Why Saint Alphonsus dei Liguori would say Benedict’s Renunciation was invalid


by Br. Alexis Bugnolo

The Saints who have been canonized are already in the glory of Paradise, and so, baring an extraordinary grace, do not speak to us anymore. But those Saints who have fully explained their opinions or teaching on any point, can be said to speak to us today. This is especially true of Saints who have taught on questions of law and the principles to be followed in controversies.  Of which kind is Saint Alphonsus dei Liguori, Doctor of the Church on all questions of moral theology, and not a few questions of law.

No one has the right to interpret a Papal Resignation

As I reported in my notes for my meeting with Bishop Arrieta, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Legal Texts — who is the top Vatican official for questions of legal interpretation — he emphatically declared, that no one has the right to interpret a Papal Resignation. It must be clear in itself.

This statement by Bishop Arrieta clears up the entire controversy over the renunciation of Pope Benedict. Because, it ends it.  That is, since Pope Benedict XVI renounced the ministerium, not anything else. No one has the right to say that he renounced the Papal Office or petrine Munus or even power of governance.  Because to say that something else, requires an interpretation. And no one, not even the man who is the pope, has the right to interpret the act of renunciation.

But the statement of Bishop Arrieta is not of his own making. It is the necessary conclusion of legal principles.  First, that a declaration made by the man who is the pope, inasmuch as he is the man, and not the pope, cannot be judged by anyone except according to the norm of law. And since a declaration by such man when regarding the renunciation of the Office regards the renouncing of the Office, one cannot appeal to the holder of the office to interpret it. Because if it was valid, then the holder is no longer the holder, and thus cannot receive appeals. If it was not valid, then appealing to the holder of the office is tantamount to declaring the renunciation in valid.

Any appeal to Pope Benedict XVI to clarify what he meant means that the Resignation is invalid

This is a very important point, which has been overlooked in this 7 year controversy. Anyone who appeals to anything which Pope Benedict said before or after Feb. 28, 2013, to explain that the Renunciation means the renunciation of the papacy, or of the petrine munus, or of the power of governance IS IMPLICITLY AFFIRMING THAT POPE BENEDICT IS STILL THE POPE AND THAT THE RENUNCIATION WAS INVALID, because they are trying to have recourse to an official interpretation. And if the act needs to be interpreted, then it is doubtful. And if the renunciation is doubtful, then in virtue of canon 332 §2, it is invalid for lack of due manifestation.

What Saint Alphonsus says about the interpretation of a law:

For those who have overdosed on the falsehood of universal acceptance, and quote Saint Alphonsus, let us see what the Saint would say about the games the authors of such sophisms play with the words “munus” and “ministerium,” to make the Resignation say what it does not say.  For this we must have recourse to the teaching of Saint Alphonsus, taken from his great work, Theologia Moralis, Bk. I, tract ii, p. 242, De interpretatio legis. I will first quote the Latin, for those who can read Latin, and then give an English translation:


200. Interpretatio alia est Authentica, alia Usualis, alia Doctrinalis. Authentica fieri potest vel ab ipso legislatore, vel ab eius successore, aut a superiore. Usualis est illa, quae ita ab usu est recepta. Doctrinalis autem est declaratio quaedam mentis legislatoris, quase a quocumque doctore fieri potest.

Hic dubitur an delcarationes, quae fiunt a Pontifice, vel a principe alicuius legis, indigeant promulgatione, ut obligent. In hoc distinguere oportet declarationes pure tales ab aliis quae sunt non pure tales, sed potius sunt merae interpretationes. Declarationes pure tales sunt, cum ab illis explicatur aliquis sensus, qui usque ab initio iam erat clare imbibitus in lege: ex. gr. si dubium sit, an sub verbo filii intelligatur solus legitimus aut eitam spurius, et legislator declarat intelligi etiam spurium, tunc verum fit quod sensus in lege erat clare imbibitus. Interpretatio autem, sive declaratio non pure talis est illa, cuius sensus non est clare imbibitus in lege, sed circa ipsum variae sunt opiniones, et tantum deducitur ex argumentis, v. gr. quod sub nomine patris intelligatur eitam avus, aut quod sub nomine moartis intelligatur etiam mors civilis, prout est carcer perpetuus, aut simile, recurrendo ad quamdam impropriam significationem.

His positis, dicimus cum Suarez, Castropal. Vasques, Sals, Salm. Holzaman, La-Croix, Supplet Sporger etc. quod declaratio sensus clare imbibiti in lege non requirit promulagationem, sed etiam obliget eos omnes qui illum noverint, cum talis declaratio non sit nova lex. Interpretatio vero alicuius sensus non clare, sed tantum obscure, sive improprie imbibiti in lege, quae est declaratio non pure talis (ut diximus) haec, quia habetur tanquam nova lex, ut obliget, necessario promulgationem requirit, sicut omnes aliae leges juxta dicta. n. 95 et 96. Hinc infertur cum Suar. de Leg. 1. 6. c. 1. n. 3 et Castrop. tr. 3. eod. tit. d. 5. p. 3. §. 1. n. 5 (qui citat pro se Bon. Salas, et Lorca) quod declaratio, quae fit a legislatore alicuius sensus clare in lege imbibiti (juxta exemplum adductum filii legitimi, et spurii) non requirit promulgatioem, ut obliget. Contra vero declaratio sensus obscure imbibiti (juxta exemplus avi sub nomine patris, vel mortis civilils sub nomine mortis) indiget quidem promulgatione; tunc enim ipsa novam constituit obligationem, quae per se non erat prius clare in lege imbibita. Et idem dicunt Suar. loc. cit. et Castrop. n. 2 de illis declarationibus, quae fiunt non ab eodem legislatore, sed ab eius successore, aut superiore; quia legislatoris mens nequit his esse ita cognita, ut erat ipsi legislatori; unde tunc, ut declaretur sensus (quamvis imbibitus in lege) alicuius obligationis, semper opus est recurrere ad argumenta, et interpretationes, quae novam legam constituunt, reddendo certum quod erat dubium; et ideo promulgatio requiritur, alias declaratio nunquam authentica, sed tantum doctrinalis repubabitur.

My English translation:

On the Interpretation of Law

200. One interpretation is authentic, another customary, another academic.  An authentic (interpretation) can be made either by the legislator himself, and/or by his successor, or by a superior. A customary (interpretation) is that, which has been received thus by custom.  Moreover, an academic (interpretation) is a certain declaration of the mind of the legislator, which can be made by any professor.

Here, there is doubted whether declarations, which are made by the Pontiff, and/or by a prince for any law, are in need of promulgation, to oblige.  In this, it is necessary to distinguish those which are purely such from those which are not purely such, but rather mere interpretations.  Declarations are purely such, when by them there is explicated some sense, which was clearly incorporated in the law already from the beginning: e. g., if there be a doubt, whether under the term, “son” there be understood only a legitimate or even an illegitimate son, and the the legislator declares (the word “son” in the law”) is to be understood even as an illegitimate one, then indeed it becomes that (that) sense in the law was clearly incorporated in the law.  But an interpretation, or declaration which is not purely such, is that, the sense of which is not clearly incorporated in the law, but about which there are various opinions, and as much as is deduced through arguments, e. g., that under the term, “father”, there be understood also a grandfather, or that under the term, “death”, there be also understood a civil death, insofar as is perpetual incarceration, or the like, by recurring to a certain improper signification.

With these things posited, We say with Suarez, Castropal., Vasquez, Sals. Salimancans, Holzman, La-Croix, Supplet Sporget etc.., that the declaration of a sense clearly incorporated in the law does not require promulgation, but that it also obliges all those who know of it, though such a declaration is not a new law.  But an interpretation of some sense not clearly, but obscurely, or improperly incorporated in the law, which is not a declaration purely such (as we have said above), this (kind), because it is held to be a new law, to oblige, requires necessarily a promulgation, just as all other laws spoke of in nn. 95 and 96.  Hence, there is inferred with Suarez de Leg. 1. 6. c. 1. n. 3 and Castrop. tr. 3. eod. tit. d. 5. p. 3. §. 1. n. 5 (qui citat pro se Bon. Salas, et Lorca), that a declaration, which is made by the legislator of any sense clearly incorporated in the law (according to the example given above of the legitimate and illegitimate son) does not require a promulgation, to oblige. However, contrariwise, the declaration of a sense obscurely incorporated (according to the example given of a grandfather under the term of “father”, and/or of a civil death under the term of “death”) do indeed need a promulgation; for then it itself constitutes a new obligation, which per se was not beforehand clearly incorporated in the law. And the same is said by Suarez. loc. cit, and Castrop. n. 2, of those declarations, which are not made by the ssame legislator, but by his successor, or superior; because the mind of the legislator is never so known to other as it was to the legislator himself: on which account, then, to declare the sense (though incorporated in the law) of any obligation, it is always necessary to have recourse to arguments, and interpretations, which constitute a new law, by rendering certain what was doubtful; and for that reason a promulgation is required, otherwise the declaration is never an authentic one, but only is reputed to be a doctrinal one.

Thus, Saint Alphonsus.

What the teaching of Saint Alphonsus on Legal interpretation means in regard to the Renunciation

From this text, we can glean three truths.

  1. When the meaning is clearly incorporated into the law, that meaning is the authentic one, and its sense is binding upon all, as for example, when Benedict says he renounces the ministry, all are obliged to understand that as a renunciation of ministry.
  2. When the word which is subject to a possible interpretation is a noun which includes all possible interpretations according to its essential signification, such as “son” includes natural and legal sons, not just legal sons, then the interpretation is a customary one and is obliging upon all, once the legislator declares that his mind was to include all such possibilities.  But before such a declaration it is not binding.
  3. When the word which is subject to a possible interpretation is a noun, which DOES NOT include the possible wanted interpretation, such as “ministerium” in the text of Pope Benedict’s resignation is wanted to mean “munus” or “officium” which are entirely other words, then the interpretation is NOT AUTHENTIC and is not binding upon anyone, and only can become binding, when promulgated by the legislator or his successors.

And thus one can conclude, from the testimony of Bishop Arrieta and Saint Alphonsus, that the interpretation of the Cardinals and Bishops that Benedict’s renunciation of ministry is equivalent in law, or signification, or intention, to a resignation of the Papal Office or Petrine Munus, is not only an illegitimate interpretation, but is an interpretation which is not binding upon anyone!

Moreover, one can conclude, that even if hypothetically any successor of Pope Benedict XVI were to say that such a reading of the text (where ministerium = munus) is the one Benedict intended, then the act itself posited by Benedict was invalid as per canon 332 §2, since it was not duly manifest in itself, but required another promulgated interpretation to make it valid.

And this means that the very existence of the plot to solve the Pope Emeritus problem is not only evidence that the resignation was invalid from the start, but is DOOMED TO FAILURE since as an interpretation of the act, its very promulgation will publicly testify to and canonically establish the invalidity of the renunciation!

In other words, there is no way to fix the invalidity of the resignation by any subsequent act. And what the Cardinals and Bishops are doing is GRAVELY IMMORAL AND DISHONEST and, moreover, is a grave USURPATION OF RIGHT.

One can also honestly say, therefore, that the usurpation of the Papacy by Bergoglio is a moral consequence of the usurpation of the right of interpretation by the Cardinals, and that Bergoglio’s bizarre moral character and state of mind is the perfect fruit of and punishment for their sin.

One thought on “Why Saint Alphonsus dei Liguori would say Benedict’s Renunciation was invalid”

  1. Excellent article. However, dear Brother, you’re preaching to the choir. Those who take your position and those who have not will not change much. Vigano and “Unite the clans” Matt among others, just can’t cross that line. Why?


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