Of two minds about two heads…

Despite the length and vigor of my recent post on the strange tale of the two popes, I would like to make it clear that I am not asserting anything dogmatically. I am merely running many peculiar data through the codgitator, while you get to sift through the entrails. As far as my research currently extends, there are two factors which secure my benefit of the doubt for the “received” understanding of the current papacy.

First, the language of Benedict’s declaration seems pretty clear (Latin; English): he intended to vacate the Chair of Peter.

Second, the bishop of Rome is the successor Peter, and Benedict is no longer the bishop of Rome: Francis is.

(See? I’m not as insane as everybody wants to believe!)

Nevertheless, I am still deeply troubled by what Benedict has, apparently, wrought with his bizarre quasi-resignation. I am trying to get access to and an understanding of Professor Stefano Violi’s paper on the canonical nuances–and lacunae–of Benedict’s renuntiatio. If an esteemed Italian professor of canon law says there is a crucial distinction between renouncing the munus petrinum and its ministerium, I am more than willing to temper my reading of the declaratio with his analysis, especially since Benedict has apparently not even totally abdicated the papal ministerium (viz. he chooses to maintain the orando-et-patendo aspect of the papal executio)! If Benedict renounced the munus petrinum (qua the “central” nature of the papacy), then he has no right, at the very least, not in Rome, to execute the papal ministerium (qua the “peripheral” nature of the papacy). If, however, he still has canonical “access” to the ministerium, this can only be because he still retains the former. Since it is only the Petrine office which guarantees the graces of papal authority, one must ask how a beneficiary of that office could lack those graces–unless there is not in fact such an absolute connection between the Roman papacy and the Petrine supremacy.

Pope Benedict and the Holy Face Stefano SpazianiI also find it astounding that the reality of there being “two popes” in “one church” is apparently faced as an open secret in Italy. How can such a frank, and frankly confusing, discussion even be taking place without hordes of conservative kapos stomping on the throats of those who so clearly “hate Pope Francis” (or something)? I gather that one era of fascism was enough for Italian Catholics, but we are a younger nation of faithful, so the adolescent angst rampant in AmChurch is understandable.

But I digress.

The problem that I am grappling with is not that a former occupant of the See of Peter is still alive, but that, apparently, it was the previous pope’s desire to create two popes–or at least two modes of the papacy–which could operate in different ways, presumably to meet different “needs”. Unfortunately, this pluralizing of the papacy is as novel as it is problematic (and just as potentially divisive). It’s little wonder that a papacy which ended on such precarious and murky terms has given birth to a papacy that has been a highlight reel of novelty and confusion. There is a great deal of fog surrounding Pope Francis, but perhaps this is only because he stands too close in time to the pope whose abdication kicked the Vatican fog machine into high gear. Numerous Catholics these days are seeing double simply because the Church is poping double, if not doubling down on ogling a popularized papacy. In that sense, the dubious duality of the papacy these days is but a holographic condensation of the pluralistic ambiguity and failure of nerve which has wracked the Church–and flummoxed the faithful–since at least the Second Vatican Council. Where once it was obvious that there was “one pastor to rule them all,” the Church now grapples with a tendency to believe that there is “one council to trump all else.”

Yet, as the quotations from Vatican I in my previous post establish, the unicity of the Petrine See is as dogmatic a fact as its perpetuity (sorry, sedevacantists) and its infallibility (sorry, Protestants). If there really are “two popes”, and if that was Benedict’s desire, then the divisiveness of the confusing novelty springs to the fore. It’s not hard to fathom how this papal pluralism, wrought by an act of astounding papal positivism, fosters the individualistic, stylized factionalism precisely which the papacy is intended to confute.

About The Codgitator (a cadgertator)

Catholic convert. Quasi-Zorbatic. Freelance interpreter, translator, and web marketer. Former ESL teacher in Taiwan (2003-2012) and former public high school teacher (2012-2014). Married father of three. Multilingual, would-be scholar, and fairly consistent fitness monkey. My research interests include: the interface of religion and science, the history and philosophy of science and technology, ancient and medieval philosophy, and cognitive neuroscience. Please pray for me.
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37 Responses to Of two minds about two heads…

  1. c matt says:

    It’s not hard to fathom how this papal pluralism, wrought by an act of astounding papal positivism, fosters the individualistic, stylized factionalism precisely which the papacy is intended to confute.

    Holy Fathers, Batman!

  2. mryan510 says:

    Shades of the “sedeprivationist” theory, no?

    If, it seems to me, we take VCI at its infallible word, it is impossible for the Pope Emeritus to have “canonical ‘access’ to the ministerium”, for the papacy is an all or nothing proposition and cannot be divided into autonomous “parts” or “offices”, let alone “persons”. As VCI makes abundantly and dogmatically clear, the “Petrine office” (supreme apostolic primacy) neither resides in, nor is conferred through, the Church. No, it resides with Christ and is conferred directly and immediately by Christ upon (“in”) every successor of Peter as soon as he accepts the Office. The canonical (or other) hydra theory (remove one head and two grow back in its place) simply does not work, though it can make for some comic relief (sure beats crying).

  3. frangelo says:


    If this grows legs is it testimony to the power of wishful thinking. What lies behind it is a growing contempt for Francis and the hope that he is really not pope. No one with half a Catholic education seriously thinks there are two popes. For a valid conclave to take place thee See must first be vacant. Even if it was possible for a Pope to change this, he cannot just write his intention on a piece of paper and put it in his pocket. Nothing is validly promulgated in that way.

    So the wishfuls concoct a hypothetically possible and evidentially improbable theory based on facts that admit multiple possible interpretations. It is an inherently ambiguous situation. But how often do we have a bishop alive who once was pope and is no longer?

    This particular man has the weight of his choice bearing heavily upon him. He was convinced it was the right thing to do, and he in no way sees his choice as abandoning his vocation. “Pope Emeritus” may simply mean he was pope and now he is not, like pastor emeritus. He wears a modified form of papal dress, maybe because he once was pope and now he is Pope Emeritus. He stays within the Vatican walls because perhaps he can imagine what would happen if he went elsewhere. He probably has a quieter life now under the protection of the Vatican walls and more security than he would ever have elsewhere. And so what if he wanted to make himself easily available to his successor, if it seemed to the latter to be expedient?

    But the real problem with the theory is that it assumes that this man who served the Church for so many years in so many ways, not least of which as a theologians theologian, was capable of deceiving everyone and deliberately creating a theological absurdity and an ecclesiastical monstrosity. All for what? Because he is tired and wants someone else to do all the work, but he really doesn’t want to give up being pope. All the while his pseudo-successor’s acts are simulations, frauds and sacrileges.

    And if, hypothetically, it was possible to have two popes at one, which I don’t believe for a second, how could this man foist such an innovation on the whole Church and act as though he had no idea what anyone was talking about, maybe winking here and there at the insiders? The man would be Pope Frankenstein.

    It is fringe theology and fringe journalism. And if it is no longer on the fringe, that is a very scary thing.

  4. I agree that I find it strange for fringe thoughts to be as central as they seem to be in, say, Italy, but I’m fascinated by the entire concept.

    As for valid and invalid papal actions, it’s ironic that you raise that objection, since in the earlier post on this topic, the claim was made that the pope can do pretty much anything he likes (kissing Korans, retiring-without-really-retiring, flouting Maunday Thursday rubrics, vaulting over steps to canonization, suppressing orders, concelebrating with priests of any standing, etc.). So you’ll have to take your canonical rigorism up with them. 😉

  5. There are well-intentioned men and Priests who tell us that there really is nothing to any of this novelty and to take it seriously is to surrender to what might have been an episode of, Fringe, had that show not been cancelled.

    To me, it beggars credulity to claim that there is nothing to all of this but if there were nothing to all of this then why insist on the name, the attire, the location etc ?

    If after Richard Nixon resigned and flew back to California to, bitterly biding his time, pelting Checkers with Dog Yummies, waiting for Gerald Ford to be inaugurated, and then, after the inauguration, Nixon flew back to D.C. and took up residence at the White House while President Ford took up residence at Number One Observatory Circle in northwestern Washington, D.C. I dare claim that there would not be one GOP Senator who would claim with a straight face, Hey what’s the big deal?

    There has been an astonishing amount of novelty foisted upon the flummoxed faithful and they are constantly being scolded that what is happening is either no big deal or, worse, not even actually happening at all , whereas it seems to not a few that this Church of what’s happening now may as well just introduce us to Flip Cardinal Wilson and be done with it.

    The noxious novelties multiply and amidst the change that happens with ever increasing frequency and intensity one can barely even hear anymore the watchmen telling the city; B> It is twelve o’clock and all is continuity

  6. drprice2 says:

    Perhaps it makes more sense to call it a “quasi-resignation” than “pseudo-“. The latter indicates more of a fraud or falsehood.

    I think it was a mistake that Benedict didn’t follow the relevant precedent–Celestine–to the hilt. He could still have holed up somewhere afterwards, praying, writing and–yes–even teaching. I don’t think he could quit the last any more than he could quit eating.

    Ultimately, I think a significant part of the problem with Francis is that he succeeded someone who resigned–the Catholic gestalt doesn’t process that well, and it was a shock to the equilibrium which we still haven’t recovered from.

  7. frangelo says:

    I suppose it is possible for some to view the following statement as canonically rigorous: a papal conclave conducted under deliberately false pretenses, namely, the simulation of vacancy, is invalid.

    In that loosey-goosey world, I would hate to see laxity! It is not Pope Francis.

    And I can’t help wonder why it is that anyone would find it so easy to believe that Pope Benedict could act in such bad faith. What they are suggesting is truly monstrous. Pope Benedict would be epic liar–indeed, one who lied to the Holy Spirit and to the whole Church. If anyone in the college of cardinals had gotten wind of this alleged intention, the jig would have been up. Only the fringe believes this possible of Benedict.

    None of it would be suggested if it weren’t for Francis derangement syndrome.

  8. Dear Father. The good thing about being putatively guilty of the Francis derangement syndrome is that it absolves one of culpability; of course, hearing that you are insane for some is a novelty and so they may take exception.

    Not me. I am used to it and I find it quite comforting to be thought of that way by certain others.

    O,and I do think you are a galactic distance from the subject matter in that what is being discussed in here is not what you are trying to reframe it as.

    I have yet to read one comment in here- on this or in the previous thread – that said Pope Francis is not Pope nor have I read one word in either thread that anyone desires that he not really be the Pope.

    There is no need to restate the continuing clarifying analysis by B.C. as to what he has been addressing but there is a need to address what B.C. has been writing and, frankly, I do not see that you are doing that but, rather, responding in here to arguments and claims made elsewhere.

    Personally, I don’t find that helpful

  9. By the way, Fr.Angelo, I failed to point out a pearl of wisdom from Pope Francis himself, which he pronounced at Trinity Sunday last year, in Evangelii Gaudium, and in various other places: Reality is best understood from the periphery (fringe?), not from the center. Take it up with the Holy Father, I guess.

    In any case, how can the fringe be so bad when the bleeding woman was healed by touching the fringe of Christ’s robe?

    And might it not smack a bit of poisoning the well to dismiss reasoned evidence as “fringe”? Would this need to be discussed in La Civiltà Cattolica in order not to be considered fringe? I consider a discussion of the same topic by at least five professional authors (Socci, Messori, Badde, Gigliotti, Magister, and perhaps also Tornielli) in as many established publications to be less than fringe, but I’m just a guy from Florida.

    In any case, I’m just engaging in “dialogue”–that’s what the Church is all about, right?

  10. Tony Jokin says:

    Maybe I dumb and ignorant but I just don’t get it.

    If Pope Francis is indeed Pope (ABS seems to admit he is not confused on that one), then the matter is over. Anything else is just self confusion. I am not sure what is there to address other than issues of possible imprudence. The imprudence is nothing new. We can call it novelty or we can call it imprudence, lack of foresight or any other thing someone might prefer. But at the end of the day, it really shouldn’t surprise us or confuse us this much.

    Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has made it clear several times that he is done and retired. If this whole thing is about why Pope Francis seems to go to advise from him, why can’t he just act like a father figure or counselor? Pope Francis doesn’t have to listen to his advise or carry them out but there is no harm in asking. If Pope Francis decided to keep Cardinal Kasper close by to him to consult him on everything, does it make Cardinal Kasper a Pope? No.

    As for the Canon lawyer, I think we are forgetting the most important thing here: The Pope is the final interpreter of Canon Law. So if Pope Benedict XVI deemed his resignation letter sufficient in communicating his total resignation, then it is sufficient. Neither you nor I or Prof. Stefano can bring up canons to debate his decision. The fact that Pope Francis has not expressed any concern regarding the resignation or requested a rewrite further settles the matter.

    I honestly feel that this whole thing is a needless distraction.

  11. “pseudo”/”quasi”

    You’re right, Dale, thanks. I literally paused a few seconds over that hyphenation. I was in a rush at work, so I will change it back to “quasi-” (though perhaps “crypto” woube more fitting in our day?).

  12. The best Saints inspire us by their tirelessly devotion to the Faith, a devotion borne of their supernatural love for souls. “Harmless as doves, wise as serpents.”

    The pictures and practices of Pope Benedict come across as a natural love of the Vatican cafeteria and a desire to just “chill” there for the next ten, or more, years of his life.

    I say that not because it’s true, I certainly don’t know the facts and that’s not really my whole opinion, but that’s what the pictures imply to me.

    As if the Pope need not worry about setting a better example (either through being holy or understanding political implications of quick snap-shots) than his local priests.

  13. CiteCoisasQueIrritam says:

    Innocent. Alternatively, simple, which refers ideally to a simplicity of life not spent gaining things. [Comic beat.]

    Draw your own conclusions. They don’t concern me. Neither do they concern Pope Benedict XVI, although perhaps he has a good reason for being called Pope Emeritus rather than anything less complimentary.

  14. Tony:

    First, and I mean this politely, if you “feel that this whole thing is a needless distraction”, you might not want to dignify it with a response, and simply not add to any discussion of it.

    Second, I agree that the pope is the ultimate arbiter of canon law, but the point is that there is not a little evidence that HIS OWN sense of his renuntiatio was not a total, traditional abdication. Indeed, Valero Gigliotti argues that Benedict’s resignation, while “fully in the path of tradition” (i.e. it wasn’t the first papal resignation?), creates a new juridical and mystical category, a novelty which was, apparently, the former (lesser?) pope’s intention. When the supreme interpreter leaves us in the lurch with a novel and unclear declaratio, we are left to our own devices to make sense of it. In that respect, Benedict’s resignation was very much in the spirit of Vatican II. The Magisterium is also the final arbiter of what V2 means, and yet for half a century the faithful have been left wondering and wandering what exactly V2 really meant and entails (recall our discussion of D.H. and Dr. Pink). A final interpreter is useless if it invokes certain canonically and logically precise terms in novel ways, without precisely and authoritatively clarifying their new import as he intends it. Francis did not alter canon law by flouting the rubrics for Maundy Thursday, but he was clearly transmitting a different teaching by his actions. The same holds for Benedict’s crypto-papal lifestyle.

    Third, Pope Francis himself has said that there are two popes. Benedict wants to be known as an honorary pope. People make jokes and memes about the two popes. Yet, when challenged on the meaning of such a novelty, people will backpedal and say that Ratzinger (Benedict?) is not REALLY the pope. He’s just… a pope. Ummm, what? If he RESIGNED, then he’s NOT the pope, and there are not TWO POPES. Yet if he persists in fulfilling parts of the papal ministry (loquendo, orando, patendo), in papal garb, in the papal precincts, and with the title of pope, then I feel compelled to wonder, “Did he really resign in a traditionally coherent way?”

    This is all simply perverse, and if you think it’s not novel, then I know a few clown masses you might enjoy. You say that this discussion is a massive distraction, but the irony is that the Church has been plagued for a year by the Weapon of Mass Distraction known as Benedict’s quasi-resignation and Francis’s pontifical minimalism. The Church thinks in centuries, but I suppose Ratzinger forgot that towards the end of his papacy, since he apparently thinks the best thing for the Church was not a slow and natural transition from his papacy to the next, but instead some slapdash corporate rehauling which would give new market momentum to the sagging brand known as “Catholicism WOW!”

    Finally, I notice that you often like to dispense with criticisms by calling various words and actions “imprudent”. Yet, are you not aware that imprudence is a sin, and sometimes even a mortal sin? The last thing the Church needs is a rambunctiously imprudent pope, and the second to last thing she needs is a battalion of water carriers waving their hands at the damage being done by ecclesial innovation. Or as another commenter elsewhere put it:

    “There is no doubt who rules in Rome these days: Francis & Kasper. That is the realpolitik diarchy. Benedict is a potemkin-emeritus at best. Give it a couple of years, though, and the ‘diarchy’ will have become a synodocracy: Francis, Kasper, and a cast of thousands, a kind of permanently intermittent council — a concept somewhere between US congressional sessions and Grateful Dead tours.”

    When, O Lord, will You deliver Your Church, Your Holy Bride, the Seat of WISDOM, from this soul-devouring midlife crisis?

  15. Tony Jokin says:

    I apologize if I sounded frustrated. All I am saying is this.

    As you admit, the Pope is the final arbiter of canon law. If he deems his resignation to be complete, then it is indeed complete. If Pope Francis states that there are two Popes, we can only bin it together with the rest of his colorful off the cuff comments. Because our decision on who to assent as Pope is already made at the time of resignation and then the new election and acceptance. It is not ordinary Catholic practice to then try to decipher who is Pope by the actions and attire, no? To be doing that itself seems like a novelty to me.

    On the matter of imprudence, I am aware it is a sin but I also feel that it is hard to pin culpability today on the Popes. They too are the product of this society. Even in your own life, there might have been some imprudent acts in your life that you never thought of that way because no one had informed you as such. This is not because you were an unfaithful Catholic but because prudent behavior is often passed down and learned through tradition and culture. One does not always reinvent the wheel from scratch when met with certain problems because they have that traditional wisdom to draw from. When one reinvents the wheel, very often it is imperfect in comparison to that which has been passed down too.

    But today we have neither tradition or culture for the most part. Many of us have already discarded much of what was passed down to us by simply discounting them as “now we know better” or arguing from the “exception to the general” (It worked for me in that one time so I think we shouldn’t be against doing that). I am not talking here about the traditions in regards to just the mass or Catholic piety but more importantly with respect to Catholic living. That is where most of our Popes have dropped the ball. They simply show a lack of an understanding on how their actions would be naturally perceived by society. But if they had a culture or set of traditions passed down, they would easily know what they are doing is ridiculously bad.

    I think this is why when you read the advise past Popes and Saints gave, there is a big difference to what we hear today. You will see a saint who discourages young girls from attending dances. The Pope today might encourage the young girl to attend a dance to evangelize. It is not some ill intent on the part of the Pope. It is just lack of awareness of simple tradition and cultural knowledge.

    In reality, this is what plagues our entire society today. Some Catholics know the faith and how fornication, adultery, or divorce is wrong and yet they end up in situations where they end up committing those very things. The reason is their imprudence and not knowing how to avoid certain temptations that were easily known to our ancestors because of culture and traditions.

    I know I digressed quiet a lot here but I thought you should know why I tend to throw the word “imprudence” around so much. I honestly believe that the entire problem with our Western society can be solved to a large degree if we made people understand the wisdom of our European culture and traditions that had roots in Christianity. Without it, we can only expect unintentional imprudence for quiet sometime till we reinvent the wheel again (IF we ever get there).

  16. frangelo says:

    Codgitator @ June 2, 18:12

    I am all for dialogue and have no problem with the fact of a conversation about this.

    Unless you can show otherwise the fringe examples you give seem to be instances of the fallacy of the undistributed middle term. One might be on the fringe because a bully majority has isolated a certain section of society for no good reason, or one might be on the fringe because his opinions are rejected by normal men. The fringe of Our Lord’s robe is on the frontier, so to speak, between his human and divine natures, the former being the instrument of the latter. For the woman with the hemorrhage, the fringe of Our Lord’s robe is the “sacramental” point of contact with divine power working through His humanity. All different things.

    Perhaps you are right and I have poisoned the well a bit. But then, again, I cannot go so far as to say that what I have called “the fringe” represents reasoned evidence. De facto and de jure, Benedict renounced the papacy. His official act could not be any clearer. That is evidence.

    I would not say that the construction of a theory based on highly subjective interpretations of facts, which support various interpretations, is derived from reasoned evidence. It is an untested hypothesis that stands in direct contradiction to the plain fact of Pope Benedict’s official and complete renunciation of the papacy. Otherwise, you have to say that while Benedict wrote, signed and said that he was making a complete renunciation, he did so with his fingers crossed. He then kept up the pretense all the way to the election of his successor. Without such a deception there is no imaginable universe in which a conclave would ever have been conducted.

    This kind of behavior, on the part of the theorists, suggests that there are motives behind the interpretation of the facts, which go well beyond the issue at hand. In other words, the theory is not the fruit of theological or historical research, but an interpretation based on a certain contingent vision of the Church at the present moment.

    I don’t think Tornielli can be counted among the rest, because he did the only reasonable thing that anyone could do in this situation, when otherwise reasonable men seem to have lost their senses. He went and asked Pope Benedict for the truth in the matter. But, of course, for those who have descended into the delirium of this kind of speculation, no explanation will ever be clear enough.

    In his clarification to Tornielli, Benedict himself called this kind of speculation “absurd.” And so it is.

  17. In his clarification to Tornielli, Benedict himself called this kind of speculation “absurd.” And so it is.

    Had Bishop Emeritus, Ratzinger, not done what he did; had he not continued to refer to himself as Pope; had he not used that novel form of resignation; had he not continued to appear wearing what the vast majority of Christian Catholics consider to be Papal attire; had not the New Pope called the not-pope, Pope, then we would not be enmeshed in these putative absurdities but all of the strum und drag is owing solely to the actions of the power-holding Hierarchy but you desire to beleaguer the powerless laity.

    Those who act a certain way are directly responsible for the scandals they cause and Our Holy Father and the not Pope are continually giving scandal and it ill-becomes you to claim it is the flummoxed faithful who are at fault.

    THEY are the problem: THEY give scandal.

  18. Dang. My word processor is forever making me appear to be the dolt that I really am.

    I spelled it sturm und drang

  19. frangelo says:


    You basically admit its absurd, but insist on giving it as much credibility as one can get out of an absurdity, so that you can blame it on New Church.

    This is a boutique theory that only a very small corner of the Internet is even noticing, let alone taking seriously.

  20. Actually, I thought “strum and drag” was a brilliant adaptation. “Sturm und Drang” ist aber richtig.

  21. Branch says:

    “This is a boutique theory that only a very small corner of the Internet is even noticing, let alone taking seriously.”

    Appeal to magnitude fallacy?

  22. Dear Father. Who is responsible for this sturm und drang? Who caused it? Who’s responsible for it?

    Its cause is crystal clear but you do not address it at all.

  23. A synodal papacy naturally leads to a pluralistic Church, and vice versa. The Orthodox themselves long ago condemned phyletism, but can never quite escape its pull. It makes sense that as our liberalizing leaders attempt to ape their synodal ways, we too find the Church being balkanized.

    Just remember, ABS, it’s all in your mind, and you just need to buck up. Good sheep know how to take care of themselves. Let the shepherds do their thing.

  24. frangelo says:

    No Branch, I already showed why the theory is absurd. Once that is established its easy to understand why so few even aver to its existence.

    ABS, I would say that if a theory that is objectively absurd is spread by otherwise intelligent men, who propose it as something to be taken seriously, then they are certainly responsible for the scandal that ensues (what little there is of it).

    The cause is conspiracy theory. You can’t prove or even begin to prove that the reason why Benedict uses his present title, or dresses the way he does or lives where he does, is that he deceived the Church and simulated a renunciation. You, yourself have all but admitted that it is a crock. But then again, no one needs to prove this kind of stuff. Innuendo gets plenty of milage with out any help.

    On the other hand, it is a matter of uncontested fact that Benedict formally and absolutely renounced the papacy in very specific and definitive terms–in writing as a matter of fact, and on television. That is a indisputable fact that anyone can verify. There is nothing theoretical about it.

    Codgitator, that is very glib of you. I am not sure I could come up with a response even if one was necessary.

  25. ABS, I would say that if a theory that is objectively absurd is spread by otherwise intelligent men, who propose it as something to be taken seriously, then they are certainly responsible for the scandal that ensues (what little there is of it).

    Dear Father. Blaming the victims is not the right thing to do. Those who give scandal are complicit in the sins of the victims the scandal is visited upon.

    None of this theorising about the specific words used by Bishop Emeritus, Ratzinger, is the responsibility of the victims of it; he caused this problem and he should be held accountable for it and it does nobody any good to pretend the real problem is the effects of a consequential cause rather than the cause itself.

    He and Our Holy Father are the cause of this legitimate response and they have the responsibility to clean-up the scandalous mess. And they could easily do so if there is nothing at all behind the undeniable symbolism and language .

    Absurd theorising this and fringe that completely misses the target. NONE of these things would exist were it not for the actions of two men and those two men could end this in a heartbeat and we all know it but the scandal and the questions about it are not extinguished by claims of “absurd.”

    There has to be a reason why those responsible for the scandal are not being called to account for it and asked to stop. I would like to know what the reason is.

  26. Claudio says:

    I recommend the following blog post on this topic:


  27. I appreciate that information, thank you, Claudio.

    Let me reiterate that my fundamental objection/worry is not that we don’t know who the real pope is, but that Benedict has created a novel yet incoherent and reckless “mode” of papal authority. According to canon law, we must accept his resignation, but it does not follow that we must condone (much less theologically normalize!) the collateral meaning and side-effects of his action. With much foresight and prudence, Gregory XII resigned to end a great schism. I would not be surprised if, because of a lack of foresight and prudence, Benedict’s unprecedented “active retirement” ends in a great schism.

    Previous papal abdications, except for that of Celestine V, were all based on schism, persecution, corruption, and the like, so it makes you wonder what message the quasi-pope was trying to send. Mundabor argues that Benedict did not want to be like Celestine V, yet, as his visit to Celestine’s grave in 2009 indicates, he clearly did want to imitate that pope. Neither man really enjoyed being pope, so they abdicated; but at least Celestine had the good sense and humility to embrace the withdrawal on every level, in a traditional fashion, rather than muddying the waters with an ecclesiologically mystifying papal pluralism.

  28. I have seen claims that the use of, Pope Emeritus, is no different than the use of, President Emeritus, but i have never heard of the Impeached POTUS, Mr. Clinton, referred to as, President Emeritus, nor is it proper to do so.


  29. frangelo says:

    ” Benedict has created a novel yet incoherent and reckless “mode” of papal authority.”

    Because of his title, clothes, and home address?

    And what exactly does it mean to say that Benedict has created such a “mode of papal authority”? Who actually thinks he has papal authority?

    And if you don’ think there is any worry that “we don’t know who the real pope is,” then what mode of papal authority did Benedict create, or even appear to create?

  30. On Celestine V, since he keeps coming up, I have to point out that he spent his entire post-papal life first in hiding from people trying to kidnap him, then in prison once his successor managed to do it. There is little to learn from his withdrawal post-papacy because absolutely none of it was on his own terms.

  31. I’m basing my claim on some of Valero Gigliotti’s claims, as reported by Sandro Magister in Chiesa, and I’m trying to get my hands on Stefano Violi’s article about the renunciation of Benedict.

    I realize that I often come across “strongly”, perhaps even snidely, but that is not my intent. I really love a fair debate, and, when I’m not feeling morose, I think this all makes for a fascinating discussion.

  32. Dear brothers and sisters, I hear this word of God as addressed to me in particular at this moment of my life. The Lord is calling me ‘to scale the mountain’, to devote myself even more to prayer and meditation. But this does not mean abandoning the Church; indeed, if God asks me this it is precisely so that I may continue to serve her with the same dedication and the same love with which I have tried to do so until now, but in a way more suited to my age and strength.”

    This statement intensifies my flummification.

    Had he not continued to call his own self, Pope; had he not continued to dress himself in that attire; had he requested others call him, Bishop Emeritus; had he chosen to assume humbler attire; how would that have diminished his service to the Church?

    Are we to conclude from the statement that his use of Pope, and his attire, are a response to the word of God? Did God ask him or tell him to do these things?

    Why are the laity simply expected to constantly accept these novelties as essentially existing without meaning or substance?

    Said differently; if these symbols (words and actions) truly are meaningless, then why continue to call one’s own self, Pope; why continue to wear the attire signifying the Papal office, etc etc?

    He has to know these novel actions are causing concern and confusing the flummoxed faithful and how does that serve the Church?

  33. ABS:

    I think Benedict was just dodging Gherardini’s plea. 😉

    A serious canonical question I have is, what basis is there for saying that there is some enduring, indelible papal munus (as there is for episcopal ordination)? As far as I know, there’s no fourth sacramental order. As such, if Benedict truly renounced the whole papal ministry–to which he’d have rights only by retaining the munus petrinum–, then he’s not a pope emeritus: he’s a retired bishop. Full stop. So let’s cut out all these corporatist hijinks and stop valorizing nouvelle theologie theological novelties.

  34. And to charge that one is engaging in some fringe activity by thinking/writing about this is, I think, to miss the point. The question is not about how few men are interested in this novelty, rather, the question should be about the facts of the novelty and what are the consequences arising from them?

    As for ignoring the plea about the status of V2 posed by Msgr Gherardhini, what other choice did he have? With all due respect to the former Pope, I think it would take a Himalayan height of humility
    to render a positive response to the request given his work as a conciliar peritus and then his scores of years defending V2.

    In considering the question of the doctrinal continuity twixt V2 and that which came before, Msgr Gherardini memorably summarised it as a question that needs to be addressed not by declamation but by demonstration.

    Continuity; Not by declaration but by demonstration is the Msgr’s phrase that has been seared into my intellect.

  35. frangelo says:


    I think you are confusing sign and signification. You seem to think that any change in a sign, because it can be interpreted loosely as a “novelty,” changes the meaning. It seems also that you think that anything that might loosely be called a “novelty” cannot be reconciled with Tradition.

    But it is completely coherent within the parameters of traditional Catholic theology to make a distinction between sign and signification. This is why the East can use leavened bread and the West unleavened in the Mass, because this particular modification of the sign does not substantially change the signification. The sacramental element (the sign) is still bread and it adequately represents the effect of the sacrament. For the same reason, one cannot baptize with wine, because the use of that sign can in no way signify washing. The sign is more “plastic” than the signification, but it cannot be changed arbitrarily. Sign vs. signification accounts for organic development, and its abuse for corruption.

    In the present, case we are looking at sign vs. signification from the other side. You seem to be saying that the sign has not changed, or has changed ambiguously, so therefore, the title, manner of dress and location signify that Benedict is still pope. I disagree because the sign has changed sufficiently to account for a change in meaning. It is not Pope, but Pope Emeritus. And he neither dresses exactly like or lives with Pope Francis. The signs have changed sufficiently to account for the fact that he is no longer pope, but still remains someone who once was pope.

    If the signs had radically changed and he went back to Joseph Ratzinger, to wearing a black sultana and lived and Bavaria, many could and very likely would have concluded that the meaning (signification) is that he given the boot from the Vatican and that the new Pope wanted to see to it that his former influence was reduced as much as possible.

    This is not mathematics. You have to look at the intention to exactly what the signs mean. And Benedict has done this both by means of us act of renunciation and by the clarifications that he has offered since then.

    That is a philosophical explanation of what the vast majority of Catholics understand without having the tools to explain it precisely. They simply are not confused, because there is nothing objectively confusing about it. It is unusual to have a ex-pope still alive. There are certain aspects of his life (signs) that are unusual, because the mean something (signification) unusual.

    Just because there are unusual signs is no justification to suggest they may signify something extreme, especially when that extreme is a monstrosity, and when the very words of the Benedict contradict that possibility.

    What you really object to is the renunciation in se, apart from any of its manifestations, because you consider the whole thing an unjustified novelty. I would suggest this also of Codgitator @ June 4, 2014 at 07:32.

  36. frangelo says:

    Codgitator @ June 4, 2014 at 17:46

    There is no papal munus adhering in a indelible character, one specific to the papacy consider apart from what is proper to the fulness of Holy Orders. The papal munus, indeed, is not like a sacrament.

    Theologians are at pains to describe what it is precisely that provides for the ministry of the prophets in the Old Testament, whereby it appears that they have a stable gift. The stable ministries of apostles (not the Twelve), prophets and teachers, described by St. Paul that existed in the Corinthian Church present the same problem. These are all clearly charismatic functions given for the upbuilding of the Church and not modifications in the soul of the persons themselves. And so they are not considered to be stable gifts. If there is an office, it appears that God has simply chosen these persons in a evident way (as in a conclave, or the transfer of the mantle of Elias), and the charisms are given by the Holy Spirit as he wills with no stable character to account for it.

    You infer that if such is the case, then Benedict has no right to call himself Pope Emeritus. You make the same mistake ABS does. You don’t see the difference between sign and signification.

    Since there is no “habit” associated with being pope, by your logic, the pope should only use the signs of the papacy when he is actually exercising the charisms of his office. More than that, when he is not actually exercising them, he would not at those moments really be pope. That is like saying that Isaiah only had a right to be called a prophet when he was actually prophesying.

    If pope Benedict has no right to be called Pope Emeritus, then a former pastor has no right to be called Pastor Emeritus. Pope Emeritus signifies the same kind of relation to the former office as does Pastor Emeritus. Neither one of them have a indelible character associated with their former offices. The name signifies exactly the realty. One used to be pope, the other pastor. End of story.

    Benedict did not need to dodge Gherardini’s plea. He simple ignored it for years as pope. The question is not relevant.

  37. Dear Father. Thank you for taking the time to write such a patient and instructive response. You have given me a lot to think about.

Be kind, be (relatively) brief, be clear...

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