by Br. Alexis Bugnolo
As Catholics begin the effort to make known to the clergy that they were defrauded of their loyalty to Christ’s Vicar on Feb. 28, 2013, it is important to have at hand a short summary of the canonical problems in Pope Benedict XVI’s declaration of Feb. 11, 2013, Non solum propter. (Official text here at Vatican website)
Here is such a short summary.
6 canonical errors in the Act of Renunciation
- In the Act, the Roman pontiff renounces “the ministry committed to him through the hands of the Cardinals” on the day he was elected. But canon 332 §2, in the official Latin text of that canon, requires that the renunciation be of the petrine “munus”, that is the Papal Office (cf. canons 331, 333, 334, 749). Therefore, the act is NOT a renunciation of the papacy. Thus, in regard to canon 332 §2, the act is an ACTUS NULLUS. And if it be said or thought to be an act of renunciation of the papacy, then the assertion or estimation is false by reason of Canon 188, which declares IRRITUS any renunciations of office vitiated by substantial error, that is by an error which touches the substance of the act (which, in this case, is constituted by the essence of the act as an act of renunciation of the munus, not of the ministerium).*
- In the Act, the Roman Pontiff does not name the office by any proper canonical term, and thus the act is also an ACTUS INVALIDUS by reason of the requirement of canon 332 §2, that the act be duly manifested (rite manifestetur), since that which is not named is not manifest.
- In the Act, the Roman Pontiff’s liberty regards that which he does, not that which he does not do, which, since he does not do it, whether he be free to do it or not, is not expressed. Therefore, the act is an ACTUS INVALIDUS by reason of the requirement of canon 332 §2, that the act be freely executed (libere fiat).
- In making a declaration of renunciation, instead of renouncing, the act is also an ACTUS NULLUS, because canon law does not regard declarations to be canonical acts. They are merely announcements. (cf. Penal section on announcements regarding persons who have incurred latae sententiae excommunications ipso iure).
- In making what appears to be a renunciation of the papacy, without naming the papal office as required by Canon 332 §2, the man making the declaration, inasmuch as he is the man, who received the office and who is attempting to separate himself from the office, had need to obtain from the man who is the Pope, an express derogation of the terms of canon 332 §2, in virtue of canon 38, and since he did not, since no concession of derogation of that requirement is mentioned in the act, then by reason of canon 38, the act, which is both contrary to the law of Canon 332 §2 and gravely injurious of the right of the faithful to know who is the true pope and when he has canonically resigned, is an ACTUS SINE EFFECTU, that is an act which lacks all effect.
- Finally, in renouncing “the ministry”, the Roman Pontiff posits a legal act which is not foreseen in the Code of Canon Law, since no canon therein speaks of a renunciation of ministry. Therefore, the act is an ACTUS NULLUS according to the norm of law. Therefore, in accord with canon 41 no one with an office in the Church has any duty to recognize it.
* I do not include substantial error as one of the canonical errors in the Act, because the act was never one of a renunciation of the papal office. The argument that substantial error vitiates the act, technically, has more to do with the mis-perceptions or false claims made about the canonical value of the act, than with the act itself. Speaking of substantial error is thus necessary when discussing it with someone who is operating under the false premise that the Pope renounced the papacy, but eventually one must talk about the reality of what the Pope actually said on that day, and distinguish that reality from the misperception which was published to all the world.
POST SCRIPT: Note that in the title of this post I use the word “invalid” in the common sense of an act which does not effect what one thinks it effects, but properly speaking the term should be “vitiated” or “erroneous”, because as you can see from the list of 6 canonical errors, 3 regard nullity, 2 regard invalidity, and 1 regards being without effect.