Truth, we are told, is stranger than fiction. And we believe it, because most of us have directly experienced, or otherwise observed, phenomenal things unfold in ways that simply could not be scripted. “You can’t make this up” is another way of expressing astonishment about a truth that has come to light – against all odds and even our wildest imaginations.
In this vein, Italian journalist and author Andrea Cionci has something remarkable to say about the “resignation” and current status of Pope Benedict XVI. Vatican intrigue garners attention even in overwrought works of fiction, but his sober thesis – a product of years of intensive investigation – is more dramatic than the most fantastical works of fiction.
Something truly historical and consequential has been going on, largely unnoticed. This obviously concerns Catholics but also has wider, generalized ramifications considering the foundational role of the Catholic Church in what remains of teetering Western Civilization.
Cionci maintains that, in reality, Benedict XVI remains the sole legitimate Pope and, moreover, that he has been communicating this fact in a particular manner, as circumstances allow. I say “as circumstances allow” because, Cionci argues, Pope Benedict XVI has retreated into an Impeded See and, as a result, is limited in his ability to communicate “with the outside world from his situation of confinement.”
Impeded See, of course, is quite an unfamiliar term. But there are specific provisions within Canon Law – such as canon 412 – that pertain to situations in which a Bishop, for a range of reasons, is prevented from exercising his authority within a given diocese; canon 335 refers specifically to the Pope (Diocese of Rome). These are in Canon Law for a reason: bishops have been forcibly obstructed before, just as there have been dozens of anti-popes over the centuries. As Cionci notes, nihil sub sole novum – there is nothing new under the sun.
So when Benedict XVI read his startling Declaratio in February of 2013, it was taken as a straightforward renunciation of the Papacy; adversaries within the Church and the media either didn’t notice or downplayed the imprecision, ambiguities and errors it intentionally contained. But his statement, interpreted properly, was actually an indirect announcement that he was going into a state of self-exile in an Impeded See. He was giving up the active role of governance that exclusively befits a Pope because his opposition was so intense and pervasive that he wasn’t able to practically exercise it anyhow. But he did not renounce the Papacy.
Benedict XVI purposely composed his Declaratio to resemble a renunciation in order to entice would be usurpers hostile to fixed tenets of Catholic faith and morals, in a manner that would ensure he remained de jure the Pope, even though he would cease being the de facto Pope.
Let me pause, as that is a lot to wrap your head around. It’s not too late to buckle up. There’s more.
Such a maneuver may have roots as far back as 1983, when then Cardinal Ratzinger and Pope John Paul II collaborated to amend the Code of Canon Law. This currently binding version of canon law distinguishes the divine title or office of the Papacy (munus) from the practical exercise of power (ministerium) that could
be delegated or even possibly seized by one who does not rightfully hold the office. It also requires that a Pope freely choosing to renounce the Papal office must renounce it (the munus in Latin) explicitly, which Benedict XVI has never done.
There is a centuries-old precedent for this in an anti-usurpation feature of dynastic law promulgated by nobility (German and otherwise); they codified a distinction between a dynastic title (actual nobility) and the potential ability to exercise its power without actually holding the title.
Aware of the extent of the subversive infiltration within the Church in 1983, might they have been laying the groundwork to protect the Church, should those hostile forces ascend to the point where they would be on the verge of seizing power?
Cionci concludes that Benedict XVI’s intent – which necessarily entails a degree of speculation, however well founded – was nothing less than to initiate a purifying schism within the Church; a schism between those faithful to its core, perennial teachings, and those within the Church who are keen on ushering in doctrines antithetical to Catholicism.
Indeed, Cionci asserts that not only is Francis a usurping anti-Pope, but he is one “whose objective is to demolish Catholicism”. That is an explosive allegation. But is it true? Sadly, it sure looks that way. Such a strong statement clearly corresponds with many recent developments, and the overall gravity of the situation.
To take but one ratification of this assessment, Cardinal Müller expressed something similar in a recent interview about radical proposals to alter doctrine – such as revamping Church teaching about homosexuality – being advanced in ongoing gatherings (synods) and by members of the hierarchy. Such maneuvers, he stressed, do indeed constitute a “hostile takeover” and “occupation” of the Catholic Church – a clear attempt to destroy it from within.
This emergence of a “new Church” under Francis completely at odds with the legitimate Church, Cionci suggests, also makes Ratzinger look like a prophet; just before becoming Pope in 2005, he noted: “Very soon it will no longer be possible to affirm that homosexuality, as the Church teaches, is an objective disorder in the structuring of human existence”.
It must also be said that even the man, Cardinal Müller, who rightly objected to the ongoing “hostile takeover” of the Catholic Church, can’t quite bring himself to acknowledge (despite Cionci’s direct pleading) the apparently unassailable canonical evidence that one hostile occupant – Bergoglio – has no legitimate claim to the Papacy at all. Might Müller’s stance, laudable yet lacking, accentuate the credibility of the thesis that Benedict XVI, a true champion of Catholicism, has been holding out as a solitary, stalwart defender of the faith?
To the obvious question about why Benedict XVI took the steps he did, Cionci gives a simple answer: no one would really obey him anymore. He faced an overwhelmingly stacked deck inside the Curia – a veritable mutiny. He was also regarded as the primary obstacle to the international left and other powerful global figures who would rather have a “pope” openly shill for a “New World Order”, as “Francis” did in a (“pandemic” era) 2021 interview with La Stampa.
Benedict XVI had to go because his steady, erudite and eloquent defense of Catholicism over several decades was regarded as a unique threat to their agendas, one that might even be capable of delivering a “true conquest of modernity”.
There may have been threats against him; some have been reported, others perhaps not. Even though the rebellious antagonism he encountered is easy to grasp, one naturally wishes for more details. But, as Cionci notes, some specifics have yet to be unveiled.
The title of his new book – a bestseller in Italy, the first part of which is now available in English – is “The Ratzinger Code”. He concedes the title is a bit provocative. It’s not as though there is some sort of arcane or esoteric code only accessible to the initiated.
It rather expresses Benedict XVI’s method of communicating from behind enemy lines. It can’t be direct. It often contains errors or oddities that attract attention. Upon inspection, certain statements allow for two different, opposing interpretations. He has consistently used this technique since withdrawing from the scene in 2013.
It began with his Declaratio and has continued – remarkably – to the present day. Aside from the all-important distinction between the Latin terms munus and ministerium in his supposed “resignation”, why hasn’t anyone belabored the point that an authentic abdication must be immediate and simultaneous, rather than delayed or deferred, which was a key feature of Benedict XVI’s announcement? And did the translations from the original and binding Latin version of his announcement obscure the difference between a legitimately “vacant” see, which would correspond with a (never actually) renounced munus and enable a conclave to appoint a successor, and an “empty” see, which would not?
Even how Benedict XVI is identified – as Pope “Emeritus” – is curious because that entity simply does not exist within the Catholic Church. It never has. It is totally novel – and lacks any juridical or canonical basis. But most – having never considered the matter – are satisfied with the notion that “emeritus” simply means former or retired because the term “professor emeritus”, for example, is so familiar.
But there is another angle to consider. Cionci points out that the word “emeritus” is a derivative of a Latin verb that means: to merit or deserve. Seen in this light, Pope Emeritus literally means the one who deserves to be the Pope. Interesting.
Benedict XVI has said he still dresses in white because there were no other suitable clothes available. That is obviously absurd. Could he have meant that there is no other sartorial option – aside from his current manner of dressing – to reflect his status as a Pope who, under duress, has relinquished the active exercise of his authority – an authority that remains his?
Does the fact that he resolutely declined to modify his Papal Coat of Arms, despite a friendly offer to do so from the man who had helped compose it, mean anything?
Is he communicating anything of significance when he refers to prior Popes who have stepped down in a manner that is either: (a) obviously historically incorrect – or (b) a specific reference only to a Pope who did not abdicate (and thus always remained the Pope) but was forced out by usurpers?
Cionci addresses all these matters – and several others – in an engaging, credible manner. Any one of these items might raise an eyebrow; taken all together, they raise both.
He also succeeds in demonstrating that Pope Benedict XVI has never lied about his status; indeed, Ratzinger manages to convey the truth despite his predicament. This is quite important since many naturally wonder why he doesn’t speak forthrightly about the situation; others go further by asserting that if he remains the Pope, he has deceptively allowed the masses to believe Francis is the Pope. Cionci’s contention that the “impeded see does not declare itself: it simply exists”, helps this matter come into focus.
Some aspects of his thesis might be more difficult to absorb than others. But they are all worth mulling over. And the thing that, above all, must be kept in mind is that this matter – who the Pope actually is – fundamentally hinges upon canon law.
As the Colombian attorney Estefania Acosta persuasively argues: the text of Benedict XVI’s Declaratio itself renders his supposed resignation null and void. This is an objective evaluation – one that in no way depends on Benedict XVI’s “subjective or psychological situation”, nor “his perception of the surrounding factual and/or juridical reality”, nor “his motivations or specific purposes.”
Only from this firm foundation does Cionci advance his thesis. From there he applies logic in his quest for answers; it is only natural to seek a deeper understanding of what has been happening. In so doing, he has drawn on several well-placed sources from a wide range of fields. He has assembled many pieces of information that can be said to form a revealing mosaic; even if some pieces prove to be defective or are still missing, that mosaic has taken a recognizable shape. And it is compelling.
His thesis simply cannot be dismissed, though it has been mocked. Labeled, you know, as a “conspiracy theory”. Given the events over the past couple years – the unsound, unprecedented, repressive, and injurious measures mendaciously imposed on the healthy masses in the name of “public health” – many may have now warmed to the notion that the only difference between a conspiracy theory and the truth is a matter of a few short years if not months.
Perhaps those who have become more aware – red pilled – that their trust in medical authorities, regulatory agencies and the media has been greatly misplaced will be open to Cionci’s thesis. Perhaps Catholics who have been wondering about “Francis” in the back of their minds will give it the attention it deserves.
At the very least, Cionci’s thesis is plausible. But it would be more accurate to say that it has great coherence because it is incontrovertibly based on canon law and robustly supported by the cascading force of logic.
This work, bereft of technical jargon, is designed to be accessible to the layman and it is. But it is evident, in several ways, that this work is a translation from the original Italian. There are also unfortunate, recognizable errors in both language and punctuation. But given the urgency of the matter, it is far, far better that this major contribution is available now even with those blemishes.
Cionci’s book deserves a wide audience in the English-speaking world. I can’t wait for the second part.
Matthew Hanley is the author (most recently) of the award-winning book, Determining Death by Neurological Criteria: Current Practice and Ethics, a joint publication of the National Catholic Bioethics Center and Catholic University of America Press.