Blessed is he whom Thou hast chosen and taken to Thee: he shall dwell in thy courts. We shall be filled with the good things of thy house; holy is thy temple (Psalm 64:5).
The sacred liturgy, doctrine, discipline, theology, the moral life—personal and social—no dimension of Catholic life has remained untouched.
In more recent times, much has been said and written about the pontificate of Benedict XVI and that of Francis. More specifically, the abdication of Benedict and the subsequent election of Francis.
Though to be honest, at times with emotions getting the best of us, at the expense of calm, rational thought. Even to the extent of losing good friends on Facebook. Our ecclesial woes are very trying times for us all.
That in itself is perfectly understandable. Catholics are justifiably tired of the unending crisis.
And so, in the hopes that some points of serene reflection perhaps can shed some light on all this, though indeed maybe not for everyone:
It’s just common sense that something could in fact be true objectively, without us knowing about it, yes? Because of it possibly being hidden from us, yes?
So… IF Benedict resigned under pressure, THEN his resignation is objectively invalid. Not because I or anybody else says so: the Church’s Canon Law says so, yes?
More to the point: this is not a mere technical requirement for its licitness and validity. This is a fundamental element for its intrinsically essential validity.
So… IF what I just said is objectively true about Benedict’s resignation, THEN it naturally follows that Francis’ election is NECESSARILY and objectively invalid, yes? Again, not because I say so or anybody else says so: the Church’s Canon Law says so.
Furthermore, according to his personal secretary, Archbishop Gänswein, Benedict seems to postulate a sort of “partial resignation” of the munus—the teaching office of Peter’s Successor—but not the office of Peter altogether.
Benedict would in some way carry on the contemplative and prayerful office of Peter, while Francis, his successor, would exercise the munus and the active dimension of the same Petrine office.
A sort of Papal Duarchy when we know dogmatically, that this is quite simply impossible. The Papacy is in reality a Monarchy and can be exercised fully by only one man at a time… either you are the Pope or you are not, the office of Peter cannnot be shared.
AND… IF all of the aforementioned things transpired as I described, THEN all of it IS OBJECTIVELY TRUE.
EVEN IF it is being hidden from us. EVEN IF the Church never admits it because of the obvious and enormous scandal this would cause.
In other words, IF it’s true, THEN it’s true. PERIOD. Whether we ever learn of it publicly and authoritively or not.
The same goes for the Third Secret of Fatima: IF indeed Our Lady spoke of apostasy at the very top of the Hierarchy, IF She spoke of a Pope under the influence of Satan, IF She spoke in other apparitions of Rome being the seat of the Anti-Christ, IF She spoke in terms of a “bad Council” and a “bad Mass”, THEN She did.
Whether or not we ever learn of it authoritatively and publicly, IF She said it, THEN She said it. PERIOD.
IF all of this is true, it’s no wonder at all that all of this should be kept hidden, right?
Speculation based on facts, or potential facts, or evidence, is just common sense application of the gift of reason.
Sure, speculation does not automatically convert itself in truth without proof. But speculation could be true nonetheless if proven in time, and could still be true objectively, even if its proofs are kept hidden always.
In all forthrightness, without any polemical intention on my part, honestly what’s not to understand here?
Typically, opposing arguments will claim that because the moral entirety of the Church has accepted Francis as reigning Pope, it must be therefore believed that his election was necessarily valid. Even with “dogmatic certainty.”
Someone posted the following on Facebook: Anybody else notice that Fr. Gruner didn’t say what Louie says he did? I had some knowledge of Fr. Gruner’s doubts. These doubts occurred before the Church’s theology regarding dogmatic facts & the papacy were exposed to the world. Francis’ papacy is a dogmatic fact – case closed.
To which I thought to respond: Well, not necessarily. If Benedict was forced to resign, his resignation would be objectively invalid according to Canon Law. That would of course invalidate Francis’ election, according to Canon Law. I honestly don’t understand how this possible scenario is so summarily dismissed, merely because we can’t verify it.
Writing back: Fr., you should educate yourself regarding the unanimous opinion of the theologians regarding dogmatic facts. The entire point of their teaching is that acceptance of a pontiff by the Church, specifically the episcopate, “heals in the root” any and all difficulties, including canonical. You do realize that canon law serves the Faith, and non vice-versa, right?
To which I wrote back in turn: Of course, Canon Law serves the Faith. But let us imagine that it were to be proven and publicly acknowledged by the competent Church authority that Benedict’s resignation was forced. How can Francis’ election possibly be valid under a proven and acknowledged invalid resignation of his supposed predecessor, when his election was done under fraud? An acceptance of a Roman Pontiff by the Church, especially the episcopate—all under a proven great lie—how can that be healed in the roots? What’s the point in having Canon Law if a massive fraud such as this can nullify it due to some back-door healing in the roots?
Canonical healing in the roots is reserved for mere technical requirements for licitness and validity. It cannot be applied to essentially intrinsical elements for validity.
Thus, IF Benedict’s resignation was truthfully, genuinely, and entirely free-willed, without any attempt to force him to resign, that is, without any foul play whatsoever, but it was discovered later that in his formula for resignation, a specific, required canonical term was inadvertently missing, or a comma or period was accidentally misplaced, or the Latin grammar of his announcement was incorrect (as some have suggested), then a canonical healing of roots is possible in these cases.
Why? Because these are all canonical examples of technical requirements for resignation of the Papacy. In other words, these are not intrinsically essential requirements for validity.
The same canonical healing of roots could be applied, for example, to a priest who performs a wedding in another parish, but unknowingly does not poseess the required jurisdiction from that parish priest because he was a last-minute substitute. In this case, there is technically an illicit and invalid marriage but it is only a problem of inadvertent common error, easily amended by canonical healing in the roots.
Now, if one of the marriage partners goes to his or her wedding, and one or both are being secretly forced to marry, or one of the partners is withholding the thought to the other that he or she does not wish to have children, these cannot be amended by canonical healing in the roots, precisely because these cases involve intrinsically essential conditions for licitness and validity. In addition to bad intentions.
Indeed, it’s similar to gravely illicit and invalid general absolutions of the sacrament of Penance. That faithful, inculpably ignorant of the fraud, think they receive licit and valid absolution, does NOT mean they receive licit and valid absolution because the sacrament was objectively celebrated illicitly AND invalidly, at its very roots.
God of course takes this into account in favor of the unwary faithful. But there is no question that the general absolution in and of itself is absolutely invalid. No healing in the roots is possible because the intrinsically essential conditions for its licit and valid celebration were totally and purposefully absent.
Another very easy comparison would be to imagine a Novus Ordo parish summer camp for children and adolescents. In my home archdiocese—Oviedo—province of Asturias, in the northwesterly Canabrican coast of Spain, it’s quite common to host these parish summer camps for youth in the neighboring province to the southeast—León.
Nice dryer climate, beautiful landscape, typically less green than Asturias, but certainly a great region for such activities. The medieval Gothic Cathedral of León is my personal favorite, a breathtakingly beautiful structure, with soaring arches and large, incredibly richly-colored stained-glass windows.
Let us imagine that the priest(s) in charge of the summer camp celebrate one of those creative youth-oriented “Eucharists”, and along poor liturgical music, poor vestments (if any beyond a stole and alb), and the typical Novus Ordo table-altar, decides to not use even the Missal, inventing prayers, prefaces, Canon, etc.
Let us further imagine that instead of using appropriate bread and wine for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, decides to be really creative and use pizza and coke. Even if the priest were to use the prescribed words of consecration, there would be no valid transubstantiation of the pizza and coke into the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, much less licit.
The children, unknowing victims of such a lamentable sacrilege, would upon receiving “Communion”, would not receive the Eucharistic presence of the Lord. Though they would all think that they did!
But… does the children’s subjective and unwary belief that they’re receiving the Eucharistic presence of the Lord make it objectively true? Well of course not! And that is the point I’m trying to make.
No canonical healing in the roots can make an objectively invalid sacrament, valid in any way. PERIOD.
Essentially then, what the proponents of canonical healing in the roots of an objectively invalid Conclave—in the event that one is held despite a reigning Pope’s resignation that was objectively invalid due to pressure—would have us tell the summer camp children in the example given, that the “consecrated” pizza and coke they received was irregular, but in the end it was valid… because the children believed it to be valid!
Seriously? This is no more than knowingly continuing the lie that the children received a valid Eucharistic presence of the Lord in the “Communion” of pizza and coke, when in fact they did not. Pretending, even for their sake, is not going to change objective reality.
This would be the same as having us continue to believe, if demonstrated, the fraud that Francis was elected Pope validly, despite the ulterior authoritative revelation of the fact that Benedict’s resignation was forced, and thus objectively invalid. IF this were proven true one day, how in Heaven’s name could we possibly continue the farce?
My Facebook interlocutor also said: First, of course, not only has no such proof been demonstrated, but the public testimony is to the contrary. I think the first part of your statement contradicts the second. And that you don’t appear to acknowledge the real point of the teaching on dogmatic fact – you are putting the cart of canon law before the horse of the Faith.
The Church has to be able to have moral certainty that a man who is elected and then accepted by the Church as pope (a moral unanimity, especially of the episcopate) is really pope, or else, #1, schism ensues, and, #2, nothing in the Church’s history is certain. The theologians have decided, in other words, that Christ will not allow the Church, on the whole, to accept a man as pope who really is not, for the good of the Church. Multiple public claimants are the only exception, which clearly does not apply in the present case.
It is always, in every case, Christ Himself who decides the papacy: Who binds the man to the form of the office. He does as He will, and, the theologians have concluded, for the good of the Church, yes, even when there may be canonical issues – far from certain in this case! – if there is universal acceptance, He makes the election a fact indeed…
I don’t think your analogy is a good one. No Catholic ever has moral certainty that he’s in a state of grace – that is de fide. But whether or not the Church Itself can have moral certainty in its Vicar is question that has virtually nothing in common. The latter involves the public good of the entire Church.
Somehow, I get the impression that it’s rather pointless to go on though indeed, certainly not without interest. I will say in closing, a few things if I may:
1. The Roman Papacy is a matter of dogmatic faith. The election of a Pope, however, is not. The former is of divine institution. The latter is an administrative issue with canonical effects.
2. That the Holy Ghost is ever dwelling in the Church as its soul, does not mean that the Pope is directly elected by the Third Person of the Most Blessed Trinity. The Pope is elected by a precise canonical procedure (which varies according to dispositions), by the eligible Cardinal electors. The Holy Ghost inspires but does not cast a vote in the Conclave. The Cardinal electors can be docile to the inspiration of the Holy Ghost… or not.
3. The affirmation that Christ himself decides the Papacy, doing as He will, contradicts all that about theologians having concluded that Christ will not allow the Church, on the whole, to accept a man as Pope who really is not, for the good of the Church. Oh, really? Theologians have concluded what Christ must allow or not allow for the good of his Church? Is that so?
4. That Francis’ election is definitely a fact, does not necessarily and infallibly mean that it was necessarily valid if Benedict’s resignation was invalid. It’s not just Canon Law. It’s also good Catholic common sense. So-called universal acceptance of Francis as Pope cannot override the grave fraud of a potentially invalid election as outlined before. That we cannot verify this at present does not necessarily mean that it’s not true.
5. The competent Church authority does not invent the truths of such issues, it only declares them formally and officially to be true—or not—after ascertaining it, and thus apply the corresponding canonical effects. Church authority is only required to actually know the truth, but it is not required for something to be true in and of itself.
In other words, the truths of such matters are not true because the Church authority declares them to be true. It’s the other way around: the Church authority declares them to be true—or prefers not to declare such—but in any case because they have been objectively true from the start. The same argument applies to proclaimed dogmas of the Catholic faith.
6. But again, notwithstanding the enormous scandal it would cause, if it’s ever admitted publicly by competent Church authority that Benedict’s resignation was invalid (i.e., forced, etc.), that would necessarily mean that he was still the living and reigning Pope when the obviously invalidly-held conclave elected Francis. If this is the case, it seems a bit scandalous to assume that the Church must still accept Francis as Pope, because we accepted—under unknown grave fraud at the time—his election as a valid one… even if it were proven later on to have been invalid. Honestly?
7. If we really want to discuss dogmatic fact, I would propose the materially heretical teachings that Francis has written in Amoris Lætitia, and other erroneous elements present in his oral and written magisterium… And the dogmatic implications of a Pope who objectively teaches error, including dogmatic error… and refuses the opportunity to correct himself by “clarifying” himself, i.e., the Amoris Lætitia Dubia. As of this writing, we’re coming up on one full year of disturbing silence…
8. If Benedict’s resignation were to be proven invalid one day, I daresay the so-called “universal acceptance” of Francis would be no more… Even today, regular assistance to Papal Wednesday General Audiences has gone dramatically down. Besides, Francis is generally approved of and applauded by natural enemies of the Church, which itself is most worrisome.
9. Alas, the most likely scenario by far is that we will most probably never know the whole truth of Benedict’s resignation and Francis’ election. Which makes this discussion somewhat a moot point. But crucially important, nonetheless.
So, let us recall again as the psalmist prays, singing: Blessed is he whom Thou hast chosen and taken to Thee: he shall dwell in thy courts. We shall be filled with the good things of thy house; holy is thy temple (Psalm 64:5).