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Steven O'Reilly Debates Catholic Monitor Reader on if Benedict is Pope: Who Won?

Today, the Catholic pundit Steven O'Reilly from Roma Locuta Est and Catholic Monitor reader In Their Hearts debated if Benedict is Pope (BiP). It was a joy to read. You had two scholars going toe-to-toe with interesting well written arguments.

In Their Hearts apparently is learned in the Latin language and I am hoping he might debate Latinist Br. Alexis Bugnolo in the future on their disputes over the best translation of the Pope Benedict XVI resignation text. The Monitor reader is also well versed in theology as is O'Reilly who has excellent debating skills.

Is Benedict pope?

Who won the debate?

I leave it up to the Catholic Monitor readers to decide. Enjoy this well fought debate:

In Their Hearts:

Concerning Benedict's resignation let's set the record straight:

1. We are not at the time of the antichrist! Why? Precisely because with the Consecration and conversion of Russia, the world will experience "an era of peace," promised by Our Lady at Fatima.

2. Revelations and prophecies in Sacred Scripture are NOT always given chronologically, at least in a clear fashion. All one has to do is read the Commentary of St. Thomas on 2 Thess. 2. There St. Thomas divides the two events mentioned by St. Paul, the Mystery of Iniquity, i.e., the "revolt" or as it is sometimes translated the "falling away," and the coming of the antichrist, the man of sin, the son of perdition with a space of time between them--most likely the period of peace promised by Our Lady.

3. Benedict chooses his words very carefully, but HE DID NOT choose the future tense to say that "the See WILL be vacant." He used the subjunctive which has specific uses but basically it represents not a fact but an idea. It was not a mistake, nor was he hiding anything; he was testing the Cardinals for their knowledge of Latin! Although I give a technical explanation with the translation in my Treatise what Benedict ultimately says is that "a conclave is needing to be called PROVIDED the see is vacant. No one has shown where this is wrong--they can't because I very carefully document what I say. Hence IN NO WAY can it be said that Benedict was splitting the Petrine Office from the Roman See, PRECISELY AND ESPECIALLY SINCE HE WAS DETERMINED TO REMAIN IN THE VATICAN!!!

4. Benedict publicly stated that his renunciation was made freely and was valid. For any attempt to say that he made an error one HAS AN OBLIGATION TO SHOW EITHER THAT BENEDICT WAS STUPID OR THAT HE INTENDED TO LIE; or as the rage in some quarters has it, Benedict intentionally "pulled the wool over the eyes" of those dressed in sheep's clothing. But this must be proved as well!!!

5. Benedict demonstrated that it is the Pope, to whom St. Paul was referring, who was holding back the mystery of iniquity which was active from the time of St. Paul, so when Benedict “stepped aside," he did so “that he may be revealed in his time.” Benedict was in a way “taken out of the way,” but he did it in a way that preserved the Indefectibility of the Church, by remaining the true Pope whereby the enemy of the Church was only a figurehead," or if you will is an anti-Pope." The Church had been filled with apostates to the extent that NO POPE could expose of get rid of them, not even if he were regarded as a most saintly Pope. They had to be allowed to expose themselves.

Steven O'Reilly:

Points 1 and 2: They don't appear relevant to anything I've said re BiP. If I am missing something on that score, please clarify.

Point 3: I am not a Latinist in any sense of the word. But, I would make three points. First, another BiP theorist, Br. Bugnolo, has a translation that differs from yours--as I understand it. I tend to use his in my responses to various BiP theories, since that is the general reading BiPers seems to accept (at least the "standard theory" of BiP).

In making my second point, I'd stress again I am not a latinist is any sense of the word. That said, common sense suggests to me your translation is off. That is, if you must go to the lengths of writing an explanation in a treatise to demonstrate your translation; that very fact in itself seems almost a proof your rendering must NOT be -- at a minimum -- the plain, obvious reading of the text.

Third, it doesn't make sense for BXVI to go through the trouble of the Declaratio, and saying a conclave should be called only "provided" that the See is empty. Of course it was going to be vacant as Feb 28, 2013, 20:00 hours, Rome time...that was the ultimate point of the document. All of his actions demonstrate he intended the reality of the matter, e.g., see Normas Nonnnullas. I refer you to my replies to Dr. Mazza's thesis on the question of the Declaratio, Normas Nonnullas, the last audience, and Ganswein.

Regarding Point 4...I think we're in agreement on that. I've made that point as well. If one says BXVI did not resign freely, one must defend calling BXVI a liar. But, I'd add, one must call him a liar as well if one says he did not resign, e.g., he calls himself a "former pope" in a letter to Cardinal Brandmuller.

Regarding Point 5...I disagree with your thesis as outlined. I've argued on my blog ( -- see the "Summa Contra BiP" -- that BXVI fully renounced the papacy. He retains nothing of the office or ministry. Therefore, all BiP theories are erroneous. To suggest he still has some authority...or full authority, etc; but still allowed Bergoglio to be among us is to call BXVI worse than a liar. It would be monstrous if this were part of some complicated ploy on BXVI's part. I must reject your thesis.

As to your theory being unique; it seems there are as many as 4-6 unique BiP theories. But, Socci seems to believe he kinda resigned and kinda didn't. No? Dr. Mazza believes BXVI successfully resigned part of the papacy, e.g., the "bishop of Rome" part. 

A quick follow up on setting conditions on the resignation. I've heard it before, and recently read it again...but I forget where at the moment...that St. Pius XII had submitted some sort of pre-resignation that would be effective if he were ever taken from Rome by the Germans during WWII. Again, I might be mistaken, but I believe I had heard that JPII also had some sort of resignation that would be effective should he be incapacitated. Hearing this, it wouldn't surprise me if more of the modern popes at least had had such a document.

As to one canonist's opinion, while certainly of interest, I am sure others would differ -- and I would suspect the consensus would be against him. Certainly, it seems to me at least to be a matter of common sense that a 'resignation if condition applies' document would be of benefit to the Church.

In Their Hearts:

Regarding your comments on my five point comment above you reply: "Points 1 and 2: They don't appear relevant to anything I've said re BiP. If I am missing something on that score, please clarify." Although you may consider those first two points dealing with the nature and circumstances surrounding Benedict's resignation, you indeed did not include them in your BiP arguments, but that was the precise reason why I was addressing these two points to you. Perhaps you don't consider that events, circumstances, conditions in the Church among many other matters as important, I don't know. However, I do consider them important and that they ought to be brought into any consideration on what is going on in the Church today.

Regarding your comment on not knowing Latin, one ought to know some Latin in treating of such a momentous act as Benedict's renunciation. That being said I must disagree with Br. Alexis' translation: “so that on February 28, 2013, at 20:00 Roman Time [Sedes Romae], the see of Saint Peter be vacant.” This translation in no way reflects the Subjunctive; on the contrary it is a very clever way to use the Present Future Indicative, which states a fact as opposed to stating an idea, a possibility, etc. which the Subjunctive does--in which case the translation should have been "may be vacant". The reason Brother uses provides an Indicative translation is so that he can say that Benedict made a mistake and hence the resignation is invalid. I'm sorry, but I cannot agree either that Benedict made a mistake or that he was intentionally trying to say the wrong thing, which would indeed be lying; it certainly wouldn't be a so-called mental reservation since that sentence as Brother translates it can only be understood in ONE WAY. Secondly, Benedict uses “ita ut”, not “ut” alone, which according to the Latin dictionaries means “in such a way,” to such an extent,” “on condition that,” “only insofar as.”

As for going to lengths to explain the translation I gave to that long sentence by Benedict where he declares his intention to resign from the “ministry” is because most people don't know Latin and I felt that every possible use of that construction ought to be set out. Furthermore, it is in no way a refutation as such of my translation in saying that it is so lengthy.

Concerning the comment “Third, it doesn't make sense for BXVI to go through the trouble of the Declaratio, and saying a conclave should be called only "provided" that the See is empty. Of course it was going to be vacant as Feb 28, 2013, 20:00 hours, Rome time...that was the ultimate point of the document.” it must be stressed that given the word Benedict used here, namely “ministry,” he DID NOT RESIGN FROM THE OFFICE. In the history of Canon Law, until Vatican Council II, the only words used to refer to the Petrine Office were “Papatus” and “Munus.” And even Br. Alexis shows that there is a difference in meaning between “Munus” and “ministerium.” Hence, since Benedict is NOT resigning from the Petrine Office he could use a time limit, precisely because, as I mentioned in an earlier comment, it is not legitimate to use time limits and conditions in “Juridical acts” concerning such important matters as the Papal Office or Marriage.

In the whole of your Summa Contra the BiP Theory there is an implicit denial of a basic Philosophical principle: "Actio sequitur esse" (Action follows being). The FACT that Benedict wears the white Soutane, calls himself His Holiness Pope Benedict, intentionally lives within the Vatican, has the Prefect of the Papal Household as his Secretary, wears a Papal Ring (from Pope Paul, I believe), among many other actions and events, one cannot really honestly state what you do state: "Of course it was going to be vacant as Feb 28, 2013, 20:00 hours, Rome time...that was the ultimate point of the document. All of his actions demonstrate he intended the reality of the matter, e.g., see Normas Nonnnullas."

Furthermore, if you hold that his resignation was valid, but also admit that he established a date separate from the date of his actual declaration of resignation, you are pitting yourself against a renowned Canonist whom Antonio had consulted concerning that later date of 28 February 2013 as the effective date for his resignation. In his book "The Secret of Benedict XVI, Is He Still the Pope?" Socci quotes Francisco Patruno as indicating that Benedict's resignation would be invalid given that did set a later date. And since his resignation was invalid HE WOULD STILL BE POPE. You are going to have to be more consistent in your arguments if you are going to have any credibility.

It is true that Benedict, in his letter to Cardinal Brandmuller: "I can very well understand the deep-seated pain that the end of my papacy has inflicted on you and many others." I do not read German, however, it is certain that Benedict is not going to tell the good Cardinal that is actually still Pope in a letter whose contents could easily become public.

Yes, you are correct in saying: "But, Socci seems to believe he kinda resigned and kinda didn't. No?" He even suggests that Benedict resigned from all exercise of the three Powers of Office, but goes no further. In my Treatise, I do say the same thing, however, I maintain that it would not be right to "step aside" from all exercise and then rest on one's laurels. this is because an office (MUNUS) means or connotes a DUTY; one must in some way, in order to hold the office has an obligation to exercise his power in some way.

But, Archbishop Ganswein provides the answer in his speech on 20 May 2016 at the Gregorian University. He says early in his talk there is ONLY ONE POPE, and then says in paragraph 18 of that speech: "He has left the Pontifical Throne and yet, with the step of 11 February 2013, has not absolutely abandoned this ministry. He has instead integrated/supplied the personal office with a collegial and synodal dimension, as if a ministry in common, as if with this he had wanted to validate once again the invitation contained in that motto which the then Joseph Ratzinger took for himself as Archbishop of Munich and Freising and which later on he naturally maintained as Bishop of Rome: 'cooperatores veritatis', which signifies precisely 'cooperators of truth.'” I explain that after resigning from the regular exercise of the three Powers of the Petrine Office, the Powers of Governance, of Teaching and of Order, he established a sort of "Curia" with two members; as Abp. says, there is an active member and a contemplative member. This does not signify any splitting of the Papacy; notice that Ganswein doesn't say "two Popes," but "two MEMBERS." Simply put, Benedict is the contemplative member and Ganswerin is the active member, and they exercise the Power of Order in a special way, mainly by undertaking the requests of Our Lady of Prayer and Sacrifice. In this way Benedict carries out that which the Papacy is all about, namely the spiritual end for which Christ established the Church.

Steven O'Reilly:

Again, regarding your original points 1 and 2, I certainly don't believe "that events, circumstances, conditions in the Church" are not important. Of course, I consider them important. I am just not sure what you want me to address in reference to them and in specific regard to the question at hand: BiP. I certainly do not believe the points you make in 1 or 2 make your thesis more or less probable.

Regarding not knowing Latin. Yes, of course, it would be best if we all knew Latin. That is ideal. However, I do not believe lack of latin knowledge or of any other language is an insurmountable obstacle to entering the debate, or having and expressing an opinion. One looks for and finds translations to work with--in any field of study, as necessary. If you are not a full blown scholar of Greek, it should not be an absolute barrier to prevent one from discussing scripture. Certainly you cannot mean to say only Latinists can debate BiP. Obviously, one looks for translations to work with.

Given Br. Bugnolo has published a portion of his translation of the Declaratio and it is the only translation I am aware of that BiP theorists seem to accept, it makes sense for me to use it on that basis. I said that before. Now, you say above the "The reason Brother uses provides an Indicative translation is so that he can say that Benedict made a mistake and hence the resignation is invalid." Perhaps you are not suggesting the contrary, but I fully accept that the reason Brother has translated it the way he has, is that it is the translation he fully believes is the most accurate. Whether it is the most accurate for other Latin scholars I have no clue--I am not a latinist, but perhaps the two of you might debate the question, citing other current Latin scholars as well.

Now, my point on your treatise's discussion of the Latin was not intended to say because it is lengthy it is not true. Rather, I was making the point that to me, as a matter of common sense, your rendering must not be plain and obvious if it requires a treatise, which is not to say I therefore meant it was not true. Clearly, something might be neither plain nor obvious, but still be true. But, consider, if your rendering was the plain and obvious translation, certainly Br. Bugnolo and others would have reached the same conclusions as you. But he hasn't, and "they" haven't. Also, I've been rereading Socci recently, and I don't recall him appealing to a translation similar to yours on this point. I assume some of the canonists he interviewed would have raised this specific translation issue if there was a dispute, and he would have raised it in his book if he thought it helped his argument. I don't recall him doing that. If I am wrong on that score, please point out where Socci discusses it, as I'd be interested in seeing it.

Finally as to the munus vs. ministerium question, I've addressed this question on my blog (, either in my series of rebuttals of Dr. Mazza's thesis or of BiP in general ("Summa Contra BiP").
 In Their Hearts:

From this quote from Part 1 of your Response to Dr. Mazza: "Reading this canon, BiP-ers observe that while canon 332.2 speaks of resigning the “munus”; Benedict specifically only renounces the “ministero.” This, they conclude, means that Benedict thought he could either (1) separate the ministry/ministero from the office/munus . . .," you apparently hold that the Petrine Office and the exercise of it are one. This is not true! We must consider that the Munus Petrinum was established by Christ with three Powers: The Power of Governance, the Power of Teaching (Magisterium), which together make up the Power of Jurisdiction, as well as the Power of Order. These constitute the essence of the Petrine Office. Now, it is obvious that the Pope does not exercise the three Powers at once, nor does he exercise any Power continually!

In other words, if we consider the power of sight, we know that one doesn't always have to be "seeing." i.e. exercising that power. If he is sleeping, if he closes his eyes, if he needs strong glasses, it doesn't mean that the Power is gone. If we take the last example, we could say that the power is damaged, but the power is still there. Hence, it cannot be said that the use (exercise) of the eye is in fact the power. If a house is wired so that electric "power" can run the lights in every room. Just because one or the other of the lights are not "on" it doesn't mean that the power doesn't exist. The power is at the switch but the switch may not be turned on. I think you get the idea. Power and the exercise of it are distinct. There is also a philosophical explanation, but there's no need to go int it here.

But lets take a couple Popes in the History of the Church. Pope Caius lived at the time of the persecutions of the Church and at one point had to go into hiding. While in hiding, he was not able to exercise his power of Governance or his power of teaching. He could, however, exercise his power of Order, in a limited way. The same goes for Pope Gregory VII who went into exile toward the end of his life and for Pope Pius VII who was in captive by Napoleon. These latter two were not able to exercise their powers of Jurisdiction, though they could still to a certain extent exercise the Power of Order. Does this mean that they were no longer Pope? No, nowhere will one find that they were no longer considered Pope.

What Benedict did was to excuse himself from the normal "exercise" of the Three Powers by his Renunciation Declaration, but, but then he placed himself, canonically, in a position
analogical position of the three Popes just mentioned as I explained in one of my above comments--creating a type of Curia with Benedict as the contemplative member and Abp. as the active member.

 Steven O'Reilly:

On the munus and ministerium question, you are reading into my statement, and incorrectly so--I do not believe the office and the exercise of it are the same thing. I suggest you read my 3-part rebuttal (and addendum) of Dr. Mazza's thesis if you are interested in my position. The quote you selected is a restatement of the position of certain BiPers. The question was not whether the two things are distinct or not, but whether one is separable from the other, i.e., whether one could really resign the ministry only while keeping the munus. Some BiPers seem to say "yes" (e.g., Socci seems to think this) while others seem to say "no" -- and, in the latter case, this constitutes a "substantial error" on Benedict's part, making his resignation invalid.

Another example from earlier, Dr. Mazza argues via his theory (a BiP variant) that Benedict separated the "ministry of the Bishop of Rome" from the Petrine munus. Thus, he believes as I understand him, Benedict in his act of renunciation renounced ONLY being the Bishop of Rome while maintaining for himself the Petrine primacy. Thus, Dr. Mazza believes that although Francis really is the Bishop of Rome, he not hold the Petrine Primacy.

In my rebuttal of Dr. Mazza, I granted, arguendo, his premise that such a separation was possible. However, my personal view is such a separation is impossible, i.e., my view is that the Petrine primacy in Rome is Divinely willed. Furthermore, I would also reject that Benedict could truly resign only the "active ministry" while keeping some sort of "contemplative ministry" of the Petrine ministry for himself. I reject that it is possible. I reject that is what he either actually did, or attempted to do. Thus, I must reject your thesis as well.

Anyway, I will not argue the case all over again in detail here...that's why I have a blog of my own. :-) You are welcome to read what I believe and argue there in detail, and comment to your heart's content, as is anyone else for that matter. I am generally pretty good about responding to everyone, though I cannot guarantee you'll like my answers any better there. 

 In Their Hearts:

OK so you do maintain that the Office and the "exercise" of the Office are distinct, since you say that "I do not believe the office and the exercise of it are the same thing." However, you question "whether one could really resign the ministry only while keeping the munus." But since they are in fact distinct, it cannot be denied that it is possible that they can be separated. The real question is whether it is proper to do so. In one of my comments above I indicated that it would be improper to do so, but please listen to a Canonist. Socci, in his latest book on Benedict states: The canonical literature is unanimous. Luigi Chiappetta writes that 'the Roman Pontiff freely accepts his office, and he can freely renounce it, presuming for liceity (through a moral, non-juridical impetus) a just and proprotionate reason." A serious reason is generally considered to be a loss of mental faculties; otherwise, while it would be a valid resignation, it would be a morally deplorable act. The canonist Carlo Fantappie also confirms that the renunciation of the papacy can happen only 'in truly exceptional cases and for the superior good of the Church.' This is 'the condition for renouncing the office [of pope] without falling into a grave fault before God." This should be sufficient to dispel any doubt you have about "resign[ing] the ministry only while keeping the munus."

Furthermore, the three instances, mentioned in an earlier comment, when previous Popes were forced through circumstances of hiding, exile or captivity which made it impossible to for them to exercise the Powers of Teaching and Governing, though they could exercise the Power of Order to a certain extent, they were still considered Pope, and without any moral guilt from the non-exercise of the Jurisdictional Powers.

For Benedict while he was active, there is no question that he was being forced by the "deep state" in the Church, over which he had NO CONTROL, to do what he knew was wrong and being prevented from doing what he knew should be done. Thus he said at his last General Audience on 27 Feb. 2013: "I have asked God insistently in prayer to grant me his light and to help me make the right decision, not for my own good, but for the good of the Church. I have taken this step with full awareness of its gravity and even its novelty, but with profound interior serenity. Loving the Church means also having the courage to make difficult, painful decisions, always looking to the good of the Church and not of oneself."

Nevertheless, having renounced the usual exercise all three Powers in his Declaration, he did not allow himself to be without some exercise of his Power of Order. Further on in the Audience he says: I no longer bear [the Italian verb "porto" can also mean 'carry out'] 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." And as mentioned in a comment farther up, he set up a kind of Curia with himself as the contemplative member and Abp. Gainswein as the active member, precisely in order be able to exercise the Power of Order. To do this, I maintain that with the great power a Pope posses, it was to epieikeia that Benedict had recourse. In his "Canon Law" textbook Cicognani defines epieikeia as "The benign application of the law according to what is good and equitable, which decides that the lawgiver does not intend that, because of exceptional circumstances, some particular case be included under his general law." Benedict therefore had the right and duty to establish a means if exercising, to a certain extent, the Power of Order.

Pray an Our Father now for the restoration of the Mass and the Church as well as for the Triumph of the Kingdom of the Sacred Heart of the Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of the Mary.


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