Tag Archives: Boniface VIII

Boniface VIII’s teaching on fraudulent Renunciations explains Gänswein’s denial of a Pretext

by Br. Alexis Bugnolo

At present, in the Vatican, there are two persons whose followers call, “the Pope.” I will leave aside the fact that one of them ordered the Annuario Pontificio to no longer call him the pope, but that’s too great a fact to convince one party that something is awry in the Vatican City State.

For this reason, FromRome.Info has been featuring news about the Vatican since it was launched more than 8 years ago. And in that time I have published a good number of articles about the controversies over the Conclave of March 2013 and the Renunciation of February 2013. You can find extensive collections of articles about each, under the rubric, Team Bergoglio and The Renunciation of Pope Benedict.

Now, as regards the latter, FromRome.Info was the first and only site to publish an English translation of the Rescript of Pope Boniface VIII about papal renunciation, which is the foundational historic document in the tradition of Canon Law. In that article, I briefly mentioned the crucial textual problem which led the Code of Canon Law of 1917 and that of 1983 to use the verb, “renuntiare”, to renounce, rather than “resignare”, to resign.

But in the source for this Rescript, one finds a lot more, and that is what I will now publish, because those who sustain Bergoglio is the pope often make wild unsubstantiated claims that the tradition of Canon Law is in their favor. And this is clearly not so.


First, as regards questions of law, one cannot appeal to traditions of law, unless they regard the same legal concept. Now, when concepts regard legal acts, one must have recourse to the rules of verbal signification first of all to clarify the nature or essence of the legal act about which one is speaking. One classifies things according to genus and species. The genus is the common notion of all the things which are of the same formal reckoning, but the species is the notion which applies only to more restricted classifications of those things. So the genus is dog, but the species is a German Shepherd. Notice, that here I am not speaking according to biology, but according to logic. Because biologically both German Shepherds and dogs are both of the same species.

As regards legal actions, then, since these are expressed in words, one divides them according to verbs and objects, because when speaking of walking your dog, “to walk” as a transitive verb speaks of the genus of the action, whereas “dog” as the object of the transitive verb speaks of the species of the action.

So as regards, Papal Renunciations, “to renounce the papacy”, is studied under the generic notion of renunciations, and under the specific notion of renunciations of the papal office.  Now textually this may not be evident in a document, since if the chapter deals with the papal office, the section on renunciation does not need to specify the object of the act, since the context supplies that tacitly.

Thus, in the Sixth Book of Decretals, published by Pope Boniface VIII, papal renunciation is found under Book I, Title VII, “De Renunciatione”, that is, “On Renunciation”, without any specification.


Above I offer you the opportunity to read or download the 225 MB PDF which contains the entire Sixth Book of Decretals. In this way, you can follow the discussion below, where I will transcribe and translate the sections I refer to. I will be quoting from PDF pages 108-9, or columns 197-200 in the original work.

As I have already published Chapter I, here, I will proceed to transcribe and translate Chapter II, which is very interesting in regard to the present controversy.

Si te praebendam vel dignitatem, in aliqua ecclesia proximo vacaturam auctoritate Apostolica expectante, aliquis praebendam seu dignitatem tenuem obtinens in eadem, fraudulenter ei renunciet, ut illa prima sic vacante, praecludatur tibi via per consequens ad obtinendum praebendam, vel dignitatem aliam pinguiorem, quae per mortem alicuius, vel alias in ipsa ecclesia creditur verisimiliter in proximo vacatura: per renunicationem huiusmodi (dummodo de praemissa fraude appareat, saltem per aliquas probabiles coniecturars: ut quia dictae renunciationis tempore, is qui praebendam vel dignitatem pinguiorem habebat, infirmitate gravi detinebatur: vel aliquid aliud imminebat, propter quod illius praebenda, seu dignitas vacare in proximo probabiliter credebatur) nullum tibi volumus obstaculum interponi, quo minus (praebenda vel dignitate praedicta sic fraudulenter renunciata, omissa) possis dictam pinguiorem, cum eam vel aliam si prius ipsam vacare contigeret, auctoritate praefata libere petere veluti tibi debitam, & habere.

Caeterum si praedicto renuncianti huiusmodi praebenda vel dignitas pinguior forsitan confereatur: eo ipso dicta fraus in / telligatur esse probata: & idem renuncians habita omnino careat, & ambita.


If, you when expecting a prebend and/or dignity, to be vacated in any church on Apostolic authority, anyone holder of a lesser prebend or dignity in that regard,  fraudulently renounces it, so that the first thus vacated, precludes you by way of per consequens to obtain another greater prebend, and/or dignity, which through the death of someone, and/or otherwise in the church itself is believed verisimilarly to be about to be soon vacated: through a renunciation of this kind (so long as it appears under the aforementioned fraud, at least through some probably conjectures: that according to the time of the said renunciation, the one who held the greater prebend and/or dignity, was held back by grave infirmity: and/or something else was pressing, on account of which the vacating of his prebend, or dignity was probably believed to be imminent) We will that no obstacle interpose itself, by which you under the aforesaid (Apostolic) authority (when a prebend and/or aforesaid dignity be thus fraudulently renounced), may freely seek, as due to you, and have, the aforesaid greater one, when it has happened that it and/or the other has been vacated beforehand.

Otherwise, if there be conferred upon the aforesaid renouncer a prebend and/or dignity of this kind perhaps greater: by this very fact the said fraud is to be understood to be proven: and the same one renouncing lacks entirely the one had, and its appurtenances.

First, note that a prebend, according to the Oxford Dictionary, is “the portion of the revenues of a cathedral or collegiate church formerly granted to a canon or member of the chapter as his stipend”, though here I believe it is intended in a wider sense of any benefice, that is, office held out of authorized grant from a superior. A dignity is another word for title.

As is clear from this passage, then, when the Holy Father grants an office to a cleric, as a successor to one who is about to or is to be expected soon to renounce that office, to make it available to the new nominee, if the renunciation of the office by the previous holder be fraudulently done, then the new nominee can still take possession of it.

What is fraud in a legal act?

And here, let us keep in mind, that “fraudulently done” means that the juridical act, in its doing or positing, has been intentionally done invalidly. It is called “fraud” because in jurisprudence, a legal act ought to be an act which is valid according to the law. To craft an act, which appears to be juridical, but which is invalid in of itself, because of its non conformity with the law, AND do to this intentionally, is thus a fraud.

Why did Gänswein’s deny that the Declaratio is a pretext?

This may seem to be a very unimportant legal concept, but actually, it explains the will behind the illegal usurpation of the Papacy by Bergoglio, because his supporters regard the renunciation of ministerium rather than munus, as done by Pope Benedict XVI, to be merely a fraudulent way of renouncing, and on the basis of that groundless assertion, are holding that Bergoglio has the right to take possession regardless of the legal error in the Declaratio.

But they never speak of this, in my opinion, because if they did cite such a legal reasoning they would have to admit that a renunciation of ministerium is not legally appropriate or valid.

I believe that Archbishop Gänswein referred to this theory of theirs when, in his phone call to the brother of Father Gebhard, in September, he expressly denied that the Declaratio of Pope Benedict XVI was a “pretext”.  Because a pretext is a fraudulent reasoning or explanation for one’s actions. Thus by denying that it was a pretext, the Archbishop, who holds a doctorate in ecclesiastical jurisprudence, is affirming that the act is a valid act, not done to pretend to be something other than what it is.

Andrea Cionci, thus, in interpreting everything else in the phone conversation as Ratzinger Code for approbation of what the priests, especially Don Minutella, were doing, in asserting Benedict XVI was still the pope, happily also interpreted this phrase correctly. But the meaning was even more profound, as I hope the above exposition now shows.

Also, in the often quoted statements of Pope Benedict XVI, where he gives great emphasis to the validity of his act, he likewise attests that he did what he did freely. The legal consequence of such testimony — which Bergoglians claim means he validly resigned the papacy (changing the object of the verb like con artists) — is to safeguard against the claim that the act was invalid, and thus a subterfuge, and thus fraudulent.

The Legal Strategy behind claiming the status of “Pope emeritus”

Not to be overlooked here is that Pope Boniface VIII says above that the claim of another office by the one renouncing is ipso facto proof of fraud in an apparently invalid renunciation (cf. 2nd paragraph in translated text: “Otherwise ….”). This explains, in my view, why the Bergoglian canonists are so feverish over establishing the canonical status of a Pope emeritus.  They need to make it an actual office, so that they can claim that Benedict XVI de facto resigned the papacy!

And thus we see the absolute legal brilliance behind what Pope Benedict XVI did, because his renunciation of ministerium is perfectly valid, and by claiming the status of Pope emeritus, which is a non existent office, and can only mean that he remains the pope, he prevents anyone conferring upon him another office or dignity, by which conferral they could claim he has renounced the papacy!

This is the legal equivalent of castling your King in a game of fourth dimension chess!

Way to go, Pope Benedict !!!

Boniface VIII’s Magisterial Teaching on Papal Renunciations

Translation and Commentary by Br. Alexis Bugnolo¹

Pope Boniface VIII, Quoniam (Sexti Decretalium Liber. I, Tit. VII, chapter 1):

Quoniam aliqui curiosi disceptatores de his, quae non multum expediunt, et plura sapere, quam oporteat, contra doctrinam Apostoli, temere appetentes, in dubitationem sollicitam, an Romanus Pontifex (maxime cum se insufficientem agnoscit ad regendam universalem Ecclesiam, et summi Pontificatus onera supportanda) renunciare valeat Papatui, eiusque oneri, et honori, deducere minus provide videbantur:  Celestinus Papa quintus praedecessor noster, dum eiusdem ecclesiae regimini praesidebat, volens super hoc haestitationis cuiuslibet materiam amputare, deliberatione habita cum suis fratribus Ecclesiae Romanae Cardinalibus (de quorum numero tunc eramus) de nostro, et ipsorum omnium concordi consilio et assensu, auctoritate Apostolica statuit, et decrevit:  Romanum Pontificem posse libere resignare.

Nos igitur ne statutum huiusmodi per ipsis cursum oblivioni dari aut dubitationem eandem in recidivam disceptionem ulterius deduci contingat:  ipsum inter constitutiones alias, ad perpetuam rei memoriam, de fratrum nostrorum consilio duximus redigendum.

My English Translation:

Since some debaters curious about those things, which are not very expedient, and desiring rashly to know more than is opportune, against the teaching of the Apostle (1 Tim. 6:4), have seemed to draw forth less cautiously a solicitous doubt, whether the Roman Pontiff (most of all when he acknowledges himself (to be) insufficient to rule the universal Church, and to support the burdens (onera) of the Supreme Pontificate) be able [valeat] to renounce the Papacy [Papatui], and its charge [oneri], and honor [honori]:  Pope Celestine V, Our predecessor, when he presided over the government of the same Church, willing to cut off the matter of any hesitation over this, having held a deliberation with His brothers, the Cardinals of the Roman Church (of whose number We were at that time), established and decreed by (his) Apostolic Authority, from the concordant counsel and assent of Ourselves, and of the same: that the Roman Pontiff can freely resign.

We, therefore, lest a statute of this kind, enacted through the same, be given up to oblivion or the same doubt be drawn forth furthermore in a repeated debate: judge that the same is to be registered among the other constitutions, ad perpetuam rei memoriam, (drawn) from the council of our brother (Cardinals).



  1. Many thanks to Dr. Cyrille Dounot, Professor of Law in the Faculté de Droit et de Science Politique, at the Université d’Auvergne, France, for making the Latin text of Boniface’s decree, Quoniam (VI, 1, 7, 1), available to me, from the Corpus Iuris Canonici, Vol II, Liber Sextus, Clementinae and Extravagantes, cum glossis, Lyons, France, 1584, cols. 197-199.

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Benedetto Caetani, the future Pope Boniface VIII, was born around 1235 A. D., of an ancient Roman family. He studied jurisprudence at the University of Bologna and served in the papal government during his long career. Pope Martin IV made him Cardinal Deacon of Saint Nicholas in Carcere, in 1281 A. D., and Pope Nicholas IV, Cardinal Priest of St. Martin in Montibus ten years later. He succeeded Pope Celestine V in 1294, after the former renounced the papacy.

Pope Boniface studied canon law in an age in which its study was confined to gathering the canons of the ancient Church and those decreed in historic synods and commenting on them to deduce the fundamental principles of law by which the Church would be rightly governed. His decree, Quoniam, must be seen in this light, as we can see from the text.

There are two motives for Pope Boniface in writing Quoniam. The historical and the ecclesiological. Historically, inasmuch as he was elected following the resignation of Pope Celestine V, and on account of his untimely demise shortly after being sequestered by Boniface to the Castle of Fumone, Italy, Boniface had good reason to enshrine in Church Law the affirmation that a pope can freely resign. Second, ecclesiologically, Boniface wanted to put to rest doubts that swirled around the nature of the papal office, whether it was a vocation which could only be accepted, and never rejected, or whether it was an office, in the sense of a duty or charge, which could be lain down just as much as taken up.

In its form, Quoniam, is a memorial rescript, that is, its a written document which records what was said and decided in consistory by his predecessor, Pope Celestine V, with the Cardinals. Pope Boniface’s authority to issue the rescript, therefore, is twofold: he was both an eye witness participant in the discussions and as Roman Pontiff he had the authority to determinatively decide upon questions of canon law.

While Boniface’s central purpose was merely to affirm a point of papal power, the matter of his rescript touches upon the nature of the papal office as it was conceived in the minds of Pope Celestine V and his cardinals:  as an office, as a duty, as a dignity.  The office is that of the papacy (papatus), a Late Medieval term derived from the popular address of the Roman Pontiff, pope, in Greek (papas).  The duty is a charge or burden (onus), not only a sober term for the magnitude and importance of the affairs it must conduct, but also a term which implies that this duty is bestowed from on high, a reference to Our Lord’s creation of the office in Matthew 16:18. Finally, the papal office is a dignity (honor), which distinguishes and elevates the one who accepts his canonical election above all others in the Church.

From Boniface’s rescript, by which he establishes Quoniam among the perpetual constitutions of the Church, we can see a direct and faithful reflection in the present Code of Canon Law, in Canon 332 §2, which terms the papal office a munus, affirms that a renunciation of munus is validly effected when the Pope acts freely, and requires a public act. In its final clause, Canon 332 §2 reaffirms that the power of renunciation lies solely in the papal office by denying that its validity arises from the act of renunciation being accepted by anyone at all.

Its clear, then, from the magisterial teaching of Pope Boniface VIII, that the papal office is not a ministry, but rather a unique dignity, office and duty, which in being renounced, must be renounced in its own nature according to what it is. That even those who doubted that a pope had such power, in Boniface’s day, affirmed these things are contained in the context of the doubt they raised, namely, whether a pope could renounce the papacy, its charge, and its honor.

Contrariwise, inasmuch as Pope Boniface affirms that a pope can renounce these things, he affirms that all three must be renounced to effect a papal renunciation, on this account, that in affirming the papal power extends over these, he implicitly asserts that if the papal power does NOT extend over each of these, then the renunciation has not taken place.

This follows from the rules of the science of Logic, which teaches that every negation must be understood strictly. Thus, since a renunciation is a form of negation, a renunciation of the papacy must renounce the office, the charge and the dignity. If one renounced only the exercise of the office and continued to exercise the passive ministry, retain the dignity of being called Your Holiness, giving the Apostolic Blessing, wearing the clothing which only the Pope can wear, it would be clear that one’s resignation had not occurred, because there is no renunciation of all right, unless all right be renounced.

Pope Boniface VIII, eminent legal scholar that he was, obviates these problems which arise from renunciation-law by using the intransitive form of the verb to resign [resignare] in his final affirmation of papal power. This is because, unlike “to renounce” [renuntiare], to resign implies of itself the renunciation of office and all its right, on account of its original meaning to re-signare, or undo the seal which enacted or approved a thing. In Latin, resignare, thus, has the meaning of annul or cancel, as well as resign, and recalls the powers invested in the office of Saint Peter, when Our Lord said: whatsoever you loose ….

The present Code of Canon Law by employing the verb to renounce [renunciare], thus requires that the object of the act munus, be a word which is full of meaning, rich in meaning, and encompassing all that is essential to an act of renunciation of papal office: the office, the charge and the dignity. The brilliance of the Latinity of those who prepared the New Code under Pope John Paul II is seen in this one word, munus, which means both gift [munus in Latin means gift, its used in the Liturgy for the gifts of the Magi], and office [canon 145 terms every ecclesiastical office a munus], charge [munus and onus in Latin share this meaning] and that which up-builds a person [munire in Latin means to build up, or fortify]. In English we see this in the words ammunition and munificence. On this account, if one were to renounce the papal office with any term which is not co-extensive with all three aspects of the Papal office, its clear that the renunciation would be incomplete, and therefore of no effect in law. Nay, since we men are creatures whose understanding is bound up with the words we use to express ourselves, its clear that if one were to use another term with deliberation, his consequent actions would reflect that partial renunciation and incomplete resignation. This should be now obvious to all, who have eyes to see.

UPDATE Dec. 5, 2022 A. D. : FromRome.Info has now published chapter II and offers for download the entire Sixth Tome of Decretals. See here.