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Here we continue, with Part Two of my interview with Colombian author and attorney Estefanía Acosta. If you missed Part One, it is HERE.
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.
If I may, on this point I would rather simply refer your readers to our book, but briefly: first, as you have rightly said, the irregularities that occurred before and during the 2013 conclave, including those of the St. Gallen mafia, are a totally secondary matter in the debate that concerns us.
Although in our book we wanted to offer documentation in this regard for the sake of completeness, the truth is that the events linked to said mafia have recently been used by various figures in the Catholic world as a smoke screen to divert attention from the central point in the current crisis of the Papacy, which is the Declaratio of “resignation” issued by Pope Benedict XVI. I believe we must emphatically distance ourselves from this distracting trend and focus our gaze on who is truly the legitimate current Pope of the Catholic Church (Benedict), and not so much on who is not (“Francis”).
Second, the information that can be obtained about the mafia is merely indicative, given the illegal and clandestine nature of the operations of this group. It’s difficult to establish, on a factual level, if the cardinal elected in the 2013 conclave (Jorge Bergoglio) participated, and to what extent, in such conspiratorial operations, and if, as a consequence, he incurred the penalty of excommunication latae sententiae prescribed in canon 81 of Pope John Paul II’s UDG.
Finally, the discussions about whether or not the cardinals of St. Gallen, finding themselves excommunicated latae sententiae by the time the 2013 conclave took place, could or could not validly take an active part in the voting, and so on, are as cumbersome as they are sterile. The whole Conclave question is secondary, and include margins of uncertainty about the probability of establishing facts in the case. This issue has academic value, though, and I discuss it at length in section IV-C of our book.
The canon that you quote speaks of the supplying of the “executive power of regime,” so let’s understand what this implies. By virtue of the sacrament of Holy Orders, priests and bishops essentially have three functions: to sanctify (everything related to the liturgy and the sacraments), to teach (magisterium), and to govern (juridical/bureaucratic/administrative/governmental aspect, which includes the legislative, executive and judicial branches).
Now, canon 144 §1 provides for the supplying of jurisdiction for those specific cases in which, those who must submit to an executive power, believe with some solid foundation that a certain minister is invested with such power, when in fact he is not. The same canon, in its §2, extends this substitution under certain conditions to the areas of Confession, Confirmation and Matrimony. Under this principle (supplet Ecclesia), then, the Church enters to supply the jurisdiction (executive power) that the minister in question lacks, for the sake of the common good involved in each situation.
We’re getting to the question of bishops and cardinalate appointments under Francis. The supplying of jurisdiction takes place for specific, particular cases to do with common error or probably doubt of fact or doubt of law. With Bergoglio, we are talking about a nonexistent pontifical jurisdiction. One could never resort to the Ecclesia supplet principle to legitimize the entire para-structure, the false or anti-Church built up by “Francis” on the (material) ruins of the true Church whose visible head, although impeded, continues to be His Holiness Benedict XVI.
This is especially true considering that this para-structure spreads support for the anti-Gospel, the anti-liturgy, the anti-law and the anti-Christ. Such an application of supplying would not only constitute a total distortion of the principle, but also a very serious attack on the common good for whose defense it is established.
Tying back to your question, the answer is: all the cardinals designated by Francis are invalid, as are the bishops from the juridical point of view—although, from the sacramental point of view, it is possible that they have validly received episcopal ordination, if the pertinent requirements were met in each case (laying on of hands, proper prayer of consecration etc.).
The term “sedevacantist” typically refers to those who mistakenly maintain that the Petrine See has been vacant since the death of Venerable Pius XII in 1958, and who consequently find themselves in a situation of schism with respect to the Popes validly and successively elected since that year (John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II and Benedict XVI).
This gross error rests, in essence, on the heretical premise that the Church and the Papacy failed in the second half of the 20th century—which is obviously impossible, given, among other things, the indefectible character of the former and the institution in perpetuity of the latter by Christ. Now, in a more general way, it is said that the “sedevacantist error” occurs every time some group of people, starting from a private judgment, refuses to recognize a Pope who has been validly elected, that is, with full compliance with the canonical norms that regulate papal elections, and accepted by the Church in a peaceful and universal way.
Yes, an important question. Pacifica universalis ecclesiae adhaesio indicates that the fact that the election of a certain Pope is not immediately challenged (or is universally accepted by the Church, under the criterion of a moral and not necessarily mathematical unanimity), at the very moment in which such an election is made known, is an infallible sign that all the canonical conditions necessary for its validity have been fulfilled.
Naturally, the refusal to accept Bergoglio as the true Roman Pontiff, it is said, goes against the principle of the pacifica universalis ecclesiae adhaesio. This position argues that, since the March 13, 2013 election was not immediately challenged but was universally accepted by the Church by a moral unanimity, one must conclude it was necessarily valid, and that those who question or oppose it are guilty of sedevacantism. This accusation shows up in the nickname “Benevacantists” that is sometimes thrown at us who consider Benedict XVI as the current legitimate Pope.
Keep in mind that the doctrine of “peaceful and universal acceptance by the Church,” although it has been enunciated and commonly accepted as a dogmatic fact, it has never been precisely defined in each of its terms, and therefore its application in specific cases, and especially that of Francis, becomes extremely controversial.
It is asserted that the challenges to a certain papal election must take place “immediately,” or otherwise the adhaesio doctrine teaches that the Pope is the Pope. Which raises the question: what does “immediately” even mean? Some pro-Francis pundits say “weeks and months after” the respective election, but no one can authoritatively say how many weeks, or how many months, nor who gets to determine this time limit—and based on what?
The fact is, the Bergoglio/Francis election was disputed as to its legitimacy from day one; that is, before his “pontificate” aroused perplexities in doctrine, liturgy, and jurisdiction—even, in some cases, before the conclave where he was elected took place on March 13, 2013.
We mustn’t forget that Benedict’s Declaratio itself soon began to generate public suspicions of invalidity, linked to factors of various kinds: metaphysical or ecclesiological, as in the case of those who denied the very possibility of a papal resignation; linguistic, for those who focused on the Latin errors in the text; juridical and symbolic, linked, on the one hand, to Benedict’s own specification at his last General Audience (08/27/2013), in the sense that his resignation related to the active exercise of the ministry (which, as we have seen, is clearly different from the ecclesiastical charge or office of Roman Pontiff), and on the other, to the typical elements of pontifical dignity that the “renouncer” decided to maintain (the titles His Holiness and Pope Emeritus, and the coat of arms, and so on).
We cannot consider that Francis’ “papal election” is the “official position of the Church” since, in his case, the pacifica hasn’t been configured, let alone issued by the competent ecclesiastical authorities gathered in a canonical forum, which is a definitive and juridically binding pronouncement for the universal Church in this regard.
Interestingly, our investigations have not thus far been undermined with serious arguments, and for the most part have simply been ignored or silenced. Our contribution is to work toward the day when such a forum can be constituted, and the faithful may receive the full truth about the current crisis of the Pontificate. Saints such as Catherine of Siena and Bernard of Clairvaux, in effect, did so in their own way, at a time when the ecclesiastical hierarchy was not infiltrated by Freemasonry to the point that it is today.
As you have said, in no way do we maintain that the See is vacant, because in reality it is impeded: Benedict XVI never resigned from being the Pope and therefore continues to be the juridically legitimate occupant of the See. By materially withdrawing from his functions and self-exiling in the Vatican, however, the See was left paralyzed and usurped by “Francis.” It’s not that the highest ecclesial authority is non-existent, unrecognizable or invisible in the face of the universal body of the Church, but rather, its legitimate exercise is being prevented. In short, we are not sedevacantists. Habemus Papam: His Holiness, Benedict XVI!
The Code of Canon Law does not contain indications on how (nor by whom) an authoritative, binding pronouncement should be issued in the case of a disputed Papacy like this. More theological and historical research on the subject will be useful to resolve the current impasse. For my part, I have no expertise here, and therefore there’s little that I can say about it.
A possible solution would be that, at Pope Benedict XVI’s death, the true cardinals—that is, those who were appointed by Benedict himself or by Pope John Paul II—meet in Conclave in accordance with the norms of UDG, for the election of the new Roman Pontiff. I can also say that any conclave held under any of the following circumstances would be juridically invalid: while Benedict’s pontificate remains juridically in force; with the participation of the “cardinals” designated by “Francis;” and/or in accordance with any provision issued by the latter for the purposes of such Conclave. Both the person who is elected under any of these conditions, as well as his possible successors, would necessarily be anti-Popes.
Okay, let us ask ourselves: what can the world and the Church expect from God in the present moment? We have an infinitely wise, loving and powerful God; He is merciful and just at the same time. In justice, given our behavior as creatures/sons of God, what do we deserve from Him today, or what have we earned? We know that the worst divine punishments take place passively: when a generation rejects the Lord again and again and man degrades himself to a level lower than that of the beasts and prostrate himself before all kinds of false gods, God abandons him “to his shameful passions” and “to his depraved mind” (Rom 1, 18-21).
Things are getting worse, fast. In the times of the imminent glorious return of the Lord, the peak period of human degradation in which “the apostasy is to come and the man of lawlessness is to appear,” God will “send a deceitful power, which impels them to believe in lies … to those who are doomed to perdition for not having accepted the love of the truth that would have saved them … so that all those who not only resisted believing in the truth, but also took pleasure in iniquity, will be condemned” (2 Thess 2, 1-12). It is, therefore, against the backdrop of divine wrath in obviously apocalyptic times, that we must read the temporal triumph that the enemies of God and of His Church have achieved by installing on the Petrine throne a man whose singular objective is the destruction of the Catholic Faith, and whose works have deceived, scandalized, and disappointed—shall we understate the point—not a few believers.
On the other hand, the deepest truth is that God is truthful, faithful and loyal, and that all His promises are fulfilled to the letter. One of these promises is precisely the indefectibility of the Church, edified on the Rock of the Papacy as a guarantee that “the gates of hell [heresies] will not prevail over her” (Mt 16, 18). This promise is unconditional, totally independent of the behavior of man towards his God. The Holy Church of Christ is in essence indestructible, as is also, by nature, her Divine Spouse.
How to hold these two views together? We must keep in mind that divine justice is inextricably linked with mercy, and that its purpose is not definitive destruction but renewal, restoration of all things in Christ. God has allowed Holy Mother Church to be infiltrated at the highest levels so that all those who “went out from us, but were not of us” (1 Jn 2, 19) may reveal themselves, and be finally defeated, while true believers are increasingly refined, in preparation for receiving the Savior at His Second Coming. The Lord has taken good care to withdraw His hand, His supernatural graces and, more specifically, the power of the keys, from the one who has dared to usurp the place of His Vicar. Does the fact that lightning struck St. Peter’s Basilica—twice—on that February 11, 2013 tell us something?
So let us rejoice! The Church and the Papacy remain standing. We don’t have an “apostate Pope” because there’s not such thing. It’s an oxymoron. We have a Pope, materially impeded, yes, but suffering and praying, in imitation of the Master. Things will get harder and harder, Patrick, it’s true; but, although it seems that the Church is crumbling, the supernatural vision tells us that, in reality, the Church is being purified, in the midst of the final battle against evil, from which she will emerge victorious and fully prepared for the Marriage of the Lamb.
May that moment find us, if we are to witness it, crying out to Heaven: Come, Lord Jesus!