Why it’s dogmatically impossible that Bergoglio be the Successor of Saint Peter
By Br. Alexis Bugnolo
When we think or talk about the Papacy, as Catholics, we often use several words interchangeably: the Pope, the Papacy, the Bishop of Rome, the Roman Pontiff and the Successor of Saint Peter.
And in the controversies over Pope Benedict XVI’s renunciation, we see all these terms used. For example, in the Act of Renunciation, Benedict signs the document, Pope Benedict. He says, therein (according to my English translation of the Latin original) that:
I declare in full liberty, that I renounce the ministry [ministerio] of the Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, committed to me …
In the Catholic Church, these terms have a specific meaning:
The Bishop of Rome: The one who holds jurisdiction as Bishop over the Diocese of Rome.
Successor of Saint Peter: The one who succeeds to the Primacy of Saint Peter.
The Roman Pontiff: The Bishop of Rome.
The Pope: All of the above, in one sense or another, generally, but more correctly formally in regard to the Successor of Saint Peter.
Because, theoretically, the Pope could establish his primatial see in another place and assign someone to rule the Diocese of Rome with proper not delegated authority. — Indeed, the Cardinal Vicar of Rome already has this authority in the Italian Territory of the Diocese, that is, a delegated authority to act as the Bishop, though some voices at Rome insist that its a proper not a delegated authority, inasmuch as it does not require recourse to the Roman Pontiff for normal affairs.
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The reason why I write, however, is more pointed than discussing these terms for the Pope. While I have proven that Pope Benedict did not renounce the petrine munus — and while His Holiness has not chosen to contest the 39 arguments I marshaled to prove that — there are still some who think, that since the Pope is Christ’s Vicar, he has the authority to renounce the Papal Office in the Ministry and thus that Bergoglio is truly the Pope, Roman Pontiff, the Successor of Saint Peter, not just a Bishop of Rome.
This, however, is not just canonically impossible, it’s dogmatically impossible, since it violates the very Will of Christ, as the Church defines that Will to regard the Papal office. And here is the proof:
There is more to the Papal Office than a Ministry!
Pope Benedict XVI still lives and when he did renounce on Feb. 11, 2013, he renounced only the “ministry which I received from the hands of the Cardinals.”
Therefore, since the office of the Papacy includes the grace not to fail in the Faithand the vocation to love and follow Christ, and the duty or charge from Christ to Saint Peter confirm his brethren and feed His sheep, there is a lot more to the Papal Office than merely the ministry which the pope elect receives from the hands of the Cardinals.
The problem is that the Pope does not receive His office from the Cardinals! — Yes, canonically, they have the authority to elect him, inasmuch as they are the chief clergy of the Church of Rome, but they do not confer that office upon him. For as Vatican I infallible teaches:
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. (Vatican I, Pastor Aeternus, c. 1, 1)
Which in English is:
And thus We teach and We do declare, in accord with the testimonies of the Gospel, that a primacy of jurisdiction over all the Church of God was immediately and directly promised and conferred by Christ, the Lord, upon Blessed Peter, the Apostle. (my translation)
And further on, in Chapter II, the same Vatican I teaches:
Unde quicumque in hac Cathedra Petro succedit, is secundum Christi ipsius institutionem primatum Petri in universam Ecclesiam obtinet. (Vatican I, Pastor Aeternus, ch. 2, 3)
Which in English is
Wherefore, whosoever succeeds Peter in this Cathedra, he obtains according to the institution of Christ Himself the primacy of Peter over all the Church.
The import of these 2 infallible teachings of Vatican I, is that the man who is elected as the Pope, receives his office immediately and directly from Christ inasmuch as he succeeds to the Cathedra, or Teaching Office, of Saint Peter.
Succession in the Cathedra vs. Delegation of Office
Herein is the problem with Bergoglio’s claim to power and authority. Yes, he was elected by the Cardinals, but no, Benedict had not yet renounced the Petrine Munus, at the time of his election.
Now according to canon 145 §1, the munus is the ecclesiastical office:
Can. 145 — § 1. Officium ecclesiasticum est quodlibet munusordinatione sive divina sive ecclesiastica stabiliter constitutum in finem spiritualem exercendum.
Which in English, is:
Canon 145 — §1. An ecclesiastical office is any munus constituted stably either by divine or ecclesiastical ordinance, to be exercised for a spiritual end.
And according to the Code of Canon Law of Pope John Paul II, which we have quoted, the Papal Office is likewise a munus; this is established in law by Three canons:
Canon 331 Ecclesiae Romanae Episcopus, in quo permanet munus a Domino singulariter Petro, primo Apostolorum, concessum et successoribus eius transmittendum, Collegii Episcoporum est caput, Vicarius Christi atque universae Ecclesiae his in terris Pastor; qui ideo vi muneris sui suprema, plena, immediata et universali in Ecclesia gaudet ordinaria potestate, quam semper libere exercere valet.
Canon 332 —§ 2. Si contingat ut Romanus Pontifex muneri suo renuntiet, ad validitatem requiritur ut renuntiatio libere fiat et rite manifestetur, non vero ut a quopiam acceptetur.
Can. 749 — § 1. Infallibiitate in magisterio, vi muneris sui gaudet Summus Pontifex quando ut supremus omnium christifidelium Pastor et Doctor, cuius est fratres suos in fide confirmare, doctrinam de fide vel de moribus tenendam definitivo actus proclamat.
Hence it is, that if a Pope does NOT renounce his munus, he retains it. And if he retains it, anyone who follows him as “pope” or “Bishop of Rome” while he still lives, cannot succeed to the Petrine Munus, the Papal Office, and hence only has a delegated authority.
It is delegated, because it is NOT received directly and immediately from Christ, but rather indirectly and through the intermediary of the Pope, who has not resigned his Petrine Munus.
Therefore, since as Vatican I teaches, the Roman Pontiff or Pope receives his office immediately and directly in Peter, inasmuch as he is the successor of Saint Peter’s Cathedra, or teaching office, Bergoglio cannot be the successor of Saint Peter, since someone else — namely Benedict — not only still occupies the Chair but stands in authority between Christ and Bergoglio as the grantor of his office, whatever it be.
Pope Benedict further indicates this by calling the one to be elected by the Conclave to be convened the new Supreme Pontiff, and not the Bishop of Rome, the Pope, or the Successor of Saint Peter! — Note the precision of terminology! (For the complete text of the Renunciation see here.)
Hence, it’s now clear, that not only did Pope Benedict not resign the Papal Office and the Petrine Munus, but that it is dogmatically impossible that Bergoglio
- succeeded to the Office of Saint Peter’s Cathedra,
- became by his election the Successor to Saint Peter,
- is the Supreme Pontiff in the Catholic and traditional sense of that term, because Benedict remains such;
- enjoys the grace of infallibility and the vocation to follow and love the Lord,which are attached to the Office of St. Peter;
- exercises a proper office — not one at the good pleasure of Benedict — which is a charge or duty to feed Christ’s sheep and confirm his brethren — in a conceded Petrine Ministry, which he cannot possibly execute or fulfill without the other aspects of the Papal Office which Benedict by his faulty act and intention never relinquished.
These conclusions are confirmed by the teaching of Timothy Zaplena, De Ecclesia Christi, 1: Pars Apologetica, Gregorian University, 4th ed., p. 256, where he writes, commenting on the teaching of Vatican I on the Papal Primacy:
Ut vero aliquis sit successor Petri in primatu, non requiritur ut hic potestatem iurisdictionis accipiat ab ipso Petro, sed sufficit ut eidem succedat ex voluntate Christi in omnia iura primatialia.
Which in English is:
However, that any man be the successor of Saint Peter in the primacy, there is not required that he accept this power from Peter himself, but it suffices that he succeed the same (Peter) out of the Will of Christ in all primatial rights.
Hence, since Pope Benedict did not renounce all the primatial rights (i.e. the munus, the dignitas, the onus, the papacy, the grace and the vocation etc.), it follows that it is impossible dogmatically that Bergoglio be the Successor to Saint Peter, in the way Christ willed that succession to take place!
As an addendum, since the Pope is named in the Canon of the Mass because he is the Successor of Saint Peter, not because he exercises the Petrine Ministry or is the Bishop Rome — because the Office of Peter is the touchstone of unity and orthodoxy in the Church — it follows that it is not only canonically but dogmatically illicit to name Pope Francis in the Canon of the Mass, where the name of the pope is customarily enunciated.