“For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable.”
Why did Pope Benedict XVI choose to become “pope emeritus”? Why does he still issue Apostolic Blessings in his own name? Why is his proper form of address still “His Holiness?” How is it possible to “still” be “pope” in any sense of the word, eight years after his official renunciation? To answer these questions, we must first investigate how His Holiness understands Sacred Power.
In the history of the Church, the Sacred Power (potestas sacra) of the clergy has been divided into two categories indicating two separate origins of that one power: 1) Power of Order (potestas ordinis) and 2) Power of Jurisdiction (potestas iurisdictionis, also known as missio canonica, or potestas regiminis).
The Power of Order is received at Priestly Ordination and gives power to a man to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and other sacraments. It changes a man ontologically: once made a priest, he can never be unmade a priest. His being receives a sacramental character that is indelible. As Rev. Pius Pietrzyk, O.P. writes: “although the Church acts as the medium through which a man is ordained, it is Christ who does the ordaining. The Church cannot undo what Christ has done.”[i]
The Power of Jurisdiction, on the other hand, is traditionally understood as authority flowing from the Vicar of Christ and granted to bishops to govern specific dioceses.[ii] As Pietrzyk writes: “The whole reason for the developed distinction of the potestas iurisdictionis was that, unlike the potestas ordinis, it could be lost. Since sacred character cannot be lost, but potestas iurisdictionis may, it must have a different proximate source.”[iii]
To licitly exercise the Power of Order a man must first be in communion with the Pope and bishops. Vatican II states: “Without hierarchical communion the sacramental-ontological munus [potestas ordinis], which ought to be distinguished from the canonical-juridical aspect [potestas iurisdictionis], cannot be exercised.”[iv] Passing over the issue of hierarchical communion, let us focus instead on the “buried lead” highlighted above: the Council affirmed that ordination gives a “sacramental-ontological munus” to the priest/bishop quite apart from any juridical/legal power of office/administration. Munus, in a strictly sacramental-ontological sense means gift that allows service; three gifts/services, to be precise, Christ’s own munera: priestly: to sanctify, prophetic: to teach, and kingly: to govern.
By adopting the language of “sacrament” over that of “statecraft,” the Council fathers were taking their lead in part from Pope Pius XII, who in 1947, issued a new document on the rite of ordination. None other than Joseph Ratzinger, in his 1987, Principles of Catholic Theology contrasts the change in theology between that magisterial document and previous ones:
The rite that Pius XII decrees represents a return to the form used in the early Church. It is pneumatologically oriented in terms of both gesture (since the imposition of hands signifies the conferral of the Holy Spirit) and word: the Preface is a petition for the Holy Spirit. Accordingly, the key word is now ministerium or munus: service and gift;[v]
The significance of this passage cannot be overestimated for anyone who has been following the controversy over Benedict’s own use of “munus” and “ministerium” in his February 2013 “resignation,” especially given his personal secretary, Archbishop Georg Gänswein’s words of May 2016:
The key word in that statement [Benedict’s renunciation] is munus petrinum, translated — as happens most of the time — with “Petrine ministry.” And yet, munus, in Latin, has a multiplicity of meanings: it can mean service, duty, guide or gift, even prodigy. Before and after his resignation, Benedict understood and understands his task as participation in such a “Petrine ministry [munus].” He has left the papal throne and yet, with the step made on February 11, 2013, he has not at all abandoned this ministry.[vi]
Benedict and Gänswein were roundly criticized by Catholic experts for this explanation, distinguished Church historian Dr. Roberto De Mattei among them:[vii]
If the pope who resigns from the pontificate retains the title of emeritus, that means that to some extent he remains pope. It is clear, in fact, that in the definition the noun [pope] prevails over the adjective [emeritus]. But why is he still pope after the abdication? The only explanation possible is that the pontifical election has imparted an indelible character, which he does not lose with the resignation. The abdication would presuppose in this case the cessation of the exercise of power, but not the disappearance of the pontifical character. This indelible character attributed to the pope could be explained in its turn only by an ecclesiological vision that would subordinate the juridical dimension [potestas iurisdictionis] of the pontificate to the sacramental [potestas ordinis].
It is possible that Benedict XVI shares this position, presented by Violi and Gigliotti in their essays,[viii] but the eventuality that he may have made the notion of the sacramental nature of the papacy his own does not mean that it is true. There does not exist, except in the imagination of some theologians, a spiritual papacy distinct from the juridical papacy. If the pope is, by definition, the one who governs the Church, in resigning governance he resigns from the papacy. The papacy is not a spiritual or sacramental condition, but an “office,” or indeed an institution.[ix]
“An ecclesiological vision that would subordinate the juridical dimension [potestas iurisdictionis] of the pontificate to the sacramental [potestas ordinis] is precisely how Benedict understands Sacred Power. Benedict is, in fact, diametrically opposed to De Mattei’s dictum: “The papacy is not a spiritual or sacramental condition, but an ‘office,’ or indeed an institution.” Expressing his sympathy for the view of the Orthodox churches of the East, Ratzinger writes:
Precisely this difference in the concept of authority grew steadily more intense and reached its climax in 1870 with the proclamation of the primacy of jurisdiction: in one case [traditional Orthodox view], only the tradition that has been handed down serves as a valid source of law, and only the consensus of all is the normative criterion for determining and interpreting it. In the other case [traditional Catholic view], the source of law appears to be the will of the sovereign, which creates on its own authority (ex sese) new laws that then have the power to bind. The old sacramental structure seems overgrown, even choked, by this new concept of law: the papacy is not a sacrament; it is “only” a juridical institution; but this juridical institution has set itself above the sacramental order.[x]
Listen, furthermore, to Ratzinger’s scathing criticism of the Church’s traditional understanding of the Power of Jurisdiction and “office” in contrast to the Power of Sacramental Order with regard to the bishop:
While the medieval text…saw the ordination as resulting from the indicative of the conferral of power, ordination is accomplished according to the 1947 text…in the manner…of a prayer. Thus, it is apparent even in the external form that the true conferrer of power is the Holy Spirit, to whom the sacramental prayer is addressed, not the human consecrator.
The medieval rite is formed on the pattern of investiture in a secular office. Its key word is potestas…[however, since 1947] the key word is now ministerium or munus: service and gift;
The most crucial event in the development of the Latin West was, I think, the increasing distinction between sacrament [potestas ordinis] and jurisdiction [potestas iurisdictionis], between liturgy and administration as such…
I think we should be honest enough to admit the temptation of mammon in the history of the Church and to recognize to what extent it was a real power that worked to the distortion and corruption of both Church and theology, even to their inmost core. The separation of office as jurisdiction from office as rite was continued for reasons of prestige and financial benefits;[xi] (emphases mine)
Did Benedict just condemn the Church’s theology of potestas iurisdictionis? Did he just characterize her traditional understanding of power of governance through office as something distorted and corrupt to the core? For Benedict, the teaching of Vatican II, on the other hand,
breaches the wall that separated the Middle Ages from the early Church, and hence the Latin West from the Churches of the East. We see the reason why future references to Peter Lombard, Albert, Bonaventure and Thomas Aquinas will no longer be meaningful in this issue.
This passage consists in the inconspicuous little statement that membership in the college of bishops is attained through sacramental ordination and communion with the head and members of the college [Lumen Gentium 22]…This statement gives episcopal collegiality a double basis but in such a way that these two roots are inseparably connected.
The rigid juxtaposition of sacrament and jurisdiction, of consecrating power and power of governance, that had existed since the Middle Ages and was one of the symptoms marking the Western separation of the Churches from the East, has finally been eliminated…Our century’s liturgical and theological renewal has removed the basis for this division. We know again today that the sacramental and mystical body of Christ do not exist as parallel separate realities, but have their existence both from and with each other…In the eucharistic office, both the sacrament and the “ruling power” interpenetrate one another, and it becomes at once clear how inappropriate the words “rule” and “power” are with regard to the Church. We have no more right to speak of a quasi-profane ruling power, neatly separated from the sacramental ministry, than we have a right to speak of a separation between the mystical and eucharistic body of Christ.[xii]
Benedict, as it turns out, represents one of two schools of thought with regard to the ontology of Sacred Power. According to Msgr. Fredrik Hansen:
The first current [of thought] emanates from…K. Rahner, J. Ratzinger and Y. Congar…They all support the view that potestas sacra comes from the sacrament of orders [potestas ordinis]. In the case of the potestas sacra of the Bishop they advocate its complete origin in episcopal consecration [potestas ordinis]…Further this position teaches that also the power of teaching and governance comes from episcopal ordination although its exercise must take place within hierarchical communion. The missio canonica [potestas iurisdictionis] as the juridical determination for the two latter powers [teaching and governance] renders this potestas sacra available for its exercise…The Primacy of jurisdiction of the Supreme Pontiff (cf. can. 331, PAE chap III, LG 18b) becomes difficult to explain in relation to this current. On a sacramental level (the power of order) there is no difference between the Roman Pontiff and the other Bishops of the Church. The difference in jurisdiction comes from a non-sacramental source…The power he then acquires comes directly from Christ, not from the election, and not from the College of Cardinals.[xiii]
“The Primacy of jurisdiction of the Supreme Pontiff” does indeed “become difficult to explain in relation to” Ratzinger’s nouvelle theologie! Tradition teaches the Power of Jurisdiction can be lost! In which case, the justification for “pope emeritus” vanishes. Hence, De Mattei’s filial correction of Benedict and Gänswein for subordinating the Power of Jurisdiction to the Power of Order. The unfortunate truth, however, is that Benedict is unconcerned about accounting for the Primacy of Jurisdiction of the Supreme Pontiff:
[Orthodox] Patriarch Athenagoras when he greeted the Pope [Paul VI in Jerusalem, 1964 exclaimed]: “Against all expectation, the bishop of Rome is among us, the first among us in honor, ‘he who presides in love’…”[xiv] It is clear that, in saying this, the Patriarch did not abandon the claims of the Eastern Churches or acknowledge the primacy of the West. Rather he stated plainly what the East understood as the order, the rank and title, of the equal bishops in the Church—and it would be worth our while to consider whether this archaic confession, which has nothing to do with the “primacy of jurisdiction” but confesses a primacy of “honor”(τιμή) and agape, might not be recognized as a formula that adequately reflects the position Rome occupies in the Church—“holy courage” requires that prudence be combined with “audacity”: “The kingdom of God suffers violence.”[xv]
In one audacious sentence, Ratzinger completely side-steps the De Fide definition of Vatican I regarding the Supreme Power of Jurisdiction of the Pope![xvi] The Pope’s Power of Order suffices, it seems, to account for the essence of Who and What he is! He does not occupy “an office of jurisdiction,” which comes and goes, so much as a spiritual “office of rite” which is irrevocable:
The office of the papacy is a cross, indeed, the greatest of all crosses. For what can be said to pertain more to the cross and anxiety of the soul than the care and [personal] responsibility for all the Churches…attachment to the Word and will of God because of the Lord is what makes the sedes [throne] a cross and thus proves the Vicar [the Pope] to be a representative [of Christ].[xvii]
But the witness is not an individual who stands independently on his own. He is no more a witness by virtue of himself and of his own powers of memory than Peter can be the rock by his own strength. He is not a witness as “flesh and blood” but as one who is linked to the Pneuma, the Paraclete who authenticates the truth and opens up the memory and, in his turn, binds the witness to Christ…This binding of the witness to the Pneuma and to his mode of being-“not of himself, but what he hears” -is called “sacrament” in the language of the Church. – Sacrament designates a threefold knot—word-witness, Holy Spirit and Christ—which describes the essential structure of succession in the New Testament. We can infer with certainty…that the apostolic generation already gave to this interconnection of person and word in the believed presence of the Spirit and of Christ the form of the laying on of hands.[xviii]
Here, allow me to go back once again to 19 April 2005. The real gravity of the decision [to accept the Papacy] was also due to the fact that from that moment on I was engaged always and forever by the Lord. Always – anyone who accepts the Petrine ministry no longer has any privacy. He belongs always and completely to everyone, to the whole Church…The “always” is also a “for ever”[xix]
Benedict “left the throne,” but “not his participation in the Petrine Ministry [munus].” In the Power of Order, it is not the Church, but Christ Himself who makes a man a priest. Thus, he cannot be unmade a priest. Likewise, Benedict seemingly argues, since it is Christ Himself and not the Church who makes a man a pope, he cannot be unmade a pope in the deepest sense:
I had to…consider whether or not functionalism would completely encroach on the papacy …Earlier, bishops were not allowed to resign…a number of bishops…said ‘I am a father and that I’ll stay’, because you can’t simply stop being a father; stopping is a functionalization and secularization, something from the sort of concept of public office that shouldn’t apply to a bishop… 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… one comes to understand that the office [munus] of the Pope has lost none of its greatness [xx]
Benedict went so far as to tell Seewald that the “office enters into your very being.” In fact, he once criticized Martin Luther precisely for misunderstanding the difference between office as jurisdiction (or function) and office as rite:
[For Luther] the priest does not transcend his role as preacher. The consequent restriction to the word alone had, as its logical outcome, the pure functionality of the priesthood: it consisted exclusively in a particular activity; if that activity was missing, the ministry itself ceased to exist…There was purposely no further mention of priesthood but only of “office”; the assignment of this office was, in itself, a secular act;[xxi]
Benedict does not see the priesthood, or better yet, the papacy as “consisting exclusively in a particular activity, so that if that activity is missing, the ministry [munus] itself ceases to exist”:
My decision to resign the active exercise of the ministry does not revoke this…I am not abandoning the cross, but remaining in a new way at the side of the crucified Lord. I no longer bear the power of office for the governance [potestas iurisdictionis] of the Church, but in the service of prayer I remain, so to speak, in the enclosure of Saint Peter [potestas ordinis].[xxii]
And in Seewald’s latest interview released in German in May 2020, Benedict doubles down on his “Petrine” status:
This word “emerito” meant that he was no longer an active bishop but was in the special relationship of a former bishop to his seat…the spiritual connection to his previous seat was now also recognized as a legal quality…It does not create any participation in the concrete legal content of the episcopate [potestas iurisdictionis], but at the same time sees the spiritual bond as a reality. So there are not two bishops, but there is a spiritual mandate [potestas ordinis], the essence of which is to serve from the inside, from the Lord, in praying with and for his previous bishopric.[xxiii]
Seewald then directly asks His Holiness: “But does that also apply to the pope?”
It is not clear why this legal figure should not be applied to the Bishop of Rome either. In this formula, both are given no specific legal power of attorney anymore, but a spiritual assignment that remains – albeit invisible. This legal-spiritual form avoids any thought of a coexistence of two popes: a bishopric can only have one owner. At the same time, a spiritual connection is expressed that cannot be removed under any circumstances.[xxiv]
But is Benedict’s ontological vision of the papacy an accurate one? As Hansen maintains, the other school of thought opposed to Ratzinger has centuries of tradition—and contemporary canon law behind it:
The second current of thought…makes a distinction between the episcopal consecration [potestas ordinis] on the one hand and the missio canonica on the other. The result is a position diametrically opposed to the first [Ratzinger’s] school of thought, holding that the power of governance comes from the missio canonica [potestas iurisdictionis] by which an office is entrusted…it allows an explanation of the difference between the Pope and the Bishops as regards jurisdiction…this second line of thought is echoed in the canonical doctrine found in the 1983 Code [of Canon Law] and the post-codal papal and curial documents, whereas the first [Ratzinger’s] is not: neither CIC 1983 nor Pastores gregis, or Apostolorum successores speak of power as the first current [Ratzinger’s] does…It is, therefore, important to underline that the distinction between the power of order and the power of jurisdiction was by the Council or Code neither negated nor suppressed, it remains a part of canonical doctrine.[xxv]
Or as De Mattei writes:
This doctrine [the distinction between Power of Order and Power of Jurisdiction]…has also been the common practice of the Church for twenty centuries, can be considered one of divine law, and as such unchangeable.[xxvi] Vatican Council II did not explicitly reject the concept of “potestas,” but set it aside, replacing it with an equivocal new concept, that of “munus.” Art. 21 of “Lumen Gentium” then seems to teach that episcopal consecration confers not only the fullness of orders, but also the office of teaching and governing, whereas in the whole history of the Church the act of episcopal consecration has been distinguished from that of appointment, or of the conferral of the canonical mission. This ambiguity is consistent with the ecclesiology of the theologians of the Council and post-council (Congar, Ratzinger, de Lubac, Balthasar, Rahner, Schillebeeckx…) who presumed to reduce the mission of the Church to a sacramental function, scaling down its juridical aspects…
Ratzinger…distanced himself from tradition when he saw in the primacy of Peter the fullness of the apostolic ministry, linking the ministerial character to the sacramental (J.Auer-J. Ratzinger, La Chiesa universale sacramento di salvezza, Cittadella, Assisi, 1988).[xxvii]
Benedict would counter that Vatican II taught that “collegiality is not based on a papally conferred jurisdiction, paralleling the sacrament of ordination as though that sacrament were merely an individual gift; rather, collegiality reaches into the very essence of the sacrament, which as such carries within it an intrinsic correlation to the community of bishops.”[xxviii] Or again, “the sacramental-ontological munus…ought to be distinguished from the canonical-juridical aspect.” This is why Benedict went to great pains NOT TO RENOUNCE THE PETRINE MUNUS AS SUCH in his 2013 “Declaratio.”[xxix]
But Vatican II was referring to the episcopacy, not the papacy.
Ultimately, what Benedict proposes regarding his ongoing Petrine status is, to use his words, audacious and violent. And if Benedict is objectively wrong, then when he renounced the throne thinking he could still keep the Petrine Ministry [munus], he committed a substantial error, invalidating his renunciation. Canon 332 §2 of the Code of Canon Law (1983) mandates that: “[i]f it happens that the Roman Pontiff resigns his munus, it is required for validity that the resignation is made freely and properly manifested…”
The ultimate question then is whether what was subjectively in Benedict’s mind was an accurate or erroneous understanding of the objective reality of the munus Petrinum in the Church’s ecclesiology. If one’s will acts on an erroneous appraisal presented to it by one’s reason, the WILL DOES NOT CHOOSE FREELY. Mistakes of this kind are most frequent in attempts at marriage. Marriage is an objective state of being that does not come into existence except from a free act of the will, which is dependent upon accurate knowledge:
error invalidates the act if it is an error concerning the substance of the act…Error affects consent, for the will in an act of consent elects an object presented to it by the mind. If the mind is in error, the object is imperfectly or incorrectly presented and choice made upon such a premise is not always the same choice that would have been made if the object were correctly known.[xxx]
And we might add in closing, that according to the Church’s law, a resignation must also be “properly manifested” in order to be valid. But since objectively Benedict renounced “the ministry” of Bishop of Rome, and not the “munus,” there is ambiguity—not clear manifestation. In fact, even if ministry meant the same thing as munus in canon law (which it does not), or even if Benedict had explicitly mentioned “the munus” of Bishop of Rome, we could not be sure whether he meant munus as office [potestas iurisdictionis] in accord with canon law and centuries of tradition or if he meant munus as rite [potestas ordinis], which he has argued for decades is irrevocable:
The ministry [munus] of the bishop is not an externally assigned “administrative power,” but rather arises from the necessary plurality of the eucharistic communities (i.e., of the Churches in the Church) and, as representing these, is itself sacramentally based. The ruling of the Church and its spiritual mystery are inseparable. Only by dealing with this issue in such depth does the text [LG 22] make possible a “decentralization” of the Church that will progress beyond a merely opportunistic organizational change and move into the sphere of genuine spiritual renewal
[i] Rev. Pius Pietrzyk, OP, The Power of Orders and the Power of Jurisdiction: A Theological and Juridical Examination, (Rome, 2014),
[ii] Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, OP, Summa Theologica, 2-2ae, q. 39, a. 3; Ad Gentes IV c. 7.
[iii] Pietrzyk, p. 68.
[iv] Lumen gentium AAS 57 (1965) 5-75 at 75.
[v] Joseph Ratzinger, Principles of Catholic Theology: Building Stones for a Fundamental Theology, M. F. McCarthy, Trans. (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1987), p, 241.
“that the [medieval] crucial sacramental formula is as follows: ‘Receive the fullness of power to offer sacrifice in the Church for the living and the dead in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’ (DS 1326). Following the ancient tradition, the text of 1947, by contrast, declares that the actual sacramental formula is the consecratory Preface, the ordination prayer modeled on the High Prayer of the Mass, that also bears the character of an epiclesis; Pius XII defines as the central words those spoken at the consecration by the bishop: ‘Send forth upon him, O Lord, we beseech thee, the Holy Spirit, by whom may he (the ordained) be strengthened to perform faithfully the work of thy service with the help of thy sevenfold gift’ ‘Emitte in eum, quaesumus, Domine, Spiritum Sanctum, quo in opus ministerii tui fideliter exsequendi septiformis gratiae tuae munere roboretur.’ [wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord.] (DS 3860) [AAS 40-5; Cf. Pius XII, Apostolic Constitution, 30 Nov., 1947 Cf. Periodica, pp. 37-9 (Hurth): Commentarium pro Religiosis, 1948, p. 4 (Pujoiras).]
[vi] Diane Montagna, “Complete English Text: Archbishop Georg Gänswein’s ‘Expanded Petrine Office’ Speech,” May 30, 2016 at Aleteia.org as cited in Robert Moynihan, “One Pope, One Petrine Ministry” at https://insidethevatican.com/magazine/lead-story/one-pope-one-petrine-ministry-response-archbishop-georg-Gänsweins-recent-remarks-benedict-francis/
[vii] “Benedict…has engaged in gestures which seem to encourage this impervious work of substituting the new Pope with the old one. The princeps argumentation is however the distinction between munus and ministerium, whereby it seemed Benedict wanted to keep for himself a sort of mystical papacy, leaving Francis with the exercise of government. The origin of the thesis goes back to a discourse by Monsignor Georg Gänswein of May 20, 2016 at the Pontifical Gregorian University, wherein he stated that Pope Benedict had not abandoned his office, but had given it a new collegial dimension, rendering it a quasi-shared ministry(«als einen quasi gemeinsamen Dienst»)…“ Roberto de Mattei, “The Unknowns at the End of a Pontificate,” Rorate Caeli Blog, July 1, 2020.
In the original Italian at Corrispondenza Romana Blog, July 1, 2020
[viii] Stefano Violi, “The Resignation of Benedict XVI Between History, Law and Conscience” Rivista teologica di Lugano, XVIII, February, 2013, pp. 155-166.
English translation: https://silo.tips/download/the-resignation-of-benedict-xvi-between-history-law-and-conscience Or http://www.fatima.org/news/newsviews/newsviews031315.pdf); Valerio Gigliotti, “La tiara deposta. La rinuncia al papato nella storia del diritto e della Chiesa [The resignation of the papacy in the history of law and of the Church] (Leo S. Olschki, Florence, 2013), pp. 387-432.
[ix] Roberto De Mattei, “One and One Alone is Pope,” quoted in “Reigning and ‘Emeritus.’ The Enigma of the Two Popes,” Chiesa Espresso [Sandro Magister’s Blog], September 15, 2014 at http://chiesa.espresso.repubblica.it/articolo/1350868bdc4.html?eng=y
[x] Ratzinger, Principles of Catholic Theology, pp. 194-195.
[xi] Ibid., pp. 240-241; 254-256.
[xii] Ratzinger, J. (1966). Theological Highlights of Vatican II (Rev. ed., pp. 186–189). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1966) pp. 188-189.
[xiii] Msgr. Frederik Hansen, The Unity and Threefold Expression of the Potestas Regiminis of the Diocesan Bishop, pp. 25-26.
[xiv] St. Ignatius of Antioch, Epistola “Ad Romanos”, PG 5, col. 801, prologue.
[xv] Ratzinger, Principles of Catholic Theology, p. 217.
[xvi] Ratzinger: “When the Patriarch Athenagoras…designated him as the successor of St. Peter, as the most esteemed among us, as one who presides in charity, this great Church leader was expressing the essential content of the doctrine of primacy as it was known in the first millennium. Rome need not ask for more.” p. 198.
Cf. Vatican I, SESSION 4: 18 July 1870; https://www.papalencyclicals.net/councils/ecum20.htm
[xvii] Ratzinger, October 1977, during the symposium “On the Nature and Commission of the Petrine Ministry” marking the 80th birthday of Pope Paul VI; Cf. “The Primacy of the Pope and the unity of the People of God,” published as “Der Primat des Papstes und die Einheit des Gottesvolkes” in a book Ratzinger edited, Dienst an der Einheit (Service to Unity); it has also been republished in books by Ignatius Press and in Communio Spring 2014.
[xviii] Ratzinger, Called to Communion, (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1996), p. 68.
[xix] Ratzinger, Last General Audience, February 27, 2013: http://www.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/audiences/2013/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20130227.html
[xx] Ratzinger, Benedict XVI, Last Testament.
[xxi] Ratzinger, Principles of Catholic Theology, p. 248.
[xxii] Ratzinger, Last General Audience, Cf. Nt. 19.
[xxiii] Seewald, Benedikt XVI.: Ein Leben, “Letzte Fragen an Benedikt XVI,” (Droemer, 2020). My algorithmic translation, courtesy Google Translate.
[xxiv] Cf. Last General Audience, February 27, 2013. Cf. Nt. 19.
[xxv] Hansen, pp. 25-26.
[xxvi] If Ratzinger taught against a position that the Church has declared to be of Divine Law, he would be a heretic and would ipso facto have lost not only the Papacy but his episcopacy; “the mediate origin from God of the jurisdiction of Bishops” has yet to be defined with any theological note of certainty:
This question was raised in the Councils of Trent and Vatican I, but it was not decided. Several authors with Victoria and Vazquez held that the jurisdiction is given immediately by God to the individual Bishops; but generally Catholic authors with St. Thomas, St. Bonaventure, St. Robert Bellarmine and Suarez hold that jurisdiction is given to the Bishops immediately not by God but mediated through the Roman Pontiff. Pius XII teaches this opinion positively in the Encyclical, “Mystici Corporis,” 21. Joachim Salaverri, S.J. Michaele Nicolau, S.J. Translated by Kenneth Baker, S.J., Sacrae Theologiae Summa IB: On the Church of Christ/On Holy Scripture (BAC, 1956; Keep the Faith, 2015), pp. 144-145. Originally published in Latin by the bishops of Spain.
Nevertheless, the fact that centuries of tradition and both the 1917 and 1983 Codes of Canon Law hold against Ratzinger, his position is arguably an objectively incorrect one.
[xxvii] De Mattei, Cf. above. Nt. 9.
[xxviii] Ratzinger, Theological Highlights, p.187.
[xxix] Cf. Violi, “Officium e munus tra ordinamento canonico e comunione ecclesiale” Rivista telematica (www.statoechiese.it), fascicolo n. 31 del 2019, pp. 117-148. https://riviste.unimi.it/index.php/statoechiese/article/view/12353
Cf. also Mazza, “’It’s nothing business, it’s strictly personal’: The Psychic Powers of Pope Emeritus,” March 12, 2021, https://www.edmundmazza.com/2021/03/12/its-nothing-business-its-strictly-personal-the-psychic-powers-of-pope-emeritus-part-one/
[xxx] William F Cahill, “Fraud and Error in the Canon Law of Marriage,” The Catholic Lawyer, April 1955, Vol. 1, No. 2.
“It’s nothing business, it’s strictly personal”: The Psychic Powers of Pope Emeritus
Edmund J. Mazza, PhD
Only one is Pope…because of his psychic powers.
No, Ann Barnhardt’s favorite historian hasn’t taken leave of his senses—or his Catholic faith. By “psychic,” I mean the powers of the soul [psyche in Greek].
What makes us human, or rather, what makes us God-like is our use of the soul’s faculties of reason and free will. Animals lack both and precisely for this reason, can neither “sin” nor accumulate “merit” (as we can after Baptism).
Our reason presents us with knowledge and our will chooses in the face of this knowledge. Or to cut to the chase: the mind of a pope presents him with knowledge and his will chooses in the face of this knowledge. A pope knows about the Papacy and chooses to do something about it based on this knowledge, like say resigning, for instance.
This is what Pope Benedict told journalist Peter Seewald about his resignation in the 2017 book, Benedict XVI, Last Testament: “The Pope is no superman…If he steps down, he remains in an inner sense within the responsibility he took on, but not in the function…the follower of Peter is not merely bound to a function; the office enters into your very being.”[i] (Emphasis mine)
Benedict comes to the realization that he is not Superman—he is an old man. He shall, therefore, step down from the physical duties of the bishop of Rome, but his understanding of the Papacy is that it can never be relinquished in its spiritual aspects. He views it not essentially as a juridical office like the US Presidency or the Chief Executive Officership of a business enterprise, but as an ONGOING EVENT WHICH CHANGES THE ONTOLOGICAL NATURE OF THE PERSON.
At Lourdes, the Virgin Mary did not say “I am she who was immaculately conceived by God’s power.” She declared rather: “I AM THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION.”[ii] (And let us not forget that Benedict deliberately chose February 11th, the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes to make his “Declaration” to the world.) Or to use Benedict’s phrase, “the office enters into your very being.” He “remains in an inner sense within the responsibility he took on…” For Benedict, “it’s nothing business, it’s strictly personal”:
the sedes [Chair of Peter is] a cross and thus proves the Vicar [of Christ] to be a representative. He abides [exists] in obedience and thus in personal responsibility for Christ; professing the Lord’s death and Resurrection is his whole commission and personal responsibility, in which the common profession of the Church is depicted as personally ‘‘binding’’ through the one who is bound . . . . This personal liability…forms the heart of the doctrine of papal primacy…[iii]
In April 2005, Joseph Ratzinger took on the awesome, ontological, personal responsibility of the Papacy: the Episcopacy of Rome and the Vicarship of Christ. Nearly eight years later, however, the pontiff felt that his 85-year-old stamina no longer permitted him to continue the “functional” duties of “words and deeds.” He will step down from them, but he will remain in the spiritual “suffering and prayer.” He says all this quite plainly in his official “Declaratio” of February 11, 2013:
my strengths, owing to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry. I am well aware that this ministry because of its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering.[iv]
vires meas ingravescente aetate non iam aptas esse ad munus Petrinum aeque administrandum. Bene conscius hoc munus secundum suam essentiam spiritualem non solum agendo et loquendo exsequi debere, sed non minus patiendo et orando.[v] (Emphasis mine)
Benedict admits his physical strengths no longer allow him to adequately wield the Petrine ministry [munus Petrinum], this ministry [munus] is essentially spiritual in nature, but nevertheless, humanly speaking, must be functionally administered in words and deeds, he therefore concludes:
well aware [reason] of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom [free will] I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from February 28, 2013, at 8 p.m., the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant…
bene conscius ponderis huius actus plena libertate declaro me ministerio Episcopi Romae, Successoris Sancti Petri, mihi per manus Cardinalium die 19 aprilis MMV commisso renuntiare ita ut a die 28 februarii MMXIII, hora 20, sedes Romae, sedes Sancti Petri vacet… (Emphasis mine)
Did you catch the anomaly? You probably did not, if you only read the English.
In the first quote from the Declaratio which we reproduced above, Benedict uses “munus Petrinum” to describe the essential spiritual nature of the “Petrine ministry;” he is able to fulfill this “munus” through suffering and prayer but is no longer able to do so through words and deeds. In the second and concluding quote from his Declaratio, he declares that he renounces the “ministry of Bishop of Rome,” stating in Latin: “ministerio Episcopi Romae.”
Why, may we ask, did he suddenly replace “munus” with “ministerio”? Why abandon the consistency of his narration? Likewise, why abruptly change from speaking of the “Petrine” ministry or “munus Petrinum,” to “ministerio Episcopi Romae,” “Bishop of Rome” instead?
Actually, Benedict is being consistent.
He told Seewald that “he remains within the responsibility he took on…the office enters into your very being.” Accordingly, in his Declaratio, he never renounces the essentially spiritual munus Petrinum.
Likewise, he told Seewald that due to weakness of age he stepped down from the functional aspects—and so he did renounce the “ministerio” of Bishop of Rome.
Let us now return to our discussion of psychic powers.
In February 2013 Benedict saw the munus Petrinum as an essentially spiritual, invisible, ontological, PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY he accepted back in 2005.[vi] This one thing or munus consists of active and contemplative “ministerii” Acting on this knowledge, he chose to renounce the “active” ministry “ministerio” of the Bishop of Rome, but not the Petrine munus or office itself, which by its nature enters into your very being and thus is incapable of renunciation. And this is what Benedict confirmed a few short weeks later at his last General Audience:
Here, allow me to go back once again to 19 April 2005. The real gravity of the decision [to accept the Papacy] was also due to the fact that from that moment on I was engaged always and forever by the Lord. Always – anyone who accepts the Petrine ministry no longer has any privacy. He belongs always and completely to everyone, to the whole Church…The “always” is also a “for ever” –My decision to resign the active exercise of the ministry does not revoke this. I do not return to private life, to a life of travel, meetings, receptions, conferences, and so on. I am not abandoning the cross, but remaining in a new way at the side of the crucified Lord. I no longer bear the power of office for the governance of the Church, but in the service of prayer I remain, so to speak, in the enclosure of Saint Peter. (Emphasis mine)
In Benedict’s mind, he was only resigning the active exercise of the ministry of Bishop of Rome, not the spiritual essence of the munus Petrinum: “in the service of prayer I remain…in the enclosure of St. Peter.” Ontologically, as a PERSON he is to be found “remaining…at the side of the crucified Lord” for the sake of “the whole Church.” Or as he once put it: “This personal liability, which forms the heart of the doctrine of papal primacy, is therefore not opposed to the theology of the Cross or contrary to humilitas christiana but rather follows from it.” Or again, as he reiterates to Seewald, he REMAINS “connected to the suffering Lord as well, in the stillness of silence, in the grandeur and intensity of praying for the entire Church. So this step is not flight, not an attempt to escape, but in fact another way of remaining faithful in my service.”
But was what was subjectively in Benedict’s mind an accurate or erroneous understanding of the objective reality of the munus Petrinum? If one’s will acts on an erroneous appraisal presented to it by one’s reason, the WILL DOES NOT CHOOSE FREELY. Mistakes of this kind are most frequent in attempts at marriage. Marriage is an objective state of being that does not come into existence except from a free act of the will, which as we have seen, is dependent upon an accurate understanding on the part of reason:
error invalidates the act if it is an error concerning the substance of the act…Error affects consent, for the will in an act of consent elects an object presented to it by the mind. If the mind is in error, the object is imperfectly or incorrectly presented and choice made upon such a premise is not always the same choice that would have been made if the object were correctly known.[vii] (Emphasis mine)
Genesis chapter 29 is an illustrative example of such a “substantial error.” Jacob wishes to marry Rachel. (So in love is he that he labors seven years for her father.) At last, under cover of darkness, her sister Leia is introduced to the bridal chamber instead. Even though they engage in the marital embrace that night, they are not actually married, because his reason was operating on the erroneous assumption that he was choosing Rachel, not Leia. (As St. Thomas Aquinas explains, it was only Jacob’s subsequent choice the next day to accept her, despite the fact, that she wasn’t Rachel, that ultimately made the marriage valid.)[viii]
In the case of Pope Benedict, the stakes couldn’t be higher. If his notion of the munus Petrinum was erroneous, then his resignation was invalid. Canon 188 of the New Code of Canon Law (1983) states explicitly that “a resignation made out of…substantial error” is invalid.[ix] This would mean Benedict is still the Head of the Catholic Church and that Jorge Bergoglio is “Antipope Francis.”
Furthermore, it must be noted that for years-on-end critics of those who hold that Benedict is pope have accused them (among other things) of “not being trained canon lawyers.” Others have argued that Canon 188 does not matter anyway because the Pope as Supreme Legislator is “above canon law.” Still other prominent critics argue that because all the cardinals and 99% of the bishops of the Church have “peacefully accepted” Francis as pope, Benedict’s resignation AUTOMATICALLY MUST HAVE BEEN VALID.
The plain facts of the matter are these. If the mind presents an erroneous idea to the will and the will acts on it, that act is invalid by the very fabric of realty itself—not because canon law says so. And it doesn’t take a canon lawyer to determine whether or not the idea of the person was likely accurate or erroneous when said person has been obliging enough to make official speeches and book-length interviews for eight years. The pope might be above canon law (I’ve heard it both ways)—but he is certainly not above natural law, which is man’s participation in God’s Eternal Law, under which heading substantial error falls. Lastly, the silent acquiescence of the shepherds of the Conciliar Church to Bergoglio’s abysmal regime hardly has the power to bend the nature of ontological reality either.
In the end, the question comes down to Pope Benedict’s psyche, his understanding of the munus Petrinum. Can a man resign the active functions, yet remain “in the enclosure of St. Peter”? If you want to know how deep that rabbit hole might go, you will have to read Part Two.
[i] Peter Seewald, Benedict XVI, Last Testament: In His Own Words, (Bloomsbury Continuum, 2017).
[ii] “relativity toward the other constitutes the human person. The human person is the event or being of relativity.” Joseph Ratzinger, “Concerning the Notion of Person,” Communio, No. 19 (Fall 1992), 452.
Archbishop Georg Gänswein, Prefect of Papal Household, Benedict’s long-time personal secretary:
“And I, too, a firsthand witness of the spectacular and unexpected step of Benedict XVI, I must admit that what always comes to mind is the well-known and brilliant axiom with which, in the Middle Ages, John Duns Scotus justified the divine decree for the Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God: “Decuit, potuit, fecit.”
That is to say: it was fitting, because it was reasonable. God could do it, therefore he did it. I apply the axiom to the decision to resign in the following way: it was fitting, because Benedict XVI was aware that he lacked the necessary strength for the extremely onerous office. He could do it, because he had already thoroughly thought through, from a theological point of view, the possibility of popes emeritus for the future. So he did it.”
From Diane Montagna, “Complete English Text: Archbishop Georg Gänswein’s ‘Expanded Petrine Office’ Speech,” May 30, 2016 at Aleteia.org as cited in Robert Moynihan, “One Pope, One Petrine Ministry” at https://insidethevatican.com/magazine/lead-story/one-pope-one-petrine-ministry-response-archbishop-georg-gansweins-recent-remarks-benedict-francis/
[iii] Joseph Ratzinger, October 1977, during the symposium “On the Nature and Commission of the Petrine Ministry” marking the 80th birthday of Pope Paul VI; Cf. “The Primacy of the Pope and the unity of the People of God,” published as “Der Primat des Papstes und die Einheit des Gottesvolkes” in a book Ratzinger edited, Dienst an der Einheit (Service to Unity); it has also been republished in books by Ignatius Press and in Communio Spring 2014.
[iv] “Full text of the resignation speech of Pope Benedict XVI” https://www.dw.com/en/full-text-of-the-resignation-speech-of-pope-benedict-xvi/a-16591358
[v] “Declaratio” [official Vatican Latin translation] at http://www.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/speeches/2013/february/documents/hf_ben-xvi_spe_20130211_declaratio.html
[vi] “The key word in that statement is munus petrinum, translated — as happens most of the time — with ‘Petrine ministry.’ And yet, munus, in Latin, has a multiplicity of meanings: it can mean service, duty, guide or gift, even prodigy. Before and after his resignation, Benedict understood and understands his task as participation in such a “Petrine ministry.” [i.e. munus] He has left the papal throne and yet, with the step made on February 11, 2013, he has not at all abandoned this ministry. Instead, he has complemented the personal office with a collegial and synodal dimension, as a quasi-shared ministry (als einen quasi gemeinsamen Dienst)…”
[vii] William F Cahill, “Fraud and Error in the Canon Law of Marriage,” The Catholic Lawyer, April 1955, Vol. 1, No. 2.
[ix] “Substantial error is a mistaken judgment which affects the essential elements of resignation…either the cause or motivation for resignation or the nature of resignation and its consequences.” John P. Beal et al., eds., New Commentary on the Code of Canon Law (New York, NY: Paulist Press, 2000), p. 221-222.
NEW MINI COURSE: Body of Christ vs Body of Satan COMING March 25th (class one), April 1st (class two), April 8th (class three), April 15th (class four)
“If the Son of God was revealed to us,” writes St. John in his First Epistle, “it was that he might undo what the Devil had done.” This mini-course will reveal the Son of God in the Body offered on Calvary, in the Mass, and in the Mystical Body of the Baptized Faithful & the role each plays in spiritual warfare with the Devil. Only $99 when you enroll by March 20th ($125 after). Meets at 6pm Pacific Daylight Time. Runs 1 hour and 15 min.
EPHESUS: From Mother Goddess to God's Mother. Capital of Roman Asia, Ephesus was one of their largest cities & home to one of the 7 Wonders of the World, the Great Temple of the Goddess Artemis. (Only a single column remains of what would have dwarfed the Parthenon.) Artemis, or "Diana," was a mother-goddess bringing fertility and prosperity to this once ancient port-city. Tourists can still buy silver statuettes of the many-breasted diva. St Paul preached monotheism in the city and his followers were dragged in a riot to the ancient amphitheatre, seating a max of 24,000, one can still rest in its bleachers-and test its acoustics. St. John is said to have built a house here for Mary, the Mother of Jesus, & the reconstruction is visited by millions of Christians (& Muslims). In 431, the Council of Christian bishops met in the city declaring her "Mother of God."
Posted by Edmund Mazza on Monday, August 24, 2009
DISCOUNT EXTENDED BY POPULAR DEMAND cost is $300 for one course or $450 if you sign up for both.
Happy to report that Mazza history classes will be recorded and available to view outside of actual class time!
If you’d be interested in Live (and recorded) Online Church History & World History courses with Dr. Ed, please enroll by selecting one of the enrollment buttons below. We will tentatively start Church History on Tues Jan 12th at 6 pm PST (and finish on Tues April 13th). Content: Ages 13 and up.
Classes will tentatively run approximately 70-80 minutes. Q&A will follow for 10 minutes or more for those who can stay. I will suggest readings. No tests. No pressure. Tentative schedule below:
We will tentatively start World History on Wed Jan 13th at 6pm PDT (and finish on Wed April 14th). Classes will run approximately 70-80 minutes. Tentative schedule/topics below:
Church History: St. Francis (AD 1217) to Our Lady of Fatima (AD 1917)
1/12/21 St. Francis & St. Clare of Assisi, Dante
1/19/21 Trial of Templars, Avignon Papacy, St. Catherine of Siena
1/26/21 Multiple “Popes,” Jan Huss, Borgia Pope Alexander VI
2/2/21 Martin Luther’s “Reformation”
2/9/21 Zwingli, Calvin, Anabaptist “Reformers”
2/16/21 St. Ignatius of Loyola & St. Teresa of Avila
2/23/21 Council of Trent & Battle of Lepanto
3/2/21 Spanish Inquisition, Jesuit Missions
3/9/21 Wars of Religion & Politics
3/16/21 St. Margaret Mary & Sacred Heart vs Jansenist France
3/23/21 19th Century Popes: Church & State
3/30/21 Our Lady of Miraculous Medal, La Salette, Lourdes
4/6/21 Russian Revolution
4/13/21 Our Lady of Fatima
World History: Black Death (1300s) to World War I (1900s)
1/13/21 Late Middle Ages: Black Death, Ockham, Marsilius of Padua
1/20/21 Late Middle Ages: St. Joan of Arc, Ottoman Turks, Isabella of Castille
1/27/21 Renaissance: Medici Florence, Brunelleschi’s Dome, Botticelli & Savonarola
2/3/21 Renaissance: Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael
2/10/21 New World: Columbus, Aztecs & Our Lady of Guadalupe
2/17/21 Reformation: Henry VIII, St. Thomas More, Elizabeth I
2/24/21 Counter Reformation: St. Francis Xavier, India & Japan
3/3/21 Baroque: St. Robert Bellarmine, Galileo, Bernini
3/10/21 Enlightenment: Descartes, Locke, Jefferson
3/17/21 French Revolution & Napoleon
3/24/21 Industrial Revolution
3/31/21 Marxism & Darwinism
4/7/21 Nationalism & Colonialism
4/14/21 World War I