The Is-Pope-Francis-The-Pope Debate Continues. Two Views from Edmund J Mazza and Steven O’Reilly

The Is-Pope-Francis-The-Pope Debate Continues. Two Views from Edmund J Mazza and Steven O’Reilly

This won’t interest everybody, but it’s still worth considering given the woke revolution taking place inside the Catholic Church. Which will, in due time, be overthrown. Though not without many casualties.

This revolution has taken a particularly vicious turn of late (and will again this October), which leads some to wonder in the man in charge really is the man in charge. I side with O’Reilly here, and believe he is (also see Ed Feser on the topic). But I side with Mazza in wishing he was not.

Edmund J Mazza

His website is He has courses available starting next week there.

His book is The Third Secret of Fatima & The Synodal Church: VOL. I Pope Benedict’s Resignation.

Pope, Antipope, & Pope Emeritus

“…It was icy cold and raining sheets. When the storm started, I thought that lightning might strike…so I decided it was worth seeing whether – if it DID strike – I could get the shot at exactly the right moment.” That’s how French Press Agency 1 photographer, Filippo Monteforte, described the surreal scene in St. Peter’s Square on the eerie evening of February 11, 2013, when two tremendous bolts of lightning, one after the other, struck the dome of the iconic Basilica. As another reporter put it: “As the sky was lit up by the huge bolt, it led to speculation as to whether Benedict XVI’s boss was less than happy…the apparent divine intervention came as the 85-year-old pontiff sent shockwaves through the Church on Monday after announcing his retirement, the first pope to do so in 700 years.”

Joseph Ratzinger’s resignation then led, in turn, to a situation entirely unprecedented in the 2,000-year history of the Catholic Church. For virtually the next decade in the Vatican City State, two men wore the signature white papal cassock, two men bestowed apostolic blessings on the faithful, and two men were formally addressed as “His Holiness.” The novelty of this state of affairs even provided the genesis for an HBO film, The Two Popes (2019).

Surely this begs the question, however, whether there can be two Popes at the same time?

As the Church marks the eleventh anniversary of Pope Benedict’s abdication and transformation into “Pope Emeritus,” a minority (but growing number) of canonists and historians are coming to the conclusion that his renunciation might just have been invalid. (Perhaps that lightning strike was intentional after all?)

Msgr. Nicola Bux, one of Ratzinger’s closest curial colleagues, in a 2018 interview stated that the Church ought to study more accurately the question concerning the juridical validity of Pope Benedict XVI’s renunciation, i.e., whether it was full or partial (“halfway,” as some have said) or doubtful, since the idea of a sort of collegiate papacy seems to me decidedly against the Gospel text. In fact, Jesus did not say “Tibi dabo claves…” [“I will give to you the keys”] turning to Peter and Andrew, but he only told Peter! That’s why I say that, perhaps, a thorough study of the resignation could be more useful and profitable, as well as helping to overcome problems that today seem insurmountable to us.

In the 2016 book, Last Testament: In His Own Words, Benedict was asked by author Peter Seewald, whether a slowdown in the ability to perform [was] reason enough to climb down from the chair of Peter?”

The Pope Emeritus gave a puzzling reply: “One can of course make that accusation, but it would be a functional misunderstanding. The follower of Peter is not merely bound to a function; the office enters into your very being. In this regard, fulfilling a function is not the only criterion.”

To which Benedict added: “…a father does not stop being a father, but he is relieved of concrete responsibility. He remains a father in a deep, inward sense, in a particular relationship which has responsibility, but not with day-to-day tasks as such…If he steps down, he remains in an inner sense within the responsibility he took on, but not in the function.”

Or put another way, a Pope Emeritus is just that: a man who remains a Pope, but relieved of “day-to-day tasks” or “functions.” Afterall, according to Benedict, “fulfilling a function is not the only criterion” of being a Pope.

Understood in this light, Seewald’s asking if a slowdown in the ability to perform was reason enough to step down, is truly an “accusation” or “misunderstanding” of the nature of the papacy.

According to Carlo Fantappiè, Law Faculty of the University of Roma Tre, this discrepancy arises from two rival conceptions of the office of the Roman Pontiff: “Against the prevailing juridical consideration of the canonists, who placed the power of jurisdiction at the center of the papal figure, as the origin of all the others in the Church, the conciliar theologians have countered with the primariness of the sacramental dimension of the episcopate, from which derive the other specific functions of the bishop of Rome.”

For centuries, the papacy was understood as an office with supreme legal powers over the rest of the Catholic body. Yet for all its supremacy, for the gravest of reasons the office could be relinquished and taken up by another. Some of the most prominent theologians associated with the Second Vatican Council, however, have argued that since the Pope is, after all, the bishop of Rome, his office is not merely juridical, but sacramental. And sacramental power in Catholic theology “enters into your very being” and therefore cannot be rescinded. Such was the view of Karl Rahner, the most celebrated theologian of the post-conciliar Church. A view which Fantappiè argues, when applied “to the Petrine ministry…makes the primacy a sort of personal charism, giving rise to inconsistencies or misunderstandings, such as the coexistence of two [actual] popes, even if one reigning and one emeritus.”

It matters whether or not Seewald and the canonical tradition have the correct account of the papal office or whether Benedict and the new theologians do. According to Canon 126 of the Church’s code of law, “An act placed out of ignorance or out of error concerning something which constitutes its substance…is invalid.” If Benedict believed he could resign the administrative duties of a pontiff, but nevertheless, remain papal, then according to the view of the canonists, his resignation was null and void. And this would mean Ratzinger remained Pope—not Pope Emeritus—up until his death on New Year’s Eve 2022. And if this were true, it would have catastrophic consequences for the Catholic Church, for it would mean that Pope Francis would turn out to be an antipope. Indeed, many Catholics are coming to this conclusion for less prosaic reasons. They already consider his pontificate a catastrophe.

Steven O’Reilly

My book Valid? The Resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, my blog Roma Locuta Est, and a video series respond in detail to the key Benapapist claims (e.g., munus vs ministerium, wearing white, apostolic blessings, etc). Here, I will touch on claims found in Dr. Mazza’s recent article.

Dr. Mazza reads his theory into the evidence

All the Benedict quotes from Seewald above, especially when read in full and in context, can be easily and naturally read in a manner perfectly consistent with a valid resignation. There is no evident reason to prefer the controversial interpretation proposed by Dr. Mazza as the more probable one; and Dr. Mazza certainly gives no reason a more innocent one is unlikely.

Benedict was accused of secularizing the papacy by resigning it due to a lack of strength, as a corporate CEO might do. Thus, he defends the papacy from this accusation, saying it is more than a ‘function,’ more than what a secular job is. Indeed so! Thus, elsewhere in this and other Seewald interviews, Benedict speaks in terms of a pope’s or bishop’s role of being a “father” — of having a “relationship” with his flock. Entering this ‘fatherhood’ and this ‘relationship’ is what Benedict means by the ‘office entering you very being.’

Now, Dr. Mazza forgets that ‘all analogies limp,’ i.e., they cannot be stretched or interpreted to the breaking point, which he does in his analysis of Benedict’s analogy. Benedict’s point is certainly not that ‘a father does not stop being a father, so therefore a pope, even after resigning, is always a pope in some way.’ Not at all. Rather, Benedict’s point is to say only that the ‘inner responsibility’ arising from this relationship as a father to the flock, this bond of charity, persists even after a resignation. You simply do not forget those you loved when you leave office. Hence, Benedict said “stopping is a functionalization or secularization.”

Dr. Mazza does not tell his readers that immediately following the line he cites above ending in “criterion,” Benedict XVI’s answer continued as follows:

“Then again, the pope must do concrete things, must keep the whole situation in his sights, must know which priorities to set, and so on. This ranges from receiving heads of state, receiving bishops – with whom one must be able to enter a deeply intimate conversation – to the decisions which come each day. Even if you say a few of these things can be struck off, there remain so many things which remain essential, that, if the capability to do them is no longer there – for me anyway; someone else might see it otherwise – now’s the time to free up the chair.”

We see this broader context does not bear out Dr. Mazza’s claims. The point Benedict XVI is making is that ‘yes the papacy is more than a job’ but, even so, there are so many things ‘which remain essential,’ that if you can’t do them, in his opinion, “now’s the time to free up the chair.” That is, time to step down from the Chair of Peter! Time to resign from the office.

During an interview (A Life: Vol II), Seewald asked about Benedict’s use of the honorific title “emeritus.” Benedict replied: “In this formula both things are implied: no actual legal authority any longer, but a relationship which remains even if it is invisible.” Furthermore, Benedict told Seewald explicitly this “legal-spiritual formula avoids any idea of there being two popes at the same time: a bishopric can only have one incumbent. But the formula also expresses a spiritual link, which cannot ever be taken away.”

So, what remained for Benedict after “freeing up the chair” was an ‘invisible relationship,’ i.e., a bond of charity towards his “sons and daughters.” The ‘inner responsibility’ arising from this two-way bond of charity led him to devote his remaining years as a former pope, “pope emeritus,” to the service of prayer for the Church, just as he said in his Declaratio and his Last Audience (see discussion).

Thus, there is no grounds to introduce the notion of a ‘sacramental papacy’ into Benedict’s thought here. There is no reason Benedict should think he would need to remain pope in some way to pray for the Church. Indeed, it is clear from a letter to Cardinal Brandmuller that Benedict felt he was like other resigned popes, who were also “pope emeritus” in fact, if not explicitly in name.

Dr. Mazza Exchanges Clarity for Obscurity

Dr. Mazza appeals to what Carlo Fantappiè says about “two rival conceptions of the office of the Roman Pontiff,” and to what Karl Rahner and other “prominent theologians” may have thought about the papacy being ‘sacramental,’ etc.

However, these appeals obscure an important fact. Dr. Mazza cannot provide any clear statement by Ratzinger, either as theologian, pope, or pope emeritus wherein he affirms the concept of the papacy which Dr. Mazza ascribes to him. In fact, Dr. Mazza once claimed to have found such a statement, but it was demonstrated he grossly misread the source material (see HERE). In short, Ratzinger did not say what Dr. Mazza claimed.

It is a curious thing. Benepapists either ignore the clear words of Benedict, or seek to read a “code” into them for the desired result. For example, even setting aside the munus vs. ministerium debate, Benedict clearly said he resigned in such a way that the ‘See of Rome, the See of Peter would be vacant,’ resulting in the need for a conclave to elect a “a new supreme pontiff.” Thus, we perfectly understand why, on the effective date of his resignation, Benedict said that as of 8pm that evening “I am no longer supreme pontiff of the Catholic Church.”

Such statements contradict the claim Benedict intended to remain Supreme Pontiff, either fully or in some partial way. Given this clear evidence, and the absence of clear statements by Benedict to the contrary, there simply is no credible basis for Dr. Mazza to appeal to either canon 126 or 188 to invalidate Benedict’s resignation.

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  1. Dr. Weezil

    Briggs, why do you care so much about one of the most notorious Modernists of the 20th century and primary architect of Vatican II?

    It never ceases to amaze me how many otherwise clever and well-informed people fell for and continue to fall for the “Ratzinger as defender of traditional Catholic Orthodoxy” scam.

    We haven’t had a true pope since the death of Pius XII in 1958. No, that’s not impossible; there is no other alternative if the promises of Christ and the Church itself are not lies.

  2. bob sykes

    Dr. Weezil and I agree. Pius XII was the last Pope. Roncalli was a false Pope. He even tool the name, John XXIII, of a false Pope from the Middle Ages. And, of course, Vatican II was a false Council, which reduced the Catholic Church to heresy and gave power to pedophiles and homosexuals.

    If you want to be a Christian, you will have to join one of the Orthodox Churches. But be careful. Many Orthodox Churches are themselves heretical. Only the Russian Orthodox Church is valid for certain. Third Rome indeed!

  3. Phileas_Frogg

    @bob sykes

    I must admit that while I find such appeals enticing on an emotional level, I can’t get Ianto Watt’s arguments in, “The Barbarian Bible,” out of my head regarding the relationship between the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox (particularly the Russian Orthodox) Church.

    More pressingly I always apply what I call the, “Judas Principle,” when assessing such things, that is to say that at any given moment I assume that 1/12 of the Church Militant are active betrayers of Christ working to bring about the destruction of His mystical body (and in so doing merely serving to glorify Him further, despite their best efforts), 10/12 are cowards who will run away when the going gets tough, but ultimately come through when the time comes, by the grace of God, and 1/12 are heirs of the Beloved Disciple, who will walk with Him to Calvary and stand and witness at the foot of The Cross.

    That Judas has gotten his 30 Pieces of Silver and that His Mystical Body is being tortured and put to death is, in my estimation, to be expected. Salvation was accomplished once for all, but it’s echoes and fractal iterations are recursive throughout creation.

  4. Bryan

    word on the street in Rome (common knowledge) was that Benedict was doing his long-time butler. Open secret.

  5. I expect Dr. Mazza to explain to us how no Pope ever resigned. If I’m reading his words right, then he’s saying it’s objectively impossible for a Pope to resign, and therefore any Pope who “resigned” did so invalidly. So, Dr. Mazza, if you’re reading this, please explain to us how it is that no Pope ever resigned, but merely thought they did.

  6. Stephen

    I read O’Reilly’s post and it is convincing. All I will say is that one needs to read Mazza’s book, not pick apart his podcast interviews, to get what he is saying. He also clearly states that what he is trying to do is get a higher authority to investigate. He has his POV, but has said publicly he will accept being proven wrong.

    There are now four credible books out (Father Kramer, Ed Mazza, Estefania Acosta, and Andrea Cionci) that delve deeply into these questions. It’s a big topic that people shouldn’t just flippantly dismiss on the internet.

    Something is surely amiss. It behoves us to find out what it is.

  7. Cary D Cotterman

    Good grief. And how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?

    I always thought Frank Zappa would have made a swell pope.

  8. Johnno

    hudbwu –

    Not sure how you’re getting that interpretation, other than from Benedict XVI’s own words where Benedict seems to believe that it is impossible to fully resign. Which is, of course, erroneous and silly.

    Mazza’s interpretations of Benedict’s analogies make more consistent sense with the legal verbiage of Benedict’s resignation than Steven O’s. Therefore “these appeals obscure an important fact.” Steven O “cannot provide any clear statement by Ratzinger, either as theologian, pope, or pope emeritus wherein he” denies “the concept of the papacy which Dr. Mazza ascribes to him.” Especially considering not just his vague flowery words, but his mixture of concrete actions that demonstrate himm behaving like a ‘half-Pope’ of some kind. Lists are available out there, so I assume everyone here is familiar with Benedict’s weird little gestures, alongside the equally bizarre behavior of “Bishop of Rome” – Frankenstein I.

    That’s really the problem. They should have dragged Benedict by his hair before an Inquisition with the instruments of torture present and demand clarity. But the Church is full of pathetic theologian pussies.

    St. Nicholas would’ve kept punching Benedict in the face until he spoke clearly or retracted his nonsense.

    It isn’t hard.

    Therefore, I’m still not seeing where Steven’s “broader context” makes anything better other than that it can also remain reinforcing Mazza’s point that Benedict wanted to split the munus from the ministerium. Like a guy who remains president but signs off on someone else pushing the nuclear button and attending those boring meetings. Steven O, instead of asking what ‘Emeritus’ means in the completely novel made-up “Pope-Emeritus”, should have asked what Benedict’s usages of “chair” and ‘‘office entering you very being” at that point. For which I’d bet he’d get more modernist vagaries. This is why you keep punching a man in the face until his yes and no and is mean what they normally mean.

    Until then, “there is no evident reason to prefer the” less “controversial interpretation proposed by” Steven O, either. And he “certainly gives no reason a” more deceitful one isn’t more unlikely, considering Ratzinger has long been a modernist since the good ol’ 60’s, even if he was more conservative than the rest of the German heretics.

    But all this disputation clearly demonstrates something – the typical clear-as-mud modernism wafting over Benedict and his Babble. If this pish-posh is a standard good enough for Steven O, then the Church Militant really is screwed and little wonder we are where we are.

    But in the end it is still irrelevant.

    Steven O’ uses so many words to essentially cover-up a colossal >>>legal<<< F-Up on Benedict's part, even assuming that Steven O's interpretation of Benedict's intentions are true. Because the resignation words themselves are legally invalid and problematic on their face. And as in any legal situation, the only way to make it proper was for Benedict to resign properly, again. Or at least clarify that he did. Instead Benedict continued to carry on with his nonsense and speak in riddles and out of both sides of his mouth.

    Legality matters. use the wrong formula for Baptism, and you are not Baptized. Use the wrong words for Consecration, and it's still just bread and wine.

    Likewise an unclear resignation, on paper, is illegitimate, due to substantial error, evident in the words used. Benedict's feelings one way or another, don't matter.

    The Papacy is a function that matter far more than that of a CEO. But if any CEO attempted to resign in such an unprofessional and unclear manner, and still showed up wearing his CEO badge and signing off as Mr. CEO on numerous other documents claiming some kind of special Emeritus Privilege that allows him to continue doing some half-assed things, the lawyers would be all over him and the stock would go down the shitter until the issue is solved.

    Clearly the secular political, financial, and economic world takes legal matters more seriously than the Kumbaya post-Counciliar Catholic Church.

    Hopefully when this matter is solved, a new heretical error of 'Ratzingerism' can be defined and condemned.

  9. > other than from Benedict XVI’s own words where Benedict seems to believe that it is impossible to fully resign

    That is precisely where I’m getting it.

    As far as I’m able to understand Dr. Mazza, his reasoning is as follows: inherently, papacy consists of several elements; (special point:) at least one of these elements is inseparable from the person of Pope; Benedict thought he could relinquish some of those and in so doing retire; but the elements are inseparable; therefore Benedict was in the wrong; therefore while Benedict *thought* he retired in actual fact he didn’t.

    The fulcrum is the special point singled out above. “The follower of Peter is not merely bound to a function; the office enters into your very being.” This is what “enters into your very being” means. It’s inseparable from the person. OK, the second issue is whether the assembly of functions of the Pope is separable. On the assumption it is inseparable, that all functions only ever come together, and that at least one of them is tied to the person, then a Pope could never resign. And that’s the only assumption that can prove Dr. Mazza right in his objection to “Pope Emeritius”.

    If the functions are separable, with the Pope being the person who has the fullness of functions at once, then Benedict could have resigned and became “Pope except not really Pope”.

    If the functions are inseparable, but no function is tied to the person, then the error isn’t the resignation of Benedict but his use of title/role “Pope Emeritius”. I judge Benedict had the intent of not being Pope by the simple fact he created the appearance of not being Pope: he didn’t receive ad limina visits. In addition his ring was scraped. He did not have all the signifiers of the Bishop of Rome and therefore, by the heuristic of maximum parsimony, he wasn’t Bishop of Rome. Meanwhile Francis did. Confronting the two together and asking which has better claim, Francis does.

    And if the functions are inseparable and at least one of them is tied to the person, then no Pope could have ever resigned.

    So, either there’s nothing wrong in what the top bishops did, or the error was merely in the behavior of Benedict after resignation, or no resignations ever happened.

    We can summarise my position and answer to the overall dillema thus: he who has the fullness of the office has the office. Same as with the Church, really. Catholic Church has the fullness of “Church” and for that reason it’s The Church.

  10. McChuck

    The man wearing the crown and sitting upon the throne is the king.

    “Treason doth never prosper, what’s the reason? For if it prosper, none dare call it Treason.” – John Harington

  11. ““Ratzinger as defender of traditional Catholic Orthodoxy” scam”

    Relative to what came after, perhaps?

  12. Ann Cherry

    All I know is that we’re stuck with an apostate. How does that square with the doctrine of Papal Infallibility?

  13. Johnno

    It’s the “enters into your very being” part that is erroneous. It’s is Benedict’s own personal modernist novelty that has no existence anywhere in Church History or Tradition. He is obligated to explain it, and he clearly couldn’t.

    Given that we’ve long established that Popes can resign, and not only resign, but even lose membership in the Church by being obstinate public heretics, (though some believed this impossible, though it was still a debatable question), then there is no part of the Papal Office that remains as a mark upon anyone forever unlike when sacramentally receiving holy orders or Baptism, which are forever.

    A Pope who resigns, properly – abdicates, is no longer a Pope, nor retains anything Papal, except as a footnote of the duration of his reign and Papal actions in history. There is no “contemplative” portion for Benedict to keep and maintain, not even poetically, which sounds equally stupid and is at best an effeminate way to placate those who would be distraught at what they might perceive as his abandonment of duty.

    The fact is that legally, Benedict’s resignation is unclear and problematic.

    The fact is that despite Steven O’s interpretations from any specific interview, even he admits that his is likewise an interpretation of Benedict’s vagaries, and therefore is also begging the question, no different from Mazza, but Mazza lays out a better case from a variety of evidence that lines up with Benedict’s resignation words as written.

    The fact is that people like Ganswein etc. who had direct access to Benedict himself, could only come away spouting more confusing nonsense. They attempted to normalize a novelty, and only backtracked when getting pushback.

    The fact is that not one of these idiots pushed for Benedict, while still alive, to come out and openly speak clearly is simple words under cross-examination for the little non-expert non-academic people they look down on to understand. So if they can’t explain Benedict’s resignation words and intentions simply without all the verbiage and flattering about him doing something soooo great, and oooooh sooooooo novel, and completely unprecedented, even making comparisons of what he did being somewhere on par with the Immaculate Conception, then we are more inclined to take Benedict’s resignation as seriously as Frankie’s gay-blessings. In other words… not at all.

    Add to this all the other visible eerie phenomenon of lightning striking statues of St. Peter whenever Frankie feels heretical, and it’s clear that even nature is telling us something is wrong. The people on the street feel it, and the Expurts can talk talk talk and obfuscate and cover-up and repeat before the cameras that everything is fine, but it won’t do them any good. When the moment is right, we’ll come for all their heads eventually, and they know it.

  14. Johnno

    De Mattei: The real mess is the cohabitation of 2 Popes
    Roberto de Mattei

    From this situation, there emerges, however, a much greater mess, which is that of the unnatural cohabitation of two Popes in the Vatican, above all when one of them, Benedict XVI, after renouncing the papacy, maintains the name, continues to wear white, imparts his Apostolic Blessing that only the Pope should do, and once again breaks his silence which he had vowed to keep by resigning. In short, he considers himself Pope, even if “emeritus”.

    This situation is the consequence of a grave theological error by Cardinal Ratzinger. By keeping the title Pope emeritus, as happens with bishops, he appears to believe that the rise to the Papacy imprints an indelible mark similar to that of the priesthood. In reality, the sacramental grades of the priesthood are three only: the diaconate, the priesthood and the episcopacy. The Papacy belongs to another hierarchy in the Church, the jurisdictional one, or the governmental one, wherein it is the apex. When a Pope is elected, he receives the office of supreme jurisdiction, not a sacrament with an indelible mark.

    The priesthood can’t even be lost by death, because it subsists “in aternum” . The papacy, on the other hand, can be lost, not only by death, but also in the case of voluntary renunciation or of manifest, notorious heresy. If he renounces being pontiff, the Pope ceases to be such: he has no right to wear white nor impart the Apostolic Blessing. He, from a canonical point of view, is no longer even a cardinal, but goes back to being a simple bishop. Unless his renunciation is invalid: but this, in the case of Benedict XVI, should be proven. Effectively, the title of Pope today is being given to both Francis and Benedict, but one is certainly abusive, as only one [man] can be Pope in the Church.

    The history of the Church has seen Popes and Anti-Popes who fought each other, but each one excommunicated the other and clarification imposed choices, as happened in the Great Western Schism, when all Christendom found itself excommunicated by one Pope or another and the faithful were forced to take a stance. What has never happened is that two Popes acknowledge each other as legitimate, and manifest reciprocal respect and reverence, apart from the fighting going on behind the scenes through third parties. Any attempt at publically pitting them against each other is an improbable enterprise, contradicted by facts and doomed to failure.

  15. I far as I can see, these issues are a tempest in a teapot. It’s perfectly clear only one of the two received ad limina visits and only one of the two had the papal ring. There is nothing Pope Emeritus Benedict did that Pope Francis didn’t also do and there’s plenty of things Pope Francis did that Pope Emeritus Benedict didn’t do.

    The legalese of the Catholic Church is to a great degree a human invention. The entire clothing of the Pope, the sum total of his living arrangements and 90+% of his responsibilities are all human inventions. Benedict can be at worst accused of breaking legalities but he can’t be accused of heresy. The specific office of the Pope is given by Jesus, but I can’t recall him ever giving specifics. He never instructed Peter to become apostle to Rome, not in Scripture anyway. So the Pope isn’t actually bound to be Bishop of Rome. It just so happens that that’s the office Peter was in when he died. And why shouldn’t a Pope which resigns keep a fraction of regalia? As far as I know, there’s no law on the books which says he can’t. There certainly isn’t a law forbidding it, that the reigning Pope (either Benedict or Francis) can’t change with a stroke of a pen.

    It seems to me Mazza, and you as well Johnno, are wanting your expectations to be fulfilled. But for every expectation there is an equal and opposite expectation of another person. How to you make both happy if they literally want opposites?

    The Church is a living breathing organism. It should change over time. If it doesn’t, what’s to defend us against the charge of “you’re just blindly following old rules you don’t understand”?

    In addition, let’s not forget that Catholic Church is universal. As the culture(s) of the World change, so does the outwardly look and behavior of the Church have to change or else it won’t be able to evangelize. Suppose a bunch of robed dudes without pants or underwear come to you and talked to you about some guy who died 2000 years ago. Would you listen to them, or would you think they’re crazy? And when they pray, they pray in some language only they can understand. Does that instill the idea God is near? It can perfectly well instill the idea only weirdos and idiots seek out God, but we know that’s a false idea. A Church which doesn’t change, in things that can be changed (which are most of the things people actually do), is a Church which fades into oblivion and irrelevancy. So Benedict and Francis made a little innovation. Let them have their fun. (Ignoring for a second they may have been prompted by Holy Spirit to do just that, as Popes in their respective times, so as to shake up the faithful and make the faithful more agile and alert. Just something to think about.)

    And internally, change also helps us differentiate actually important things from chaff we happened to collect by circumstance and accident. Otherwise we run the risk of becoming pharisees.

  16. David Marwick

    This is a pertinent topic that should be of concern to everyone except the likes of Ed Feser and the galahs who seem to assume that Life, Truth and Gift-ofGoodness are in the process of creating themselves according to the fantastic assumptions of Darwin, de Chardin and a host of others.

    My two bobs worth.

    If we examine the Definition of Papal Infallibility we will discover that by that Definition it says vastly more about when a popey fellow is NOT infallible clearly putting a spoke in the wheel of “ultra montanists”, papalaters (papa-latria or the worship of a popey type that is due to God alone) a notion that was fostered by the ‘Masonic children of the Synagogue to be exploited when popes who were sympathetic to the “enlightenment” were installed; think Alta Vendita. It was a gradual process.

    Let’s skip Eugenio Pacelli’s (Pius XII) probably unwitting role in “stacking the deck” that made Vatican Council II possible. Roncalli (who became John XXIII) should have been banished to a remote monastery out of contact with his very suspicious friends in various “secret” societies. Montini, who became PaulVI, should’ve also been banished to a life of penance for his friendly associations (Saul Alinsky just for starters).

    Let’s also skip a litany of “papal disasters” to Joe Ratzinger. He, right from his get go, was an open advocate of de Chardin’s “evolutionary” ideas of ecclesiology. I will contend that the only reason Ratzinger was considered “conservative” was because his idea of the Hegelian Dialectic of “progress” was too slow for the Synagogue… the Old should be actively suppressed and eliminated by the New instead of just withering away with compromise and attrition.

    For about 50 years I had quietly resolved to regard various popes as duds, drongoes, etc. etc. and be prepared to own up on my Judgement Day to that assessment. God might say: you were right; or He might say: you were wrong for the right reasons; or He might say: you were wrong for the right reasons; but I desperately hope that He wouldn’t say: get out of My sight you slimy maggot who wouldn’t dare to do what you needed to do when you could easily see the clouds, and the tempest, and the rotten fruit.

    Now the “problem” is much simpler; I don’t need to very cautiously make my own assessment… the law has done it for me.

    A pope is a temporal authority. The only way a temporal authority can “bind or loose” is by duly promulgated laws and precepts. The laws and precepts of the Catholic Church are Canon Law and the immutable doctrine of the Apostolic Faith. Only a pope can change Canon Law by duly promulgated edict. It is not changed by simply ignoring it. By that precept T’googlio Monster (Poope Francis) is not, never has been, even a dud or a crook pope.

  17. Alan Breedlove

    I have three reasons to believe Bergoglio is not the pope;

    1. Benedict was forced to resign under duress.
    2. The Gallen Mafia and the disgraced McCarrick openly admitted they politicked to install Bergoglio.
    3. Jesus taught us how to recognize false teachers, “By their fruits you will know them.” Matthew, 7:16

    For the best description of what Benedict has wrought, see this letter from an absentee father:

  18. Ted

    I’ve long considered that Cionci is correct in theorizing that Benedict pretended to resign but in fact remained pope to keep the keys out of the hands of the modernist/freemasonic cabal fronted by Bergoglio.
    But just my opinion/supposition.

  19. Johnno

    hudbwu –

    There is nothing Pope Emeritus Benedict did that Pope Francis didn’t also do and there’s plenty of things Pope Francis did that Pope Emeritus Benedict didn’t do.

    This is entirely consistent with Mazza’s argument. Benedict only resigned some of the ministries of the Papacy, while keeping some and exercising those, visibly. Aka – having two Popes, an active member and an contemplative member; two men sharing a Papal “ministry.” A nonsensical novelty that has no precedent.

    It seems to me Mazza, and you as well Johnno, are wanting your expectations to be fulfilled. But for every expectation there is an equal and opposite expectation of another person. How to you make both happy if they literally want opposites?

    We are not interested in making anyone “happy.” We are interested in the Truth and making sure the world knows it, and souls are not led astray and damned for following error and its consequences.

    The Church is a living breathing organism. It should change over time. If it doesn’t, what’s to defend us against the charge of “you’re just blindly following old rules you don’t understand”?

    NOT if that entails Falsehoods and Contradictions. Accepting the contradiction of this heavily suspect Papal Diarchy, ine of whose members is openly and publicly apostate, means that the only ones blindly following rules are those who blindly accept Benedict’s nonsense, and Franky’s changes.

    A Church which doesn’t change, in things that can be changed (which are most of the things people actually do), is a Church which fades into oblivion and irrelevancy. So Benedict and Francis made a little innovation. Let them have their fun. (Ignoring for a second they may have been prompted by Holy Spirit to do just that, as Popes in their respective times, so as to shake up the faithful and make the faithful more agile and alert. Just something to think about.)

    Should we have also let Arius, Henry VIII, Martin Luther, Albigenisium and every other moron have their fun too? Every heretic always claims the Holy Spirit is leading them too! That’s what Franky does when he invokes “the spirit” so that public remarried adulterers can receive Holy Communion, sodomite relationships can be blessed without repentance, God positively wills all conflicting religions, and socialism is a good thing now, and Commies can pick bishops for him to ratify, but Latin-rite bishops cannot.

    Does God and the Holy Spirit change their minds 180 degrees on Truth and contradict Themselves?

    Do you understand what the dogmas are for, hudbwu? Do you know what the role of the Church us for, hudbwu? Or the Papacy for? Do you reject the dogmatic teaching in Papal Infallibility by Pastor Aeternus that states:

    For the Holy Spirit was not promised to the successors of Peter that by His revelation they might make known new doctrine, but that by His assistance they might inviolably keep and faithfully expound the Revelation, the Deposit of Faith, delivered through the Apostles.

    Benedict’s action is ENTIRELY novel, and contrary to Tradition and Common Sense. It has led to DISASTER. His words and actions must be examined and analyzed, and if found deficient, CONDEMNED. If this leads to war and schism, so be it. You can chase after Change and follow Antipope Barack Obama, the rest of us will remain with the Church as Christ has always established it. The only one with authority to substantially change the Papal Office, is Him!

    Don’t stupidly confuse or equate this with comparisons to clothing vestments and outward regalia, or that the Pope in the 21st Century uses helicopters and Twitter now to help him do the things he has always done – safeguarding the Faith and interpreting it correctly for the world without change, more properly, without CONTRADICTION. Which, if anything, all development of doctrine is always towards more clarity, i.e. more clearly defined, i.e. more RESTRICTIVE, the further we get towards Truth, which LIMITS what we can do or believe.

  20. > Which, if anything, all development of doctrine is always towards more clarity, i.e. more clearly defined,

    I see perfect clarity. One Pope. Never had even a shadow of murkiness.

    I disagree with your equation of clarity and restrictivness.

    I’ve been playing with your requirement for “clear” answers and the diagonal lemma. I think I can prove you can’t have yes-no answers to every question. You want the proof?

    > If this leads to war and schism, so be it.

    Careful. To split is satanic.

  21. Johnno

    Don’t play dumb hudbwu.

    Nobody cares how clear you feel things are. You have to PROVE it, objectably.

    Clarity is ALWAYS RESTRICTIVE by DEFINITION. Either by demonstrating what something is to the exclusion of everything else, or a list of things that we at least know that it isn’t.

    Dogmas and Infallible statments RESTRICT what a Catholic must believe or reject.

    Christ came to bring a sword.

    Separation from heresy IS a good thing.

    Separation between the sheep and goats is the end game.

    The great divorce between Heaven and Hell is eternal.

    Are you certain you are on the right side, considering you have trouble accepting the Law of non-contradiction?

    Can more than one man be the Pope?

    Yes, or no?

    Is a man who resigns the Office of the Papacy still a Pope?

    Yes, or no?

    Did Benedict explicitly resign the ‘munus’ (office) in his statement?

    Yes, or no?

    Did Benedict only state he was resigning the active ‘ministerium’ of the office in his statement?

    Yes, or no?

    Are munus and ministerium legally interchangeable terms?

    Yes, or no?

    Did Benedict continue to exercise several of the functions that are only reserved for the Pope after his supposed resignation?

    Yes, or no?

    Has Francis denied that he ever told Scalfari that evil souls are annihilated and don’t go to Hell?

    Yes, or no?

    Has Francis stated to the Bishops of Buenor Aires that there is no other interpretation of Amoris Letitia other than that unrepentant adulterers can receive Holy Communion?

    Yes, or no?

    Has Francis singled out those who engage in sodomitical and other irregular (non-heteronormative) relationships as presentable criteria for blessings in Fiducia supplicans?

    Yes, or no?

    Has Francis invited pagan rituals and idols and heterodox masses with schismatics into the Church?

    Yes, or no?

    Has Francis stated in a positive way that God wills all religions?

    Yes, or no?

    Did Francis answer the dubia, requiring yes / no answers presented to him by a group of cardinals?

    Yes, or no?

    Can an obstinate public heretic be a member of the Catholic Church?

    Yes, or no?

    Can a non-Catholic be a Pope?

    Yes, or no?

    Can a man be a woman, or a woman a man?

    Yes, or no?

    Can a man be a Pope and not a Pope at the same time?

    Yes, or no?

    Answer the above questions, hudbwu, or research them before you do. If you can, then we can actually have a dialogue. Truth demands a willingness to confront uncomfortable situations. Or if this is too much for you, then humbly leave the field to those who are willing, rather than clutter the search for truth with ambiguous rubbish so that one doesn’t have to work too hard.

    I’m not being condescendingly strict here for fun, all this is of VITAL importance.

  22. You better not be an AI come to waste my time.

    Ackshually, screw this. Here are two^H^H^H^H three parting shots for you:


    > Benedict only resigned some of the ministries of the Papacy, while keeping some and exercising those, visibly. Aka – having two Popes, an active member and an contemplative member; two men sharing a Papal “ministry.”

    Unless this is special pleading, it has to rely on a general principle. The principle that seems to be in operation here is that an entity that has some attributes of a class is a member of the class. Let’s show the principle is invalid because it leads to errors.

    Suppose a man cuts off his dick, grows breasts and dresses like a woman. Clearly, that man now has several attributes of a woman. By the above principle, he is now a woman.

    By the same logic, suppose a Pope resigns the office and stops having several of the essential attributes of a Pope. Clearly, that man is still Pope just how a man becomes a woman by gaining some attributes of woman, including some essential ones. By the above principle, since he still has some attributes of a Pope, he’s Pope.

    This is the logic you are using. By your logic a man can become a woman if he assumes some (but all, and certainly not all essential) properties of a woman.

    Oh I get it, the man GAINED some attributes, therefore he wasn’t in possesion of membership of class “woman” and Benedict LOST some attribitues and therefore lost – or not – membership of class “Pope”. In other words, the law was already in effect and we’re having dubia on whether law went out of effect. By Aequiprobabilism, St. Alphonsus Liguori’s favoured system, we’re obliged to hold on to the safer option – believing Benedict is still Pope – until the preponderance of evidence he’s not Pope becomes greater than the preponderance of evidence he’s still Pope. Oh, I see. Yes totally makes sense until the moment you realise dubia never subside because you can always ask one more question. Admit it. There’s always one more doubt. Always one more question. And since every question is judged as being critically important, there can never ever be the required preponderance of evidence in favour of the risky option, thus, by your own twisted interpretation of Aequiprobabilism, conscious or otherwise, you’ll never ever leave the safe option. “Safe”, that is.


    Let’s give that proof you can’t know TRVTH by answering a list of yes-no questions. Notice I said “TRVTH” and not merely “truth”. Those are two completely different words in the English language, especially on the Internet.

    First, you’ll agree we can ask questions and determine the truth of statements. We can simplify this to simplify this to simply making statements and determening their truthfullness. Second, you’ll agree those statements can be written out and then sorted according to some algorithm. This sorting creates a Big Index of statements, the Holy Grail of all scrupulous ever. Third, there’s nothing preventing us from making statements like “Statement number 5 of the Big Index is true.” Obviously, this statement will also have it’s truth value. Fourth: but wait, even that kind of a statement has it’s own number in the index. So “Statement number [this statement’s number] of the Big Index is true.” is perfectly valid, we just first have to figure out the statement’s position in the index and replace the part in the square brackets with it. Fifth, oh-uh: “Statement number [this statement’s number] of the Big Index is false.”

    We have managed to create a pedantic lier’s paradox. The statement can’t be either true or false. The statement’s truth is indeterminate. You can’t construct a list of truths. And that’s even before we get into “But what does ‘mean’ even mean anyway?”

    Somewhere, there’s a story about St. Thomas Aquinas and how before his death God showed him he basically spent his entire life in vain. You can’t know it all, there always one more “but”. As “AI” manufacturers and debaters on the Internet know.


  23. Johnno


    1. That is not my special pleading or logic. It’s Benedict’s! All you wrote there is what HE seems to think. That he can be the first Trans-Pope! I’m glad that you and I both agree that it is stupid. Congratulations on taking this long. Now that you can see that it is stupid, this is what the definition of ‘substantial error’ means. And in Canon Law, that means that Benedict’s resignation is invalid. Meaning therefore that ‘nothing happened.’ Meaning therefore that the status quo remains in effect. Meaning therefore that Benedict failed to resign. Meaning therefore that he remained the Pope. Meaning therefore that there was never any valid conclave. Meaning therefore that Francis is an Anti-Pope, even if he were completely orthodox.

    2. You didn’t answer my questions because you are a coward who doesn’t want to acknowledge when you’ve lost an argument. The facts are against you, so like Francis, you run when called upon to speak clearly leaving behind a trail of verbose chaff. Go on then, run.

  24. > I’m glad that you and I both agree that it is stupid. Congratulations on taking this long.

    Dude! You are the one who keeps insisting Benedict is Pope! Reread that point 1, that’s a refutation of your position. Read attentively. I screwed up the sarcasm regarding aequiprobabilism but the refutation is before that anyway.

    And obviously I’ll try to not respond anymore but if you pull me by the tongue too hard, I might have to, like I did now.

  25. Johnno

    Duuuuuuude! I am only pointing out how utterly confused and heteredox you are, especially considering you treat the Papal Office as all fun and games for Frankie and Benny to play with, and support open contradictions with Hegelian campaign slogans – CHANGE THE CHURCH CAN BELIEVE IN! YES WE CAN! IF YOU LIKE YOUR PAPAL MINISTRY, YOU CAN KEEP IT! Then you’ve undermined your own position in point 1, which Mazza and I have been pointing out all along! Benedict’s resignation is invalid, because —-HE—– accepts and followed through on the ‘principle’ that you clumsily described that even YOU find ridiculous!

    You are for some reason stupidly confused that I and Mazza are the ones proposing it is possible. We are NOT! Benedict did! He wrote and promoted that error! And that error substantially invalidating his resignation attempt, is OUR argument.

    Steven O’s argument is that the words are equally interchangeable (he’s wrong legally), and/or don’t matter (we beg to differ), or attempts to interpret them according to cherry picked interviews (that still don’t contradict Mazza’s point), while hand waving away other interviews that demonstrate the opposite of his claims; And even if Steven O is right about Benedict’s thoughts (he has critiqued some ‘flaws’ with some of the quotations Mazza has used, showing Benedict didn’t believe the Papacy was sacramental), the resignation is still erroneous legally, which Steven O’s Benedict either screwed up royally, or sabotaged deliberately; the latter which Mazza also entertains (hence why Mazza brings up those certain quotes about Benedict speaking of misconceptions about the Papacy by the East). Meaning that secretly Benedict, acting under duress, deliberately did it via recourse to this error that he was familiar with. But this is hard to prove, given the man is dead.

    Those are your two choices. Capiche?

    Pick whichever you like – they still lead to the SAME problem.

    Then there is you coming here saying that we should let them have their fun with the things of God. What’s-ah little innovation? How’s about a little leven and some incense to Ceasar and Apollo, huh? Maybe we’ll bless some fags on the way out! FUN!

    Since you can’t even leave like you said you would, please answer all the questions I’ve posed to you above. They are all simple Yes/No. And they have implications. And, yes, you can phone your canon lawyer. You look like you’ll need all the help you can get.

  26. Ambrose Mulliner

    “We haven’t had a true pope since the death of Pius XII in 1958. ”

    That would mean that all the cardinals created since 1958 aren’t really cardinals, so that there’s no longer anyone alive who could validly elect a new pope, and that the Church will remain without a visible head until the Last Judgment. Or are we going to revert to the ancient method of choosing bishops, so that the clergy and people of the diocese of Rome would choose that city’s next bishop?

  27. Peter J Savage

    If Pope Benidict never resigned the munus, the Contemplative part of being Pope, and only resigned the ministerium, does that mean that Pope Francis cannot perform the munus of being Pope? If someone has an authority validly granted to him, and he does not resign that authority, then no one else can perform it. It doesn’t make sense to me to split the duties of the Apostolic leader of our Lord’s church on earth between two men.

  28. Johnno

    Peter J Savage,

    You are correct, it does not make sense.

    The munus is not “the contemplative part”, it’s the ENTIRE Office. He did not resign that, as he should have, legally.

    According to his verbiage, he specifically resigned the “Active ministry (ministerium) of the Bishop of Rome,” and as Steven O likes to argue about and re-emphasize, “in such a way that the seat will be vacant and a new Supreme Pontiff elected.” But repeating that over and over again doesn’t help his case, which as Benedict said he’d “no longer bear the (specific) power of the office to govern, but in the service of prayer, I REMAIN, so to speak (in some new-fangled way), in the enclosure of St. Peter.”

    He’s having the cake, and eating it too. From beginning to end, the resignation is vague and nonsensical at best, but still canonically invalid legally.

    If you don’t resign the office itself, you can’t claim in contradiction that the seat upon which this office resides is vacated, nor that a new Supreme Pontiff can be elected. Benedict screwed the pooch here. This is why canon lawyers were raising the alarm immediately after he made his announcement.

    Another way to read the above, contrary to how Steven O likes to, is that Benedict imagined expanding the Papal Office to include another functional member, thereby only in this sense, stepping aside to be “contemplative” or “retired” while another takes on the activities of running the “seat” and is a “new” Supreme Pontiff that would govern. Which, of course, is ridiculous.

    But it is not ridiculous in that a Pope cannot designate someone to perform a function in his place, with his authority, even in his absence, while he is still reigning. This is routine and entirely fine. But NO ONE can share the rank of Pope. There can be only one. So if Benedict was feeling weak, then he could take an extended vacation, and designate someone else to do the heavy work. But instead he went for the idea of ‘retiring’, but keeping the credentials of a Pope.

    Steven O and his side like to make comparisons to the regular titles of Bishop-Emeritus, or Arch-Bishop-Emeritus that exist, and claim that there is no issue with a Pope-Emeritus. But there certainly is! When Bishops, Arch-Bishops and Cardinals retire, they are STILL Bishops, Arch-Bishops and Cardinals. They retain their titles.

    But Traditionally, a Pope who retires, does NOT keep or retain the title of a Pope, they return to being a Bishop. There can only be one living man who can possess the title of ‘Pope.’ Unlike Bishops and Cardinals, there has never been an ‘expanded’ college of Popes.

    Anyone else with a Pope to their name is an Anti-Pope. Pope-Emerituses never existed until Benedict tried to spin this into existence. In fact the first guy who took a retirement, Celestine, who returned to being only a Bishop, was imprisoned by Pope Boniface, just-in-case, for good measure, so that there would be no confusion as to who the true Pope would be.

    So what exactly is a Pope-Emeritus? Still a Pope, or not-a-Pope with a bullshit title?

    Benedict’s words and behavior after the fact, as Mazza documents, continue to lend credence to the idea that he actually believed himself erroneously to be a Pope-in-retirement, or if one wants to get conspiratorial, that Benedict was deliberately throwing a wrench into the plans of modernist scum inside the Church by deliberately making a canonically invalid resignation based on an error he knew existed. The idea was probably just as pleasing to the modernists, who planned on doing so much more to destroy the Church, that they didn’t care if he created a new novelty that undermines the foundations of the Papal Office they despise, but objectively, to everyone else with a working brain, this is obviously just as impossible as sodomites getting blessed, married, and having a baby.

    Benedict either returned to being a bishop, in which case he should’ve been told to cease dressing, blessing and referring to himself as a Pope, heck, he was even virtually under house arrest and hard to access by any honest inquirers under Franky, who in fact also took advantage of selectively quoting him, or things like letter-gate:

    and more that demonstrate that hinky and cunning things were going on over there.

    Or Benedict unintentionally failed or deliberately sabotaged a resignation attempt and remained Pope, whether he liked it or not.

    In light of everything taken into consideration, I argue that Mazza and Barnhardt are more correct, and that Steven O doesn’t have much to ground his argument on other than that everyone play “conservative” and just assume that everything is fine and dandy, that somehow out feelings about it will act to cover-up the legal errors and process and therefore the Holy Spirit had mysteriously made everything kosher. But given everything Francis has said and done, clearly the Holy Spirit decided otherwise, or as some Conservatives are now musing, Tradition and Vatican I could be wrong, and all the woke dumbassery of the year 2022 is right.

    Benedict should’ve been questioned while he was still alive, but nobody bothered. Those that did speak directly with him, spouted the same rubbish about him doing something extraordinarily new, and were puzzled by why he refused to do things or say explicitly that he was no longer any sort of Pope, even making clearly deceitful excuses that there were no black cassocks in his size anywhere in Rome for him to wear.

    Now what needs to be done is an imperfect council and investigation of the matter. It ought to be done now, but everyone is too afraid of Franky, and prefer to wait until he dies, or they hope a new Trumpian Conservative Pope emerges at the next conclave who’ll handle it so that they can comfortably sit on their behinds without much risk or effort.

  29. A few (relatively) brief comments on some of the Benepapist comments above:

    1, In the Declaratio, BXVI resigned the “ministerium/ministero.” He does not qualify this by saying he renounced the “active ministerium” or “active ministry.” He said he resigned the ‘ministry of the bishop of Rome’ in such a way the “see of Rome, the See of Peter would be vacant” and a conclave to elect a new supreme pontiff would be necessary. From this statement, it is clear Benedict is vacating the see of Rome.

    2. As to the title of “pope emeritus” I have written about that in various articles on my blog, and in my book on BXVI’s resignation (Valid? The Resignation of Pope Benedict XVI). I have recently published on my blog an article where I examine Dr. Mazza’s commentary on “pope emeritus” as found in his book; and I show why and how his argument – and his use of source material in his argument – is clearly erroneous for several reasons.

    For one, Benedict, questioned by Seewald on the meaning of “emeritus” said: “The word ‘emeritus’ said that he had totally given up his office…”. The word Benedict used for office in the German is “Amt” which is also the word used when translating “munus” in canon 332.2. Clearly, Benedict said he ‘totally gave up his office/Amt/munus’. See my article on this. That article may be found here:

    3. If we turn to the Last Audience, BXVI does, in fact, speak of resigning the “active exercise of the ministry.” However a couple points here need to be kept in mind. The Declaratio was the official instrument of resignation, not the Last Audience, so its language rules. The Last Audience is BXVI’s “good bye”, and it’s language less formal. It is a reflection. The use of “active ministry” does not mean what the Benepapists suggest.

    It does mean – as I will show below – that Benedict gave up his office in the Church (pope), and afterward, continued as a retired priest/bishop/ex-pope, living a life of prayer (see comments of Pope Paul VI further below).

    My comments on “active ministry” can be found in another article of mine:


    Below is an extended excerpt from that article where I discuss “active ministry.”

    It must be remembered that the term ‘active ministry’ in Church documents is usually contrasted with the ‘contemplative life’ or a life devoted to prayer. The contrast is between the life of a priest, who is in “active ministry” (i.e., a parish priest, being a pastor, being a bishop of a diocese, president of a school, or a hospital, etc.), to the life of a religious in a monastic order devoted to prayer (e.g., THE CONTEMPLATIVE DIMENSION OF RELIGIOUS LIFE (Plenaria of the Sacred Congregation for Religious and for Secular Institutes, 4-7 March 1980); 25).

    To speak of a priest who has retired from, or resigned from, or left the “active ministry” is to speak of him having left and given up the official role or office or function he previously held in the Church. What remains to a priest after leaving the “active ministry” is to live a life devoted to prayer, e.g., saying the mass, the divine office, etc. An example of this distinction can be seen in comments made by Pope Paul VI in Australia in an address to priests, both those in “active ministry” and those who have left the “active ministry” and can now devote their lives to prayer (emphasis added):

    “We greet you, dear priests, with fatherly affection. You are not unaware of the great place that priests have in the heart of the Pope; with their bishops they are his closest collaborators in the work of salvation. We wish to express Our appreciation of the wonderful work accomplished here in building up this dynamic and generous community which is so attached to the teaching of the Church. You have sown, others reap, but it is always the same harvest with its one and only master, our Lord Jesus Christ. If age or sickness has caused you to retire from the active ministry, you know that the exercise of your priesthood has not thereby substantially diminished; it has only changed in its expression. By your special conformity to Jesus Christ, you can, today as in the past, carry out his priestly function of praising the Father, through the celebration of Mass and the recitation of the Divine Office.”


    In the above comments, the priestly life of “active ministry” from which one may retire – or resign is contrasted with a priestly life which is devoted to prayer after leaving the “active ministry”. So, let’s take the example of a pastor or head of a parish. If he were to say “I am resigning my active ministry and will now lead a life devoted to prayer,” he should naturally be understood to mean, “I am resigning as pastor and will now lead a life devoted to prayer.” It would be incongruous and meaningless for a pastor to say, “I have resigned the ‘active ministry’ but will remain the pastor or head of this parish!”

    We may lay out the same analogy for a bishop of a diocese. If he were to say, “I am resigning the active ministry and will devote my life to prayer”, he would rightly and naturally be understood to mean, “I am resigning as bishop of this diocese, and will devote my life to prayer.” In no way would either the pastor or bishop in these examples be understood to mean they were keeping their current office. It would be incongruous to ask one’s bishop or pastor in these examples, “you say you’re resigning the ‘active ministry’…but are you remaining in your office as pastor/bishop of the diocese?” It would be a nonsensical question.

    So, likewise with Benedict, when he said in the Last Audience that he is ‘resigning the active exercise of the ministry‘ this signifies he was, in fact, giving up the papacy, which is an “active ministry.” Benedict still remained a priest/bishop, so yes, he continued in prayer. Leaving the “active ministry” does not mean he continued as pope!

    Like the priests that Pope Paul VI spoke to (above), Pope Paul VI spoke of those who have left the “active ministry” and those who now devote their lives to prayer. This is an important point, as it underlines the error the Benepapists, such as Barnhardt, Dr. Mazza, et al, have made in understanding the Last Audience. Benedict spoke of the life he was leaving behind, which was an ‘active ministry’, in his case the papacy, and the new life he would engage in, i.e., a life devoted to prayer. This life of prayer did not require that Benedict XVI keep any part of the papacy, nor does it even imply it. As Paul VI said to the Australian priests, even though they may leaves the “active ministry” — i.e., give up their office, role, or function — they can, having left that office/position, now devote their lives fully to prayer (e.g., the mass, the divine office, etc).

    And, indeed, Pope Benedict in his last audience underscores this transition of resigning from the “active ministry” and turning to a life of prayer. Pope Benedict speaks of St. Benedict “showing us a way for a life which, whether active or passive” is given over to the Lord. To be clear, Pope Benedict quotes St. Benedict as speaking of a way of life which is active or passive; and not of a papacy which is either active or passive. One does not need to remain pope to continue on, in retirement, a life devoted to prayer.


    Steven O’Reilly

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