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Estefanía Acosta of Medellin, Colombia, is a practicing attorney with expertise in constitutional law, and was for years an official of the State Judicial Power and university professor in the area of commercial and civil law. In 2020, the fruit of diligent research and legal/canonical analysis of the Declaratio read by Benedict XVI on February 13, 2013, materialized in her bombshell book, Benedict XVI: Pope “Emeritus”? The ‘Always Is Also ‘Forever.’”
She felt it would be more effective to do a print interview since the details—the relevant canons, doctrines, and line of argumentation—are rather detailed and technical. Counselor Acosta writes in the lean, compressed style you would expect from a trained lawyer, and her replies carry so much important backstory and attention to detail that I decided it would be best to publish the interview in two parts.
The very topic can appear frankly unsettling for Catholics. At first. Take your time as you go through Part One. You might find yourself, as I did, slowing down to concentrate as you read.
Of the thousands of interviews I have done, this might be the most important. The stakes for the Catholic Church couldn’t be higher, the facts more verifiable, and the sense of hope more palpable, once you allow Estefanía Acosta to lay out—from one angle after another—the case that the sole sitting Roman Pontiff remains His Holiness Benedict XVI. Along the way, she clears aside the misperceptions of what happened on February 11, 2013, what it meant, and what it didn’t.
Thank you for your kind invitation. Actually, in my case it was a reversion to Catholicism. I had the blessing of being born into a Catholic family and attending a Catholic school, as well as receiving the sacraments of Christian initiation in my childhood and teenage years. This initial Catholic formation, however, was rather superficial, and I didn’t achieve, in that first period, the personal encounter with Christ that is what truly transforms our lives in a decisive way and impels us to leave everything for His love.
So with such poor foundations, from an early age I began to progressively distance myself from the Lord, the Church, the sacraments and the life in grace—and then I received the “mortal blow” of a radically anti-Christian and anti-clerical university formation. But, after many years of wandering, in my worst moment of spiritual darkness, the Blessed Virgin Mary rescued me and brought me back home to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus and Holy Mother Church.
It so happens that the rescue that I have mentioned took place at the beginning of 2017, and curiously, it developed in parallel with the knowledge and deepening of the biblical and private prophecies about the end times. So, when I returned to the bosom of the Church, I found—almost immediately—that she had been usurped at her apex (the Papacy), just as it had been prophesied centuries before. Between 2017 and 2019 I assiduously watched the famous “Café con Galat,” a well-known Colombian television program in the Spanish-speaking world. There, Dr. José Galat and his team denounced not only the heresies, blasphemies, and outrages committed daily by “Pope Francis,” but also the pressures and irregularities that had surrounded the “resignation” of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI.
I listened to these complaints with some fear, but I saw them as well-founded and coherent. So it wasn’t until 2019, after digesting and discerning all this information, that I definitively accepted in my mind and heart this truth about the malevolent Petrine usurpation perpetrated by Jorge Bergoglio with the clear purpose of destroying the Church of Christ.
Yes, it can, but before doing so, it is vital that we understand the broader context. It is evident that around these supposed juridical acts referring to the papacy—Pope Benedict XVI’s “resignation” and Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio’s “election”—numerous irregular and confusing facts have arisen. Here are seven:
(i) The furious opposition that was raised from some of the clergy itself against Benedict XVI’s pontificate that was evidenced, for example, in the repeated “calls to disobedience” by the Austrian clergy who demanded “magisterial reforms” on points of sexual morality and priestly ordination (the endorsement of female priestly ordination, the suppression of compulsory priestly celibacy, the approval of homosexual unions etc.). Additionally, speaking to a more symbolic level, in the scandalous act of disrespect of those bishops and cardinals who publicly refused the formal greeting due to Pope Benedict during his trip to Germany at the end of 2011;
(ii) The notorious threats against His Holiness Benedict XVI’s life, aired in the Italian media at the beginning of 2012, and publicly corroborated a few years later by Colombian Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos;
(iii) The economic blockade of Vatican bank accounts, which occurred in February 2013 and was suddenly resolved the day after the public announcement of the Declaratio of “resignation” by the Pope;
(iv) The plans of certain sectors of the Left in American politics and finance, aimed at “planting the seeds of the revolution” in the Catholic Church;
(v) The machinations of the infamous St. Gallen Mafia, among whose members were, curiously, the fiercest opponents of Joseph Ratzinger. Take for example Cardinal Godfried Danneels (RIP), one of the confessed leaders of said mafia, whose life was characterized by his systematic disobedience to the teachings that were imparted by Cardinal Ratzinger from his position as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and whose triumphant candidate in the 2013 conclave, Jorge Bergoglio, assumed, from the first moment of his inauguration as “Pope,” the banner of liberalism so loved by the mafiosi. And by “liberalism” I really mean here Masonic/satanic postulates;
(vi) The apparent Papal diarchy that has arisen as a result of the “juridical acts” in question and of the symbolically significant behaviors of both Pope Benedict XVI and “Pope Francis;”
(vii) To all of the above are added, of course, the biblical and private revelations about the great apostasy, which would be “institutionalized” from the highest ecclesial “authority” at the end times (to which the Catechism of the Catholic Church alludes in No. 675). Let’s not forget the documented Masonic and Communist infiltration in the Church has fulfilled to the letter the equally documented Masonic plans for the destruction of the Catholic Faith. And finally, we have the signs of the times, crying out to us that the Apocalypse has arrived.
Now all these elements (which are often mistakenly or maliciously classified under the cliché of “conspiracy theories”) do not constitute any proof of the canonical validity or invalidity of the Declaratio and, therefore, do not offer, in a strict sense, the answer to who is or is not the Pope of the Catholic Church. The only way to resolve this question is to confront the text of the Declaratio itself with the canonical norms that regulate juridical acts in general and the juridical act of a papal resignation. And by making this confrontation, it becomes clear that Benedict XVI did not resign from the papacy: his resignation never had as its object the charge or office (in Latin munus) of Roman Pontiff. This refers to the ontological dimension, linked to the ownership of the ecclesiastical position in question.
But, literally, His Holiness resigned “the ministry of Bishop of Rome” (in Latin ministerio Episcopi Romae); that is, the practical dimension, linked to the exercise of the ministries/services/functions/tasks/helps associated with the office. Obviously, the coexistence of “two Popes” is unthinkable: one who is so, and another who acts as such. Whoever acts as Pope without being one, will simply be a usurper, and whoever is the Pope, will continue to be so until his death or his valid resignation from the office or charge itself, regardless of whether or not he actually exercises as such –or shall we say that Peter stopped being the Pope while he was imprisoned by order of Herod Agrippa?
So the short answer to your question is: the Declaratio is objective and verifiable evidence that Benedict retained the Petrine munus and therefore remained, and is to this day, the true Sovereign Pontiff.
I understand that canons 10, 39, 124 § 1, 125, 126, 145 § 1, 187, 188 and 332 § 2 of the Code of Canon Law to be decisive.
Canon 332 § 2 indicates that “if it happens that the Roman Pontiff resigns his office [in Latin munus], it is required for validity that the resignation is made freely and properly manifested, but not that it is accepted by anyone.” In no way should it be understood that this canon establishes a “sacramental formula” of which the word “munus” is an indispensable part, as occurs, say, in the formula “this is my Body” for the consecration of the Eucharist. (Those words are indispensable under penalty of invalidity of the sacrament and, therefore, of non-existence of transubstantiation). What happens is that the Petrine munus (or its synonyms: charge, office, papacy, pontificate etc.) constitutes nothing less than the object on which, by mere logic, any papal resignation must fall.
The thing is, the “object” is an essential, structural, defining, constitutive element in every juridical act. Why? Because a juridical act is essentially a decision, and as such requires: (i) a subject (ii) who grants his consent; (iii) that this consent is made externally or socially recognizable through a form; and (iv) a clear object, that is, that the specific content of the decision adopted, as well as the objective reality on which this decision falls, must be precisely indicated.
So in the debate that concerns us, this content and this objective reality would be none other than “to resign” and the “papacy” (or its synonyms), respectively. All these structural requirements of the juridical act are provided for by canon 124 § 1: “For a juridical act to be valid, it is required that it has been performed [form] by a capable person [subject – consent], and that the elements that essentially constitute that act [object] concur, as well as the formalities and requirements imposed by law for the validity of the act.”
Even if these elements were not expressly indicated by canon law, their necessity would be evident by the very nature of the juridical act. Think about it. Could we even imagine a juridical act without subject(s), without authorship? Or without an object? Such logical necessity leads us to affirm that for the Declaratio to be a true papal resignation, should have as its object the Papacy, the Petrine munus (or its synonyms: charge, office, Pontificate etc.), in the same way that the sale of a property must use precisely that word (or its synonyms: land, estate, terrain etc.), so that the object of the act is determined and the act itself reaches juridical existence.
If a pope resigns the exercise of some of his functions (ministerium) but not the office from which such functions derive (munus), a conclave cannot be validly called for the election of a new pope for the simple reason that there cannot be, simultaneously, more than one pope. This would be contrary to divine law, since, by direct institution of Jesus Christ Himself, the papacy is necessarily a one-person charge (Mt 16, 18-19 and Jn 21, 15-17). Multiple magisterial documents of the Church teach us this, by way of dogma: Bull Unam Sanctam (Boniface VIII), Encyclical Satis Cognitum – On the Unity of the Church (Leo XIII), Dogmatic Constitution Pastor Aeternus (Vatican Council I), Encyclical Mystici Corporis Christi – On the Mystical Body of Christ (Pius XII), Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium (Vatican Council II) etc.
The critics have two shortcomings: first, they take as authoritative certain Latin-English dictionaries and some literary and philosophical works originally written in Latin, and leave aside what should be the primary source in this linguistic discussion, namely, the canonical norms (especially the CCL). The thing is, since we are dealing with the validity or invalidity of a juridical act (the Declaratio), the meaning of the terms must be sought precisely in the canonical context. Second, the critics overlook that the synonymy between munus and ministerium is only partial. This is important, so let’s cover it well.
In our book, we have made a systematic search of all those canons that use the words munus and ministerium, both in the CCL and in the 1996 Apostolic Constitution Universi Dominici Gregis (UDG), searching the following (digital) normative compilation: “Código de Derecho Canónico. Edición bilingüe y anotada” (sexta edición, Pamplona: Universidad de Navarra, 2006), in which each canon is found both in the original Latin and Spanish. When analyzing the words in question in the normative context, we were able to show two important facts. First, that the term munus is used in two senses: as office (charge, title, position, commission, situation) and as function (task, labor, service, ministry, help); and second, that the term ministerium is NEVER used as office, but ALWAYS as function (or set of functions). The book includes abundant quotations of canonical norms.
The foregoing leads us to the undeniable conclusion that, to validly resign the pontificate, the appropriate word is munus, and not ministerium, since whoever resigns the ministerium only resigns EXERCISING as Pope, and not BEING so.
At this point, we must clarify something. Critics argue that both munus and ministerium have among their meanings, “office.” According to this, a pope could well cease to be so by resigning from the ministerium. Faced with this objection, we need to keep in mind that the word “office” itself has two dimensions: an ontological one (the “being” which is linked to charge, position, situation etc.), and a practical one (the “doing,” related to the tasks inherent to a certain charge, position, situation etc.)
In other words, the fact that the word ministerium has among its meanings that of office, doesn’t mean that it becomes synonymous with munus in its sense of charge, position, situation etc., since the similar meaning between ministerium and office takes place on the practical level. In the canonical context, the word ministerium is NEVER used in an ontological dimension, but ALWAYS in a practical dimension.
That clarification done, we must emphasize that our reflections do not refer to the intention that Benedict XVI had when using these words (munus and ministerium), but to the objective meaning attributed to them in the juridical field. This is key. Remember that juridical acts—and the Declaratio is one—are necessarily expressed through words, and words have a socially recognizable meaning. Without this, all communication, all language, all social and juridical order, would become impossible.
The systematic examination of the Declaratio, however, shows how Benedict makes a clear distinction, almost like a patient teacher, between the word munus in its sense of charge or office and the word ministerium. Thus, the Pope tells us that the Petrine munus is of a spiritual nature and must be exercised by acting, speaking, suffering and praying. So his own distinction between the whole (munus) and the part (ministerium) is clear: while the munus (charge, office) is the container, the ministerium (functions) associated with it are the contents.
So not only do the words in question have an objectively different meaning whenever munus is referred to charge or office, but also the Declaratio itself recognizes and explains such an objective distinction while limiting the resignation specifically to the ministerium (and not to the munus).
Actually, I do not believe that, in the current canonical and social context, errors in Latin invalidate a papal document. This happened in the past, yes, with respect to papal rescripts, briefs and bulls, by virtue of what was apparently a custom (with normative force). But in the present, I believe that the force of such a custom could hardly be admitted in the face of the (in)validity of a papal resignation.
Again, the Church’s historical treatment of Latinity errors is not immediately applicable. In the first place, the grounds for invalidity must be expressly established by law (cf. canon 10 of the CCL), and currently there is no law that expressly sanctions with nullity a papal juridical act containing Latin errors. It’s also not clear that the Declaratio fits into what was understood by “rescript, brief, papal bull” in the time in which the aforementioned custom was in force.
Thirdly, and this is the decisive reason, which I came to realize after the writing of our book. This custom had a factual basis that doesn’t exist today: the constant falsifications of papal documents was a real problem and not always easily detectable. Precisely as a criterion to identify such a falsehood, the presence of Latin errors was provided, especially those “ludicrous” or “inexcusable”, whose Vatican origin was considered implausible.
Our book proposes that the Latin errors present in the Declaratio have at least an indicative value. As you rightly say, Pope Benedict is a man of high intellectual level, particularly competent in handling Latin. Wasn’t total linguistic neatness to be expected? Actually, in light of the above custom from the past, Benedict’s errors in his Declaratio are ironic. As his biographer, Peter Seewald, reflects in his Pope Benedict biography, A Life (p. 1158 of the Italian version): “There were still two weeks left to announce his resignation, when the Pope sat down at his old walnut desk to work on the drafting of the text, which should not be too long or too complicated. However, he had to be precise and pay attention to detail, to avoid controversies over canon law. […] He did not formulate the text in Italian because ‘such an important thing is done in Latin,’ and he also did not want to make mistakes in a language that was not his own.”
You asked about the errors. The Italian-American friar Alexis Bugnolo, an expert Latinist, points out 40. But the errors that the media highlighted a few days after the public announcement of the Declaratio were specifically three: (i) the expression “commissum renuntiare” was included when the correct thing was “commisso renuntiare;” (ii) it was noted that the See would be vacant on February 28 at “29” hours; and (iii) in the first paragraph, “Ecclesiae vitae” was indicated, when “Ecclesiae vita” corresponded.
Now, all these errors have already been corrected on the official Vatican website, and in Benedict’s public reading of the Declaratio, you can perceive only the first one (commissum). As for the other two, the audio allows one to perceive that the Pope correctly pronounces “vita” and “20“. So we do not know for sure if the remaining errors were made by those who typed the text for its web version, or if they were actually found in the manuscript prepared by Benedict. In any case, the error of the “commissum,” which is clearly attributable to the Holy Father—which he emphasizes in his public reading—is found in the very formula of the “resignation,” in its “heart,” and not in the “secondary” part such as the antecedents or justification of the act, or in the acknowledgments.
Practically everything about him is characteristic of one who is and knows himself to be the Vicar of Christ. It just doesn’t make sense that he keeps calling himself Benedict XVI and using the initials P.P. (Pastor Pastorum). He maintains his residence in the Mater Ecclesiae monastery in the Vatican when, as we know, Ratzinger dreamed since his days as prefect of a quiet retirement in his beloved Bavaria. He continues to wear white and has adopted the unprecedented and anti-canonical title “Pope Emeritus.” All of this is a source of confusion, at a symbolic level, regarding the identification of The Rock (in the singular) on which the Church is built and her unity is guaranteed. But it gets more interesting.
Although during the farewell to the cardinals ceremony (02/28/2013), His Holiness promised his “unconditional reverence and obedience” to the “future Pope,” the truth is that since March 13, 2013 he has assumed a role that doesn’t fit into any of the ranks of the ecclesiastical authorities, nor has he been directly subordinated to “Francis’” orders, and not even to his teachings. On the contrary, Benedict’s occasional interventions have only undermined “Francis” both in word and deed. There are many examples of this, but perhaps the most significant was Benedict’s famous 2019 analysis of the sexual abuse crisis in the Church. This document was enough to sweep away the doctrinal atrocities of the hitherto six years of the Bergoglio false magisterium, especially in matters of sexual morality, so much so that newspaper headlines read, “The dubia were finally resolved.”
Click HERE for Part Two of this interview with Estefanía Acosta.