Barnhardt’s 2nd Video and the other Meaning of Benedict’s Tacit Consent

Yesterday, Ann Barhnhardt posted her second Magisterial Study of Pope Benedict’s Invalid Resignation and the theological currents behind it. See here. You have to listen to this entire video to understand anything about what is going on in the Vatican today.*


*There is only one small factual error in what Mrs. Barnhardt says in this video, namely, when she says that all the vernacular translations of Benedict’s Act of Renunciation were made from the Italian translation, that is not true, the German is unique, as I have shown previously.


It’s rationally impossible to exclude, after Barnhardt’s marshalling of evidence, that Pope Benedict did not have a vicious and malign intention in renouncing only the Petrine Ministry, and not simply a substantial error of saying ministerium instead of munus.

This being the case, I can now offer a reasonable explanation of Why the Pope did NOT contest ANY of the 39 arguments I sent him?, which argue his resignation of ministerium did not effect a resignation of munus:  The surprising answer is that Benedict acknowledges that it was NEVER his intention to resign the petrine munus, and was in fact his intention to resign only the petrine ministerium.  — If you recall, in my Scholastic Question, which I sent him, I openly stated that I did not dispute the act effected a renunciation of ministerium.

There are 2 conclusions from this inference, which I say has sound probability on the basis of the 55 year history of Joseph Ratzinger in the speculations regarding transforming the papacy.

The first is that, if asked, Pope Benedict will admit openly and candidly before witnesses that he retains the Petrine Munus.  He will however, on account of his error, say he does not hold the Petrine Office or the Papacy.  This will seem to be an illogical self-contradiction, since it does not accord with the Latin text of Canon 145 §1: but in the Germanic School of theology to which Ratzinger belongs, the office of the Papacy is conceived as pertaining to the Petrine Ministry, that is, the active exercise of grace and vocation.

The second conclusion is, that every Catholic who accepts the teaching of Vatican I, will see that there are now 2 reasons for the renunciation of Benedict being null and void:*  namely, not only substantial error, but malign intention.  The malign intention (dolus) being to split the Papal Office.  Both causes are causes of  the act being null and void in canon 188.*

If these 2 considerations are true, then it will be difficult to understand from speaking with Benedict at any time, for a direct answer which indicates the renunciation was invalid to effect his no longer being the Pope.

The solution of the problem, therefore, must come solely from a canonical analysis, because neither as a private theologian, Joseph Ratzinger, nor as the Pope, does he have any authority to split the Papal Office from the Papal Ministry, nor to ascribe the office of the Papacy to the one who has the Papal Ministry, but not the Papal Munus.

Finally, I wish to praise Mrs. Barnhardt for her correct theological and moral characterization of those who have contested that the renunciation was invalid, arguing instead with a faulty notion of “universal acceptance”, as “demonic”, “satanic” and “free-masonic”.

For the Good of the Church, I will close by calling on all the Cardinals, Bishops, Clergy, Religious and Laity, especially of the Roman Church, to return to the norm of Canon 332 §2 and recognize that

  1. Pope Benedict is still the Pope, Bergoglio was never the Pope.
  2. His renunciation of ministry effects nothing in Canon Law.
  3. He is theologically confused as regards holding that the Papal Office is constituted by the one who exercises the Petrine Ministry, not the One who holds the Petrine Munus.
  4. His deliberate intention to renounce only the Petrine Ministry was morally reprehensible and should be reprehended.
  5. Anyone who speaks with Pope Benedict must resort to correcting him, because he not only committed a juridical error, but also a moral error, in renouncing only the Petrine Ministry.


* Barnhardt and myself, as well as nearly all the other commentators on this controversy, have been saying that Benedict’s resignation was invalid. The correct Canonical phrase, however, is that Benedict never renounced the Papal Office. Because, Benedict resigned nothing, in that he never used the verb resign.  (The English translation of Canon 332 §2 has “resign” in the place of the Latin “renounce”.)  Also, Canon 188 does not declare acts of renunciation invalid, it declares them “irrita“, that is, not properly done, or in other words, never done at all.

Can. 188Renuntiatio ex metu gravi, iniuste incusso, dolo vel errore substantiali aut simoniace facta, ipso iure irrita est.

The importance of the distinction in Canon Law regarding juridical acts which are invalid and juridical acts which are irrita is that, if a juridical act of the pope be in question, since one cannot dispute the legitimacy of papal acts, you cannot judge them valid or invalid. But if they were never done, never existed, that is, if they were irriti, then they never happened. And it’s no sin or crime, but true justice to say that they are such.




Investigating the causes of Pope Benedict’s invalid Abdication


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!


I owe an apology to Professor Radaelli

Dr. Enrico M. Radaelli

Dr. Enrico M. Radaelli

By Br. Alexis Bugnolo

As my faithful readers may know, I began the From Rome Blog, on September 7, 2013 A.D. with a book Review of Enrico Maria Radaelli’s book, Il Domani Terribile o Radioso? del Dogma, which was a profound medication on the importance of recognizing Beauty as as one of the transcendentals of being. I remain ever thankful that my review so pleased Professor Radaelli that I had the honor of dining with him about a week thereafter.

I met him only on another occasion or two, and he urged me on in my proposal to blog, taking up the more profound questions of the day. I was at the time much immersed in my preparation of the English translation of the Commentaries of Saint Bonaventure, but I took heed of his encouragement.

Often it happens, that a chance meeting or reading will lead to greater things, of which one has not the foggiest notion or daring imagination to foresee. And at other times a slight negligence or carelessness about a chance reading or meeting can be the cause of grave omissions.

I see this now, more than 6 years after the events of February, 2013.  At that time I was a student in the Faculty of Theology of Saint Bonaventure, at Rome, and I was given a copy of Professor Radaelli’s Supplica to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, in which he urges the Pope to take back his renunciation. He published this on Feb. 18, 2013.

At the time my mind focused only on one part of his argument: namely the faulty notion that whereas a pope could lawfully resign, it was metaphysically unsound to do so. Reading Professor Radaelli’s paper in Italian, which you can read from this link, today, here, I had the difficulty of thinking about his entire argument and the problem he was addressing, since I think in English. I saw that the Professor had written with the most profound emotion and philosophical sense, but I dismissed what he warned of, summarily, since I was given to the same fault of many Catholics, namely of holding that papal power is such that there can be no question of immorality or defect in anything a Pope could lawfully do.

An acquaintance who had served several Bishops in Italy as their private secretary also in those days approached me to ask my opinion of the resignation. He told me that there was an article in the Corriere della Sera about clamorous errors in the text of the resignation, which would make it invalid. I remarked curtly, that how could the Vatican be ignorant of Latin, after all. And upon reading Canon 332 §2 in the English and Italian found nothing to object to. — Though I remained unsatisfied that there was not yet an English translation of the act of renunciation, which, if I remember correctly, only appeared in March after Bergoglio took the name “Francis.”

Professor Radaelli’s work is entitled, Why Pope Benedict XVI should withdraw his resignation: it is not yet time for a new Pope, because if there is one, he will be an Anti-Pope. (This English translation of the Title, is my own). The Italian is:

Now, I can see that Professor Radaelli had a profund metaphysical sense which went way beyond my grasp at the time. He was warning the world that a papal resignation had to be in conformity with the metaphysical nature of the Papacy, as an office and gift of grace originating and bestowed by the Living God, Who is Being and Existence Himself. Not being a native speaker of Italian I did not at that time see what was motivating him so strongly to object. I see now that it was that the resignation, in Italian, was being called a dimissione, that is a letting-go of office. This is the secular term for leaving office. It implies that the office is entirely in the power of the one holding it, is something secular, and has no metaphysical realty of itself other than a relation to those served.

But this is precisely the nature of a ministerium in Latin, when considered in of itself. Thus, the metaphysical sense of Professor Radaelli was giving off a loud alarm. He did not express this alarm in terms of canonical invalidity but of moral non conformity.

Though no one at the time was discussing the issue of ministerium vs. munusbecause nearly everyone was reading a faulty Italian translation of the act of renunciation (prepared by the Vatican) and no one was reading the Code of Canon Law in Latin — the Professor was speaking prophetically in a true sense to warn the Church of Rome of the dire consequences to come.

For this reason, because of my own cavalier attitude to Professor Radaelli’s work, I owe him an apology. And I think the whole Church does also.

I only awoke to the problem when I actually looked at the Code of Canon Law, Canon 332 §2 in the Latin, and the text of the renunciation in Latin. Then I saw immediately the problem. Further investigation of what Canon 17 required confirmed it.

Today, I know by acquired human reason and by divine faith that Pope Benedict never validly resigned, because to affirm the opposite would require that one reject the entire Catholic Faith, right reason and human language itself. The inherent perfection of Beauty, as a transcendental of being which is inscribed in all things, a perfection which is expressed in the balance of good and truth and unity in a perfect harmony and order, preaches most loudly to all who will hear Her, that such is the case.

Apologies, Professor! Please forgive me!

Boniface VIII’s Magisterial Teaching on Papal Renunciations

Translation and Commentary by Br. Alexis Bugnolo¹


The election of Pope Boniface VIII

Pope Boniface VIII, Quoniam (Sexti Decretalium Liber. I, Tit. VII, chapter 1):

Quoniam aliqui curiosi disceptatores de his, quae non multum expediunt, et plura sapere, quam oporteat, contra doctrinam Apostoli, temere appetentes, in dubitationem sollicitam, an Romanus Pontifex (maxime cum se insufficientem agnoscit ad regendam universale Ecclesiam, et summi Pontificatus onera supportanda) renunciare valeat Papatui, eiusque oneri, et honori, deducere minus provide videbantur:  Celestinus Papa quintus praedecessor noster, dum eiusdem ecclesiae regimini praesidebat, volens super hoc haestitationis cuiuslibet materiam amputare, deliberatione habita cum suis fratribus Ecclesiae Romanae Cardinalibus (de quorum numero tunc eramus) de nostro, et ipsorum omnium concordi consilio et assensu, auctoritate Apostolica statuit, et decrevit:  Romanum Pontificem posse libere resignare.

Nos igitur ne statutum huiusmodi per ipsis cursum oblivioni dari aut dubitationem eandem in recidivam disceptionem ulterius deduci contingat:  ipsum inter constitutiones alias, ad perpetuam rei memoriam, de fratrum nostrorum consilio duximus redigendum.

My Translation:

Since some debaters curious about those things, which are not very expedient, and desiring rashly to know more than is opportune, against the teaching of the Apostle (1 Tim. 6:4), have seemed to draw forth less cautiously a solicitous doubt, whether the Roman Pontiff (most of all when he acknowledges himself (to be) insufficient to rule the universal Church, and to support the burdens (onera) of the Supreme Pontificate) be able [valeat] to renounce the Papacy [Papatui], and its charge [oneri], and honor [honori]:  Pope Celestine V, Our predecessor, when he presided over the government of the same Church, willing to cut off the matter of any hesitation over this, having held a deliberation with His brothers, the Cardinals of the Roman Church (of whose number We were at that time), established and decreed by (his) Apostolic Authority, from the concordant counsel and assent of Ourselves, and of the same: that the Roman Pontiff can freely resign.

We, therefore, lest a statute of this kind, enacted through the same, be given up to oblivion or the same doubt be drawn forth furthermore in a repeated debate: judge that the same is to be registered among the other constitutions, ad perpetuam rei memoriam, (drawn) from the council of our brother (Cardinals).



  1. Many thanks to Dr. Cyrille Dounot, Professor of Law in the Faculté de Droit et de Science Politique, at the Université d’Auvergne, France, for making the Latin text of Boniface’s decree, Quoniam (VI, 1, 7, 1), available to me, from the Corpus Iuris Canonici, Vol II, Liber Sextus, Clementinae and Extravagantes, cum glossis, Lyons, France, 1584, cols. 197-199.

 + + + + + +


Benedetto Caetani, the future Pope Boniface VIII, was born around 1235 A. D., of an ancient Roman family. He studied jurisprudence at the University of Bologna and served in the papal government during his long career. Pope Martin IV made him Cardinal Deacon of Saint Nicholas in Carcere, in 1281 A. D., and Pope Nicholas IV, Cardinal Priest of St. Martin in Montibus ten years later. He succeeded Pope Celestine V in 1294, after the former renounced the papacy.

Pope Boniface studied canon law in an age in which its study was confined to gathering the canons of the ancient Church and those decreed in historic synods and commenting on them to deduce the fundamental principles of law by which the Church would be rightly governed. His decree, Quoniam, must be seen in this light, as we can see from the text.

There are two motives for Pope Boniface in writing Quoniam. The historical and the ecclesiological. Historically, inasmuch as he was elected following the resignation of Pope Celestine V, and on account of his untimely demise shortly after being sequestered by Boniface to the Castle of Fumone, Italy, Boniface had good reason to enshrine in Church Law the affirmation that a pope can freely resign. Second, ecclesiologically, Boniface wanted to put to rest doubts that swirled around the nature of the papal office, whether it was a vocation which could only be accepted, and never rejected, or whether it was an office, in the sense of a duty or charge, which could be lain down just as much as taken up.

In its form, Quoniam, is a memorial rescript, that is, its a written document which records what was said and decided in consistory by his predecessor, Pope Celestine V, with the Cardinals. Pope Boniface’s authority to issue the rescript, therefore, is twofold: he was both an eye witness participant in the discussions and as Roman Pontiff he had the authority to determinatively decide upon questions of canon law.

While Boniface’s central purpose was merely to affirm a point of papal power, the matter of his rescript touches upon the nature of the papal office as it was conceived in the minds of Pope Celestine V and his cardinals:  as an office, as a duty, as a dignity.  The office is that of the papacy (papatus), a Late Medieval term derived from the popular address of the Roman Pontiff, pope, in Greek (papas).  The duty is a charge or burden (onus), not only a sober term for the magnitude and importance of the affairs it must conduct, but also a term which implies that this duty is bestowed from on high, a reference to Our Lord’s creation of the office in Matthew 16:18. Finally, the papal office is a dignity (honor), which distinguishes and elevates the one who accepts his canonical election above all others in the Church.

From Boniface’s rescript, by which he establishes Quoniam among the perpetual constitutions of the Church, we can see a direct and faithful reflection in the present Code of Canon Law, in Canon 332 §2, which terms the papal office a munus, affirms that a renunciation of munus is validly effected when the Pope acts freely, and requires a public act. In its final clause, Canon 332 §2 reaffirms that the power of renunciation lies solely in the papal office by denying that its validity arises from the act of renunciation being accepted by anyone at all.

Its clear, then, from the magisterial teaching of Pope Boniface VIII, that the papal office is not a ministry, but rather a unique dignity, office and duty, which in being renounced, must be renounced in its own nature according to what it is. That even those who doubted that a pope had such power, in Boniface’s day, affirmed these things are contained in the context of the doubt they raised, namely, whether a pope could renounce the papacy, its charge, and its honor.

Contrariwise, inasmuch as Pope Boniface affirms that a pope can renounce these things, he affirms that all three must be renounced to effect a papal renunciation, on this account, that in affirming the papal power extends over these, he implicitly asserts that if the papal power does NOT extend over each of these, then the renunciation has not taken place.

This follows from the rules of the science of Logic, which teaches that every negation must be understood strictly. Thus, since a renunciation is a form of negation, a renunciation of the papacy must renounce the office, the charge and the dignity. If one renounced only the exercise of the office and continued to exercise the passive ministry, retain the dignity of being called Your Holiness, giving the Apostolic Blessing, wearing the clothing which only the Pope can wear, it would be clear that one’s resignation had not occurred, because there is no renunciation of all right, unless all right be renounced.

Pope Boniface VIII, eminent legal scholar that he was, obviates these problems which arise from renunciation-law by using the intransitive form of the verb to resign [resignare] in his final affirmation of papal power. This is because, unlike “to renounce” [renuntiare], to resign implies of itself the renunciation of office and all its right, on account of its original meaning to re-signare, or undo the seal which enacted or approved a thing. In Latin, resignare, thus, has the meaning of annul or cancel, as well as resign, and recalls the powers invested in the office of Saint Peter, when Our Lord said: whatsoever you loose ….

The present Code of Canon Law by employing the verb to renounce [renunciare], thus requires that the object of the act munus, be a word which is full of meaning, rich in meaning, and encompassing all that is essential to an act of renunciation of papal office: the office, the charge and the dignity. The brilliance of the Latinity of those who prepared the New Code under Pope John Paul II is seen in this one word, munus, which means both gift [munus in Latin means gift, its used in the Liturgy for the gifts of the Magi], and office [canon 145 terms every ecclesiastical office a munus], charge [munus and onus in Latin share this meaning] and that which up-builds a person [munire in Latin means to build up, or fortify]. In English we see this in the words ammunition and munificence. On this account, if one were to renounce the papal office with any term which is not co-extensive with all three aspects of the Papal office, its clear that the renunciation would be incomplete, and therefore of no effect in law. Nay, since we men are creatures whose understanding is bound up with the words we use to express ourselves, its clear that if one were to use another term with deliberation, his consequent actions would reflect that partial renunciation and incomplete resignation. This should be now obvious to all, who have eyes to see.

Responding to a juridical positivist

by Br. Alexis Bugnolo


Recently, the Most Rev. Henry Gracida, on his blog published a long critique, entitled, “Some Thoughts about the status of Cardinals etc.”, of a post, here at the From Rome Blog, entitled, “How usurpation of the Papacy leads to the excommunication of the participating Cardinal Electors and Bishops“.

Since, I intend to respond to the charges brought against my position, I recommend that all readers first read both articles, in chronological order. — Since the commentator is anonymous, I will refer to him by the initials of his nome du plume: CC.

The argument marshaled against my position contains a list of ridiculous errors.  The first of which is derived from juridical positivism, which holds that nothing is certain in reality unless it be judged by a competent court of law, holding constitutional authority to judge the matter. This is the kind of error no one but a Canonist or Lawyer would fall into, because it reduces the realm of epistemological truth to that of what a court recognizes as facts. Now, its quite understandable that someone exercising the profession of a lawyer or canonist, who must prove everything to the level of certitude had in the courts before whom he appears, to have such a habit of mind, but is quite a grand moral and philosophical error to hold that such a criterion is validly applied to the whole of reality.

On the contrary, the human mind can know truth with certitude. This is a fundamental presupposition of all human endeavor, because if it be denied, then there could be no faith given by one man to another on the basis of human judgements. Now just as the human mind can exist outside the mind of a lawyer before a court, so the human mind can know truth with certitude outside of the court of law. To say otherwise, would be psychotic, that is divorced from reality.

I say this to preface the notion of latae sententiae excommunication as a canonical penalty in the new code of Canon law. Many canonists, proceeding from the mindset of juridical positivism hold that whereas such penalties are published in the Code, they are either never incurred or that they can never with certainty be known to be incurred, until, in both cases, a competent authority declares them.

The fundamental error of this position, is that the very Latin of the penalty contradicts their position:  “latae sententiae” in Latin means, without the necessity of a juridical sentence being handed down. This means, that the one who violates the law which bears this penalty for violation, is penalized BEFORE and WITHOUT any public declaration of the penalty being inferred.  This being the case, a human mind can know of it with certitude. The certitude I speak of here is the certitude of natural reason which from facts which are in the external forum and known by documented evidence or eye-witness testimony, can be with seen as fulfilling the conditions for the excommunication to be incurred.

What CC attempts in criticizing me is a sophistic error:  For first he argues that such excommunications cannot be known with certitude, and then asserts that such certitude can only be had in a court of law, from which he infers that I am wrong in saying that Cardinals are excommunicated. — As an aside, no where in my article do I say that any Cardinal is excommunicated;  I merely said that Cardinals and Bishops are subject to the penalty.

While it it true, that in the Catholic Church, the incurring of any ecclesiastical penalty, whether declared or not, should be made known by ecclesiastical authority for the sake of the unity of the Church, it is not true, that all of them are NOT incurred if ecclesiastical authority through corruption, fear, sloth or some other vice, fails to declare that they are incurred.  For excommunications latae sententiae are incurred by the law itself. Those who say otherwise are simply ignorant of Latin.  To say this idea of excommunication as “automatic” is merely a canard, since as is clear it depends not upon the private individual or merely the act of violation, BUT by the imposition before the fact by the Supreme Legislator, the Pope, of a penalty which applies to all future violations ipso facto.

He extends this error of juridical positivism in the most clericalist manner by denying that a Catholic can know with certitude if a Conclave be valid or not, when a Conclave is called to elect another pope, while the first pope is still alive! — This is pure insanity! That is like saying a layman cannot know the Moon is eclipsing the Sun, just because he saw the Moon blot out the Sun! — You have to be totally psychotic to even say such a thing.

The truth is, the certitude that a Conclave is invalid is had from the certitude of the facts according to which it would not be licit to convene the Conclave. In the case in question, this certitude derives from the certitude that Pope Benedict XVI never resigned the petrine munus.  Which certitude is objective, real, verifiable, documented and testified to by 2 things: the document Non solum propter, which only renounces the ministerium, and canon 332 §2 which says a Pope resigns when he resigns the munus.  Since every Latinist knows that ministerium and munus are not only different words, but which do not share the same significations in ecclesiastical usage, the certitude that Pope Benedict XVI never resigned the Papal Office is both prima facie and a necessary consequent of the law (especially since canon 38 required that if Benedict wanted to signify munus by ministerium, he would have had to explicitly derogate the obligation of canon 332 §2 in its fundamental conditional clause).

Those who have studied and understood philosophy know that both in logic and in moral and legal affairs, the certitude of principles and causes extends and flows down through to conclusions and effects.  A Canonist who is expert in the procedural rules of declared and imposed penalties which are not latae sententiae, might think differently, since he moves in a world of courts, but that is not the whole of reality. Thus to discount canon 359, the canon which forbids Cardinals to convene a conclave when there is no sede vacante, is not only absurd but should make anyone who knows Canon Law doubt whether CC has ever read the law.

Next, in regard to his attempt to fault me for misreading 1382, he seems never to have read the Code of Canon Law of 1983, which specifically obrogates the old code and makes recourse to its terms unauthentic when the new code establishes a greater penalty, which is true in the case of episcopal consecrations. And no, contrary to CC’s assertion, when I said, “ordain” I mean “consecrate” because the consecration of Bishops is a species of the power of ordination, a thing everyone who knows his theology of the Sacraments knows well enough. CC furthermore goes off into the fog, by saying in effect that an AntiPope consecrating Bishops or nominating Bishops is only guilty if he is feigning to have the authority of the Pope to confer jurisdiction. What kind of argument he is trying to make by moving this against the case in question, I do not know, because that is what an Anti-Pope objectively does!!!

The appeal to canon 1405 §1, 2°, namely, that the Pope alone judges the Cardinals, is praeter rem, because in legislating canonical penalties which apply to everyone in the Church, without exception, Pope John Paul II did judge the Cardinals  beforehand.  Those who have studied Canon Law and understand its nature know this well.

Finally, all CC’s other assertions saying things cannot be known or known with certitude, by anyone but the Canonist or Judge in a court of Canon Law, or by the Pope alone, is merely an extension of juridical positivism, an absurd professional error of snobbery among poorly schooled lawyers. Canonists who know the Faith understand well that Canon Law’s fundamental context is the Catholic Faith and that it must be understood in a manner which does not conflict with objective reality and epistemology. Like the Catholic Faith, it is not a gnostic science in which the truth is only known by the initiates who study at Pontifical Universities.

I invite all those who have not yet done so, to read my original article on the Excommunication of Cardinals and Bishops who participate in the usurpation of the Papal Office more carefully, and they will see how I speak of moral causes and the terms of the law, and how I never said anyone was excommunicated, only that if they know what they did, they merit to have incurred the penalty. This is perfectly Catholic.

As a Postscript, I add, that I am not in the least offended by the publication of CC’s critique. I appreciate the occasion to manifest the truth better through the clash of mental swords. — I would also note that, what really irks Canonists and Bishops about my article is that I have put them on notice that their offices and privileges be derived from a true Pope, not a fake pope; in other words, I am reminding the malicious ones that their entire project is null and void, and that they are risking losing communion with Christ, canonically speaking, if they have not already done so.