This is a reblog of the article which is originally entitled, 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, Abyssum.org, 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:
- Pope Benedict XVI knew what he was doing.
- Pope Benedict XVI never intended to lay down the personal responsibility or munus
- Pope Benedict XVI only intended to leave aside the day to day work of the ministerium.
- Pope Benedict XVI therefore is still the pope and he thinks he is the pope.
- Pope Benedict XVI considers his act of renouncing the ministerium just as valid as his retention of the munus.
- 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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