by Br. Alexis Bugnolo
Having read many reports regarding Peter Seewald’s new biography on Pope Benedict XVI, it is clear that it provides no new light on what happened on Feb. 11, 2013. While the entire Book needs to be read to make a certain determination on this, let us review the major reports about the book to show that this is most likely a correct assessment of its contents.
The German Press ignores the Renunication
DomRadio.De in its report of May, 4, 2020, entitled, Peter Seewald legt neue Biografie von Benedikt XVI. vor 1.184 Seiten über den früheren Papst (Peter Seewald publishes a new Biography on Benedict XVI: 1184 pages about the former Pope) does not even speak of what happened using the correct terms, but does reveal that the Pedophilia Crisis was the cause of the decision:
Resignation from the papal office
Or for the reform process of the “Würzburg Synod”, which he left without saying a word in 1974 when he realized that he could not influence him in his understanding. And also for the surprising step with which he has secured a place in church history for all time: the resignation from the papal office (Papstamt) and the entry into the office (Amt) of an emeritus pope, which he invented.
Seewald describes the departure in the life of the 93-year-old with empathy, he usually protects him against criticism. He always provides really new insights when he draws from personal conversations with the old pope (or with his secretary).
Such a very last, mostly written interview in autumn 2018 is the final chapter of the book. In it Benedict XVI. with old and new arguments, why he decided to resign in 2012 and how he understands and exercises the spiritual office of “Papa emeritus” (Amt de Papa emeritus). With a bit of bitterness, he also rejects the sharp criticism of his public statements.
One of the strongest chapters of the book with 1,150 pages of text and a detailed picture section includes the description of the abuse crisis and other scandals in the late phase of the Benedictine pontificate, which then led to the decision to resign – without having triggered this step, however, like Seewald and to insure his protagonist. The description of the meticulous preparation of the world-shattering event is exciting to read. Now you know who was informed when and how they managed to keep the sensational plan secret for months.
This report is uninformed, because Benedict XVI never renounced the Papal Office (PapstAmt) he only renounced the Petrine Ministry (PapstDeinst), as anyone who can real Latin can see. Evidently the author of this article cannot read Latin, but followed the German translation available on the Vatican Website, which I have shown to be falsified, and which our German correspondent showed was most likely subsequently manipulated by an English speaker.
Br.de suggests that no other information will be found in the Biography, which was written to defend Ratzinger and which contains interviews with more than 100 individuals:
Defense of a pontificate: a biography for Benedict fans
A book about Benedict XVI. for fans of Benedict XVI: The new Pope biography by Peter Seewald is told in an exciting way, but in an obvious effort to defend Benedict. There is only criticism of the pontiff in small doses.
In 1993 Peter Seewald metCardinal Ratzinger for the first time. Peter Seewald was supposed to write a portrait for the Süddeutsche Zeitung magazine about this man, who was perceived in Germany primarily as a “tank cardinal”: Joseph Ratzinger, then prefect of the Roman Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, must have liked the encounter and the resulting article.
Because Seewald accompanies Ratzinger even after the papal election. He was the only journalist who managed to have a detailed discussion with the Pope and to publish it.
The English speaking press, however seems more eager to frame the Biography as proof that Benedict did resign validly
For example, NCRonline.org in its report of May, 4, 2020, “Former Pope Benedict XVI sees Church threatened by pseudo-humanism” which is a reprint of an article by Katholische Nachrichten-Agentur, the emphasis, first of all, as can be seen from the title of the article, is on Former:
He also explained the reasons for his resignation as pope in 2013. He denied that it was because of corruption in the Vatican or the “Vatileaks” scandal. Instead, he said it had become increasingly clear to him that in addition to possible dementia, “other forms of insufficient ability to hold office properly are also possible.”
In this context Benedict XVI revealed that he, like Paul VI and John Paul II, had signed a conditional declaration of resignation “in the event of illness which rendered the proper performance of duties impossible.” He had already done this “relatively early” in his pontificate, Benedict said.
He commented at length on criticism of his resignation. The office of a “papa emeritus” that he had created should be compared to that of a bishop who had retired for age reasons. This legal status could also be applied to the Bishop of Rome. It prevented “any notion of a coexistence of two popes: a diocese can have only ONE incumbent. At the same time, it expresses a spiritual bond that can never be taken away.”
The former pope also likened his situation to that of an old farmer in Bavaria who has passed his farm to his son, lives in a small house next to it and has ceded his fatherly and commanding rights.
I find it curious that the Pope might have used the very analogy I used to show his resignation was invalid, in my article about the Grandfather on his Farm. I am not a prophet, but Pope Benedict XVI might read FromRome.Info.
If Seewald can be believed, and if the words he attributes to Pope Benedict XVI reflect his own mind, then it is clear that Pope Benedict XVI still is operating under the grave error of thinking that you can renounce the Papal Munus by giving up the power and governance but retaining a spiritual bond with the Papal dignity. Such an error is substantial, and in accord with Canon 188 would make the Renunciation irritus, that is, something which must be recognized by the whole Church has having never happened.
Other reports cite statements which are incompatible with the truth that Pope Benedict XVI’s renunciation. But their incompatibility only demonstrates that Benedict XVI does not understand what he did or does not want to say openly what he did, and is simply muddying the waters. As Pope Benedict XVI warned us at the beginning of his pontificate, we must avoid the Dictatorship of Relativism, which determines truth not according to facts and reality, but according to opinions and claims. That a man is or is not pope is not demonstrated according to opinion or claims, by himself or by others. It is established by his acceptance of his canonical election OR his renunciation in accord with canon 332. In the former case, Pope Benedict XVI is the pope no matter what others or he himself thinks. In the latter case, Pope Benedict XVI, since he did not renounce in accord with canon 332, is still the pope, no matter what others or he himself thinks or says — until he says, before 2 witnesses: “I renounce the munus which I received when I accepted my canonical election,” or something logically equivalent to that.
As far as the evidentiary value of Seewald’s book, it has to be regarded as hearsay evidence, unless he can provide voice recordings of the statements made by Pope Benedict XVI, and demonstrate that the Pope made them without the presence of others who would monitor, report or coerce him for what he said.
As for the Italian press, Antonio Socci says nothing much about the controversy, but concludes that only God knows the role that Benedict has in the present crisis. He is surely exaggerating, because everyone knows what role the Pope has. They might not understand the kind of confusion into which a person can fall on account of error or what they might to out of fear, but that is because they have failed to really look at the matter with Christian Faith, which being based on the Incarnation, knows it must confront both the omnipotence of immutable truth and the vagaries of human flesh.
+ + +