Antonio Socci on the recent Corriere piece with and about Benedict XVI

Marco Tosatti has posted on his site an English translation of Antonio Socci’s latest, which was in Libero.  It’s all about the recent Benedict XVI “interview” posted by Corriere della Sera.

Tosatti points out that Corriere turned non-news into the headline and buried the real lead.   The non-news, old-news is Benedict XVI saying that “there is one Pope”.   The real news is Benedict’s apparent attitude about Biden: it differs from that of Francis. That’s news.

What would have been news would have been a statement from Benedict that “There is only one Pope, and Francis is he, not I, and I have nothing to do with the papacy now.”   But I believe Benedict has never said anything like that.  That would have been news.  Instead, Corriere emphasized what Benedict has been saying, with ambiguity, “there is only one Pope”.

Socci, in the English posted by Tosatti, points out what journalists could have asked and should get answers for:

-Why do you wear white and why are you called “Holy Father Benedict XVI” if there is only one pope?

-Why are you officially called “pope emeritus” if there is no juridical or theological definition of such a title?

-Why do you still give the Apostolic Blessing (or the Papal Blessing), which is a prerogative of the pope (to which a plenary indulgence is attached)?

After all, some people have noted that in some of his recent books are signed “Benedict PP XVI,” with the initials “PP” (Pastor Pastorum), which is the title reserved for the pope. Furthermore, in public ceremonies in which the pope emeritus has participated, some cardinals have bowed down to him and kissed his ring, which they should have done only with the pope.

Vatican journalist Saverio Gaeta has noted that “on Pope Bergoglio’s coat of arms the pallium is missing, while it is present on the coat of arms of Pope Ratzinger: an element that in Vatican symbology is decidedly not negligible.

Individually considered, meh. Taken together, hmm.

Socci then goes into the question of whether or not acceptance of the Petrine Ministry at the election is “irrevocable”.  After all, in his last audience, Benedict said that it was “forever”, which suggests that Benedict thinks that the Petrine Ministry is like to the ontological change that comes with ordination.   He goes into the curious speech given by Archbp. Gänswein in 2016 about Benedict’s intention to enlarge the Petrine Ministry, so there can be an active and a contemplative member (of the same Petrine office).

Theologians will have to hash through that last one, or we will have to wait for something new from the pen of …who?… I guess Benedict. He either had something in mind and reasons for it, or he didn’t. It would be helpful to have greater clarity so that we can know one way or the other.

The truth will out. And because of his concerns a constitutive element of the Church, the Petrine ministry, and the working of the Holy Spirit due to the many invocations at the time of a conclave, we should ask God the Holy Spirit to illuminate the questions.

It strikes me as unlikely that a Pope on his own can expand the Petrine Ministry, established by Christ.  If this is a legitimate development, perceived by the Church over time and consistent with Tradition, the sensus fidelium fidei, etc., well…. maybe.  But, if this is an error, it would be a substantial error.  And if that substantial error was the basis of Benedict’s motive to resign the active Petrine Ministry without resigning the contemplative, then there would be grounds to raise a question or two about the validity of the resignation.  In most cases, figures in the Church cannot resign validly if they are in substantial error about why they are resigning.  Does that same standard apply to the Successor of Peter?   I don’t know.  The Pope is the Legislator and Interpreter, not I.

Just as a mind exercise, we might also remember that another idea has been floated about the resignation of Benedict, whereby he wanted to resign as Bishop of Rome (Successor of Peter), but not as Vicar of Christ (Successor of Peter).  Similar to the active and contemplative scenario. Possible?  Some say yes. Some say no.  Would a Pope be in substantial error in such an attempt?  Maybe. Given that Peter became Christ’s Vicar at Caesarea Philippi, not at Rome, and that Peter was Bishop at Antioch, before Rome, it seems that being Vicar of Christ was not, in its origin, dependent on being Bishop of Rome. Are the two offices now so tied together that the one is impossible without the other? Who says? This was debated at the time of Vatican I.  Auctores scinduntur.

In any event, you might look at Socci’s piece, which is as much about the journlistic fumble as it was about the larger questions of the papacy.

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  1. ThePapalCount says:

    Benedict is pope emeritus. That is the title he chose for himself and emeritus is used to described anyone who has left an office honorably. It is used for bishops and for professors and others. So, the title should not be an issue.
    Wearing white? He is the pope emeritus. He was the pope. To wear white is a mark of esteem and it honors the position once held. Benedict does not wear a sash nor the shoulder cape as Francis does. As for his signature…well he is Benedict xvi so I see no issue with that. Using P.P….well maybe that’s negotiable. Francis doesn’t even use it. But Britain’s Queen Mary signed herself “Mary R” (regina) until the day she died and she was then but a dowager for 17 years her husband being the king dying in 1936 and she is 1953. And Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother used the “R” until her death 2001 and she had been but a dowager queen from 1952. No one thought either woman was attempting to say they were “The Queen” any longer. And people still bowed and curtsied to them.
    As for kissing Benedict’s ring and bowing to him. Not a problem. Merely a sign of respect and esteem. Again, to use the British model, when Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother attended an event she was accorded all the marks due a reigning sovereign but only out of respect and esteem not because she was the Queen Regnant. No one thought other than she was the Queen Dowager.
    Francis is the pope. Benedict the pope emeritus.

  2. richdel says:

    A supposed suggestion on Benedict’s part that he is still pope seems incongruous to the fact that he has defended and reinforced his resignation on several occasions.

  3. WVC says:

    Is this like a Jekyll and Hyde situation? Was the Petrine ministry split into two parts – a contemplative part and an active part? Does that mean Pope Francis can’t contemplate things? That . . . that actually might explain a lot!!

  4. I wish Benedict had set aside all the trappings of the papacy upon his abdication. But that he hasn’t probably doesn’t mean much beyond the fact that we just don’t have a protocol for dealing with a still-living former Pope. We are forgetting the confusion that arose at the time about how to deal with the former Pope.

    Should we have such a protocol? Maybe. On the other hand, the case could be made that we shouldn’t, lest it give rise to an expectation that Popes will abdicate in the normal course. Personally, I think that would be a bad thing for the Church.

  5. supercooper says:

    I don’t understand how anyone can read the text of the resignation, the text of his “final” audience, and the text of Archbp. Gänswein’s speech and not have serious questions about what Pope Benedict actually intended to do. It’s a lot more serious than a former Pope merely keeping some of the trappings of his former office. His statements reaffirming the resignation never address the substance of the issues raised by Ms. Barnhardt and others.

    When I first read the text of Pope Benedict’s final audience in 2013 I was left scratching my head, going back and forth re-reading it and the resignation text. It seemed off to me even then. Watching Ms. Barnhardt’s first video on the topic was an “Aha!” moment for me.

    I think it is very likely Pope Benedict is the Pope.

  6. JPCahill says:

    It seems to me the analogy doesn’t quite fit. Neither Queen Mary nor Queen Mother Elizabeth were ever Queens regnant. Their use of the “R” either before or after the deaths of their husbands confused no-one.

    In my opinion a more instructive analogy in keeping with the British provenance would be that of King Edward VIII. Until 10 December 1936 he was Edward VIII; as of 12 December 1936 he was Edward, Duke of Windsor. New title, new coat of arms, new residence, new duties. Not everyone liked it but there was no confusion about it.

  7. My husband read the “interview” and he said that what they wrote that Benedict said didn’t sound at all like him. I have to agree.

  8. Padre Pio Devotee says:

    I for one think Francis has the legal claim to the Papacy. But what always made me eye roll was why did BXVI use the term “Petrine Ministry” ? He should have used the term papacy and/or seat of Peter. The climax of the resignation speech should have been something as simple as, “I resign as the Pope and as the Supreme Pontiff starting on….”. Simple as that.
    I’m pretty sure Benedict came up with the term Petrine Ministry? Does anyone have any insight on the history of the term?
    Why make new terms on an already almost unprecedented move? Why make things confusing & gray with term Petrine Ministry.

  9. crjs1 says:

    Supercooper with respect I feel the opposite, I can’t see how the text of Benedict’s resignation, the text of his “final” audience, could of been any clearer. It was absolutely clear Benedict was resigning the papacy. He has been nothing but loyal and clear in his acknowledgement of Francis ad Pope since Francis’s election.

    All this chatter about why Benedict continues to go by his papal name and wear white etc seems absurd or incredible wishful thinking from some wishing he had a secret plan to retain parts of the office of Peter. Which just isn’t credible or consistent with anything Benedict has said since abdicating. Would I have preferred that Benedict had not assumed a ‘ emeritus’ position – and dropped the trappings of the papacy – absolutely. But it is clear that the model is based on the ‘Bishop emeritus’ position now widespread within the church. Can we not just take him on his word that he was truely abdicating and that Francis is the true Pope?

  10. supercooper says:

    Padre Pio Devotee, Ms. Barnhardt has a few posts on (now Archbishop) J. Michael Miller’s dissertation, “The Divine Right of the Papacy in Recent Ecumenical Theology.” It is in her summary, “A collection and synthesis of the German theological academy’s plans for fundamentally transforming the Papacy.”
    The liberal German Theological school, including Father Ratzinger, discussed radical restructuring of the papacy. That’s where you can find the origin of the office vs ministry distinction.

    Crjs1, reading the Pope’s final audience and his resignation, with language like “always and forever” and the distinction about active vs passive Petrine ministry struck me as odd and disconcerting. I didn’t draw any conclusions about it at the time. But Archbp. Gänswein’s address is profoundly problematic. If Archbp. Gänswein’s address was putting word’s in the Holy Father’s mouth, the Pope Emeritus should have immediately rebutted it as fanciful and wrong. If the Archbishop’s words accurately represent the Holy Father’s mind on his resignation, then I think it is fair to call it substantially erroneous.

    I’m not dogmatic about my position, but I find the whole corpus of evidence put forward by Ms. Barnhardt and Mr. Socci to be compelling.

  11. Peetem says:

    I can’t help but wonder if Benedict wasn’t thinking ahead. St. JPII had ruminated about what might happen if he became incapacitated and unable to continue is his ministry as the Pope.

    Perhaps Benedict, being the theologian he is, decided he would create the model – current pope resigns (or is incapacitated in some way), is considered Pope emeritus out of respect, is allowed and shown the honor of being the former Pope (e.g, similar to a former president of the US is still called “Mr. President”), is allowed the ceremonial trappings of being a former Pope, but no longer has the same authority.

    Until this point Benedict has made it clear he’s not the Pope.

    So why are we making more out of this?

  12. Padre Pio Devotee says:


    Thank you so much! I will look up the articles!

  13. ChrisP says:

    The problem with circles is that they are not a good tool for getting from A to B.

    Straight lines are needed. Thus:

    1. if Benedict dies first, no one could dispute Francis is Pope and expect to get away with it

    2. if Francis dies first, it could get interesting if Benedict XVI says or does something new about his role.

    My money is on 1 happening first and this case closed.

    On Benedict’s purported comments on Biden. I don’t believe them – I don’t accept ANYTHING that comes via Ganswein or even touches his atmosphere.

  14. Kathleen10 says:

    I feel like an ant weighing in on matters way over my head, but why not, it’s Saturday morning, and even an ant is entitled to an opinion.
    There are matters of protocol and facts. Many discuss them and ought to. But there is something less tangible, the supernatural existence of things, the things hard to examine but there nonetheless. Jesus said the sheep would know His voice. Would He not deign it necessary that the sheep would know the voice of the man to whom He would leave the Keys to the Kingdom? This gets debatable of course, some would say they recognize that voice in Francis. Others would say Benedict. We certainly don’t decide matters by online polls, but the recent poll indicated many Catholics (2:1) believe Benedict is pope, not Francis. It is likely not just personal preference, it is the reasonable questions about facts we know as well as the sheep using discernment, which is not negligible. Personally, I find it hard to understand a man could be valid in an office when he apparently holds almost none of the tenets of the religion he supposedly heads, and his words and actions are so contrary to Catholic history and tradition. After 2000 years, did God suddenly correct course? Or was a man put in that position who had no business being there, but was selected by men for just that reason. There are so many signs, but we refuse to acknowledge them. I am still waiting for someone to explain to me how the pope has refused to kneel or genuflect before Christ in the Blessed Sacrament and we ignore that. This is an outward sign of an inward disposition, and is just one question we should have about the man. It is shocking, that we have tolerated such things, and not demanded answers about them. This says more about us, than it does about this one figure. Perhaps that’s why we have him.

  15. Robert_Caritas says:

    I don’t think that such speculations are useful.

    Pope Benedict is an emeritus, and like emeriti in any domain (professors, presidents, etc.), he retains certain of the privileges of his former office, while forfeiting the principal ones. Much like a former professor or mayor are still professors and mayors in a very secondary sense, that is without retaining any of the core responsibilities and powers, Benedict is still a pope in a very secondary sense. [So there are two Popes.] This is what being a “pope emeritus” means, and when Benedict choose to become one instead of returning to the state of being a cardinal, that is what he chose. So in a certain sense, we do have two popes, one actual, with the full powers and responsibilities, and one emeritus, with only certain vestiges of them. To understand what Gänswein meant with his “expanded ministry” comment, I think we need to look no further. [Noooo… I don’t think that is what he meant.]

    The quoted list in this blog post correspond to the privileges which Benedict has maintained : the colour white, a pontifical title (pastor pastorum), giving apostolic blessings (something which Pope Francis can delegate him the power for). This is the first time we have a Pope emeritus, and Benedict is paving the way by his choices. “Bishops emeriti” are a recent creation, and so there is no reason why a pope emerius could not happen if the authorities of the Church chose so, and they have. After the present experience, legislation will probably be created in the future. [Fair enough. I hope, however, it doesn’t happen again.]

    Why are these speculations unhelpful? Because Francis is the pope, the Rock of the Church, the Vicar of Christ, and the bearer of the Petrine charism. We had all be better solidly anchored on that Rock if we hope to weather the current storm. If our devotion, respect, trust and fidelity to Francis are compromised in any way, we are compromised. Such speculations can spread terrible seeds of doubt in the minds of already confused and distraught people. They can be faith destroying.

    Some helpful historical perspective can be found in this interview of Malachi Martin by William F. Buckley, in which they speak at length about popes saint Paul VI and John Paul I ( [This is “historical speculation” perhaps from the perspective of the young. For my part historical perspective is derived also from the fact that Boniface VIII hunted down and imprisoned Celestine V, where he died.] Martin’s remarks on saint Paul VI are virtually identical to the criticisms being leveled at Francis today, in particular showing favour to left wing regimes and being hard on right wing ones, as well as being tolerant of heretical theologians. Few people have noticed that, exactly like saint Paul VI, when push came to shove, Francis has held the line against theological liberalism in his magisterial documents, in particular concerning the ordination of married men, and communion for the divorced and remarried. [?!? Come again?] That should be sufficient to quash any seeds of doubt that he is the true bearer of the Petrine charism. In any case, Francis is the pope, and our attitude towards him should be exactly that commanded by Catholic doctrine and piety, lest we fall into sin, or worse.

  16. Arturo says:

    If there is any doubt as to whether Pope Emeritus is referring to Pope Francis when he said that there is only one Pope, just look at the last time when Pope Emeritus was with Pope Francis in public. The Pope Emeritus removed his zucchetto as he greeted Pope Francis. [A good point.] People look for signs and signals. This is the clearest and unequivocal sign. [No it isn’t unequivocal.] If Pope Benedict still thinks he is the pope then why on earth would he do that to a cardinal who happens to wear white? [Because he thinks he expanded the Petrine Ministry?]

    The universal church says the name of Pope Francis in all masses. [I don’t think that is conclusive.] The appointment of bishops by Pope Francis, a power reserved exclusively for the pope, are recognized by the universal church as valid and binding. For any reasonable person, it should be obvious that when the Pope Emeritus said there is only one pope, he is referring to Pope Francis. To suggest otherwise is bending what the Pope Emeritus has said all along just to fit them to their own biases. [And yet he hasn’t said it.]

    Should I prefer that Pope Benedict is still the pope? Absolutely. But if we all are for the truth, then we must all recognize and accept it no matter how difficult. The truth is, Pope Benedict resigned and Pope Francis is elected.

  17. adriennep says:

    They really are stupid enough to think we would believe the real Pope Benedict would even consider commenting on Biden.

    Regardless of status, I miss him so much and pray for him daily. He was responsible for lifting me up into the Catholic Church. It tears my heart to think he might have been mistreated in any possible way. God alone and time will reveal.

  18. Joe in Canada says:

    a) emeritus is a confusing term, It does not mean someone who retired honourably, or at least did not mean that 50 years ago, It mean a professor who retired and was asked to come back and take up certain duties (often supervising grad students, or leading a research project, eg).
    2) the whole matter was made up by him; his unfortunate resignation, where he lived, how he dressed, etc. No doubt Francis had something to do with it ongoing, probably just going along. I don’t get the impression that either of them were particularly thoughtful or clear about it.
    iii) The papacy is not some magical aura or hidden reality, it is not an ontological change. Francis is Pope. Benedict retired, for better or for worse. I wish he had gone to the most remote monastery. But worse things to come, I think, when he dies. How long will Summorum pontificum survive? ????? ????? ?????:

  19. Grabski says:

    There would appear to be a reason Pope Benedict is alive

    For the faithful

  20. Robert_Caritas says:

    To respond to Fr. Zuhlsdorf’s comments on my previous post :

    First of all, Gänswein’s comment can certainly be understood as an attempt to theologize about the unprecedented situation of having, in a certain sense, two popes. If a pope is “emeritus”, in what sense is he said to be “pope” ? And how is that function coordinated with that of the actual reigning pope? A pope emeritus is clearly not an “active” participant in the petrine ministry, which is what Gänswerin affirmed. But if he must still have some kind of link to it. Gänswein’s proposal of a “contemplative” participation seems like an attempt to qualify it. In effect, it is not a participation in the powers and responsibilities of a reigning pope, but it does possess some its moral gravitas as well as something of its universal spiritual fatherhood.

    One can agree or disagree with Archbishop Gänswein’s attempt to make sense of the place of the pope emeritus in regards to the reigning pope and in the life of the Church, but I think that it can pretty safely said to be nothing more than that. To assume that his “expanded ministry” comment meant a splitting of the active papacy in two goes quite clearly beyond his words.

    Secondly, nowhere in Pope Francis’ authentic magisterium is there affirmed the possibility for people in an objective state of mortal sin to be allowed to receive holy communion, including in the case of the divorced and remarried. That is to say, in all of his teachings which are binding on the faithful, and which would have to be considered of equal weight as past magisterial teachings, it isn’t there.

    Everything else, including “personel is policy” considerations (which are tricky, at best, if we remember the Humanae vitae commision), as well as interpreting less than clear private statements, is secondary from the perspective of theology. Christ’s promises concerning the Petrine charism apply to magisterial teaching.

  21. Fr_Sotelo says:

    It has been eight years since Benedict XVI resigned, accepted the ensuing conclave, rendered public respect to Bergoglio *as Pope, and completely abandoned the governance of the Church.

    And we’re still having this conversation???

    I think it’s true, what some have said: “Benedict and Trump have this in common. They will both have to physically die before some are willing to accept that neither is in charge or in office.”

    Perhaps it is now time to compose a special prayer, pleading that God grant the grace to us to serenely accept, to see with spiritual assent, and to firmly confess that Benedict XVI is no longer Pope, and hasn’t been since he resigned, packed up, left the Apostolic Palace, and ceased imparting any decisions from the Curia regarding all governance of the Church.

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  23. TRW says:

    Well said, Fr. SOTELO. The devil loves to sow doubt and division. If someone occupying the Chair of Peter says anything that contradicts the perennial teaching of the Church(the ordinary magisterium of the Church) on faith or morals, we ignore it. Simple.

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  25. chantgirl says:

    Fr_Sotelo- There are good reasons that faithful Catholics might hope that Benedict is still pope, and there good reasons that patriotic Americans might hope that Trump would be victorious in his election challenges.

    First, there is enough data to argue that both cases need a closer look.

    Second, the alternate men currently occupying these positions are a danger to the institutions they head.

    There are several possibilities when it comes to the papal situation:

    A) Benedict did not validly resign, and is therefore still pope, making Francis an antipope. There is enough circumstantial evidence to cause a worry here.

    B) Benedict validly resigned and Pope Francis was validly elected.

    C) Benedict validly resigned but Pope Francis was not validly elected. Possibly he held heretical views that blocked him from being eligible. Possibly the electors didn’t follow the rules and conspired illegally to elect him. Again, there is circumstantial evidence to argue this angle.

    D) Benedict validly resigned, Francis was validly elected, but then lost his office due to some defect in his performance of his papal duties.

    People are arguing that Benedict is still pope because there are reasons to wonder, and because Francis scares them. Of the Catholics I know, those who are cultural Catholics but not practicing are very comfortable with Francis because they feel that he confirms them in their immoral life choices. I don’t personally know any practicing Catholics who try their best to follow the moral law who are comfortable with Francis. They do not recognize in him the voice of the shepherd, and they are scared of what he is doing to the church.

    I personally don’t know who the pope is. Our family prays for the pope every day, but not by name. God knows and will eventually sort this out. We have a man who currently holds the title of Pope but does not seem to have the charism, or the anointing that such a man should have, who doesn’t seem to speak with the voice of the Shepherd. We can give assent to the Church’ current judgement about this, but we can’t ignore what our eyes see, and what our ears hear.

    May God in His mercy deliver us from this confusion!

  26. chantgirl says:


  27. Fr_Sotelo says:

    The reasons you present for debating this issue are like a flimsy stack of cards. They tumbled down as soon as we clearly present Catholic theology.

    a) Benedict’s resignation can only be voided if he himself confesses a threat, so grievous, that would remove free will. Otherwise, only the Pope’s superior can parse out the resignation speech and judge it to be invalid. The huge problem is that the Pope on earth has no superior. Therefore, any attempt to judge the validity of the resignation is prima facie, itself, invalid because the Church clearly teaches that the Pope has no superior who is competent to judge the resignation.

    b) Benedict’s public resignation before the college of cardinals, and their acceptance on the spot, shows that those who are charged with these proceedings accepted a true resignation and allowed all the world media to publish the act. The cardinals then conducted a conclave which rendered obeisance and respect to the new Pope. At any time, Benedict could have gone public and appealed for help. He did not, and his silence granted consent to the new Pope.

    After eight years, the statute of limitations has expired in canon law, which means that Benedict could not be made Pope unless another conclave were to elect him.

    c) Bergoglio, before the conclave, was not declared to be a heretic. That step is essential, so that he can be blocked out of the conclave. Therefore, he is capable of being Pope.

    As for corrupt cardinal electors, they do not change the conclave’s validity. Evidence of corruption must be presented and judged by a Church tribunal. If found guilty, those cardinals can be excommunicated or punished somehow. However, punishment goes to the specific cardinals.

    There is no rule anywhere that says a conclave must be declared invalid, if some of the cardinals were corrupted.

  28. chantgirl says:

    Fr_Soteo- I defer to those more studied in canon law to figure these arguments out. If all of these arguments are indeed a house of cards, we are left with a worse situation- a pope who does not appear to believe what the Church has always believed. Again, people hold out hope that he is not pope because of the danger he presents to the church, and because they can’t work out how Christ’ promises are true if the pope does not uphold the faith. There is an easy out if he is not pope; we can discard the insanity of the last few years. If he is legitimately the pope, we have some difficult questions to answer and some complicated knots to untangle.

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  30. Ages says:

    I think a lot of the intrigue and tea leaves reading about Benedict is basically on the level of Qanon stuff. Benedict will surely swoop in to take over again, right after Trump kicks Biden out and restores the pre 1870s constitution. No, real life isn’t a movie. There isn’t a third act plot twist coming.

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