sistine Chapel, repeatedly used ministerium in a reflection on his election.[12] For example, Pope Benedict, in Latin, spoke of “The Eucharist, the heart of Christian life and the source of the good news of the Church, is an essential, permanent and central part of the Petrine ministry (ministerii) entrusted to us.”[13]  It is clear he is speaking of the papacy, and all that it entails or includes. Here Benedict speaks of the Petrine ministry “entrusted” to him – by which he can only mean the papacy, which was entrusted to him by the cardinals at his election. Benedict uses parallel language in his Declaratio, wherein he said: “I renounce the ministry (ministerio) of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals.”[14] In other words, Benedict is speaking of his election as “Supreme Pontiff” because that is what the cardinals “entrusted” to him, i.e., the papacy (See Normas Nonnullas 87, Universi Dominici Gregis 88).  Thus, when speaking of the “Petrine ministry,” or the “ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of St. Peter,” it should be evident for all with eyes to see, and ear to hear, that Benedict is speaking of the papacy, which necessarily entails the munus.

In this article, we have looked at the use of “ministry” (ministerium) with respect to the papacy going back to Lumen Gentium, and then followed numerous examples, in various forms, of “ministry” being used of the papacy, each using a form of ministerium – for example: “the Petrine Ministry of the Bishop of Rome“; “the ministry of the Supreme Pastor of the Church“; “Petrine ministry,” etc.  Then, of course, there is Benedict’s use of “the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter” in the Declaratio.  It is clear that such titles incorporating ministerium have been used to refer to the papacy, and thus these entail the meaning of munus which the Benepapists profess is required by Canon 332§2.

So, by using “the ministry (ministerio) of the Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter,” Benedict signified the papacy.  Therefore, by renouncing “the ministry (ministerio) of the Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter”, Benedict necessarily renounced all that entails, including the Petrine munus.

Finally, as an aside, we recall in this article we have witnessed examples of the “ministries” instituted by Christ, including that of Peter and his Successors (cf Lumen Gentium 18), as well as the many examples of ministerium/ministry used within various phrases in practice to signify the papacy over the course of the subsequent papacies of John Paul I, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI. Thus, it is clear, such usages with regard to the papacy as papacy are precedented, certainly by the force of the custom of the Apostolic See. Therefore, in such a case, we can appeal to Canon 27 which states “Custom is the best interpreter of law.” [15]

Therefore, given as we have seen, and as Benepapists admit, “I renounce the papacy” is a valid formula with which to renounce the papacy with respect Canon 332§2.; and, given, Benedict’s use of the “the ministry (ministerio) of the Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter” must be understood to signify the papacy; we must conclude the renunciation of Pope Benedict XVI was valid.

8.  Mr. Coffin prefers the title “Renuntiatio” — But has he seen the title in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis?

In his video, circa the 17:10 mark, it is interesting to note that Mr. Coffin says that Benedict’s resignation document, Declaratio, should have been entitled the “Renuntiatio.” This is indeed interesting.

In my book, I cited Fr. John Rickert’s observation and argument based on the actual title of Benedict’s renunciation as found in the official records of the Apostolic See.  In the Acta Apostolicae Sedis (AAS), Benedict’s resignation document is titled: Declaratio Summi Pontificis De Muneris Episcopi Romae, Successoris Sancti Petri Abdicatione.[16] Fr. Rickert notes this title uses a form of munus and speaks of the abdication of the Bishop of Rome.[17]  If one looks in Leo F. Stelten’s Dictionary of Ecclesiastical Latin for the definition of Abdicatione (abdication), one finds that abdictio-ionis and abdico-are are respectively defined as “a renouncing” or “to renounce” (see p. 1). Therefore, this title alone in the authoritative AAS meets the condition that Benepapists read into Canon 332§2 with regard to the munus.

It is clear this title in the AAS demonstrates that Benedict’s use of ministerium within the body of the Declaratio must be interpreted as a synonym of munus. That is to say, given the AAS title is “Declaration of Supreme Pontiff on the abdication of the office (munus) of the Bishop Rome, Successor of Saint Peter,” then the declaration I renounce the ministry (ministerio) of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter” must necessarily and definitively be interpreted as synonymous with that title. Consequently, Mr. Coffin’s argument fails.  The renunciation of Benedict XVI was valid.

9. Renunciation of the papal administration entails renunciation of the papal office

Fr. John Rickert, FSSP, has made another powerful argument in his exchange with Dr. Mazza. First, Fr. Rickert cites canon 331 in Latin and English, and then comments:

Can. 331 (Latin) — Ecclesiae Romanae Episcopus, in quo permanet munus a Domino singulariter Petro, primo Apostolorum, concessum et successoribus eius transmittendum, Collegii Episcoporum est caput, Vicarius Christi atque universae Ecclesiae his in terris Pastor; qui ideo vi muneris sui suprema, plena, immediata et universali in Ecclesia gaudet ordinaria potestate, quam semper libere exercere valet (emphasis added).

Can. 331 (English) — The bishop of the Roman Church, in whom continues the office given by the Lord uniquely to Peter, the first of the Apostles, and to be transmitted to his successors, is the head of the college of bishops, the Vicar of Christ, and the pastor of the universal Church on earth. By virtue of his office he possesses supreme, full, immediate, and universal ordinary power in the Church, which he is always able to exercise freely (emphasis added).

Having given the canon, Fr. Rickert observes (emphasis added):

If a pope renounces the administration of his office, he necessarily renounces the office itself, because the office per se (vi muneris)[18] entails the right to act. Thus, Pope Benedict’s renunciation of his administration entails renunciation of the papal office. That is why he goes on to express the results, which he is clearly cognizant of: the Chair of St. Peter will be vacant, and a new pope must be elected.[19]

By way of an example of this principle, we might imagine a man who plays second base on a professional baseball team.  If he were to walk off the field and say, “I will no longer play second base for this team ever again,” then we understand he renounced his position (“office”) of second baseman. One plays second base in virtue of holding the position of second baseman. If one resigns the playing (doing) of second base, one necessarily resigns the position (office) of second baseman as the renunciation of playing second base entails the renunciation of the position (“office”) of second baseman.  It would be meaningless to say we do not have anyone who plays second base, but we still have a second baseman!

Benedict’s resignation was valid.

10. Apostolic Blessings and other stuff

Around the 19:30 mark, Mr. Coffin raises questions about why Benedict still wear’s white, and gives apostolic blessings.  Quickly, Mr. Coffin’s presentation of the facts are deficient.  While Benedict does wear white, he wears a simple white cassock.  He no longer wears the mozetta that he would have worn as pope, and he intentionally decided not to wear it for this reason. So there is a difference. Further, Benedict no longer wears the Fisherman’s Ring, a sign of the papal office.  Archbishop Ganswein himself was a witness of its removal.  Further, Benedict has adopted the use of the title of “pope emeritus” in his case.  While he never formalized or defined this title, by analogy we may look to canon 185:

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.[20]

Canon 185 explicitly states that this honorific title of “emeritus” may be used by one who “loses an office…by a resignation.” Granted, when drafted, this canon did not deal with the papacy, as it speaks of a “resignation which has been accepted.” However, we can certainly see that this Canon served as analogy for Benedict. After all, Benedict supervised the editing of the code of canon law, something Mr. Coffin is fond of reminding us. Thus, we can be reasonably be sure he had this canon in mind when looking for a title for his status as a former pope. Thus, his use of the title of emeritus is itself an admission that he has ‘lost his office‘ (munus/officium) via his resignation in the Declaratio.

Now, with regard to apostolic blessings. It is true that in at least a couple of private letters to at least Cardinal Brandmüller and Cardinal Sarah, the pope emeritus concluded “with my Apostolic Blessing.”

The Benepapists claim that only a pope can give an apostolic blessing. This is partly true. The authority to give apostolic blessings does rest in the pope; however, the pope can and does delegate this authority to others.[21] On some occasions a certain solemn rite and formula are prescribed, but for others this is not the case.

By what authority does Benedict give apostolic blessings? It may be the case that Pope Francis delegated the right to his predecessor, the Pope Emeritus Benedict, either with or without certain conditions attached to this right. Per Canon 1167§1, Pope Francis certainly would have had the authority to do so. That he might do so should not be a surprise. Bishops are accorded the right to give a certain number of apostolic blessings each year, thus it is fitting that a former pope should be granted this privilege to an even greater extent in view of the dignity of his former office.

There is another way in which Benedict might have received the delegated authority to give apostolic blessings. It may be that Benedict, while he was still pope, granted to any future pope emeritus the delegated authority to give apostolic blessings. Obviously, this would apply to himself when he renounced the papacy. Again, that Pope Benedict XVI could have done this prior to his resignation is granted by Canon 1167§1[22] which reads: “The Apostolic See alone can establish new sacramentals, authentically interpret those already received, or abolish or change any of them.”[23] As stated above, it is fitting a pope emeritus would be accorded the delegated authority to give apostolic blessings in view of the dignity of his former office.

But, what of Benedict’s use of the possessive “my” when imparting the apostolic blessing, i.e., “with my Apostolic Blessing”? Doesn’t that mean he must be asserting he has the inherent authority to give an apostolic blessing, and thus believes he is still fully pope, or at least pope in some partial way? The answer is a clear “no.”

Per the relevant portion of Canon 1168 which applies to this question, “the minister of sacramentals is a cleric who has been provided with the requisite authority.”[24] Thus, Benedict, even as pope emeritus, is the “minister of the sacramental” on the basis of having been “provided the requisite authority” via delegation. Consequently, even in giving the apostolic blessing in an informal setting of a private letter, he is a true “minister of the sacramental.”

Thus, Benedict’s use of the possessive “my” refers to the apostolic blessing being his to give, to whom he chooses to give it, on those occasions he chooses to do so as the true “minister of the sacramental” for which he has been “provided the requisite authority.” He is using “my” in this delegated sense of being a true “minister of the sacramental,” and not in the intrinsic, inherent sense that would apply only in the case of a pope. As a final point, to my knowledge Benedict has not given the apostolic blessing in public settings. He has done so only in private letters between friends and associates, so the lack of a precise formula for the blessing is not surprising.

Whatever the specific arrangement that was made which allows Benedict as pope emeritus to give apostolic blessings, the point is, there are more mundane explanations available to account for it than to wildly assert Benedict must still believe himself to be pope in some way. The real point is that the Benepapists would have to show the canons were violated here.[25] The burden is on the Benepapists to demonstrate there is no other solution but their own. This they have failed to do. So, in summary, if Benedict still gives apostolic blessings, that is not a proof that he still believes himself to be pope.

Final Thoughts

To the reader, I apologize for the length of this reply.  Mr. Coffin’s video was 25 minutes in length, so I replied in the depth I thought necessary to respond to what I believed his key points.

Thus concludes my rebuttal of Mr. Coffin.

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. He has written apologetic articles, and is author of Book I of the Pia Fidelis trilogy, The Two Kingdoms; and of Valid? The Resignation of Pope Benedict XVI(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, TruthSocial, or Gab: @StevenOReilly).

Notes:

[1]  This is not a word for word transcription, but is close.  All these are incredible assertions. Benepapists, by my rough count, have penned at least 7-8 books that I am aware of.  Benepapists have sites such as Mr. Coffin’s, Ms. Ann Barnhardt’s, Br. Bugnolo’s, and others where they each have regularly espoused their views for many, many years; either in articles, or podcasts.  Mr. Coffin, and other Benepapist such as Dr. Mazza have also appeared on various occasions on sites like LifeSiteNews, Taylor Marshall, and other podcasts to espouse their views. It is not like the Benepapists haven’t had opportunities to get their ideas out to be heard. Perhaps the issue is not that they are not getting a “fair hearing,” perhaps it is just Catholics for the most part have not found their arguments compelling, and have rejected them?

[2] I have written indepth critiques of Francis-apologists (see here), the works of Stephen Walford (see here), of their defenses of Amoris Laetitia (Here, here, here, and here), suggested evidence to the scholars who wrote the Open Letter (see here, here). I have examined the oddities of the conclave of 2013 in great detail (see The Conclave Chronicles), and even the possibility that Cardinal Bergoglio’s acceptance of his election was invalid (see Curiouser and Curiouser: Who Dispensed Jorge Bergoglio SJ from his vows?), an idea to which Vigano seemed to later allude to himself (see Vigano: A Jesuit on the Throne of Peter “in violation of the rule established by St. Ignatius of Loyola”). I could go on.

[3]  Canon 332§2: If it should happen that the Roman Pontiff resigns his office [munus], it is required for validity that he makes the resignation freely and that it be duly manifested, but not that it be accepted by anyone. (Source:  Coriden, James A., et al, eds. The Code of Canon Law: A Text and Commentary, p. 437.)   Note:  The canon here give two ‘requirements’, that (1) the resignation be free, and that (2) it be properly manifested.  There is no ‘requirement’ that the word munus be used at all.  Nor is there an approved list of acceptable word or words for the papacy with respect to a papal renunciation.

[4] Liber Sextus (I, VII, I), UCLA Digital Library, pp. 197-198, retrieved June 7, 2022, 4:57 p.m.

[5] Canon 17: Ecclesiastical laws must be understood in accord with the proper meaning of the words considered in their text and context. If the meaning remains doubtful and obscure, recourse must be made to parallel places, if there are such, to the purpose and circumstances of the law, and to the mind of the legislator. (Source: John P. Beal, et al, eds., New Commentary on the Code of Canon Law. Commissioned by the Canon Law Society of America, New York NY/Mahwah NJ: Paulist Press, 2000.)

[6]  English of Lumen Gentium 18:

18. For the nurturing and constant growth of the People of God, Christ the Lord instituted in His Church a variety of ministries, which work for the good of the whole body. For those ministers, who are endowed with sacred power, serve their brethren, so that all who are of the People of God, and therefore enjoy a true Christian dignity, working toward a common goal freely and in an orderly way, may arrive at salvation.

This Sacred Council, following closely in the footsteps of the First Vatican Council, with that Council teaches and declares that Jesus Christ, the eternal Shepherd, established His holy Church, having sent forth the apostles as He Himself had been sent by the Father; and He willed that their successors, namely the bishops, should be shepherds in His Church even to the consummation of the world. And in order that the episcopate itself might be one and undivided, He placed Blessed Peter over the other apostles, and instituted in him a permanent and visible source and foundation of unity of faith and communion. And all this teaching about the institution, the perpetuity, the meaning and reason for the sacred primacy of the Roman Pontiff and of his infallible magisterium, this Sacred Council again proposes to be firmly believed by all the faithful. Continuing in that same undertaking, this Council is resolved to declare and proclaim before all men the doctrine concerning bishops, the successors of the apostles, who together with the successor of Peter, the Vicar of Christ, the visible Head of the whole Church, govern the house of the living God.

Latin of Lumen Gentium 18:

18. Christus Dominus, ad Populum Dei pascendum semperque augendum, in Ecclesia sua varia ministeria instituit, quae ad bonum totius Corporis tendunt. Ministri enim, qui sacra potestate pollent, fratribus suis inserviunt, ut omnes qui de Populo Dei sunt, ideoque vera dignitate christiana gaudent, ad eumdem finem libere et ordinatim conspirantes, ad salutem perveniant.

Haec Sacrosancta Synodus, Concilii Vaticani primi vestigia premens, cum eo docet et declarat Iesum Christum Pastorem aeternum sanctam aedificasse Ecclesiam, missis Apostolis sicut Ipse missus erat a Patre (cf. Io 20,21); quorum successores, videlicet Episcopos, in Ecclesia sua usque ad consummationem saeculi pastores esse voluit. Ut vero Episcopatus ipse unus et indivisus esset, beatum Petrum ceteris Apostolis praeposuit in ipsoque instituit perpetuum ac visibile unitatis fidei et communionis principium et fundamentum(37). Quam doctrinam de institutione, perpetuitate, vi ac ratione sacri Primatus Romani Pontificis deque eius infallibili Magisterio, Sacra Synodus cunctis fidelibus firmiter credendam rursus proponit, et in eodem incepto pergens, doctrinam de Episcopis, successoribus Apostolorum, qui cum successore Petri, Christi Vicario(38) ac totius Ecclesiae visibili Capite, domum Dei viventis regunt, coram omnibus profiteri et declarare constituit.

[7] This observation is based directly on Fr. John Rickert FSSP making this salient point about the  meaning of munus relative to ministry within Lumen Gentium 20.  Fr. Rickert had pointed me to this important text in personal correspondence.  My many thanks to him.

[8] Pope John Paul I, “Holy Mass for the Inauguration of the Petrine Ministry of the Bishop of Rome, Homily of His Holiness John Paul I,” Libreria Editrice Vaticana, September 3, 1978. https://www.vatican.va/content/john-paul-i/en/homilies/documents/hf_jp-i_hom_03091978.html

[9] “In hac sacra celebratione, qua solemne fit initium ministerii Summi Ecclesiae Pastoris, humeris Nostris impositi, mentem imprimis adorantes orantesque convertimus ad Deum, infinitum et aeternum, qui consilio suo, humanis argumentis inexplicabili, et benignissima dignatione sua ad Cathedram beati Petri Nos evexit. Sponte quidem in haec verba Sancti Pauli Apostoli erumpimus: « O altitudo divitiarum et sapientiae et scientiae Dei: quam incomprehensibilia sunt iudicia eius et investigabiles viae eius.” See Pope John Paul I, “Holy Mass for the Inauguration of the Petrine Ministry of the Bishop of Rome, Homily of His Holiness John Paul I.”

[10] Acta Apostolicae Sedis,  Vol. 70, Nº. 1, 1978, January 31, 1978, Libreria Editrice Vaticana. PONTIFICATUS IOANNIS PAULI I EXORDIA, p. 691.  “Animus Noster adhuc perturbatur, cum de metuendo ministerio cogitamus, ad quod obeundum sumus electi: ut beatus Petrus, ita et Nos vestigia in unda labente videmur posuisse, et, vento saevo perculsi, clamavimus, ut ille, ad Salvatorem…”

[11] Acta Apostolicae Sedis, ISSN  0001-5199, Vol. 97, Nº. 2 5, 2005, pp. 706-712.

[12] Pope Benedict XVI, “Pontificatus Exordia,” Acta Apostolicae Sedis,  ISSN  0001-5199, Vol. 97, Nº. 2 5, 2005, May 7, 2005, Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Homily given April 20, 2005, pp. 694-699.

[13] Ibid, p. 696. “Eucharistia, vitae christianae cor Ecclesiae evangelizantis fons, necessario permanentem mediamque partem constituit et fontem Petrini ministerii, Nobis commissi.”

[14]  Pope Benedict XVI, Declaratio.

[15] John P. Beal, et al, eds., New Commentary on the Code of Canon Law. Commissioned by the Canon Law Society of America, New York NY/Mahwah NJ: Paulist Press, 2000. p. 74-75

[16] See Fr. John Rickert, FSSP, Ph.D., “Munus, Ministerium & Pope Emeritus Benedict — Guest Post by Fr John Rickert”. https://www.wmbriggs.com/post/39718/. Permission to use and cite article granted by W.M. Briggs, and Fr. John Rickert, FSSP.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Here, Fr. Rickert emphasizes the word “muneris” is in fact a form of the same word, “munus.” From personal correspondence with the author.

[19] Fr. John Rickert, FSSP, Ph.D., “Munus, Ministerium & Pope Emeritus Benedict — Guest Post by Fr John Rickert”. https://www.wmbriggs.com/post/39718/. Permission to use and cite this article was granted by W.M. Briggs, and Fr. John Rickert, FSSP.

[20] James Coriden, et al, eds., The Code of Canon Law: A Text and Commentary, p. 109.

[21] Holweck, F. (1907). Apostolic Blessing. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved August 7, 2022 from New Advent: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02602a.htm

[22] In this discussion of apostolic blessings, my thanks again go to Fr. John Rickert, FSSP. In private correspondence with him, it was he who specifically pointed my attention to several canons that were relevant to the debate over Benedict and apostolic blessings. These Canons include 1166, 1167, and 1168.

[23] John P. Beal, et al, eds., New Commentary on the Code of Canon Law,  p. 1402.

[24] Ibid.

[25]  In private correspondence with Fr. John Rickert, FSSP regarding the reply on apostolic blessings in this section, Fr. Rickert made this precise point.


4 thoughts on “No, Patrick Coffin, Benedict is NOT “our pope”

  1. Even though I am a young Catholic (32), I would recognize Benedict XVI as Pope before I would ever recognize Francis because the former is a true Catholic (even though he participated in and supports most of Vatican II), while the later is a total heretic and supporter of homosexuals and their agenda. I would never acknowledge Francis as anthing but a heretic for all his actions and persecution of the Roman Rite Mass.

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    1. Kenjiro, thanks for the comments.

      In order to address them, I’d like to make a couple points — which essentially show up in the article, and or footnote 1.

      First, I am in no way a ‘supporter’ of Francis. He has been an absolute disaster for the Church. My personal view is, one day a future pope will severely judge him in a manner similar to how Pope St. Leo II condemned Pope Honorius for favoring heresy.

      It is a confusing time for us all to have a pope like this, but we must keep the faith, and stay in the Church, and follow the Church’s way of handling such things. That requires some patience. It took the Church 40 years before Pope Honorius was “corrected” by Pope St. Leo II.

      Following the opinions, and declarations, and assertions of the likes of Patrick Coffin, Ann Barnhardt, Andrea Cionci, Estefania Acosta in this matter will eventually put one into schism. Outside the Church.

      Further, all schisms eventually lead to some form of heresy. So…their path of making their own private judgments on how to interpret Church documents, canon law, etc., into their guide, without waiting for the Church, is similar to the path take by all schismatics and heretics. Their errors, in my view, are even graver since they beckon to others to follow them into error.

      I urge you to wait for the judgement of the Church. There is no need to do anything hasty like many of the Benepapists declare, such as saying they will reject the next conclave if Benedict dies first, and or Cardinal electors appointed by Francis participate in the conclave.

      Now, with regard to my second point, I would say the following. As a point of logic…whatever Francis is or isn’t, that does not make Benedict STILL pope. It does not follow of necessity, i.e., even to hypothesize that Francis is NOT pope, does NOT make Benedict still pope. There could be other explanations for what we are witnessing.

      Therefore, the theory BXVI is still pope must stand or fall on the evidence presented for this theory. It cannot rest on “Francis is awful” therefore “Benedict is still pope.”

      The evidence for Benepapism does not withstand close scrutiny. Long ago, when I first heard the evidence claims made by the likes of Ann Barnhardt, I hoped there was something to it. However, on examining her claims with the evidence before me, I found that she misread and misinterpreted key documents, such as the last audience. In fact, over time, I see this is a something of which many of the Benepapists are guilty.

      Having followed, researched, and written on Benepapism and the alleged evidence for it – and as one who is horrified by Francis; I wish I could say Benepapism is true. However, I cannot say it. In fact, a commitment to follow the truth and commonsense requires I say otherwise.

      On my blog, I have written a lot on the topic. My article above provides links to some of the compilations of my articles on the topic, and even a link out to my book. Please take a look at these arguments against Benepapism. I am not asking you to change your view of Francis…but I am saying Benepapism is not the way out of our current crisis.

      If you have questions, feel free of course to comment here…or if you prefer a more private communication, feel free to email me.

      God bless,

      Steve

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      1. Thank you very much Steve for your informative e-mail. It did change my mind a little. I unfortunately acknowledge Francis is a legit Pope because he went thru the traditional process. But I do believe it was a pre-determined election in that I read about the Sankt Gallen Mafia which put Bergoglio up as their candidate and he won in 2013. And has wrecked the Church since. I never had much problem with Francis until Traditionis Custodes and subsequent documents meant to undermine traditional Catholicism. I just thought he was an old man stuck in the mindset of most of my college professors 10 years ago who were priests. They were all in their 70’s too, and most were liberal…. but not as bad as Bergoglio. But when he went after the Roman Rite and started having audiences in the Vatican for homosexual prostitutes, I began to think that this man isn’t just an ultra-liberal, but in fact genuinely evil.
        I appreciate your fine response to me. You are much more knowledgeable than I am on the subject. I would not actually leave the Church over Francis and his agenda. I will pray for an end of it soon, and hope that the next Pope whoever that may be, is a true Catholic much in the mold of a Benedict XVI at the very least, or even more orthodox. I do very much hope thought, that the Cardinals are not so stupid as to elect a Francis II or someone worse. I trust that if they look at the wreckage of the Church now after nearly 10 years, they will not make the same mistake.
        Thank you again for your e-mail. I appreciate it.

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