by Br. Alexis Bugnolo
Recently, the noted Vatican theologian, and former member of the Congregation for the Faith, Msgr. Nichola Buxpublicly opined that the validity of the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI should be studied in regard to the question of what appears to be substantial error in the formula of resignation.
Msgr. Bux was not the first to raise this doubt. There was a very noteworthy thesis published by a student in canon law at the Theological Institute of Legano, Switzerland, in 2014 by Stefano Violi, which raised questions regarding the validity.
On June 19, 2016, Anne Barnhardt raised specifically the question of a doubt arising from canon 188, which cites substantial error as sufficient grounds to establish the grounds for a canonical determination of invalidity in any resignation. She did this following the remarkable comments by Pope Benedict’s personal Secretary on May 20th earlier, in which he claimed that Benedict still occupied the Papal Office.
Msgr. Henry Gracida, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas, in the United States, and a former member of Opus Dei, has also sustained this same doubt and others regarding the validity of the resignation. I understand that the Bishop has written many members of the Sacred Hierarchy and Curia about these matters urging action be taken (He suggests a public declaration by 12 pre-Bergoglian Cardinals).
According to Ann Barnhart, in the following year, Attorney Chris Ferrara and Mrs. Anne Kreitzer also sustained this same doubt. The historian Richard Cowden Guido opined the same on May 11, 2017. And, the famous Italian controversialist, Antonio Socci quoted Violi at length on May 31, 2017 and sustained the same thesis.
Finally, Pope Benedict XVI in his private letters to Cardinal Brandmueller openly asks for suggestions for a better way to resign, if he did not do it correctly.
There being a number of notable Catholics sustaining this doubt, and since Msgr. Bux called for an investigation of this matter, I will add here in Scholastic Form, the arguments in favor of sustaining it, in course of which will refute all substantial arguments against it.
Whether Pope Benedict XVI by means of the act expressed in his address, “Non solum propter”, resigned the office of the Bishop of Rome?
And it seems that he did not:
1. First, because substantial error, in an act of resignation, regards the vis verborum, or signification of the words, as they regard the form and matter of the act. But the act of renouncing a ministry regards one of the proper accidents of the office by which that ministry can be rightfully exercised. Therefore, if one renounces a ministry, he does not renounce the office. And if he believes to have renounced the office, by renouncing one of the ministries, he is in substantial error as to the signification of the words he has used. But in the text, Non Solum Propter, Benedict XVI renounces the ministerium which he received as Bishop of Rome, when he was elected. Therefore, to understand that act as a renunciation of the office is to be in substantial error as to the effect of the act. Therefore as per canon 188, the resignation is invalid.
2. Saint Peter the Apostle …
From our sometime contributor to CP&S, Geoff Kiernan:
”Ann Barnhardt, by her own admission is no theologian or canon lawyer, but her examination of the current crisis of the Francis/Catholic Church is unmatched in its clarity (a potent adjunct to the Truth) and force of argument. She boldly calls on anyone to challenge her logic and reasoned conclusions, but because the accepted method of dealing with such uncomfortable assertions is silence, I doubt few will do so.
This is the latest from this courageous and astute convert. He grasp of the Faith is extraordinary and dare I say it, providential given her relative youth and recent arrival to the Faith. The God given gift of discernment is not lost in her. G. KIERNAN”