Follow the Munus! Dr. Mazza via Dr. Briggs as the debate heats up over Pope Benedict’s abdication

I remain firmly in the camp that the primary cause of Pope Benedict’s failed abdication is Substantial Error, a violation of Canon 188 which rendered the resignation invalid by the law itself, because he thought he could remain in some way papal. If you are going to resign, you need to resign the whole thing. You don’t get to keep dressing like a pope, being addressed as His Holiness, living in the Vatican, keep your Fisherman’s Ring, give the Apostolic Blessing, etc. But someone who believes the Office “enters into your very being,” can’t really give it all up, so he invented “Pope Emeritus,” something which is impossible, and all all the visual trappings we’ve discussed over and over. The point being, his Substantial Error triggering of Canon 188 renders the Declaratio moot, because that is exactly the point of Canon 188.

Anyway, Dr. Briggs has published two essays by Fr. John Rickert focusing on the Latin of the Declaratio and the Munus/Ministerium debate. Today, a response from Dr. Mazza. Cross-posted here with permission:

Follow The Munus! Why Benedict Is [Likely] Pope — Guest Post by Edmund J. Mazza; Rejoinder by Fr John Rickert


Fr John Rickert had an article last week (with links to other sources therein) reasoning that Francis is Pope. Today, a response by Dr Edmund J Mazza, followed by a brief rejoinder by Fr Rickert.

All history shows that the best of friends sometimes cannot come to agreement on certain matters. That will likely be true here. But I absolutely refuse that any of us should fall out over this. Again I say, we have more than enough true enemies to worry about.

Lastly, please do not feed the trolls.

Response by Edmund J Mazza

Follow The Munus! Why Benedict Is [Likely] Pope

For decades, millions of faithful Catholics have been defending the Traditional Mass, the Traditional understanding of Evangelization, the Traditional teaching on abortion, etc. against the all-pervasive and suffocating “spirit of Vatican II.” Fighting a war on so many fronts, one may be forgiven for not even being aware of another post-Conciliar “crisis” with stakes just as high—a crisis in Ecclesiology. It took the innovation of a “Pope Emeritus,” before even this university scholar found it on his radar.

Let us begin our analysis with a quote from Bishop Juan Ignacio Arrieta, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts: “the problems which have arisen since the Council with regard to the public function and the notion of office are particularly reflected in the fluctuating use of notions such as “munus“, “ministry” and “office“, both in doctrine and in the official texts of the Church…notions close to that of public function, such as “munus“, “ministry” and “office”; terms which do not find univocal [synonymous] content in the documents of Vatican Council II, nor among the normative texts, being used indiscriminately by doctrine.”[1]

Anna Slowikowska, John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin in Poland, echoes Arrieta:

The Latin noun munus is an ambiguous word. In the teaching of the Second Vatican Council this word is present up 255 times, whereof 55 times in the Constitution Lumen gentium. The Council Fathers used this term in the meaning of: “office”, “function”, “mission”, “service”, “task”, “obligation”, “ministry”. In many places the translations of constitution from Latin language into Polish language in 1968 and 2002 are different. This can cause not only problems of interpretation, but also doctrinal problems.[2]

You’re telling me!

The greatest confusion has arisen over the interpretation of Pope Benedict XVI’s peculiar use of “munus” and “ministerium” in his renunciation of February 11, 2013.

Canon Law (Can. 332 § 2) states that such renunciations CAN BE INVALID if the pope does not renounce his munus, or if it is not done freely, or if it is not manifested properly: “Si contingat ut Romanus Pontifex muneri suo renuntiet, ad validitatem requiritur ut renuntiatio libere fiat et rite manifestetur…”

Let us then examine Benedict’s Declaratio:

…ad cognitionem certam perveni vires meas ingravescente aetate non iam aptas esse ad munus Petrinum aeque administrandum.

Bene conscius sum hoc munus secundum suam essentiam spiritualem non solum agendo et loquendo exsequi debere, sed non minus patiendo et orando… ut incapacitatem meam ad ministerium mihi commissum bene administrandum agnoscere debeam. Quapropter bene conscius ponderis huius actus plena libertate declaro me ministerio Episcopi Romaerenuntiare…[3]

Benedict uses the term “munus Petrinum” to describe the essential spiritual nature of the “Petrine Office.” Indeed, he IS STILL able to passively put it into service through “suffering and prayer,” but is NO longer strong enough to actively do so through “words and deeds.” In the all-important concluding quote, he declares that he renounces the “ministerio Episcopi Romae.”

Why, may we ask, did he suddenly replace “munus” with “ministerio”? Why abandon the consistency of his narration? We may NOT simply ASSUME that “ministerium,” is equivalent to “munus.” As Slowikowska points out:

The knowledge of all the meanings of a given word – in this case munus – is not enough to correctly identify the thoughts of the author of the translated text.

The term munus is most often analyzed in the literature with two others: officium and ministerium. They are also synonymous with it. But at the same time each of them can mean something different. Their use, whether separate or synonymous, always depends on the context of the utterance, the author’s intention or the purpose for which they are used.”[4]

Benedict makes it clear he is NOT renouncing the munus per se, because he IS STILL capable of passively exercising the munus: “prayer and suffering.” He renounced instead, the active service or ministerium.

Likewise, in his last General Audience on February 27, 2013, Benedict stated:

The “always” is also a “forever” – there is no longer a return to the private. My decision to renounce the active exercise of the ministry does not revoke this [papal commitment to God]… I do not abandon the cross but remain in a new way with the Crucified Lord. I no longer carry the power of the office for the [active] government of the Church, but in the [passive] service of prayer I remain, so to speak, in the precincts of St. Peter [i.e. Petrine munus/office]. Saint Benedict, whose name I bear as Pope, will be a great example to me in this. He has shown us the way to a life, which, active or passive, belongs totally to the work of God.[5]

As in his Declaratio, Benedict explicitly renounces only the “active exercise” of the office, not the office itself and the consequent passive exercise of it. Indeed, he says St. Benedict will be a great example to him as he practices the “passive” aspect of the Petrine munus! “Ora et Labora!”

Is there still more evidence of authorial intent outside the Declaratio? Yes, Benedict’s 2016 interview with Peter Seewald, who threw the words of his own Declaratio back at him: “Is a slowdown in the ability to perform, reason enough to climb down from the chair of Peter?”

Benedict: “One can…make that accusation, but it would be a functional misunderstandingThe successor of Peter is not merely bound to a function; the office [munus] enters into your very being. In this regard, fulfilling a function is not the only criterion.”[6]

What is this talk of “accusation”?? A simple “yes” or “no” would suffice. But Benedict characterized Seewald’s question as a “functional misunderstanding,” as if Seewald had missed the transcendent component of the Petrine munus by suggesting: “whenever he is not actively leading the Church, he is not papal.” Benedict corrects him by saying that the “office enters into your very being;” it as an ontological “always,” a “forever.”

Benedict once criticized Martin Luther precisely for misunderstanding the difference between office (munus) as jurisdiction or function and office (munus) as rite or sacrament:

[For Luther] the priest does not transcend his role as preacher. The consequent restriction to the word alone had, as its logical outcome, the pure functionality of the priesthood: it consisted exclusively in a particular activity; if that activity was missing, the ministry itself ceased to exist…There was purposely no further mention of priesthood but only of “office”; the assignment of this office was, in itself, a secular act.[7]

As if all this evidence were not enough, we have it again from Benedict’s own lips, that there is a distinction between munus and ministerium, between the transcendent and the practical use of it. In the early 1980s, Ratzinger expresses his approval of the reform of the rite of ordination carried out in 1947:

Pius XII defines as the central words those spoken at the consecration by the bishop: ‘Send forth upon him, O Lord, we beseech thee, the Holy Spirit, by whom may he (the ordained) be strengthened to perform faithfully the work of thy service with the help of thy sevenfold gift’ ‘Emitte in eum, quaesumus, Domine, Spiritum Sanctum, quo in opus ministerii tui fideliter exsequendi septiformis gratiae tuae munere roboretur.’ Accordingly… ministerium or munus: service and gift.”[8]

Ratzinger remarks that the key words now are munus,” the divine gift which allows “ministerium,” the service (active or passive) to God and His People:

The rigid juxtaposition of sacrament and jurisdiction, of consecrating power and power of governance, that had existed since the Middle Ages and was one of the symptoms marking the Western separation of the Churches from the East, has finally been eliminated…In the eucharistic office, both the sacrament and the “ruling power” interpenetrate one another, and it becomes at once clear how inappropriate the words “rule” and “power” are with regard to the Church. We have no more right to speak of a quasi-profane ruling power, neatly separated from the sacramental ministry, than we have a right to speak of a separation between the mystical and eucharistic body of Christ.”[9]

Benedict above is expressing his wholehearted approval of the novel teaching not only of Pius XII in 1947, but of the Second Vatican Council in 1963, that not only do bishops receive the power to administer sacraments when they are ordained, but sacramentally they also receive the power to govern the flock of Christ—even before they are assigned a juridical “office” such as Bishop of Paris, London—or Rome?

First, a directly sacramental root is established in the very act of a bishop’s consecration… Sacrament is no longer understood merely as an individual gift, but relates to the living unity of Church as an organism…collegiality is not based on a papally conferred jurisdiction, paralleling the sacrament of ordination as though that sacrament were merely an individual gift;[10]

Ultimately, Benedict goes so far as to suggest that the governing power of the Roman Pontiff himself, is not so much jurisdictionally-based, as it is sacramentally. Expressing his sympathy for the view of the Orthodox churches of the East, Ratzinger writes:

In the [Catholic view]…the source of law appears to be the will of the sovereign, which creates on its own authority new laws that then have the power to bind. The old sacramental structure [Eastern view] seems overgrown, even choked, by this new concept of law: the papacy is not a sacrament; it is “only” a juridical institution; but this juridical institution has set itself above the sacramental order[11]

For Benedict, the Pope does not occupy “an office of jurisdiction,” which comes and goes, so much as a spiritual “office of rite” which is irrevocable. As scholar Roberto de Mattei complains:

Vatican Council II did not explicitly reject the concept of “potestas,” [“power”] but set it aside, replacing it with an equivocal new concept, that of “munus.” Art. 21 of “Lumen Gentium” then seems to teach that episcopal consecration confers not only the fullness of orders, but also the office [munus] of teaching and governing, whereas in the whole history of the Church the act of episcopal consecration has been distinguished from that of appointment, or of the conferral of the canonical mission. This ambiguity is consistent with the ecclesiology of the theologians of the Council and post-council (Congar, Ratzinger, de Lubac, Balthasar, Rahner, Schillebeeckx…) who presumed to reduce the mission of the Church to a sacramental function, scaling down its juridical aspects…

Ratzinger…distanced himself from tradition when he saw in the primacy of Peter the fullness of the apostolic ministry, linking the ministerial character to the sacramental (J.Auer-J. Ratzinger, La Chiesa universale sacramento di salvezza, Cittadella, Assisi, 1988).[12]

In the end, the preponderance of the evidence is that Pope Benedict believes that Sacred Power comes from the munus received in episcopal consecration and that it is an “always” and “forever” gift that remains even after the loss of the active “ministerium.”

And so we return to Canon 332 § 2 and ask: Was Benedict’s renunciation valid? The pope did not “renounce his munus;” it was hardly “manifested properly” if it contained such multivalent language (i.e. munus vs ministerium), and if Benedict’s intellect suffered from an erroneous Ecclesiology (thank you Vatican II), neither was his renunciation free (Cf. Canon 188 on “substantial error”).

  1. Juan Ignacio Arrieta, “Funzione pubblica e ufficio ecclesiastico,” in Ius Ecclesiae, VII (1995), pp. 92-93. 
  2. Anna Slowikowska, “Interpretation of the term munus in the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium” Annals of the Humanities, 2015 (125-145) [ROCZNIKI HUMANISTYCZNE Tom LXIII, zeszyt 8 – 2015] 
  3. Pope Benedict XVI, Declaratio, February 11, 2013. 
  4. Slowikowska, “Interpretation of the term munus.” 
  5. Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience, February 27, 2013. 
  6. Joseph Ratzinger, Benedict XVI, Last Testament, (Bloomsbury Continuum; Reprint edition 2017). 
  7. Joseph Ratzinger, Principles of Catholic Theology: Building Stones for a Fundamental Theology, M. F. McCarthy, Trans. (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1987), p. 248. 
  8. Ibid., p.241. 
  9. Joseph Ratzinger, Theological Highlights of Vatican II (Rev. ed). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1966) pp. 128;188-189. 
  10. Ibid., pp. 127-28;141. ?
  11. Ratzinger, Principles of Catholic Theology, pp. 194-195. 
  12. Roberto de Mattei, “One and One Alone is Pope,” quoted in “Reigning and ‘Emeritus.’ The Enigma of the Two Popes,” Chiesa Espresso [Sandro Magister’s Blog], September 15, 2014 at 

Rejoinder by Fr John Rickert

Benedictus Locutus, Causa Finita

In my last post, I said that quibbling on and on about the words munus and ministerium is actually a red herring. I stand by that. To address those, however, who are convinced that the word munus is a sine qua non, let us consider the following. (Cf. this link.)

For convenience, we repeat:
Can. 332 Sec. 2 (Latin) — Si contingat ut Romanus Pontifex muneri suo renuntiet, ad validitatem requiritur ut renuntiatio libere fiat et rite manifestetur, non vero ut a quopiam acceptetur.

Can. 332 Sec. 2 (English) — If it happens that the Roman Pontiff resigns his office, it is required for validity that the resignation is made freely and properly manifested but not that it is accepted by anyone.

Was the resignation freely made? Yes. The previous pope made this decision with full cognizance of the act and its consequences and with full freedom: bene conscius ponderis huius actus plena libertate declaro.

Is the resignation properly manifested? Yes. The AAS is the official journal of record for the Vatican.

As I argue in my last post, it is not prescribed for the pope to use any particular formula, phrase, or word. But for those who think so, look at the title: De muneris episcopi Romae, successoris sancti Petri abdicatione.

There it is, the second word: munus in the genitive singular, as required by the grammar. But I also draw your attention to the word abdicatio. Lewis and Short make it clear that this is a strong and unequivocal word; when applied to persons, it means to disown them.

Sat est. Benedictus locutus, causa finita.

11 thoughts on “Follow the Munus! Dr. Mazza via Dr. Briggs as the debate heats up over Pope Benedict’s abdication”

  1. Fr. Rickert: If Pope Benedict XVI abdicated from the Office of Pope, then he has as much right to now live in the Vatican as Pope as you do, or me.
    Canon 331, 332, 333 and 334, in the section on the Roman Pontiff and the Supreme Authority of the Church discusses Munus; never does it discuss Ministerium. Munus, only Munus. And it does so in every relevant paragraph, Munus.
    What did Pope Benedict XVI specifically resign, when the moment came to write the one sentence that mattered? Ministerium.
    And then what did he do after he gave the Ministerium to another?
    There he is. No one cares. You don’t care. Who does? But, again, there he is, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI “emeritus” (first “emeritus” ever … sources?). Wearing white. In the Vatican. Giving Apostolic Blessings, from time to time. Exercising his Petrine Ministry in a new way, in prayer and contemplation.
    If he is not Pope, if he is not in substantial error … then why do you tolerate this outrage. His presence is blasphemy because you cannot have two visible Holy Fathers in the same space, the same world at the same time.
    That is what bothers me as much as anything – everyone says it is all good and right and properly done. But when you point out the obvious problem living there in Mater Ecclesiae, wearing the Papal white … well …. he’s just a crazy old man.
    Not good enough. If he resigned, then he is Bishop Ratzinger and he should be living in Bavaria playing his piano with his cat; writing books and giving conferences. All abdicated Popes have done some variation on that through time. Because they are no longer Pope. And there can be but one. Please explain to my conscience why I see two.

  2. Fr John Rickert points to the title, De muneris episcopi Romae, successoris sancti Petri abdicatione.
    I would note that this appears to suggest the resignation of the bishop of Rome, which seems to potentially be something different from the Vicar of Christ. At least it is a possibility that it is something different.

  3. Why had it happened over 9 years and still people did not figure it out or investigated it seriously but still wondering and guessing? All you have to do is pray, believe the Catholic Prophecies that God sent through His Mother, His Saints, and you can connect the dots to know why???
    He was forced, physically forced/abused to resign, or else, just as they did to Siri twice to steal the Papa election. Yes, they forced Benedict XVI to quit so that their AntiPope/AntiChrist can come out for they were late to bring out their NWO as they planned it.
    Everything as the Masonic Satanists wanted. Those guys are not Catholics and not real Shepherds. When would Catholics be wakening up and removing them by force? Yes, by force, there is no other way out. Those guys are Freemasons/Luciferians/Zionists of the Kabbalah. They are rapists, homos, and pedophiles… Do you call them “your Pope, your Bishops…???”
    Pope Benedict XVI wanted to clean them up so they REMOVED HIM FIRST. However, Holy Spirit guided Benedict XVI to make AN INTENTIONALLY ERROR ON PURPOSE. Why do so many Catholics today are so dumbfounding and ignorant about the Church’s issues???
    Your true Pope was beaten up and forced to resign and be imprisoned by “house arrest” for 9 damn years and still, nobody knows anything or does anything to rescue him? Did not he say, “Please, pray for me so that I won’t be afraid and run from the wolves”???? He knew they closed in on him and he gave out so many signals to his sheep but the sheep are too stupid to recognize the code messages.

    1. I’m with you, jmy1975! We can debate until we’re blue in the face, yes facts are facts, evidence is evident, but the truth is that we are in God’s hands, He has allowed this Papal conundrum, as well as war and the future chastisements because of our unfaithfulness. Even the most faithful and best of us are much too attached to the comforts of the world. We now have to suffer the consequences of our worldliness.

    2. “Sometimes you get to the point where you don’t care anymore. Your mind just stops worrying”.
      Apply that logic to any *essential* part of the Faith … such as defending the theology of the Trinity; the supremacy of the Triune God above all gods; God’s Law above nihilistic pagan urges; sacrelige against our Lord on the Cross; desecrations against our Blessed Mother … and you see that any Catholic worth the name would never “stop caring”; “stop worrying”; whatever, man.
      And it shows what is and is not important.
      Meanwhile, the other side has redefined the Papacy, we are led into all falsehood by an antipope, and the Church is not recognizeable in accord with Her true Divine nature, given to us by God. It is something else. And those who are busy wrecking it at the foundation care very much, and worry very much that someone might stop their efforts. But most Catholics either agree with the new church or don’t care – not really.
      I find precious few that care any more, that the Papacy is two, not one, and that the antipope elected in this new thing is a revolutionary force of nature.
      I have no use for this new church. None.

      1. If you “don’t care” or “stop worrying” about your soul, your church in particular… You are just as bad as they are and you are not a Catholic but a PSEUDO-COUNTERFEIT NEW RELIGION OF THE NWO which is the Synagogue of Satan. Pure and simple. I get so tired of fake “Katholics”… Period.

  4. Isn’t Francis’ adulterous-eucharistic receiving letter to the Argentinians also part of the Acta Apotolicae Sedes?

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