A Rebuttal of Dr. Mazza’s book on Pope Benedict’s Resignation

February 10, 2023 (Steven O’Reilly) – Dr. Edmund Mazza has just released a new book titled The Third Secret of Fatima & the Synodal Church: Volume I Pope Benedict’s Resignation. Only one chapter of this four chapter work is devoted entirely and explicitly to the thesis that Benedict’s resignation was invalid.

Unfortunately, little of that one chapter is actually devoted to taking on the many, weighty counterarguments to Dr. Mazza’s thesis.  What’s more, Dr. Mazza’s argument is weighed down by dubious paraphrases, and interpretations of source materials. We have called out Dr. Mazza on this before. It is unfortunate that Dr. Mazza has squandered the opportunity to address the many counterarguments as he attempted to make a case for Benepapism. However, that he would not do so is understandable given the nature of the evidence.

I will try in this article to provide a summary critique, but even at that, this is likely to run long.  I do note, that I am considering Dr. Mazza’s book for future video episodes of Roma Locuta Est Considers. The current series is currently considering the arguments of the Benepapists relative to the munus vs. ministerium (see Episode 1, Episode 2, Episode 3, Episode 4, Episode 5, Episode 6).

Dr. Mazza’s book

Now, as to the critique and rebuttal of Dr. Mazza’s chapter on Benedict’s resignation. First quoting a line from Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Mazza suggests that I have offered “surface level solutions.” Dr. Mazza first quotes Sherlock Holmes, then goes on to write in his own voice immediately following (emphasis added):

“Sherlock:  Wrong. [Suicide] It’s one possible explanation of some facts.  You’ve got a solution that you like, but you’re choosing to ignore anything you see that doesn’t comply with it.

It is the same way with those who admit no possibility that Pope Benedict XVI resigned invalidly. They have a surface level solution that they like and they are choosing to ignore anything that can be seen that doesn’t comply with it. Author and blogger Steven O’Reilly, for example, state categorically: ‘there is no reason or evidence… that should lead one to reject the validity of Pope Benedict’s resignation.'”[1] (Mazza, location 737, Kindle version)

Dr. Mazza suggests I am among those “choosing to ignore anything that can be seen that doesn’t comply” with my argument or conclusions. This is an incredible claim. Indeed, it is a steamy pile of horse dung. I have written two compilations of articles on the topic of Benepapism (see Summa Contra Bip, The Case against those who claims ‘Benedict is (still) pope’), and I have written a book on the topic titled Valid? The Resignation of Pope Benedict XVI (Available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and many other books sellers, globally). I have published six YouTube video episodes on Benepapism thus far.

These articles, and the book, look at all the arguments made by Benepapists, including those specifically made by Dr. Mazza (see The Summa Contra Dr. Mazza). Topics examined include the Declaratio (e.g., munus vs. ministerium), the Last Audience (e.g., “the always is also a forever”, etc), Ganswein’s speech, Benedict wearing white, Benedict being called “His Holinesss”, and Benedict and Apostolic Blessings, the use of the title of “Emeritus,” etc. There is not a topic I have avoided, nor has there been a Benepapist I have shrunk from rebutting, whether it be Dr. Mazza (see The Summa Contra Dr. Mazza), Ann Barnhardt (see Ms. Ann Barnhardt vs. the Law of Non-Contradiction: Ms. Barnhardt loses), Patrick Coffin (see No, Patrick Coffin, Benedict is NOT “our pope”, A closer look at Mr. Coffin’s evidence: Dr. Mazza’s Thesis 3.0, Benepapism and Mr. Coffin’s “Seven Pieces of Information Francis is an anti-pope”), Andrea Cionci (see Summa Contra Andrea Cionci, Plan B, and the Ratzinger Code), Br. Bugnolo (see Br. Alexis Bugnolo’s Faulty Logic, and Faulty Comprehension with Respect to Canon 17), etc.

Thus, it is both incredible and disingenuous that Dr. Mazza even dares to suggest I am “choosing to ignore” anything — let alone anything he has written or said, which he quite well knows is not the case; even more so because he has avoided even the attempt of trying to rebut various counterarguments brought by myself or others opposed[2] to Benepapism.  For example, as we will see further on in this article, Dr. Mazza has not attempted to defend his interpretation of the “always is also a forever” with respect to the interpretation I put forward as much as six years ago (see Regarding Benedict’s Last Audience). Granted, he is not alone. Ann Barnhardt ignores it.  Mark Docherty ignores it. And the rest of the Benepapists ignore it, with one exception.[3] But let us proceed.

Dr. Mazza makes the following statement (emphasis added):

“In the case of Pope Benedict’s renunciation and transformation into Pope Emeritus, a conclusion that explains all the facts must answer all these questions:  Why did Benedict XVI choose to become “Pope Emeritus” instead of returning to being Cardinal Ratzinger, especially when there is currently no such office in canon law–nor in the Church’s two- thousand-year history? Why did he still issue Apostolic Blessings in his own name when only a pope can do that?  Why was his proper form of address still “His Holiness” when only a pope can be called that?  Why did he choose to continue wearing papal white?  Could it truly be for his stated reason — absurd on its face — “there were no black cassocks available in Rome” at the time? And why was it that every time the putative pope create cardinals at consistories, he always presented them to “His Holiness” Benedict XVI?” (Mazza, Location 768, Kindle Version)

Okay.  Let’s answer Dr. Mazza’s questions.

So, what about Wearing White, “His Holiness”

One does not need to agree with the “accidents” or “externals” surrounding Benedict XVI’s resignation but they are no proof against the validity of his resignation. Having witnessed the final years of John Paul II’s papacy, it is clear Benedict did not want the papacy to be weakened by having an enfeebled pope on the throne. Thus, he set out to set a precedent of a pope resigning for no other reason than that he had reached the conclusion he was too weak to carry on in the Petrine office. This thesis is confirmed by his Declaratio, the Last Audience, Ganswein’s speech, and the Seewald interviews.  Given Benedict was establishing a precedent whereby he hoped to encourage other popes to follow his example in similar circumstances, it is not surprising he attempted to surround a ‘resigned pope’ with some externals that might make the choice more attractive, than what befell a resigned pope like Celestine V.

Now, it is suggested by Dr. Mazza and the Benepapists that Benedict by wearing white, being called “Your Holiness,” and by using the title “pope emeritus,” believed himself to still be pope in some way. Leaving aside the practical wisdom of Benedict’s decisions over these externals, such a conclusion does not follow upon examination of the evidence and an application of some common sense.

With regard to “your holiness,” this is an honorific title. It is commonplace for someone who once held high office to be referred to by their former position. Former American presidents are regularly addressed as “Mr. President.” Similar examples are found in cases of former governors, senators, military officers, etc. “Your Holiness” or “His Holiness” may seem odd, but that’s probably because it is not common for there to be a living former pope, so we are not accustomed to it. Whether it is wise to retain the title may be debatable, but it does not demonstrate Benedict believed himself to be pope after his resignation.

Dr. Mazza also makes a big deal out of the pope wearing white after his resignation. Again, I am not defending Benedict’s choices. The issue is only whether the clothing necessarily means that Benedict remained pope. However, here again, the reality is not what the Benepapists would have one believe. Indeed, they point out what was similar, but neglect to note to their followers what had changed, and what that signified. Following his resignation, Benedict did not wear the same style of dress as he did as pope. Benedict wore a simple cassock but without the mozetta, which is a symbol of authority.[4] He no longer wore the red shoes he wore as pope, which are also a symbol of authority. In addition, Benedict no longer wore the Fisherman’s Ring which he received at the mass officially inaugurating his papacy.[5] Gänswein said in his speech that he witnessed the removal of the Fisherman’s Ring. In sum, these changes are themselves an indication that Benedict no longer saw himself as pope after his resignation.

What about the title of Emeritus?

The Benepapists like Dr. Mazza have a big problem with the title pope emeritus. This, they say, is without any historical precedent. Certainly, in the past, popes who resigned returned to their former rank and title, for example, “cardinal.” Again, it is fair to wonder whether this would have been a better choice for Benedict, especially in light of the hullabaloo that has followed. However, it is clear he was not bound by former precedent as to the choice of an honorific title.

Certainly, in common parlance, “emeritus” is applied as an honorific title to an office or position which is no longer held. One example here should suffice to prove the point. A former professor might have the title of and be referred to as “professor emeritus.” The very point of adding “emeritus” is to underline that the individual is no longer a professor, while at the same time honoring him for his former position.[6] Thus, “professor emeritus” refers to an individual who once was a professor, but no longer is.[7]

It is true, pope emeritus is a title without precedent. However, Benedict implied in a letter to Cardinal Brandmüller that the resigned popes of the past were each an emeritus in fact, if not in name. Regardless, the use of “emeritus” does have a basis in canon law.

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.[8]

Granted, the context in the Code of Canon Law does not explicitly apply this canon to the Roman Pontiff but certainly the text provided an appropriate title for Benedict to apply in his own case. In this regard, it is said the “title of emeritus” may be conferred on him who “loses an officedue to resignation. The significance of this fact is relevant to the argument over whether Benedict still believed he held his papal office. The answer here must be “no,” as emeritus connotes the reality of a “loss of office”—which in itself clearly demonstrates Benedict recognized his “loss of office,” i.e., his papal office, owing to his resignation.

As a final note, it is clear from his interviews with Peter Seewald that Benedict did not see that a pope emeritus bears any authority. 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.[9]

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 taken away.” He is not speaking of any legal office remaining.

What about Apostolic Blessings?

Dr. Mazza worries about Apostolic Blessings.  He should not. 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.”

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.[10] On some occasions a certain solemn rite and formula are prescribed, but for others this is not the case.

By what authority did 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 have done 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 do this is granted by Canon 1167§1[11] which reads: “The Apostolic See alone can establish new sacramentals, authentically interpret those already received, or abolish or change any of them.”[12] 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.[13] Thus, Benedict, even as pope emeritus, i.e., a former pope, 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 used “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 had not given the apostolic blessing in public settings. He did so only in private letters between friends and associates, so the lack of precise formula for the blessing is not surprising.

Whatever the specific arrangement that was made which allowed 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 have still believed himself to be pope in some way — as Dr. Mazza wants his readers to believe. The real point is that the Benepapists would have to show the canons were violated here.[14] The burden is on the Benepapists and Dr. Mazza in this case to demonstrate there is no other solution but their own. This they have failed to do. So, in summary, if Benedict still gave apostolic blessings after his resignation, that is not a proof that he still believed himself to be pope.

Dr. Mazza’s Glaring Errors Regarding Benedict’s Last Audience

Now, Dr. Mazza has used Sherlock Holmes as his metaphor in his chapter when he suggests folks dig deeper.  Dr. Mazza makes many references to Benedict’s last audience.  However, there is so much wrong in Dr. Mazza’s interpretation of the last audience, it is hard to know where to begin.  For example, Dr. Mazza says:

“Returning to his Last Audience, Benedict reminds the faithful that his renunciation of the active ministry “does not revoke” his original papal commitment of April 19, 2005, which is ongoing: “always and forever.””

The central problem with his interpretation might be described as the original sin of the Benepapists in this controversy. It is the suggestion that Benedict’s use of the phrase “The always is also a forever” is somehow a reference to him retaining the papacy forever.  However, this is clearly a misreading of the text.  Benepapists, inclusive of Dr. Mazza, neglect to consider the prior paragraph of the last audience text in which Benedict defines what he means by the “always.”  Benedict explicitly said it refers to a newly elected pope losing his privacy.

Benedict explains this by saying a pope no longer “belongs” to himself.  He belongs to others, and they to him.  Becoming pope, he gains true ‘sons and daughters’ and ‘brothers and sisters’ he says in explaining this “always”, this “loss of privacy.”

Here, allow me to go back once again to 19 April 2005. The real gravity of the decision was also due to the fact that from that moment on I was engaged always and forever by the Lord. Always – anyone who accepts the Petrine ministry no longer has any privacy. He belongs always and completely to everyone, to the whole Church. In a manner of speaking, the private dimension of his life is completely eliminated. I was able to experience, and I experience it even now, that one receives one’s life precisely when one gives it away. Earlier I said that many people who love the Lord also love the Successor of Saint Peter and feel great affection for him; that the Pope truly has brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, throughout the world, and that he feels secure in the embrace of your communion; because he no longer belongs to himself, he belongs to all and all belong to him.

The whole paragraph is essentially ignored by Dr. Mazza and Benepapists, who leave it out entirely, or insert ellipses as they skip over it. As one can readily see, the paragraph is devoted to ‘loss of privacy’ which is explained as ‘bond of charity’ that forms between the pope and the faithful.  Benedict is speaking of a relationship. Indeed, earlier in the text, he speaks of the same ‘sons and daughters’ writing to him “with a sense of a very affectionate family bond.” He spoke in similar terms of this papal loss of privacy when as Cardinal Ratzinger he gave a homily following the death of Pope Paul VI.  Soon after the death of Pope Paul VI, Cardinal Josef Ratzinger in August 1978 gave a homily on the deceased pope, in part saying (italics added):

Moreover, we can imagine how heavy the thought must be of no longer belonging to ourselves; of no longer having a single private moment; of being enchained to the very last, with our body giving up and with a task that day after day demands the total, vigorous use of a man’s energy.[15]

Archbishop Ratzinger was reflecting on the life of the recently deceased Pope Paul VI. He spoke of Paul VI as having to bear the “heavy” thought of “no longer belonging to [himself]” and of “no longer having a single private moment.” Thus, understanding the above, we are better prepared to understand what Benedict means when he says:

The “always” is also a “forever” – there can no longer be a return to the private sphere. My decision to resign the active exercise of the ministry does not revoke this.

Benedict is not saying he cannot return to a status in which he is not pope. Rather, he is saying there is no returning to the “private sphere.” Grammatically and logically, that is what the “this” points back to — to the issue of the loss of privacy.  In other words, there is no return from the bond of charity. One does not stop loving the “sons and daughters” one gained upon becoming pope, even if one stops being pope. The bond of charity persists. Benedict is saying his resignation does not revoke this bond of charity, his loving relationship with his ‘sons and daughters.’ That is why Benedict goes on in his last audience to say this is why he will pray for the Church.  Similar themes are found later in his Seewald interviews.

Unfortunately, the Last Audience was a beautiful reflection that has been mangled beyond recognition by Dr. Mazza and the Benepapists who simply refuse to understand the text. Consider this doozy in Dr. Mazza’s analysis:

“In the first place — and this cannot be overemphasized — Benedict states that his renunciation of the Papacy is a qualified one. “Anyone who accepts the Petrine ministry” is engaged by it so that his “decision to renounce the active ministry does not revoke this,” does not revoke the passive exercise, the Petrine ministry in its ontological dimension.” (Mazza, location 802, Kindle version)

Now, indeed, two things cannot be overemphasized enough here.  First, Dr. Mazza wants us to believe that “Benedict states that his renunciation of the Papacy is a qualified one.”  Dr. Mazza explains, he says, that Benedict renounced only the “active ministry.” One problem with this analysis is that the Last Audience is not the instrument of Benedict’s resignation. In the Declaratio, the actual instrument of his resignation, Benedict qualified nothing. He said “I renounce the ministry of the bishop of Rome.”  Plain. Simple. No qualification.  Dr. Mazza has misunderstood Benedict’s point.

The second thing that cannot be overemphasized enough is that Dr. Mazza has grossly cobbled out of context quotes to make an assertion which neither the quotes in context either imply or explicitly make.  As one will see in the actual text of the Last Audience, when Benedict says “Anyone who accepts the Petrine ministry” he is not saying he “is engaged by it” — as suggested in Dr. Mazza’s paraphrase.  No. Sorry.  Benedict says explicitly “Anyone who accepts the Petrine ministry no longer has any privacy.”  And this “loss of privacy” he refers to the sense of belonging to other, and others to him.  That is what his resignation does not revoke — the belonging resulting from the loss of privacy.  He may lose his office, but he retains his bond of love.

I go into this in more detail in my article Regarding Benedict’s Last Audience and devote a chapter in my book where I deconstruct the absurdities of the Benepapist interpretations on the Last Audience.  I would only add, Dr. Mazza has made no attempt to counter my interpretation or to explain why his overcomplicated, out of context contortions are a more natural, or more probable reading than my own.  I have asked him.  He ‘chooses to ignore.’  I am waiting.  I have been waiting.  He knows that.

Returning briefly to the question of Benedict speaking of the “active ministry,” he said that his renouncing of it does not revoke the inability to return to the private sphere.  That is what the “this” referred to when he said “my renunciation of the active ministry does not revoke this.”

The “always” is also a “for ever” – there can no longer be a return to the private sphere. My decision to resign the active exercise of the ministry does not revoke this. I do not return to private life, to a life of travel, meetings, receptions, conferences, and so on. I am not abandoning the cross, but remaining in a new way at the side of the crucified Lord. I no longer bear the power of office for the governance of the Church, but in the service of prayer I remain, so to speak, in the enclosure of Saint Peter. Saint Benedict, whose name I bear as Pope, will be a great example for me in this. He showed us the way for a life which, whether active or passive, is completely given over to the work of God.

Benedict is not denying a true resignation.  He is referring to the point about the example of Saint Benedict who “showed us the way for a life” — not a papacy(!) — “which, whether active or passive, is completely given over to the work of God.”  That is Benedict’s meaning.  He is contrasting the active life of having been pope, which he was giving up via his resignation, in favor of a passive life of prayer to which he is now dedicating himself for the Church.  He mentioned this in his Declaratio, and he developed that theme in the Last Audience. Again, as long as this article is, I am trying to keep short.  Please see my article Regarding Benedict’s Last Audience.

What about the Munus vs. the Ministerium?

Now, let’s turn with Dr. Mazza to the debate of the use of ministerio (ministerium) in the key part of the Declaratio instead of munus. Dr. Mazza rather too easily dismisses Fr. John Rickert’s arguments. For example, he puts down Fr. Rickert’s citation providing munus and ministerium are synonyms (cf. Lewis & Short).[16]  For one, Dr. Mazza says of a Bishop Juan Ignacio Arrieta that “Arrieta claims that munus and ministerium are not synonymous as used in even official documents.”[17] However, prescinding from Arrieta’s suggestion which deals with his findings within a set of documents before him, the citation provided from Dr. Mazza is from 1995, so it doesn’t deal with the question of interpretation of the Declaratio specifically.  Perhaps even more problematic for Dr. Mazza is his citation of another scholar, Anna Slowikowska, of which Dr. Mazza writes (emphasis added):

“And Slowikowska refutes Rickert:

The knowledge of all the meanings of a given word–in this case munus–is not enough to correctly identify the thoughts of the author of the translated text.

The term munus is most often analyzed in the literature with two others: officium and ministerium. They are also synonymous with it. But at the same time each one of them can mean something different. Their use, whether separate or synonymous, always depends on the context of the utterance, the author’s intention, or the purpose for which they are used.” (Mazza citing Anna Slowikowska, location 1235, Kindle Version)

First, Dr. Mazza has introduced a scholar who essentially contradicts the one he just brought out to try to refute Fr. Rickert.  Arrieta says munus and ministerium are not synonymous, according to Dr. Mazza, but here, above, Slowikowska states they are synonymous. If one reads her blurb above carefully, it should be clear that Dr. Mazza has just shot himself in the foot. Not only did Anna Slowikowska confirm Fr. Rickert’s point, she also confirmed that the meaning depends on “the context of the utterance,” the “author’s intention,” or “the purpose for which they are used.”

Well, on all three of these points, it is clear that Benedict intended to resign that papacy.  He said, in the Declaratio, he resigned the “ministry (ministerio) of the Bishop of Rome” in such as way that the “See of Rome, the See of Peter” would be “vacant” and that a conclave would need to be called to elect a new pope.  What more can one ask for in terms of context, intention, and purpose?  The answer is obvious.

But beyond this, Fr. Rickert had brought other arguments to bear against Benepapism and Dr. Mazza specifically which Dr. Mazza ignored in a public back and forth between the two of them.  So much for Sherlock Holmes and ignoring what doesn’t comply!  Fr. Rickert issued a rejoinder[18] to Dr. Mazza’s reply to his original argument, but Dr. Mazza did not reply as can be seen by perusing the comment section below the footnoted article.  Fr. Rickert had noted, and provided documentary evidence, that the title of the Declaratio in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis in Latin is as follows (bold added):

“Declaratio Summi Pontificis: De Muneris Episcopi Romae, Successoris Sancti Petri Abdicatione

Note the inclusion of munus in the title. This title may be translated “Declaration of the Supreme Pontiff on the abdication of the office (munus) of the Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter.”  Thus, given the title says the document below deals with the abdication “of the office (munus) of the Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter” then clear the text below it (i.e., the Declaratio) must be interpreted as synonymous with that title.  Even more so if we use the principles suggested by Dr. Mazza’s own scholar, Anna Slowikowska, about using “context”, “intent”, and “purpose” to interpret the meaning accordingly.

In addition, there are other arguments demonstrating a ‘munus is a ministry‘ based on Lumen Gentium 18-20 which may be found in my book based on a discovery of Fr. John Rickert in Lumen Gentium 20 (i.e., a ‘munus is a ministry’) [NB: communicated by Fr. Rickert to me via personal communications], and developed further in the article Lumen Gentium Destroys Benepapism in Toto. Dr. Mazza has never address these arguments.  So much for Sherlock Holmes and ‘ignoring anything that doesn’t comply!’

In addition, looking at the example of some of the last few inauguration masses of the popes, the titles for them included various forms of ‘Petrine ministry’ (see No, Patrick Coffin, Benedict is NOT “our pope”; Benepapism: Munus vs. Ministerium (Part 4 of 5); or my book).  Thus, it is not surprising that Benedict having begun his papacy in such a fashion, using “ministry”, that he would renounce the Petrine ministry to vacate the throne of St. Peter.

So, what about Ganswein?

Dr. Mazza does mention Archbishop Gänswein quite a bit in his chapter on Benedict’s resignation. However, I have previously argued that the Benepapists, and Dr. Mazza specifically, have misinterpreted Gänswein (see my article Regarding Ganswein’s speech; and in my book where Ganswein is discussed in detail). It is funny that Dr. Mazza at the outset speaks of folks ignoring evidence. He has not responded to criticisms of the Benepapist interpretations of either Gänswein or the Last Audience. For those who read Dr. Mazza’s book, or even for those familiar with Gänswein’s speech, I recommend you take a look at either my linked article and or my book on the subject.

What about a sacramental papacy? 

At this point, we have gone on at length, and have provided answers sufficient enough to rebut Dr. Mazza’s chapter on Benedict’s resignation.  He is wrong on the munus vs. ministerium. He is wrong in his interpretation of the Last Audience. He ignores Normas Nonnullas (see Regarding Benedict’s Normas Nonnullas.  He ignores that Benedict said on his last day as pope that he would ‘no longer be the supreme pontiff of the Catholic Church‘ (see Regarding Benedict’s comments to the Pilgrims from Albano).

But, a quick word on Dr. Mazza’s suggestion that Benedict believed in something of a sacramental papacy. There is no real warrant for this suggestion.  Dr. Mazza cannot cite for us a single instance where Cardinal Ratzinger states or opined that the papacy was a sacrament. Dr. Mazza tried to float some Ratzinger quotes before on the Patrick Coffin’s show to that effect, but it has been definitively shown that Dr. Mazza misread Ratzinger’s Principles of Catholic Theology (see Regarding Benedict’s Declaratio Objection see Reply to Objections 2.1 and 2.2).  As one will see, Dr. Mazza told Patrick Coffin this particular passage that Benedict’s meaning was as follows:

“What does Joseph Ratzinger say? He says, “No, no, no. “I disagree with those people who say the papacy is not a sacrament, that it’s only a juridical institution. That juridical institution has set itself above the sacramental order.”” [Patrick Coffin Show. Time: 30:00; Unofficial transcription by O’Reilly]

By citing the actual text Dr. Mazza references above, I proved in my article that this is NOT what Ratzinger was saying.  How do we know that is not what Ratzinger is saying?  Well, because Dr. Mazza does not try to make the same assertion about the passage in his new book as he did on Mr. Coffin’s show. If it said what Dr. Mazza said it said once, then it should have definitely been included in his book.  But it is not in the book. I have asked him to retract his interpretation he gave on Mr. Coffin’s show, but he has not done so.

Regardless, there is nothing here, certainly not in Dr. Mazza’s book, that demonstrates Benedict believed the papacy was a sacrament — either when as pope or before he was pope, as if it were the next level of Holy Orders. Indeed, Lumen Gentium 21 explicitly taught episcopal consecration confers the fullness of the sacrament of Holy Orders.[19] There is no evidence Josef Ratzinger as a theologian embraced heresy by rejecting this teaching by holding the fullness of Orders is conferred only upon papal election.

The argument that suggests Benedict wrongly believed he could maintain the Petrine munus after his resignation is a bit unique. Here, Dr. Mazza has previously suggested Benedict would not have resigned if he had known his view was in error, and that this was his “substantial error.” However, this is mind reading, only pure speculation as to what Benedict believed and what he would or would not do.[20]

The reality is we know why Benedict resigned. He told us. He said he resigned due to weakness and lack of strength. Furthermore, in a Seewald interview before his resignation, Benedict stated that if he ever got to such a point of weakness, then he would have a moral obligation to resign.[21] Thus, given he resigned out of a moral obligation, what he believed as to whether he might or might not retain the Petrine munus is at best, then, a moot point. That is, under a moral obligation he had to resign regardless. Thus, even under this Benepapist theory, the resignation would necessarily be valid, even if Benedict had mistaken views about the papacy.  Dr. Mazza’s efforts have been in vain.

The premise of the “substantial error” thesis is a curious one. In their attempt to save the Church from one erroneous pope, the Benepapists only gave it back another erroneous pope. If Benedict’s understanding of the munus was so warped, then it would seem there is the reductio ad absurdum that we could never be sure if he really resigned, even if he had used the word “munus” as demanded by Dr. Mazza and other Benepapists. Moreover, we might wonder if Benedict’s understanding of the papacy was so erroneous that we could never be sure he had properly resigned from it, should we then wonder too whether his acceptance of his election was valid, if he never properly understood what it was he had accepted?

The truth of the matter is, though, arch-Benepapists like Dr. Mazza have not produced evidence to demonstrate Benedict held erroneous views of the papacy as a theologian before his election. Yet, even setting that aside, they have failed to demonstrate he held such opinions after his election, or that any such alleged error impacted the validity of his resignation.  Relative to canon 188, Dr. Mazza would have to prove that but for his erroneous understanding of the papacy, Benedict would not have resigned.  This he has not done, and this he cannot do. The Benepapists do not have grounds to allege a “substantial error” on Benedict’s part. If there is any “substantial error,” it is Dr. Mazza and the Benepapists who have committed it.

Final Thoughts

Again, for anyone who is interested in the arguments against Benepapism, please check out my article compilations (see Summa Contra Bip, The Case against those who claims ‘Benedict is (still) pope’). Please, also check out my book titled Valid? The Resignation of Pope Benedict XVI (Available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and many other books sellers, globally). I have published six YouTube video episodes on Benepapism thus far on the subject of the munus vs. the ministerium (see Episode 1, Episode 2, Episode 3, Episode 4, Episode 5, Episode 6). I will soon be publishing other videos against Benepapism on the subject of canon 17, and the “always is also a forever.”

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).

[1] Now, Dr. Mazza quotes me in part, but let me provide my full quote, emphasis in the original:

There is no reason or evidence – certainly not any known to us – that should lead one to reject the validity of Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation.  The burden of proof is on those who claim Benedict is still pope and Francis is an anti-pope. It is abundantly clear they have simply not met that burden.”

Key part is that the burden of proof is on the Benepapist. This many years later, they still have not met that burden of proof.

[2]  Fr. John Rickert, FSSP.

[3]   Estefania Acosta is the only Benepapist to my knowledge who has attempted to refute my interpretation.  However, in doing so, let it be noted she concedes a substantial part of my interpretation related to a “bond of charity” or “bond of love”.  However, her refutation fails on a number of grounds.  This is covered in Regarding Benedict’s Last Audience and in my book, Valid? The Resignation of Pope Benedict XVI.

[4] CBC, “5 papal things Benedict gives up in retirement,” CBC.CA, February 28, 2013. https://www.cbc.ca/news/world/5-papal-things-benedict-gives-up-in-retirement-1.1332261

[5] Pope Benedict XVI, “Mass, Imposition of the Pallium, and conferral of the Fisherman’s Ring for the Beginning of the Petrine Ministry of the Bishop of Rome, Homily of His Holiness Benedict XVI”. https://www.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/homilies/2005/documents/hf_ben-xvi_hom_20050424_inizio-pontificato.html

[6]  The author raised the example of a “professor emeritus” in his debate with Dr. Mazza on February 11, 2022. See Timothy J. Gordon, “DEBATE: Is Benedict Still Pope?”, time stamp 45:40 to 46:05. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G9t-2dCKcKM

[7] Dr. Edward Feser makes the same point about the use of the title “pope emeritus.” See Dr. Edward Feser, “Benedict is not the pope: A reply to some critics,” EdwardFeser.Blog, May 5, 2022. https://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2022/05/benedict-is-not-pope-reply-to-some.html

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

[9]  Peter Seewald, Benedict XVI: A Life. Volume 2: Professor and Prefect to Pope and Pope Emeritus 1966–The Present, p. 669.

[10] Holweck, F. (1907). Apostolic Blessing. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved August 7, 2022 from New Advent:


[11] 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.

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

[13] Ibid.

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

[15] Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, “The Transfiguration,” originally a homily given August 10, 1979, Reprinted in L’Osservatore Romano, Weekly Edition in English, 7-14 August 2013, page 3, published online on EWTN (www.ewtn.com). https://www.ewtn.com/catholicism/library/transfiguration-1723

[16]   Rickert, Fr. John, FSSP, Ph.D., “Munus, Ministerium & Pope Emeritus Benedict — Guest Post by Fr John Rickert”, William M. Briggs, April 20, 2022. https://www.wmbriggs.com/post/39718/

[17]  Mazza, location 1206, Kindle version.

[18] Rickert, Fr. John, FSSP, Ph.D., “Follow The Munus! Why Benedict Is [Likely] Pope — Guest Post by Edmund J. Mazza; Rejoinder by Fr John Rickert”, William M. Briggs, April 26, 2022. https://www.wmbriggs.com/post/39752/ ;

[19] Lumen Gentium 21.

[20] Benedict’s “substantial error”—per a theory advanced by Dr. Mazza—is that Benedict would not have resigned the papacy had he known that his understanding of the munus or the “sacramental papacy” was in error, and that he would not retain anything of the munus at all after his resignation. Dr. Edmund Mazza certainly appears to have admitted his theory of “substantial error” relies on his subjective interpretation of Benedict’s intent, i.e., what Dr. Mazza “honestly believes” Benedict would or would not have done. For example, in an interview on the Patrick Coffin Show, Dr. Mazza says at one point: Had he known that the truth of the matter is there is no such thing as a sacramental papacy and that when you renounce the office that’s it, you’re not papal in any way shape or form any more, I honestly believe based on everything he said over the last sixty years, he would not have resigned. (O’Reilly, unofficial transcript). See Patrick Coffin, “#248: Is Benedict XVI Still the Pope?—Dr. Edmund Mazza”. https://www.patrickcoffin.media/is-benedict-xvi-still-the-pope/

[21] Peter Seewald, Light of the World, p. 39.

One thought on “A Rebuttal of Dr. Mazza’s book on Pope Benedict’s Resignation

  1. At base, the temporal head of the Church was established by our Founder with the unspoken provision that the operational rules, including election and resignation, could come later. They have. The temporal office of the head of the Church is administrative as well as pastoral. Clearly, Benedict gave up the administrative function (rule) but retained the pastoral of his ordination. Fatima notwithstanding, there has been no convincing evidence of heaven’s intention to interfere with the authority granted to the Church and/or its temporal head at the founding. It would seem the matter closed.


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