Investigating the causes of Pope Benedict’s invalid Abdication

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By Br. Alexis Bugnolo

As is now notorious, Pope Benedict’s act of resignation of February 11, 2013 was invalid on account of not being in conformity with Canon 332 §2. Here at, the From Rome Blog, I have written about this extensively and subjected the text to a Scholastic analysis, demonstrating, I believe, conclusively, that the signification of the text can not be rationally said to conform to the norm of the law.

As a Latin translator of Ecclesiastical texts, I have wondered daily for six months how a mind such as that of our Holy Father, Pope Benedict, could fall into such a grievous substantial error of mistaking the very object (cf. 126) of the act of a papal resignation, which is a renunciation of the Petrine Munus, to be rather a renunciation of the Petrine Ministry.

Ann Barnhardt sees malice in this, in an attempt to bifurcate the papacy. Her collaborators in Germany have found much evidence to this effect.  But as a Franciscan, who is obligated by the Rule of Saint Francis to recognize the canonically elected popes and show them respect, I consider it my duty to investigate other causes which involve less or no culpability. I take the position of the international Association, Veri Catholici, that we need not presume malice, ignorance suffices, if ignorance can be demonstrated.

In my recent article, the other day, on the Falsification of the Vernacular translations of the text of Renunciation, I showed conclusively that the Vatican has misrepresented the signification of the Latin Text of the act, which is the only official canonical text.

In that study, however, it was evident that the German translation was anomalous, that is, that it had entirely different errors than the other translations. These anomalies led me to today’s investigation.

Archbishop Gänswein and the German Translation of the Code of Canon Law

In the German translation of the Act of Renunciation, the anomalies are as follows:

  1. The Latin word, munus, is translated as Dienst.
  2. The Latin word, ministerium, is translated  sometimes as Amt, sometimes as Dienst.
  3. The syntactical association of the act of renunciation is followed by the correct translation of ita ut.

Following the forensic principle of Aristotle, that where there are 2 differing consequences there are 2 different causes, but when there is the same consequence, there is a unity among causes, I am led by comparison to conjecture why this may be the case.

Recall, if you may, the speech given by Archbishop Georg Ganswein at the Pontifical University of St Gregory the Great, in 2016, which sparked so much amazement, because in it, he said that Pope Benedict still shared in the Petrine Ministry and held the Papal Office.

Recently, however, Archbishop Gänswein, to both a German journalist and a journalist working for Life Site News, withdrew his assertions, claiming that he had misused the words for office and munus, in his German text.

Now, supposing that the Act of Renunciation, in the German translation, was overseen by Archbishop Gänswein, we might conclude that he has something to do with the anomalies it contains

This consideration alone, however, did not satisfy me, so I examined the causes for the Archbishop’s errors in German. Naturally, therefore, I went back to the Code of Canon Law in the Latin (the official text) and to the Vatican’s German translation (unofficial, but in practice used by German Speakers).

At the Vatican Website, you notice immediately that the German translation of Pope John Paul II’s Code of Canon Law is better linked than the English. In the German, the index contains links from each line of text, but in the English, the index contains links only in the titles to the books. This gives one to think that some German speaker was using the German translation of the Code quite frequently and has the authority to get the Vatican webmaster to add all the referential URLs, to make that edition more facile in its use.

This argues that Archbishop Gänswein, if not Benedict himself, frequently used the German translation.

O.K., that appears to be an obvious assumption, but there is a problem.  THE GERMAN TEXT IS ERRONEOUS. And not in a small way! In a very crucial manner: it gets the translation of Munus  WRONG! And that in a way that anyone using it, as a guide on how to Renounce the Papal Office, would write an invalid formula of resignation!

Let me explain, therefore, Why and How, Perhaps, Pope Benedict got his Act of Renunciation wrong in the Latin, and thus never in fact or before God resigned.

The key Canons which one must consult regarding how to write a valid act of renunciation of the papal office are canon 332 §2 and canon 145 §1. This is because in the former, the conditions for a valid resignation are stated, and in the latter, the nature of every ecclesiastical office are defined.

Let’s look at each in the German:

Can. 332 — 2. Falls der Papst auf sein Amt verzichten sollte, ist zur Gültigkeit verlangt, daß der Verzicht frei geschieht und hinreichend kundgemacht, nicht jedoch, daß er von irgendwem angenommen wird.

The error in this German translation is minor: it renders the Latin, Pontifex Romanus (Roman Pontiff) with the German, Papst, (Pope).  However, it correctly translates the sense of the Latin, munus, as Amt.  Because, in this canon, the Latin, Munus, has the sense of office, which is what the German, Amt, means.

It must be noted, here, that in the German translation of the Act of Renunciation, the author of that text in the crucial act of renunciation uses the correct German word for a VALID renunciation, Amt! — The only problem is, Pope Benedict XVI did NOT resign in German, he resigned in Latin!

But this anomaly of the German translation of the Act of renunciation does reveal, that at least ONE German speaker, the author of the translation, THOUGHT the act was a renunciation of the Papal MUNUS.

Now, let’s look at the other canon:

Can. 145 — § 1. Kirchenamt ist jedweder Dienst, der durch göttliche oder kirchliche Anordnung auf Dauer eingerichtet ist und der Wahrnehmung eines geistlichen Zweckes dient.

The importance of canon 145 §1 in the Code of Canon Law is this, that it DEFINES the nature of an ecclesiastical office (officium) as a munus.  As I have discussed in my commentary on Boniface VIII’s Quoniam, the Latin word, munus, is the perfect word for an ecclesiastical office, since it signifies both that the office is a dignity, a charge or burden, and a gift, which upbuilds the one who receives it with grace. There is no 1 word in any modern language, to my knowledge, which has all the senses of the Latin word, munus.

For this reason, its difficult to translate munus properly, which is why I use the Latin word even in English prose. (The German Translation of the Code, which appears on the Vatican Website, seems to be that by Father Winfried Aymans, JCD, an eminent doctor of Canon Law from the Diocese of Bonn, Germany. Who however, does not seem to be a Latinist per se, though, to his merit, he be a signer of the Correctio Filialis)

So in this German translation, we see the TERRIBLE error:  Every ecclesiastical office (Kirchenamt) is defined as a Dienst!  But Dienst as every German speaker knows, means what we in English mean by service, and what every Latin speaker means by ministerium.  So the German translation of canon 145 says:  Every ecclesiastical office is a ministry! When the Code of Canon Law in Latin actually says: Every ecclesiastical office is a munus!

In fact, in the code of Canon Law, in the Latin, Pope John Paul II never speaks of any ecclesiastical office as a ministry (ministerium), but always as an office (officium) or munus.

This means, that if any German speaker read canon 145 §1 in the German, as found on the Vatican Website, and probably in most German translations of the Code of Canon Law, he would be mislead into thinking that to resign an ecclesiastical office its sufficient to renounce the ministry of that office! — But this is precisely the error in the Papal Resignation!

If we go back to the other vernacular translations of the Act of Renunciation, which I analyzed in my previous post, we see that all of them follow the erroneous German translation of munus in the German Translation of the Code of Canon Law! But, illogically and inconsistently, also follow the erroneous Latin text of Pope Benedict when he says ministerium in the Act of resignation.  Thus the vernacular translations (excepting the German) are reading in some places the Latin original of the renunciation, in other places, the German translation of the Code and Act of resignation!  This is the scientific reason why the vernacular translations are worthless if not maliciously contrived.

The error in canon 145 §1 might also explain why Pope Benedict thought that in writing ministerio in the Latin text of his renunciation, he thought he was writing munus, because the erroneous translation makes it appear that the German for munus is the same as the Latin, ministerium. For the German of Canon 145 §1 says that every Amt is a Dienst (which in Latin is a ministerium, but in canon 145 §1 is the German translation for munus), and the German of Canon 332 §2, says a Pope resigns when he renounces his Amt. So it appears that Benedict was mislead into thinking that in Latin, if he renounced his Amt, he could sufficient signify that by renouncing his ministerium!

I pray to God, therefore, that SOMEONE in the Church, who can speak with Pope Benedict XVI in person, makes this known to him!

 

9 comments on “Investigating the causes of Pope Benedict’s invalid Abdication

  1. We found some interesting stuff out, so I bet Br. Alexis will update some stuff, especially about the Translator and his teacher.

  2. The Editor says:

    Thanks, AJ. Just added a small note.

  3. Em S says:

    Venerable Bartholomew Holzhauser wrote about the disgraced state of the Church Militant in our age. He wrote that Shepherds in our time would no longer worry to fulfill the sacred canons any more than the lay men would care to fulfill their civil duties/laws. This prophecy is being fulfilled right before our eyes (Benedict’s invalid abdication) and no one knows it.

  4. Islam_Is Islam says:

    Dear Brother Bugnolo, thank you again for your disciplined work and for honoring your obligation to the Rule of St. Francis. I have a question about an observation that was brought up in a comment thread. When you have time, IF the observation is of any importance, would you comment on it, please? It may be that you have already commented on this observation:

    Remember the Sovereign Pontiff is legibus solutus As he can make and unmake any law whatsoever, he cannot be bound by them in his acts.

    The Canonists all apply to him the words of Ulpian in the Digest, Quod
    principi placuit, legis habet vigorem
    (D 1.4.1. pr. Ulpianus 1 inst.)

  5. The Editor says:

    Ulpian’s theoretical principle is enshrined but limited in canon 38, where the Pope can act contrary to the law IF he derogates from the obligations of the law. But if he does not, then his act is invalid. Canon 38 protects Holy Mother Church and the rights of the faithful from the obligation of following a tyrant, because while Ulpian is correct when speaking of a prince in the absolute sense of one who has all power, the Pope is not such a prince, since he is only the vicar of the King, not the king. Those who make the Pope into an idol do not want to recognize this for both reasons.

    But the principle of Ulpian is badly applied to the present case of a Papal Resignation which is not conform to the requirements of canon 332 §2, as canon 17 requires Canon 332 to be understood, because Canon 332 §2 is not founded upon papal power per se, but on the Natural Law, which is a species of the Divine Law above the competence of the Roman Pontiff to derogate, even if he wanted to.

    So even if the Act of Resignation derogated via canon 38 from the obligation of naming the munus (canon 332), it would be invalid in virtue of the fact that the Pope has not the competence to derogate from the Natural Law.

    Canon 38 is much more significant than most Catholics think. It nullifies a good deal if not all of the Aggiornamento ab radicibus, because the reformers were so giddy they forgot the principle of law which it enshrines, that a Pope has not unlimited power, but must submit to Scripture, Tradition, the Natural, Moral, Divine and Evangelical laws, about which he is not competent to derogate.

  6. Islam_Is Islam says:

    Thank you. I will pass on your observations to the commenter. I pray you have a blessed Holy Week.

  7. Islam_Is Islam says:

    Br. Bugnolo, the commenter replied. It seems as if he is saying that the Pope–whoever he is–is above God because he is the sole judge of whether or not his acts conform to Scripture &c”. (BTW: Although the commenter implies it, I clearly did not take credit for your reply regarding Ulpian’s theoretical principle.) If you deem that no further reply will be effective or simply a waste of time, I will leave this thread where it is.

    Here is the commenter’s reply:
    “Given that the pope can derogate from C 88 if he chooses, he cannot be bound by the form in which he expresses his will. It is a question of interpreting his words or actions in each case.

    “[T]he Pope is not such a prince, since he is only the vicar of the King, not the king.” Ulpian recognises the imperial power is a delegated one, for he says:
    utpote cum lege regia, quae de imperio eius lata est, populus ei et in eum omne suum imperium et potestatem conferat. – inasmuch as by the Lex Regia relating to his sovereignty, the People transfers to him and into his hands, all its own right and power (Dig. 1.4.1. pr. My translation) The question is not whether the power conferred is a delegated one, but whether it is delegated in its plenitude.

    It is true, as you say, that the pope “must submit to Scripture, Tradition, the Natural, Moral, Divine and Evangelical laws, about which he is not competent to derogate,” but bear in mind that he is the sole judge, as Pastor Æternus makes clear: “And since, by the Divine right of Apostolic primacy, the Roman Pontiff is placed over the Universal Church, We further teach and declare that he is the supreme judge of the faithful, and that in all causes, the decision of which belongs to the Church, recourse may be had to his tribunal, and that none may re-open the judgment of the Apostolic See, for none has greater authority, nor can anyone lawfully review its judgment. Therefore, they stray from the right course who assert that it is lawful to appeal from the judgments of the Roman Pontiffs to an Ecumenical Council, as if to an authority higher than that of the Roman Pontiff.” So he, and his successors, are the sole judge whether his acts conform to Scripture &c.”

  8. The Editor says:

    Here the disputant attempts to obviate the argument by shifting it to 2 other planes, namely that a pope, who can in virtue of canon 38 grant a derogation, is not however bound to the manner in which he expresses his will. First, the fact that he switches the argument, seems to be a tacit admission that his position was false or exaggerated. Second, I repeat that the assertion that the Pope is the supreme judge of Christians does not apply because he is surely not the supreme judge of himself. Third, he confuses an act about one matter with a judgement about that act, but ignores as I have said before that the pope has no authority to dispense or derogate from the natural law. However, I do concede that the Pope is not bound in the matter of the way of he signifies his will. For a pope can renounce the papacy by any number of terms which signify the renunciation of the office. Unfortunately, ministerium is not one of them, and the pope’s authority cannot make it such a term, since again, the pope’s authority does not extend over language or logic, for to these he must submit to make his will understood. When it is not understood, as in the present case, then canon 322 §2 makes the resignation invalid.

  9. Islam_Is Islam says:

    Thank you, again for making sense of the language and the facts.

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