WHO is the true pope?
If you could read my inbox, you’d see that there is less agreement on this subject than you’d think. And this divergence was made even stronger recently with an editorial in a major Catholic publication. It proposes a theory that is gaining traction, all the while flirting with schism…
A Controversial Theory
In the article “The final confrontation: Examining the end times through the lens of Fatima and Benedict XVI”, the author makes the following case — in summary:
• He claims that Pope Benedict XVI is hinting that the theology of Tyconius, a member of fourth-century schismatics known as Donatists, is applicable to our times.
• In this view, the “apostasy” or “falling away” described by St. Paul in 2 Thessalonians is really the true Church withdrawing from a false Church (isn’t that what Martin Luther did?).
• The author claims that Benedict XVI is cryptically hinting that he has been aware that a false church under a false pope would emerge after him.
• The author ties this into the vision of Fatima where the children see a “bishop dressed in white” whom they had the “impression” was the “Holy Father.” The author claims that this is really a vision of two people and that the Holy Father is Benedict XVI and that the “bishop dressed in white” is a false pope.
• The author claims that Benedict XVI intentionally resigned so that the false pope and a false church would emerge into plain view.
Writes the author:
Did Benedict XVI have the foresight to comprehend that his apparent successor would be the bishop dressed in white, long before Bergoglio was even “elected”? Did Benedict understand, well in advance, what Socci would one day speculate was the meaning of the Third Secret? Was he the first Pope to grasp that the Third Secret denotes a true pope and a false one — an apparent pope who is actually only a bishop dressed in white — which was what Sister Lucia was trying to say (and of course also the Blessed Virgin) from the start? —Marco Tosatti, lifesitenews.com; first published on his blog here
In the vision to the three seers at Fatima:
The Angel cried out in a loud voice: ‘Penance, Penance, Penance!’. And we saw in an immense light that is God: ‘something similar to how people appear in a mirror when they pass in front of it’ a Bishop dressed in White ‘we had the impression that it was the Holy Father’. —The Message of Fatima, July 13th, 1917; vatican.va
Since the last three popes since St. John Paul II have worn white, a plain reading of what Sr. Lucia states is simply that the bishop dressed in white is whom she thought: representative of the Holy Father. From that point, all is speculation.
The St. Gallen “mafia”
But where the article becomes problematic is in the notion that Benedict XVI remains the true pope and that Francis is the false pope. But this is only possible if either the election or the resignation of Benedict XVI were not valid. An “anti-pope” is by definition one who claims the Seat of Peter, but who is not legitimately placed there. He could be a great sinner or even a saint — but he would still be an anti-pope. Such would be the case with Pope Francis if Benedict XVI had not validly received or passed the Keys of the Kingdom on to his successor.
While few are questioning Benedict’s legitimacy, some hold that he is still the pope today because “election interference” invalidated the last papal conclave. This has been the subject of much rancour. It is the claim that a so-called “St. Gallen group” or “mafia” (as some of them called themselves) lobbied for Francis in an unlawful manner before the papal conclave. However, a clarification was offered by the biographers of Cardinal Godfried Danneels (one of the group’s members) who initially implied this. Rather, they said, the “election of Bergoglio corresponded with the aims of St. Gallen, on that there is no doubt. And the outline of its program was that of Danneels and his confreres who had been discussing it for ten years.”cf. ncregister.com Most significantly, the St. Gallen group was apparently disbanded after the 2005 conclave that elected Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger to the papacy. So if any papal election was potentially interfered with, it would have been Benedict XVI’s. But not a single cardinal in the entire world has even hinted so much that the elections of either Benedict or Francis were invalid. While the St. Gallen’s group was apparently known to oppose Ratzinger’s election, Cardinal Danneels later openly praised Pope Benedict for his leadership and theology.cf. ncregister.com
Moreover, on the election of Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio to succeed Benedict XVI, there were 115 cardinals who voted that day, far outnumbering the handful of those who loosely formed this “mafia.” To suggest that these other cardinals were haplessly influenced like impressionable children is a judgement of their faithfulness to Christ and His Church (if not slightly insulting to their intelligence).
There are some debating that the actual language Pope Benedict XVI used in his resignation is only a renunciation of his ministry (ministerium) and not his office (munus). This is what Benedict XVI stated on the day of his resignation:
…well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry [ministerium] of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is. —Feburary 10th, 2013; vatican.va
Some argue that Benedict XVI did not say munus thereby deliberately dividing the pontificate into two elements whereby he retained the office, but not the ministry. As such, they conclude, his resignation is canonically invalid. However, this is based on a presumption of Benedict’s intentions as opposed to his clear actions. Benedict’s own statement is unequivocal that he did not partially vacate the See of St. Peter but that it “will be vacant” and that a Conclave will “elect a new Supreme Pontiff.” Then on February 27th, the Pope stated this regarding his munus:
I no longer bear the power of office for the governance of the Church, but in the service of prayer I remain, so to speak, in the enclosure of Saint Peter. —February 27th, 2013; vatican.va
In fact, all that is stipulated according to Canon law 332 §2 is that “If it happens that the Roman Pontiff resigns his office, it is required for validity that the resignation is made freely and properly manifested but not that it is accepted by anyone.” But many have speculated that Benedict XVI was forced out of office, threatened or manipulated to do so. However, the Pope Emeritus has repeatedly dismissed these allegations as spurious.
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… [My] last and final job [is] to support [Pope Francis’] pontificate with prayer. —POPE EMERITUS BENEDICT XVI, Vatican City, Feb. 26th, 2014; Zenit.org
In Benedict’s autobiography, papal interviewer Peter Seewald explicitly asks whether the retired Bishop of Rome was the victim of ‘blackmail and conspiracy.’
That’s all complete nonsense. No, it’s actually a straight-forward matter… no one has tried to blackmail me. If that had been attempted I would not have gone since you are not permitted to leave because you’re under pressure. It’s also not the case that I would have bartered or whatever. On the contrary, the moment had—thanks be to God—a sense of having overcome the difficulties and a mood of peace. A mood in which one really could confidently pass the reins over to the next person. —Benedict XVI, Last Testament in His Own Words, with Peter Seewald; p. 24 (Bloomsbury Publishing)
Then eight years after his monumental departure, Benedict XVI — considered one of the greatest theologians in modern times — dismissed again the “conspiracy theories” surrounding his resignation.
It was a difficult decision but I made it in full conscience, and I believe I did well. Some of my friends who are a bit ‘fanatical’ are still angry; they did not want to accept my choice. I am thinking about the conspiracy theories which followed it: those who said it was because of the Vatileaks scandal, those who said it was because of the case of the conservative Lefebvrian theologian, Richard Williamson. They did not want to believe it was a conscious decision, but my conscience is clear. —February 28th, 2021; vaticannews.va
Benedict’s personal secretary, Archbishop Georg Gänswein, has also insisted that he resigned the Petrine office and is no longer “Pope”.
There is only one legitimately elected and incumbent [gewählten und amtierenden] Pope, and that is Francis. —corrispondenzaromana.it, February 15th, 2019
Cardinal Walter Brandmüller, former president of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences, while criticizing Benedict’s decision to retain his name and white cassock, insisted: “The resignation was valid, and the election was valid.” Catholic historian Roberto de Mattei surmises: “Did Benedict XVI intend to resign only partially, by renouncing the ministerium, but keeping the munus for himself? It’s possible,” he said, “but no evidence, at least to date, makes it evident. We are in the realm of intentions. Canon 1526, § 1 states: “Onus probandi incumbit ei qui asserit” (The burden of proof rests upon the person who makes the allegation.) To prove means to demonstrate the certainty of a fact or the truth of the statement. Moreover, the papacy is in itself indivisible.” Cardinal Raymond Burke, former Prefect of the Holy See’s Apostolic Signatura (the Vatican equivalent of the Supreme Court) also weighed in, stating, “it seems clear he uses interchangeably ‘munus’ and ‘ministerium.’ It doesn’t seem that he’s making a distinction between the two… He withdrew his will to be the Vicar of Christ on earth, and therefore he ceased to be the Vicar of Christ on earth.”corrispondenzaromana.it, February 15th, 2019
For a thorough and, I believe, definitive refutation of the “invalid resignation” argument, read Valid? the Resignation of Pope Benedict XVI: The Case Against the Benepapists by Steven O’Reilly.
Dancing with Schism?
It should be clear to the reader by now the serious problem with suggesting that Benedict somehow attempted to partially retain the Petrine office in order to allow a false church to emerge under a false pope. For one, it means that Benedict XVI has been lying to the entire Body of Christ regarding his very public support of Francis as the Pope by the mere act of calling him such.Benedict is now referred to as Pope Emeritus, the same title designated to bishops who retire “Bishop Emeritus”. Second, if Benedict knew that Francis was an anti-pope, he would have therefore placed a billion Catholics in grave danger of giving their assent to an anti-pope and subjected Sacred Tradition to a leader devoid of both the Keys of the Kingdom and infallibility. Third, by suggesting that the true Church should withdraw from the false church (ie. what Tosatti calls the “apostasy”) is, in essence, to promote a Tyconius-like schism. This last aspect is what is most astonishing in Tosatti’s theory which, if embraced in reality, de facto places one in separation from Rome.
They, therefore, walk in the path of dangerous error who believe that they can accept Christ as the Head of the Church, while not adhering loyally to His Vicar on earth. —POPE PIUS XII, Mystici Corporis Christi (On the Mystical Body of Christ), June 29, 1943; n. 41; vatican.va
The question of loyalty is not a matter of agreeing with non-magisterial statements and opinons of a pope but assenting to his authentic authority exercised in matters of “faith and morals.”cf. What is the True Magisterium? There is no question today that faithful Catholics are living under a very difficult and challenging pontificate that is pocked by scandalous actions, appointments, and silence; that will be remembered for careless papal interviews that were left unchecked for orthodoxy and thus spread errors and enabled the weak-minded; and perhaps most alarmingly has been the explicit cooperation of the Vatican with a godless global agenda headed by the United Nations and the World Economic Forum and bankrolled by Masonic global elites. This is not to say that Pope Francis has not at times very clearly and even beautifully enunciated the Catholic Faith (see Pope Francis On…) and that he has been, at times, the victim of a press that has misquoted and misrepresented him more frequently than not. Yet, it is the duty and responsibility of the successor of Peter to guarantee faithfulness to Sacred Tradition and to guard against the wolves:
…as the Church’s one and only indivisible magisterium, the pope and the bishops in union with him carry the gravest responsibility that no ambiguous sign or unclear teaching comes from them, confusing the faithful or lulling them into a false sense of security.—Gerhard Ludwig Cardinal Müller, former prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; First Things, April 20th, 2018
Given the general confusion (what Sr. Lucia called “diabolical disorientation”), it would seem that some are grasping to explain away the present situation with the notion that Francis must somehow not be pope and is, therefore, not protected by the charism of infallibility. In truth, however, the Pontiff could appoint heretics, dine with Judases, father children and dance naked on the Vatican walls… and none of this would nullify the validity of his office — no more than Peter’s denial of Jesus invalidated it then.
For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable. (Rom 11:29)
And even if there are lingering questions surrounding the election of a pope, one could not unilaterally declare him invalid, as we are seeing some do. As one anonymous theologian put it, a person who thinks their marriage is invalid cannot simply immediately behave as such:
However convinced the person is of this, he or she is not free to marry again until an ecclesiastical court has declared that there was never a marriage. So even if someone is convinced that Benedict XVI is still Pope, he or she should wait for the judgement of the Church before acting on this belief, e.g. a priest in that position should continue to mention Francis in the canon of the Mass. —corrispondenzaromana.it, February 15th, 2019
And questioning Catholics ought to continue to address him as “Pope Francis” — not the derogatory “Bergoglio” that has become so commonplace among those frustrated with the incompetence of the present Curia. Said St. Catherine of Siena, “Even if he were an incarnate devil, we ought not to raise up our heads against him,” and again, “we honor Christ if we honor the pope, we dishonor Christ if we dishonor the pope…”From Anne Baldwin’s Catherine of Siena: A Biography. Huntington, IN: OSV Publishing, 1987, pp.95-6
I know very well that many defend themselves by boasting: “They are so corrupt, and work all manner of evil!” But God has commanded that, even if the priests, the pastors, and Christ-on-earth were incarnate devils, we be obedient and subject to them, not for their sakes, but for the sake of God, and out of obedience to Him. —St. Catherine of Siena, SCS, p. 201-202, p. 222, (quoted in Apostolic Digest, by Michael Malone, Book 5: “The Book of Obedience”, Chapter 1: “There is No Salvation Without Personal Submission to the Pope”)
A Divine Purpose
Jesus told a parable about the weeds that would be sown alongside the wheat.
…if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. Let them grow together until harvest. (Matt 13:29-30)
Thus, the closer we come to the end of this present era, the more we will see the weeds coming to a head — ie. visible and competing against the wheat. St. Paul warned the new bishops of his times:
Keep watch over yourselves and over the whole flock of which the Holy Spirit has appointed you overseers, in which you tend the church of God that he acquired with his own blood. I know that after my departure savage wolves will come among you, and they will not spare the flock. And from your own group, men will come forward perverting the truth to draw the disciples away after them. (Acts 20:28-30)
He then explained why God permits this:
I hear that when you meet as a church there are divisions among you, and to a degree I believe it; there have to be factions among you in order that those who are approved among you may become known. (1 Cor 11:18-19)
The weeds need to be distinguished from the wheat. Since the election of Francis, is it not abundantly apparent that the wolves have come out of hiding and that the weeds have begun boldly waving in the wind as they attempt to spread the seeds of error? I personally believe that this pontificate is precisely what Divine Providence has allowed, due to unrepentance, in order to bring about the Passion of the Church so that the Kingdom of the Divine Will may, at last, descend upon a purified Bride.
We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. (Rom 8:28)
As for you and I, the truth is not obscure; the teachings of our faith are not ambiguous. We have 2000 years of clear teaching, solid catechisms, and faithful teachers who continue to uphold Sacred Tradition, built upon the rock of Peter, which Christ himself has defended against the powers of Hell to this very day.
Pray for the Pope. Remain on the Barque. Be faithful to Jesus.
Support Mark’s full-time ministry:
To journey with Mark in The Now Word,
click on the banner below to subscribe.
Your email will not be shared with anyone.
Now on Telegram. Click:
Follow Mark and the daily “signs of the times” on MeWe:
Listen on the following:
|↑3||corrispondenzaromana.it, February 15th, 2019|
|↑4||Benedict is now referred to as Pope Emeritus, the same title designated to bishops who retire “Bishop Emeritus”.|
|↑5||cf. What is the True Magisterium?|
|↑6||From Anne Baldwin’s Catherine of Siena: A Biography. Huntington, IN: OSV Publishing, 1987, pp.95-6|