A REPLY TO FATHER BRIAN HARRISON’S, IS BENEDICT STILL THE POPE?
by Br. Alexis Bugnolo
In the Summer Issue of the Latin Mass Magazine, 2020, there has appeared an article by Father Brian Harrison, on pp. 12-19, with 21 footnotes, entitled, “Is Benedict Still the Pope”.
Since I was named in the article and insulted, I will reply to the the entire argument. I was not notified of the publication by either the editor of the magazine or the author of the article. A reader informed me.
For a summary of my reply, see the end of this article. I have decided to make no preliminary comments, because I want you to use your reason, not my opinions, to evaluate my criticism of what Father Harrison says.
First, I will thank Father Harrison for attempting to defend his position with words. He holds that Benedict is certainly no longer the pope. By expressing his thoughts in words the entire Church is given the opportunity to assess the value of his argument. This is so unlike 100% of the College of Cardinals and 99.99% of the Bishops and 99.999% of the priests.
I invite you to obtain a copy of the magazine and read his article so you can avail yourself of this rare opportunity to, as it were, look into the mind of a priest who names Pope Francis daily in the Canon of the Mass.
I will only outline the argument and comment, here, as my reply.
Second, I thank the editor of the Latin Mass Magazine for admitting the controversy exists. This controversy became heated in November 2018. So to discuss it in his magazine nearly 20 months later, is the very least a sign that the controversy has not gone away. This is so unlike 99% of all Catholic publications, which have neither the courage nor integrity to confront the issue.
However, since those who say Benedict XVI is no longer the pope have had 20 months to put their arguments together, every reader of Father Harrison’s article should expect the best of all arguments.
So here is my running commentary on the argument presented in his article.
Resignationists, p. 12
At the beginning of his article, Father Harrison explains that he will slur all his opponents with a name: resignationists. This is really not necessary, and quite uncharitable. For as Aristotle says, when a man fails to have a rational argument for his position he begins with insults (ad hominem arguments). And to do that at the beginning of your article sends the wrong message.
But in his haste to insult his opponents, he has made a logical error. Because it is he who holds that Benedict has resigned, and his opponents who hold that he has not resigned. This oversight, at the very beginning, makes us wonder whether Father Harrison wrote this article in a calm thoughtful state of mind, without excessive anger or passion.
Frame the Discussion, p. 12
The first honest way to enter a debate is not to open by saying that those who disagree with you are psychologically of doubtful sanity or suffer from psychosis (inability to accept reality). But that is what Father Harrison does, by saying that the thesis of his opponents hold an opinion which disagrees with 5000 less 2 Bishops and 100% of the Cardinals. Therefore, he argues you should dismiss it on grounds that the world considers it improbable.
This is not the proper way to argue. Since truth is not determined by a vote, the truth can be that which the majority might disagree with. But also, Father is arguing ex silentio. Because clearly 99% of the Church has never examined the evidence for or against the validity of the Papal resignation. So that they hold any opinion is not evidence of anything other than that the hearsay is that the Pope has resigned and that the vast majority did not think to question the hearsay. That proves nothing about the truth, it only makes an observation about the power of the mass media and political networks to convince the masses that something is true, whether it be true or not. I think we can all admit that the Media has this power, as we have just come out of a lock down for a winter flu!
Moreover, just as we would not build a sound argument as to whether the world is flat or a globe, based on the opinion of 99% of the population, because in one age, that was thought to be the truth, which in another age was thought to be false, so in all other things, we do not judge what is true based on opinions of those who do not know, but guess.
Father Harrison by opening his article with such an argument is saying that those who have never investigated and who cannot know the facts, because of their failure to investigate, should be taken, before we investigate, as the presumptive possessors of the truth. That is simply absurd, as it is the principle of thought in highly ignorant and primitive pre-scientific societies.
If Father really believes in such a principle, it is a wonder what he believes about many other affairs in which 99% have not the expertise to know the facts, laws or scientific principles which regard it.
When one argues, one should begin with the strongest of arguments. And so we must assume that Father Harrison has done exactly that, and move on to his other arguments.
But Benedict is not ignorant, pp. 12-13
Next Father Harrison argues, that since Benedict is not ignorant, then what he intended or did is what I think he intended or did, because otherwise what he intended or did would be stupid or erroneous.
That is a good argument to use while you are shaving in the bathroom all alone, but I assure you it does not convince anyone outside your bathroom.
What is necessary for a pope to renounce his office (munus)?, p. 13
Next Father Harrison opens by framing the question thus. And he shows that he does not even know Latin, by calling the office by the Latin word munus. I admit that if one has been reading the Code of Canon Law according to the English translation widely found on the internet, this can happen. I committed the same blunder in my Scholastic Question. But munus does not mean office, as any dictionary of the Latin language will tell you. And though in Canon 145 §1 it says that every officium is a munus, according to the rules of logic, that does not mean that the word munus translates as office. Just as if you said, that “Every dog is a living animal”, it does not mean that in the sentence, “Homo est animal vivens” you can replace animal vivens with dog. (For those who do not read Latin, that Latin sentence says, “A man is a living animal”).
But rather than discuss here what the word munus means, he launches into the second half of Canon 332 §2 and puts off the crucial argument to the end. Which is a really bad way to argue, since your first arguments will have no foundation in fact or law if you have not yet admitted what you hold about the nature of the act which the canon requires. Even Our Lord told us what will happen with those who build on sand, so I do not have to repeat His teaching.
Did Pope Benedict XVI resign freely?, p. 13
The first argument should be whether Pope Benedict resigned, and then having proven that, whether he did so freely and with due manifestation. That would be to argue logically and according to the order of words in Canon 332 §2.
But Father Harrison does not do that. He begins with the debate over liberty. His argument is basically, that those who say the renunciation was not free are presuming, as there is no conclusive evidence. I am surprised at this point that Father Harrison wants to look at evidence, since he told us at the beginning of his article that we must presume that that what 99% of everyone who have not investigated hold a thing to be, is what we should presume a thing to be. Why should we investigate whether the act is free or not? if we are to begin with such presumptions? He does not say.
As for what criterion must be met to establish a canonical act to be free, Father Harrison does not cite any canonical principal. He also does not distinguish between the freedom to do one thing and the freedom to do another. That Pope Benedict XVI says in his Declaratio of Feb. 11, 2013 that he freely declares does not mean that he was free to do that which I think he meant, when I close my eyes to what words he actually said. That would be to transfer his claim of liberty in what he said, to my claim of what he meant by what he said. And that is simply incorrect. Nor does it mean that if he freely declares, that which he declared he did freely, just as if a man says, “I freely declare that I will vote for Trump,” does not mean that he will vote for Trump or has voted for Trump.
I would like to see a canonical reference to what constitutes liberty in a canonical act. I think as of yet this is one of the great weaknesses in the discussion.
For transparency, I admit that I presume an act to be free, unless its author says otherwise at any time. But I only hold to be free the act which he specified, not any acts which I believe he may have or might have wanted to posit. I think in the presence of a lack of further information this is the only sound position.
Father Harrison closes this section by appealing to the principle that those who assert the act was not free are the ones who need to prove their assertion. This is a good principle of argumentation, and I recommend that Father Harrison think to apply it to his own argument.Because, as it is he who says that Benedict is not the pope, when he in fact agrees with the whole Catholic world that Benedict was validly elected as the Pope, it is the duty of Father Harrison TO PROVE CONCLUSIVELY that Benedict XVI is NO LONGER the pope, before we accept anything he says. He has not done this, so you can judge the solidity of his arguments on that forensic basis.
Did Pope Benedict XVI duly manifest what he did?, pp. 13-14.
Father Harrison also holds that the act was duly manifested. He seems to not know what the canonical term, rite, means, as he makes no reference to the law. But in substance he argues as if it means what it does mean, namely, that the Pope make his act known in the presence of at least two Bishops, and does so most properly before the body which elected him, the Cardinals. I agree that this was done, but it is immaterial if you do not address WHAT the pope did, because, if a pope rite manifests that he declares the Moon made of cheese, you cannot rightly judge the canonical value of his act without considering whether the Moon is really made of cheese or not, and whether the Pope has the authority to make such a declaration or not. This is obvious. A child can see it.
Did Pope Benedict XVI renounce that which he had to renounce?, p. 14
Father Harrison frames the core question within the context of a due manifestation. This is not precise, but adequate for purposes of debate.
He opens his argument by saying that munus and ministerium mean basically the same thing, as all dictionaries of Ecclesiastical Latin show. I do not know which dictionaries he uses, so I cannot judge his statement. I know how to use Latin Dictionaries, as I have translated more than 9000 pages of medieval Latin. I my opinion his appeal to dictionaries is a bad argument, even if dictionaries were uniform — which they are not — since dictionaries are uniformly inaccurate and full of errors. Only one who really uses many dictionaries and who has precisely studied the Latin of one epoch knows how to avoid such errors and how many errors there are. Moreover, even if a dictionary has among the many meanings of a word, the same meaning as those meanings which are found under the heading of another Latin word, THAT DOES NOT MEAN that in any given sentence or writing, in which both words appear, that the author intended to use them in the same sense. This should be obvious. Otherwise, every author talking about how his dog got upset and bit the surface of a tree, would not be able to be understood as to what he was referring with the word, “bark”. If Father Harrison really wants us to believe and accept his principle for verbal interpretations, I think he is joking with us.
But more importantly, Father Harrison seems to be entirely ignorant of Canon 17, which is discussed frequently in this debate. Because in Canon 17 it does not cite dictionaries as a source to be used to understand the meaning of any term in Canon Law. Father Harrison must know of canon 17, as everything I write refers to it frequently. As he will next directly name me in his article, he cannot be ignorant of it. Therefore his omission of reference to this Canon should be understood as a BIG SIGN that he knows his argumentation would fail if he opened that can of worms, as we say.
It was Benedict’s indisputable intention, p. 14
After accusing Catholics of presuming that Benedict did not have the intention to resign, without evidence, Father Harrison opens his argument about munus and ministerium by asserting as a principle, that Benedict indisputably intend to use both words synonymous. But though he asserts this and repeats it, he gives no proof.
As a translator, I know that is the wrong way to approach any text. First, you see how the words are used, and second you argue from what is clear. But you certainly never say that when an author uses different words, that it is certain he intended to mean the same thing. Such a principle is not even rational, and it is certainly not one which comes from a mind which seeks to precisely know the causes of every variation in a text. What more can I say, than that it is a weak argument, because once again, Father Harrison wants us to take him as the authority on what Benedict intended, even though he has argued well that those who make assertions must prove them, and as we will see in the following, he never proves this assertion, he just keeps referring to it. Thus, he argues as if the rule of proof does not apply to himself, only to his opponents. And that is a very bad way to argue, because it makes you appear intellectually conceited.
Furthermore, his argument is bad forensics. For it is like the argument, “If you keep your eyes closed you will see that there is no evidence in this room of a murder”. For, Father Harrison first wants to convince us not to look at the evidence by running at us with an argument which takes him as the authority that there is no evidence to see.
The Pope meant munus when he said ministerium because…, pp. 14-15.
Beside repeating that self-referential principle, Father Harrison advances an old argument, which I summarize thus: Since what Pope Benedict XVI says in his Declaratio, contains words which follow the renunciation of ministerium, which only would in fact have effect IF he renounced munus, then we must read ministerium as if it were munus.
This is one of the strongest arguments that can be mustered for the validity of the renunciation. I say, strongest, because it seems strong to those who do not think about it. It was the very hermenutic that I held for 5 years, when I did not think about it.
But if we use comparisons, we can see that it is not an argument at all. And this is the proper way to begin to think about it.
Here are some examples of what humans can say and whether this principle of interpreting words which are prior in a sentence by words which follow in a sentence is a valid way of reading a sentence. Take these 3 examples:
I went to the mechanic to fetch my car after its repairs, so that my wife would not invite me to play bridge with her friends.
I went to do my weekly shopping at the supermarket, so that I would not miss out on my haircut.
I am going to renounce eating bananas, so that the see of Peter becomes vacant.
In the first sentence, we see that what follows in the second half of the sentence refers to a condition which the speaker wanted to avoid, but it does not explain why his car needed repairs, only his cause for doing a necessary thing at that moment. If one argued that the game of bridge caused the meaning of the first half of the sentence, and not merely indicated an occasion which the speaker wanted to evade, you would end up concluding that the car needing repairs had something more to do with the game of cards, which is patently absurd.
In the second sentence, we see that there is something which the speaker leaves unexplained. And we the readers are left to conjecture as to why the speaker has put both thoughts together. We might postulate that the barbershop is near the supermarket or along the way to or from it, but that would be pure supposition. We are left not knowing the intention of the speaker and it would be clear that we could not really know it without asking him. If we assume anything, it is clear that we are adding data which is not contained in the statement, and by doing so might end up with a totally unfounded conclusion, based on our erroneous supposition and interpretation.
In the third sentence, we are confronted with something which is inexplicable, because we recognize that there is no rational cause why renouncing bananas has to do with vacating the Apostolic See. If we assume that which follows in the second half of the sentence requires that the word, bananas, means the papal office, then we are clearly being irrational and unjust in our interpretation. And if anyone tried this, he surely would be laughed at.
But Father Harrison commits this same blunder. If his key argument that what Benedict intended to do requires us to read ministerium as munus, then he must be honest to admit that that is his interpretation, and that if there be no rational reason why a renouncing of service leads to a renunciation of office, then his argument is unjust and irrational itself, and thus should be laughed at.
Father Harrison does not address the relationship between ministerium and munus, where he admits such words might mean two different things. But if he needs help, he only needs to examine the facts of history throughout the hold world in recent months.
For the Bishops of the world renounced their priestly ministry to the faithful during the lockdown. Thus if a renunciation of ministry leads causally and necessarily to the renunciation of munus, then the Bishops are no longer our superiors. Does Father Harrison actually believe that? And if he does NOT, why does he think such an argument is valid to kick Benedict out, but not kick out his own Bishop?
Footnote 10, p. 14
But as Father Harrison cites my Scholastic Question in footnote 10, of this his argument, I will respond to his objection there. He says that since Benedict uses ita ut, not simply ut, my objection regarding ut, does not apply. He seems to think that ita ut and ut are two different phrases in Latin, generically different, that is, of two different genera. He has evidently never studied Latin grammar, since ut is a conjunction and ita is an adverb, and thus, the phrase ita ut is a species of an ut clause. What I have said, that an ut phrase indicates a goal but does not necessarily achieve that goal is in no way undone by Father Harrison’s gratuitous assertion that ita ut does introduce a clause which alters the meaning of the main sentence, because if you do that which Father Harrison is fond of — use a Latin dictionary — you will see that “ita” when used as an adverbial particle means “so much”. So Father is saying that in the sentence,
I declare that I renounce bananas so much that (ita ut) the see of St. Peter will be vacant.
the use of ita ut produces the vacancy of the See. If that is his argument, I think all humanity would disagree.
Actually, however, having read 9000 pages of Latin and written a Latin Grammar, I can tell you that ita ut can only be translated as “so much that,” when that which precedes is capable of quantification.
Such as in the sentence:
I walked so much that I began to feel very tired.
And since no amount of renouncing service causes the loss of an office, since these two things are not quantitative measures of one another — service being exercise, and office being that which is exercised — you cannot read ita ut as “so much that,” if you still want us to consider you a rational being, arguing in good faith.
But Father Harrison ignores this glaring inconsistency, and moves on and says…
A Certain Br. Alexis Bugnolo, p. 15
Well, I thank Father Harrison for naming me, even if he does so as if I were a certain species to be on guard against. In English it is a denigration to put “certain” in front of a persons name. But since he also prefaces this by calling me a resignationist, I will suppose that 2 insults to introduce me is a psychological way to warn those readers who want to be mind controlled by Father Harrison, that I am a dangerous individual and that all should accept what Father Harrison says of me, and not consider or investigate further!
I am reminded of certain thought control institutions of the Soviet Union — but I digress.
Here are Father’s actual words:
The resignationist who insists most emphatically, and in the most detail, that regardless of the Pope’s own intentions, formally renouncing the ministerium, but not the munus, will not leave Peter’s See vacant, is a certain Brother Alexis Bugnolo. So what is his proof that ministerium can never be used canonically as a synonym for munus? He tells us: “This can be seen from its use in the Headings of the New Code for canon 145 §1, where every ecclesiastical office is called a munus, not a ministerium.”11 Well, that is true of c. 145, but throughout the subsequent 51 canons in this section,12 “every ecclesiastical office” is called an officium not a munus.
Here, I have to laugh. Because Father Harrison counters my assertion which regards the predication of officium with munus, with the assertion that the English translation has office for the Latin word munus. Does he think that is an argument?
I am talking about the Latin text, and he is talking about the relationship between the English and Latin texts. That does not disprove what I say. To disprove what I say, you would have to find in those next 51 canons a Latin sentence which connects the noun ministerium with officium, or vice versa, with the Latin verb esse, to be. Because that is what predication is, the connection of two nouns with the verb to be. And since every definition is founded upon a predication, if you cannot find such a sentence, your argument that the two words mean the same thing HAS ABSOLUTELY NO FOUNDATION IN THE TEXT NOR IN LOGIC.
But perhaps Father really does not understand things of this kind. I wonder if he has ever read a treatise on Logic or on Grammar. He does cite my Scholastic Question, so he has read something about both.
Next after making several sweeping assertions without any proof, he accuses me of his own sin, saying that I make a sweeping assertion regarding the whole of Canon Law on the meaning of munus and ministerium. While it is true I make such an assertion in my Scholastic Question, that the assertion is global, and affirmative does not make it unfounded, since I had already studied the Code before making it, and since at the academic conference in October 2019, here at Rome, I demonstrated it textually and conclusively. But perhaps Father Harrison did not know that. (see here: https://fromrome.info/2019/10/31/munus-and-ministerium-a-canonical-study/). I therefore make a quite founded assertion. And if anyone reads that study he will see that ministerium never means munus in the Code of Canon law of 1983, and that canon 17 requires us to accept that as the teaching of the Magisterium on this debate.
Father Harrison attempts to refute that conclusion by saying that Canon Law does exactly what I say it never does. He quotes Book III, title 2 of the Code, but cites no canon. As I can find no canon there which says a ministerium is a munus, I do not know how to respond to Father Harrison’s implicit assertion that I am ignorant or a liar. His accusation is grave, and he should have cited his proof. What Father Harrison is arguing, is that since this section begins with the Title, De divini verbi ministerio, that all the occurrences of munus in this section are to be read as ministerium.
As I said before, a definition is founded upon a predication, which is a sentence in which two nouns are conjoined by the verb, to be, in one of its forms, in the present tense.
What Father Harrison has done is created a new unheard of definition of a definition. According to him, if a noun appears in a title of any text, any word in that text which he says means the same thing as the noun, means the same thing as that noun. This means, in the world of Father Harrison, everyone who has ever written dictionary, will now have to appeal to his infallible authority to determine which nouns mean the same thing as the nouns in the titles of every text. Father has a a lot of work a head of him, and I wish him a long life to fulfill it. But as for the reason of us who know that his argument is grasping for straw, we can see that such a rule of interpretation is simply a gratuitous assertion posing as infallible principle, to do that which no human has ever done in history.
The common sense way to read a text defies Father Harrison. Because, titles tell us the general topic of the text which follows, and in that text there can be many names and nouns for things related to the topic, not all of them are or have to be the definitions of the nouns in the title. To prove this, pick up any book and read the Title and then open it.
Father follows up this argument, by saying that the ministries of lector an acolyte are offices. I think he is thinking of the Code of 1917, in which both are minor orders. The offices of acolyte and lector were abolished in the new Code. They are now only ministries, which is why a woman can fulfill the duties of each, under certain circumstances. So his argument that the fulfillment of their duty is called ministeria in the Code does not mean that the Code holds them to be munera by definition. Father is also ignoring the meaning of words — he has been doing this the entire time — since every munus has a ministerium, we should expect that when the Code speaks of the ministry of the clergy to preach, that it will first refer to their munus of teaching. So his argument proves nothing at all. Nay, since as I said, that every office is a munus, does not prove that every munus is an office. So even if there are liturgical munera which are exercises as ministeria, that does not prove they are the same thing, because the title to authority which is an office is not the work done to fulfill the duty of that office, as every sane person can see. As I explained in my 7 part documentary (see here), munus is used to describe liturgical duties in the presence of a priest because the priest has a munus sanctificandi and he coopts minor orders to assist him in this duty at Mass, therefore the munera being exercised are not theirs, but his. That is why they exercise a ministry property speaking, but properly speaking have no munus. This is not difficult to understand.
His clear and correctly expressed intention, p. 15
Father Harrison then moves on to a discussion of substantial error in the act of resignation. His basic argument is that the Pope is not stupid, and I hold that he was stupid if he did anything other that validly resign the papal office, therefore he did validly resign. — This is another of those arguments that might come to you while shaving, but I recommend you leave it in the bathroom.
But more importantly, Father has misrepresented Canon 332, which in no part of it speaks of the necessity of having the proper intention as a condition of validity or as the definition of the essence of the act. This is because Canon Law regards things in the external forum. What the pope intended cannot be a source of the validity of the act, because since what he intended is secret and known to God alone, no act of resignation could ever be certain if we required intention as a cause of its validity. Also, intentions when judged by others are often misjudged. Thus Father Harrison is taking a criterion upon which he asserts his infallible authority to judge to close off consideration of the fact that a juridical act must be judged by external evidence alone, or else no certitude can be had about what it dos not does not mean.
Here we arrive at a fundamental point: that a papal resignation is invalid does not mean any grave fault upon anyone, per se. It can simply be an error in the Latin. However, the Code of Canon Law which Pope John Paul II published and which remains the law of the Church which alone judges the act of the man who is the pope, requires that the man who is the pope objectively signify that which the code requires him to signify in a papal renunciation. Lacking munus or any other word which canonically necessarily means munus, means the act is defective. What is the problem with such an approach. You would only argue against that if you benefit in some way from the error.
In the next 2 and one half pages, Father Harrison rails against those who argues that Benedict has acted for 7 years as one who has retained something of the papal authority. His position is that since there can be Bishops emeriti, there can be Popes emeriti. But as there is nothing in Canon law about a pope emeritus, here again, we must have recourse to Father Harrison’s infallible ability to interpret everything and conclude that he is completely unquestionable in his argument (I am being sarcastic). The most eminent canonists of Rome have argued from the first week of March, 2013, that there is no such status as a pope emeritus and that Benedict must stop wearing white, calling himself, the Pope, signing with his Papal Name, and the P.P., and giving Papal blessings. So evidently there are some who think differently than Father Harrison on this point.
Father Brian Harrison has presented us with the argument of a priest, who names Pope Francis in the canon of the Mass, and who has developed a long litany of excuses for his own behavior. The principles of his argument are self contradictory, illogical, irrational, and in many cases involve principles of interpretation which he has invented for this argument. He has employed every tactic of the nominalist to prove his case, resorting to the most sordid forms of argumentation and logic. In such wise, he has given everyone who does not want to find the truth reasons not to think.
But, thankfully, in doing so, he has give all rational men a strong motive to doubt that anyone at all who holds that Pope Francis is the Pope, after investigating the evidence of history and the requirements of the law, is truly honest or rational.
Contrariwise, he has negatively proven that LOGIC, REASON, GRAMMAR, AND LAW ALL TESTIFY THAT BENEDICT IS THE POPE! Since to argue his case, he chose to attack all four of these. All Catholics therefore who understand that our Faith requires us to accept logic, reason, grammar and Church Law, thus can conclude that Father Harrison’s argument comes from the ancient serpent who wishes us to destroy our minds, our speech and live lawlessly. And that is the spirit of the man of Sin, whose time is rapidly approaching.
I therefore conclude, that Benedict XVI is the pope, since he remains such unless it can be proven he is no longer such. That is my duty as a Catholic. And I invite you to be dutiful Catholics.
Viva Papa Benedetto!
Watch my 7 part documentary proving that Benedict XVI is still the pope, which I published at Easter this year, at >
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