by Br. Alexis Bugnolo
One of the things I love about Our Lord Jesus Christ is how He crafts parables and uses comparisons to help us understand the things of Heaven.
That is what I find also so delightful in reading the Scholastics like Saint Thomas Aquinas and Saint Bonaventure, the use of analogy.
Following at a great distance behind all three, I want to help everyone understand how wrong it is to say that the act contained in the Declaratio of Pope Benedict XVI on Feb. 11, 2013 caused him to be separated from the Office of the Roman Pontiff on Feb. 28, 2013.
Back in the year 2000, I found myself invited to an engagement party. What I did not realize, until it began, that it was a modern marriage. I was not told the whole truth, because the one inviting me, who was a close friend of the couple, knew that if they told me the truth, I would not come.
It had all the ceremony of a wedding. There was the Bride and Groom in proper and elegant attire. There were the Bride’s maids and a great host of friends and family. There was a large banquet hall and a beautiful Wedding Cake. There was a minister of some sort, and then came the central act.
Both the woman and the man read out personal statements how they were giving up the single life and starting a life together. The man then proposed to the woman, and the woman accepted.
They they began celebrating as husband and wife.
At this point I asked those who invited me, what was going on. All the appearances were of a wedding, but the essence of the act was that of an engagement. The statements of the man and woman clearly indicated they were going to begin from that night onwards a life together. But there was no exchange of vows.
Once I realized the reality of what I was participating in, I left, as I wanted no part in it.
Fake Papal Renunciations
Imagine an analogous case of a Pope in the future who decides to organize a papal renunciation with all the pomp and ceremony which is due such a solemn occasion. He convenes the College of Cardinals, the Swiss Guard stand at attention, the cameras are turned on, and the whole world listens to the Pope read his statement. Then everyone expresses their sorry to see him go and they go off and celebrate a Mass for the end of his pontificate. And he flies off in a helicopter, dressed as a regular Bishop, to Fiumicino Airport and then returns home to his native land.
But, there is a problem, because in the statement the Pope does not say, I renounce that which he needs to renounce according to the Code of Canon Law.
What happened, therefore, is not a papal resignation. But it is understandable that all those who participated in the celebration might have a hard time realizing it, because, why, they were there, they partied and the pope left.
A canonical act, whether juridical or administrative, is an act expressed in words which have an objective meaning. Like marriage vows they have to have the correct signification, and for that reason certain words have to be used. If those words are lacking, the marriage vows will be invalid. Many annulments are granted on this grounds.
A papal renunciation is no different. A pope by renouncing separates the office he holds from himself. If what he says does not signify such a separation, then he has not renounced, howsoever much he or those around him celebrate or solemnize the occasion.
Celebrating a wedding is one thing, taking vows is another. Likewise, solemnizing a papal renunciation is one thing, actually renouncing is another.
Nearly all of us were not paying attention to anything but the celebrations and the solemn ceremonies. The text of the Declaratio was in Latin and nearly no one was reading it. I did not read it, and I am a Latinist. We all assumed it meant that which was fittingly being celebrated. And it was in that, that nearly all of us were deceived.
This is the great historical fact we all need to confront.
Epistemology of a Historical Event
Epistemology is the philosophy about how we know what we know. In regards to a historical event, which is controversial, it is necessary that we strip away all knowledge we have about it, and go back to the actual documents, videos, TV reports and radio broadcasts, interviews and anything else which might record the event and events surrounding it, to understand the event objectively and not according to hearsay.
A lot of Catholics, however, simply took the word of a few persons and never examined the evidence. As such, they never really accepted what happened, because you cannot accept anything without true knowledge. Just as you cannot validly marry another person unless you know who they are and they are whom you know them to be.
We all need to do this in regard to the events of Feb. 2013. I think a lot of ink is being spilled and a lot of arguments and insults are being hurled because everyone has not yet done their homework.
As someone who has a degree in Anthropology and has studied the principles of Archeology, I know that it is very dangerous to assume anything before you begin an excavation. You need to approach the evidence in a forensic professional manner, free from an preconceptions. Historical events need to be approached in this manner too.
I firmly believe that all who want to be faithful Catholics will receive the grace from the Holy Spirit to know the truth, if they seek the truth. Let them put aside any claim by anyone as to what that which happened means, and examine what actually happened and what the Code of Canon Law says should happen. That is they way forward.
Ignore, for the time of your investigation, how anyone reacts to those events. Because the reactions to events which are canonical have no power to alter their meaning, just as at a modern marriage, the celebrations surrounding an engagement do not make it a marriage, howsoever much they appear to be wedding celebrations.
CREDITS: The Featured Image is a screen shot of a video taken by Vatican TV on Feb. 28, 2013, showing Pope Benedict XVI leave the Vatican on an Italian State Helicopter, dressed and escorted as a Head of State, the Roman Pontiff. The helicopter took him to Castle Gandolfo a papal estate. Those with eyes open saw the problem. On Feb. 28, Pope Benedict gave some speeches, but made no act of renunciation.
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