THE CANON 15 §2 STRAWMAN TROTTED OUT BY LIFESITE’S ANONYMOUS CANON LAWYER
By Br. Alexis Bugnolo
Just as every criminal, for the sake of public safety, should receive a response from the police, so every error merits a refutation by those who love the truth. This is even more true in proportion to the danger posed by the criminal, or by the error.
Nearly a year ago, on February 14, 2019, in an attempt to quell the growing realization among many Catholics that Benedict is still the Pope, LifeSite News, a pro-life website founded by a Canandian Political action committee and a converted Atheist, published an article containing a whole string of falsifications of legal principles and straw men arguments, entitled, “Did Benedict really resign? Gänswein, Burke and Brandmüller weigh in.” The article was authored by Diana Montagna, and it was one of the first to actually mention the controversy over Benedict’s resignation.
I refuted the major points of her article, in my response, published on the same day, entitled, Gänswein, Brandmüller & Burke: Please read Canon 17!
As I look back today at that article, it does not surprise me that it was published at LifeSite News. My experience in apologetics — the one on one discussions with non Catholics to convince them the Catholic Faith is the true Faith or to answer their questions in that regard — for over 24 years has given me plenty of opportunities to speak with atheists of all kinds, and the one difficulty they all have is the inability to believe that words have meaning, and that meaning can carry us to the infinite or eternal. This is one of the great doubts in modern time which is propagated by the secular media and culture, and it is one of the most fundamental attacks Lucifer uses against souls. And as most of us cradle Catholics, who never doubted or left the faith have also experienced, just because a Convert has converted, does not yet mean he has left behind all his faults, errors or phobias.
I say this, because I cannot imagine why any good Catholic would publish an article such as Montagna’s which is so full of lies, and trash the reputation of his 15 year apostolate so profoundly in a single act. Pro-abortionists love to deny the meaning of words, because that is the only way you can kill children in the womb or as they come out of it. Denying Canon Law and legal principles kills souls, and that is a worse crime and sin in the sight of God and faithful Christians.
The Canon 15 §2 Strawman
First, let me thank Fred Martinez over at Catholic Monitor Blog, for drawing my attention again, a year later, to Montagna’s article. Mr. Martinez is doing a superb job at finding and pointing out the logical or textual self-contradictions of the “Bergoglio is certainly the Pope” crowd, and many of his articles show where he catches them saying the exact opposite after 2016 what they said before 2016. — My profound gratitude also to the Most Rev. Rene Henry Gracida, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas, for reposting his and many of my articles, at his own blog, abyssum.org, to help the wider audience of the faithful know of the pertinent issues in the present Church crisis.
In Montagna’s article, see here, there is trotted out the argument from Canon 15 §2. She quotes the anonymous theologian, thus:
The theologian acknowledged that it is possible that Pope Benedict thought there might be a real distinction between munus and ministerium but was unsure. In that case, he said, Benedict’s abdication would be invalid only if he had in his mind the thought: “I only want to resign the ministerium if it is in fact distinct from the munus.”
But he said it would be equally possible that, being unsure whether there was a distinction, Benedict could have had in mind the thought: “I want to resign the ministerium whether or not it is distinct from the munus.” In that case, the theologian said he believes the resignation would have been valid.
“In any case,” he said, “I don’t think there is convincing evidence that Benedict thought there was a real distinction between the two things.”
“Again,” the theologian continued, “since according to Canon 15.2, error is not presumed about a law, the presumption must be that he validly renounced the papacy.”
Let’s take a look at the actual Canon and see if the anonymous theologian — who appears not to have a degree in Canon Law, because if he did, he should be termed a canonist — actually quoted the Canon correctly and/or represented its authentic meaning:
Canon 15 §2, in the Intratext edition:
Can. 15 – § 1. Ignorantia vel error circa leges irritantes vel inhabilitantes earundem effectum non impediunt, nisi aliud expresse statuatur.
§ 2. Ignorantia vel error circa legem aut poenam aut circa factum proprium aut circa factum alienum notorium non praesumitur; circa factum alienum non notorium praesumitur, donec contrarium probetur.
Which in good English, means:
Canon 15. – § 1. Ignorance and/or error about irritating and/or inabilitating laws* does not impede their effect, unless something else has been expressly established.
§ 2. Ignorance and/or error about a law or punishment or about one’s own deed or about the notorious deed of another is not presumed; it is presumed about the non-notorious fact of another, until the contrary is proven.
But the theologian said Canon 15 §2 says “error is not presumed about a law, the presumption must be that he validly renounced the papacy.” — It is not clear, what the theologian is intending to speak about, because he is quoted to have introduced his statement with, “Again”, which implies reference to a second matter or the use of another kind of argument, or a double reason for the same argument. In charity, I assume he is referring to his straw man argument about the interior state of mind of Pope Benedict.
But it is certain what the canon says regards a person’s ignorance or error regarding a law. That can be seen from the entire context of the Canon, which speaks about a person’s apprehension of facts and of law. But it is proven by the Latin word, circa, which does not mean in, but regarding the matter of.
Thus, if we read the theologian as referring to Benedict’s knowledge of Canon 332 §2, which is the context of Montagna’s article, read in the best possible light, then we can see that the theologian is doing a bate-and-switch, because if we are not to presume that Benedict was ignorant or in error regarding Canon 332 §2, when we must presume that when he renounced ministerium, he did NOT intend to renounce the munus. Because if you think he intended to renounce the munus, then you have presumed he erred in saying ministerium.
As you can see, the anonymous theologian made a gross misrepresentation of the law. If he were a Canonist, I would have to presume in accord with Canon 15 §2 that he was a liar and intentionally misrepresented the canon. But since he is only an anonymous theologian, who may have never studied Canon Law or may not know how to read Latin, in charity we should presume that he is simply ignorant or incompetent to give his opinion on it. — But, as I demonstrated in my rebuttal 51 weeks ago, everyone quoted in the article shows serious deficiencies in the knowledge of Canon Law or legal principles, except Cardinal Burke who seems to simply mistake the kind of legal matter he is dealing with, just as the great Saint Alphonsus dei Liguori did on the occasion of his conversion to his vocation.
The interpretative principle used by the anonymous theologian seems more adapted to the psycho-analysis of sociopaths, in that a clinical psychologist presumes the context of his patient’s statements in the best possible light but without reference to any objective custom or law of verbal expression, because, after all, he is a patient with problems.
The theologian, therefore, is adopting a presumption and a very uncharitable one toward the reigning Pontiff and towards a man who has read thousands of books. Not to mention, a presumption contrary to fact, because in the previous sentences of the Declaratio, Pope Benedict XVI uses the Latin word “munus” twice!
The correct reading of Canon 15, is that in accord with Canon 15 §1, even if Benedict were ignorant, Canons 38 and 188 and 332 would still nullify his act. So if he did not realize that by renouncing the ministry rather than the munus, he would transgress the essential obligations of Canon 332 §2 in his renunciation as regards the specific act required, the liberty required and the manifestation required, his act would nevertheless BE INVALID!
So Canon 15 destroys entirely the argument of everyone cited in Montagna’s article, because on the one hand if Pope Benedict was ignorant that would not save the act from being nullified by the Law, and if on the other hand we are to presume he was not ignorant, we must understand his act as a renunciation of ministerium, not of munus, and therefore it is also invalid by the same Canons 38, 188 and 332.
Words have meaning: this terrifies atheists and sociopaths, because it demands of each of us that we conform our verbal expression to an objective standard and admit that meaning transcends the categories of human speech, points us towards objective and eternal rules of behavior and implies that there is a God who is Sovereign of this Universe and Who will judge us eternally for what we do and say. — That words have meaning, is also the nemesis of every criminal, because it is through words that he is caught, prosecuted and sentenced.
Thus, we cannot be faithful or upright Catholics if we listen to men or women who attempt to undermine the truth that words have meaning, and if we do not admit that it is not within our power to change their meaning, neither in themselves nor in them when others use them. Those who do such things are practicing the same method of persuasion used by the Serpent in the Garden of Eden, and we all know who that was and what it led to.
* An irritating law is a law which declares a juridical act to have no value in law on account of not having followed the due requirement of the law for the said act. An inabilitating law is a law which deprives the act of the ability to have an effect. Canon 38 is an inabilitating law, Canon 188 is an irritating law, and Canon 332 § 2 is an invalidating law. Canon 332 §2, is the matter for the application of Canons 38 and 188 in regard to error in a papal renunciation, because as regards the error of a reigning pontiff, the Code takes the position that the administrative act be presumed valid per se but not have the effect others thinks it has or which the pontiff thinks it may have, and thus in canons 38 and 188 and 332, it declares that it has the effect which the sacred canons say it has, and not any other effect. — This is why it is essential, and not simply an optional method of intepretation, that Canon Law be read and used carefully to understand the canonical effect, if any, in an administrative act of the Roman Pontiff.
CREDITS: The Featured Image above is a screen shot of the page of LifeSite News featuring the article reference herein. It is used here, along with the citation of the same, in accord with fair use standards for editorial commentary.
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