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The Cionci Thesis: Benedict XVI Never Resigned
Munus vs Ministerium
I think it is time to finally approach an important subject, and I will attempt to do so very carefully. There exists a chasm, a caesura, an informational barrier separating Anglophone Catholics and their Italian counterparts. This disconnect has existed for a very long time. Up until the epoch of the internet, this disconnect could be explained by geographic distance and isolation, but in our current age of mass information, the barrier is purely language.
Due to this, it is very easy to gaslight American Catholics, and Anglophone Catholics as a whole. Francis has been very successful in this endeavor. Let me give you an example from a recent article.
Pope Francis blasted what he described as groups of "very strong, reactionary" American Catholics, warning against becoming "backwardists" who oppose change in the Catholic Church.
"The situation in the United States is not easy: There is a very strong, reactionary attitude. It is organized and shapes the way people belong, even emotionally," said the pope. "I want to remind these people that backwardism is useless, and it is necessary to understand that there is a correct evolution in the understanding of questions of faith and morals."
Such comments from Rome are very common these days. All resistance to the Roman Regimes reforms is blamed on the strawman of reactionary American conservatives. And due to the fact that over the last five years “international” news outlets broadcasted nothing but indictments of the rise of “racist” MAGA populism, videos of supposed systemic police brutality, the world at large is primed to accept such a narrative.
It is undeniable that the anglophone internet ecosphere is dominated by American personalities and media outlets. This is also certainly the case for “conservative” Catholic information bubbles. But are these American conservative Catholic personalities and news outlets really that radical? At least, relative to their Italian counterparts? The answer is no.
The supposedly far-right radical news outlet Church Militant, for all of its pundits firebrand posturing, refuses to publish anything questioning Francis’ legitimacy as Pontiff. This is the case across the board. They may rage against him, but they will never question his canonical status. This seems to be the case among the vast majority of American conservative catholic personalities. This is not the case in Italy. Italian Conservative Catholics, who have no interest at all in American “trad” lifestyle posturing, have become fierce proponents of a more radical thesis. A thesis that makes the supposed “American Reactionaries” appear lukewarm.
The Cionci Thesis.
I am not writing this article to convince you of Cionci’s thesis, but to at the very least inform you of its content. To pop the information bubble enveloping American Catholics. His argument can be found in its entirety in the book “The Ratzinger Code,” which has taken the Italian Peninsula by storm. And has amassed much support from experts and laymen alike.
Benedict XVI did not properly resign his position as Pope, and this move was intentional.
The argument hinges on Benedicts “Declaratio,” his supposed resignation. Cionci and many others are of the opinion that the resignation was invalid, and that Pope Benedict intentionally worded it to be invalid. Sounds schizo on the surface, sounds like a Papal QAnon fever dream. Well, let’s take a look. I will let Cionci speak for himself for the majority of this post.
Cionci begins his examination with a series of questions. Irregularities that have haunted the last ten years. The primary question is: “Why would a renowned Latinist, who decided on using Latin for his resignation for ‘precision,’ make so many supposed errors in this document?” Let us begin with a section from his books introduction.
Is it even possible, let alone credible, that in the February 11, 2013, Declaratio of “resignation,” in an act of renunciation of the papacy – this, at least, is how the official document was presented to us – that a pontiff known to be an excellent and refined Latinist could have committed errors of syntax in the official language of the Church? These errors were identified by the well-known philologists Luciano Canfora (in Corriere della Sera) and Wilfried Stroh, who also counted about twenty other linguistic imperfections in the document. Strangely, after our article on the subject, Canfora’s article disappeared from the national website of Corriere, but traces of it remained on the local Bari page.
However, three years later, in 2016, again in Corriere, Pope Ratzinger again addressed in an interview what he had already expressed in Peter Seewald’s book Last Conversations (Garzanti, 2016): “I wrote the text of the renunciation. I can’t say exactly when, but at most two weeks beforehand. I wrote it in Latin because such an important thing is done in Latin. In addition, Latin is a language that I know so well that I can write in a decent way. I could have also written it in Italian, of course, but there was the danger that I would make some mistakes.”
This is a very explicit statement. A man proficient in Latin chose this language for his important document so there would be no danger of mistakes or ambiguity. And yet, in a superficial reading of the document, it’s full of such ambiguity and error. Something totally out of character for the German Shepard. We will return to this. But first, some more passages from the introduction. (Mind you, this was written before his death).
Today, despite his “resignation,” Pope Benedict continues to dress in white, justifying himself by saying that “he had no other clothes.” He continues to use the title P. P. (Pater Patrum), to impart the apostolic blessing and to benefit from other prerogatives that typically distinguish the reigning Pontiff. Moreover, it has recently been definitively established that the juridical institution of the papacy emeritus does not exist. Authoritative canonists and historians already affirmed this but, in September 2021, the Vatican itself publicly set to work to try to elaborate a jurisprudence in this regard. And so, it is legitimate to ask: What has Benedict XVI been for the last nine years? Perhaps a “cardinal in a summer cassock without red thread”?
Joseph Ratzinger is considered one of the most cultured men of the contemporary Church, and yet it seems that, in addition to not knowing the Latin language and canon law well, he also has great gaps in his knowledge of ecclesiastical history. In Last Conversations we discovered an incredible statement he made referring to his own “resignation”: “No pope has resigned for a thousand years, and even in the last millennium it has been an exception.” Given that six popes in the first millennium and four in the second millennium renounced the papacy, there are only two possibilities: either Benedict XVI does not have a good memory, or he is communicating something extremely precise to us.
Irregularity after irregularity. Two men in White, both in Rome. It is easy to forget just how extraordinary the situation was. The media along with historically illiterate trads will explain that there have been several resignations in the past, that this wasn’t new. Well, never anything remotely similar to the situation with Ratzinger has occurred. Let us briefly review a list of the Popes who “resigned” in the last millennium.
The first two names on the list were simply textbook examples of 11th-century papal decadence and instability. The first stepped down after being bribed by the second for the office. This was a low point, the age of St Peter Damien and the immediate prelude to the great reformer Leo IX. The point being, that these were not Popes who freely and in good conscious resigned, they were duplicitous men who sold each other the office, and were deposed for this sin. The next individual is more interesting. Celestine V. Celestine was a natural hermit, an ascetic who wanted nothing more than to be left alone with God. During a gridlocked conclave, a series of events lead to this anchorite being reluctantly dragged out of his seclusion, and thrown atop the chair of Peter. He begrudgingly consented. But after a mere five months as Pontiff, he absconded from the position, fleeing back to his life of secluded monasticism. But in a political climate as complicated and contentious as Rome, such a thing was not realistic, and therefore not possible. His successor, Boniface VIII, fearing any potential challenging of his authority from a rival faction, had Celestine arrested and thrown in jail, the location of which he would die shortly after. And the penultimate figure on the list, resigned purely to put an end to the Western Schism, and the century of madness that it had caused.
What is the point I am getting at? Popes do not just resign. It is always an extraordinary circumstance. And never, ever, has a Pope resigned, kept the old symbols and vestments of his Pontificate (including the title), and lived out his days in comfort in the Vatican. Such confusion is unthinkable, as Celestine and Boniface both very well knew.
So how do we find ourself in such a situation? Two Popes, both in Rome, both using this title? This is completely unprecedented historically.
The only way to make sense of the argument I am about to present (Cionci’s) is understanding the situation Benedict XVI was in. Benedict was surrounded by enemies. His power was completely neutered. If you do not understand the historical reality that Ratzinger found himself in, please refresh your memory. I have discussed it at length in the past, and I am in no mood to tread old ground. If this is news to any of you, comment on the post and I will take the time to write a full article outlining the indisputable evidence of the pit of vipers he found himself in.
For those of you who understand the position Ratzinger was in, continue reading.
Cionci’s thesis is that Benedict’s Declaratio was not a canonically valid resignation- and that this was intentional on the part of Ratzinger. This sounds somewhat insane, a trad’s fever dream, that is until we look at the evidence presented. The rest of these sections will be straight out of the Ratzinger Code.
Coming to the point: why was Benedict XVI’s Declaratio of February 11, 2013, not an act of resignation from the papacy? First of all, we have to remember that, in 1983, John Paul II - who already at that time had chosen Cardinal Ratzinger to be his “right hand man” - split the papal office into two juridical entities: (1) the Petrine munus, which is the title of pope that is granted directly by God, and (2) the ministerium, which is the practical exercise of power. Now, to explain the difference between munus and ministerium as simply as possible, we will use a comparison that everyone can understand. Imagine a count who, along with his fief and his noble title (the munus), also received (from the king) the power to administer his lands (the ministerium). If the Count allowed an administrator govern his possessions, he would still remain the Count, and the administrator would not take on his title as a member of the nobility. Correct? If the nobleman really wanted to forfeit his aristocratic rank and return to being a member of the bourgeois, he would have to write to the king and tell him: “Your Majesty, I renounce the title that you have given to me.” And the king would then take back the noble title, the fief, and the lands which he had granted to the nobleman. Thus, if the Count says, “I renounce the administration of my lands, so as to forfeit the title of Count,” he is in error.
Pope Benedict has apparently made the same mistake as the count in his Declaratio of February 11, 2013. The text of the Declaratio is given below both in Latin and in English. Benedict essentially declared: “Since I no longer have the strength to exercise the Petrine munus (the title of pope), I declare that I renounce . . . the ministerium (the practical exercise of power).” To return to the example given above, it would be as if the count believed that he had renounced his noble title simply by renouncing the administration of his lands. But this is an error. In fact, the Code of Canon Law, whose authority even the pope is subject to (if he does not change it in advance), is quite explicit: in order to abdicate, the pope must renounce the Petrine munus, he must renounce his “noble title” that has been given to him by God in person (the king in our example above). Canon 332 § 2 is clear: “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. – Si contingat ut Romanus Pontifex MUNERI suo renuntiet, ad validitatem requiritur ut renuntiatio libere fiat et rite manifestetur.” We recall that Latin is the official language of the Church, on which all other editions of the text are based, and that the word muneri is the dative singular form of the noun munus.
Furthermore, this alleged resignation did not happen simultaneously with its announcement, but was deferred for seventeen days. Pope Ratzinger declared [on February 11, 2013] that his resignation of the ministerium would take effect at 8:00 P.M. on February 28, 2013. Both the jurist Antonio Sànchez Sàez of the University of Seville and the canon lawyer Francesco Patruno confirm that a resignation must be simultaneous, since, for the Church, it is God Himself who grants or withdraws the papal title. Certainly one cannot give God an “expirable assignment,”, as if he were a butler. Moreover, as has been well explained by the theologian Carlo Maria Pace in one of his books, the resignation of the ministerium was only announced. It was never confirmed after 8:00 P.M. on February 28, 2013. Merely announcing a future resignation does not make the pope fall from his throne. In short, everything that could possibly be there in that document to make a resignation of the papacy invalid is there. To this may be added that the pope emeritus, the role into which Benedict supposedly transitioned, does not juridically exist: Famous canonists have already been saying this for years - people like Carlo Fantappiè, Geraldina Boni, Francesco Margiotta-Broglio and the historian Roberto de Mattei, but in 2021 the Vatican itself confirmed it when Bergoglio began looking - after eight years - for a way to have jurisprudence drawn for this new institution.
Before showing you the definitive canonical explanation, it is necessary to remember that in all of the translations into Italian and other modern languages apart from Latin (with the exception of German, as we shall soon see), the fundamental distinction between munus and ministerium has been completely abolished. Both words are translated with the same word: “ministry.” (ministero, ministére, ministerio, etc.). Anyone can confirm this simply by looking at the Vatican website. The single translation for these two words will be shown to be an essential element of concealing the true significance of a simple declaration of the pope that announced - in a sincere and truthful way - something quite different, as we shall see as we proceed. It was certainly not an abdication.
To summarize so far, in 1983, JPII and Ratzinger split the papal office into two juridical entities: (1) the Petrine munus, which is the title of pope that is granted directly by God, and (2) the ministerium, which is the practical exercise of power. And yet, one of the men involved in splitting the papal office in two, decided to (in Latin) declare his intent to only relinquish the ministerium and not the munus. Let’s quickly revisit one of Ratzinger’s statements given several years after his “resignation.” “I wrote the text of the renunciation. I can’t say exactly when, but at most two weeks beforehand. I wrote it in Latin because such an important thing is done in Latin. In addition, Latin is a language that I know so well that I can write in a decent way. I could have also written it in Italian, of course, but there was the danger that I would make some mistakes.”
Cionci over the next several sections reviews the statements of several prominent experts in canon law and comes to the following conclusions. (Again, I urge you to read the whole book, I am only providing a synopsis).
Drawing precisely from the studies of Msgr. Scaccia and Professor Boni, who appear to be “legitimizers” of Bergoglio, we have therefore concluded the following:
there cannot legally be two popes, nor can there be an “enlarged papacy,”
there is only one pope,
the position of “pope emeritus” does not juridically exist,
munus and ministerium are not synonyms in a juridical sense,
Pope Ratzinger used munus in the juridical sense, without ever having renounced it
he separated the two entities, which however are indivisible in the case of the pope,
he renounced the wrong entity, namely the ministerium.
As we have seen, Pope Benedict’s resignation is not a resignation. Moreover, the text is accompanied by two serious Latin errors despite the fact that Pope Benedict is an excellent Latinist, probably in order to keep attention on the document. The German lawyer Arthur Lambauer also noted that the terms “See of St. Peter” and “See of Rome” used by Pope Benedict did not exist before then as an official wording. “We must also add” - comments Prof. Sànchez – “the submission of an act such as resignation which, in itself, is of divine right, to a ‘temporal resolutory condition.’ That is, people speak about the “deferred resignation” (of the ministerium) - deferred by Pope Ratzinger to February 28, 2013 and never confirmed after the time of 20:00 hours on that day, a question addressed by the theologian Carlo Maria Pace and the jurist Francesco Patruno and which is yet another factor making the resignation invalid.
Now it is time for the most compelling evidence.
So, Ratzinger helped create this canonical distinction between munus and ministerium, and then either unintentionally reliquinshed the wrong subject (ministerium), or quite intentionally chose to resign the ministerium to make the entire thing invalid. This begins to seem much more plausible when we look at the inspiration for the munus/ministerium distinction.
The juridical inspiration is confirmed by one of the four or five experts in Universal Dynastic Legal Studies in the whole world. His name is Andrea Borella, and he is among other things an expert on heraldry and genealogical studies, who for more than twenty years has been the editor and director of the important ”Yearbook of the Italian Nobility” as well as the director and founder of other directories dedicated to the royal and aristocratic families of the world. Borella was also Professor of Dynastic and Successorship Law and of secular and ecclesiastical Heraldry for many years in a postgraduate “Master” program at a pontifical University. Cardinal Ratzinger, in agreement with Pope John Paul II, brought into the canonical legal system of the Catholic Church the fundamental dichotomy between “munus” and “ministerium,” taking it, as Borella explains, from the Dynastic Law of German princes (the so called Furstenrecht). It is indeed an excellent “anti-usurpation” system of which Joseph Ratzinger, as a Bavarian, could not possibly have been ignorant.
Back in the seventeenth century, after the alleged usurpation of the English crown from its legitimate heiress the Catholic Mary Stuart by the Protestant Elizabeth I, a remedy was found in Europe by defining a precise distinction between the dynastic royal title itself and the possibility of exercising its power in practice. For example, we can mention some renunciations of the munus that were signed by several Archdukes of the Austrian Imperial family, which were partial renunciations, limited to the renunciation of only certain dynastic rights, especially during the nineteenth century. On the other hand, after WWI, the Austrian Emperor Karl I never renounced his munus, refusing to do so, and thus he was sent into exile with the purpose of preventing him from exercising his practical power, that is, his ministerium. Something similar happened to the Italian monarchy as well and, among all those examples, Ratzinger could not have failed to have been aware of these “anti-usurpation” legal systems. It is very likely that this was the actual reason he personally advised John Paul II to introduce such a system into canon law, with the effects that today we now understand.
So, this original munus/ministerium distinction that Ratzinger introduced was based off “anti-usurpation” legal mechanisms. Interesting. And he just so happened to “unintentionally” invoke such a mechanism by using the “wrong” word in the Latin declaration, a language he chose for his confidence in its accuracy.
Now, for the lynch pin, where all of this becomes too much to ignore.
In almost every language, munus and ministerium are both translated as a single word. In english, ministry. In Italian, ministerio. Only in German is there two corresponding translations for both. (As German anti usurpation laws were the model for this). “Munus” is “Amt,” and “ministerium” is “Dienst.”
So why is it, in the German translation of the document, the words are flipped?
In the German version of the Declaratio published on the Vatican website, the two entities, “munus” and “ministerium,” have been exchanged. This could only happen in German, because in the other Western European languages (as has been previously stated), the two entities are translated with the same word: “ministry” in English, “ministère” in French, “ministerio” in Spanish and Portuguese, “ministero” in Italian, and posluga in Polish. German, therefore, seems to be the only Western European language which has two different words, which are “Amt” as a translation of the Latin word “munus” (position or office) and “Dienst” for “Ministerium” (service). That is the reason why Benedict XVI can say in Italian a phrase which can be translated into English in this way: “I have validly renounced my Ministry”. He is clearly referring to the “Ministerium,” not to the “Munus”. However, if we compare the Latin version to the German one, we become aware of an unexpected inversion of the two terms. In essence, Benedict XVI declares in the Latin official version of his Declaratio: “Since the munus has become exhausting for me, I renounce the ministerium. In German the words should have been “Since the “Amt” has become exhausting to me, I renounce the “Dienst.” But, quite surprisingly, we find in the German translation the exact opposite: “Since the “Dienst” has become exhausting for me, I give up the “Amt.” Thus, in German, the Declaratio looks almost like a real abdication, because Benedict declares he is renouncing the “Munus/Amt,”, that is , the office of pope. The act would be invalid, however, since the Declaratio lacks the simultaneousness of the renunciation and its ratification, but this is a secondary point. What really matters is that the only version that has juridical validity is the Latin text! This is true both because Latin is the official language of the Church and also because Benedict wrote and pronounced the Declaratio in Latin. Therefore, Pope Ratzinger remains de facto in an impeded see, even if the German translation seems to be a valid resignation.
This alone should be international news. This is extraordinary. The German version was switched. But only the Latin version is valid.
“I wrote the text of the renunciation. I can’t say exactly when, but at most two weeks beforehand. I wrote it in Latin because such an important thing is done in Latin. In addition, Latin is a language that I know so well that I can write in a decent way. I could have also written it in Italian, of course, but there was the danger that I would make some mistakes.”
Regardless of your opinions on the matter, if we are to take the Church and her canons seriously, then an extraordinary irregularity has occurred, and it must be taken seriously.
I hope that this article also serves as a wake up call to those “trads” existing in an American bubble. Regardless of what Bergoglio says, the true “reactionaries” are not American conservatives, they are far closer to Bergoglios own home. I don’t see planes flying messages declaring “Benedict was in an impeded see” over American beaches, as they have been along the Adriatic coast all summer.
I highly recommend you read the book. In the next couple articles I will continue to explore this. My crude synopsis only scratches the surface
I will leave you with a quote from a young Father Ratzinger.
“The future of the Church can and will issue from those whose roots are deep and who live from the pure fullness of their faith. It will not issue from those who accommodate themselves merely to the passing moment or from those who merely criticize others and assume that they themselves are infallible measuring rods; nor will it issue from those who take the easier road, who sidestep the passion of faith, declaring false and obsolete, tyrannous and legalistic, all that makes demands upon men, that hurts them and compels them to sacrifice themselves. To put this more positively: The future of the Church, once again as always, will be reshaped by saints, by men, that is, whose minds probe deeper than the slogans of the day, who see more than others see, because their lives embrace a wider reality. Unselfishness, which makes men free, is attained only through the patience of small daily acts of self-denial. By this daily passion, which alone reveals to a man in how many ways he is enslaved by his own ego, by this daily passion and by it alone, a man’s eyes are slowly opened. He sees only to the extent that he has lived and suffered. If today we are scarcely able any longer to become aware of God, that is because we find it so easy to evade ourselves, to flee from the depths of our being by means of the narcotic of some pleasure or other. Thus our own interior depths remain closed to us. If it is true that a man can see only with his heart, then how blind we are!
“How does all this affect the problem we are examining? It means that the big talk of those who prophesy a Church without God and without faith is all empty chatter. We have no need of a Church that celebrates the cult of action in political prayers. It is utterly superfluous. Therefore, it will destroy itself. What will remain is the Church of Jesus Christ, the Church that believes in the God who has become man and promises us life beyond death. The kind of priest who is no more than a social worker can be replaced by the psychotherapist and other specialists; but the priest who is no specialist, who does not stand on the [sidelines], watching the game, giving official advice, but in the name of God places himself at the disposal of man, who is beside them in their sorrows, in their joys, in their hope and in their fear, such a priest will certainly be needed in the future.
“Let us go a step farther. From the crisis of today the Church of tomorrow will emerge — a Church that has lost much. She will become small and will have to start afresh more or less from the beginning. She will no longer be able to inhabit many of the edifices she built in prosperity. As the number of her adherents diminishes, so it will lose many of her social privileges. In contrast to an earlier age, it will be seen much more as a voluntary society, entered only by free decision. As a small society, it will make much bigger demands on the initiative of her individual members. Undoubtedly it will discover new forms of ministry and will ordain to the priesthood approved Christians who pursue some profession. In many smaller congregations or in self-contained social groups, pastoral care will normally be provided in this fashion. Along-side this, the full-time ministry of the priesthood will be indispensable as formerly. But in all of the changes at which one might guess, the Church will find her essence afresh and with full conviction in that which was always at her center: faith in the triune God, in Jesus Christ, the Son of God made man, in the presence of the Spirit until the end of the world. In faith and prayer she will again recognize the sacraments as the worship of God and not as a subject for liturgical scholarship.
“The Church will be a more spiritual Church, not presuming upon a political mandate, flirting as little with the Left as with the Right. It will be hard going for the Church, for the process of crystallization and clarification will cost her much valuable energy. It will make her poor and cause her to become the Church of the meek. The process will be all the more arduous, for sectarian narrow-mindedness as well as pompous self-will will have to be shed. One may predict that all of this will take time. The process will be long and wearisome as was the road from the false progressivism on the eve of the French Revolution — when a bishop might be thought smart if he made fun of dogmas and even insinuated that the existence of God was by no means certain — to the renewal of the nineteenth century. But when the trial of this sifting is past, a great power will flow from a more spiritualized and simplified Church. Men in a totally planned world will find themselves unspeakably lonely. If they have completely lost sight of God, they will feel the whole horror of their poverty. Then they will discover the little flock of believers as something wholly new. They will discover it as a hope that is meant for them, an answer for which they have always been searching in secret.
“And so it seems certain to me that the Church is facing very hard times. The real crisis has scarcely begun. We will have to count on terrific upheavals. But I am equally certain about what will remain at the end: not the Church of the political cult, which is dead already, but the Church of faith. It may well no longer be the dominant social power to the extent that she was until recently; but it will enjoy a fresh blossoming and be seen as man’s home, where he will find life and hope beyond death.