Whether, with all Cardinal electors defecting, the Roman Church has the right to elect the Pope?


By Alexis Bugnolo

In High Scholasticism, the Catholic Theologians, Saints and Doctors of the Church often considered many questions which were speculative, either in regard to what was true but unknowable by man (being hid in the mystery of God) or what could be in a special circumstance which may or may not ever come to be. As founder of The Scholasticum, an Italian non profit dedicated to the revival of the Scholastic Method, I believe that the Scholastic Method can greatly assist the Church even in Her most pressing needs and extraordinary crises. For that reason, I present here a Disputed Question, the import of which may arise, if His Holiness Benedict XVI pass to the Lord before Jorge Mario Bergoglio, and then only if, at such a time, the Cardinals holding fast to the faulty notion that Benedict’s resignation was valid, fail to convene within 20 days to elect his successor. For in accord with the current law on Papal Elections, Universi Dominici Gregis, n.37  Cardinals who do not attend a Conclave with that period no longer have their votes counted. (All references are to the new Code of Canon Law, Latin text; and the papal law on electing the Pope, Latin test.)

Whether, with all Cardinal electors defecting, the Roman Church has the right to elect the Pope?

And it seems that she does not:

1. For only the Cardinals of the Roman Church have the right to elect the Roman Pontiff, according to what is stated in Canon 349, where it says cui competit ut electioni Romani Pontificis provideat ad normam iuris peculiaris.  Therefore, since the Roman Church includes those Cardinals, Bishops and Clergy who are not Cardinal Electors, they have no such right. Therefore, the Church of Rome has no right to elect a Pope, even if all the Cardinal Electors fail to elect one.

2. Likewise, since the College of Cardinals has no authority during a Sede Vacante to act other than what is provided for in special law, namely, in the Law for Papal Elections, Universi Dominici Gregis, and this according to Canon 359, which reads: Sede Apostolica vacante, Cardinalium Collegium ea tantum in Ecclesia gaudet potestate, quae in peculiari lege eidem tribuitur; It follows that neither does the Roman Church, because what is denied a superior, is denied also to the inferior. But the College of Cardinals is denied license to act in any other way that what is proscribed in law, therefore also the entire Church of Rome which is inferior to the College.

3. Likewise, since the papal law, Universi Dominici Gregis, n.4, expressly forbids any variation or alteration in law during a Sede Vacante, when it says: Sede Apostolica vacante, leges a Romanis Pontificibus latas non licet ullo modo corrigi vel immutari, neque quidquam detrahi iis sive addi vel dispensari circa partes earum, maxime eas, quae ad ordinandum negotium electionis Summi Pontificis pertinent. Si quid contra hoc praescriptum fieri vel attentari contigerit, id suprema Nostra auctoritate nullum et irritum declaramus; there is nothing which the Roman Church can do, even if all the Cardinals defect, since there is no provision in Canon Law for such action.

4. Likewise, the ancient right of the Roman Church to elect the Roman Pontiff was abrogated when that right was restricted to the Roman Clergy, and again, when that right was further restricted to the Cardinals of the Roman Church. Therefore, no such right exists.

5. Likewise, the ancient right of the Roman Church to elect the Pope was no more than a custom of the Roman Church. But laws of custom have no force if they have not been observed for 1300 years (cf. Canon 26). Therefore, the Roman Church has no such right.


It seems that she does:

1. By Apostolic Institution of the Apostle Saint Peter, the Roman Church undubitably enjoyed the right to elect the Roman Pontiff.  This right was restricted by special degree in the 7th century to the Roman Clergy, and in 11th century to the Cardinals of the Roman Church. Yet such a restriction which was prudential and a benefice cannot extinguish the apostolic right, in accord with the principle of law, which states that general prescriptions take precedence to special benefices: Generale praescriptum beneficio speciali anteferendum est (Theodosian Code: DEM AAA. VICTORIO P(RO)C(ONSULI) ASIAE). Therefore, in the case that there are no Cardinal Electors, whether in fact or by defection to an Anti-Pope, or to a Heretical or Schismatic Church, the apostolic right of the Roman Church revives. Therefore, the Roman Church has such a right in their absence.

2. Likewise, by the Code of Canon Law, which declares that all rights which have never been revoked remain in force, according to canon 4, which reads: Iura quaesita, itemque privilegia quae, ab Apostolica Sede ad haec usque tempora personis sive physicis sive iuridicis concessa, in usu sunt nec revocata, integra manent, nisi huius Codicis canonibus expresse revocentur; but the right to elect the Roman Pontiff was indubitably granted by the Apostle Saint Peter to the Roman Church, and that right has never been revoked. Nay, it is the very justification and inherent principle maintained when the Roman Synod in the 7th century restricted the exercise of that right to the Clergy, and when the Pope in the 11th century restricted it further to the College of Cardinals. This is confirmed by canon 6 §4, which restricts the abrogation of previous laws and rights to those things which are integrally expressed in the New Code. But such case, of having no Cardinal Electors, is not provided for. Therefore, it is not integrally included. Therefore, the rights to be referred to in such a case are NOT obrogated. Therefore, that right remains in force always to be revived.

3. Likewise, the ancient right of the Roman Church to elect the Roman Pontiff was ever held to have the force of law. This is self evident from history. But as canon 25, teaches: Nulla consuetudo vim legis obtinet, nisi a communitate legis saltem recipiendae capaci cum animo iuris inducendi servata fuerit. But, such is the case with the ancient right of the Roman Church, especially since when this right was restricted, the ancient reason for it was never denied or explicitly abrogated. This is proven by the fact that the Cardinals are still called Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church. Therefore, in the absence of all Cardinals, whether by bad will or substantial error, the right returns to the Roman Church.

4. Likewise, custom is the best interpreter of law (Canon 27). But, when Pope John Paul II was near death, the Cardinals and Bishops in his presence presumed his consent to use his signet ring to appoint Bishops which he had already considered for nomination. And no one in the Church objected to this. Therefore, it is right to presume the consent of a lawgiver, in cases in which he never foresaw. But such is the case of a substantial error in a papal resignation, when all the Cardinals fail to notice that substantial error and are consequently led not to convene in Conclave to elect a successor, but cleave instead to an Anti-Pope which they elected uncanonically during the lifetime of the Pope. Therefore, in such an unforseen and extraordinary case, the Roman Church has a right to have recourse to the ancient law.

5. Likewise, from the principle of subsidiarity, that, namely, when a higher or more dignified part of the body politic fail, the right to act passes to the subordinate authority. This is based on the teaching of Pope Pius XI in Quadragesimo Anno: Just as it is gravely wrong to take from individuals what they can accomplish by their own initiative and industry and give it to the community, so also it is an injustice and at the same time a grave evil and disturbance of right order to assign to a greater and higher association what lesser and subordinate organizations can do. For every social activity ought of its very nature to furnish help to the members of the body social, and never destroy and absorb them. But, with all the Cardinals failing, it would be wrong to deny what the lesser and subordinate organization, the Roman Church, can do. Therefore, if all the Cardinal Electors fail to act on account of an obstruction which they themselves cannot or fail to remove, the Roman Church, as the entity to which they belong by incardination, receives license to resort to the Apostolic right which it has ever enjoyed, in part or whole, of electing the Roman Pontiff.

6. Likewise, from the Code of Canon Law itself, in canon 28: nisi expressam de iis mentionem faciat, lex non revocat consuetudines centenarias aut immemorabiles; hence, since the apostolic right of the Roman Church is of time immemorial, and since that right is not expressly revoked in the present Code, it remains in force, in due circumstances. But the absence of all Cardinals Electors is not only a due circumstance, but one which puts the very constitution of the Church in the gravest danger, since the Office of Saint Peter is not only useful but necessary for the salvation of souls. Therefore, such a right cannot be considered abrogated by the new Code nor by the papal law on the Election of the Roman Pontiff, even if it seems to be expressly abrogated. Therefore, the Roman Church has such a right, in such circumstances.


I RESPOND:  It must be said, that whether by good will or bad, the act of electing a Roman Pontiff during the life time of a validly elected Roman Pontiff is both a crime against God and against the unity of the Church. It is a crime against God, since Christ has ordained only one man to be pope at any given time. Its a crime against the unity of the Church, since it causes a de facto schism between those who adhere to the true Pope and those who adhere to usurper and false pretender.  Now, even if the Cardinals who do this, do so without malice, but operate under substantial error, nevertheless before the law they must be held to be guilty of the sin and crime of schism, whereby they lose every office and privilege in the Church.

Now the Roman Church, which has ever held the right by apostolic privilege of electing the Roman Pontiff, enjoys in a special way the promise and right granted by Our Lord when He declares that “the Gates of Hell shall never prevail against My Church.” But the Gates of Hell would prevail against the Roman Church if she were deprived of a validly elected Pope and forced to submit to a pertinacious public heretic, apostate or Freemason.  Therefore, the Church of Rome has the right to elect the Roman Pontiff, in the special case wherein all the Cardinal Electors fail to exercise their right to do so. But in accord with the papal law, Universi Dominici Gregis, this right must be exercised within 20 days after the death of the Roman Pontiff.

Therefore, if Pope Benedict XVI dies before Jorge Mario Bergoglio, and after 20 days no Cardinal Elector convenes in Conclave to elect his successor, the Roman Church, composed of all the Cardinals, Bishops and Clergy, incardinated in the Diocese of Rome, excluding those who adhere to the de facto schism, have the right to elect the Roman Pontiff.

For this reason, the arguments to the contrary are to be accepted, which sufficiently refute the arguments which contradict them.






The Validity of Benedict’s Resignation, Part II: Ad Contrarium


By Br. Alexis Bugnolo

In the previous article, entitled, The Validity of Pope Benedict’s Resignation must be Questioned, I recited the history of the controversy over the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI on the topic of substantial error in the resignation and then proceeded to explicate 20+ arguments against the validity.

Here, I will list the arguments for the validity, inasmuch as I find and understand them. If you know of more, let me know in the comments section below.  After each argument pro-Validity, I will post, for the reader’s convenience the argument against it — deviating in this small manner from proper Scholastic form. There is no particular order among the arguments, but the strongest ones are at the end.

Whether Pope Benedict XVI by means of the act expressed in his address, “Non solum propter”, resigned the office of the Bishop of Rome?

Ad contrarium:

And it seems that he did:

1. Because, Pope Benedict XVI as pope is above Canon Law. Therefore, he does not need to resign according to the form of Canon 332 §2.  Therefore, he resigned validly.

Ad obj. 1: To argue that the Pope is above Canon Law, and therefore the resignation is valid, is a sophism, which when examined is equivalent to 2 other erroneous propositions, namely:  “The Pope as pope is above canon law, ergo etc.”, and “The Pope as the man who is the pope is above the Law, ergo etc.”  To the first, I say: In the first case it is true that the Pope as pope is above canon law. However, the Pope when renouncing his office, does not renounce as Pope, but as the man who is the pope. Therefore the argument is praeter rem.  To the second, I say: It is false to say the Pope as the man who is pope is above Canon Law, because the mind of the Legislator of the Code of Canon law, Pope John Paul II, in canon 332 §2, expressly declares when a papal resignation is such and is to be regarded as valid.  Therefore, if a pope resigned in a way which was valid, but which the Faithful had to regard as invalid according to the norm of that Canon, there would be chaos in the Church. However, in interpreting the mind of a legislator, one cannot presume any thesis which would make the law defective. Therefore, Pope John Paul II did intend to bind the man who is pope, in a papal resignation. Therefore, the second is false also.

2. Because it is clear that Pope Benedict wanted to resign. Therefore, he did resign. Therefore, his resignation is valid.

Ad obj. 2.: To argue that the Pope wanted to resign, therefore he did resign, is to employ a sophism which conceals an undistributed middle term. For if the pope wanted to resign the ministerium of the office, then he did resign the ministerium. But such a resignation is not conform with Canon 332 §2, since it does not resign the munus. Therefore, it is invalid.  Likewise, if the pope wanted to resign the munus, then he did NOT resign the munus if he said ministerium. And then even if he thought he did, its invalid, per canon 332 §2 according to the act, and according to canon 188 on account of substantial error.

3. Because Pope Benedict, after his resignation, publicly declared that he validly resigned. Therefore, he validly resigned.

Ad obj. 3.: To argue that the Pope resigned validly because after his resignation he publicly declared that he resigned validly, is to employ a subterfuge. Because in that public declaration he declares that he resigned the Petrine ministry validly. That he resigned the Petrine ministry validly, is not disputed. But if that is what he resigned, then he did not resign the munus. Therefore, that act did not effect a resignation of the office. Therefore if it be asserted to be a valid papal resignation, the assertion is false according to canon 332 §2.

4. Because, Pope Benedict, after his resignation, publicly declared that he freely resigned, therefore he resigned.

Ad obj. 4.: It is true that liberty in a resignation is one of the necessary conditions of a papal resignation according to Canon 332 §2, but it is not true that it is the only condition. The first condition is that it be a resignation of munus. It was not. Therefore, this argument is praeter rem.

5. Because, Cardinal Sodano, as Dean of the College of Cardinals, in convoking the College, acted as if it were valid, therefore it is valid.

Ad obj. 5: There is no Canon of the Church or special delegation by the Roman Pontiff which makes the decision of the Cardinal Deacon to call a conclave efficacious of the validity of an invalid resignation, or authoritatively determinative of the validity of a resignation. Therefore, that he did so, proves nothing. Nay, canon 332 §2 expressly denies this.

6. Because the College of Cardinals convened to elect a Successor of Pope Benedict, therefore by that act declared or made the resignation valid.

Ad obj. 6.:  There is no Canon of the Church or special delegation by the Roman Pontiff which makes the decision of the College of Cardinals to conclave or elect a Pope, efficacious of the validity of an invalid resignation, or authoritatively determinative of the validity of a resignation. Therefore, that they did so, proves nothing. Nay, canon 332 §2 expressly denies this.

7. Because the whole College of Cardinals after the resignation and after the Conclave of 2013 acts and holds that Jorge Mario Bergoglio is the true and valid pope.

Ad obj. 7: I reply the same as for obj. 7.

8. Because the whole world accepts that Jorge Mario Bergoglio is Pope Francis.

Ad obj. 8: Canon 332 §2 in saying, “and not whether it be accepted or not by anyone whomsoever” in its final phrase, expressly denies this. Therefore, it is false.

9. Because, a Catholic must hold as Pope, whomsoever the Cardinals, or the Bishops, or the Clergy of Rome, hold to be the Pope.

Ad obj. 9.: I reply the same, as to obj. 8.

10. Because the election of a Pope by the Cardinals is a dogmatic fact, which all Catholics must accept.

Ad obj. 10.: While it be true that the valid election of a Pope by the Cardinals is a dogmatic fact which all Catholics must accept, it is not true if the election were invalid. But an election is invalid if the previous pope is still living and has not yet validly resigned. Therefore, this objection is invalid, inasmuch as the resignation be invalid. Therefore, of its self it is insufficient to prove the point argued.

11. Because the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI is a papal act, which cannot be questioned, according to the addage: prima sedes a nemini iudicatur.

Ad obj. 11.: While it is true that the acts of the Roman Pontiff are juridical acts which cannot be questioned, it is not true that declarations made in the first person by the man who is pope, which are the matter of such acts or declarations, cannot be judged. That such an act can be judged is proven by Canon 332 §2 which judges such acts. That such matter of the papal act is not an act of the pope as pope, has already been proven above.  —  If you say, that the act of declaration (“I declare”) is a papal act, not the act of the man, therefore it must be held to be valid, since the Pope is the supreme legislator and arbiter of the meaning of canonical acts, it must be responded that the declaration is made in the first person singular, not the first person plural, so the supreme legislator has already explicitly renounced his role in the declaration of the resignation.

12. Because, a Catholic in good conscience must presume, that if the resignation were not valid on account of the use of the word ministerium not munus in the key phrase of the act, that the Cardinals, in accord with canon 17, either demonstrated to themselves that he sufficiently resigned the papacy, or held private council with the Holy Father, Pope Benedict, to know his mind and meaning, at which time he privately signified that he had resigned the papacy in resigning the ministry of the Papacy.

Ad obj. 12.: While it is true that a Catholic should be disposed to presume such, such presumption does not make an invalid resignation valid. Nay, in accord with Canon 332 §2, one must note that the final cause of an invalid resignation is that it not be manifested according to the norm of law (rite manifestastur). Which norm requires a public act, that is, an act witnessed by at least 2 witnesses and made verbally. Such an act has never been published. So even if it were made, its a secret act, and it would not make an invalid resignation, valid.

13. Because Pope Benedict said, “I declare that I renounce the ministry which I had received from the hands of the Cardinals, … so that the See of St. Peter be vacant on …”, he clearly indicated that his renunciation was to effect a loss of office (munus), therefore his resignation was in accord with Canon 332 §2, despite not explicitly using the word munus, as that Canon requires for validity. Therefore, the resignation was valid.

Ad obj. 13.: This objection was refuted in the arguments of the First Part, but its complexity deserves a fuller answer for those minds which cannot understand how it is invalid. First, as demonstrated in the First Part of this Disputed Question, a resignation is valid if it includes a resignation of munus; it is not valid if it does not. And according to Canon 17, if there is any doubt as to whether munus is included in canon 332 §2 as a sine non qua condition or according to its signification in a broader sense, one must have recourse to other parts of the Law, the canonical tradition, and to the mind of the Legislator (John Paul II) of the Code. As has been shown elsewhere, there is no basis for an argument from canon 17 that ministerium can mean munus. However, since ministerium is followed by 2 subordinate clauses, the argument that it is invalid, must respond to that condition. For in Latin, some subordinate clauses can alter the signification of the main clause. And it is true that there is a poetical form, in which part of a thing can substitute for the whole, as when at Mass in the Latin Rite we say, “Come under my roof” to mean “come into my soul”. However, as regards the Latin of the text of the renunciation, to say, “which I received from the hands of the Cardinals” imposes no necessity of reference to the Petrine Ministry per se, because Ratzinger also at that time received the Episcopal and Pastoral Ministry for the Diocese of Rome. The second clause, “so that the See of St Peter be vacant”, has been shown in Part I to necessitate no necessity. For those who do not understand Latin grammar, this needs to be explained. Because, in a subordinate clause such as “so that … be vacant”, the clause is a clause of purpose of the kind which begins with the particle “ut”, and thus is a pure clause of purpose which indicates only a goal. If the subordinate clause of purpose had begun with “in the kind of way which” (quomodo) or “in such a way as to” (in tali modo quod) it would have been a purpose clause of characteristic which has the power to alter the manner of signification in the main clause, and allow the use of metynomic signification, that is, when a part refers to the whole. Since Pope Benedict did not say anything of that kind, this way of reading the subordinate clause is not possible. Hence it remains invalid.  However, even if a metonymic signification was had, it remains invalid per canon 332 §2, since it would not be duly manifested. Because just as if one were to pronounce marriage vows by saying, “I take you to be my Viennese strudel” instead of saying “I take you to be my wife”, an interpretation would be necessary to be resorted to, to make the phrase signify taking a wife, so in an act of resignation a metonymic manner of signification renders the act invalid because it publicly does not duly manifest the intention.

14. In his act of resignation Pope Benedict XVI declared two things. The First regarding his resignation, the second regarding the convocation of a Conclave “that a Conclave to elect a new Supreme Pontiff be convoked by those whose duty it is”. He would not have said this, if his intention was not to resign the office of the Papacy. Therefore, he did resign the office of the papacy.

Ad obj. 14.: This argument is a conflation of two arguments, one of which has previously been refuted, viz. that one which regards his intention, which was refuted in Ad obj. 2. Here I will respond to the other, that which regards the papal command to convene a Conclave.   That the Pope declared that a conclave be convened to elect a new Roman Pontiff forms the second independent clause of his verb, “I declare”. Thus, it is logically independent and bears no necessity in the alteration of the signification of the first clause, which regards the resignation.  Thus, if the resignation not be duly manifested in accord with Canon 332 §2, that the Pope declares a Conclave be called is a papal declaration which is totally vitiated by the substantial error in his first declaration. Thus canon 188 invalidates the execution of this command. This is especially true, because in the declaration of convocation he does not require the convocation to take place before or after he ceases to be pope, or on a specific date or even during his life time. To see this more clearly, recall the example from the arguments against the validity, wherein a hypothetical pope declares, “I renounce bananas so that on Feb. 28, at 8 PM, Roman Time, the see be vacant” and simply add, “and that a Conclave be convened to elect a new Roman Pontiff”.  As can be seen in this hypothetical, the second declaration does not make the first valid, it just continues the substantial error: a substantial error which also makes the Conclave of 2013 and all the acts of Bergoglio as pope invalid.

15. Canon 332 §2 does require the resignation of office. But ministerium also means office. Therefore, when Pope Benedict renounced the ministerium, he renounced the munus.

Ad obj. 15.: Canon 332 §2 reads as follows:  If it happens that the Roman Pontiff renounce his munus, there is required for its validity alone that it be freely made and manifested rite, and not that it be accepted by anyone whomsoever.  As can be seen from this Canon — which is the only one dealing with papal resignations — the fundamental condition is that the Pope resign his “munus”.  Now while some modern translations translate that as office (English), others as charge (Spanish), others as function (Italian), its clear from the Code of Canon Law that its primary canonical meaning is office. This can be seen from its use in the headings of the New Code for chapters on ecclesiastical offices. This is confirmed by a direct citation of canon 145 §1, where every ecclesiastical office is called a “munus”, not a “ministerium”.  An examination of the Code also reveals that a ministerium is never called an “office”.  Now since the Code of Canon Law requires in Canon 17, that the Code itself be read in accord with the tradition of canonical texts, the sources of canon law and the mind of its legislator (Pope John Paul II), these facts should be sufficient evidence to exclude the possibility that “ministerium” can be read as munus. This is confirmed by the comparison of Canon 332 §2 with the corresponding canon in the Code of Canon Law promulgated under Pope Benedict XV, where it speaks of a Pope renouncing, but does not say what he renounces. Its evident and significant that Pope John Paul II in the 1983 code added the word “munus” to specify what must be renounced to effect a papal resignation. Its also evident that in that Code of Canon Law “ministerium” refers to the exercise of an office. Furthermore, if one examines all previous papal resignations for which there is textual evidence of the formula of resignation, the words which signify office are always found: onus, munus. Ministerium is not found. Proper names for the office are found, such as episcopatus or papatus. Or the dignity resulting from the office is named with the words honor or dignitas. Thus, in accord with Canon 17, all the sources of authoritative interpretation conclude upon 1 result: that a Pope only resigns when he resigns the munus, the office, not the execution of the office, ministerium. Therefore, even if Pope Benedict intended, and in private afterwards asserted or asserts or will assert, that he intended to use “ministerium” for munus, his act of renunciation is invalid on account of that substantial error, in virtue of canon 188, and it cannot be made valid by any subsequent act. It would have to be redone with the word, “munus”. So the argument is invalid by a sophistry, of reading “munus” in its major according to its Latin signification, but reading “ministerium” in the minor according to its vernacular usage. Thus, its conclusion is reached through an undistributed middle term, and thus is invalid also.

16. There is no petrine ministerium without a petrine office, for the two are inseparable according to right and being [secundum ius et esse].  Therefore, although Canon 332 §2 does require that a Pope renounce his munus to validly resign, nevertheless, a renunciation of ministerium is sufficient to effect this, because though “munus” names the papal office in relation to God’s gift of grace and duty, “ministerium” names the same office according to its relation to the Church. Therefore, to renounce the petrine ministerium, is to renounce the petrine munus.

Ad. obj. 16.:  It must be said, that this argument must be responded to by interemption, for it is false in both its major and minor propositions.  In its minor, it is false in being founded upon an error of interpreting the obligations of Canon 332 §2 according to the general custom of the science of theology, and not according to the norm of law. In its major, or premise, it is furthermore false in asserting that ministerium is not separable from office according to right and being [secundum ius et esse].  — In regard to the first, one must respond thus:  For in the science of theology, words can have differing significations in respect of the same or dissimilar things. But all this is praeter rem in regard to a discussion of the canonical signification of an act of resignation of ecclesiastical office, even more so, in regard to an office established by the Incarnate Word of God. For in such a matter, the argument must turn upon the office according to its being in the Divine Will and Intention, not upon the office as it is understood according to the personal theology of the man who is Roman pontiff. This is also true in regard to the Roman Church, whose Bridegroom is not the Roman Pontiff, but Christ Jesus Himself, now reigning in Glory. For that reason, not only is She bound to give the consent of Her will to the Redeemer, but also the assent of Her mind. Therefore, one would propose a manner of observing canon law which would be tantamount to adultery, if one held that it was licit for the Roman Church to regard the signification of a canonical act after the manner of the world, the flesh, or even private interpretation. Thus, not only is Christ by His promise to Saint Peter bound by canon 332 §2, promulgated by His Vicar, Pope John Paul II, to not withdraw the grace and office [munus] unless it be explicitly renounced, so also the Roman Church, which is His most faithful virgin Bride and virgin Spouse. Therefore, the Church must regard the obligations of canon 332 §2 as requiring a renunciation of munus, inasmuch as canon 17 requires that term to be understood in canon 145 §1. Nowhere in the Code of Canon law is a ministerium regarded as the office itself. So even if it was the intention of the author of Non Solum Propter, inasmuch as he was man, to signify the Papal Office in its relation to the service it renders, it does not by that fact alone become an act which the Church can accept as rite manifestatum, for an interpretation would have to be resorted to, and a reading of the text, outside the rules of signification of the Code of Canon law would have to be employed. And as such, it would not be canonically valid, even if one could sustain that it was theologically sufficient. Nevertheless, even if one were to grant that the words ministerium …. commissum spoke of the munus petrinum in its relation to the Church, since nothing is renounced but what is explicitly renounced, the act would effect nothing more canonically speaking than a renunciation of the office inasmuch as it is in such a relation, not of the office itself. And thus it would not be efficacious to renounce nor sufficient to signify the renunciation of the office in its relation to God and His gift of grace. But since this very relation refers to it according to its principle of being [secundum essendi principium] – for it is a gift immediately from Christ and established by an act of His will – such a renunciation does not effect what is essential to it. The act remains, therefore, vitiated by substantial error in its manner of signification, and thus is invalid ipso iure, by canon 188. — Finally, in regard to the premise of the argument, namely, that ministerium is not separable from office secundum ius et esse, it must be said that this is falsified by liturgical and canonical law. For since the suppression of minor orders, the state of the acolyte and lector are termed “ministries” [Canon 230 §1], yet such ministries confer no right to exercise such service at any time, but only the suitability to do so at the request of the celebrant of a liturgical act. Therefore, ministeria are separable in right and being from munus. — Thus, in conclusion, it appears obvious that the entire argument is false, since a conclusion which is drawn from a false premise and a false minor is entirely falsified.

17. The peaceful and universal acceptance of a Pope is caused by and is the effect of a valid papal election. Therefore, since 6 years have passed, even if the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI were invalid, his de facto silence at the usurpation of the Papal Office by Bergoglio is tantamount to a resignation. Therefore, whether the resignation was invalid or not, it now must be regarded as valid.

Ad obj. 17.:  Though, in common law, possession is nine tenths of right, and thus, usurpation can lead to acquisition of right; and though in Roman Law usucapione can obtain legal right to property after a long time, such a principle is not valid for two reasons. First, it is not valid theologically in regard to an ecclesiastical office which was established by Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word, by an immediate personal act. Of which kind is the office of Pope. The theological reason is this: that no one can snatch anything out of the Hand of the Living God (John 10:28). And thus, no usurpation of the papal office can constrain the Godhead, Who is Infinite Justice and Omnipotence Himself, to transfer the grace of the Papal munus to another.  To hold otherwise, would be a theological impossibility and absurdity. — Second, it is not valid canonically, on account of Canon 359, which specifies that the College of Cardinals has authority to elect a Roman Pontiff only during a sede vacante.  Therefore, if the resignation of Pope Benedict XVi was invalid, there was no sede vacante, and therefore the College had no authority to elect a successor.  — As for tacit acquiescence: it is clear from Church History, that against the claims of an Anti-Pope no rightful claimant of the Apostolic See was considered to have relented merely for not prosecuting his right. Moreover, the argument of tacit acquiescence, however, has no application in the case under dispute, because that one acts on substantial error does not constitute tacit acquiescence, since tacit acquiescence requires the capacity of consent, a thing which is impossible through invincible ignorance in the case of substantial error. — Finally, as regards the universal and peaceful acceptance of a papal election: while this principle is certainly a valid reflex principle for troubled consciences in the case of a valid election, there is no possibility of a valid election when the College had no right to act, for it is contrary not only to Canon Law but to Divine Law to elect another Roman Pontiff while the Pope still lives and has not validly resigned. It is also not valid, as regards its implicit minor: namely, that there has been a peaceful and universal acceptance of the Papal resignation. There has not, as the preface to this disputed question demonstrates. Hence, the application of this reflex principle to the present case is at best praeter rem, and worse a subterfuge.

18. Benedict’s renunciation of ministerium validly effects a resignation of office, because, on account of Canon 10, which expressly says only those conditions of invalidity cause an act to be invalid, since canon 332 §2 speaks of invalidity only regard to liberty from coercion and due manifestation, not the naming of the office, since it was Benedict’s intention to name the papal office, as is evident from his accepting the title of Pope Emeritus, the naming of the ministerium instead of munus does not make the act of renunciation invalid. Furthermore, Benedict as pope is the supreme legislator, therefore he officially interprets the law (cf. Canon 16 §1), therefore he is able to resign the Petrine munus by resigning the Petrine miniserium.

Ad obj. 18.: While it is true that canon 332 §2 speaks of invalidity only in regard to the conditions of the act, nevertheless canon 188 speaks expressly of invalidity of resignations which are vitiated by a substantial error. Now, there is no more substantial of an error in resigning an ecclesiastical office, than to resign an accident of it or its second act of being (ministerium) and believe that in doing so one sufficiency signifies the office (munus). Furthermore, Canon 18 requires that the terms of canon 332 §2 be understood strictly, since the latter canon restricts the one who is renouncing. Therefore, the renunciation must explicitly regard the munus of the papal office, which in that canon and in canon 749 §1, like all episcopal offices (cf. Paul VI, Christus Dominus) in the entire Code, is referred to exclusively as a munus, because it is not merely an ecclesiastical office (officium) or service (ministerium) established by custom or the Church, but is a gift of grace and office (munus) established by the Living God by an immediate Personal Act (cf. Matthew 16:18 ff).  That each such office (munus) can exercise one or more ministeria is not only NOT an argument for the validity of Benedict’s resignation, but nay rather an argument against the validity, on account of canon 188, canon 17 and canon 41 (in the Latin), the latter of which expressly associates ministerium with the mere execution of an ecclesiastical office; and this, because the execution of an office or its services can be renounced by the infirm, who still wishes to retain the dignity of the office, as the history of the Church demonstrates. Thus, in virtue of canon 17, which explicitly requires that the texts of each Canon be understood according to the proper meaning of the words they contain as the context of the Code of Canon Law uses them, the argument drawn from canon 10, here, is invalid because it is praeter rem, that is, applicable only to the conditions of invalidity in canon 332 §2, not canon 188. — If you say, yes, Canon 10 applies only to the terms of validity expressed in Canon 332 §2 and thus allows a broad interpretation of the conditional clause which speaks of a resignation of the petrine munus: then it must be responded, that such a reading of canon 10 would nullify the requirements of canon 17, that terms must be understood properly, or at least fails from insufficiency, since the broad meaning of munus in the Code of Canon Law is officium not ministerium; which sense of officium refers to office, not execution of a ministry. — Regarding Canon 16 §1, it must be said, that yes, Pope Benedict as Pope is the supreme legislator and interpreter of canon law. But he is only legislator, when he legislates; whereas Canon 332 §2 was legislated by Pope John Paul II. Furthermore, though any Pope can officially interpret Canon Law, he must do so by a papal act, not by a substantial error. Thus, canon 16 does not apply in such a case. Nay, rather, Canon 38 expressly rules in this case, when it says: An administrative act, even if it be enacted by a rescript given Motu Proprio, lacks effect to the extent that it harms the rights of another or is contrary to the law or proven custom, unless the competent authority expressly has added a derogating clause. — Finally, as regards the Pope’s manifest intention to resign the papal munus, I have responded to this above in the reply to objections 2, 3 and 4.

19. As Dr. Taylor Marshall sustains on his video, “The Resignation of Pope Benedict: an Analysis”, “ministerium” and “munus” name the same thing: the papal office, therefore to renounce the one is to renounce the other. Therefore, the resignation is valid.

Ad obj. 19.: To a gratuitous assertion, no reply need be made, because it is not an argument. However, against this assertion, one must respond, since it attacks the very nature of reality itself.  For words have meaning, otherwise they would not be signs of communication. And different words can have different meaning, or there would be no reason to use them. Thus human language of necessity sustains the assertion that ministerium and munus can have different significations.  Any dictionary of Latin also sustains this, as anyone can demonstrate who has one. But that ministerium and munus in Canon Law mean the same thing, is entirely false, as has been demonstrated above by referring, in accord with the requirements of canon 17, to the Code itself which in canon 41 associates “ministerium” with the mere exercise of office, and canon 145 §1 which defines an ecclesiastical office as a “munus,” not a ministerium.  Thus, the Code of Canon Law itself uses the terms in different senses, and do not equate their significations as referring to an ecclesiastical office, in the sense that “bishopric” or “papacy” refer to an office. — This is a sufficient refutation according to the norm of Canon Law. But since the assertion conceals a grave error of the kind of Nominalism promoted at Tübingen, it merits to be refuted according to the science of philosophy. For just as there are 10 categories of being according to the Philosopher in his Praedicamenta, so words can be said in reference to one or more category of being. Now in canon 145 §1, the Supreme Legislator predicates munus of every ecclesiastical office. But no where in the Code does he predicate ministerium of any ecclesiastical office, only of roles or services rendered by one who holds an office or in his stead.  Therefore it is clear from canon 17 that this represents in the mind of the Legislator that munus signifies the being of something real, namely an office, but ministerium signifies the action or service rendered by one who holds such an office. Therefore, munus is said to be a substance itself, and ministerium is said of a substance in act. But this is the distinction of being and act, of substance and accident, according to the Praedicamenta.  Therefore, there is a real distinction between munus and ministerium, in the senses used in Canon 332 §2, 145 §1 and canon 41, just as there is a real distinction between any agent and the actions of the agent, though the latter inheres in the former. If this be denied, then the walking of Peter, which in Peter is Peter, when imitated perfectly by Paul would be just as much Peter in Paul as Peter in Peter, which is absurd.  Therefore, the walking of Peter in Peter is not a substance but an accident, like the color of Peter’s skin or the accent of his voice, which can be duplicated in other things, without making them Peter.  Likewise, the Petrine ministry, which is the action or service which the one who holds the Petrine Office should and can render, can be perfectly imitated in another, without making that other the Pope. This is the entire basis for the Roman Curia’s collaboration with every true Pope, when He delegates the execution of some part of his Petrine Munus to Cardinals and Bishops and priests at the Vatican or elsewhere. Therefore, to name the Petrine munus it does not suffice to name the Petrine Ministry (even if it be conceded that Benedict did this, which I have shown is not the case in the arguments of the first part), because just as when Peter renounces his walking, he remains Peter, so when the Pope renounces his ministry, he remains the pope. The semiotic rationale or ratio significandi for this is, that just as substance and accident are separable, so their unity is not necessary; therefore, the signification of the one which is the accident in the other signs no necessary or determinative reference to the one which is the substance. Therefore, in accord with canon 332 §2, which requires a manifestation of liberty and intention which is accord with the norm of law, such a manner of signification is invalid, because it requires an interpretation which the Law does not sustain as possible in accord with canon 17.


The election of Cardinal Bergoglio was a supreme failure of the College of Cardinals

Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio takes the vow of secrecy at opening of the 2013 Conclave (BBC, screenshote by From Rome blog, cropped)

Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio takes the vow of secrecy at opening of the 2013 Conclave (BBC, screenshote by From Rome blog, cropped)

Rome, March 13, 2015:  Two years ago, this afternoon, the College of Cardinals elected Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio as Roman Pontiff.

A Failure in Law

I will omit, here, a long repetition of that which I have blogged about for 3 1/2 months, namely, that there are very grave and probative reasons and facts regarding the validity of that election, and this for 3 reasons:

  1. Cardinal Bergoglio was elected on the 5th ballot in the afternoon, in violation of the Papal Law, Universi Dominici Gregis, which allows only 4 ballots per day.  The facts were the subject of Antontio Socci’s bestselling book, Non è Francesco, and the crucial arguments were discussed here.  The facts have never been denied, the reasonings in law for the validity, require a rewriting of 2 sections of the papal law; the reasonings against the validity require no change in the law. That makes the argument against the validity more probable both in law and in testimony.
  2. Cardinal Bergoglio’s candidacy was promoted by a violation of UGD 81, which forbids any and all agreements among Cardinal electors as to whom they are going to vote for, such as any campaigning or promises of votes which is consequent upon canvassing for votes.  The facts were presented by various sources, but summarized and brought to clear relief by Dr. Austen Ivereigh, in his book, The Great Reformer: Francis and the Making of a Radical Pope, specifically in chapter 9 of the same, where he names the conspirators, “Team Bergoglio”.  The blog you are reading, From Rome, has made it the point to cover this story from the beginning; you can read all about it in our Chronology of Reports on “Team Bergoglio”.  The consequences of the violation are the invalidation of the election, and this in virtue of the Code of Canon law.  See the discussion here. Note that today Vatican Radio reports that Pope has himself confirmed that he was elected by a 2/3 majority (here), which puts validity in gravest doubt.
  3. Cardinal Bergoglio before his nomination to Cardinal, and after, was notorious for giving communion to those in public sin and for instructing others to do the same.  The allegations are confirmed by Sandro Magister. The consequence is that in virtue of the Papal Law, Cum ex apostolatus officio, of Pope Paul IV, he could not validly be elected Roman Pontiff.  This argument is explained in the petition to the College of Cardinals. The validity in law of the Papal Law of Paul IV, has been discussed here and here.

A Failure in Prudence

But, moreso, the election of Cardinal Bergoglio by the College was a supreme failure of human prudence.  Because, it is not prudent to elect quickly and without reflection someone who merely claims to be in favor of solving problems.  One must look to his life and deeds, and that requires reflection.  It is obvious to everyone in the Church, that if you spoke with Jorge Mario Bergoglio for 15 minutes, you could easily detect that he is not suitable for the office — that is, if you have any supernatural prudence at all, a prudence founded on an immaculate faith and resolute virtue.

I pity the man whom the Church’s Cardinals and Bishops regard as the Pope: it was a horrible sin against fraternal charity to promote to the office of Pope, a man whose entire career, from all accounts, has been obsessed with having and holding on to power.  If any of the Cardinals had any question, in conclave, they could have certainly spoken to Cardinal Sandri, who was well acquainted with Cardinal Bergoglio’s failings.

I really do not see how the College of Cardinals was so possessed to elect such a man.  But I feared that they had lost all sense, when during the general congregations for the Conclave, on March 7, the Cardinal Dean read out a message of condolence for the death of the dictator of Venezuela.*

It seems, from the continued silence of the College to so many scandals which have occurred on account of their choice, that that sense, after March 13, 2013, has not yet returned.


* Disturbing, too, was the fact that the first twitter user to recognize the newly elected Cardinal by face, that afternoon, was a male-prostitute.

No, your Eminence, the Church is not a tyranny!


And She has not been such, since that December in Bethlehem!


I had the unique privilege and honor, today, to exchange some tweets with a Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church.  Our “conversation” arose in regard to the scandalous allegations and incomplete denials of the account given by Dr. Austen Ivereigh, the former personal secretary to Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, in his book, The Great Reformer: Francis and the making of a Radical Pope.

His eminence is taking the news of the scandal very lightly, indeed.  He appears to be of the opinion that the problem is not so much in what Dr. Ivereigh has alleged, but in the way simple Catholics the world-over are reacting to those allegations and their very impartial denials.

I tried my best, to appeal to the simple logic and delicate reason of my interlocutor, thus:

If Mr. Q is accused of doing X, Y and Z; and in response, he says, “I want no misunderstandings to arise: I did not do Z”, that he has admitted, thereby, that he has done X and Y.

In response, his Eminence replied:

Have the feeling we won’t agree on this one…what you need to do is to support the Pope in carrying his heavy burden.

As you may know (if you don’t, then click the 2 previous links in this article), Dr. Ivereigh has alleged that as many as 30 Cardinals in the days before the Conclave of 2013, conspired to fix the election procedure by making the first vote in the Conclave give precedence to the candidacy of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio.

In response, the spokeswoman for Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor and the spokesman for the Holy Father, Pope Francis, have not denied the substance or extent of the allegations only 2 minor details.

The resulting agreement of the 4 Cardinals and Dr. Ivereigh regarding all the other details is giving rise in the minds of many Catholics to a valid doubt regarding the legitimacy of Cardinal Bergoglio’s claim to the papacy.

Thus, I confess myself, not a little shocked at the Cardinal’s reply regarding Mr. Q.  And thus, wish to publicly state, for the record, my own opinion regarding the affair, and say:

No, your Eminence: the Church is not a tyranny!

The unity of the Church, being founded by Christ in the person of St. Peter and His successors, cannot NOT be injured greatly by the allegations of a violation of paragraph 81 of the papal law, Universi Dominici Gregis, regarding Papal elections.

This is because, the Sacred College of Cardinals, in its right by positive and customary law to elect the Roman Pontiff, is the crucial link binding the person elected as Pope with the entire Church, in Her duty to recognize the validity of his election.  And, that Sacred College, as stated in the papal law, must elect the Roman Pontiff in according within the terms of that law.  Moreover Canon Law itself, which the papal Law does not abrogate, specifies that excommunicated persons cannot validly vote (canon 171 §1)  or be elected to any office (canon 1331).  Thus, if the Sacred College gives the impression that the allegations of Dr. Ivereigh and their implicit confirmation by 4 Cardinals, are of no import, they will err very gravely and put the Church in a serious crisis.

This is because the Church Herself is not required to accept whomsoever the Sacred College chooses.  And this is confirmed by the papal law itself, which states that the election, if it proceed in any manner which violates the terms established, is null and void.  Furthermore, the Church is not required to hold communion with those who have merited excommunication (canon 1331, §2), nor with a candidate who was promoted to victory by means of illegal vote-canvassing (cf. UDG 81 & canon 171 §2).

This fundamental right of the Church is derived from the liberty of the sons of God, given to each member of the Church in Baptism, which constitutes the Church as a holy and perfect society of laws, not a tyranny of ipso facto acts.

Life-sized 18th c Manger Scene, venerated for centuries at Acireale, Sicily (Photo by Br. Alexis Bugnolo)

Life-sized 18th c Manger Scene, Acireale, Sicily (Photo by Br. Alexis Bugnolo)

To bring an end to this kind of tyranny of sin, Our Lord was born from the Virgin Mary, at Bethlehem, 2014 years ago! Let us not forget His lovingly gentle call to dispossess ourselves of the idols of mendacity and greed and power, so as to do the will of Our Father, Who is in Heaven.

For this reason, just as the Church which would accept the unlawful election of a successor to St. Peter, would Herself lose the credibility necessary to preach the Gospel, and just as the Church’s essential mission is to preach the Gospel of Bethlehem, which is also the Gospel of the Holy Family; it would result that such a tacit acceptance of a doubtful Pope would contravene the authentic conscience of the Church Herself, and dissolve Her obligation of allegiance to such a candidate.

This is not a novel thesis, but one affirmed by notable theologians regarding the doubts had by Catholics during the Great Schism of the 14th-15th centuries. It is taught by no less than a Doctor of the Church, St. Robert Bellarmine, who said, “A doubtful pope is no pope”; hence, it follows that the Sacred College, in justice now, on account of the incomplete denials by the 4 Cardinals and the absence of all denial by the other 25+ accused Cardinals, address this controversy in Consistory and publicly resolve it for the sake of the unity of the Church.

Dr. Ivereigh’s allegations were made public on Nov. 23, 2014.  The special Consistory called by Pope Francis will meet on February 14-15, 2015.

The silence of the College to such grave accusations, therefore, after that date would be tantamount to the assertion of a tyranny: that the Sacred College was above the papal law, above Canon law, above all law: a tyranny the Catholic Church and the Bishops of the Catholic Church are not obliged to accept.

In all this, the fault is not that of simple Catholics who are stupefied by the scandalous accusations regarding “Team Bergoglio”, the fault is that of a very grave omission of the duty of our sacred Pastors to defend the good name of the Church.  Besides, if the allegations of Dr. Ivereigh are false, there is nothing lost, but only gain to be had by putting the scandal to rest. On the other hand, if they are true, then the Church will be greatly strengthened in Her reputation for transparency and justice in Her own most internal affairs, if Cardinal Bergoglio renounces his claim to the papacy and the Sacred College proceeds to a canonical election.


For a Chronology of Reports concerning the “Team Bergoglio” scandal, click here.