Last week, Ann Barnhardt declared that Pope Benedict XVI is still the reigning pontiff of the One Holy Catholic Apostolic Church, by reason of a defective resignation. Specifically, that his belief in the creation of a bifurcated Petrine office nullifies his abdication. Her argument is based on the “substantial error” provision in canon law as the disqualifier for the resignation:
A resignation made out of grave fear that is inflicted unjustly or out of malice, substantial error, or simony is invalid by the law itself.
Read the whole thing HERE. The central argument is such:
We now know what “substantial error” is. Pope Benedict XVI Ratzinger made a “substantial error” in believing that the papacy could be “expanded” – in this case, bifurcated into a diarchy. Pope Benedict XVI submitted an invalid resignation not because he was coerced, but because he mistakenly believed and continues to believe that he could at once resign, thus allowing for the election of a successor, and yet still remain a Pope – note the use not of the definite article “the”, but of the indefinite article “a”. This is SUBSTANTIAL ERROR if ever, ever there were so, and thus, according to Canon 188, Pope Benedict XVI Ratzinger’s resignation of 28 February ARSH 2013 was “invalid by the law itself”, and thus, he remains the one and only Roman Pontiff, whether or not he believes it or likes it.
Full disclosure: I love Ann Barnhardt. Love her like a sister. There is no way I can ever repay the debt I owe her for all she has taught me about the Truth. If even ten percent of the clergy had her faith, her strength, her fearlessness, her CARE FOR SOULS, what a different place the Church would be.
Here’s something else you need to know about Ann. This girl can see around corners like nobody else I know. It is quite typical for Ann to be so far out on the curve, that she’ll write something, a prediction that seems beyond implausible, and yet she turns out to be right. All. The. Time. So often, in fact, that when she was still on Twitter, her trademark became #toldya.
And so, already knowing that the current score on matters of Church and State is Ann 1000, me zero, let me explain why I believe she is mistaken here. I can’t actually prove that she is mistaken; her position could indeed end up being right. But the current set of data points, the presently observable facts, don’t offer conclusive evidence of her claim. On the contrary, the evidence suggests three other scenarios as more likely than the one Ann describes.
I already wrote about this a few weeks ago when the whole “expanded Petrine office” thing broke HERE. I will throw in some excerpts here. First, let’s dispense with the diarchy concept itself, then we’ll address Ann’s argument.
The Petrine office was instituted by God, Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity, who is perfect. Not only is He perfect, He also exists outside of time, because it was He who created time. John 1:1-3. Time is a construct, just like all other created things. Being as He is co-eternal with God the Father, Jesus exists both before the beginning of time as well as after the end of time, plus everything in between, AND… it is all happening at once. All of eternity exists for Him in the same instant.
Without the construct of time, change is impossible. If this seems to be putting a limit on God’s omnipotence, it does not, because a) in His omnipotence, He could have designed it any way He wanted, b) He designed it this way because that is His will, and c) HE’S PERFECT.
Applying all this to the situation at hand, we can see plainly that Jesus Christ, who is immutable and perfect, most certainly did NOT institute an imperfect, defective, ‘version 1.0’ of the papacy, not yet beta tested. And he most certainly did NOT, 2000 years later, send the Third Person of the Holy Trinity down to Benedict in a Geek Squad van to deliver ‘version 2.0’, with bug fixes, increased compatibility, and an enhanced user interface.
Furthermore, ponder the idea that a human being, even a pope, could have the authority to alter the intrinsic nature of the divinely instituted Petrine office, in order to make it more perfect than God made it.
So the concept of the diarchy is clearly nonsense. But does Benedict believe it, and WHEN did he come to believe it? This is the crucial element of Ann’s argument. Can we find any indication of the diarchy concept in Benedict’s statement of resignation or in his actions in the weeks and months immediately before or after? Here is the relevant portion of the resignation statement, 11 February 2013. (everything I’m quoting is on vatican.va)
After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry. I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering. However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the barque of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me. For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom 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 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.
Benedict gave this address in Latin, so we better have a look at that too.
Conscientia mea iterum atque iterum coram Deo explorata ad cognitionem certam perveni vires meas ingravescente aetate non iam aptas esse ad munus Petrinum aeque administrandum. Bene conscius sum hoc munus secundum suam essentiam spiritualem non solum agendo et loquendo exsequi debere, sed non minus patiendo et orando. Attamen in mundo nostri temporis rapidis mutationibus subiecto et quaestionibus magni ponderis pro vita fidei perturbato ad navem Sancti Petri gubernandam et ad annuntiandum Evangelium etiam vigor quidam corporis et animae necessarius est, qui ultimis mensibus in me modo tali minuitur, ut incapacitatem meam ad ministerium mihi commissum bene administrandum agnoscere debeam. Quapropter 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 et Conclave ad eligendum novum Summum Pontificem ab his quibus competit convocandum esse.
I just don’t see anything here. There is nothing to suggest he is doing anything other than resigning outright.
So what came next? What about the days after this earth shattering announcement? Three days later, Benedict addressed the clergy of Rome. This is the address on Vatican II, where he condemned the “Council of the media” and its assorted disasters. Here is the first sentence of that address:
For me it is a particular gift of Providence that, before leaving the Petrine ministry, I can once more see my clergy, the clergy of Rome.
He’s leaving the Petrine ministry. Punto.
Two weeks later, on the final day of his pontificate, he greeted the faithful of the diocese of Albano:
You know that this day is different for me from the preceding ones. I am no longer the Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church, or I will be until 8:00 this evening and then no longer. I am simply a pilgrim beginning the last leg of his pilgrimage on this earth.
Until 8:00 this evening and then no longer. A simple pilgrim thereafter.
Finally, from his farewell address to the cardinals later that day:
I shall continue to be close to you with my prayers, especially in these coming days, that you may be completely docile to the action of the Holy Spirit in the election of the new pope. May the Lord show you the one whom he wants. And among you, in the College of Cardinals, there is also the future pope to whom today I promise my unconditional reverence and obedience.
Having found no evidence that the concept of a papal diarchy was in the mind of Benedict at the time of his abdication, we must conclude that this cannot be considered grounds for its nullification, unless Benedict himself claims to have been thinking this way at that time. If he were to stake that claim, he would also have to explain why his words suggest the contrary in all his public utterances 11 Feb – 28 Feb 2013.
So we are back to the three options I laid out in the original essay:
- BXVI validly resigned, followed by a conclave where Francis was validly elected
- BXVI was forced out under threat, rendering his resignation invalid, followed by an invalid conclave where Francis was, a jure, invalidly elected
- BXVI validly resigned, followed by a valid conclave where Francis was invalidly elected by a gang who conspired to the end result beforehand (the +Danneels admission)
I admit to hoping at times that Francis is an antipope, and that it won’t take centuries to prove it, because it would indeed explain a great many things, and because although messy, it offers the clearest path to anathematizing the entirety of the last three years. I also admit that if he is not an antipope, and he also is not deposed and anathematized for his heresies, I have no idea how the Church goes about explaining away this pontificate with any sense of intellectual honesty. Neither can any of the red hats; that’s why they’re paralyzed. Lastly, I pray for Francis’ conversion, not only because every soul has infinite value, but because a true conversion would give him a chance to personally and publicly renounce his own heresy. What a glorious day that would be.