Tag Archives: canon 359

Will Pope Francis’ successor be a Catholic?

By Br. Alexis Bugnolo

I have entitled this article with a Question which is on the minds of many who were born and baptised into the Catholic Church and who still are trying to figure out what is going on in the Catholic Church. It is a common question and deserves to be discussed.

Many will propose an answer based on speculations about this or that person, how man persons are Cardinals who are in favor of them, or what might happen if Bergoglio dies before or after Pope Benedict.

Putting speculation aside, let us look at what Canon Law says.

Canon 359 says, first of all, that the Cardinals have no authority to change Canon Law and the only authority they have is specified in the special laws which regards a sede vacante. They have no independent authority whatsoever outside of a sede vacante.

The special laws referred to in Canon 359 are contained in the Papal Law, promulgated by Pope John Paul II — with a slight modification by Pope Benedict XVI — entitled, Universi Dominici gregis.

The problem with any successor of Bergoglio is the same as the problem with Bergoglio. This problem, canonically, arises from Canons 359 and 17.   Because Canon 359 says there cannot a Conclave until there is a sede vacante, that is, until there is no longer anyone who is the Roman Pontiff, the Throne of Peter must be empty.  Canon 17 says to understand what that means we need to read the Code of Canon Law. Therein, we see that in Canons 331, 332, 334, and 749, the Roman Pontiff is spoken of as holding a munus. Nowhere does it speak of a Papal Office, or of the Office of the Pope. It only speaks of the Papal or Petrine Munus.  The man who holds it is, therefore, the Roman Pontiff.

So on account of canon 17, Canon 359 means that no Conclave can be called legitimately by the Cardinals until the man who held the Petrine Munus says, in accord with Canon 359: I renounce my munus, or words equivalent such as, I renounce the petrine munus.

Perhaps there is some language in which munus has a cognate or equivalent term, but in modern English it does not exist, so I use it of necessity, in my articles. It does not exist in Italian either.

The Code of Canon Law, in canon 17, therefore imposes a clear and certain standard for a legitimate Conclave — to be called during a sede vacante — and a clear and certain standard as when to recognize that a pope is no longer pope — he must be dead or have renounced the petrine munus.

Obviously, you would be insane to play games with words and renounce something else, and leave it to history to find out whether you renounced or did not renounce.  But that is the situation we are in. That is why Canon 332 in paragraph 2, says that the renunciation is only valid if it manifests a renunciation of petrine munus. Even Cathy Caridi, JCL, in her blog post of January 2013 recognized this, as I mentioned the other day.

An unsolveable problem Post Factum

The canonical problem any successor of Bergolio has will therefore be the same. Because, when Bergoglio resigns or dies in power, his death will not cause a sede vacante, because he was never the Pope. And he was never the Pope because he was elected while another Pope still reigned. And Another pope still reigned, because Pope Benedict renounced only the ministerium and kept the office, the dignity, the munus, and the power of the papacy for himself. Therefore, no petrine sucession took place, and hence Bergoglio was never the Roman Pontiff according to the norms of Canon Law. It follows, then, with his departure the Cardinals cannot act.

The College of Cardinals is also compromised. I mean to say, that even if both Benedict and Bergoglio were dead, it could not validly elect a Roman Pontiff. This is because of the Papal Law on Conclaves, by Pope John Paul II, which declares invalid the election of anyone made in a Conclave into which ANYONE WHOMSOEVER who is not a Cardinal Elector was admitted.  But the men whom Bergoglio dared to make Cardinals are not Cardinals, because he has no authority to make them. And Pope Benedict having renounced the petrine ministry, has explicitly posited a juridical act which denies his consent to anything which happened after Feb. 28, 2013. So these man are not Cardinals and if they enter the Conclave the election will be invalid.

So after the fact — post factum, in Latin — there is no cure for the Bergoglian Church. The only true successor will be the one elected after the valid resignation or death of Pope  Benedict XVI.

This article is one in a series studying the Canonical problems associated with the illegitimate claim of Bergoglio to the pontificate, among which are the others:

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Where Chris Ferrara goes bonkers

by Br. Alexis Bugnolo

Frank Walker just published Chris Ferrara’s response to Ann Barnhardt’s claim, that he once told her that he thinks she may be right about substantial error causing the resignation to be invalid. If you do not know who Ferrara is, there is a long Wikipedia article about him, which I presume is mostly accurate, because otherwise Attorney Ferrara would have rectified that.

But what Mr. Ferrara says is such a cartload of natural fertilizer, that I have to respond and put the man in his place. — I admit though, that as regards the man, I am reluctant, because I have been edified by many a thing he has written over the last 3 decades.

Moreover, I will leave aside the argument over the fact of whether he said what she quoted him to say. My experience, inclines me to believe Ann, because she has been a truth teller from the beginging. As for Chris, he is an attorney I think.

In a note to Canon212, Ferrara responds to Ann:

I don’t know who “Chris Ferrera” is, but I, Chris Ferrara, never said anything of the kind.  If I said anything it would be something like “You can certainly make that argument, but we have no competence to judge the matter.”  As I said on Taylor Marshall’s show, a future Pope or Council might determine that the last conclave was invalid, but that is a matter for the Church, not any Tom, Dick or Ann to determine.

Furthermore, the only time I have ever spoken face-to-face with Ann Barnhardt, at least that I can remember, was at Lake Garda, and the entire conversation involved my objection to her claim that the “data set” shows Bergoglio is not the Pope.  We have no competence to assemble “data sets” and declare that the Chair of Peter is vacant.

First, the mention of a typographical error is quite inappropriate, because Mrs. Barnhardt gave her testimony on a Podcast, verbally, here. And, being an Italian, I know that non Italians easily mis-spell or mis-pronounce Italian surnames. You have to get over that in your youth, if you grew up in the United States of America, because it would not be polite to keep harping on it.

So I will respond to what Christ Ferrara does say in his statement to Canon212.com.

If I said anything it would be something like “You can certainly make that argument, but we have no competence to judge the matter.”

Chris may be a fine Attorney of U.S. Law, but he shows here that he has never read Canon 41, or at least, never under stood it. So, he is patently wrong in what he says, here, when he say, we have no competence to judge the matter.

If you listened to Barnhardt’s podcast to understand the context of her testimony, it was in regard to whether there was substantial error in the Renunciation of Pope Benedict XVI. It did not regard the legitimacy of the event, called a Conclave, in 2013, out of which poped Jorge the wrecker. — So I will presume Chris is an accurate and intelligent man, who went to the source, listened to the podcast, and then responded to the matter: which is the Declaratio of Feb. 11, 2013.

And thus, reading Ferrara’s comment, I say he is dead wrong. Because in Canon 41, everyone with a merely executive ministerium in the Church, upon receiving the administrative act of his superior — the Pope is the immediate superior of us all — has the right, not just the competence, to refuse an act which is juridically nullus, and the right to have recourse to the superior before executing the act, if the act appears to be inopportune, that is include matters which if executed would harm the rights of others or disturb the common good or order of the Church.

So Chris, that is strike one. If you are going to publicly disavow something, disavow it, but if you add a legal reasoning, and you have not checked the law first, you make your disavowal look dubious, because as a lawyer you should not speak unless you first read the law. A lot of Catholics, therefore, especially women, who tend by nature to have excellent auditory memories for when men say shocking or insulting things, are going to conclude that Ann has a better memory than you.

Next,

As I said on Taylor Marshall’s show, a future Pope or Council might determine that the last conclave was invalid, but that is a matter for the Church, not any Tom, Dick or Ann to determine.

I am not impressed by the reference to Marshall. Marshal went so far into absurdity that he said that ministerium and munus name the same thing, and that therefore the Renunciation was valid. Marshall pontificated. He did not even read the law, he could not have, because it never says such a thing. He could not have been answering as a Catholic, because Catholics know that you found what you say on the teaching of the Church, not on your own magisterium. So, Ferrara is in bad company.

Ferrara is also way off in left field. Because Barnhardt’s podcast was not about the Conclave. Strike two, for Ferrara getting his facts right.

As a matter of law, Canon 359 says a conclave is invalid if it is called during the lifetime of the reigning pontiff. It should be obvious to anyone who is sane — I exclude gaslighting apologists — that you do not need a Council to determine if the Pope is still alive, or if he is dead. And the Church does not teach in Canon 332 §2, that you need a council to make a determination. As a matter of law, it expressly denies that in its final clause.

That means, you can only know if a Pope has resigned from objective reality, the facts of the statement, witnessed duly. And how do we know if the statement is of the right genus and species so that it be recognized as a papal renunciation?  Once again, because the law declares that, when in the same canon it says, If it happens that the Roman Pontiff renounce his munus … .

Did Benedict renounce his munus? No. He said, I declare that I renounce the ministry which was confided to me through the hands of the Cardinals…

Oops. That means he did not resign. AND no one has the right to say otherwise, because to say otherwise you have to make what Benedict said mean something other than the words which he said. And you need the authority to do that. And Chris, you do not have that authority! So that means that Canon 359 was violated in March 2013 by the convening of a Conclave in the lifetime of a pope who had not resigned and was still alive — two objective facts of the real world which do not need a Council or any authority to verify, as they are visible to the naked eyes of all, who have eyes to see.

I will call this one as a foul ball, for mercy sake.

Next,

and the entire conversation involved my objection to her claim that the “data set” shows Bergoglio is not the Pope.  We have no competence to assemble “data sets” and declare that the Chair of Peter is vacant.

Here, I, in charity, have to assume that Chris, being Italian, has got himself into a fluster and simply exaggerated. Because obviously, if I have a “data set” — do we really have to gaslight at this point and stop using the words, “facts” or “evidence”? — that tells me the Pope is dead: namely I see his funeral on EWTN broadcast live from the Vatican; then I think I can conclude that the see is vacant, and that I have the right to conclude the see is vacant.

I must presume he exaggerated, or otherwise I might start connecting the dots in his entire statement and conclude that he has a problem with admitting reality as a basis for evidence in a legal proceeding. But he is a lawyer, and a lawyer would never do such a thing!

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CREDITS:  The Featured Image is of Lago di Garda, the shores of which are the annual destination of traditional Catholic conferences. This photo is used according to Creative Commons License 3.0, and more information about its author can be found here.

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Veri Catholici: An Open Letter to Cardinals Burke and Sarah

Their Eminences, Cardinals Burke and Sarah

The International Association « Veri Catholici » has published this open Letter to the Cardinals, on their twitter feed at @VeriCatholici. I post it here (in its unrolled format) for the sake of those who do not have a Twitter Account.

Here beings the Introduction, with the first paragraph of the Letter subordinated to it:

The rest of the text of the open Letter continues here:

“It’s also evident that canon 124.1 and canon 188 require that the proper object of canon 332.2 be posited, namely the renunciation of the munus, otherwise, in virtue of canon 188, the substantial error of doing otherwise invalidate the act ipso iure!

“Now if a pope should act in violation of Canon 332.2, since in doing so he would injure the rights of the whole Church to know who is and who is not the true Pope, he would have to apply canon 38 derogating from the discrepancy. But Benedict did not do anything of the kind!

“Therefore, he is still the pope, and canon 359 invalidated the Conclave of 2013. Also, on this account, all the Cardinals and Bishops ARE WRONG to reason from their presumption that Francis is the pope toward any conclusion. As he never was. He is an antipope, a usurper.

“Nor can one argue that the Pope, being above canon law, is above Canon 332.2, because that canon enshrines merely the principles of the Natural Law, which are superior to the Pope and from which he CANNOT dispense!

“One aspect of which is the semiotic law, whereby the being of a thing cannot in a forensic act be rite manifestatur by a term which signifies an accident of it.

“Take this example. A pope has the habit of calling the burden of his work, Bananas. And one day while shaving says, I am renouncing Bananas. Can the Cardinals lawfully proceed to elect another, if the Pope says nothing more? No, because Bananas is not a due term for a legal act.

“Even if he said, I am renouncing bananas, during a solemn Consistory of the Cardinals, they could not proceed to elect another. Not even if he commanded them or allowed them explicitly to do so, because until he says I renounce the Papacy, Christ does not remove the office!

“These Cardinals also need to recognize that the criteria employed to determine validity in contractual law is not the same in beneficiary law. For in contractual law, as is used in Annulments evidence regards whether there was a right intention, this is principal.

“But in beneficiary law, which regards bequests, the intention has no force, what matters is only the verbal signification of the act of bequest. Renunciations fall under beneficiary law, not contractual law. This is the fundamental legal error of the Cardinals and bishops.

“For just as it is impossible for anyone to be the Pope unless he succeeds to the Chair of Peter, the office, so it is impossible for anyone to renounce the Papal Office unless in a forensic act there is an explicit renunciation of that office.

“The case is analogous to property law, wherein no one is the rightful owner of the same single property, until the one who holds the property rights renounces them in a legal act. Renouncing only the usufruct (ministerium) does not grant the title to the successor in law.

How usurpation of the Papacy leads to the excommunication of the participating Cardinal Electors and Bishops

by Br. Alexis Bugnolo

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Canon 359 expressly withdraws authority from the College of Cardinals to elect a Pope, when the Papal Office is still retained by another: there being no sede vacante. To call a conclave when there is still a true Pope, thus, is illicit. To elect another is to participate actively and immediately in the crime of the usurpation of the Papal Office.

Usurpation is the crime whereby someone without a legitimate claim, lays hold upon or claims an office which is not his.  In the 1983 Code of Canon Law, Usurpation is discussed under several canons, usurpation of office in canon 1381.

Though the crime of usurping the papacy is not named in the code expressly — since it has not occurred for centuries, those participating in such a crime can still be excommunicated latae sententiae out of the consequences of such an act, and this in two ways: 1) by the Anti-Pope ordaining bishops and collaborating with him in that, 2) by the crime of schism.

The first regards the crime of usurpation itself in the act of ordaining Bishops.

The worse crime of usurpation mentioned explicitly in the code is in canon 1382:

Can. 1382 — A bishop who consecrates some one a bishop without a pontifical mandate and the person who receives the consecration from him incur a latae sententiae excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See.

Pope John Paul II cited this canon to declare that Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, the founder of the Society of Saint Pius X, was excommunicate on account of his ordination of their 4 Bishops. Bergoglio cited this same canon to “excommunicate” Bishop Williamson, after he was reconciled by Pope Benedict XVI, who undid John Paul II’s excommunication.

This applies to Anti-Popes, inasmuch as not being the legitimate successors of Saint Peter, their ordaining of Bishops is without true pontifical mandate.  It also applies to Bishops who ordain those nominated by Bergoglio, since they too have no true pontifical mandate to act.

Accomplices of both are also punished by the same punishment, as is clear from canon 1329.

Can. 1329 — §1. If ferendae sententiae penalties are established for the principal perpetrator, those who conspire together to commit a delict and are not expressly named in a law or precept are subject to the same penalties or to others of the same or lesser gravity.

§2. Accomplices who are not named in a law or precept incur a latae sententiae penalty attached to a delict if without their assistance the delict would not have been committed, and the penalty is of such a nature that it can affect them; otherwise, they can be punished by ferendae sententiae penalties.

Since the excommunication leveled in canon 1382 takes place immediately without the necessity of any public declaration by any authority, in accord with Canon 1329 §2 all the Cardinals involved in the uncanonical election of an Anti-Pope are also ipso facto excommunicated, since they participate intimately and immediately in his claim to exercise the pontifical mandate.

While it can be argued that those in substantial error as to the invalidity of Benedict’s resignation ought not be excommunicated, because they had good will, they must confront canon 15, which says in § 2: Ignorance or error about a law, a penalty, a fact concerning oneself, or a notorious fact concerning another is not presumedThus, as soon as any Cardinal Elector sees that Benedict resigned the ministerium, not the munus, and that Canon 322 §2 requires the resignation munus — all the while refusing to repudiate the validity of that resignation — he becomes indisputably culpable of the usurpation of the Papal office by way of consent to uphold Bergoglio’s claim to exercise the pontifical mandate, and as such, merits punishment under canons 1382 and 1329 §2.

The second way to excommunication latae sententiae, is through the crime of schism.

Cardinals and Bishops participating in supporting an Anti-Pope are also involved in the crime of schism, since they formally separate themselves from communion to the true Pope. Thus they are also subject to excommunication from canon

Can. 1364 — §1. Without prejudice to the prescript of can. 194, §1, n. 2, an apostate from the faith, a heretic, or a schismatic incurs a latae sententiae excommunication; in addition, a cleric can be punished with the penalties mentioned in can. 1336, §1, nn. 1, 2, and 3.

Thus, the controversy over the invalidity of Pope Benedict’s resignation becomes one of the greatest import for Catholics, to know who is truly their pastors and who are truly schismatics and excommunicates.  This is not a joking matter, and any Cardinal or Bishop who treats it as such, should be sternly reminded of such.

Presumption and Silence

Finally, it needs to be pointed out, that whereas there is a presumption of validity of every Conclave, in the event of the death of the Roman Pontiff, however, in the case of a papal resignation, there is no such presumption, and since it is the grave duty of the Cardinals to act in accord with Canon Law in the election of the Roman Pontiff, they had the grave and solemn duty to verify that the resignation of Pope Benedict was in conformity with Canon 332 §2.  If they did verify that, why have they never admitted to having verified it? And if they did not, they ostensibly become culpable of usurpation out of negligence in so grave a duty.

Indeed, the Vatican is full of Doctors of Canon Law, but to my knowledge neither in February of 2013 nor in the following six years, as any Canon Lawyer from the Vatican published any study showing that Non solum propter effects a valid resignation in conformity to canon 322 §2. Nor does it seem that anyone in the Diplomatic Corps asked the Vatican for such a verification.* Nor does it seem that the Italian Government, bound by the Lateran Treaty to uphold only constitutional governments in the Vatican, ever asked for such a verification or explanation. — If this be true, its of the gravest indications that the resignation was never put to any kind of rational scrutiny, but was presumed to be valid by a bunch of giddy men who wanted Benedict out of the way.


For my Scholastic Disputation on the Papal Act of February 11, 2013, see here in English, and here in Spanish translation. For a summary of the Canonical Argument against validity, see Veri Catholici, here in English, and here in Italian translation.

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Image Credits:  Getty Images, Conclave of March 2013.

* For example, Eduard Hapsburg, the Ambassador of Hungary to the Vatican, recently insulted Catholics who question the validity of the resignation. But when asked for a verification of the resignation, remained utterly silent.

Where Robert de Mattei is wrong

This week, Catholic Family News, the traditional private Catholic Newspaper founded by the late John Vennari, publishes an article entitled, “Socci’s Thesis Falls Short: Review of the Secret of Benedict XVI“, an English translation of an article which was published on Jan 8, 2019 online at Cooperatores Veritatis. The translator is a Giuseppe Pelligrino. (Socci’s book details facts and canonical arguments why Pope Benedict XVI is still the Pope, and Bergoglio an Anti-Pope, that is uncanonically elected). I will comment on the English version of the article.

The author, Dr. Roberto de Mattei, I have long admired, and have had the occasion to meet in person. His foundation, the Lepanto Foundation does much good work, and thus I bear him no animus. Nay, if the author of that article was someone unknown or not influential at Rome, I would probably have paid it no attention at all.

Moreover, the purpose of this present article is not to defend Socci’s book.  Rather it is to address the grave errors contained in De Mattei’s article, which on account of his personal reputation are magnified in the minds of many, and thus represent a danger to souls.

Here, then, I will discuss the errors briefly in the order they appear in that English translation by Signor Pellegrino.

The first error of which is that De Mattei sustains that the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI is valid, because there has been a peaceful and universal acceptance of the election of Jorge Mario Bergoglio.

I will put aside the fact that several recent polls (not scientific) have shown that as much as 70% of Catholics reject Bergoglio as pope, because there is a more serious error to address, than disputing whether there is in fact a peaceful and universal acceptance of Bergoglio’s election.

Signor De Mattei is learned enough to own a copy of the Code of Canon Law. So I humbly suggest he read Canon 359 and consider publicly withdrawing his assertion that a peaceful and universal acceptance of an apparent papal election establishes it to be held as valid by Catholics.  For, that canon reads in Latin:

Can. 359 — Sede Apostolica vacante, Cardinalium Collegium ea tantum in Ecclesia gaudet potestate, quae in peculiari lege eidem tribuitur.

When translated into English — here I give my own translation — that canon says:

Canon 359 — When the Apostolic See is vacant, the College of Cardinals only enjoys that power in the Church, which is granted to it in particular law.

This is the reference to the power of the College to elect the Pope.  So, according to Canon 359, when there is no pope, the Cardinals have the authority to elect a pope.

Now, if the resignation of a pope is in doubt, then obviously, there is a doubt whether the Apostolic See is vacant, and therefore the Cardinals have doubtful authority. And when a resignation of a pope has not taken place, or a pope is not dead, the Apostolic See is not vacant, and therefore the Cardinals have NO power to elect another.

So, it should be obvious then, that “the peaceful and universal acceptance of the election of a pope by a College of Cardinals” which HAS NO POWER to elect a pope, because the See is NOT vacant, DOES NOT MAKE THE ELECTION VALID.

Second, De Mattei claims this principal regarding the acceptance of the election of a pope on the basis of commonly held opinion. But if he has studied Canon Law, he should know that Canon 17 does not permit common theological or canonical opinions to be interpretative guides to reading any canon, when the text of the canon expressly forbids an act to take place by denying the body which acts the power to act. For in such a case the mind of the Legislator takes precedence.

Third, what is worse, De Mattei then cites the Vatican translation of Canon 332 §2, where he admits that it denies that a papal resignation is valid on the grounds that anyone accepts it (in its final condition)! How that squares with the theory of peaceful and universal acceptance is impossible to imagine, since it undermines the validity of its application to the case of a disputed resignation. It does so, because obviously a Conclave called during the life of a pope who has not resigned, is called either because that College knows he has not and does intend to elect an Anti-Pope, and then it does not matter who accepts him, his election is invalid; or in the case the College opines that a resignation is valid, and they proceed to act as if there is no pope. But as canon 332 §2 declares, that they think it is valid, does not make it valid. Therefore, even if they think it is valid, when it is not valid, they cannot appeal to Canon 332 §2 to claim the authority in Canon 359 to lawfully elect another. Rather, they must follow Canon 17 and apply it. And so, whether the subsequent election be accepted or not, in the case of elections which follow papal resignations, the principal cited by De Mattei is improperly cited at best because it pertains to another case.

Finally, De Mattei is, in my opinion, intellectually dishonest, when he says that Violi’s canonical study of Pope Benedict’s act of Feb 11, 2013 contributes to the confusion. Because that study, which is cited in the preface of the Disputed Question, published here in November, is a very scholarly well thought out and precise study without any animus or polemic, which gives great clarity to the canonical signification of that papal act. To say that it causes confusion therefore is not based on Violi’s work, but rather seemingly on a desire to advance his own opinion by insulting a scholar who shows greater knowledge of Canon Law than himself.

As for Archbishop Ganswein’s discourse at the Gregorian University, at first glance it does seem to be confusing. But when you research, as Ann Barnhardt has done, what opinions regarding the mutability of the Papacy were being discussed at Tubingen, when Fr. Joseph Ratzinger was a professor of Theology there, then you would rather say its revealing, not confusing at all.

For those who want to understand the correct canonical argument, why Pope Benedict XVI is the Pope and why Bergoglio was never pope, supported by Canon Law and all the evidence, and put in simple terms, see “How and Why Pope Benedict’s Resignation is invalid by the law itself.”