ASK FATHER: Do I sin if I think that Benedict XVI on purpose didn’t resign the papacy?

From a reader…

QUAERITUR:

I have become increasingly convinced by those who say that Pope Benedict XVI purposefully performed an invalid resignation of the papacy.

Does this belief potentially place me in a state of serious sin? I do not besmirch Francis and largely keep these thoughts to myself.

I know that ideally I simply would adopt some medieval peasant piety and worry only about my own prayer life and soul and not Church politicking, but now that the “Genie is out of the bottle” so to speak, I am finding it very hard to put it back.

I am not going to get into the arguments on either side of the issue.  Personally, I am carefully weighing what I read.   What I can say is this in general terms.

Writing about his struggle with the Anglican Church and his conversion to the Catholic Faith St. John Henry Newman wrote in his Apologia, “Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt.” He is writing about doctrine, but it applies also to the issue at hand.  Let’s see the context with some emphases.

Many persons are very sensitive of the difficulties of Religion; I am as sensitive of them as any one; but I have never been able to see a connexion between apprehending those difficulties, however keenly, and multiplying them to any extent, and on the other hand doubting the doctrines to which they are attached. Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt, as I understand the subject; difficulty and doubt are incommensurate. There of course may be difficulties in the evidence; but I am speaking of difficulties intrinsic to the doctrines themselves, or to their relations with each other. A man may be annoyed that he cannot work out a mathematical problem, of which the answer is or is not given to him, without doubting that it admits of an answer, or that a certain particular answer is the true one. Of all points of faith, the being of a God is, to my own apprehension, encompassed with most difficulty, and yet borne in upon our minds with most power.

Sorting out the arguments about the resignation of Benedict, though they touch on the theological, ecclesiological reality of the Petrine Ministry and the indefectibility of the Church as guaranteed by Christ, are really juridical issues.  That doesn’t make them unimportant, but it shifts our questioning into a different category.  As Newman wrote, above, there is a difference between the annoyance we can have in struggling to understanding God and in understanding a mathematical problem.  It seems to me that this is more a math kind of problem than a God kind of problem.

The effects of Original Sin force us to struggle with vexing questions in the tangle of our minds.  However, we also have the help of proper authorities (e.g., forebears, experts, Scripture, the Magisterium, etc.).  Our task is made more complicated when our questions concern authority’s authority, not whether some authority is doing a good job or not, but if it is indeed proper authority.  In most cases we are argue the rightness and wrongness of something on its merits.  But when rightness also flows from an office, and when the legitimacy of the office itself is in question, we are in a hard place.

At this point I want to bring in another point upon which is anchored our traditional Act of Faith: “O my God, I firmly believe that Thou art one God in three divine persons, Father, Son … Thou hast revealed them, Who canst neither deceive nor be deceived.

Let us also attend to the Apostle to the Gentiles, writing to the Galatians: “Be not deceived, God is not mocked. For what things a man shall sow, those also shall he reap. For he that soweth in his flesh, of the flesh also shall reap corruption. But he that soweth in the spirit, of the spirit shall reap life everlasting.”

As I said before, we struggle with certain questions in the tangle of our minds even as we make use of authority.

We had better be pretty sure about our motives if we are going to raise questions or even perhaps stand firm against something which seems to most people to be clear.  And the more important the issue, the more urgently, unswervingly we must test ourselves.

Sincere questions are not sins. Still in the matter of doctrine, there is a distinction between doubts which are involuntary and doubts which are voluntary.

The CCC 2088 distinguishes, “hesitation in believing, difficulty in overcoming objections with the faith, or also anxiety aroused by its obscurity” (CCC 2088) from what arises when you “disregards or refuses to hold as true what God has revealed and the Church proposes for belief.”

That has to do with articles of Faith.  I think we have to apply this also to the less doctrinal and more juridical issue of Benedict’s resignation. One can have questions and doubts and then, with complete sincerity, struggle to work them out, seek answers now from here now from there, looking at all possible angles with honest appraisal while seeking wise authority’s help.

On the other hand, it is also possible to engage in subtle self-deception, by a reluctance or maybe even stubborn refusal to consider the other side of the question. That kind of voluntary doubt is an attack on truth. An attack on truth is an attack on God and is sinful.

There are a lot of smart people on both sides of the questions that surround Benedict’s abdication.  They deserve a respectful hearing.  I’ve heard good arguments on both sides. Most of them seem to be trying sincerely to get to THE TRUTH of the matter.  Some have come down on one side because they simply don’t like Francis.  That’s not a good enough reason.  Others are really drilling.  They have to be taken seriously.

There is something tangibly diabolical in the way that this has all transpired, which is evident from the obvious division and distress that is swelling in the Church in many sectors.

It is particularly distressing that the very office Christ created within the Church, the Petrine Ministry, intended to be a focal point of unity and a source of certainty, has become, in both respects, less unifying and less calming than the other popes of this century and of the last.

Whatever it is that do with your questions or doubts or convictions, test them and do not engage in any self-deception. God is not mocked and God cannot be deceived. God knows you better than you know yourself. God is closer to you than you are to yourself.

Finally, if you sense that you might be placing yourself in a state of spiritual peril by getting into these matters, then put them aside.

Frankly, I am not convinced that we are going to be able to sort out your question any time soon and that the troubling effects of the doubts will continue to grow for sometime, at least until the end of this pontificate. But remember always that hundreds of generations of Catholics went through their whole lives hardly even knowing the name of the current Pope. They lived and died in their Catholic vocations and now enjoy the bliss of heaven barely aware of the concrete details of the papacy or the Roman Curia or maybe even who the bishop was, since often the bishop resided far away even from the diocese.

We don’t have to know every little thing that goes on. There is a sin called curiositas.  We humans by nature desire to know things.  But when that desire becomes immoderate, for the sake of the knowledge of things itself rather than for the good that can come from knowledge, we stray into the realm of sin.  It may be better for many people to “fast” and “abstain” from current Church news, lest the taste of that which titillates the palate of the new, the now, the scoop and skinny draws us into dwelling on questions that none of us can solve, at least with speed and ease.

You yourself must police your conscience in these matters.  When it comes to your topic, what could be sinful for one, might be still sound for another.

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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34 Responses to ASK FATHER: Do I sin if I think that Benedict XVI on purpose didn’t resign the papacy?

  1. Grabski says:

    I take solace that Pope E BXVI is alive in Rome. I pray for his health daily

  2. Cy says:

    Benedict’s Secretary Ganswein said by the act that the Papacy itself was “expanded” in 2013 to fit two popes.

    God gave us the gift of reason to evaluate a statement like that.

    Ten thousand difficulties may not make a doubt, but what do ten thousand doubts make…?

  3. Lurker 59 says:

    Leaving aside the questions of the abdication and sin, let me first suggest that if you remain in communion with your local priest, and he the local bishop, that things work themselves out in the wash. The Church is hierarchical and a layman is in communion with the Roman Pontiff not directly, but indirectly.

    The amount of suffering that the abdication (perhaps historically to be The Abdication) has birthed into the world is profound. Suffering is not just punitive, but it is purgative and redemptive. Take the time to meditate upon how Christ’s own priests and teachers of the Law turned against Him. I have found this to personally help myself.

    [Asside: For many, forgiving Francis for what he does is actually an easier task than forgiving Benedict for leaving — many actually cling to him because they cannot forgive him.]

  4. Spinmamma says:

    Thank you for that sound analysis and very sound advice. I still grieve the loss of our beloved Benedict as Pope, but I know that we only have a partial picture of anything in this world, especially when it come to court machinations .

  5. Rob83 says:

    In a case of doubt about who the pope is, we can at least be certain that the office is held, even if it takes the Church a little while to sort out the answer about whom it is. It is still quite possible to believe in the office of the papacy and pray for the man occupying it even if one is not sure of the pope’s identity.

    I suspect that in years to come, assuming we are not at the end of time, the Church will look back on these years and render a judgment.

  6. cengime says:

    St Gregory the Great writes about a deacon named Paschasius who went to purgatory only for adhering to the wrong pope: https://books.google.com/books?id=7-hAAQAAIAAJ&pg=PA249

    He entered into eternal rest thanks to the prayers of St Germanus of Capua, and according to the Roman Martyrology, Paschasius is a saint: https://archive.org/details/romanmartyrology00cathuoft/page/158

  7. cengime says:

    I had better post Gregory’s text and not the link alone, since people may not be able to read it from all countries.

    When I was still a young layman, I heard my elders and men acquainted with the circumstances tell of Paschasius, a deacon of the Apostolic See. His highly orthodox and brilliantly written books on the Holy Spirit are still read. He was a man of outstanding sanctity and very zealous in the practice of almsgiving. His kindness to the poor was remarkable, while for himself he had nothing but contempt. In the dispute over the papacy between the parties of Symmachus and Lawrence, which was accompanied by the excitement of popular demonstrations, he cast his vote for Lawrence. Even though Symmachus was later on accepted unanimously by both parties, Paschasius would not change his affiliations, but to the end of his life reserved his devotion and respect for Lawrence, the man whom the Church by the judgment of her bishops had refused to set up as her head.

    Paschasius died during the reign of Pope Symmachus. A possessed person touched his dalmatic, which had been laid on the coffin, and was instantly cured. A long time afterward Germanus, Bishop of Capua, whom I have already mentioned, came to the baths of Angulus at his doctor’s advice. As he entered the hot baths, he found the deacon Paschasius standing there as an attendant. Germanus was shocked and asked what a man of his dignity was doing in such a place. ‘The only reason I am serving here,’ the deacon answered, ‘is that I endorsed the party of Lawrence against Symmachus. But I beg you, pray for me to the Lord. When you come back and no longer find me here, you will know that your prayers have been heard.’

    Germanus, therefore, gave himself to fervent prayer, and, when he returned a few days later, Paschasius no longer appeared. This purification from sin after death was possible because the deacon had sinned through ignorance, and not malice. What we are to believe is that through his previous almsdeeds he obtained the grace of receiving forgiveness at a time when he was no longer able to do meritorious works.

  8. Filiolus says:

    Pope Benedict has clearly stated that his resignation was valid. Claims to the contrary would seem to make him a liar. I don’t see the sense in it.
    Sure, the “two popes” thing is extremely odd, but it should be reconciled with Benedict’s repeated insistence that his resignation was valid. Likely the “expanded ministry” idea is a prudential judgement gone awry.
    Personally, I’d take little solace in the theory that the real pope is publicly lying about his resignation being valid. To push that idea would be uncharitable to Benedict to say the least. Not sure why people want to go down that rabbit hole…

  9. davidjmccormick says:

    It seems pretty obvious to me that he didn’t intend to resign the papal office. He started by saying that once the office accepted it is done so “forever”, and then next states he is retiring from the active ministry.

    Is he speaking in coded language? Was he attempting to bifurcate the papacy? I find it very hard to believe the narrative that is being told by the current regime.

    Of course, if it is true that his resignation is null then it sheds a whole new light on what Bergoglio is up to.

    I can pray for the pope without knowing who it currently is.

  10. OrdoMilitaris says:

    Father,

    Thank you for your sound counsel.

    If I may just point out, that in accord with Canons 331, 332, 333, and 749, the Papal Office is a Munus, not a Ministerium.

    Wishing you a blessed Advent,

    Br. Alexis Bugnolo

  11. Atra Dicenda, Rubra Agenda says:

    Father, as always, this is sound and moderate advice for a topic many of us are trying prayerfully around which to wrap our heads. I’m a physician and spend a great deal of daily intellectual effort evaluating consistent and inconsistent sets of data to successfully diagnose pathology. I find the whole Francis pontificate a jumbled mess of inconsistencies which makes it difficult for me to square the Francis circle. ‘By their fruits ye shall know them’ is the religious tenet and philosophically we deduce the nature of a cause from its effects. Francis then begs the question the Questioner is raising in many of our minds and hearts…he seems to be the poster child of the Hermeneutic of Rupture…it is quite hard to separate our personal dislike for his approach/manner from the other fruits and effects…but we are unlikely to get an official answer on these problems anytime soon, perhaps not in our lifetimes. It’s best to get our nose down and pray the Rosary and practice virtue/excellence in the vocation, time, and place God put us.

  12. Benedict Joseph says:

    Clear reasoning, much required and much appreciated.

  13. mysticalrose says:

    I greatly appreciate this post. It has eased my conscience. What has been most confusing to me is B16’s continued use of the white papal vestments. He probably the smartest man in the Church alive today and steeped in tradition — why of all people would he adopt this innovation if not for some reason? It would all make more sense if had returned to being “Cardinal Ratzinger.”

  14. KateD says:

    I don’t doubt that Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI thought about and yearned to retire long before his papacy began.

    I don’t doubt that Pope Francis is an elderly Argentine who speaks in long and round about arguments rather than concise made for tv sound bites nor that he has a fiery and passionate Latin temper and compromised health due to physical impediments that affect his energy.

    I don’t doubt that the braggadocious Saint Gallen Group conspired to take advantage of the known dispositions and sentiments of both men to advance their liberal and synodal ambitions. When arrogant and prideful men conspire to place their own reason above God’s, it NEVER turns out well.

    But finally and most importantly (to somewhat echo what Father said above), I don’t doubt that God loves us and HIS Church. I trust that through our commitment to offer our best efforts to assist in what feeble ways we mere mortals may, both in prayer and in physical work, to help bring about God’s Holy Will, that He will make all things right.

    And there’s an end of it.

    However on a somewhat tangential note…I think we can learn a lot about what it means to be called, and what it means to abdicate (resign) when we’ve been called, wether it’s to the highest offices, such as the papacy or maybe the smaller rolls we are asked to participate in our local parishes.

    All of this reminds me of the Shakespeare play King Lear. Resignation seems reasonable enough. We can list a hundred reasons to justify abdication, but ultimately, when we walk away or allow our selves to be pushed out of an office we have been called to….disaster ensues.

    I wonder who was the Catechist that was pushed out at that parish where that judge is being such a pill? It was probably a small quiet affair 40 years or so ago when the parish perhaps made some changes to be more modern? And now the consequences that have come to fruition all these years later not just to the soul of the judge, but also the public scandal she has caused and her attacks on that good priest who has only done exactly and valiantly what he should.

    So I think if we, in our little lives, can exercise better the virtue of perseverance in what small ways we may, that perhaps it will help provide a more solid foundation upon which future priests, bishops and popes stand. What is a corner stone if it doesn’t have solid material around it? Just another rock in a barren landscape. The corner stone is edified by the strength of the structure around it. We are that edifice, the Church. It is only as strong as we are.

    There’s not much we grunts on the frontlines can do about the power plays in Rome, but what we can do is win small victories in our own parishes….the small victories of proper catechesis of children, beautiful sacred music and support of our parish priests and local bishops (other readers can add to that list better ways to participate) will have a profound impact on the outcome of the overall war.

  15. brasscow says:

    While fasting from church news may be advisable to some extent, it is important to evaluate these questions or one may be unwittingly lead to apostasy while trying to maintain unity.

  16. KateD says:

    *effect?

  17. chantgirl says:

    God forgive me, but Francis seems to be a moment of supreme temptation for the whole Church.

    To those weak in faith, Francis gives reasons to doubt.

    To those weak in virtue, Francis gives justifications to sin.

    To those who are faithful, Francis provides temptations to malaise, despair, compromise, and silent cowardice.

    What is notable to me is that those who are looking to justify their pet sins usually do find reasons to sin- nothing new there. The faithful, however, are usually more tempted by the secular world to malaise, despair, compromise, and cowardice. Now the faithful are tempted by their own spiritual father. What a perfectly, diabolically-crafted temptation that the faithful are tempted by their very own spiritual father, the very one they are called to obey after God! The evil one is not satisfied to harvest the immoral and unfaithful; he now greedily eyes the elect.

    I have been lately pondering that the Lord “hardened Pharaoh’s heart”, and that Christ spoke in parables because some were not given to understand, and that during the great tribulation even some of the elect will be deceived. The hardening of Pharaoh’s heart somehow intertwined with God’s plan to free his people from slavery, and lead to them having the freedom to worship the real God in truth. Christ’ hiding His divinity from some in the Jewish community lead to His triumph on the cross by which we were freed from sin. I have to wonder if the blindness which has come upon the Church is ultimately bound up in Her eventual freedom from bondage.

    We certainly seem to be held hostage by an irrational pharaoh. The Church is certainly laboring under the bondage of sin and confusion right now. In fact, the Church seems to be in the early stages of a worldwide Passion.

    The darker things become, the more confused the people of God are, the more the clergy become immoral and cowardly, the more I am certain that God is preparing the Church for restoration and triumph. The past triumphs of the Israelites, Christ in His passion, and the early Church martyrs indicate that our new triumph will not come without suffering and bloodshed. The faithful remnant of the Church are the new lambs who will be sacrificed, whether that martyrdom is spiritual or physical.

    People of God, let us pray for wisdom, prudence, hope, courage, and stamina. Yes, Christ’ Church will triumph, but it will only triumph when the measure of sacrifice has been met.

  18. I think we have to ask ourselves a couple of questions:

    – Is Christ active or not in the process of transferring the Petrine office? Can He be stymied by the sins of men, or the errors of men, or the semantics games of men? If a man were to try to abdicate the office in part, is Christ thereby prevented from divesting him of the entire office and conferring it upon another?

    – The entire Church acclaimed Francis as Pope upon his election. Since the Pope is the touchstone of Christian unity, can the Church err by universally acclaiming a false Pope? Can the whole entire Church be wrong about such a critical fact? The fact of universal acclamation cannot be undone no matter how much we might regret it.

    As for Benedict XVI retaining some of the papal trappings, I think this is mostly owing to the fact that the Church just doesn’t have a protocol for dealing with a living former Pope (apart from putting him in prison), or for how a former Pope ought to conduct himself. This was illustrated by the confusion that ensued about how to cope with Benedict when he became the first Pope in almost 600 years to abdicate. A future Pope may or may not choose to address this. I think the case can be made for not addressing it at all, since formulating a protocol shows an expectation that Popes will continue to abdicate, which I think is not something we want to become a common practice.

    I think it would pay for us to educate ourselves thoroughly on the powers and prerogatives of the Roman Pontiff, which are narrower than a lot of us probably think. It is providential that at just this time, Ryan Grant has been busying himself translating the works of St. Robert Bellarmine into English.

  19. John says:

    You [If you are addressing yourself to ME, Fr. Z, say so.] are criticizing motives. [No. I am pointing out the pitfalls.] In my own case and others, I am unaware of anything amiss. [Others? Are you psychic?]

    But more, you also seem to accuse any who would to be certain of the sin of curiosity (a form of pride). [You need to read more carefully.] Thus doubt and tepidity are the only right course. And surprise!! That is where you are. ;) [You need to think more clearly too.]

    Rather, the arguments themselves ought to be engaged, not character. [Look in the mirror.]

    We have a graver crisis than any before just as Modernism is a greater heresy than all prior combined (cf Pascendi).

    Now more evidence and argument is available than ever before. As for me, I was in doubt 18 months ago and since 2014. Now, I have weighed all sides. Doubt is removed. Like Catherine of Sienna or Vincent Ferrer, I find I cannot be silent in so much greater a matter. [You put yourself in prestigious company.]

  20. Fr. Aaron Sandbothe says:

    Mysticalrose,

    In the Eastern and Oriental Catholic Churches we have had patriarchs retire who then lived the remainder of their lives as Patriarch Emeritus. They retain their dress and honorifics and no one puts up a fuss. We know who the current patriarch is when there is a retired patriarch living down the hall.

    It would be more ideal if abdication was removed as an option and the patriarchs of churches (even the Church of Rome) were compelled to remain in office until their death.

    It might also be helpful for the Latin Church to create a method to depose a problematic Pope of Rome. Perhaps someone should suggest this to Francis as his contribution to the law governing the Papacy.

  21. GypsyMom says:

    One of the hardest things about this whole crisis is how orthodox Catholics are turning on each other through the confusion. Labels such as “crazy,”and “schismatic” and “stupid” are being hurled by other Catholics at fellow faithful Catholics who are heartbroken and feeling a little lost. NO ONE, except Almighty God, really knows what exactly is happening now, and we all need to calm down and stop the uncharitable behavior. The enemies are not our fellow faithful churchmen, and we need to be patient with each other until God sees fit to make things clear for everyone.

  22. Cy says:

    He can be mistaken. He need not be a liar.

  23. Fr_Sotelo says:

    Here’s an example of a useful question: whether unbaptized babies that die in utero or after birth can have the hope of salvation?

    Here’s an example of a useless question: whether Benedict abdicated, or whether he did so with the intention to create a spectacle before the world that was really an invalid abdication?

    I scarce can type such a useless question without laughing. Why wasn’t this raised before the papal conclave? If the college of cardinals or the college of bishops had grave doubts, that would have been the time to propose them before the global Catholic Church and to resolve them.

    Benedict, however, publicly insisted that he was no longer pope. The conclave happened, by which Francis was canonically elected, acclaimed, received by the entire Church, given obeisance by the cardinals and hierarchy.

    Even received by Benedict himself, who rendered a public fealty to Francis as the reigning Pope. What part of the real world, where these things took place, do people not mentally grasp?

    I mean, let’s forget about whether people are sinning by wallowing in the futility of this talk. In what parallel universe have people inserted themselves, whereby questions are raised that require us to completely ignore and pretend that the worldwide, global Catholic Church does not have Francis as Pope?

    I offer as a spiritual bouquet of Advent these words: “Remind people of these things and charge them before God to stop disputing about words. This serves no useful purpose since it harms those who listen” (2 Timothy 2:14).

  24. crjs1 says:

    Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI has repeatedly stated his loyalty to Pope Francis, including calling on the latest batch of Cardinals to be obedient to Pope Francis. It’s exacerbating that there are still people claiming Benedict is still the pope, often going down rabbit holes of conspiracy theories about forced abdication and people putting words in Benedict’s mouth following the election of Francis.

    What, to me, seems the actual issue is how we deal with a Pope in the form of Francis. The Dan Brown level of conspiracy theories about the validity of Pope Francis just seems like a really unhelpful distraction. its clear Francis is the Valid Pope, how we feel about that is another matter.

  25. JesusFreak84 says:

    For my part, I’ve found the idea of “Benevanctism” insulting to the very man the proponents thereof claim to support. If one insists that Benedict resigned under duress and therefore it wasn’t valid, one is insulting Benedict, infantalizing him, really. One is implying that he cannot make his own decisions. If one believes he *on purpose* resigned invalidly, allowing us to think that Bergolio is Pope Francis? Then, I’m sorry, Benedict would be one of the most wicked Pontiffs in centuries, if he did that. Maybe a future Pontiff declares Francis an anti-Pope, but one person who I KNOW isn’t Pope right now is Benedict.

  26. iPadre says:

    My response to people who ask me similar questions is is does it really matter to you. In the Middle Ages they know there was a Pope, they didn’t hear from him much. What we all need to focus on is personal sanctification and evangelization. We have everything we need to become holy, the Sacraments, prayer, sacraments…

  27. Fr. Aaron Sandbothe says: It would be more ideal if abdication was removed as an option and the patriarchs of churches (even the Church of Rome) were compelled to remain in office until their death….It might also be helpful for the Latin Church to create a method to depose a problematic Pope of Rome. Perhaps someone should suggest this to Francis as his contribution to the law governing the Papacy.

    Can the Pope actually be bound by a law against abdicating? That seems like the sort of law that a Pope could legitimately set aside. Plus: as much as we don’t like Popes abdicating, would it be desirable to outlaw it, even if it were possible? If I remember rightly, the Great Western Schism was resolved by having the rival claimants to the See step down so the cardinals could elect a Pope with a clear title.

    As for deposing a Pope, who has the authority to do it? Possibly the cardinals have the authority to declare that a Pope has removed himself from the Church and lost his office by being a formal heretic. That would not be to depose him, but to judge and declare what the Pope would have done himself. The problem is that in order for a formal heretic to make it onto the Throne of Peter, there probably needs to be a majority of cardinals without the will to oppose him.

  28. TonyO says:

    I personally don’t put much stock in the thesis that Francis is not the pope, but …

    Pope Benedict has clearly stated that his resignation was valid. Claims to the contrary would seem to make him a liar. I don’t see the sense in it.
    Sure, the “two popes” thing is extremely odd, but it should be reconciled with Benedict’s repeated insistence that his resignation was valid. Likely the “expanded ministry” idea is a prudential judgement gone awry.

    Let us suppose (as all of the Church thought was true a mere 7 years ago), there is no way to separate the elements of papal ministry from the papal office (munus), so that it is impossible for one man to hold one papal ministry, and another man to hold another papal ministry, both having (currently) a real relation to the papal office.

    Arguably, IF IT WERE TRUE that Benedict thought that he was resigning from the papal ministry in its active role, but retaining the papal ministry of prayer and contemplation, then he was not intending to resigning from the papal munus tout court, but only resigning from an aspect of it. And, arguably, his declarations NOW about that former act, could then be mistaken about its character and its reality, because he himself would be under a misunderstanding about the munus. There is no need to assign to Benedict a lie or a deception, even IF you think he was trying to assert a divergence of the ministries of the papal office.

    I have not yet seen any clear evidence that Benedict thought he was abdicating from one of the papal ministries but not wholly from the papal office, though I accept there is a bit of ambiguity. But I would suggest that if that’s what he thought he was doing, the Church should reject the whole concept as completely novel, completely unfounded, completely foreign to the constitution of the papal office and settling in on Peter. I have seen nobody and nothing hinting at a rationale that could begin to establish that a separation of ministries is possible, and there is no plausible argument to make us take it seriously. And no pope can change the constitutional meaning of the office – that takes divine authority, not just papal authority.

    One more point:

    He probably the smartest man in the Church alive today and steeped in tradition — why of all people would he adopt this innovation if not for some reason?

    Although Benedict is a brilliant thinker and extremely well-read, he also chose to align himself with the Novelle Theologie movement leading into Vatican II, at least in part. This movement took its very name from being willing to step apart from traditional thinking and consider innovations. I don’t think this proves anything like he thought he could re-invent the papacy; I am just pointing out that he was not the total bastion of tradition that is suggested in the quote above. If he really did think the papacy could be divided, it would indeed be an “innovation”, and for that very reason not to be accepted. We don’t get to add innovations to the nature of the papacy.

  29. OrdoMilitaris says:

    I would caution everyone to do what Father Z has done with so many texts from the Liturgy from the start, that is, read the original Latin of both canon 332 §2 and Pope Benedict’s declaration of Feb 11, 2013.

    As regards the canon, the most common mistake is to recognize that it states that freedom and due manifestation are required for validity, but miss that these are said in regard to a renunciation of munus. Thus freedom to renounce the munus and due manifestation of a renunication of munus are the complete and authentic reading of the requirements of validity in Canon 332 §2.

    Next read Non solum propter, the said declaration, and look for any indication of a renunciation of munus, any sign of freedom in renouncing the munus, and any due manifestation of the renunciation of munus.

    And then you will understand the problem.

    Personally, I am of the opinion that the act contains at least 6 canonical errors which render it null, invalid, or lacking all effect, and as I have said many many times to many many people, I am both willing and prepared to debate anyone in front of cameras on this. The truth shall set you free!

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  31. TRW says:

    Has anyone trained in ecclesiology or canon law made public their arguments about the invalidity of Benedict’s resignation? The most prominent of those promulgating such notions appear to very prideful, not just in their presumptuous pontificating on this particular issue, but also in regard to the uncharitable manner in which they address other problems in the Church. It’s amazing that arguments more specious and problematic than those of the sedvacantists are now floating about. Last time I checked, private judgment wasn’t the prerogative of Catholics. Having doubts or concerns is one thing. Broadcasting those theories publicly and shouting them from the rooftop is another. Time will tell. It will be the Church that ultimately declares the truth of the matter. Just as when we attend a mass that has horrible music and a lack of proper decorum there is the temptation to be distracted by all the glaring and unbecoming deficiencies of the celebration of the mass and forget Our Blessed Lord and those who need our prayers, so in this case it behooves us to simply hunker down and focus on what we are called to do. What are the obligations and duties proper to our state in life? The devil has a thousand ways to distract us. The spirit of egalitarianism has so insidiously worked it’s way into our thinking, that we are all tempted to think we are experts deserving of a platform. That being said, thanks for this platform that allows us all to comment ! Congratulations on 14 years of this blog, Fr. Z! May God bless you and the Virgin protect you!

  32. Tara Tremuit says:

    Re: Fr. Sotelo: I think the point of this post was to say that mockery of the people who are asking this question is not helpful/useful. I was asking the same questions as you just asked until I read this post by Br. Alexis Bugnolo. https://fromrome.wordpress.com/2019/09/11/how-benedict-has-defeated-francis/ (Apologies to Fr. Z if links are a no-go.) Br. Bugnolo freely admits to a great deal of conjecture, but his hypothesis is the only one I’ve seen which offers a resolution to this issue without making BXVI into a liar and without making Our Lord’s sure promise of indefectibility a puzzle in these times.

  33. Fr_Sotelo says:

    Tara Tremuit,

    I did not mock anyone. If you read my post, what I stated was that this question, about whether Benedict resigned invalidly (on purpose), was “a useless question.” It is not spiritually profitable. It ignores the reality of a conclave convened validly, a Pope elected canonically, a reception by the global Catholic Church (whose soul is the Holy Spirit), and a public obeisance offered by the entire college of bishops.

    The Scripture of 2 Timothy 2:14 already instructed the apostolic Church to “stop disputing” about things which are useless. That, also, was not stated to make fun of those who question–rather the Word of God calls us to see the futility of such disputes.

    The practical question, and what is most practical for growing in virtue and holiness as Catholics, is stated well by crjs1: “the actual issue is how we deal with a Pope in the form of Francis.” It is too easy and convenient to flee from Francis, as if he can be just written off as a mistake. But in every age of the Church, what is too easy and convenient is not the way of the Cross.

  34. Fr_Andrew says:

    With all due respect, to Br Alexis, his proposal above is the real problem with all of this and why I see nothing but imprudence behind this thesis and those who push it.

    I mean the proposal for the untrained laity to play the armchair theologian, canon lawyer and Pope. This does nothing but harm.

    While ultimately these are juridical questions, they touch, as Fr Z has written, on theological matters, and canon law. These theses bring into question the indefectibility of the Church, matters that traditional theologians considered infallible dogmatic facts, traditional theology on ecclesiology among many other serious issues along with very precise theological and canonical definitions that require a great deal of not only study and knowledge, but facility and solid principles in these subjects.

    In fact, the vast majority of priests who never pursued higher studies in theology or canon law do not have the facility, training or study to do more than a cursory survey of these points, and certainly could not resolve them without running into some serious contradictions. The subject quickly leads to dead ends which seem to undermine what theologians have long considered something which can be known infallibly.

    Far less do nearly all laity (save perhaps the handful with the proper education) have the capability of studying these matters in any serious way, and so recommending to them to do self-study or even attempt to answer the questions is recommending something dangerous and damaging, and I can testify to the grave harm it does to souls.

    This is exactly the curiositas that must be avoided.

    The outcome of the questions raised cannot be known with certainty, and certainly not with certainty to the laity. The answers do not change how the faithful need to live their daily lives as Catholics.

    If clergy and laity who are trained in theology and canon law want to discuss these theories in theological circles as a means of “peer review” and trying to find the holes and problems with each position, fine. It does not belong to Joe Catholic to take positions on these theories.

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