Invalid Input

Invalid Input

Search the Remnant Newspaper
Thursday, July 3, 2014

In a Papal “Diarchy”, Which Half Is Infallible?

By:   By Robert J. Siscoe
Rate this item
(109 votes)

“[Pope] Benedict did not intend to renounce the munus petrinus, nor the office, or the duties, i.e. which Christ Himself attributed to the Head of the Apostles [Peter] and which has been passed on to his successors. The Pope intended to renounce only the ministerium, which is the exercise and concrete administration of that office.” – Vittorio Messori

There have been some interesting developments in Rome over the past several months, which have brought to light some curious aspects of the Papal resignation of Pope Benedict XVI. The widely read Vittorio Messori – “the most translated Catholic writer in the world” - recently published an article in Corriera della Sera, in which he discusses a newly published study by Stefano Violi, esteemed Professor of Canon Law at the Faculty of Theology in Bologna and Lugano. Professor Violi’s study, which includes a detailed examination of the Latin text of the Papal resignation, argues that Pope Benedict did not intend to completely renounce the Papal office, but only the active exercise thereof. His intent was essentially to split the Papacy in two, thereby transforming the Papal Monarchy into a Papal Diarchy. In Messori’s words:


[Pope] Benedict did not intend to renounce the munus petrinus, nor the office, or the duties, i.e. which Christ Himself attributed to the Head of the Apostles and which has been passed on to his successors. The Pope intended to renounce only the ministerium, which is the exercise and concrete administration of that office.

Then, commenting on the precise terminology used by Pope Benedict in his resignation, Messori added:

In the formula employed by Benedict, primarily, there is a distinction between the munus, the papal office, and the execution, that is the active exercise of the office itself: but the executio is twofold: there is the governmental aspect which is exercised agendo et loquendo (working and teaching); but there is also the spiritual aspect, no less important, which is exercised orando et patendo (praying and suffering). It is that which would be behind Benedict XVI’s words: “I do not return to private life […] I no longer bear the power of office for the governance of the Church, but in the service of prayer I remain, so to speak, in the enclosure of Saint Peter. “Enclosure” here would not be meant only in the sense of a geographical place, where one lives, but also a theological “place.”

A little further on, Messori cites the following from Professor Violi’s study:

Benedict XVI divested himself of all the power of government and command inherent in his office, without however, abandoning his service to the Church: this continues through the exercise of the spiritual dimension of the pontifical munus entrusted to him. This he did not intend renouncing. He renounced not his duties, which are, irrevocable, but the concrete execution of them.

If Professor Violi is correct, Pope Benedict did not intend to fully renounced the Papal office, but only a portion of the exercise thereof (working and teaching). This novel act of Pope Benedict would explain why he has retained the papal coat of arms, continues to wear the white cassock, and, rather than returning to his pre-papal name Cardinal Ratzinger, has chosen the title “His Holiness Benedict XVI, Pope Emeritus”.   The Italian journalist Antonio Socci, who has been writing about the questionable resignation of Pope Benedict for a number of months, quoted Pope Benedict’s trusted secretary, Archbishop Georg Ganswein, who explained why Benedict retained his papal name. In an interview with the Italian newspaper Avvenire, the Archbishop said the reason Benedict retained the Papal name is because “he considers that this title corresponds to reality”. Socci then adds: “Anyone can understand that this statement is of exceptional importance: it means that Ratzinger dresses like a Pope because ‘he is’ Pope.” In his article in Corriera della Sera, Messori asks the question, “would the Church then for the first time, truly have two Popes, one reigning and one emeritus?”, and then replies:

It appears that this was the will of Joseph Ratzinger himself, with the renunciation of active service only and that it was “a solemn act of his magisterium” to cite the canon lawyer [Professor Violi].


Who Is Infallible?

This novel act, which appears to be an attempt to change the nature of the divinely instituted Papacy has no theological or canonical foundation, and therefore raises a number of crucial questions. For one, since the charism of Papal Infallibility cannot be split between two men, which one of the two is infallible? The one who retains the spiritual dimension of the pontifical munus, or the one charged with the active exercise of the office? It should be noted that a pope can certainly delegate authority, but when he does so he does not delegate his infallibility, since papal infallibility is itself a personal prerogative that cannot be transferred to another. In his manual of dogmatic theology, Msgr. G. Van Noort explains:

[T]he pope himself personally enjoys infallibility; not other people to whom he may delegate some share in his teaching authority. For example, even though the Roman congregations are organs of the papacy, they are not the pope himself. The reason for the restriction is this: the pope cannot cause the divine assistance, promised to himself personally, to come to the aid of other people. It should be clear, then, what is meant by saying that infallibility is a personal prerogative. It is personal insofar as it belongs to each individual pope and cannot be delegated to other people; …” (1)

If Pope Benedict merely intended to resign from the “teaching and working” aspect of the Papal office, while retaining the munus petrinus (the Petrine ministry), would the effect of the intended resignation, and the consequent election of a new Pope, be similar to the delegation of authority to teach, in such a way that the newly elected “Pope” is not Pope ontologically, but instead an organ of the Papacy? If so, does that mean Pope Benedict still retains the charism of infallibility? It would seem so. Moreover, since there can only be one Pope at a time, if Pope Benedict attempted to do what cannot be done (splitting the Papacy in two by retaining the office, while renouncing the active ministry thereof), what does that say about his resignation, and the election of Jorge Bergoglio.?

While this situation raises a number of questions, it also may provide the answer to one that has been on the mind of many Tradition-minded Catholics: How could God have permitted the canonization John XXIII and John Paul II (whose public sins against the First Commandment are too many to list) when so many theologians have held that the canonization of saints is protected by infallibility? If Professor Violi is correct we may have the answer, since the charism of infallibility may not reside with Francis, but instead be retained by His Holiness Benedict XVI, Pope Emeritus. Furthermore, if Pope Benedict’s resignation was an attempt to change the nature of the Papacy by splitting it in two (which is not within the power of man to do), the Church may one day determine the Papal events of February and March of 2013 were not what they appeared to be, and that “the Bishop in white” seen in the Vision of Fatima, is not Pope Benedict after all, but Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who, coincidentally, doesn’t use the name Pope, but prefers the title “Bishop of Rome”.

Prophecy of St. Francis of Assisi

With this in mind, we will end with a prophecy of St. Francis of Assisi, who predicted a time of tribulation in the Church, during which a man, non-canonically elected, is raised to the Pontificate, and who, by his cunning, endeavors to lead many into error. St. Francis explains that, during this time of trial, those who hold to the faith and refuse to compromise will be persecuted and labeled as schismatics and rebels. All this they will endure because they refuse to consent to falsehood and perfidy.

The following prophecy is taken from the book Works of the Seraphic Father St. Francis Of Assisi, published in the year 1882.

The time is fast approaching in which there will be great trials and afflictions; perplexities and dissensions, both spiritual and temporal, will abound; the charity of many will grow cold, and the malice of the wicked will increase. The devils will have unusual power, the immaculate purity of our Order, and of others, will be so much obscured that there will be very few Christians who will obey the true Sovereign Pontiff and the Roman Church with loyal hearts and perfect charity. At the time of this tribulation a man, not canonically elected, will be raised to the Pontificate, who, by his cunning, will endeavour to draw many into error and death. Then scandals will be multiplied, our Order will be divided, and many others will be entirely destroyed, because they will consent to error instead of opposing it. There will be such diversity of opinions and schisms among the people, the religious and the clergy, that, except those days were shortened, according to the words of the Gospel, even the elect would be led into error, were they not specially guided, amid such great confusion, by the immense mercy of God. Then our Rule and manner of life will be violently opposed by some, and terrible trials will come upon us. Those who are found faithful will receive the crown of life; but woe to those who, trusting solely in their Order, shall fall into tepidity, for they will not be able to support the temptations permitted for the proving of the elect. Those who preserve their fervour and adhere to virtue with love and zeal for the truth, will suffer injuries and persecutions as rebels and schismatics; for their persecutors, urged on by the evil spirits, will say they are rendering a great service to God by destroying such pestilent men from the face of the earth. But the Lord will be the refuge of the afflicted, and will save all who trust in Him. And in order to be like their Head, these, the elect, will act with confidence, and by their death will purchase for themselves eternal life; choosing to obey God rather than man, they will fear nothing, and they will prefer to perish rather than consent to falsehood and perfidy. Some preachers will keep silence about the truth, and others will trample it under foot and deny it. Sanctity of life will be held in derision even by those who outwardly profess it, for in those days Our Lord Jesus Christ will send them not a true Pastor, but a destroyer." (2)

The fruits of the current Pontificate are indeed destruction, as the actions against the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate (and now their sisters) clearly demonstrate. The Church will sort out this confusion when the time appointed by God arrives. Until then, let us continue to stand fast and hold to Tradition (2 Thess 2:14), which, as St. Vincent of Lerins said, “can never be led astray by any lying novelty”.


  1. Christ’s Church, Van Noort (Newman Press, Westminster, Maryland, 1961), Pg 291
  2. Works of the Seraphic Father St. Francis Of Assisi, (R. Washbourne, Paternoster Row, London, 1882) pg. 248-250




Last modified on Tuesday, July 15, 2014