by Br. Alexis Bugnolo
Last summer, the HQ of Veri Catholici informed me that Edward Pentin began a long conversation with their Twitter Account lambasting me for my defense of the invalidity of the Renunciation of Pope Benedict, according to the norm of law. Veri Catholici chided Pentin in that exhange, which I think was published on twitter, that he had written nothing about the controversy. He was indignant. But now he has spoken.
In an article today at his personal blog, entitled, Debate Intensifies Over Benedict XVI’s Resignation and Role as Pope Emeritus, Pentin marshals straw man after straw man to the fight. — I am referring to the arguments he cites, not the individuals he interviews.
I consider it a duty to the truth and Holy Mother Church to set out what is wrong and right in Pentin’s article, which is so misleading even if it has conceded much. It is also a poor piece of journalism because he never interviews someone with a contrary opinion, though he seems to quote one scholar. Finally, his report is extremely insulting to the Holy Father, Pope Benedict, in that it accuses him of being ignorant, stubborn, unaware, attached and super-scrupulous. — Goodness! Who does Pentin think he is to trash the Holy Father, the Vicar of Christ? a man who is a highly esteemed academic, with such insults: insults delivered by reporting the views of those who insult the Pope, but not the views of those who respect him? It is insufferable insolence.
Misrepresenting the Historical Context
Pentin opens his piece by mispresenting the historical context of the debate, as if it has popped out of the blue in consequence of the Book Flap on Priestly Celibacy. The doubts as to the invalidity of the act arose the very days after it was published, from numerous scholars of Latin and canon law and philosophy at Rome and abroad. I have detailed only a few of these in the preface to my Scholastic Question, where I carefully examined, from November, 2018 to February of 2019 all the arguments for an against: Flavian Blanchon and Luciano Canfora know of whom I speak, so does Prof. Enrico Radaelli. Surely, also Edward Pentin, the renowned Vaticanista knows of them too.
Pentin invents the creation of the office of Pope Emeritus
Next, Pentin asserts as a given that the office of Pope Emeritus was created by Pope Benedict XVI. This is a complete misrepresentation. There is no act of Pope Benedict XVI whatsoever by which he created an office called, Pope Emeritus: neither before or after Feb. 2013. It is simply a title which he uses to describe himself. To call it an office and say it was created show a very sloppy terminology, if not complete ignorance of juridical procedures in canon law. Seeing that Pentin in his article has interviewed numerous scholars and canonists, how can he get that wrong?
Pentin then insults the intelligence of Pope Benedict XVI
Next, Pentin implies that Pope Benedict did not know what he was doing, because he did not consult with experts, out of a disdain for the College of Cardinals. I do not doubt he disdained them, but with good reason. Because if they cannot admit the canonical problem of renouncing ministerium rather than munus, after 7 years, then they are clearly incompetent, as he implied in his Declaratio of Feb. 11, 2013.
But to say that Pope Benedict did not know what he is doing, is simply a gratuitous slur. As a theologian he had discussed for several decades the distinction between the petrine ministerium and the petrine munus. He uses both terms in his Declaratio. Therefore it is contrary to fact to say or imply he did not know what he was doing.
Pentin then admits what all Vaticanista denied
I have questioned several Vaticanista and Mons. Arrieta, about the renunciation. None admit to knowing anything about the problems in the renunciation as of Feb. of 2013. But Pentin does, writing:
Other senior Vatican sources have said that between Benedict’s announcement of his resignation on Feb. 11, 2013, and his departure from the apostolic palace three weeks later, a number of cardinals pressed Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, then Vatican Secretary of State, to clarify the canonical status of an abdicated pope as they saw it could be “potentially problematic,” but “nothing was done.”
It would be for the good of the Church to know the names of these Cardinals. And they should come forward and explain their concerns. Hat tip to Pentin for admitting and reporting this.
Pentin then attempts to subjectivize the Controversy
Pentin then begins a discourse, in pure Marxist diversionary style, which speaks of the controversy as if it is a problem in Benedict XVI’s mind, with his intention, his understanding, his sense of office, etc.. At the end of which, he dismissed his straw man by saying the Church is not concerned with the interior states of a resigned popes mind.
This totally ignores the objective reality of the papal act of Feb. 11, 2013, which I have shown elsewhere is an administrative act, not a juridical act, because there is no such juridical act in the Code of Canon Law, in the section on juridical acts, canons 125 ff..
The objective reality of a papal act are the words it uses and the signification those words have. The effect of the act follows. But Pentin ignores this, as do all who want Bergoglio to be the Pope, because it is there that the problem is found, and it is there the evidence is manifest.
Pentin then drops a crumb and moves on
Pentin then writes:
But more importantly, questions hinge on comments Benedict and others have made over whether he has fully abdicated the ministerium (active ministry) of the Successor of Peter but not the papal munus (office) — a bifurcation which canonists and theologians say is impossible.
But he never opens the argument, he just moves on to what Pope Benedict said about his renunciation after the fact. This is simply dishonest reporting. Because as he knows well, it is in that where the entire controversy has its source and being.
Pentin then raises the straw man of Inner Responsibility
I have to say that those who refuse to look at ministerium and munus in the Declaratio are really creative in thinking of some other problem to raise so as to shift the conversation. Inner responsibility. What balderdash! Who has ever spoken of this neologism? Its absurd. Pentin is attempting to say Benedict is acting like the pope, after the Resignation because he is super-scrupulously faithful to the previous office he held.
This is simply a snide insult.
Pentin then hides the core controversy
In the section on Inner Responsibility, Pentin inappropriately cuts and pastes in the discussion on the canonical validity. He writes:
Noting that Benedict has preferred to leave his status “unregulated,” De Caro argues that the title “Pope Emeritus” is, in itself, of concern as it “involves a sort of split between the primatial office of the Pope and that of the Bishop of Rome” — a division which, because those aspects of the papacy are “united in the one person of the Roman Pontiff,” presents “inevitable legal-theological implications.”
De Caro is not the first to question the Pope Emeritus title: Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, also expressed reservations, saying in 2017 it “theologically creates more problems than solving them.”
But whereas Archbishop Fisichella recognizes the validity of the resignation, De Caro goes a step further, asking whether a pope could legitimately create ex nihilo (out of nothing) such an unprecedented figure as a Pope Emeritus. He believes this “would not be possible” because it would “touch on divine law” given that the institution of the papacy is “of direct divine creation.”
To imply the papal office is by its very nature divisible, and that it us up to “human willingness to choose which faculties to renounce and which to maintain, is in blatant violation of divine law,” De Caro writes in an essay of “brief reflections” on the “emeritus papacy.” He concludes, therefore, that the Benedict’s resignation is invalid as it is “contrary to divine law itself.”
De Caro is an honest man. And he is correct. But Barnhardt said it 4 years ago, and Pentin fails to quote her, though he does quote several other laymen who have no credentials to speak about the controversy. I hope he is not a chauvanist.
But he does quote Mark Docherty of Non Veni in Pacem. And I will tip my hat to Pentin for that.
Pentin then drops the bomb
Here I will thank Pentin for writing these words, which Mons. Bux would not even admit to me:
He added that canonist friends of his are “firmly convinced” of the invalidity of the resignation based on the traditional canonical axiom, “doubtful resignation, no resignation” — a reference to St. Robert Bellarmine’s assertion that “a doubtful Pope is no Pope” if a “papal election is doubtful for any reason.”
Here, Pentin let the cat out of the bag. The truth is, that all serious canonists hold that the Declaratio has not the proper form to effect an act conformable to the requirements of Canon 332 § 2. And that therefore Benedict XVI is still the pope, because the presumption in any doubtful resignation is that the Pope is still the pope. The principle here is the cessation of power or right is not to be presumed.
I sense in reporting this that Pentin is struggling to be objective, in a piece which is not fair or balanced. Its not worth praise, but I do thank him for saying it, because so many weak souls will take confidence that if Pentin can report it, they can say it.
Pentin then quotes Salza
What can I say here, you quote a layman who holds no degree in canon law against a host of canonists know by Mons. Bux, to show that they are wrong. How hard do you want me to laugh at such pathetic journalism.
Pentin then quotes a lie about the Declaratio
Citing an anonymous source — liars hide themselves of course — he presents the argument that the Renunciation is only invalid if Benedict knows how to distinguish munus from ministerium and did so in the act. His priest source says he did not. But anyone reading the Latin of the Declaratio sees that he did. He used munus 2 times and ministerium 3 times. Against a fact, no argument is valid. Another straw man.
Pentin then misrepresents Cardinal Brandmueller’s study
In 2016, Cardinal Brandmueller wrote a study on whether a Pope can renounce. In that study however, the Cardinal never read the first clause in Canon 332 §2. So that study has no value whatsoever in this controversy, since it is there that Pope John Paul II required a renunciation of munus, not ministerium.
If the Cardinal, therefore, thinks the renunciation is valid, it probably has to do with the fact that he never considered the problem. But the Cardinal I think knows his study does not address the problem, because I wrote to him to discuss it and his secretary made polite excuses to refuse me for 7 weeks. I am still waiting.
Pentin then rehashes the red herring of the non sacramentality of the Papal Office
There is absolutely no evidence to think that Pope Benedict XVI thinks the Papal office is a sacrament. The entire explanation in his behavior since Feb. 2013 lies in the fact, obvious in his Declaratio, that he renounces the ministerium, not the munus. As canon 1331 §2, n. 4 shows, the dignitas, officium and munus are on the same plane, but the ministerium is not. Thus if you retain the munus, which is the theological and canonical cause of the officium and the dignitas, then you obviously have the right to continue to call yourself pope and keep the papal honors. That is because you are still THE POPE.
The idea that Pope Benedict thinks of the papal office as a sacrament is a pure invention of those who want him gone for good. It is is a journalistic waste of time to discuss it. As far as I know this idea is a pure invention of Dr. de Mattei, who does not know the least thing about Canon Law because everytime he quotes it, he gets it wrong.
Pentin then follows the golden goose of rectifying the Pope Emeritus title
The title pope emeritus reveals that Benedict claims still the papal dignity, which cannot be without the munus. He did not renounce the munus. So Bergoglian apologists like Pentin have to push the narrative of solving the problem of the Emeritus thing. To hide the evidence. But that is not going to fool anyone. Bergoglio has no more authority to fix the problem than a drunk sleeping under the porticoes of the Sala Stampa on the Via Conciliazione! But Pentin reports this, which is at most a side issue.
Pentin ends with a shell game
His final section is entitled, Putting the Question to Benedict. But nothing in that section is about putting the question to Benedict. If Pentin did do that, he would find that things are not as he has attempted to present them in his hachet job on the truth.
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