- Pope Benedict’s Abdication Statement (Vatican Website)
- Interview With Pope Emeritus About Validity of His Resignation (1P5, La Stampa)
- Pope Emeritus Interview With Peter Seewald on Question of Forced Resignation (1P5, National Catholic Register)
- Pope Emeritus Letters to Cardinal Walter Brandmüller (1P5, Bild)
- On Questions of a Limitations of a Pope’s Powers/Power to Abrogate Canon Law (This was cut from the original video, but those interested in understanding the question should read it from Canon Lawyer Edward Peters)
- The Catholic Encyclopedia on Dogmatic Facts (New Advent)
- John of St. Thomas and others on “Peaceful and Universal Acceptance of a Pope” (True or False Pope)
- Is Francis or Benedict the True Pope? (Quote from St. Alphonsus contained therein – True or False Pope)
[00:00:04] I’m Steve Skojec and this is the OnePeterFive Minute.
[00:00:10] So I usually joke around here a little bit but I’m not really in the mood for that today. The reason is because the focus of my sarcasm is outward it’s towards these unrepentant jerks who’ve taken over the Church and are trying to remake it in their own image. I like making fun of those guys because they take themselves incredibly seriously and so making fun of them is satisfying.
[00:00:34] But we’ve got an in-house problem and that’s a different story. That’s what I want to address today. It’s rooted in this battle over who the real pope is — Benedict or Francis — and what the repercussions of each choice are. But it goes deeper than that because it makes certain folks think it’s okay to calumniate or attack anyone who disagrees with them or try to ruin their reputations. And these are people who are all supposed to be on the same — side namely opposing the evil that has infiltrated the Church.
[00:01:06] We all seem to agree on this evil. But because we don’t all agree on the circumstances, it’s almost as though it’s open season and the 8th Commandment is just totally off the table. Anybody who says, “Yeah well Francis is awful but he’s the pope and we’re stuck with him and we have to figure out how to make that work,” well, they’re suddenly a paid spokesman for the regime. That is insane. That’s not a reasonable conclusion by any stretch of the imagination. And personally I would like to set the record straight.
[00:01:35] I’m nobody. I have no authority. I have no special charism or vocation to do this. I’m not even a particularly virtuous man. In fact I’m a profound sinner and about as far from sanctity as a guy can get. Just ask anybody who knows me. Nobody has to listen to me. I don’t make any expectations on people. I don’t make demands. I just do my best to muddle forward day by day making sense of what’s happening in the Church the best that I can and trying to explain that to anybody who cares to hear what I think.
[00:02:08] And what I think is and has always been that Francis is a problem. A big one. That he represents a danger to the Church. This is something I have been saying nonstop since 2013. So when people accuse me of being in the bag for Francis because I say he’s the pope, I have to laugh at them. I mean I was one of his first major critics I’ve been one of the loudest and I’ve been one of the most consistent, even when that made me far more enemies than friends. And I’ve come to expect this. I’ve come to expect to be attacked by progressive Catholics in love with Francis and his agenda of ecclesiastical destruction under the guise of reform. But I find it bizarre and frankly repugnant when I’m attacked by people on a regular basis with whom I once openly shared common cause. People I’m not even interacting with. So let me be even clearer: I am not now nor will I ever be barring some massive conversion on his part, a Francis defender. Neither am I an opportunist. The truth is OnePeterFive has lost readers and benefactors because I’ve taken a hard line on the issue of the papacy. Because we’ve made clear that it’s wrong for us to decide for ourselves. However much we feel that we have moral certitude that the pope is anyone other than who the Church says he is. The only thing I’m doing is the same thing I’ve always done: I tell people what I believe the truth is even if they don’t want to hear it.
[00:03:40] Nothing about that has changed. People then want to hear that Francis was bad. When I first started saying it but it was true. Now people don’t want to hear that Benedict isn’t the Pope. But it’s also true. And we know that because the Church is the only authority on earth who can state unequivocally who the pope is. And she has told us that Francis is the Vicar of Christ. The cardinal electors were unanimous in their acceptance of him. The sitting bishops of the world have not raised a finger to oppose the validity of his election. There is no rival claimant to the papacy as there was in the Great Western Schism. We have one pope, and one guy who looks like a pope. We have a retired pope who has done frankly no favors to anyone by continuing to look and act as though he still shares in some way in the papal ministry. But who has said on multiple occasions that his resignation was valid. Guys, his opinion matters too.
[00:04:40] For example he said in his abdication statement that the seat would be vacant and that a conclave would have to be called so that a new pope could be elected. He said in a letter to La Stampa very shortly after his abdication there is “absolutely no doubt regarding the validity of my resignation from the Petrine ministry. The only condition for the validity of my resignation is the complete freedom of my decision. Speculations regarding its validity are simply absurd.”
[00:05:10] He said in an interview with Peter Sewald when asked about being forced out of office that theories that he were forced to leave were “total nonsense.” He also told Seewald that he did not regret resigning and that in fact he sees that was the right decision every day. He also said to Cardinal Walter Brandmuller that with the title of pope emeritus he “tried to create a situation in which I am absolutely not accessible to the media and which it is completely clear that there is only one pope. If you know of a better way and believe you can judge the one I chose please tell me.”
[00:05:48] I mean frankly, he was actually snippy about it. Clearly these questions annoy him.
[00:05:54] He’s made it clear time and time again as of those close to him that he’s just not the pope anymore. If you want to argue that he’s made serious errors in judgment by wearing white and retaining some of his titles and so on, if you think as he put it, there’s a better way, I agree with you. But none of that is material to the ontological reality we face of who the pope is.
[00:06:19] I understand that those who go down this road cannot deal with the apparent contradiction of a man like Francis being the pope. So they’re desperate to find a way to make him NOT be the pope. They are seeking to find in canon law or anywhere they can some technicality upon which they can rest their claims. Something that’s completely unfalsifiable because it’s entirely subjective based on conjecture about what Benedict meant when he used certain words or whether he understood ecclesiastical law well enough to validly resign. First of all that’s insulting to his intelligence. If they think that he was a better pope than Francis — he was clearly respected as a theologian — maybe he understands the words that he’s allowed to use. These people rest their conjecture entirely on their own interpretation of what all of this means. And when these people are not attacking those who disagree with them, they sow doubt in the minds of many of the faithful, and worst of all lead people astray through their prideful insistence that they — not the Church — are who the faithful should listen to.
[00:07:26] We are Catholics we are not Protestants or deists or madonic post-enlightenment revolutionaries fighting the power. We do not get to call ourselves Catholic and then decide for ourselves that when the Church says X, the truth is really Y. Certainly not on something as fundamental as the status of the papacy.
[00:07:44] The Church has always held that the election of a pope is what is known as a dogmatic fact. The Catholic encyclopedia defines a dogmatic fact as “any fact connected with a dogma and on which the application of the dogma to a particular case depends.” It goes on to explain that papal elections are connected with dogma because “it is a dogma of faith that every pontiff duly elected and recognized by the Universal Church as a successor of Peter.” And if you think about it it makes sense that this needs to be something we can trust because of the authority invested in the Petrine office. The authority to declare things infallibly the authority to make extraordinary magisterial statements. We need to know that the guy the Church says is the pope is the pope because otherwise we can’t trust anything he says – even on faith and morals.
[00:08:39] So was Francis duly elected and recognized? Well I’ll answer that question with a question: Tell me, who in the Church’s hierarchy, who among the apostolic successors entrusted by God with the governance of the Church opposed this election? One retired bishop years after the election happened is not an argument. The answer to the question of this election isn’t found in the conjecture about whether or not Benedict abdicated. In the absence of proof of a speculative thesis, the only thing that matters is that the authority conferred upon the church by her divine founder, Jesus Christ, negates the possibility of a situation like the one the Benevacantists propose ever existing in the first place.
[00:09:30] Now, they would counter that the indifectibility of the Church should negate the possibility of a pope like Francis existing. And, I’m deeply sympathetic to that argument. But amidst all of this confusion, there is a sure path to follow here. And follow it we must.
[00:09:46] Saint Alphonsus Liguori, a doctor of the Church, wrote that “It is of no importance that in past centuries some pontiff was illegitimately elected or took possession of the pontificate by fraud. It is enough that he was accepted afterwards by the whole Church as pope, since by such acceptance he would have become the true pontiff.”
[00:10:09] The reason for this is because we have to know who our leader is. If we can’t trust that the man the church says is pope is pope, then the governance of the Church falls into chaos. Francis was accepted by the whole Church. He was. Full stop. Whether we like it or not. When he stepped out on that loggia, countless Catholics were given the signal grace in that moment to recognize that something was very, very wrong. But at the same time the authority of the Universal Church every bishop in the world — without exception — presented him to the faithful as pope. At that moment. And so we are left with no recourse but to acknowledge this fact. There are no take backs, not even for bad popes.
[00:10:51] So why am I addressing this again? Well it’s because this conspiracy theory continues to grow and to divide the opposition movement to what’s happening in the Church. Those who believe it are practically unceasing in their attacks on those who refuse it. I don’t push back so hard against the idea that Benedict is still the pope because I think I’m better than anybody. Far from it. Or because I’m unsympathetic. Or because I want to smear and degrade people. I don’t fight it because I like Francis, or because I want him to be the pope (because I don’t) or because I believe he’s anything less than a chastisement inflicted upon the church in such a mysterious way that only God can ever clarify how it could ever be possible that this could happen while His promises about the gates of hell remain intact. I fight this notion because it’s madness. A madness for which there is no clear remedy. No possible happy conclusion. I fight it because objectively I believe it is the sin of schism. I don’t call it schism to criticise people I don’t call it schism to label people I call it schism because schism has a definition. It means something. It means willful separation from the Roman pontiff and from the community of believers that are under his authority. The great Dominican theologian John ofSt. Thomas wrote hundreds of years ago that “whoever would deny that a particular man is Pope after he has been peacefully and canonically accepted would not only be a schismatic but also a heretic for not only would he rend the unity of the Church, but he would also add to this a perverse doctrine by denying that the man accepted by the Church is to be regarded as the pope, and the rule of faith”.
[00:12:41] So I will say now again what I’ve said countless times before: If we cannot trust the Church to tell us who the pope is, we cannot trust her to tell us anything that we must believe. If we think we have the right to say that the pope is X when the Church says he is Y, we’re no different than sedevacantists who say there is no pope when the Church, says “Yeah. Actually there is.” Or from the Catholics who say that they believe the Church is wrong about contraception and then go ahead and use it because, you know, the Church is wrong.
[00:13:14] When we arrogate to ourselves the authority to make such declarations, we are pounding our chests and shouting “To hell with the Church! She is a liar. I’ll draw my own conclusions based on my own ability to reason I’ll think with my mind. I don’t need her guidance I won’t submit to her authority.” In other words, we’re saying, “I will not serve.” And as those words echo we should not be surprised to find that their author, Satan himself, is the very one who has architected this division among the opponents to the Francis agenda of pseudo reform. Satan has effortlessly sown division in our midst and we’re only too happy to be manipulated. We were actually accomplishing something for a while there and he barely had to lift a finger to put a stop to it. To scatter us to the winds. To make us fight amongst ourselves.
[00:14:07] Look, nobody wants Francis to be the pope. And we don’t want him to be the pope because we see him as something other than a Catholic. But how can we fight that if we, too, remove ourselves from communion with the Church? We’re concerned that he’s leading souls astray and that’s a good concern. But where’s our concern that we’re doing the same thing?
[00:14:31] Perhaps someday for reasons that will only later become clear the Church will declare Francis to be an antipope. Perhaps someday his entire papacy or at least large swaths of it will be condemned by a future pope or even an ecumenical council. It’s happened before. Perhaps this disaster can only be sorted out by Our Blessed Lord Himself through an act of divine intervention we have not yet even imagined. But I’ll tell you this: if Catholicism is true we know that the influence of this pontificate in many essential things will have to be rooted out and refuted. Knowing this in the present moment as this is unfolding, as the crisis goes on, and seeing that no action is being taken is maddening. It challenges our faith. It makes us anxious and impatient. I can tell you with all sincerity that it has challenged me too.
[00:15:20] But we have a choice to make however difficult we find it if we wish to be sons of the Church, we must take our mother at her word. Even when we don’t understand. We must trust God even when it appears that all is lost. We must believe that there is something at work we cannot see even when our minds are screaming out for answers. We are right to examine, to question, to seek. But we have no basis to declare or even to decide within ourselves in our hearts and our minds that the Church is lying. That the Church is telling us to follow Judas and not Peter. When we do that, we place ourselves outside the enclosure of her protection. We must resist the urge to think that we can fix this by our own cleverness. That’s a temptation, not the inspiration of grace. And I am going to continue to reject it no matter what it costs me. I hope you’ll do the same.
[00:16:17] Until next time, thanks for watching.
Steve Skojec is the Founding Publisher and Executive Director of OnePeterFive.com. He received his BA in Communications and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001. His commentary has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Crisis Magazine, EWTN, Huffington Post Live, The Fox News Channel, Foreign Policy, and the BBC. Steve and his wife Jamie have eight children.