An answer to why Benedict resigned the ministerium not the munus

by Br. Alexis Bugnolo

The question has been raised for more than 7 years and numerous scholars have studied it and attempted to answer. The first was Father Stefano Violi, a canonist at the faculty of Lugano. Then, there was Antonio Socci who wrote numerous books on the matter. Then there was Ann Barnhardt who after her famous declaration of June 2016, that Pope Benedict XVI had made a substantial error, in the summer of 2019 published extensive documentation showing Joseph Ratzinger’s participation in discussions about splitting the Petrine Munus from the Petrine Ministerium in a shared papacy.

But the definitive answer on the question why he renounced the ministerium only and not the munus, I think was just given by Dr. Edmund Mazza in his Essay, cited by Edward Pentin yesterday, and republished in full at the suggestion of Dr. Mazza, here at FromRome.Info today and at the Most Rev. Rene Henry Gracida’s blog,, where Bishop Gracida calls it a “brilliant” exposition.

It is brilliant because its is based only on Pope Benedict’s own words and the norms of Canon law. I will explain why, here, and use the same method.

Dr. Edmund Mazza holds a Ph.D. in Medieval History and was transitory collaborator with me at The Scholasticum, an Italian Non profit for the revival of the study and use of Scholastic method.

The Mind of Pope Benedict

Here I quote the key passage from Dr. Mazza, explaining why ministerium and not munus:

Seewald then observes: “One objection is that the papacy has been secularized by the resignation; that it is no longer a unique office but an office like any other.” Benedict replies:

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. To that I must reply: even a father’s role stops. Of course a father does not stop being a father, but he is relieved of concrete responsibility. He remains a father in a deep, inward sense, in a particular relationship which has responsibility, but not with day-to-day tasks as such…If he steps down, he remains in an inner sense within the responsibility he took on, but not in the function…one comes to understand that the office [munus] of the Pope has lost none of its greatness…

Benedict again goes to great lengths to contrast the difference between I. “the office of the Pope” and II. the ministry or “function” associated with it. How to “decode” Benedict? By examining the words he has chosen and the ways he has deployed them before. 

(Blue coloring added for emphasis)

And Dr. Mazza continues, further below, after citing a key passage from a 1978 discourse by Ratzinger on personal responsibility and the Papacy,

This 1977 speech is, in fact, the key to deciphering, not only Benedict’s 2017 interview, but his 2013 resignation speech.

In 2017 Benedict says: “If he [the pope] steps down, he remains in an inner sense within the responsibility” he took on, but not in the “function,” or “day-to-day” tasks.  In 1977 Ratzinger says: “this institution [the papacy] can exist only as a person and in particular and personal responsibility…”  He adds: “He abides in obedience and thus in personal responsibility for Christ; professing the Lord’s death and Resurrection is his whole commission and personal responsibility.” 

For Benedict, “personal responsibility” is the essence of what it means to be pope. To be responsible not as a public official filled with day to day tasks, but metaphysical responsibility for the flock of Christ. In his interview, Benedict says that although he “stepped down,” “HE REMAINS…WITHIN THE RESPONSIBILITY.” Translation: “He remains Pope!”

(Blue coloring added for emphasis)

Far Reaching Implications

Dr. Mazza has ably demonstrated that for Benedict the munus means the personal responsibility which can never be rejected, and the ministerium is the day to take fulfillment of the tasks in  public way.

But he has also demonstrated that for Benedict, the Office of the Papacy is the personal responsibility of a single person. This is clearly seen in a brief quote from the 1977 talk, cited at length by Dr. Mazza in his essay:

The ‘‘we’’ unity of Christians, which God instituted in Christ through the Holy Spirit under the name of Jesus Christ and as a result of his witness, certified by his death and Resurrection, is in turn maintained by personal bearers of responsibility for this unity, and it is once again personified in Peter—in Peter, who receives a new name and is thus lifted up out of what is merely his own, yet precisely in a name, through which demands are made of him as a person with personal responsibility. In his new name, which transcends the historical individual, Peter becomes the institution that goes through history (for the ability to continue and continuance are included in this new appellation), yet in such a way that this institution can exist only as a person and in particular and personal responsibility…

(Blue coloring added for emphasis)

Conclusions of Fact and Interpretation

From this we are forced to conclude, the following:

  1. Pope Benedict XVI knew what he was doing.
  2. Pope Benedict XVI never intended to lay down the personal responsibility or munus
  3. Pope Benedict XVI only intended to leave aside the day to day work of the ministerium.
  4. Pope Benedict XVI therefore is still the pope and he thinks he is the pope.
  5. Pope Benedict XVI considers his act of renouncing the ministerium just as valid as his retention of the munus.
  6. Pope Benedict’s concept of Pope Emeritus signifies, thus, the retention of the munus and dignity in the full sense and of the office in a partial sense.

Conclusions of Law and Right

And from this we can conclude the following according to the norm of law:

Canon 188 – A renunciation made through grave fear, unjustly inflicted, deceit or substantial error, or even with simony, is irritus by the law itself.

Irritus, is a canonical term which means not done in such a way as to fulfill the norm of law. According to Wim Decock, Theologians and Contract Law: the Moral transformation of the Ius commune (1500-1650), p. 216, irritus means “automatically void” (Source)

We can see this from the Code of Canon Law itself, in canon 126:

Canon 126 – Actus positus ex ignorantia aut ex errore, qui versetur circa id quod eius substantiam constituit, aut qui recidit in condicionem sine qua non, irritus est; secus valet, nisi aliud iure caveatur, sed actus ex ignorantia aut ex errore initus locum dare potest actioni rescissoriae ad normam iuris.

Which in English is:

Canon 126 – An act posited out of ignorance or out of an error, which revolves around that which constitutes its substance, or which withdraws from a sine qua non condition, is irritus; otherwise it is valid, unless something else be provided for by law, but an act entered into out of ignorance or out of error, can give place to a rescissory action according to the norm of law.

Rescissory means revoking or rescinding. The final clause here means an act done erroneously can be repaired if the law allows for it by a subsequent act. There is no such provision in law for papal renunciations, they have to be clear in themselves or they have to be redone (source). The sine non qua condition here is found in canon 332 §2:

If it happen that the Roman Pontiff renounce his munus, …..

This is the sine non qua condition. It is a condition because it begins with If, it is sine non qua, because it specifies the form and matter of the juridical act as a renunciation (form) of munus (matter). The form and matter together make the essence of a thing. That essence of a juridical act when posited cause the substance of the thing. Essence is the sine qua non of each thing, because without it a thing is not what it is. An error therefore about the matter to be renounced is thus a substantial error in the resulting act.

And hence, the kind of renunciation posited by Pope Benedict is automatically void, null and of no effect, because it violates the Divine Constitution of the Church, which requires that one and only one person hold both the papal dignity, office and munus. There can be no sharing of the office while there is a retention of the munus and dignity.

This argument is based solely on the words of Pope Benedict XVI and the words of canon law. It has, therefore, the highest authority and probability.

I challenge any Cardinal to refute this argument! — And if they cannot, then if they do not return in allegiance to Pope Benedict XVI, they are ipso facto excommunicated by canon 1364 for the delict of schism from the Roman Pontiff. All of them, each of them. And thus have no right to elect his successor.

I put you all on notice!

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21 thoughts on “An answer to why Benedict resigned the ministerium not the munus”

  1. Al of this this means means to me that Benedict was and remains the legitimate Pope and always has been since first assuming the office. His resignation was invalid because his understanding that the Papal office could be bifurcated into active and inactive roles was in error. Consequently Bergoglio is not the Pope and all of his actions since illegally assuming the role of Pope are vacated.

  2. If PBXVI was just tired & felt physically unable to undertake the day to day administrative tasks, why couldn’t he just have appointed men of good spiritual standing to help him in carrying out this papal function instead of calling a conclave & then fleeing? He must have known who would succeed him & that it would be disastrous for the CC. Surely a scholar such as he is must also have known that the PO cannot be bifurcated & must be either properly renounced in accordance with the relevant Canons & the Rules governing papal elections must be adhered to? Why didn’t he make sure in each case that the law was fully exercised?

    If PBXVI maintains he still holds inner responsibility of the PO then does that mean he accepts responsibility for the wilfully demonic errors made by PF, whom he knew to be unworthy of such an office as Bishop of Rome? If so he is as much a traitor to the Bride of Christ as is PF!

    1. Ana Milan,

      If he thinks he was inspired by a mystical experience to do what he did, who are we to judge him. But as to your first question, yes he could have appointed an extraordinary vicar or asked the Cardinals to chose one of their own. But then he would be a target of that vicar to be displaced or assasinated. And I think his mystical vision is about separating the wheat from the chaff because he knew the clergy were so corrupt that it was necessary for the salvation of the many that they be separated.

  3. Clear, convincing as it cannot be refuted but eith illogic. I again second Michael Dowd.

  4. “A father does not stop being a father, but he is relieved of concrete responsibility”.

    That is false. Damnably false.

    The children, perhaps spouse, may step up and assist – more as time goes by. Help out father, husband as needed. Step up and support age with youth. But it is father’s (concrete) responsibility until death – either directly or with the support and aid of others. He took vows. They are one flesh. Children are of him. Like Jacob and his twelve children – age did not end his labor up to and including the final blessings.

    Father’s, husband’s (concrete) responsibility does not end. Ever. Nor do we bring in a younger more vigorous husband and father to fulfill those (concrete) active responsibilities as the old guy stops performing adequately. Two men in the house – the old guy of fond memory and the new guy of vigor and wealth. In his old age decline, shriveled up, aged father takes up residence in the basement while a new fellow comes in and sweeps wife and children off their feet.

    It doesn’t happen that way. God did not ordain that between husband and wife; father and children. That is made up like a cheap novel. And it directly contradicts the most fundamental commandments of God and the story as written back to our first parents in Eden.

    1. Aqua,

      You are correct in what you say about a natural family. But Benedict is using father in reference to a religious leader like an Abbot father of a monastery or a Bishop of a Diocese. So your criticism is praeter rem.

      1. Besides the natural father’s responsibility of providing for shelter, food, and clothing, what are the differences between a natural father and spiritual father and what do those modes of being have in common?

  5. Yes, I see that and stand corrected. And apologize for my use of words attached to that misunderstanding.

    I still see deep spiritual connection between Father and family; Priest and Church. The Pope, as Christ’s Vicar, is the visible manifestation of Christ, groom of His Bride.

    The fundamental point remains: the Pope is a specific person – Christ’s Rock; Peter. And Christ asks Peter to remain with Him to the end.

    Moses did not stop being Moses; Aaron, the High Priest, did not stop being Aaron; St. Peter did not stop being Peter until his crucifixion. They remained in their role until death. Assisted by others? Yes. God provided assistants for the labor. But … Emeritus Moses – Joshua in and Moses out, confined to the tent? Emeritus Aaron – Eleazar in and Aaron out performing sacrifice when asked to fill in by his son? No. Emeritus Peter – St. Linus in and St. Peter safely confined to the gardens? No.

    The Pope is Peter and Peter he remains until death. One Peter; one Groom. One Bride; one Church. One husband. One bride.

  6. I believe Benedict VERY CORRECTLY placed his faith for victory in complete dependence upon God by abandoning what would only be some vain thought THAT HE COULD DO ANYTHING else to make things better.
    We can no more with certainty blame Benedict for “failure” in the abandoning the administration of his office than we can blame Our Lord in abandoning His kingly administration in His surrender to the evil Sanhedrin and their murderous plot! If we are forced to concede that Christ abandoned the administration of His Office because Israel (including most of His Apostles!) was no longer worthy of it, and that this abandonment would even be to the betterment even of His Apostles, why are we incapable of admitting that Our Lord’s Vicar would face a similar situation when the Church itself, for its deplorable condition of laxity and open apostasy and the stunning indifference (“lukewarmness”) by the masses. Can any of us say we in the Church are any more deserving of the reign of Benedict than Israel was of Christ’s reign in 34 AD? This must be understood FIRST a spiritual battle and only secondarily an administrative one before we will be given the grace of Christ’s second coming to restore His Kingdom.

  7. David Webster: Christ abandoned nothing. He kept everything to the end. He kept it on the Cross. He kept it when He descended into Hell.

    He *allowed* them to crucify Him. He was in control – reigning as King, in full, every moment; then as now.

    What is proposed is a practical change, expansion, of what Christ gave to us in its perfection. Change = destruction.

  8. Yes, it is a spiritual battle first & foremost. That is why we all, but mainly priests, religious & the Pope, are the main targets of demons persistent on wrecking the OHC&A Church of Christ. It concerns me that PBXVI was encouraged by those wicked demons to abscond from the PO in order to fake an election & get their preferred cardinal on the Seat of Peter. PJPII created PF a cardinal & PBXVI also created questionable men cardinals who are now acting against him.

    It is demonic to say there can be a dual Papacy as it was only on Peter that Christ said he would build His Church & that the Gates of Hell would not prevail against it. Consequently no-one, no matter of what standing in the CC, can alter that fact & it is now incumbent on the College of Cardinals to settle this matter once & for all time. PBXVI’s resignation can only be valid if it corresponds to the relevant Canons covering papal resignations & a conclave can only be called if there is a legitimate empty chair in the PO, but that conclave must also be conducted according to the Rules set out by PJPII which were, in this case, completely ignored.

  9. Oh! Indeed very good analysis by Dr. Edmund Mazza.

    Just remember that B16’s resignation is invalid primary not because of what B16 said before or after Feb 11, but because he did not resign as it is required by the Law.

    What Dr. Edmund Mazza shows adds just another reason: substantial error (as already pointed out by AB). Author’s reasoning, as clear as it is, is based on interpretation of facts and leads to conclusion about B16’s intentions. _IF_ conclusion about B16’s deliberate attempt to split papacy are correct… well… we have to increase out prayers and cry for God’s protection and mercy in inevitable purification.

  10. Aqua: Benedict likewise allowed his enemies to take from him his administrative function as pope. As Our Lord did not abandon His Kingship neither did Benedict abandon the chair of Peter. As Our Lord now reigns in full over those who surrender to Him in faith so Benedict still reigns as pope over his faithful “remnant Church.”

  11. David,
    true what you said. Just notice that that pope, if Mazza’s, and others’, thesis is correct, acted like owner of Tradition not like protector (applies not only to B16).

    My focus is not on aspect who is the pope anymore. Yes, Dr. Mazza shows that beside not following Canon Law, there is an relevant issue of substantial error to support claim that B16 is still our pope. What worries me is possibility that this pope _is_ in substantial error.

  12. David Webster: Why Pope Benedict XVI did what he did is not yet known. What he did, yes. Why he did, no. Our understanding is not complete, absent clarification from the Holy Father. Time grows short for that.

    All I know for sure is that violence has been done to the Papacy and to core Dogmas and Traditions of the Church. This violence needs to be acknowledged and remedied. By Pope Benedict, first. But, so far, silence.

    All I know for sure, so far, is the Papacy has been altered to include a stable for future Emeritus Pope*s*. Retired Popes is now normalized. As I said above, that is simply unacceptable.

    Christ made his Crucifixion complete by descending into hell, conquering death, rising again, ascending into heaven. Every step makes perfect sense, we now know.

    Pope Benedict XVI may literally have intended only to expand the Papacy and make it forever new – as he said. Absent a corrective act by Benedict XVI, all we are left with is violence to the Papal Office.

    1. Aqua, what you say is not true. Benedict does not have to speak. He has already spoke and made is quite clear that his renunciation of ministry is as valid as his retention of munus. Therefore he is still the pope. We just need to act on that.

  13. What I said is true, actually. Pope Benedict XVI did *not* make clear *why* he was doing what he did, beyond “expanding and making forever new the Petrine Office”.

    David Webster speculates that is because Pope Benedict XVI is protecting the Office from the “evil Sanhedrin”.

    Aqua is saying that we can’t possibly know that until further clarification.

    All we know for sure is that Pope Benedict XVI is still Pope; that he gave the Ministry of Pope to another; that he has taken an unprecedented title of “Emeritus” Pope; and that this is because he wishes to “expand and make new” the Papal Office.

    This he has done. This he has said.

    Speculating on whether this is part of a long game to “protect the Papacy from the “evil Sanhedrin” (David Webster’s words, not mine) is unhealthy and inappropriate speculation. There is nothing, so far, to indicate that this was his intent. Violence has been done to the Papal Office and time is, in fact, growing short.

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