Answer: He absolutely did.
It’s far more subtle than the devastating evidence shown previously, but it is clearly visible when read within the context of Benedict’s erroneous ideas about the papacy, which we shall review as a primer. Also, the subtlety within the Declaratio is strategic, due to the criticality of this particular speech/document.
Before I explain this, we need to go over a couple things just to make sure you are framing this up properly in your mind, working from a true premise, and allowing linear thinking to do its work. The majority of reader comments I’ve received, whether they be positive or negative, reveal a disturbing level emotive reasoning. Don’t fall into this trap. Wishing for Francis not to be pope cannot play any role in your search for truth. Arriving at the conclusion that Pope Benedict failed in his attempt to bifurcate the papacy, therefore rendering his abdication invalid by reason of substantial error, cannot in any way be influenced by your dislike of Francis or out of a desire to see him removed/expunged. That’s called intellectual dishonesty. The flip side of this, and equally dishonest, is resisting the truth out of fear of ridicule or being seen as some sort of freak. PLEASE STOP… THIS ISN’T ABOUT YOU. Your feelings don’t have any bearing on what’s true, and the truth doesn’t care about your feelings. So put Francis out of your mind, demand absolute objectivity from yourself, and start with the Substantial Error supposition. Work through the available evidence, rationally judge the weight, and make your conclusion based on where the weight lies.
Before we get to the Declaratio, we need to review the smoking gun. This is from Benedict’s final general audience of 27 February 2013, the day before his invalid resignation did not become effective, where he exposes his erroneous notion of the indelible nature of the Petrine Ministry. In doing so, he directly contradicts all those previous statements where he claimed he was “renouncing”, “leaving”, and would then be Pontiff “no longer, but a simple pilgrim”. This is the lens through which we must evaluate the Declaratio (comments/emphasis mine):
Here, allow me to go back once again to 19 April 2005 (Ratzinger’s elevation to the papacy). The real gravity of the decision was also due to the fact that from that moment on I was engaged always and forever by the Lord. Always – anyone who accepts the Petrine ministry no longer has any privacy. He belongs always and completely to everyone, to the whole Church. In a manner of speaking, the private dimension of his life is completely eliminated. I was able to experience, and I experience it even now, that one receives one’s life precisely when one gives it away. Earlier I said that many people who love the Lord also love the Successor of Saint Peter and feel great affection for him; that the Pope truly has brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, throughout the world, and that he feels secure in the embrace of your communion; because he no longer belongs to himself, he belongs to all and all belong to him.
The “always” is also a “for ever” – there can no longer be a return to the private sphere. (<in his mind> the papal coronation indelibly anoints the pontiff in a distinct way, which is different from, and more profound than, the priestly or episcopal ordination/consecration). My decision to resign the active exercise of the ministry does not revoke this. (the indelibility is <in his mind> irrevocable – Benedict is pope forever, but <in his mind> now exercising only part of the Petrine ministry). I do not return to private life, to a life of travel, meetings, receptions, conferences, and so on. I am not abandoning the cross, but remaining in a new way at the side of the crucified Lord. I no longer bear the power of office for the governance of the Church, but in the service of prayer I remain, so to speak, in the enclosure of Saint Peter. Saint Benedict, whose name I bear as Pope, will be a great example for me in this. He showed us the way for a life which, whether active or passive, is completely given over to the work of God. HERE
“I remain, so to speak, in the enclosure of Saint Peter.” I wish I could find video to see if he winked when he said that.
In summary, Benedict erroneously believes that acceptance of the papacy itself confers an indelible and irrevocable character on the man who accepts it (similar to the indelible marks of ordination to the priesthood and consecration to the episcopate, except in the case of becoming pope, there is no such thing). Therefore <in his mind> he (Benedict) remains pope even after he “resigns” the governing office and passes the throne to the next “pope”.
This is SUBSTANTIAL ERROR. Honestly, I don’t understand how anyone doesn’t see it already at this point. But let’s press on.
In the original post where I declared with moral certainty the invalid abdication, we also entered into evidence as Exhibit B, Benedict’s decision to retain the papal title as an “emeritus”, to retain the vesture, to physically remain at the Vatican, etc etc. We also reviewed Exhibit C, Abp. Ganswein’s comments last year where he dropped the bombshell of an “Expanded Petrine Ministry.” These were not off the cuff remarks, but rather a formal, well-prepared speech on Benedict’s papacy, given at the Greg in Rome on 20 May 2016:
Archbishop Gänswein…said that Pope Francis and Benedict are not two popes “in competition” with one another, but represent one “expanded” Petrine Office with “an active member” and a “contemplative.”
“Therefore, from 11 February 2013, the papal ministry is not the same as before,” he said. “It is and remains the foundation of the Catholic Church; and yet it is a foundation that Benedict XVI has profoundly and lastingly transformed during his exceptional pontificate.”
He said that “before and after his resignation” Benedict has viewed his task as “participation in such a ‘Petrine ministry’. (Not in the governance of the Church in the world, but in its “essentially spiritual nature”, through prayer and suffering.)
“He left the Papal Throne and yet, with the step he took on 11 February 2013, he has not abandoned this ministry,” Gänswein explained, something “quite impossible after his irrevocable acceptance of the office in April 2005.“ (Do you see how this echoes Benedict’s erroneous idea of the papal coronation being an irreversible event, creating an indelible/irrevocable mark on the recipient forever? It’s exactly the same idea Benedict put forth in his final general audience).
“Therefore he has also not retired to a monastery in isolation but stays within the Vatican — as if he had taken only one step to the side to make room for his successor and a new stage in the history of the papacy.” With that step, he said, he has enriched the papacy with “his prayer and his compassion placed in the Vatican Gardens.” HERE
Not that we need any additional evidence, but many are clamoring that they just won’t accept reality unless it can be shown that these ideas/intentions can actually be found in the Declaratio itself. So let’s have a look at that, shall we?
As I said at the top, the evidence in the actual Declaratio is far more subtle, out of necessity. Benedict, knowing the extraordinary nature of what he was about to do, would have spent an enormous amount of time writing this short speech. Every single word would have been chosen with great care. Keep in mind, the actual Declaratio was written and read out by Benedict in Latin, so you need to take a look at that as well. But the point is this:
THE DECLARATIO IS PRIMARILY DIRECTED TOWARD ITS LONE OBJECTIVE: TO HAVE THE ABDICATION ACCEPTED AS LEGITIMATE BY THE CARDINALS, AND THUS, A CONCLAVE CONVOKED TO NAME A “SUCCESSOR.”
So it’s not surprising that Benedict did not speak of the false bifurcation as openly in the Declaratio as he did several weeks later, in his final general audience, at which point he knew his plan had worked, all the wheels in motion, conclave convened, etc. But he also couldn’t help himself, and made sure his meaning was clear if we look with eyes to see.
So now let’s break down the Declaratio of 11 Feb 2013 in its entirety, bathed in the light of the aforementioned evidence. English, Latin, and seven other languages HERE .
I have convoked you to this Consistory, not only for the three canonizations, but also to communicate to you a decision of great importance for the life of the Church. After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry.
He’s saying he is inadequate. His faculties are insufficient to fully execute the entire Petrine Ministry. He needs help.
“I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering. However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the barque of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.
He’s still up for the prayer and suffering part, but not the words and deeds. The governance part will need to go to someone else, a new participant in a new “expanded Petrine ministry”, because he feels inadequate for the governance role.
Now comes the money quote. This is the part that Benedict absolutely had to get right, to ensure the resignation looked so rock solid that no one would question it. But yet even within the same sentence we can, with hindsight, see what he did here.
“For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.
“In such a way?” Why are those words in there? Those words are a qualifier. He didn’t renounce completely, he renounced in a certain way. Because as we’ve already seen from his own lips, Benedict doesn’t believe it’s possible for him to completely renounce the Petrine ministry, due to its <in his mind> permanent and irrevocable nature. So he is <in his mind> vacating the “See of Rome”, such that a successor must be named to administer the governing office, while Benedict retains the spiritual role of the prayerful suffering servant pope. Nowhere in this sentence, in any language, will you find the words, “I fully renounce the Papacy,” because in Benedict’s mind, that’s not possible.
“Dear Brothers, I thank you most sincerely for all the love and work with which you have supported me in my ministry and I ask pardon for all my defects. And now, let us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the Cardinal Fathers with her maternal solicitude, in electing a new Supreme Pontiff. With regard to myself, I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer.”
So there you have it. Come join the party. The truth will set you free.