Editor’s note. The sentiment, and even conviction, that Francis is an Antipope has been growing. Because these are tumultuous times and it is best not to be distracted, I asked Fr John Rickert to write a rebuttal of that notion. Ann Barnhardt, God bless her, has led the charges that Francis is an Antipope, which is why below she serves as the brief for the prosecution. Fr Rickert speaks for himself and not necessarily for his Fraternity. Permission is granted to copy this article, as long as this disclaimer accompanies copies. Please read Part I of Father Rickert’s article first.
Some readers, reluctant to accept the argument I made from the principle of Common Error, are still troubled by some arguments which they see as leading to the conclusion that Pope Benedict actually remains the real Pope and therefore Pope Francis (Jorge Mario Cdl. Bergoglio) is nothing more, in their view, than an Antipope.
In my earlier post, I explain why, from a standpoint of logic, I did not see a need to address these arguments, as focusing on this exclusively would commit the error of Denying the Antecedent. However, it may help for people to see that these arguments are faulty, so as not to be won over by them.
The Argument from Substantial Error
The argument from Substantial Error goes like this:
- Benedict did not fully abdicate the Papacy, but only did so partially, by expanding its role from a monarchy to a diarchy.
Ann Barnhardt says, “Pope Benedict believed that he could fundamentally transform the office of the papacy into a collegial or synodal office by ‘partially resigning.'” Proponents of this view cite Abp. Gänswein’s speech. In that speech, the Abp. Gänswein said that Benedict, “has not abandoned the Petrine ministry.” Proponents of the position taken by Ann Barnhardt further note that Benedict has never denied this claim.
- As Pope, he believed he had the power to do this.
- But this view is erroneous, for there can be only one Pope.
- Given the substantial error on Pope Benedict’s part under assumptions 1 and 2 above, his resignation is invalid in virtue of Can. 188: “A resignation made out of grave fear that is inflicted unjustly or out of malice, substantial error, or simony is invalid by the law itself.”
- Therefore, Benedict is still the Pope, and Jorge Mario Cdl. Bergoglio never was.
A response to each of these points will make it clear that this argument is flawed.
- There is simply no evidence for this up to and including Pope Benedict’s announcement in 2013. In fact, as will be seen below, there is strong evidence to the contrary.
Note that Abp. Gänswein’s speech is from 2016, three years after Pope Benedict’s announcement. Whether Abp. G¨nswein’s view truly reflects that of Pope Emeritus Benedict in 2016 is actually irrelevant. Once the resignation went into effect, the Chair of St. Peter became vacant. If one reads Abp. G¨nswein’s speech all the way through, which I recommend doing, it becomes clear that he is offering his own personal thoughts and in no way claiming to speak on behalf of Pope Emeritus Benedict.
Nothing should be inferred from Pope Emeritus Benedict’s silence. Every priest knows well that there are times when he must remain silent, even if what is said is not true. Very likely the same holds for lawyers, doctors, and counselors.
- Again, there is no evidence for this up to and including Pope Benedict’s announcement in 2013.
Moreover, there are things a Pope cannot do: He cannot change the Natural Law, because he cannot change the definition of human nature. He cannot dissolve a marriage that is ratum et consummatum. And he cannot change the meaning of words. In 2013 he said: [U]t a die 28 februarii MMXIII, hora 20, sedes Romae, sedes Sancti Petri vacet et Conclave ad eligendum novum Summum Pontificem ab his quibus competit convocandum esse.” The See of St. Peter will be vacant…and a Conclave for electing a new Pope…must be called. (Emphases added.)
- This point is correct, and Pope Benedict was quite well aware of it. For example, in his Wednesday audience of March 5, 2008, about Pope St. Leo the Great he says: “From this intervention in particular, but also from others made during the Christological controversy in those years, it is clear that the Pope felt with special urgency his responsibilities as Successor of Peter, whose role in the Church is unique since ‘to one Apostle alone was entrusted what was communicated to all the Apostles,’ as Leo said in one of his sermons for the Feast of Sts Peter and Paul (83, 2). And the Pontiff was able to exercise these responsibilities, in the West as in the East, intervening in various circumstances with caution, firmness and lucidity through his writings and legates. In this manner he showed how exercising the Roman Primacy was as necessary then as it is today to effectively serve communion, a characteristic of Christ’s one Church.”
- The quotations given from Pope Benedict show that he did not have Substantial Error as claimed. He knew the the Pope is unique (as seen in his Wednesday address) and he intended to leave the Chair of St. Peter completely (as seen in his 2013 announcement).
But is any of this even relevant? I discuss it because it is used as a basis for the argument. The answer to the question is “No.” The pertinent canon is this:
Can. 332 &sec;2. If it happens that the Roman Pontiff resigns his office, it is required for validity that the resignation is made freely and properly manifested but not that it is accepted by anyone.
Freely and properly manifested, that is it. Substantial Error does not even enter into the picture. The statement of resignation from Feb. 28, 2013, was obviously manifested, and Pope Benedict asserted his full and deliberate freedom in making this decision.
He even had a window of opportunity to revoke this resignation:
Can. 189 &sec;4. A resignation can be revoked by the one resigning as long as it has not taken effect; once it has taken effect it cannot be revoked, but the one who resigned can obtain the office by some other title.
After his resignation took effect, the only way Pope Benedict could have become pope again would have been through re-election by the Roman College of Cardinals; but they chose Cdl. Bergoglio instead.
- Therefore, the argument is not sound.
The Argument from Title and Insignia
The Argument from Title and Insignia is more circumstantial in nature. Those who argue that Pope Benedict remains the Pope point out that he has retained the title of “Pope Emeritus,” he still wears white, and is still referred to as “Holy Father.”
First, we would have to ask who decided these things. Did Pope Francis himself insist on them? It is clear that he approves of them. If it could be shown from truly reliable evidence that Pope Benedict himself insisted on them, then the argument would carry much more weight. Otherwise, it could even be the case that the Pope Emeritus has accepted these things with humility even in spite of his own personal wishes.
As for the title of “Pope Emeritus,” and the related claim that St. John Paul II said such that a Pope Emeritus is impossible, we must note several things. One is that the statement attributed to St. John Paul II does not go beyond hearsay, and in any case has no mark whatsoever of definitiveness. Msgr. Philip Hughes, in his excellent book The Church in Crisis: A History of the Church Councils, points out that initially the term homoousios was initially regarded as suspect (he explains why), but eventually gained acceptance to the point of being officially defined.
New terms come into the Church from time to time. The New Testament speaks simply of bishops. Today we speak of auxiliary bishops, coadjutor bishops, archbishops, and patriarchs. There is an extensive nomenclature with regard to the College of Cardinals. These are all terms that have come into use over time.
In ordinary life, we understand that an emeritus is retired, e.g., a professor emeritus. Such a professor no longer holds the professorial chair, which is held by someone else. In contrast, a co-chair of a committee does share chairmanship.
Can. 185, from the 1983 Code of Canon Law says: “The title of emeritus can be conferred upon a person who loses an office by reason of age or of resignation which has been accepted.” I point out that the use of “emeritus” hereby implies that he has lost the office he held, because his resignation has been accepted.
Both in regard to the title and being referred to as “Holy Father,” it is highly significant to me that he is not commemorated in the Canon of the Mass. In the Mass, my fellow priests and I always say, “una cum Papa nostro Francisco,” though formerly we said “Benedicto” until his abdication. We all know that Francis is the Pope—and Donald Trump is the President—and our language reflects that knowledge. Whether we like the situation or not does not change the fact of the matter.
Finally, as to wearing white, I will appeal to my own experience. At tonsure, I received the cassock and have worn it ever since. While only a tonsuratus, and all the way through diaconate, I was often called “Father” because people are not accustomed to seeing anyone other than a priest in a cassock. But our use of the cassock is entirely legitimate. The point is that, obviously, we are not accustomed to having a “Pope Emeritus.” I believe that we might see more of this in the future, however, and that eventually it will be customary. It was the Dominican, Pope St. Pius V, who retained his white habit upon assuming the papacy—which was a novelty in its day. Now no one thinks anything about it.
The simplest way I can put it is this. If Pope Benedict were to die while Bergoglio continues to operate as he is now (and here I am not assuming that he is the Pope), would the cardinals have a conclave? Clearly not. If Bergoglio were to die before Benedict, would the cardinals have another conclave? Clearly yes.
If one regards these answers as in error, there are serious dangers of esotericism and skepticism. Esotericism, where one regards oneself as one of the few handful of people who “know the real truth”; skepticism, where one takes the opposite tack and says, “You can’t really believe anything you see or hear.” Neither of these views, to be sure, is Catholic.
If one regards these answers as only provisional, and that the situation could change, then one makes the mistake of thinking that the papacy is only determined retroactively, at the point of death. “Pope So-and-so clearly wasn’t a heretic, and the whole world thought he was pope, so he must have been after all.” This is completely out of line with Church history.
The question about who was pope four years ago at this date was already answered then. Speculation since cannot change that. Pope Benedict vacated the See of St. Peter, which Cardinal Bergoglio then assumed, taking the name Francis.