“Using canon law as a cudgel against theological opponents”

Earlier this year, an essay appeared at the “A Sign of Hope” blog by Charlie Johnston, which was in response to another post where he had printed some disparaging remarks about the “Benedict is Pope” crowd. After first questioning motives, he then makes a nonsensical conflation of ontology with politics. It got my attention.
Here is the passage, followed by my comment, followed by a new development.
Comment thread HERE.

Excerpt from Mr. Johnston: “Even those who advocate for it (Pope Benedict’s invalid resignation) would know very well that it was NOT mounted out of love for rigorous application of procedure, but as a fig leaf over a political coup against an inconvenient Pope. Once that precedent is established, you have politicized canon law as a tool to be used as a cudgel against theological opponents. Open that Pandora’s box and you have created all sorts of new opportunities for the evil one to make mischief and attack the Church.”

My comment: “Charlie, with respect, I guess that depends on whether you believe in objective reality. The evil one hates objective reality, being the Father of Lies and all that. We are called to seek reality by assenting to revealed truths and by acknowledging observable data through our rational intellect.
“Let’s set aside the entirety of canon law for a moment, and simply consider the observable facts. Benedict didn’t resign the Office, neither in the original Latin declaratio, nor in his spoken word as he delivered it in Latin (video easily searchable). Then he created a number of peculiar novelties specific to his “new role”, and even lied about some of them, e.g. “No other clothes were available.” He continues to be addressed as His Holiness and continues to do things that only popes do, like go by his papal name and impart his apostolic blessing. The situation is entirely unprecedented in the history of the Church. There is tremendous confusion, souls are at risk, and people are losing their faith over this (or rather, what has been born of this).
“Let’s go back to his not resigning the office, but only the active ministry. If that happened, which it did, or rather it’s what he tried to do, the effect would be that he resigned none of it (per Canon 332.2). Whether he intended to split the papacy, or he intended to retain the whole thing, the effect is the same. But we don’t even need to explore intent. He didn’t resign the office; that’s the ontological reality. Neither cardinals nor anyone else has the power/jurisdiction to “accept” a pope’s resignation (also per Canon 332.2). Their acceptance of it, or willingness to go along, has zero effect on ontological reality. And so, the conclave they convoked was invalid (per Canon 359).
“Reality is not determined by popular vote, otherwise Arianism would be a matter of dogmatic certainty.”

I wish only fraternal charity to Mr. Johnston, and I acknowledge the good work he does. But then I discovered that, after locking the combox, he changed the relevant passage of his original post to read as follows:

“The whole idea (Pope Benedict’s invalid resignation) is based on a minority interpretation of canon law. If there were an actual deficiency, it would need to be clear, compelling, and indisputable. Otherwise, it would rightfully be seen as the fig leaf covering over a coup against an inconvenient Pope. Set that precedent and you will never see the end of rival factions seeking advantage in legalisms rather than the large truths of the faith. It would reduce the College of Bishops to roving bands of rival warlords. Frankly, I think it a satanic seduction to a “fix” of current controversies that would permanently enfeeble and introduce disorder into the hierarchy.” HERE

“Introduce disorder into the hierarchy…” <raises hand> YES, Charlie, it was 100% Miss Barnhardt who introduced disorder into the hierarchy on 19 June 2016. Hierarchy solid as a rock before that.
Dear readers, compare the edited passage with the original at the top of this page. I’m sorry, but if you edit something in order to change the entire meaning, even on a blog, you need to call it out as an update and point out the edited portion.
Open letter to Charlie: In this edited passage, it seems you’ve gone from castigating our motives and means, to acknowledging the possibility that this “minority interpretation of canon law” could actually be true, if it could be shown clearly (ahem HERE, HERE,  and HERE), but oh it’s probably just a bunch of warlording legalisms. Essentially, you are saying:
“This minority interpretation had better be clear and compelling, otherwise it’s satanic.”
Well, I am seeing a LOT of things that look satanic these days, but they always seem to be coming from Team Bergoglio.
Screenshot 2019-11-05 at 12.19.08Screenshot 2019-11-05 at 12.27.59Screenshot 2019-11-05 at 12.28.53Screenshot 2019-10-19 at 12.50.56

via vaticannews.va:
The first chapter of Our Mother Earth…highlights the need to protect our common home through the union of “the whole human family in the search for a sustainable and integral development”. This premise is developed in the second chapter…Pollution, global warming, climate change, and loss of biodiversity, the effect of uncontrolled exploitation, are destined to grow exponentially if there is no change of direction in the short term. We need an “environmental conversion”, Pope Francis (sic) says, that is possible through the promotion of a truly ecological education that would create, especially in the young, a renewed awareness and ultimately a renewed conscience.
In the new article that concludes Our Mother Earth, Pope Francis (sic) turns his gaze upwards, in order to offer an even wider vision of a discourse that is not focused solely on the concern for the protection of the environment…In this final chapter, Pope Francis (sic) develops the “theology of ecology” in a profoundly spiritual discourse.
Creation is the fruit of God’s love…especially for man, to whom He has given the gift of creation, as a place in which “we are invited to discover a presence”. He continues:

 “This means that it is for humanity’s capacity for communion to condition the state of creation […] It is therefore humanity’s destiny to determine the destiny of the universe.”

45 thoughts on ““Using canon law as a cudgel against theological opponents””

  1. Wow. Mr. Docherty, this is huge!!. Thank you for pointing out the change in Mr. Johnston’s post. I must admit that although I follow that blog, I was not aware of this very significant change in Mr. Johnston’s own words done without him or his moderator acknowledging that significant change. Since “BiPping” is verbotten on his blog now, have you tried to address his sleight of hand with him or his moderator? If not, already being persona non grata there, I will address it. What have I got to lose except to be banned, yet again? LOL

      1. Should you chose to point out the discrepancy in private, I have of a time made a comment and prefaced it FOR CHARLIE’S EYES only and not to be posted. It did not lead to any outside of the combox discussion, but I’m pretty sure it was viewed if by no other than the moderator. Just a suggestion for all your free time–not! If you choose not to address it in this manner, please let me know and I will make an attempt. Thank you again for all your work and for Miss B’s work, too.

  2. Very good. This is one of the few (maybe the only) blogs where the BiP subject can be openly discussed. Most Traditional and Conservative blogs will not allow the subject to be broached by commenters without a threat of banning.

  3. So glad you pointed out the revision of Mr. Johnston’s paragraph and the fact it was not made known to his followers, of which I had been one, long ago now. Thank you A. Barnhardt and other minority interpreters ( M.D.) for having pointed out the Canon Laws which clearly establish the grounds for calling the Conclave which elected Francis as INVALID. The Emperor wears no clothes, and he is satanic, not the other way around, as your numerous examples prove. Keep up the good work and I pray more people wake up, and soon. This cannot go on much longer.

  4. I have said from the beginning that Benedict faux resigned in plain sight. He knows he is pope. I think, however, that it is a good thing to prove the invalidity of the conclave election (even admitting it was most likely an invalid conclave) because that would immediately force the question to Benedict before a conclave could be called.

  5. If one reads UDG, it is obvious that the election would be invalid had Benedict truly resigned. Moreover, JPIi presciently said there would be no need for a declaration on the invalidity. There is a mystery of Providence and prophecy here. We should pray and ask that those with the responsibility for these things take it up, and meanwhile spread the facts as much as possible.

      1. My point is that declaring the election invalid per UDG would force the putting of the question of Benedict’s resignation to him, if he is still alive.

        1. Mary Ann, no, it wouldn’t. Declaring the election invalid per UDG would be admitting that the conclave was valid. You can’t have an invalid election without a valid conclave. The rules of UDG simply do not apply, because no conclave took place. Benedict has been the one and only true pope since April 2005.

      2. Yes, but because of the current awareness of the issue, the question would be put to Benedict or he would speak up

  6. Is this the same Charlie Johnston who claimed to be a “seer” and predicted an economic collapse coinciding with Frank’s visit to the U.S.A. in 2015? I can’t believe that he still has a following…

    1. Yes! A relative of mine was sure Mr. Johnston was the real deal and followed him closely. Mr. Johnston said he would go quietly away and never write publicly again if his prophecy did not happen. His prophecy did not happen. Why is he not keeping his word?! And why is anyone following him?

      1. I agree with you: why is anyone following him? Seemed like the real thing to me, and we were all hoping I guess, but there were too many obvious contradictions to be taken seriously.

      2. @Amanda: While I don’t “follow him”, I do check in and ‘poke’ sometimes in the comment thread because it seems to me that in their sincerity they deserve a chance to be moved, if they will, from their FiP-positions through reasonable conversation. I guess when they throw me out permanently, I will be thrown out and they will be left to their own devices but not for my lack of trying.

        1. I believe he said he would never write publicly as a prophet speaking of his “visitations.” Instead he would limit himself to comments on current events and to encouragement .

          1. @Mary Ann Parks: This is very true. That is exactly what Mr. Johnston said and that seems to me to be what he has faithfully done not only in faithfulness to Truth but also, perhaps, in obedience to his Abp and spiritual directors, perhaps.
            At the same time, in all fairness, the sleight of hand he wrought in this revision that Mr. Docherty pointed out should be addressed. I think. The trick for me is that in the moratorium on BiP-comments or even BiP-like comments at The Next Right Step/A Sign of Hope blog is how to address Mr. Johnston’s faux paux as well as the moderator’s possible complicit-ness? Any ideas?

  7. It seems to me the burden of proof is on the FiPers to explain how the resignation *was* valid.
    Explain the splitting of Ministerium from Munus.
    Explain why no-longer-Pope gets to retain all the appearances of Pope (etc).
    Explain why no-longer-Pope still bestows Apostolic Blessings.
    Explain upon what Dogma “Pope Emeritus” is grounded in Sacred Tradition.
    Explain how a resigned Pope still “remains firmly and forever within St. Peter’s enclosure”.
    Explain how the product of this failed abdication is a manifest, idol worshipping, sodomy promoting heretic.
    Explain how the sudden total collapse of Faith and Morals is not directly related to the elevation of antipope.
    A Pope has to die before the next Pope is elected. Every 500 years a Pope abdicates and then a new Pope is elected. *Never* has a Pope retired Emeritus and remained firmly and forever. So, do tell, please explain all of this. I don’t really feel like the burden of proof is on those who stand upon Sacred Tradition.

    1. Proof is worthless unless accepted by those with authority to do something. We must find a practical way to force the case of either thing.

      1. I don’t know, Mary Ann. Each and every one of us has moral agency and thus responsibility to act whether or not those with authority do something. I myself audibly whisper Benedict’s name at the Canon of the Mass and no one has stopped me so far. What are they gonna do if 20, 30, 50 laymen and laywomen start whispering at every Mass? It’s not much, but it is something to do at this time.

        1. We can have an opinion that is probable or close to morally certain, and we should appeal and make cases to our pastors the bishops, and that is the extent of it. I am glad I don’t have to make the priestly decision at Mass, but if I were in that situation I would say, “the Pope”. Or perhaps, “Francis, putative pope, and Pope Emeritus Benedict.” And we see the advantages of a ditto voce Canon, do we not?:)

      2. I take it, Mary Ann, that you will not be a ‘Benedict Whisperer’ then? I apologize but I do not know what you mean when you say “ditto voce canon” or what the advantages of it might be. Would you please clarify?

      3. @Mary Ann: Auto-correct to the rescue, again! How funny! “Ditto” voce–I wonder what that would sound like? : )
        While soto voce does seem to help priests at the TLM respond to the FiP or BiP debacle, how about the ‘little ones’ in the pews at either TLM or NO? What a way to help force the hands, err tongues, of Christ’s shepherds when the ‘little ones’ themselves take to the air waves in their own churches whether TLM or NO or some other non-schimatic rites? Right?
        I can imagine the bulletin announcements and letters from the bishop now: All those saying “Benedict” at the Canon of the Mass will be excommunicated. From what, bishop? Just exactly from what will you be excommunicating your faithful ‘little ones’? That might lead to one heck of a “listening session”, doncha think?

    2. @Aqua: Perhaps the first issue you raise that warrants explanation is not precisely stated. At least it seems to me that the way you’ve stated it is based on appearance and speculation of intent rather than on fact. I may be splitting hairs on this point since ‘universal’ perception is a big part of the BiP-problem to be overcome, but In his speech to the clergy of Rome from Feb 14, 3013, Pope Benedict clearly reiterates that he is retiring from the Petrine Ministry. In retiring, he did not split the office from its ministry.
      That the ‘black hats’ ran with finding someone else who appears to minister in Pope Benedict’s stead, even though they had no right to do so, does not an intentional splitting make. Does it? For this reason, might it be prudent to take that point out of the list or perhaps re-state it to reflect the anti-papal perception promoted by the ‘black hats’? Is it possible to restate the issue and point to the fact that Petrine Ministry and Munus are intrinsically linked as Cdl Burke points out in his September interview with Patrick Coffin when he said, “There is only one pope and the pope has to govern the Church”–except, of course, when he’s in a coma, in exile, or in prison. Maybe in doing so there would be even a more disturbing disconnect for FiPpers to ‘splain and deal with while we quickly point to the example of JPII in a coma.

      1. Islam_Is Islam: The first point is the most important point. This is what he did. It is not possible.
        “Coma, exile, prison” we understand. “Too tired” and “no longer up to the travel and work” we don’t. Separated by force from Ministry we understand. Separated by choice we don’t. Complete resignation we understand. Partial resignation and shared Petrine Ministry we don’t.
        They need to explain that. Until then, absent an explanation from Dogma and Tradition, the resignation is clearly invalid and all that happened after null and void.

      2. Mary Ann Parks,
        I don’t understand how a Pachamama idol fits into liturgical practice.
        I don’t understand how adulterous couples are now allowed into Holy Communion with God.
        I don’t understand how God wills religions other than the One True religion.
        I don’t understand how Capital Punishment can be declared “inadmissible”.
        I don’t understand how a Pope can retire, but remain Pope.
        “Our not understanding” does not *render* a thing invalid. “Our not understanding”, in matters of changes to Dogma essential to the Catholic Faith, indicate something is seriously wrong with that change. An explanation according to Dogma and Tradition is expected.

        1. I was referring to a comment about not understanding matters about the resignation. You mistake the context and the sense also

      3. @Aqua: I absolutely agree with you that to split the ministerium from the munus is impossible. (It would seem that Cdl Burke agrees with us on this point at least.) As much as that is the appearance–that PPBXVI split the ministry from the office–it is not clear to me that what you describe is precisely the situation that we are observing.
        What is clear to me, and I believe you would agree, is that the Keys of the Kingdom go with the office. While we have precedent for the office holder to be unwillingly and even forcibly separated from using those Keys by coma, exile, and prison, do we have precedent for an office holder to hold on to the Keys because, known only to him, he is unable to rightly use them due to mutiny? Even diabolical mutiny? Through no fault of his own? To such an extent that the Keys under the color of his office were being used against his will to do what was wrong eg beatify and canonize, appoint well-known wolves or beta-males as bishops?
        In her recent Empathy post, Miss Barnhardt notes that she lived through just a smidgen of a similar corrupt situation that surrounds Pope Benedict and she wasn’t even in charge! If I understand correctly, the corruption that she faced came from the top down, not from the bottom up, front, back, and sides as well. She voluntarily removed herself from the corrupt situation she found herself in and admits that she can only begin to imagine Pope Benedict’s own circumstances.
        Was it Miss Barnhardt’s choice to separate herself from corruption which she could not control? Yes. Was it Pope Benedict’s choice to separate himself from uncontrollable, possibly even diabolical mutiny? Yes. Did his free-will action keep safe Jesus’ promises while at the same time allow the world-wide mutiny to be revealed? Yes.
        As he requested of Cdl Brandmueller in 2017 (paraphrased), “If there was a better way for me to resign, tell me.” A valid partial resignation from that which mutiny made impossible to do–to rightly administer the Petrine Munus? Perhaps. (I don’t know. It needs to be examined.) A valid resignation from the munus in accord with Canon 332.2? No, absolutely not. A shared Petrine Ministry? Never.
        Rather than a ‘shared Petrine Ministry’, I suggest that what we are witnessing is the appearance that the Keys have been ‘loaned out’ while what has really happened is that they have been stolen for as long as Our Lord allows. Perhaps until it gets SO bad that FiPpers will review the evidence of BiP.
        Please consider that as much as what I have put forth is based on conjecture so too, it seems to me, is your
        assertion–“This is what he did”–based on conjecture. I believe that the best we can assert because we do not know is: This is what appears to have been done, and we know it is impossible.
        How much worse can it get? Bad enough for sleepers to wake up? How bad is that? God alone knows.

      4. The “power of governance” is not the Papal Keys of the Kingdom.
        Pope Benedict XVI did resign the *power of governance*; Ministry; the See Of Peter. Those are not the Keys.
        Pope Benedict XVI did not resign the Papal Office; the unseen charism from God directly bestowed upon His Vicar; the unseen supernatural nature and power of the Office. That is the Key of the Kingdom.
        Returning again to my Mutiny on the ship analogy: he placed himself in the brig; they could have forced him there, could have thrown him overboard, but he went willingly. While there, in the brig, he still retains his Commission from the King. The ship is being commanded by criminals who will one day answer for their acts of treason. Pope Benedict XVI will also render his account to the King.

        1. This is why there are two ships, Aqua.
          Thank you so much for explaining the difference between the Keys and the “power of governance”. That is extremely helpful for me. However, would you consider the following?
          While I agree that “he placed himself in the brig; they could have forced him there, could have thrown him overboard, but he went willingly. While there, in the brig, he still retains his Commission from the King”, I think you’ve missed the full analogy.
          After setting up spiritual court in the brig of the Barque of Peter, he commended the “power of governance” into the hands of Jesus (Who seems to be asleep again) and His Blessed Mother. (I believe there are words to this effect either from PPBXVI himself or Abs Ganswein.)
          The missing yet important piece to your analogy: The ‘black hats’ went over to the anti-barque that was begun over a hundred years ago and are now wildly and diabolically putting the finishing touches to the sails and deck for everyone to see. One of the most diabolical and confusing parts is that while Pope Benedict is in the brig, the ‘black hats’ and complicit beta-males go freely between ships and don’t tell the ‘little ones’ which one they happen to be on at any given moment.
          Like the pastor I talked with who admitted that the split is more visible than he has ever seen in his entire priesthood when he asked me, “Don’t you trust that the Holy Spirit is guiding Jesus’ Church?” To which I replied, “YES! Oh, yes, Father. Without a doubt! I’m just pretty sure that the ship former Cdl Bergoglio is piloting is NOT Jesus’ ship! The resignation needs to be examined.” He did not correct me.
          I think there are two ships, Aqua.

      5. Islam_Is Islam: There are not only more than one ship, our King has an armada. The mutiny, so far, operates in open seas and the shipping lanes are exposed. The King, nowhere to be seen. That does not mean the King does not exist. He has just chosen not to interfere, yet.
        What matters in this case: who holds the King’s “Commission”? Did Pope Benedict XVI resign his Commission and give it to another? Did Pope Benedict XVI retain his Commission and give the ship to criminal pirates?
        It is obvious (beyond a doubt, before God to whom we all will render account) that the new Bishop of Rome is a criminal pirate intent on destroying, root and branch, every vestige of the Roman Catholic Church which he hates. Nor does this pirate kneel before the King of Kings who rules the ocean he sails upon. Ever.
        It is certain to me, beyond any doubt, that the resignation statement is the key and *the only key* to understand the ontological reality at our Church’s Cornerstone. All the subsequent evidence – all of it – supports that fact. It does not determine the fact, but it all points the way back to that three paragraph resignation. Simple. Clear. Crystal. Even, perhaps especially, a child can understand.

  8. The standard response to these questions is that they are dismissed with a “it doesn’t matter”; “he’s just a crazy old man”; or a “yeah, but”, which turns it back around (variation on “it doesn’t matter”).
    Stop and think about that: all of these fundamental deviations … and those who reject them pending valid explanation are unreasonable?
    FiP is not credible unless they can answer these questions. FiP is fundamentally dishonest unless they try.

    1. @Aqua: This was the most recent response from a pastor/Canon Lawyer: “You can find a Canon Lawyer to tell you whatever you want from Canon Law because it’s just a matter of opinion, and it is the majority’s opinion that in resigning from the ministry Pope Benedict intended to resign from the office; so he did. Everyone says so.”
      I pointed out to him that opinion seemed a mighty shaky foundation upon which to stake my immortal soul and that apparently it was a good thing no one told St. Athanasius about minorities being wrong when it came to Divine Truths.
      He is one who I have great hopes for when it comes to reviewing BiP as things get worse and worse.

      1. Islam_Is Islam: And that is why Jesus said you cannot enter into the Kingdom of God unless you become like one of these children (paraphrase). A child can understand. A Canon Lawyer obviously cannot.
        Pastor/Canon Lawyer is not seeing the obvious. It does not matter what Pope Benedict’s intent was. We cannot read his mind. Saying that we must read his mind tells me Canon Lawyer’s intentions are misplaced. He invites you into the rabbit hole of intent and infinite possibility. Once there, he can deconstruct the whole thing as crazy.
        The resignation of the Pope is based upon his original resignation letter, written in the unchanging Roman Latin language. The resignation of the Pope depends upon resigning his Office, not lending out his See, his Ministry.
        This, he did not do. Period. Game over.
        An actual resignation would go something like this:
        “I hereby renounce and resign the Office of Pope, so that the See Of Peter is not vacant. I hereby leave the Office to which I am no longer called to my prior life of meetings and travel. Good bye and good luck!”
        It is as simple as that. It does not go beyond paragraph 2.

        1. Agree, Aqua. I will keep all of these points in mind as God, and the pastor/Canon Lawyer, allow the opportunity for presenting them. Thank you.

        2. True. The Latin not only doesnt resign, it was terrible Latin on purpose, and rule is that bad Latin makes for invalidity.

      2. My spell changer changed *now* to *not*.
        It should read “… so that the See Of Peter is *NOW* vacant …”
        Sorry. Need to proof better.

  9. @Aqua: Thieves, usurpers, mutineers, etc… steal, usurp, and mutiny. No matter the appearance, they take what is not theirs; it is not given to them.

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