Part Two of Patrick Coffin’s interview with author and attorney Estefanía Acosta. If you missed Part One, it is HERE.
At this point, someone will ask, “Are you calling Pope Benedict a liar? He has said many times that he is no longer the pope, and that his Declaratio stated that the Chair would be empty after February 28, 2013?” How do you respond?
Indeed, after February 28, 2013, the Chair was empty in fact (de facto), not by law (de iure). His Holiness Benedict XVI actually withdrew from the exercise of his functions, exiling himself in the Mater Ecclesiae monastery, and the cardinals, not having understood (or pretending not to, or refusing to, understand) the true meaning of the Declaratio, according to its original wording in Latin, materially celebrated a Conclave devoid of any canonical value, from which an anti-Pope would be elected, that is, a Pope of mere appearance, lacking true authority before the law, God, and the Church.
Juridically, however, Benedict continued to be the sole holder of the See, the only legitimate Roman Pontiff. One must read not only the Declaratio but also, for example, the speech given by Archbishop Georg Gänswein, in May 2016, at the Pontifical Gregorian University, where he said: “As in the time of Peter, also today the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church continues to have one legitimate Pope. But today we live with two living successors of Peter among us —who are not in a competitive relationship between themselves, and yet both have an extraordinary presence!“.
Benedict did not “lie” then in his Declaratio, nor has he done it throughout these nine years. He has resorted, yes, to a certain ambiguity, through words and gestures that seem to mutually exclude. He intentionally wears the clothes, the name, the title, the residence, the protocol treatment of the Roman Pontiff. He addresses another man (“Francis”) as Holy Father.
And despite his kind treatment towards “Francis,” and his declarations about “the unity of vision” that he maintains with the “pontificate” of his “successor,” he does not hesitate to contradict the false magisterium of the latter with a stroke of his pen. Is it impossible for us to understand that under all this ambiguity lies a coherent background message? Namely, the coexistence of “two Popes,” one true and the other false, who, although they fulfill radically different roles, converge in the same divine plan of the final purification of the Church.
In the moral order, we can apply the teachings proposed by several Catholic theologians about mental reservations. Will we deny that Benedict has been in a situation of extreme need, even from the beginning of his pontificate, when he asked for the prayer of the faithful not to flee before the “wolves?” Did he not explain later, in Peter Seewald’s biographical book mentioned above (A Life), that the spiritual danger against which he requested prayer was nothing other than the influence of the Antichrist, socially operative in our times? Truly, what has been done by Benedict XVI is not “lying.” Rather, in order to juridically and spiritually safeguard the helm of the Church against the threats of the children of darkness, and offer himself for her as a victim before God, the Pope has mocked the evil in such a way that, in any case, has been perfectly perceptible to those who have eyes to see and ears to hear.
Finally, the validity or invalidity of the Declaratio has nothing to do with the mention made there to the future “vacant See.” The “Vacant See” is actually a juridical consequence that could only occur if the juridical act of “resignation from the pontificate” had existed under canon law. But since, as we have seen, such a “resignation from the pontificate” never existed (because His Holiness carefully preserved the Petrine munus), the juridical consequence of the vacancy could not arise either, even if it were explicitly mentioned.
Let’s take a simpler example. Let us suppose a Catholic priest imparts his blessing (sic) to a homosexual couple, declaring them “husband and husband.” The first thing we would have to say is that a person becomes the “husband” of another only if a matrimonial juridical act is celebrated with full observance of the relevant requirements of natural law and canon law, one of which is obviously opposite sexes.
Here, the consequence pronounced by the priest can’t exist because the couple is of the same sex and therefore cannot validly marry. Which Christian would dare say that such a priestly declaration will imply, per se, that the men involved really become “husband and husband?” These men will never be “husband and husband’—not even if the whole world, “Catholic clergy” and state juridical systems included, treated them as such. In the same way, Benedict XVI’s mere mention of the vacant See could never result in it in actuality.