Did LifeSiteNews admit that Benedict’s Resignation could have been Invalid & Implicitly admit that an Imperfect Council is Needed?
On February 14, 2019, LifeSiteNews admitted that it is possible according to their quoted theologian that Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation could have been invalid. The LifeSiteNews theologian said the “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.’”
The “theologian who spoke to LifeSiteNews on condition of anonymity,” also, appeared to implicitly say the issue of the validity of the Benedict resignation could be solved by an imperfect council of cardinals or bishops to give a “judgement of the Church” on the matter. The LifeSiteNews theologian said “So even if someone is convinced that Benedict XVI is still Pope, he or she should wait for the judgement of the Church.”
Here is the essential part of the LifeSiteNews article:
“A theologian who spoke to LifeSite on condition of anonymity argued that supporters of this opinion need to show that Pope Benedict understood the munus and the ministerium as referring to two different realities. “If you think that ministerium means only acts of teaching and governance, then it would indeed seem to be different from the munus, which normally designates an office, that is, a kind of state,” he said.
“But ‘ministerium’ doesn’t have to mean acts,” he explained. “The first meaning given to it in the Latin dictionary (Lewis and Short) is ‘office.’ I would say that its basic meaning is ‘an office by reason of which one must perform acts to help others.’”
The theologian noted further that ‘munus’ doesn’t only mean a state. “According to the Latin dictionary, it can also refer to the performance of a duty,” he said. “It was used in this sense by Cicero and there is no more authoritative writer of Latin prose than him.”
“He said the main difference between the words appears to be simply that ‘munus’ connotes more “the burden which the office puts on its bearer,” and ‘ministerium’ connotes more “the reference to other people which the office establishes.”
“But that doesn’t prevent them from referring to one and the same office or state,” he added.
Why then did Pope Benedict say munus at the start of his Latin declaration and ministerium at the end, if he understood them to refer to the same reality? The theologian suggested two possibilities.
“One is simply that people who want to write elegant prose often avoid frequent repetitions of the same word,” he said. “Another is that the word ‘ministerium’ has perhaps a more humble sound to it, since it refers more directly to the papacy in its relation to other people, than as a charge placed on oneself. So having begun by using the official word, ‘munus,’ Benedict moved on to the more humble sounding word.”
The theologian went on to note that while Benedict was aware of theological writings from the 1970’s onward that proposed the Petrine munus could be divided, he is “not aware of any place where Joseph Ratzinger endorses this thesis.”
He said the lack of clarity about Ratzinger’s position is aggravated by the fact that translators have mistranslated Ratzinger and presented him as endorsing heterodox ideas when in fact he was reporting someone else’s thought rather than expressing his own.
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.”
He said that people who insist Benedict’s resignation was invalid “therefore seem to be in a position similar to that of a Catholic spouse who is personally convinced that his or her Church marriage was invalid.”
“However convinced the person is of this, he or she is not free to marry again until an ecclesiastical court has declared that there was never a marriage,” he said. “So even if someone is convinced that Benedict XVI is still Pope, he or she should wait for the judgement of the Church before acting on this belief, e.g. a priest in that position should continue to mention Francis in the canon of the Mass.”
As for the argument that Pope Francis can’t be Pope because he clearly has no graces of state, the theologian said this forgets that “grace is normally offered in such a way that it can be refused.”
“You might as well say that a man who beats his wife obviously can’t be validly married to her,” he said.
Other theologians see Benedict’s use of the title “Pope emeritus” as a point in favor of the resignation.
Can. 185 of the Code of Canon Law (on the loss of ecclesiastical office) says: “The title of emeritus can be conferred upon a person who loses an office by reason of age or of resignation which has been accepted.”
As one theologian explained, every bishop when he retires becomes bishop emeritus. He is the emeritus bishop of the last diocese of which he presided. By creating the “pope emeritus” title (it is argued), Benedict is saying “what every bishop does, I’m doing too.”
LifeSite also asked noted Catholic historian Roberto de Mattei for his thoughts on arguments invoking “substantial error.” Seconding the first theologian’s line of thought, Professor de Mattei noted that: “The Church is a visible society, and canon law does not evaluate intentions, but concerns the external behavior of the baptized. Canon 124, §2 of the Code states that: ‘A juridic act placed correctly with respect to its external elements is presumed valid.’”
“Did Benedict XVI intend to resign only partially, by renouncing the ministerium, but keeping the munus for himself? It’s possible,” he said, “but no evidence, at least to date, makes it evident.”
“We are in the realm of intentions,” he added. “Canon 1526, § 1 states: “Onus probandi incumbit ei qui asserit” (The burden of proof rests upon the person who makes the allegation.) To prove means to demonstrate the certainty of a fact or the truth of the statement. Moreover, the papacy is in itself indivisible.”
Canon law expert Br. Alexis Bugnolo apparently disagrees with the LifeSiteNews theologian that Catholics need to “wait for the judgement of the Church.” He says that “the validity of a papal renunciation is determined by the law”:
“It is true regardless of who declares it or does not declare it, because the validity of a papal renunciation is determined by the law itself, not by the acceptance or rejection of anyone. Here many Catholics get confused and are being gaslighted by the lavender mafia. Because it is one thing that a canonical act is or is not, or is or is not valid, its another thing that it is judged to be valid or not, to be or not. In the case of matrimonial vows, the Church puts their validity under its judgement. But in the Case of a papal resignation, the Church does not put this under anyone’s judgement, because a papal act is what it is, there is no one who can judge it to be other than it is. So when the Pope says I renounce the Ministery, those who say that means he renounced the Papacy ARE ARROGATING JUDGEMENT over the Pope, and not only err but sin mortally and merit eternal damnation, because the Pope can only be judged by God. However, though we must recognize that He did renounce the ministry, we do not need authority to know whether that is or is not a papal resignation. We have Canon 332 §2, which says it is not. And to say that is simply to reiterate what the law says. That is why those who say Pope Benedict XV is still the pope not only do not err, but they neither sin or arrogate judgement to themselves, while those who say he is not pope, do both, and thus must attack either the Law or those who uphold the law.’
Journalist and Vatican expert Antonio Socci in his new book presents the case that Francis may have implicitly confirmed that Benedict’s “resignation is invalid, because doubtful and partial” by saying “Benedict… has opened the door of popes emeriti”:
Socci wrote that Benedict XVI’s personal secretary Georg Ganswein said:
“He [Benedict] has not abandoned the office of Peter.”
And thus according to Benedict’s closest collaborator Ganswein Benedict became a pope emeritus which has never existed except for retired bishops who still held the munus or office of bishop.
An unexpected thing happened when Team Francis went into “damage control” and denied there could be a emeritus “to the office of Peter.”
Unexpectedly, Francis at some point in time contradicted the “ultra-Bergoglians” assertion that that there couldn’t be a emeritus “to the office of Peter.”
Socci’s book says after Ganswein made the above statement in 2016 the “ultra-Bergoglian website Vatican Insider” went into “damage control” by interviewing Team Francis canonist Monsignor Giuseppe Sciacca who said emeritus “regards only the ‘episcopal office'” and “‘cannot be applied to the office of the Pontiff.'”
The book quotes Francis contradicting the Bergoglians or Team Francis by saying:
“Benedict… has opened the door of popes emeriti.”
Socci explains the predicament that Team Francis is in:
“The dilemma which the Bergoglians find themselves in is without solution: if, in fact, they recognize the title of ‘pope emeritus,’ they must recognize that Benedict XVI is still pope; but if they deny this title and contest the declared intention of the ‘resignation’ (which was not a resignation of munus , but only of the active ministry), it means that they would have to hold that the resignation is invalid, because doubtful and partial.”
(The Secret of Benedict XVI, Pages 92-94)
In 2016, One Peter Five publisher Steve Skojec actually defended Ann Barnhardt’s integrity in it appears saying the “abdication would be invalid… if he… resign[ed] the ministerium [which is]… distinct from the munus” against a statement from pro-life attorney Chris Ferrera in the comment section of that website.
In response, Ferrara appeared to agreed with the LifeSiteNews theologian who said “So even if someone is convinced that Benedict XVI is still Pope [or if someone is convinced that Francis is a manifest heretic], he or she should wait for thejudgement of the Church.”
Moreover, the attorney called for a “conclave” or imperfect council to judge if Francis is a manifest heretic who has deposed himself and, also, apparently to judge the validity of the Benedict resignation:
” Chris Ferrara: To declare that Francis is not the Pope… make[s] for good click bait…”
“… Steve Skojec: “Ann writes things that certainly come across as sensationalist… This is who she is. I don’t believe she ever publishes something she doesn’t truly believe in. I don’t think it’s fair to call this clickbait… “
“…. Chris Ferrera: “My only objection is any of us making final forensic determinations based on ‘overwhelming evidence’ and then announcing our verdict of one. It’s a rather silly exercise.”
“Perhaps a better approach is to amass the evidence and send it to every cardinal, demanding they convene [an imperfect council] and issue the kind of judgement Bellermine contemplated in this situation: not that the Pope is deposed, but that he has deposed himself. Such a hypothetical conclave would offer the Pope an opportunity to explain himself.”
(One Peter Fives’ comment section, “If Francis is an Antipope, We Can’t know it Yet,” June 21, 2016)
The only prelate in the world to take attorney Ferrara’s legal advice was Bishop Rene Gracida who “amass[ed] the evidence” and wrote a Open Letter to all the cardinals “demanding they convene [an imperfect council].”
Pray an Our Father now for the restoration of the Church and demand that the cardinals convene an imperfect council.