The Mazza Hypothesis: Benedict resigned as Bishop of Rome but not Vicar of Christ. Wherein Fr. Z ponders with a heavy heart.

I’ve been pondering lately.   One needs to do this out of love.  Ponder, comes from Latin pondus, “weight”.  Hence, I am weighing things.  Augustine famously wrote, amor meus pondus meum… my love is my weight.  In Augustine’s time, gravity was thought to be an interior force that compelled things to go to where they belonged.  Thus, the heart is always restless until it rests in God.  Amor meus, pondus meum.

However, in the words of the modern poet’s song, John Mayer,

“Gravity is working against me
And gravity wants to bring me down”

Is it okay to say that I am still feeling the gravity of the abdication of Benedict XVI and its aftermath?   I don’t think I am alone.  Something truly ponderous must have driven Benedict – whom I knew a little, personally, before his election – to have left the Apostolic Apartments for the tiny house in the back of the Vatican gardens.

“Oh, I’ll never know what makes this man
With all the love that his heart can stand
Dream of ways to throw it all away”

I have long thought that, because he had had a stroke in 1991, he was afraid that he might have another and wind up being the captive of buffoons (he appointed) like Card. Bertone.  Ratzinger had watched the last days of John Paul II and the machinations of Card. Sodano and others.  With modern medicine people can keep a man alive for a long time and do things in his name while he is trapped in his body, unable to fight.  John Paul was badly reduced at the end, couldn’t really even talk.  His witness was amazing, but the governance of the Church suffered.  The Church is resilient.

But now we have a witness of reduced Benedict and a still fairly ambulatory Francis, two bishops in white, whereas John Paul II, badly reduced was still gigantic.

“Oh twice as much ain’t twice as good
And can’t sustain like one half could
It’s wanting more that’s gonna send me to my knees”

I have a sense that more people than ever are asking questions, pondering, what the hell is going on these days.  Perhaps we are in the lead up to the tribulations described in Scripture.  Growing larger and larger on the horizon of my mind is the Pauline allusion to the “Restrainer” in 2 Thessalonians 2:6.  We don’t know for sure to whom Paul referred, but clearly this figure is the one who hinders the Antichrist.  One day, the Restrainer will stop restraining.  Already, looking around the globe and seeing pandemic, China, and domestic lawlessness, I ponder:

“For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way.
And then the lawless one will be revealed, and the Lord Jesus will slay him with the breath of his mouth and destroy him by his appearing and his coming.
The coming of the lawless one by the activity of Satan will be with all power and with pretended signs and wonders,
and with all wicked deception for those who are to perish, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.
Therefore God sends upon them a strong delusion, to make them believe what is false,
so that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”

Heavy, no?  Seems to be a description of our time, or at least the lead up to worse manifestation of the same.  Paul wrote, “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths. (2 Tim 4:3-4)”.  And the Lord Himself said, “They will put you out of the synagogues; indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. (John 16:2)”   

It weighs on the heart.

In these last months I have taken serious note of how the Lord’s ejection of demons and his physical healings went hand in hand, overlapping.

I think that what we are seeing, world wide, is a massive demonic movement in the ongoing war within this vale of tears.  We are always at war with the world, the flesh and the Devil.  But sometimes in this dreadful trench war, offensives are launched.  China.  Domestic terror and lawlessness.  Viral pandemic.   Relentless stupid in every possible direction.  Our own pastors shutting down the sacramental life of the Church.

Two men in white.  I am mindful of Anne Catherine Emmerich’s vision of a two “popes” as if viewed in a  mirror: one is the real deal and the other is an image.  I am mindful of the really hard to swallow explanation of the Third Secret, especially in that with the other visions there were explanations by the Blessed Virgin, missing in this case.  I am mindful of the messages of Akita and of Garanbandal.

Recently I was prompted by a friend to listen to a podcast by Taylor Marshall.  Over a couple of days I got through it.  They are … long.  It was an interview with Edmund Mazza, and it was about the conundrum of whether or not Benedict XVI really abdicated the See of Peter, the papacy, or not.  Maybe he did and maybe he didn’t.

Mazza has come up with a very interesting theory.  That’s what I will focus on now.

First, let me remind you of some that was written a while back by Fr. Thomas Weinandy, OFM, a distinguished theologian who is not afraid of our ecclesial overlords.  He offered an alarming but ringing possibility, in the wake of the disastrous Amazon Synod (“walking together”) and other odd actions of Francis. HERE

“What the Church will end up with, then, is a pope who is the pope of the Catholic Church and, simultaneously, the de facto leader, for all practical purposes, of a schismatic church. Because he is the head of both, the appearance of one church remains, while in fact there are two.

The only phrase that I can find to describe this situation is “internal papal schism,” for the pope, even as pope, will effectively be the leader of a segment of the Church that through its doctrine, moral teaching, and ecclesial structure, is for all practical purposes schismatic. This is the real schism that is in our midst and must be faced, but I do not believe Pope Francis is in any way afraid of this schism. As long as he is in control, he will, I fear, welcome it, for he sees the schismatic element as the new “paradigm” for the future Church.”

The problem here is that a Pope cannot be in schism with himself.

However, is there another way that Francis could be in schism?  What if Francis were, indeed, the Bishop of Rome (as he called himself from the beginning in 2013), but not, in fact, the Vicar of Christ?

Thus, the thesis of Edmund Mazza.

Mazza was also on a podcast with Ann Barnhardt, whom I am sure you know has for a long time now been adamantly saying that Francis is an antipope and the Benedict XVI is still Pope.   Benedict did not resign the papacy.   He could have been pressured to resign.  He didn’t use the proper language or terms.  Etc.

For my part, I have not wanted to get too much into this for the simple fact that Cardinals who were in the conclave have not raised problems.

And yet this weighs on a lot of very smart and very thoughtful people who raise questions precisely out of love for the Church.

Cardinals did raise a problem with the “Pope Emeritus” conundrum.

If you were to go to those podcasts, you would have to listen for a long time and we don’t all have that time.  I listened at 2x speed and it still took a while.   Perhaps I can summarize the main line of Mazza’s argument.

Based on Benedict’s wording of his resignation, and based on comments made by Benedict’s secretary and confidant and, still, head of the Papal Household, Archbp. George Gänswein, Benedict may have tried to “split” the two-fold role of the Successor of Peter, namely a) Bishop of Rome and b) Vicar of Christ.  So, Benedict resigned as Bishop of Rome, calling himself Pope Emeritus, like a Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Rome, but he retained for himself the role of Vicar of Christ.

My immediate reaction is, “No, can’t happen.  These offices are inextricably tied together and are embodied in one man who is elected to the See of Rome, because that was Peter’s See.”

Not so fast.

In the podcasts, Mazza brings up the fact when Christ conferred on Peter what was clearly intended to an office that was to be handed down, when Christ gave Peter the “keys” and clearly made him head of the Apostles, earthly head of the Church built on his “rock”, when Christ at the Sea of Galilee confirmed Peter’s office, intended to be handed down, Peter had not yet been anywhere near Rome.

Peter was Vicar of Christ before he was Bishop of Rome.

When Christ takes the Apostles to Caesarea Philippi (Matthew 16:16-18) he gives people the “keys”.  About a year later, the Apostles are ordained at the Last Supper.

Peter has the keys from Matthew 16 onward, but he is not a “bishop” until the Eucharist and Holy Orders were established by Christ.

Consider that when Christ gave primacy to Peter, there were no sees or dioceses. Peter later would found the Church at Alexandria and Antioch. Wouldn’t Antioch have been the primal see?  But Peter left Antioch and went to Rome. So there seems to be nothing absolutely necessary about the one we now call “Pope” being Bishop of Rome.

As a matter of fact, the Successor of Peter could divorce the papacy from Rome and move it somewhere else … or nowhere. It is his person that matters. But there could still be a Bishop of Rome, appointed by him, if Rome still existed.

As I listened to the podcast with Ann Barnhardt, a conversation I had with Joseph Card. Ratzinger came to mind.

One day I ran into him in the hallway of the Palazzo del Sant’Uffizio where I was working.   We struck up a conversation about some goofy German theologian.  With a mischievous grin he said that he was relieved that Peter stopped in Rome and didn’t go to Germany to establish a Church. “Imagine,” he said, “the mistakes that could have been made and the efficiency with which we would have made them.”

Ratzinger was kidding around, but he also revealed that he had this image in his head: Peter leaving Rome for Germany.

There is nothing holding a Pope in Rome except for custom, property, tradition, international laws, finance, etc.  Not theology.  In his person a Pope is Vicar of Christ and Successor of Peter whether he is BISHOP of Rome or not.

In the podcasts, Mazza brings up the debate about Romanitas and the papacy in the 19th c. at the time of Vatican I.   Is Romanitas of the very essence of the papacy or not?  The answer is: “No.”  Mazza checked with Archbp. J. Michael Miller of Vancouver (with whom I used to live in Rome in a clerical residence) about the possibility .  Miller had written an amazing doctoral thesis: “The divine right of the papacy in recent ecumenical theology”.  There are relevant sections in the thesis about the nature of the papacy.  Miller confirmed that it is not wrong to to say that Romanitas is not of the very essence of the papacy, that is, the office of Vicar of Christ as Successor of Peter.  It would obviously be of the essence of being Bishop of Rome, Successor of Peter in that sense.

So, cutting though the verbiage. There is a strong argument to be made that Benedict might have intended to renounce the active ministry (office of the Bishop of Rome) while retaining the spiritual ministry (Successor of Peter). Hence, while juridically Francis can be called Bishop of Rome, because he was elected by the “clergy” of Rome (the College of Cardinals), Francis is not, in fact the Successor of Peter on the other, spiritual level, even though he succeeded to the office of bishop that Peter held. The distinction is to be made about Peter qua (insofar as he is) Vicar of Christ and Peter qua (insofar as he is) Bishop of Rome.

Hitherto there has been a strong correlation of the two aspects, so much so that, with the conferral of the one, the other came also. However, consider also that the papacy can be conferred on any baptized male! At the moment that baptized male accepts the election, he has full authority in the Church. Period. Afterwards it is prescribed that he is to be immediately consecrated as a bishop so that he can simultaneously be Bishop of Rome.

On the Barnhardt podcast the possibility is raised that, if the hypothesis is right and that Benedict tried to split these roles, that Benedict was in error that this could be done.  However, if that is the case, then his abdication would have been void.  If the reason for his abdication was precisely to bifurcate the roles of the Successor of Peter, and if that is impossible, then Benedict acted erroneously and his act of abdication would be null, nothing.

If a Pope is forced to resign by some third parties, the resignation is void.  For example, say that someone threatened the life of, say, his brother Georg.  If the Pope resigns according to some erroneous notion that he is doing something impossible, the resignation would be void.

There’s a lot more to be said.  However, let me wrap up with a point about: WHAT NOW?!?

When Benedict announced his resignation, he declared:

For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter [ministerio Episcopi Romae, Successoris Sancti Petri], 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 [sedes Romae, sedes Sancti Petri], will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.

The office of the Successor of Peter qua Bishop of Rome is conferred on a man through his election to the See of Peter by the College of Cardinals.   The Cardinals are the “clergy” of Rome.  Every Cardinal is assigned a church in Rome, even though he may be Archbishop of, say, Ouagadougou.  The original Cardinals were the clergy of Rome, deacons and priests, and the bishops of the closest sees.

However, the office of Successor of Peter qua Vicar of Christ is conferred not by the College of Cardinals – nemo dat quod non habet – but rather by Christ Himself.    The 1870 Dogmatic Constitution on the Church of Christ of Vatican I, Pastor aeternus, deals with the Petrine Ministry.    Pastor aeternus says from the onset: “Docemus itaque et declaramus, iuxta Evangelii testimonia primatum iurisdictionis in universam Dei Ecclesiam immediate ct directe beato Petro Apostolo promissum atque collatum a Christo Domino fuisse… Therefore we teach and declare, according to the Gospel’s witness, that a primacy of jurisdiction over the universal Church of God was immediately and directly promised to and conferred on the Blessed Apostle Peter by Christ the Lord.”

Not the College of Cardinals.   Remember: this happened before Christ’s Passion and was confirmed afterwards long before Peter went to Antioch, much less to Rome.

Card. Ratzinger as Prefect of the CDF wrote a letter about the Primacy of the Successor of Peter in 1998.  HERE  I have scanned this and found some items to weigh.  Not everything in it jives with the Mazza hypothesis.

Again… WHAT TO DO?

In another post – long before any of this came to my deeper pondering – I gamed out a few scenarios about what might happen should Francis die before Benedict, or should Benedict die before Francis.

If Francis is an antipope, then everything he has done is void.

However, if Francis is Successor of Peter qua Bishop of Rome then he could appoint clergy to the churches of the Roman See.  In other words, he can legitimately appoint cardinals.  And it is the role of cardinals to elect the Successor of Peter, who is Bishop of Rome and Vicar of Christ.  Christ confers the “papacy”, primacy over the universal Church, while the cardinals confer the office of Bishop of the See of Rome.   In that case, should Benedict die before Francis, and if things bump along as they are bumping along until Francis also goes to his reward, the cardinals named by Francis (and if any are left by previous Popes) would gather in conclave and elect a successor.

If Francis is antipope and none of this is possible, because the See of Peter can’t be separated from the person of the Vicar of Christ – which doesn’t seem right considering how that office was instituted, then that conclave would be illegitimate: none of the men Francis appointed would really be cardinals.

If Francis is not really Pope, in the fullest sense, but is just Bishop of Rome – carrying out the active ministry of the Successor of Peter while Benedict retains the spiritual ministry – then Francis legitimately names Cardinals and they would form a legitimate conclave on the death of Francis.   But could they really elect a new Successor of Peter who would have both roles, Successor qua Vicar of Christ and qua Bishop of Rome?  Not if Benedict is still alive.   He would have to, I suppose, do something.

To underscore, however, the FACT that being Bishop of Rome and being Successor of Peter qua Vicar of Christ are not absolutely coterminous, consider the following scenario.

Let’s imagine for a moment that there is some future conclave.  The Cardinals, deadlocked for weeks, decide to elect a man who is not even ordained a priest, a baptized layman. The layman accepts.

He AT THAT MOMENT has absolute jurisdiction in the Church, even though he is not in Holy Orders (cf. problems of exercise of the power of the keys!).

The Cardinals say, “We must now consecrate you.”

Joe the First, says, “Sorry, I am going to wait a while.”

Joe the First is still the Vicar of Christ. But he is not the Bishop of Rome.  He isn’t a bishop.  He has absolute authority, but not the office of bishop.

Joe adds, “As a matter of fact, Most Reverend Cardinals, I’m going home… see you in Wisconsin. Oh, yes, is “Card. Fang here? Yes? You, Cardinal Fang, shall govern with the title of Bishop of Rome for the time being. Start with the Jesuits. Claro? Good. Nobody expected the Spanish Inquisition, did they. I’ll change my clothes now.”

So, the Mazza Hypothesis is that Benedict renounced being the Bishop of Rome without renouncing the papacy, being Vicar of Christ.

There are many more data points one can bring in from other writings of Benedict/Ratzinger and other sources from those podcasts.  That’s the general line.

Wrapped up in this question is whether the third grade of Holy Orders confers some truly different on a bishop or whether the main point is authority to use what is conferred by priesthood.  Both priests and bishops are sacerdotes.  Once upon a time it was possible for priests to ordain.  We have the documents giving permission and taking it away.  Similarly, is there a distinction in what is conferred by election by Cardinals to the See of Rome?   Is the papacy really about authority – which Christ gives as an ontological aspect of the man’s soul, that can’t be lost?  The office of Bishop of Rome can clearly be resigned.   And it seems that one man could then function as Bishop of Rome while another man still retained that other character.  That’s a point to resolve.  Did Benedict think that the primacy, the papacy, being Successor Peter qua Vicar of Christ, was rooted in him ontologically, such that he thought he could divorce the active ministerium given by the College without giving up the petrinum munus given by Christ?

I’m pondering all of this and it is rather heavy.

Whoa, gravity, stay the hell away from me
Whoa, gravity has taken better men than me
Now how can that be?
Just keep me where the light is
Just keep me where the light is
Just keep me where the light is
Come on keep me where the light is
Come on keep me where, keep me where the light is


The moderation queue is ON.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. ChrisP says:

    Interesting, but I have to say it all seems conflibbertory and moot when the very phrase “and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked …” used by BXVI could argue he has left more than just the Bp of Rome office.

    Supreme Pontiff. Conclave. Those words have very clear meanings and intent behind them do they not?

    [I suspect you haven’t thought this through, before posting that. But, no, it isn’t simple. Whatever it is, it isn’t simple.]

  2. mysticalrose says:

    Wow. Thank you for posting this, Father. It is a lot to take in, but these things really have to continue to be discussed openly. Still, it makes my blood run cold to see in print, “If Francis were antipope . . .” and know that this too must be on the table. What strange, strange times. I said to a friend recently that it seems as the the whole world and even the Church is on fire. And not the fire of Pentecost.

  3. Josephus Corvus says:

    I am in no position to comment on the reasonableness of any of these theories. The one question I would have, which I have not seen addressed (although I might have missed it), is “Why?” Why didn’t Benedict come out and state “this is my intention….”? Or after the fact when these theories started popping up, why didn’t he say something like “Hey – quit arguing. This is what I intended to do. I am X and Francis is Y. End of story.” He is clearly in control of his mental faculties, so it is strange that he would not clarify if he did something other than what was assumed.

  4. Reflector says:

    Father, are you sure that the election as such confers the “absolute jurisdiction”?

    Can. 332 – § 1. Plenam et supremam in Ecclesia potestatem Romanus Pontifex obtinet legitima electione ab ipso acceptata una cum episcopali consecratione. Quare, eandem potestatem obtinet a momento acceptationis electus ad summum pontificatum, qui episcopali charactere insignitus est. Quod si charactere episcopali electus careat, statim ordinetur Episcopus.

    [Good point. Note, however, “Romanus Pontifex”. And there is, I think, more to be explored about “jurisdiction”. But you are right to bring in that canon.]

  5. richdel says:

    To emphasize such a separation of the keys from the office of the papacy is incongruous with Vatican I, Pastor Aeternus, Chapter 2 (See esp. sections 2 and 3):

    1. That which our lord Jesus Christ, the prince of shepherds and great shepherd of the sheep, established in the blessed apostle Peter, for the continual salvation and permanent benefit of the church, must of necessity remain for ever, by Christ’s authority, in the church which, founded as it is upon a rock, will stand firm until the end of time.
    2. For no one can be in doubt, indeed it was known in every age that the holy and most blessed Peter, prince and head of the apostles, the pillar of faith and the foundation of the catholic church, received the keys of the kingdom from our lord Jesus Christ, the saviour and redeemer of the human race, and that to this day and for ever he lives and presides and exercises judgment in his successors the bishops of the holy Roman see, which he founded and consecrated with his blood.
    3. Therefore whoever succeeds to the chair of Peter obtains by the institution of Christ himself, the primacy of Peter over the whole church. So what the truth has ordained stands firm, and blessed Peter perseveres in the rock-like strength he was granted, and does not abandon that guidance of the church which he once received.
    4. For this reason it has always been necessary for every church–that is to say the faithful throughout the world–to be in agreement with the Roman church because of its more effective leadership. In consequence of being joined, as members to head, with that see, from which the rights of sacred communion flow to all, they will grow together into the structure of a single body.
    5. Therefore,
    if anyone says that
    it is not by the institution of Christ the lord himself (that is to say, by divine law) that blessed Peter should have perpetual successors in the primacy over the whole church; or that
    the Roman pontiff is not the successor of blessed Peter in this primacy:
    let him be anathema.

  6. Vince K says:

    To quote another song from our bard, “Will it (the petrinum munus) wash out in the water or is it always in the blood?”

  7. roma247 says:

    Where I have real trouble with this hypothesis is this:
    If in fact Benedict had this in mind, that he wished to retain the Petrine Ministry but resign the office of the Bishop of Rome, is it not highly culpable on his part to allow the Church and the world to believe that the conclave that elected his successor was creating a Pope–with the full powers and ministry of a Pope–and not merely the Bishop of Rome? I’d say that’s quite scandalous at the very least? Even if he had the best of intentions?

    In other words, I have too much respect for Benedict to think that he would knowingly allow an antipope to be created. Even if he thought it was somehow necessary in order to save the Church…which, given the current state the world is in, is not beyond credibility…

  8. TDPelletier says:

    I read your post with interest, Father. To be honest, such an understanding (if showed to be true), would be a relief, by making sense of the mess we are in.

    I have a question though, which might show my ignorance, but I was wondering : Did our Lord give the primacy and the power of the keys to Peter immediately after Peter’s confession ? Verbs are all in future tense : upon this rock I will build my church, I will give you the keys, Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, etc. (Matt 16, NAB). Maybe our Lord kept the conferral of the Petrine privileges for the time when Peter would be ordained ?

    But then, even if it were so, Peter did not have a specific diocese necessarily associated with his ministry right from Maundy Thursday.

  9. If Pope Benedict was forced to abdicate due to threats, couldn’t he still later acquiesce and consent to being stripped of office?

    If the office of Vicar of Christ is conferred by Christ Himself (and also taken away by Him from a man who abdicates), can Christ be stymied by the errors, malice, imprudence, semantics games, bad grammar, or other vicissitudes of men? If at the time of abdication a man is laboring under any of these, how can the Church know it to make a judgment about it, if it is not expressed outwardly?

    What about the universal acclamation of Francis as Pope upon his election? As I understand the theory of universal acclamation, the identity of the Pope is a dogmatic fact, so that if a man is universally acclaimed as Pope upon his election, this is proof that all the necessary conditions for a valid election have been met. However much buyer’s remorse there may be about him now, I don’t recall that Pope Francis was not universally acclaimed, even by Ann Barnhardt.

    It unquestionably adds to the confusion that Benedict retains some of the trappings of office, but I don’t buy that it is a sign that he is still Pope. I think it is more due to the fact that we really don’t have a protocol for dealing with an ex-Pope (other than stick him in prison). The case could be made that we should not formulate a protocol, because that could foster an expectation that Popes will abdicate, and we really don’t want papal abdications to become a thing.

    The evidence seems to me to weigh heavily in favor of the true Pope being Francis. I wish he would consecrate Russia to the Immaculate Heart, in union with all the world’s bishops, and remove all doubt.

  10. ChrisP says:

    Dear Fr Z
    With all due respect, this hypothesis (proposed by many) comes across as a little insulting to BXVI, because at its heart it suggests that a great man and priest, precise in his language and far smarter than many alive, actually doesn’t know what Supreme Pontiff meant went he wrote it that day in 2013.

  11. Terry2 says:

    Please bear with me for a moment Father, I am trying work from memory while chemo is coursing through my body.

    I remember a news article about 60 priest dying in Italy in one night from Covid-19 and thought how strange not one priest was identified in article I read. A week or so later someone posted a photo of black smoke coming from the chimney of what looked like the roof of the Sistine Chapel on Marco Rubio’s twitter account, a few hours later another photo of white smoke coming from same chimney pictured in first photo was posted on Rubio’s account.

    A couple weeks later a story on 8Kun was posted that said Pope Francis had been placed under house arrest by Italian secret police for crimes against humanity, human trafficking and financial crimes and the whole affair was to be kept quiet till November. I couldn’t help but wonder if the 60 priest that suddenly died were also involved and maybe helped along the way. There is some skepticism, this Italian paper had no byline and the header was partly cropped enough to be unreadable leaving only the date of publication, which was 3 days before photos were posted on Rubio’s Twitter.

    Not long afterwards the Vatican yearbook was published omitting that Jorge Bergoglio was Vicar of Christ only the Bishop of Rome.

    I’ve always held that Pope Francis never received a chrism to help him along the way. He has never displayed the kindness and compassion that Pope Benedict and Saint John Paul II had. Could it be that only one living person can receive this chrism at a time?

  12. Chrysologos says:

    Here, Father, is a tentative, perhaps whimsical, thought.
    In the latest Annuario might not the relegation of ‘Vicar of Christ’ to historical significance as far as Pope Francis is concerned, be an admission that he has no claim to that title?

  13. dahveed says:

    This is certainly a lot to consider. I’m not sure what to think about Mazza’s thesis, but I am reminded to two things: the recent printed matter that listed Vicar of Christ as a “historical title” for Pope Francis, and the third secret of Fatima’s piece about the bishop in white, that we thought was the Pope. Where’s my ibuprofen?

  14. ArthurH says:

    If only…..

    My wife and I pray daily for a return to orthodoxy of PF and his followers as a way of saving the Church without a schism. But if there were no other way, then this just might be it.

  15. Ferretti says:

    Father, then I think the question ChrisP raised, is: ” what then is the definition of ‘Supreme Pontiff'”? Your article shook my understanding that the terms: Pope, Vicar of Christ, Supreme Pontiff’, ‘Peter/Peter of Rome’, Holy Father, Your Holiness etc, were all one and the same.
    No, it’s not at all simple. I’ve been badly distressed with PF since 2013; culminating with his betrayal of the Chinese Catholics combined with his general snarky arrogance and deliberate ambiguity — but finally reached critical mass over Pachama.
    Back to ChrisP’s question: then what exactly did B16 mean by calling for a conclave to elect a new Supreme Pontiff? What does “Supreme Pontiff actually mean? Could it mean anything other than the obvious? Would B16 use “word” stealth even for a good cause?
    Would Our Lord leave the ordinary layman in this situation? Go to our bishops for clarity?!
    Yes, I know, it is what it is, Christ is in control, will not abandon us; we’re down to our uppers: Faith and Trust.
    Bottom line, I guess is to deal with it the same way those who walked away upon hearing Him say: “Eat My Flesh, drink My Blood.” You either cleave to Him or you don’t. These are the “interesting times” the Chinese Curse wished on their enemies. Thanks you nevertheless for your pondering and patience reading this diatribe.
    Please continue to delve. God bless you.

    [It’s more complicated yet! The very term “Pope” is, in fact, hard to apply to the Successors of Peter before a certain period. We use it as a rapid label for Peter and his successors, but in fact it could be anachronistic.]

  16. traditionalcatholicman says:

    Perhaps this is too controversial and out of left field, but just trying to think out loud here.

    One friend posited to me that if this is possible, then perhaps one could use similar arguments to suggest that Cardinal Siri invalidly renounced the papacy during the conclave which elected John XXIII since there was allegedly blackmail and thus perhaps he was (unbeknownst to him) the Pope but not the bishop of Rome. If this thesis were correct, that would mean the last three Popes are Pius XII, Gregory XVII, and then Benedict XVI, while the last seven bishops of Rome are Pius XII, John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and now Francis.

    [I was wondering how it would take for Siri to come up!]

  17. Kathleen10 says:

    Terry2, God keep you and be with you as you heal. Hang in there dear.
    Thank you for discussing this, Fr. Z. There really can be no doubt we can expect anything at any time. Hopefully it’s good, but who knows. We may get whacked time and time again.
    I always thought the bifurcation of the papacy by Benedict was the strangest thing. Why would he do this unprecedented maneuver. I remember reading, when it happened, that he indicated God told him to vacate the papacy. I cannot remember his exact words, but that was the gist. He said it was a dream of some kind, I believe. I find it hard to believe the man would just say that to justify his actions. Lying about God does not seem likely, but, I’ve learned never say never.
    What we have now is absolutely 2 churches, it would be ridiculous to say we do not. One is false, one true. It has been simple to see which is which, but many Catholics have scales on their eyes, they do not see or care to see.

  18. DeeEmm says:

    After I watched that video I was reeling for a couple days and wanted to email you and ask for your thoughts along with the twenty ‘what to think’ questions I had formulated. But I figured you had many better priestly things to do with your priestly time in your priestly day so I restrained myself.

    The question of Benedict’s intention is a crucial one. Can we look at how he lives to give us a clue? He wears the papal white, he still lives in the Vatican and he is addressed with a title using the word Pope ‘Supreme Pontiff Emeritus.’ So, it begs the question, how does he wish to be seen? Emeritus only as Bishop of Rome? Seems like Bergoglio won’t touch ‘Vicar of Christ’ with a ten-foot pole. So, who is the Vicar of Christ? I believe that the roles can be bifurcated because as Marshall points out, Peter was walking around for a while with the primacy before the Last Supper at which time he became a Bishop, and even at that moment he didn’t have a see. Whether the bifurcation has actually been accomplished….. I don’t know. But it seems that I have to find myself a Vicar of Christ right quick because Bergoglio has made it crystal clear it won’t be on his LinkedIn page.

    Here is a visual to ponder, when lightning strikes a tree it splits it into TWO. When lightning struck St. Peter’s hours after Benedict resigned what might have happened there? St. Peter’s itself wasn’t broken into two, but the lightning did strike twice.

    As for what Terry2 revealed. I have read some threads on the interwebs that have made exactly that claim about Bergoglio. However, I didn’t have the details about the smoke from the Sistine Chapel and to be honest I was very skeptical because I was sure that a scandal of that magnitude was sure to leak out.

    As always Fr. Z you have given us a thorough once over of the predicament at hand. I am most grateful that you have weighed in on the topic. I am but a humble layperson trying to understand some really complicated stuff.

  19. Steve L. says:

    I believe in his biography of St. Thomas Aquinas, colloquially called The Dumb Ox, G.K. Chesterton wrote of philosophy:

    Since the modern world began in the sixteenth century, nobody’s system of philosophy has corresponded to everyone’s sense of reality; to what, if left to themselves, common men would call common sense.

    It seems to me this sort of thinking bears the mark of every modern philosopher that Chesterton was writing about. If we just grant something impossible (the splitting of that which cannot be split) then everything in the world makes sense. It didn’t work for modern philosophy. It doesn’t work here.

    In our current climate of 2020 when so many people are stressed by fear of global pandemic, the social isolation imposed on us in response, the retreat of churchmen obstructing sacramental ministrations to the dying, rising social unrest, reasonable people are taxed beyond their capacity to, well, reason. The rise of conspiracy theories is legion.
    For this reason, I believe this post is imprudent. What you write is a hypothetical will spread as if it you believe it, Fr. Z. I can already predict Twitter all atwitter, “Fr Z thinks Francis is an antipope!” That is unfortunate. Is it worth it even if one person is so confused? [In that case no one should ever wrote or say anything. Let’s all just lock ourselves in our rooms and stop communicating. As far as those who are all “atwitter”, I stopped worrying about the knee-jerk, minimally informed rash judgements of the stupid on Twitter and other platforms a long time ago.]

    A far more likely scenario, in my estimation, is a thought attributed to Belloc:

    The Catholic church, as an institution, I am bound to hold divine
    but, for the unbeliever, proof of its divinity might be found in the fact
    that no merely human institution, conducted
    with such knavish imbecility, would have lasted a fortnight.

    I have been greatly edified by the posts on this blog in the past. This post truly forces me to reevaluate my ongoing attention.

  20. Thanks for this very thoughtful post, which I will ponder for a while as I try to make sense of things these days in a nonsensical time. I reread Father Weinandy’s article ( , which made an impression on me when it first appeared last year, and another thought that comes to mind is that Benedict XVI didn’t want to lead the schismatic part of the Church and didn’t want to declare it such, so he simply stepped aside and left the problem for his successor. That’s probably a bit simplistic, but perhaps another thing to consider. One does have to wonder too if the Pope could in effect appoint a COO to run the place, especially given how so many in the Church see it as nothing more than an NGO or giant corporation. I just wish that if this is what Pope Benedict intended, he would have explained his intentions clearly, grounded in Scripture, canon law, and Tradition.

    That said, I also get nervous every time you say that any baptized male could be elected Pope. As nutty as things are these days, the possibility of hearing an unexpected knock on my door is cause for concern.

  21. Gregg the Obscure says:

    interesting. islam’s bibliolatry was clearly an alpha test for the same trait within protestantism. was protestantism’s propensity to a cycle of perpetual fissure similarly an alpha test to fraction of Holy Mother Church?

  22. Suburbanbanshee says:

    I don’t buy it, because it doesn’t follow any of the precedents for papal resignation. Nobody was saying that Celestine was still Peter after he resigned, were they?

    [If you take the time to listen to the podcasts I links, the issue of St Peter Celestine comes up. Just sayin’.]

  23. Senor Quixana says:

    It would be comforting to believe that Francis is merely the incompetent chief administrator of the Church lacking the character of the successor to that part of the Petrine ministry which Peter possessed before going to Rome, but there is no getting around the fact that Benedict gives no indication whatever that that is his understanding of his act. His intentional silence on the matter indicates that he understands his act in the way that it is generally interpreted. Having accepted the situation it is now impossible for him to somehow say “just kidding.” All of this seems to be grasping at straws. While Occam’s razor is not canon law, it is still wisdom, and it strongly argues that Francis is pope in every respect that Pius XII was pope.

  24. disc.s.thom says:

    I agree with Senor Quixana. Not only Benedict’s silence, but the answer Benedict reportedly gave: “There is one pope, he is Francis.” And we could always ask him again. And surely he would give a swift and similar answer.

    I’ve heard of a better theory, in my mind, which I also think is incorrect because of the duplicity and falsehood it would depend on. This theory runs: We have all been wrong that the pope can resign. He simply can’t. However, he can allow a successor to be appointed during his life and share his Petrine ministry with him. (There is no separation between Vicar of Christ and Bishop of Rome in this theory.) Bishops do this with Vicars General, and sometimes the pope does this by appointing a Coadjutor Bishop. Hence, the theory runs, Francis is a Coadjutor Pope and shares all the rights, responsibilities and protections of the Pope himself. There is no worry about who dies first, in this theory. If Benedict dies first, Francis becomes the Pope by that very fact. If Francis dies first, another Coadjutor Pope can be established in just the same way Francis was.

    As I said, I think both theories are wrong. The Church has not been fooled all these years. There’s no need to ponder whether Francis is an antipope. The Pope can resign; God has bound himself to the binding and loosing of His Church. On February 11, 2013, the Vicar of Christ spoke in plain Latin: He is resigning and another is to be elected. As of March 13, 2013, there is one Pope, he is Francis. Sadly.

  25. Curate says:

    “There’s that word again: ‘heavy.’ Why are things so heavy in the future? Is there a problem with the earth’s gravitational pull?” (Back to the Future, 1985)

    This was quite thought provoking, and I thank you for all the time you took to write this carefully.
    In Benedict XVI’s farewell address to the Cardinals, he said, “there is also the future pope to whom today I promise my unconditional reverence and obedience.”
    Can the Vicar of Christ promise reverence and obedience to another?
    Many thanks, again!

  26. Woody says:

    Very interesting and edifying to follow what I think may be the evolution of your thinking on things recently, Father, in particular the SSPX and now this critical topic. I am very impressed by the reasoning and the extension of thought, especially in regard to the “restrainer”, or katechon, as I think the Greek has it, in 2 Thess. 2:6.

    As you noted, there has been much speculation as to who, or what, Saint Paul was referring to there, if memory serves, the commentators often suggesting either the Church or the Roman Empire, some saying the law and order provided by Rome. My own reading has yielded some interesting discoveries, including that some have thought that the Byzantine Empire, as the successor, or really continuation, of the Western Roman Empire, was the katechon, and then after its fall,the mantle passed to Russia. As an aside I would note that I have read that the ever interesting and controversial German thinker, Carl Schmitt, seems to have thought that the mantle passed to the Holy Roman Empire, and then perhaps to more recent regimes. Anyway, one can find much on the net now that indicates that the certain Russian thinkers are viewing Russia, it’s polity, culture and the Orthodox Church, as the katechon, with both geopolitical and spiritual significance.

    Keep up the good work, and all the best.

    [It is perfectly legitimate to dismiss the impossible ideological aspirations of, for example, those who want the ordination of women. With these matters, however, it is irresponsible simply to dismiss these issues without some exploration and patience.]

  27. Archlaic says:

    Heavy, indeed… about the heaviest thing I’ve ever known you to post. And it can’t be easily dismissed; I’d be inclined to scupper my own doubts on the matter as the scruples of an overly-zealous laic, but once one grasps the gist of the matter it becomes impossible to put wholly aside. This is the sort of question that ought to be pronounced-upon, authoritatively, by The Pope. But… therein lies the rub! What a conundrum! Makes it quite easy – logical, even – to believe we are in the “end times”!

  28. Antonin says:

    Agree completely with Senor. I would add that there are many who are disappointed with the Popes priorities and others who feel he has confused and dissembled teaching on marriage. The appropriate and only people to correct the any Pope are the Bishops and Cardinals. It was intimated that some would but they didn’t – for whatever reason. Thus we are left with Pope Francis. Roma locuta est, cause finita est.

  29. Chris Garton-Zavesky says:

    Hypothesis: Since some of us have had the idea that there’s something very much amiss in Rome for decades, and since the New Oxford Review once published an article called (I think) the Foreshortening of the Arm of Peter, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI knew he was constrained not to abdicate his office of Vicar of Christ, and abdicated as Bishop of Rome for the purpose of showing to the world the rot which has become unavoidably evident in the last 8 years.

  30. Rob83 says:

    The biggest single practical mess if Francis is an anti-pope is that it would render null and void all the appointments of bishops these last 7 years. The sounds of the heads exploding in the offices of the Tablet and NCR were Francis to be declared an anti-pope and his appointees ordered to vacate would be heard from the moon, right before the whole thing was dragged into courts in almost every country.

    This idea of the office of Bishop of Rome being severed from that of Vicar of Christ seems to be a way to preserve the administrative acts of Francis as legitimate while voiding his magisterial acts.

  31. Fr. Reader says:

    In any case, do not read this post without praying. Before, during, and after.

  32. Fr. Charles A. F. says:

    I’m not sure how I feel about this whole speculation. All I can add to the debate is, if Benedict resigned or semi-resigned because of some kind of threat, it’s no wonder he hasn’t issued any clarification of his intentions: the threat presumably still stands.

    Anyway, whether or not there actually is something to all this, this post must have taken an extraordinary amount of courage. Kudos to you, Fr Z!

  33. Johann says:

    Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI himself rejects the idea of a bifurcation of the Papacy. John Salza authored and excellent book with Robert Siscoe a couple of years ago, True or False Pope: Refuting Sedevacantism and Other Modern Errors. They are planning a re-release which incorporates chapters refuting Benevacantism. I would definitely recommend it if and when it is published.

  34. Reflector says:

    Father, I have to correct myself. It seems that the ius divinum can change :)) Cf can 219, CIC 1917: “Romanus Pontifex, legitime electus, statim ab acceptata electione, obtinet, iure divino, plenam supremae iurisdictionis potestatem.” [CIC 1917 is no longer in force.]

    But in the end, this change of canon law should not really matter. As “richdel” has indcated above, the real problem with the Mazza thesis is its bland contradiction with the teaching of Vatican I. There may be historical arguments for a possible separation between the munera of Bishop of Rome and Vicar of Christ; but the Church has – infallibly – decided otherwise.

  35. Vox clamantis in deserto says:

    One question and two remarks:

    1) history
    BXVI is not the first pope who resigned. What is known about the previous cases? How did e.g. St. Celestine V resign? Which formula did he use? Can some hints towards a “two-dimensional understanding of papacy” be found in the relevant declarations, documents etc.?

    2) canon law
    Can. 1013 says that “Nulli Episcopo licet quemquam consecrare in Episcopum, nisi prius constet de pontificio mandato”. If the Vicar of Christ and the Bishop of Rome are two different men, the “pontificio mandato” seems to belong to the former (i.e., Joe the First, and not Cardinal Fang, is the one who decides who is the next bishop of Ouagadougou), as it is a matter of the universal jurisdiction. So if Francis is the Bishop of Rome and Benedict the Vicar of Christ, Francis can name new cardinals, but not new bishops.

    3) mathematics
    Bifurcation theory is closely related to chaos theory and catastrophe theory (although a mathematical catastrophe means several zero derivatives of the potential function, which is not necessarily catastrophic in real world :-) ). Chaos is what we already have now…

  36. crjs1 says:

    Fascinating and troubling. My biggest concern with this hypothesis which makes me doubt it is, why would Pope Benedict not be clear about his retention of the position of Vicar of Christ if that was his intention? It just seems very unlikely and not in the manner of Benedict to cause such grave confusion.

    Also, when looking at the public pronouncements of Pope Benedict after the election of Pope Francis and subsequently he has always stressed the need for loyalty to Francis as Pope, with no indication that he was meaning only as Bishop of Rome.

    I just can’t fathom that Pope Benedict would ever purposeful cause so much confusion or take action so out of step with the tradition of the Church.

  37. OssaSola says:

    When I think of “the one who restrains”, Our Lady always comes to mind. Once Our Lord is entirely fed up with us, she may step aside and we’ll have to face His judgement.

  38. B says:

    Sadly this whole mess came about with Benedict. I wish that had never happened.

  39. SemperServusDei says:

    A couple of years ago I was thinking about various scenarios for reuniting the “Liturgically-oriented” schismatics with Rome (i.e., the various Orthodox branches, the High Anglicans, etc.). One of those scenarios involved “splitting the Papacy” so the the Vicar of Christ would be an office held by someone from any of the reunited branches, while the Bishop of Rome would be the Latin Patriarch over the Roman Church, working alongside the Russian Patriarch, the Greek Patriarch, the Anglican Patriarch, etc. This would be a bifurcation of the current Papacy, much as we are discussing in this article, while allowing for a widening of the office of the Papacy as a unifier over this reunited Body of Christ. Maybe God is working through current events to prepare for future reunification of Christianity. Only He knows what’s really going on…

  40. Thomas S says:

    I have to agree with Senor Quixana. This interpretation of Benedict’s abdication requires tortured reasoning.

  41. Michael 1964 says:

    Will we continue to question the resignation of Benedict even after seven years plus have passed? Where was Dr. Mazza or Ann B. on March 13, 2013? Were they saying, like many were, habemus papam? Weren’t they saying, as many were, that Francis I was a very Marian pope…that he might even consecrate Russia? But then we found out that Francis I was a modernist, like the previous five popes. Francis I is just the full flourishing of the bad fruits of Vatican II. We deserve him as our Holy Father. Let’s not be like MSNBC conspiracy theorists or the DNC with Russian collusion myths, by parsing the words in Benedict’s resignation. Neo-modernists like him are purposely obtuse. #Notmypresident has become #notmypope in connection with Francis I. No one wants to deal with this reality…unfaithful sheep deserve unfaithful pastors.

  42. ususantiquior says:

    Does it mean anything in this context that Francis appears to have designated the titles “Vicar of Christ” and “Successor of Peter” as anachronistic “historic” titles and that he does not intend for them to be used actively any longer? I have been puzzled as to the meaning (if there is one) of these titular changes that Francis has made, and the fact that there has not been more discussion of them.

  43. Pío Pío Pío says:

    As I saw this podcast the other day all I could think was how this really would explain +Francis’s insistence on his title of Bishop of Rome before all other titles, even immediately after his election. Remember the Vatican yearbook fiasco? Maybe we were being sent a message that even +Francis understands this now.

  44. Discipula says:

    1) Would any of this even be in doubt if Francis was not such a terrible man? Not just a bad pope, but a terrible man. Is there anything to the nature of the office of Vicar of Christ that prevents popes from being terrible men? (Answer: No and No.)

    2) I was taught that the Vicar of Christ and the Bishop of Rome was something that could not be separated because St. Peter died in Rome.

    3) Henry VIII tried to make the argument that he could be the head of the Church in England by arguing that the Bishop of Rome was only just that, one more bishop no different than any other. The response to that famous heretic’s claim was to state that there was no difference in the office of bishop of Rome and the office of Vicar of Christ.

    4) What richdel said.

    One of the things I love the best about the Catholic faith is that, at it’s heart it is a very simple faith. Each point of faith is something simple enough a child can grasp it, even if it is complex enough to leave theologians scratching their heads for generations. The bishop of Rome is the successor of Peter in every conceivable way. The bishop of Rome does not have to be a holy man, or even a good one. The cardinals choose the successor to St. Peter, not the successor to the last vicar of Christ or the last bishop of Rome. Peter did not divide his office. I strongly suspect his office therefor cannot be divided by any successor either. At any rate, it would be a bit like the Stewart of a kingdom giving away half his kingdom to another. It’s not his to give away.

    Lack of clarity and plenty of behind the scenes chicanery seem to be the rule of the day. The cardinals made a bad choice and the whole Church pays the price. Perhaps from now on they will be far more careful. Whatever else may be said, God is bigger than our troubles. Having a bad pope who seems to be allergic to clarity and tradition is not going to be the end of the Church. Christ Himself will rescue His Bride in His own time and the way He chooses as best. I have absolutely no doubt about that. I also have no doubt that, just as Jesus gave Judas opportunities to change his ways, Jesus will give the current successors of Judas equal opportunities. We should pray that those successors do not make the same choice their master made.

  45. dwengerpriest says:

    There is no way that Pope Benedict XVI would have purposely put the Church in such a conundrum.

  46. Reflector says:

    Of course, the CIC 1917 ist no longer in force. But it is nevertheless surprising that the old law said it was “iure divino” that the mere election confered the plena potestas, whereas the new law tells us that also the consecration as a bishop ist necessary. If the old provision was really iure divino, the new one would be in contradiction with the ius divinum and could therefore have no value in our discussion.

  47. Cheesesteak Expert says:

    Many – but not all, one would hope – canons, catechisms, proclamations and declarations from councils seem to be endowed by their very nature with a certain amount of capriciousness and subjectivity over time in their application and understanding. What may have appeared wise and judicious and generally well-received in one decade by people who mattered and cared can, with the passage of time, end up being pooh-poohed, ignored or outright rejected in subsequent decades, maybe by the same people, maybe by others now living, and for whom other things matter more.

    For example, I find it perplexing to this day that each and every prelate who attended, conferred and signed the documents of Vatican II earlier in their lives took the Oath against Modernism. 100% to a man. Yet, one would be hard pressed to defend the proposition that the documents of Vatican II and subsequent implementations of that Council’s documents by those same men are 100% aligned the Oath against Modernism. What changed? Was it the meaning of the actual words? That would be hard to defend, given the relatively high fluency they all had in a shared language, Latin, whose primary use by the 20th century was specifically and most of value to these men discussing these things. So if it was less that the meaning of words changed, it must be that the beliefs of the men did. Did these men not believe in the oaths they took in their youth, but took them nonetheless for convention’s sake or some other understandably human reason? Or did they truly believe them then, but over time thought differently about what they believed about those things by the time they were bishops attending Vatican II? Charity would ask one to consider the latter a more likely scenario than the former.

    In either scenario, the course of history shows some inconsistencies in the emphasis, understanding and application of all these extra-liturgical elements within the Church. What is much more consistent, in contrast, are the belief elements within the interior life of the Church, Her liturgy, the prayers publicly professed by those who show up. One can believe whatever one wants in privacy of the mind; but to know what any group says they believe, in communion, together, is what is publicly professed and available for all to know (which is also a shield against gnosticism). The center of the Venn diagram of the Church is Her public prayer life, so rich and lifegiving and timeless. There one finds (ok, here again it may be helpful to be charitable about the Rite of Paul VI) much more consistency about who it is that we worship, why we worship what we say we worship, characteristics about our understanding of our place in the world and in time (the cult of the saints, etc.), who we recognize as founder, why we do what we do, and so forth.

    That being the case, can we not look to the shared prayer life of the Church for answers regarding the Papacy and Bishop of Rome as being more of a fountain of understanding and guidance, and not so much rely on the extra-liturgical elements which by their nature seem to be in a secondary rank regarding consistency and ability to be manipulated or misunderstood? What does the Church pray about the Papacy and the Bishop of Rome? We certainly know what the Gospel says Jesus tells Peter. Matthew 16:18. . “Tu es Petrus, et super hanc petram aedificabo Ecclesiam meam, et portae inferi non praevalebunt adversus eam.” “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”
    But anything specific to the Papacy and the Bishop of Rome? All I can find (so please direct me if there is more) is the collect of the day for the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter.
    “Praesta, quaesumus, omnipotens Deus, ut nullis nos permittas perturbationibus concuti, quos in apostolicae confessionis petra solidasti.”
    “Grant, we pray, almighty God, that no tempests may disturb us, for you have set us fast on the rock of the Apostle Peter’s confession of faith.”

    I cannot find others, but I assume there must be. But I may be wrong. Are there?

  48. Bthompson says:

    Who would we name in the Canon then?

    But seriously, whether a bifurcated papacy is possible in theory, I doubt that the greatest theologian of the last century would play word games at the expense of clarity like that.

  49. Georgemartyrfan says:

    Thank you Fr. Z for this good summary. I also find it interesting that Benedict used the phrase, “a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.”

    That seems to be very specific language as with the entire statement. It would not seem fair to construe it as anything else (fluff, pretty wording, etc.).

    I believe Mazza keyed in on “whose competence it is” as it relates to our Lord’s competence to name the successor as Vicar of Christ while it is the cardinals’ competence to elect the Bishop of Rome.

    It is a fascinating and heavy subject indeed.

  50. Paulby says:

    Given the dreadful Mess that we are in, with Amoris Laetitia, Pachamama, runaway Bishops in Germany and elsewhere — to name but a small number of the many problems arising since Francis became Pope — any sentient Catholic must start to ask questions. Statements and actions on the part of Benedict XIV certainly lend some substance to Fr Z’s tentative hypothesis. But, I am not altogether convinced for two inter-related reasons: 1) Francis has acted from day one as if he considers himself to be in charge of the universal church (and how!); 2) Benedict has not given any clear public indication that Francis has exceeded his mandate as simply “Bishop of Rome” and is discharging the full set of papal functions.

    So, for the theory to stand up, we must suppose something like the following:
    1) When Benedict resigned, he felt he would be able to convince his successor that he would only be Bishop of Rome, or that his successor would have understood that from his resignation statement. The problem here is, first of all that, he did not make the prospective new arrangements crystal-clear when he resigned and, secondly, for the new arrangement to work, it would require the co-operation of his successor. All of this would suggest that Pope Benedict had been somewhat naive and, arguably, less than clear-headed. Does that sound like Pope Benedict?
    2) Benedict would have approached Francis after his election and said “You know, you will only be bishop of Rome, I remain Vicar of Christ, that was the basis of my resignation”.
    3) Francis, if he bothered to respond, at all, must have replied “Sorry, I am in the top job now, nothing you say, or have said before you resigned, can constrain my authority”.
    4) Benedict did not wish to precipitate a schism and allowed Francis to have his way. In return, Francis allowed him to continue to dress in white, be referred to as “Your Holiness”, and live in the Vatican. All symbols which Francis would regard as being of little worth in any event.

    It doesn’t seem likely, but I suppose it is possible.

  51. DaveM says:

    There are many good points raised. It would almost have to have been done unintentionally, because he himself appears to believe that he is no longer in charge of the Church. But this, then, attributes to Benedict XVI a sort of ignorance.

    The only scenario I could see where it was done intentionally was if he specifically directed from Heaven to do so, but then I would have imagined that he would remain silent, rather than appearing to deny that the Papacy is somehow split. Do we have CONFIRMED statements from him to this effect? There is some question whether statements attributed to him (via Ganswein) are accurate, I understand.

  52. DJG77 says:

    It seems likely from Benedict’s actions and words (and those of his secretary Ganswein) since his resignation that Benedict intended to somehow bifurcate the papacy as we have known it. There are three possibilities as regards ‘bifurcations’. First, Benedict could have intended to separate the Supreme Papacy from the See of Rome. Second, Benedict could have intended to separate the spiritual aspects of the Supreme Papacy from its ministerial duties. Third, Benedict wasn’t really sure what exactly he was doing in a theological sense, but he did intend to do something radical.

    If the first, Benedict is still the pope, and ‘Francis’ is the bishop of Rome. If the second, Benedict acted in substantial error, and his resignation is therefor invalid, and he is still both pope and bishop of Rome. If the third, Benedict’s confusion amounts to substantial error, and the result is the same as for the second possibility.

    Canon Law holds that the private intentions involved in a papal resignation can take precedent over the formal resignation itself. If a pope resigns because of fear, the resignation is invalid, no matter how it may be worded. Although Canon Law refers to private intentions only in the case of fear, this does demonstrate that a formal resignation can be invalid because of private intentions. I would posit that substantial error and/or confusion also constitute sufficient grounds for invalidity of a resignation, because it is contrary to reason that a piece of paper, however worded, should take precedent over any grave impediment of an internal nature. “Fear’ specified by Canon Law is just one reasonable instance of this, not an exclusive limitation.

  53. ChesterFrank says:

    The Pope can only resign from things he can control. If being Pope leaves an indelible mark on that person it is impossible to remove it. That is the definition of the word. Are administrative duties indelible? I don’t think so. Also, if Benedict obedient to Francis and Francis to Benedict? Do they both respect each other’s authority? I don’t know.

  54. Mike says:

    In 2013 Bishop Bernard Tissier de Mallerais of the SSPX published (with prophetic foresight?) an article that examined whether parallel churches could be said to exist under a single hierarchy. His point of view was controversial at the time, we are told, even within his own order, but nobody could have foreseen how events, and speculations thereon, have developed since.

  55. Cicero_NOLA says:

    I also listened to that interview this week and have been mulling it over. The two things that really jumped out at me were:

    1) Abp Ganswein’s comparing Benedict’s decision to resign to God’s decision to Immaculately Conceive the Blessed Mother using Duns Scotus’ description: “He could do it; it was fitting; therefore He did it.” That seems a bit much even in this age of superlative public statements. This along with his telling interviewers about this ‘new period’ (or epoch, I don’t remember) for the papacy and the Church seems the strongest indication that this could be happening behind the scenes.
    2) I no longer recall how Dr. Mazza phrased it, but he said Benedict has some sort of lengthy letter in safe keeping to be released upon his death (like mailing the evidence to your lawyer in a movie). This statement had an immediate emotional impact on me, but it made me realize that the most attractive thing about this hypothesis to me is that we all really *want* it to be true. It solves the practical and magisterial problems of these past years by retaining Francis’ decisions of the first kind and eliminating those of the second in a sudden, “unlooked for” eucatastrophe. I’m not saying it’s right or wrong, but the idea that Benedict is playing 4D chess and drawing the heretics out for future resolution is an attractive one.

    It seems to me that a Pope could move the primacy to a different see (cf. Lord of the World scenario), but it also seems that this plan is a well-kept secret, known only to Benedict and Ganswein. Would that affect the validity of such an act, not to publish such an important, public decision? Does anyone know what Benedict’s titular see is currently? I don’t suppose anyone here has seen or heard whose name Benedict uses at Mass?

  56. DJG77 says:

    Benedict’s use of the term “Supreme Pontiff” in his letter of resignation may reflect his intention to bifurcate the papacy into a spiritual ‘pope’ and a ministerial ‘pope’. In that case he would indeed regard his successor as the Supreme Pontiff because of that successor’s authoritative jurisdictional and teaching responsibilities.

  57. mpsguard says:

    I’m not going to get in to the distinction between “Bishop of Rome” and “Vicar of Christ”. I tend to view this affair of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI from a very simplistic point of view. He himself alluded to the lack of any complexities in his arrangement. His “spiritual” ministry is nothing more than maintaining his spiritual connectionto the flock once entrusted to him by God.

    Maybe it’s a bit more complicated by way of introducing a Sacramental Theology aspect of the nuptial relationship that the pastor, bishop, and Pope have to their respective flocks. While the active ministry may end, the spiritual ministry never ends, unless the man is reassigned to a new flock. That would mean that his spiritual ministry is actually obligatory, at least in his understanding of the role of the shepherd and what is necessary after departing from active ministry.

    From a Spiritual Theology perspective, the former Pope may have attained a level of mysticism that causes him to see himself in a role of a spiritual intercessor for the whole Church.

    All in all, I avoid trying to see anything sinister in this event, and see a humble man who wants to simply pray for the Church, and as the retired farmer, moving to a smaller house on the farm (his own analogy) he is available to give prayerful advice if and when asked.

  58. mpsguard says:

    Some more thoughts that just occurred to me:

    Pope Emeritus Ratzinger is ever the teacher. He may be exemplifying a theological evolution of ordained ministry. It has two components – the active shepherd role, and the intercessor role. One can leave the active shepherd role, but can not ever leave the intercessor role by virtue of his ordination and appointment to a particular Church, or a particular parish, or in his case the entire Church.

  59. Uxixu says:

    I fear Michael 1964 hits closest to the mark. It’s easier to accept convoluted theories or cling to the idea that Benedict XVI is still the pope than to accept that there could be a bad pope (despite numerous examples through history).

    I might remind Vox clamantis in deserto that it is not the Petrine ministry that appoints the bishops throughout the West, it’s the Latin Patriarch of the West that does that. Was Benedict’s abandonment of that title binding, as well? It’s almost as grievous an event as his abdication WRT tradition though perhaps the two events are more in line for purposes of the hypothetical.

    Sedeprivionism has a certain logic to it that’s less easily refuted than sedevacantism perhaps though also seems needless convoluted.

    Ah, how much to regret Benedict’s abdication. WE’d be in the 15th year of his papacy and still praying ad multos annos.

  60. TonyO says:

    Dear Fr. Z, thank you for writing difficult, heavy words about a difficult, heavy matter. This weighs on the minds of many intelligent people, and we should not be cavalier about it. I too have been weighed down by these questions.

    As you say, Peter was the Supreme Pontiff before he was the bishop of Rome, because he was the Supreme Pontiff in Jerusalem, and in Antioch. However, I am not sure it is right to say that he had that office and authority from the time of Matt. 16. First, because Christ used the future tense, saying what he WILL do, not what he hereby does. Second, because nothing in the Gospels show Peter exercising the office during the period Christ was still alive. Third, because the sacramental role of “Orders” includes within it authority and jurisdiction, and none of them had yet been ordained priests. Fourth, because there was as yet no visible Church in existence (Pentecost is referred to as the Church’s birthday), for Peter to have primacy of jurisdiction over it. And lastly, it would have been unseemly for any of the Apostles to act under the mantle of “Vicar of Christ” while Christ was still with them. A “vicar” acts for one in authority, when that person is not present.

    It is, therefore, more reasonable to suggest that Peter came into his office and authority on Pentecost day. This could either be viewed as a kind of “instantaneous” change, occurring all at once on that day, or as the culmination of a short(ish) period of “birth” from the date of the Ascension to the date of Pentecost. (It is possible to make heavy weather of how Peter could have been “in” authority in a transitional period, but the very same problem crops up in ALL SORTS of other situations: the period of time between the appointment of a new bishop and his installation; the period of time between when the old king dies and the young prince is crowned, and so on. We can admit to there being something of a gray area about such transitions, just as there is something of a gray area about just exactly when a child is “born”, since birth is a process, not an instantaneous thing.)

    My second suggestion is that while the Successor of Peter as the primatial authority over the WHOLE Church (on Earth) is notionally distinct from the apostolic office of bishop which Peter shared with 11 others, (and, thus, the apostolic office of the bishop of Rome, which said bishop shares with the other bishops), the latter office of bishop was by Peter historically and contingently connected to his primatial authority over the whole Church. Therefore, (for example) any current Bishop of Rome who is the Vicar of Christ and the Supreme Pontiff of the whole Church could decide to move his see to a new city (just as Peter did). Suppose that the pope was on one of his traveling trips to another country, and (God forbid) Rome was devastated by a city-killer hydrogen bomb that not only eradicated Rome itself, but rendered the smoking pit radioactive for 50,000 years into the future. The Pope would be absolutely free to establish a new see in a new city, having in his office the very same authority Peter did.

    But the fact is that the entirely contingent and historically driven connection between the office of the bishop of Rome and the office of supreme pontiff is still REAL, even if it could be changed by new historical facts. That reality was validated by the fact that in every generation since Peter, after the death of the old pope, those whose office includes the authority to select the new bishop of Rome were also, in that very same act, selecting the new Supreme Pontiff. They did not (for example) elect a new bishop of Rome, then install him as bishop, and THEN elect him pope. To select for one just was to select for the other; to become THAT bishop just was to become pope. This is because of the (historically contingent but REAL) connection of the two offices into one man was established by Peter. In fact, if Benedict had intended bifurcation so that someone would be elected bishop of Rome by a conclave, but not selected as Supreme Pontiff, he would have left us no procedure for getting the next pontiff. He would have had to explicitly create (from scratch) a new paradigm in which there were two distinct processes provided for under law, one for selecting who was to be bishop of Rome, and one for who was to be supreme pontiff. Without his taking overt action to do anything of the kind, the OLD paradigm remains, in which there is only one action, that of selecting the one person who combines within his person both the apostolic office of bishop with the Petrine office of supreme pontiff. Contingently connected they are, but until the pope actively separates them, they remain conjoined.

    I also would like to point out that although the power of the Vicar of Christ comes from God, it also comes to rest on a specific man through the designation of the college of cardinals. God waits upon the action of the cardinals in choosing someone, and then God invests that person with the authority of supreme pontiff: He accepts their choice. If the cardinals choose a despicable man, then God invests that despicable man with authority. There is no other pathway by which the selection is determined APART from the action of the cardinals. So, we cannot use the fact that the power and authority come from God (rather than from the cardinals) to interpose a separation between the two offices. Yes, it does seem that the two offices could be separated. But it will take the overt action of a pope to effect it.

    That, at least, is my weak understanding of the matter. By no means do I think the matter simple or easy to solve, or that what I have said is the last word, and I respect that other opinions are also possible.

  61. Fr PJM says:

    The acceptance of Pope Francis, by the entire episcopate of Ordinaries throughout the world, by the entire college of Cardinals (including the man formally known as Cardinal Ratsinger) and by the virtual unanimity of the Faithful, constitutes a dogmatic fact and obviates all doubt. He was accepted as the one who has the keys as Successor of Peter, the one who has supreme earthly jurisdiction over all the Faithful, sheep and lambs.
    The article about “dogmatic fact” in the 1918 Catholic Encyclopedia is helpful to read:

  62. TRW says:

    Francis Derangement Syndrome?

  63. Lurker 59 says:

    RE: The question of the bifurcation of the Petrine Office.

    I have posted this here before but the answer to the question of whether or not the Petrine Office can be bifurcated is yes it can and, historically, it has. The Church, in her theology, has taught of the Petrine Sees as one singular office with the Bishop of Rome functioning as the head of the Petrine Sees, not just as the head of all of the Primates and Bishops. This is still a point within Eastern Catholicism as well as Orthodoxy (such that if, for some Orthodox theologians, if the Pope were to return to Orthodoxy he would immediately resume his authority of primacy and jurisdiction, not just as the First See but the First of the Petrine Sees).

    I do think it is manifest in Benedict XVI’s action and language that the intent was akin to bifurcation BUT THAT the Primacy of the Petrine Office would transfer to the to-be-elected Bishop of Rome. The Mazza Hypothesis, that the Primacy of the Petrine Office could be bifurcated away from the Bishop of Rome (Primate of the Roman/Western Church), fails because it is this very position that is the basis for Orthodoxy and the primacy of Constantinople or Moscow, if one is Russian Orthodox, and such a position has been resoundingly defeated by theologians of history. If we were to accept the premise of the Mazza Hypothesis, then we need to reconsider the position of Orthodoxy first before we even deal with the present day issues.

  64. mpa says:

    Does the episode of Avignon (pre-Western Schism) shed any light on this question? Were the Avignon popes bishops of Rome, or otherwise occupying the See of Rome, despite living in Avignon?

    The Catholic Encyclopedia article on the Holy See has some potentially interesting comments: “Thus, it was not deemed necessary that the pope should reside in Rome: ‘Ubi Papa, ibi Curia’, i.e., it was taken for granted that the Curia or machinery of administration always followed the pope.”

  65. supercooper says:

    It appears to me that many people who are commenting haven’t actually listened to what Dr Mazza said, or what Ms. Barnhardt has been arguing for sometime. In a world of Pachamamas, unanswered dubia, and changes to the catechism, I’m surprised people are so dismissive. They are unprecedented arguments or theories, but we are in unprecedented times.

  66. mariamante23 says:

    That’s the point. BXVI IS the smartest person in the room…. The theory is he was forced to resign but figured out a way to seem to do it without really doing it. Sadly, not enough people were smart enough to figure out his plan, and the enemies of God just ran with it. Remember Anne Catherine Emmerich’s prophecy that the Pope would be held prisoner in the Vatican. He is not free to speak, although he does manage to do so from time to time, as when he answered the Dubai! That was the moment for me. BXVI answered the Dubai, but again no one (well, almost no one) noticed! And the five answers were: No, Yes, Yes, Yes, and Yes.

  67. mariamante23 says:

    The very fact that there is doubt and disagreement over what Pope Benedict meant violates Canon 332 and thereby invalidates the resignation.
    Canon 332.2 . Resignation must be free, clear, and manifest, thus preventing mob rule by the people or by the Cardinals

  68. mariamante23 says:

    Another most interesting clue: BXVI answered the Dubia, but no one (well, almost no one) noticed. And his answers to the five questions are: No, Yes, Yes, Yes, and Yes. The Vicar of Christ answered the Dubia, as is his duty.

  69. Jones says:

    Is this the first time BiP (Benedict is Pope) has been hashed out on your blog? Barnhardt’s been banging this drum for a while now.

    [You should come and read here more often!  o{]:¬)   ]

  70. The Cobbler says:

    Father, respectfully,

    You ask more than once, “what to do now?” But if you answered what to do, I missed it.

    May I suggest? “Keep to the traditions the Church passed down.”

    Not that other questions aren’t worth asking, but they are other questions, and it is well not to forget the answers we have in pursuing the ones we don’t.

  71. CatholicEsq says:

    Universal acceptance only applies if the conclave itself was called validly. Since the resignation itself was void, the conclave itself was null and void. A majority or even 100% vote of cardinals to depose a valid Pope is not possible. That’s why universal acceptance is a red herring.

  72. jn says:

    Please bear with the long comment… [This comment is too long. Shorten them up in the future, please.]

    The thoughts noted below are based on:
    A) Benedict’s declaration in Feb 2013:
    (Google ‘Declaratio (11 feb 2013) Benedict XVI’)

    B) Benedict’s speech at his last general audience:
    (Google ‘Last General Audience of Pope Benedict XVI, 27 February 2013’)

    C) Google ‘Pope Benedict: I resigned, but I kept ‘spiritual dimension’ of papacy’

    D) what Archbp. Gänswein said:
    (Google ‘aleteia, complete-english-text-archbishop-georg-gansweins-expanded-petrine-office-speech’)

    “Based on Benedict’s wording of his resignation, and based on comments made by Benedict’s secretary and confidant and, still, head of the Papal Household, Archbp. George Gänswein, Benedict may have tried to “split” the two-fold role of the Successor of Peter, namely a) Bishop of Rome and b) Vicar of Christ. So, Benedict resigned as Bishop of Rome, calling himself Pope Emeritus, like a Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Rome, but he retained for himself the role of Vicar of Christ.”


    In (A), Benedict makes clear that the Petrine ministry, “due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering.”
    Thus, while the words and deeds are carried out by one man alone (the current occupant of the Chair of Peter), nothing prevents his being supported in a unique manner through prayer and suffering by a former occupant of the Chair.
    That is to say:
    Words and deeds >> the Successor of Peter, the Vicar of Christ, the Bishop of Rome, the Pope.
    Prayer and suffering >> the Successor of Peter, the Vicar of Christ, the Bishop of Rome, the Pope who can be supported in a unique manner by any or all Pope Emeriti.

    In (D), Archbp. Gänswein does not refer to a “split” but to…
    (1) a ‘participation’ in the munus petrinum;
    (2) an abdication from the papal throne but no abandonment of the ministry [~ service];
    (3) a ‘complimenting’ of “the personal office with a collegial and synodal dimension, as a quasi shared ministry.”
    (4) “There are not therefore two popes, but de facto an expanded ministry — with an active member and a contemplative member.”
    (5) Earlier, he notes: “Munus, in Latin, has a multiplicity of meanings: it can mean service, duty, guide or gift, even prodigy.”

    So once again, no – there is no “split” whereby Francis is Bishop of Rome / Successor of Peter while Benedict is the Vicar of Christ.
    Rather, there is only one Pope – Francis, who is the Vicar of Christ and the Successor of Peter / Bishop of Rome. But the Pope – *THE* Successor of Peter – is now supported by the Pope Emeritus / *A* Successor of Peter, [who has not abandoned the Office of Peter but who participates in (and serves) the munus petrinum.]

    Thus, the personal office is now transformed into a quasi shared ministry (service), having ‘a collegial and synodal dimension’ – the active member being the Successor of Peter, the Vicar of Christ / Bishop of Rome – Francis, and the contemplative member being his predecessor.

    Loose analogy #1: “This is My Body”, “The Body of Christ” (~ we though many, are members of one Body of the Lord, who is the Head).
    Similarly, the Office of Peter can be looked upon from two perspectives – the Office as represented by the sole person who holds it, and the Office as represented by its service > which, through its ‘essential spiritual nature’, can have ‘a collegial and synodal dimension’ in the realm of prayer and suffering.

    Loose analogy #2: The Mother of the Lord is the Blessed Virgin. But others can ‘participate’ in motherhood (as evident from Mt. 12:50).

    Loose analogy #3: Just as there is no opposition between the Lord being the light of the world (Jn. 8:12) and each of us being the light of the world, (Mt. 5:14 – we somehow can “participate” in His light), so also there is no anomaly in a personal office having ‘a collegial and synodal (service) dimension.’

    Loose analogy #4: Francis is father who is in charge of the household of God, while Benedict is the grandfather who is no longer at the helm but who nevertheless enriches the father and the household through – as Archbp. Gänswein puts it – ‘the “power station” of his prayer and his compassion.’

    All of the above metaphors can be a possible explanation for Sr. Lucia’s curious phrase about “something similar to how people appear in a mirror when they pass in front of it”.
    A person and what seems to be a mirror image – two people – the actual person and what appears to be an image – the munus petrinum resting on one (Francis) but in that munus, Benedict shares.

    If Francis also were to abdicate, (and does not abandon the Office of Peter***), he too would become a Pope Emeritus alongside Benedict. Both would then be under obedience to, and of service (as contemplative members / ‘grandfathers’) to whoever next ascends the throne. [Great grandfather is Benedict; Grandfather is Francis; Father is the new Pope, if you will. Also see (C) above.]

    *** If Celestine V had returned to being a hermit after his abdication, or if Pius XII had returned to being a cardinal after an abdication (in case of capture by the Nazis), that *may* be (not necessarily is) an instance of a Successor of Peter abandoning the Office of Peter.

    “There is a strong argument to be made that Benedict might have intended to renounce the active ministry (office of the Bishop of Rome) while retaining the spiritual ministry (Successor of Peter).”

    No. See above. The personal office rests in *the* Successor of Peter (Francis) but in its collegial and synodal (service) dimension, *a* Successor of Peter (any Pope Emeritus) can serve in “the enclosure of Peter” as a contemplative member – see (B) above where Benedict uses that phrase .

    “The distinction is to be made about Peter qua (insofar as he is) Vicar of Christ and Peter qua (insofar as he is) Bishop of Rome.”

    Again, no. The distinction is to be made about Peter and the munus petrinum. The former is *the* Vicar of Christ, who has successors. The latter indicates the service rendered by Peter (the Petrine ministry).
    The current occupant of the Chair of Peter is *the* Successor of Peter and *the* Vicar of Christ. A (still living) former occupant of the Chair is *a* Successor of Peter who, by virtue of his *having been* *the* Vicar of Christ, has the option to not abandon the Office of Peter (i.e. the munus petrinum) but to serve it as a contemplative member in its ‘collegial and synodal dimension’.

    “If…Benedict tried to split the role (of Vicar of Christ and Bishop of Rome), (then) Benedict was in error that this could be done. However, if that is the case, then his abdication would have been void. If the reason for his abdication was precisely to bifurcate the roles of the Successor of Peter, and if that is impossible, then Benedict acted erroneously and his act of abdication would be null, nothing.”

    In the light of what has been stated further above, – no, Benedict did not try to “split” the role of Vicar of Christ and Bishop of Rome. So the question of his being in error that this could be done does not arise. His abdication is not void. The question of “bifurcating” the roles of the Successor of Peter does not arise. Benedict did not act erroneously. His act of abdication is not null.

    Francis is not an antipope but is the current Pope, – the legitimate Successor of Peter, the Vicar of Christ, the Bishop of Rome. The men Francis appointed are indeed cardinals who (among others appointed by previous Popes, if any) get to elect his successor in a future conclave.

    “If Francis is not really Pope, in the fullest sense, but is just Bishop of Rome – carrying out the active ministry of the Successor of Peter while Benedict retains the spiritual ministry…”

    It is not a question of Francis carrying out the active ministry and Benedict (alone) “retaining” the spiritual ministry. Framing it in that manner is incorrect. Benedict participates uniquely through prayer and suffering in the munus petrinum as a contemplative member in the collegial and synodal dimension of the personal office. Francis alone holds the personal office and is hence really the only Pope.

    Can any person other than a Pope Emeritus support the munus petrinum through prayer and suffering?
    But they will be doing so as contemplatives from *outside* “the enclosure of Peter.” Only a Pope Emeritus can serve the munus petrinum from “within” “the enclosure of Peter.”

    “the Mazza Hypothesis is that Benedict renounced being the Bishop of Rome without renouncing the papacy, being Vicar of Christ.”

    Incorrect. See all of the above.

    “Is the papacy really about authority – which Christ gives as an ontological aspect of the man’s soul, that can’t be lost?”
    Framing it like that needs to be clarified. And here, (B) helps…
    Benedict says: ‘The real gravity of the decision was also due to the fact that from that moment on (19 April 2005) 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…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.’

    So yes, once a person becomes the Vicar of Christ, “something” changes radically. Just as becoming a parent changes a person. That change cannot quite be lost; it can however be changed into a new dimension upon abdication. The loose analogy would be that of a parent becoming a grandparent. Upon “retiring”, the grandparent no longer has primary responsibility of the household, but that mantle falls on his child (who is now the parent overseeing the household).

    “Did Benedict think that the primacy, the papacy, being Successor of Peter qua Vicar of Christ root in him ontologically, such that he thought he could divorce the active ministerium given by the College without giving up the petrinum munus given by Christ?”

    Benedict did not “divorce the active ministerium given by the College” (from) “the petrinum munus given by Christ.”
    He expanded the munus petrinum, – the service of (the Office of) Peter – such that there is a collegial and synodal dimension in the personal office. An active member and a contemplative member can serve the munus petrinum. The latter serves, fortifies the Office (and its holder > the Pope) through prayer and suffering from “within the enclosure”.
    Psalm 22, in particular Ps. 22: 14 read with 2 Tim. 4:6, Phil. 2: 17

    Is the Church built on the (corner)stone rejected by the builders? Yes.
    Is the Church built on Peter? Yes.
    Is the Church built on the foundation stones of the Apostles? Yes. [Eph. 2: 20]
    Is Paul an Apostle? Yes [Rom. 1:1; Gal. 1:1, to cite a few]
    Is the Church built on Peter and Paul? Yes [Google ‘vatican, Angelus on the solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, 29 June 2017’]

    Let us not be rigid or pulled apart by centrifugal / disintegrative forces having either a Protestant (‘constricting’ / ‘narrow’ / ‘restrictive’ / ‘claustrophobic’) or a ‘more-Catholic-than-the-Pope’ outlook [which usually boils down to: I-and-my-echo-chamber-crowd-get-to-certify-who-is-acting-rightly-per-Gal 2: 11].

    Let’s just be Catholic.
    [This comment is too long. Shorten them up in the future, please.]

  73. Mariana2 says:

    Thanks, Father, for addressing this! Where else could one go to find non-hysterical thinking about frightening things.

  74. Nancy D says:

    “That’s why universal acceptance is a red herring.”

    Even if Pope Benedict’s “retirement” had been valid, the election of Gorge Bergoglio to the Papacy is not valid.

    “ Whoever is against the Pope is, ipso facto, outside the Church.”

    “It is not possible to have Sacramental Communion without Ecclesial Communion”, due to The Unity Of The Holy Ghost; It Is Through Christ, With Christ, And In Christ, In The Unity Of The Holy Ghost, that Holy Mother Church exists.

    “If there is a union of a private nature, there is neither a third party, nor is society affected.” –

    Jorge Bergoglio, prior to his election as pope, denying the Sanctity of the marital act within The Sacrament Of Holy Matrimony, and thus denying that God, The Most Holy And Undivided Blessed Trinity, Through The Unity Of The Holy Ghost, (Filioque) Is The Author Of Love, Of Life, And Of Marriage, while denying that sin done in private is sin.

    From The Catechism Of The Catholic Church:


    “1849 Sin is an offense against reason, truth, and right conscience; it is failure in genuine love for God and neighbor caused by a perverse attachment to certain goods. It wounds the nature of man and injures human solidarity. It has been defined as “an utterance, a deed, or a desire contrary to the eternal law.”121

    1850 Sin is an offense against God: “Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done that which is evil in your sight.”122 Sin sets itself against God’s love for us and turns our hearts away from it. Like the first sin, it is disobedience, a revolt against God through the will to become “like gods,”123 knowing and determining good and evil. Sin is thus “love of oneself even to contempt of God.”124 In this proud self- exaltation, sin is diametrically opposed to the obedience of Jesus, which achieves our salvation.125

    1851 It is precisely in the Passion, when the mercy of Christ is about to vanquish it, that sin most clearly manifests its violence and its many forms: unbelief, murderous hatred, shunning and mockery by the leaders and the people, Pilate’s cowardice and the cruelty of the soldiers, Judas’ betrayal – so bitter to Jesus, Peter’s denial and the disciples’ flight. However, at the very hour of darkness, the hour of the prince of this world,126 the sacrifice of Christ secretly becomes the source from which the forgiveness of our sins will pour forth inexhaustibly.”

    It is a sin to accomodate an occasion of sin, and thus cooperate with evils.”

    To be anti Filioque, and thus deny The Unity Of The Holy Ghost, is to be anti Pope.

    For the Holy Spirit was not promised to the successors of Peter that by His revelation they might make known new doctrine, but that by His assistance they might inviolably keep and faithfully expound the Revelation, the Deposit of Faith, delivered through the Apostles. ”

    Who can we trust to move our Holy Father to a safe haven until all the members of the counterfeit church are removed from the Vatican?

  75. aam says:

    As a secular attorney, I have long felt that the circumstances surrounding Benedict’s abdication smacked of duress if not coercion, and in the event, rendering the abdication void ab initio.

  76. TonyO says:

    JN, that is a very helpful and penetrating proposal for how to understand what Benedict was trying to do. It does indeed “fit together” his various comments (and those of Archbishop Ganswein), better than anything else I have seen.

    I have a few questions and critiques about the theory, however: (1) Is Benedict just inventing this idea of an “Enclosure of Peter” out of (more or less) thin air? Or is he describing something that always existed? If the former, who is to say that it is any more real than his imagination? Yes, he may indeed pray and suffer for the pope. He may even do so as a former pope. That, by itself, doesn’t put him into a special category of Christian.

    (2) Related to (1): In what, precisely, is Benedict saying this “collegiality” and “synodality” consist? It does not, apparently, consist in the pope (i.e. Francis) seeking the advice of Benedict, as the pope seeks the advice of other bishops in a synod. It does not, apparently, consist in the former pope sharing in the exercise of the papal magisterial office, as all of the bishops with each other share in apostolic magisterial authority through collegiality. As far as I can see, all Benedict meant substantively is that he prays and suffers for the pope, and I am not seeing any collegiality or synodality in that. (That’s beside the fact that “synodality” as it is used today sounds like mumbo jumbo anyway. I have yet to hear a definition of it or description of it that doesn’t sound like the user has been drinking way too much of the kool-aid.)

    (3) Being raised to the Chair of Peter surely changes a man, but there is no permanent mark on his soul, as occurs through Baptism, Confirmation, or Holy Orders. A priest is a priest forever, even after death. (An issue settled when the Church approved sacraments ministered to the faithful by dead saint priests.) A pope, however, is not pope forever. Pope St. John II cannot come back and exercise the papal office, as a priest can come back after death and hear a confession. It is true that becoming a father does change a man forever (without the sacramental mark), but that’s because he forever holds a unique relationship to another person through that act. Being pope over the Church is not unique, it has been held by over 200 other men. Being a president changes a man. Being a king over a country changes a man, too, but when he abdicates in favor of his son, he does not go on participating in the kingship through “collegiality and synodality” the way bishops participate in the apostolic office together. There is one king, and one former king, and that’s that.

    (4) You suggested that Benedict “expanded” the Petrine munus. How does he have that power? The Petrine role was created by Christ, and imposed by Him onto Peter. Peter had no say either in the FACT of the matter, or in the constitution of the office. The office is part of the constitution of the Church. Like the number and natures of the sacraments, and the tri-fold office of bishop, the Church has no authority to alter the constitution of the Church. If Christ’s act in creating the Petrine “munus” was such that it is to belong to one person only (at a time), then neither Peter nor any of his successors have any authority to do anything about that. Maybe what you meant was that Benedict recognized that the Petrine munus is larger than had been previously grasped, so that it can be shared by a pope and a former pope. But if so, one would think that somewhere in the Church’s 2000 year papacy there would be indicators of that fact. The pope doesn’t get to just make up stuff about the papacy just because he thinks it would be cool – it’s not his to create.

    If Benedict was trying to locate a new role of ministry from within the Petrine “munus”, one distinct from that of being pope, it is not impossible that he was quite simply mistaken about the matter. Such an error wouldn’t unravel his abdication in the least – he would have succeeded in abdicating because he intended to abdicate and made that intention clear in his words of abdication. I would be a lot happier about this supposed distinction he is urging if there was any clear foundation for it in the last 2000 years of the papacy. I would also be happier about the apparent novelty of the idea if Benedict had not been a member of the Nouvelle Theologie movement, i.e. someone rather more willing to experiment with new things. It doesn’t make me think “oh, Benedict must have seen the seeds of this idea in traditional treatment of the papacy”.

  77. chantgirl says:

    It is private revelation, so I defer to the competent Church authorities on this one, but on March 19th, 2005, visionary Pedro Regis claimed to receive this message from the Blessed Virgin:

    “A great ship will be on the high seas, and all aboard will be surprised by Christ in front of them. A divided reign and an empty chair. The existence of two kings will spread great confusion throughout the world, but God will come to the aid of His people. His chosen ones will not be left helpless. Trust in the Lord.”

  78. sinner333 says:

    A short time before the holy Father’s [St. Francis’] death, he called together his children and warned them of the coming troubles:

    “Act bravely, my brethren; take courage and trust in the Lord. The time is fast approaching in which there will be great trials and afflictions; perplexities and dissensions, both spiritual and temporal, will abound; the charity of many will grow cold, and the malice of the wicked will increase. The devils will have unusual power; the immaculate purity of our Order, and of others, will be so much obscured that there will be very few Christians who obey the true Supreme Pontiff and the Roman Church with loyal ears and perfect charity.

    “At the time of this tribulation a man, not canonically elected, will be raised to the Pontificate, who, by his cunning, will endeavour to draw many into error and death. Then scandals will be multiplied, our Order will be divided, and many others will be entirely destroyed, because they will consent to error instead of opposing it.

    “There will be such diversity of opinions and schisms among the people, the religious and the clergy, that, except those days were shortened, according to the words of the Gospel, even the elect would be led into error, were they not specially guided, amid such great confusion, by the immense mercy of God….

    “Those who persevere in their fervor and adhere to virtue with love and zeal for the truth, will suffer injuries and persecutions as rebels and schismatics; for their persecutors, urged on by the evil spirits, will say they are rendering a great service to God by destroying such pestilent men from the face of the earth…

    “Some preachers will keep silent about the truth, and others will trample it under foot and deny it. Sanctity of life will be held in derision even by those who outwardly profess it, for in those days Our Lord Jesus Christ will send them, not a true Pastor, but a destroyer.” [paragraph breaks added]

    This quotation appears in Works of the Seraphic Father, St. Francis of Assisi, published in 1882 by the London-based Catholic publishing house R. Washbourne, 1882, pp. 248-250). It is readily available as a Google book. The same book, it must be noted, contains an appendix setting forth “Doubtful Works of Saint Francis,” of which the quotation is not part. Thus, the publisher itself carefully distinguished the authentic prophecies of Saint Francis from what might be apocryphal. Moreover, in 1882 there could hardly have been any “radical traditionalist” motive to circulate phony quotations of the saint.

    ***** I took this from an article by Chris Ferrara in the remnant in nov. 2017. I am not smart enough or holy enough to understand the situation we have right now with Benedict – who i believe is still pope due to this quote and due to the duress he was put under and other canonical irregularities… but I rely on others better able than me to guide me through this time. Who better than st Francis? I believe God gave him special insight into our time because his name was going to be used in a way he did not deserve…

  79. Adelle Cecilia says:

    I posted previously in the comments about why the Catholic Church is not the Roman Catholic Church, and why Catholics are not Roman Catholics, as shared by Frs Rumble & Carthy in/at Radio Replies.
    The city/state does not the Church make, and the bishop does not the pope make.

  80. Grant M says:

    I am strangely cheered by the notion that Benedict had a Cunning Plan that would see Francis installed as a tulchan bishop, from which all the liberals could feed, while Benedict retained the Keys, but did not use them and rather locked them away safely in a drawer to await better days.

  81. Neill97 says:

    jn has mentioned how Francis stepping down might be received. If there were two Pope Emeriti would that not reframe the whole theological argument and its practical outworking, perhaps for the better? Fr Z in his preamble referred to the ability of modern medicine to keep people alive longer but not in full strength. Perhaps BXVI was just trying to start a trend of popes retiring having witnessed at close quarters some of the negative effects of JPII’s last years.

  82. jn says:

    [This comment is too long. Shorten them up in the future, please.]
    TonyO, thanks for your comment.

    Let me preface my response with an analogy. When a woman becomes pregnant, there is no immediate visible (to the outside world) change. Some time must pass before people other than the woman begin to notice changes. That doesn’t mean a new life isn’t growing in her. Even an ultrasound can detect it only after the baby has grown a bit. In the meantime, actions that definitely kill the baby (such as taking of “emergency” contraception) should be avoided.

    In the same manner, Benedict’s becoming the Pope Emeritus has led to a novel situation akin to the early stages of the pregnancy. The Church needs to “chew on” what has happened without people going off the rails with all sorts of wild speculations – most of which are tantamount to the ‘killing of the baby’, what with dime-a-dozen allegations already floating about [betrayer, antipope, heretic, schismatic, etc.]

    In that bit about “chewing”, is there room for growth in understanding? Sure. That’s the task of theologians (among others) to ponder [and where appropriate, submit to the Magisterium any proposals for fine-tuning of the nitty-gritty], including wording such as “enclosure of Peter, collegiality, synodality, etc.” A loose analogy would be the dogma of the Assumption – the precise wording used to describe it took time to develop and enunciate. [Most of the faithful across time simply “knew” that our Lady is in Heaven, without always having been adept – prior to the actual proclamation by Pius XII – at precisely articulating what the Church believes.]

    That said, here are my (rudimentary) thoughts on what you have written…

    ‘Is Benedict just inventing this idea of an “Enclosure of Peter” out of (more or less) thin air?’


    ‘Or is he describing something that always existed?’

    Not “something that always existed”. Perhaps a better phrasing may be: “something that becomes clearer upon abdication” or (from another perspective…”something in the {womb of the} munus petrinum that has the potential to develop {further} in the fullness of time”.) [Bear with the vague phrasing and the metaphors – this is like trying to identify the precise location of a tiny baby in the womb before it can be successfully located even by an ultrasound. There are ‘signs’ / ‘indications’ of a ‘pregnancy’; but precisely where the baby is located, who the ‘child’ would grow up to be, who the ‘child’ will become a ‘parent’ to – all that needs patience and the passage of time.]

    ‘If the former, who is to say that it is any more real than his imagination?’

    The next Pope who abdicates.
    Alternatively, the Magisterium can always step in an ‘expunge’ / ‘anathematize’ / ‘refine’ / ‘clarify’ / ‘develop’ any talk of an “Enclosure of Peter.”

    ‘Yes, he may indeed pray and suffer for the pope. He may even do so as a former pope. That, by itself, doesn’t put him into a special category of Christian.’

    What Benedict said at his last general audience should be remembered, especially the words: “engaged always and forever by the Lord…I am not abandoning the cross, but remaining in a new way at the side of the crucified Lord…in the service of prayer…a life which, whether active or passive, is completely given over to the work of God.”

    Also, “I no longer bear the power of office for the governance of the Church…”

    The word ‘bear’ indicates a weight.
    Corollary: Even if the weight of the power of office for the governance of the Church no longer rests on his shoulder, the weight of his responsibility for the spiritual welfare of the faithful / the Church does not simply evaporate simply because he has moved from being the spiritual father (Pope) to spiritual ‘grandfather’ (Pope Emeritus).

    It is not prudent to discount or be dismissive of the import of what Benedict said. As in all general audiences, but especially on the occasion of his last one, thought surely went into saying just what he did. Yes, it is not dogma. But it is not nothing either. And no – it is not some figment of his imagination.

    He who has sat on the Chair of Peter always has a special relationship with the Pope and the Church even after an abdication from the papal throne. His “vision” / “ken”, experience, cross, burden/”weight”, responsibility, prayer and suffering are all not the same as one who has not sat on the Chair.

    ‘In what, precisely, is Benedict saying this “collegiality” and “synodality” consist?’

    Those were actually Archbp. Gänswein’s words – not that of Benedict. All the same, I submit that the collegiality and synodality have their locus in the spiritual realm, whereby, primarily through prayer and sacrifice, BOTH the Pope and the Pope Emeritus serve the Church TOGETHER in a unique manner. The precise terminology to describe what is happening and its implications have scope for development with the passage of time.

    ‘It does not, apparently, consist in the pope (i.e. Francis) seeking the advice of Benedict, as the pope seeks the advice of other bishops in a synod.’

    Right, – not in the (“official / formal”) manner of seeking advice of other bishops in a synod. [Of course, although not obligated to, Francis as Pope can (and arguably does) informally seek the thoughts / inputs / opinion of Benedict – for example Google ‘Revelation: Pope Benedict wrote 4-page critique of Pope Francis’ Jesuit magazine interview’ and check the Lifesitenews report.]

    ‘It does not, apparently, consist in the former pope sharing in the exercise of the papal magisterial office, as all of the bishops with each other share in apostolic magisterial authority through collegiality.’

    Right again.

    ‘As far as I can see, all Benedict meant substantively is that he prays and suffers for the pope, and I am not seeing any collegiality or synodality in that.’

    Prays and suffers for AND WITH the pope – they share the spiritual responsibility for the welfare of the Church / the faithful, – they carry Peter’s burden, the cross together; (“…engaged always and forever by the Lord…”). Jointly, they are laborers in the vineyard of the Lord.

    ‘That’s beside the fact that “synodality” as it is used today sounds like mumbo jumbo anyway. I have yet to hear a definition of it or description of it that doesn’t sound like the user has been drinking way too much of the kool-aid.’

    :) The theologians can have a slugfest on that sausage. Yes, sausage-making is messy and disgusting; but one cannot deny that sausages are still eaten.
    But seriously, in October 2022, there will be a synod on the theme: “For a synodal Church: communion, participation and mission”. Perhaps once the post-synodal exhortation comes out, we would have more “meat” on that subject. It is well in some respect that the Church moves glacially in these matters. More time to chew and digest.

    ‘Being raised to the Chair of Peter surely changes a man, but there is no permanent mark on his soul, as occurs through Baptism, Confirmation, or Holy Orders.’

    Why look for change only through the lens of ‘permanent mark on soul’ as conferred through Baptism, Confirmation, or Holy Orders? There is scope in developing the understanding of how a man is changed on papal accession. And on abdication, does that mean he no longer has any scope for participation in the munus petrinum? – as though it were some sort of ‘secular’, ‘functional’ 9-to-5 / young-adult-to-retirement-age ‘job.’

    ‘A pope, however, is not pope forever.’

    Yes, but the call of the Lord to the munus petrinum is forever.

    ‘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….The “always” is also a “forever”…My decision to resign the active exercise of the ministry does not revoke this.’

    Implying that the munus petrinum can be exercised in its contemplative state also, in support of and collegially / synodally / in collaboration with the Pope (who alone exercises the active aspect of the ministry.)

    ‘Pope St. John II cannot come back and exercise the papal office…’

    Benedict is not the Pope; Francis alone is.
    Recall # 1: Before the assembled cardinals at a farewell on his last day as the Holy Father, Benedict promised “unconditional reverence and obedience” to the future Pope.
    Recall # 2: Google: ‘aleteia, Benedict XVI to Pope Francis’ and notice Monsignor Alfred Xuereb reporting that Benedict told Francis: “I promise you my total obedience and my prayers.”

    That said, as I remarked in the previous post, ‘The distinction is to be made between Peter and the munus petrinum. The former is *the* Vicar of Christ, who has successors. The latter indicates the service rendered by Peter (the Petrine ministry).’ Within the latter, there is scope for a collegial / synodal service to the Church. A loose analogy would be – Christ is the sole Redeemer of mankind; but unlike some rigid Protestants who throw a fit, we simply know that there is nothing wrong in also speaking about our Lady as Co-Redemptrix.
    Thus, Benedict now exercises the contemplative aspect of the munus petrinum, in service to AND in union with the Pope.

    ‘It is true that becoming a father does change a man forever (without the sacramental mark), but that’s because he forever holds a unique relationship to another person through that act.’

    On becoming the Pope, a man forever holds a unique relationship to the faithful and the Church. He becomes the spiritual father to the flock of Christ. Stepping down from the active ministry does not and cannot efface that profound fatherhood. And such spiritual fatherhood is on a vastly greater plane than that of a father with his biological child.

    Benedict: “anyone who accepts the Petrine ministry…belongs always and completely to everyone, to the whole Church.”

    ‘Being pope over the Church is not unique, it has been held by over 200 other men.’

    For one, when a man accedes to the Chair, his relationship with the Church / the faithful is unique when compared to those who have not occupied the Chair.
    “You shall be called Cephas.” He is (the Successor of) Peter. His name, identity, mission changes / broadens profoundly. There can never really be a ‘return’ to the former way. Yes, although “I am going fishing” (Jn. 21:3), Peter cannot really go back to being Simon permanently: the Lord’s call and granting of the new name are irrevocable.

    Yes, other men have been on the Chair, but Benedict is among the rare ones who have abdicated.
    And he is a trailblazer for having shed light on the novel position of the Pope Emeritus and the contemplative aspect of the munus petrinum.
    If Francis or a future Pope abdicates, they have a precedent to look back upon and choose whether to follow that path, (or abandon the sheep.)

    Presidents and kings cannot be compared to Peter and his successors. Presidency is a modern, secular office instituted by man. The Office of Peter is instituted by the Lord. And by the way, as you are aware, it was an affront for Israel to have asked for a king – 1 Sam. 8. The true and only rightful King calls and appoints His Vicar, who, thereafter is ‘engaged always and forever by the Lord…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…’

    What presidents and kings do in the secular realm and all the secular shenanigans, precedents and customs need not have a say, bearing or “jurisdiction” on matters concerning the Church and her spiritual realm.
    There is now the Pope and the Pope Emeritus. Who can both uniquely collaborate in serving the Church through the contemplative dimension of the munus petrinum. After Francis became Pope, at their first meeting, Francis told Benedict: “We are brothers.”
    Brothers indeed, – serving together in the spiritual realm. The mandate / charge / command to Peter in Jn. 21: 15 – 17 is not to be restricted simply to the office of teaching and governance.

    ‘You suggested that Benedict “expanded” the Petrine munus.’

    That’s an example of ‘scope for fine-tuning the precise language’. How about expanded our understanding of the munus petrinum?

    ‘If Christ’s act in creating the Petrine “munus” was such that it is to belong to one person only (at a time)…’

    As Archbp. Gänswein pointed out, munus has a multiplicity of meanings. And as I noted earlier:
    the Office of Peter can be looked upon from two perspectives – the Office as represented by the sole person who holds it, and the Office as represented by its service > which, through its ‘essential spiritual nature’, can have ‘a collegial and synodal dimension’ in the realm of prayer, suffering and responsibility for the spiritual welfare of the Lord’s flock.

    If we focus on the governing and teaching authority alone when reflecting on the munus petrinum, we do not quite grasp all that it entails and all that those called to that service are invited to. Mt. 20: 28; Jn. 21: 18 – 19.

    ‘Maybe what you meant was that Benedict recognized that the Petrine munus is larger than had been previously grasped, so that it can be shared by a pope and a former pope.’

    Yes, you can put it that way also.

    ‘But if so, one would think that somewhere in the Church’s 2000 year papacy there would be indicators of that fact.’

    Not necessarily. That canon law does foresee resignation of the Roman Pontiff is undisputed. But hitherto, what happens upon abdication was not entirely clear. It took an actual abdication and the person who actually abdicated to speak, clarify and bring to light that aspect of the munus petrinum.

    ‘The pope doesn’t get to just make up stuff about the papacy just because he thinks it would be cool – it’s not his to create.’

    Far be it from Benedict (of all people!) to “make up stuff…because he thinks it would be cool”!
    It is more like he discovered and brought to light the potential in the munus petrinum to serve the Pope and the people of God in a new way.

    ‘If Benedict was trying to locate a new role of ministry from within the Petrine “munus”…’

    He was not ‘trying to locate’ – as though angling for a job or ‘space’ in the new scheme of things! The munus petrinum has the potential for a new way of service, which gets “activated” / “comes into being” / becomes clearer – primarily to the one who sits/sat on the Chair – only upon his actual abdication.

    ‘it is not impossible that he was quite simply mistaken about the matter.’

    You are free to hold that opinion of course. But then, think about what that conclusion entails. It means that among other things, you are saying that:
    (1) the papacy is just another job; once you resign, that’s it – you are “free” of ALL responsibilities which are associated with it
    (2) once a man who sat on the Chair of Peter abdicates, the call of the Lord to him simply ends / vanishes
    (3) the man can go back to his private sphere
    (4) any prayer or sacrifice is simply an optional extra, and no different from that of those who have not been on the Chair
    (5) the flock he led while on the Chair are purely and solely someone else’s concern and responsibility – sort of like a divorce (??) where the former spouse is a ‘closed chapter’ (??) and one ‘moves on’ with one’s life (??)

    I submit (1) to (5) are incongruous, to say the least.

    ‘I would be a lot happier about this supposed distinction he is urging if there was any clear foundation for it in the last 2000 years of the papacy.’

    I wouldn’t say he is “urging” it.
    It just is.
    Talk of a “clear foundation” makes sense only if the exact similar situation (as what we see with Benedict) had already come to pass before. But which earlier abdication happened in the same circumstances and with an identical aftermath? And which former Pope who abdicated chose to speak out and clarify?

    Besides, by ‘bottling up’ everything within the gate of precedent alone, we can risk stifling growth and development of understanding, when new situations arise.
    Loose analogy: Sapling with leaves > grows into a plant with leaves, > which grows into a tree with leaves, > which grows into a tree with leaves and fruit…[Oh no! ‘fruit’ is a new thing. Hence it is not right!]
    If there is no long-standing precedent, does that mean something new is automatically invalid?

    If something is problematic, dangerous or erroneous, as I said, let the Magisterium intervene and expunge / refine / develop. Or – presuming we are alive – we can wait to see what would happen at the next abdication.
    [This comment is too long. Shorten them up in the future, please.]

  83. TonyO says:

    In keeping with Fr. Z’s directive to keep things shorter:

    @JN, I will comment only on two points you make:

    the Office as represented by the sole person who holds it, and the Office as represented by its service > which, through its ‘essential spiritual nature’, can have ‘a collegial and synodal dimension’ in the realm of prayer, suffering and responsibility for the spiritual welfare of the Lord’s flock.

    Yes, in about a dozen ways, you offer this assertion that there is, in the Petrine munus, room for a person to be “of service” without having the “office”… The theoretical possibility of it being so seems sort of plausible. But I cannot find anything in the history of the papacy that leads us to think the assertion is TRUE, only to think “maybe it’s there, possibly, if God wanted to put it there???” How else would we (or even could we) go about deciding whether God did in fact intend to put it there, OTHER than by the testimony of Scripture and tradition? Which, so far as I can tell, are silent on such role as that of remaining “within the enclosure of Peter” without being pope, nor of what the “service” consists in that is distinctive to remaining within the enclosure of Peter.

    (b) In several ways, you point to how a person taking on the Petrine role is “forever”, but all you are really doing is repeating the assertion that Benedict made, claiming that it is forever. But is it so, or did Benedict make an error? You refer to spiritual fatherhood. But pastor’s too, take on spiritual fatherhood, and yet they are not forever your pastoral father. They get moved around. And retire. And (a few of them) get dismissed from the clerical state and cease to act in any pastoral office at all. There is indeed a bond that each pastor has with one of his former parish, but he does not “remain within the enclosure” of the office of “pastor” of that flock, he moves on to a NEW ROLE in the Church, sometimes with new responsibilities, sometimes with fewer, and sometimes with none other than those of a retired priest. The bonds that each one has with (EACH OF) his former parishes are bonds in love, friendship, affection, and so on, but these are not bonds of an office, nor does it remain a formal duty of each pastor to pray and sacrifice for his former parish(es). And I think it puzzling indeed to speak of a formal role of “service” that would be “within the enclosure” of an office, without partaking of the office itself. “Office”, after all, means “duty”, and “service”, so claiming a role of “service” just is claiming an office.

    I add one point of my own: while it is true that we have unprecedented means of keeping a person alive who is far from the “top of their game” mentally and physically, it is by no means the case that senility and old-age dementia are new problems. There must have been, in the history of the papacy, a number of old popes who were pretty much being spoon fed, in their last year or two. While it is unpleasant to think of “the fate of the Church” resting on such weakened shoulders, in reality the fate of the Church has always rested on God, and He can do as He pleases through weak instruments. It is far from clear that we “need” new protocols for a projected cadre of abdicated popes who are waiting around for death to catch up to them. For instance, the popes could make it clear that they DON’T want or accept “extraordinary means” to be used to prolong their lives.

  84. jn says:

    @TonyO: I submit there doesn’t seem to be anything in the history of the papacy which clearly shows the assertion to be false either.

    Re discerning whether God put it there, yes tradition is silent.
    Which is why I suggested that we either await an affirmation / approving citation / expunging / refinement / development by the Magisterium or an acceptance/rejection during a future abdication. Until then, Acts 5: 38 – 39 and # 71 and 72 of John XXIII’s Ad Petri Cathedram?

    Re the forever aspect and whether Benedict was right or in error – again, see suggestion in previous paragraph.

    Yes, if you are looking solely from the parish (‘visible jurisdiction’) perspective, pastors are not forever your pastoral father. But from the spiritual perspective, do the current state-of-affairs indicate an ‘impoverishment’? Perhaps one possible fruit (very much down the line) of the ‘forever’ assertion by Benedict is to prod a deeper reflection on spiritual fatherhood and whether it ought to be considered simply from a functional holder-of-office perspective alone.

    Re puzzlement over “formal role” of service etc. (your words, not mine) – I submit we may be missing the wood for the trees.
    The one who ‘fulfilled’ the ‘office’ of giving birth to the Lord did not stop ‘mothering’ once that ‘formal duty’ was done. She has a ‘role’ in Mt. 12:50.
    One who ‘fulfilled’ the ‘office’ of being a father to the flock of Christ does not stop spiritual ‘fathering’ once that ‘formal duty’ is done. He has a ‘role’ in the munus petrinum.

    And it is worth recalling that there are no “turf wars” among the saints: in charity, all “jointly participate” in spiritual parenthood from heaven.

    And finally, your last point: Yes of course God is in charge; but in (imprudently?) being resistant to any sort of new protocol which could well prove helpful, imagine the headache of having to deal with the machinations of Cardinal as the Secretary of State / Dean of the College of Cardinals, etc.

  85. jn says:

    correction: that concluding line is supposed to have read as:
    ‘…imagine the headache of having to deal with the machinations of Cardinal (insert name of bugbear) as the Secretary of State / Dean of the College of Cardinals, etc…’

  86. Larry K says:

    In Pope Benedict’s Feb. 11, 2013 Declaratio, regarding his resignation, Benedict stated …

    ” … I declare that I renounce the ministry 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 …”

    First, Benedict states … “in such a way” … to modify what comes after. Why the modifier?

    Secondly, what does Benedict mean by the term “be vacant?”

    The 3rd meaning of vacant on Merriam-Webster’s dictionary site is …

    “… free from activity or work : DISENGAGED”

    In the Pope Benedict XVI General Audience at Saint Peter’s Square Wednesday, 27 February 2013

    … where Benedict states, regarding his acceptance of the See of Peter, and the subsequent resignation, he clarifies what he meant by his usage of the term “vacant,” when he stated the following …

    ” … 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. …

    … 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. … “

    So in his public audience of Feb 27, Pope Benedict states his intention to resign only the active ministry and not the Office of the See of Peter — a clarification of what he meant by vacant. This is the “novelty” that he speaks about in the previous paragraph and what he means by stating the See of Peter will be vacant. It’s right there — Pope Benedict XVI publicly states he only resigned (vacated) the active ministry of the See of Peter and not the papal office, or Seat of Peter.

    This resigning of only the active ministry, was alluded to in the Benedicts Feb. 11 Declaratio, where he stated …

    ” … … with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, …”

    So, Benedict simply renounced the active “ministry” of Bishop of Rome rather than the papal office.

    In conclusion, Benedict XVI is still the reigning Pope, and Francis’ election is therefore invalid. Pope Francis is an anti-Pope.

  87. Larry K says:

    Besides the various issues and problems already raised, there is another glaring issue with Pope Benedict XVI resignation that has yet to be addressed, and this has to do with Pope Benedict’s resignation announcement on Feb. 11, 2013.

    The papal office is not like a CEO position in some corporation. If Mr. CEO tenders his resignation for some future date — say in a month, all he has to do is clean out his office on that date and leave, and he’s done, and new CEO can take his place. The same would be true for some title or position a Bishop or Cardinal holds such as Secretary of State or one of the various dicasteries of the Roman Curia. Each of these various appointments is simply an disciplinary appointment to some function or authority in the Vatican, as there are no additional sacramental or divine powers beyond that of being a Bishop that comes with these appointments. This is not so with the Seat of Peter, which is a divinely instituted office that carries with it a divine commission and privileges from Christ himself over and above that of just a Bishop.

    It is clear from what took place when Pope Benedict announced his resignation on Feb. 11, 2013 in the declaratio, that this was an intent to resign at a future date, and not an actual resigning of the papal office on Feb. 11. This is so because Benedict was still the Pope the day after this announcement and for the rest of the month. Given this, one can conclude that his announcement on Feb. 11 amounted to an intent to resign at a future date (Feb. 28, 2013) and not an actual resignation on that day. The words and actions clearly show that is what the intent was.

    The issue then becomes whether Benedict actually resigned or left the papal office on Feb. 28, 2013 as he declared on Feb.11. I would maintain that simply cleaning out his suite in the Vatican and moving to a monastery on this date is not sufficient as in the case of the CEO. He still must resign the papal office — as clearly the previous statement amounted to only an intent to resign at a future date. This means that Pope Benedict was still Pope on Feb. 28, 2013 and still had to speak his resignation publicly on that date, which he did not do. The papal office simply doesn’t leave Benedict on Feb. 28 without some action on his part, as the Feb. 11 declaration was clearly an intent to resign at a future date.

    The Feb. 11 2013 declaration was therefore insufficient to resign the See of Peter. One can’t simple state that the papal office (divine commission and privileges) will leave me at a future date, without some action on that future date that completes it. One either actually resigns the papal office here and now, or he retains it.

    The issue also arises is that anytime between Benedict’s declaratio on Feb. 11 and Feb. 28, he could have internally decided to not resign the Papacy, after all he is the Pope and could make that decision. And how would anyone know but him? This would create a serious situation of doubt by Christians as to whether Benedict actually resigned and whether he was still the Pope. No declaration about resigning the papal office, or See of Peter, was made after the Feb. 11 declaration.

    Given this we have no actual resignation of the papal office or See of Peter by Pope Benedict XVI, but only a declaration that the papal office will somehow leave his person on Feb. 28, without any subsequent actions on the part of Benedict. Again, simply stating the papal office will somehow leave his person on Feb. 28 or expire of its own volition does not suffice to resign the Seat of Peter and its divine privileges and prerogatives.

    So I say — no way, no how. Without an actual resigning of the See of Peter on Feb. 28, 2013, Pope Benedict still retains the papal office.

  88. ZestyLemonZach says:

    If Francis isn’t pope, wouldn’t that mean every communion consecrated in the name of “Francis, our Pope” be invalid?

    [Of course not. And “communion” not not consecrated in the name of any Pope.]

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