Here we offer a calm reasoned canonical argument for the invalidity of Pope Benedict’s resignation, for any Catholic who wants to know the truth.
Why should any Catholic defend the validity of Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation?
Are we obliged by canon law to do so? —No.
Is it a sin not to do so when there is evidence that it is invalid? — No.
Is there a presumption of law that it is valid? — No.
Is there evidence that it was invalid? — Yes.
Why is Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation invalid?
To understand this, lets us refer to the original texts of the resignation and Canon Law:
Here is the text of the renunciation in the Latin original:
Quapropter bene conscius ponderis huius actus plena libertate declaro me ministerio Episcopi Romae, Successoris Sancti Petri, mihi per manus Cardinalium die 19 aprilis MMV commisso renuntiare…
What are the requirements for a valid Papal resignation? — These are found in the 1983 Code of Canon Law, Canon 332 §2;
§ 2. Si contingat ut Romanus Pontifex muneri suo renuntiet, ad validitatem requiritur ut renuntiatio libere fiat et rite manifestetur, non vero ut a quopiam acceptetur.
What is the first condition or requirement, then, according to Canon 332 §2 for a valid papal resignation? — That it happens that the Roman Pontiff renounce his munus (muneri suo renuntiet).
Does the text of Pope Benedict renounce the munus? — No, it says clearly declaro me ministerio … renuntiare.
If the renunciation does not regard the munus, does canon 332 §2 even apply? — Yes and no. Yes, because since it does not fulfill the condition of a resignation within the term (in this case, munus) of Canon 332 §2, its not valid. And no, inasmuch as being a juridic act which is outside the terms of Canon 332 §2 it does not regard a papal resignation, but merely a retirement from active ministry.
Can the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI be construed as valid?
Some say and seem to hold, that a Pope can resign his munus by resigning his ministerium. Is that a valid argument? — It is not, because its not a matter of mere assertion, the Law itself must declare it. Remember, there can be no innovation in Church Law without a positive act of a competent superior.
But is not the act of the resignation a juridic act which establishes a new way of resigning? — No. Juridical acts are not tyrannical acts, they cannot justify themselves, but must be in accord with Church Law. This is because as Vatican I declared, even the Pope has no authority to invent novelties.
But if one were to sustain that ministerium can supposit or be understood as munus, how would he have to prove it? — As canon 17 declares, when there is a doubt as to the signification of the law, one must have recourse to other parts of the law, and if there is no clarity there, then to the mind of the legislator.
Does the Code of Canon Law sanction the supposition of ministerium for munus? — No. In no part of the Code is a ministerium ever said to be a munus, or a munus to be a ministerium. In fact, according to Canon 17, you must accept the definitions of terms contained in the Code itself as the AUTHENTIC expression of the Mind of the Legislator (Pope John Paul II) in promulgating the code of Canon Law. Now in canon 145 §1, the Code defines every ecclesiastical office (officium) as a munus, not a ministerium!
What about canonical tradition, does it require a renunciation of munus for a valid resignation of papal office? — Yes, this is clear. Because in all previous renunciations there is not only a mention of munus (or its synonyms: onus, honor, dignitas, or proper names: papatus or episcopatus) but there is also no mention of ministerium. Nor is there any canonical tradition that one can suppose terms which do not mean munus according to canonical tradition for munus. The pope is not the creator or inventor of language or linguistic forms of signification, otherwise nothing would be certain or objective in the Church. Nay, as canon 38 says, if a Pope acts in any way contrary to the terms of Canon 332 §2, his act is only valid if he expressly mentions his intent to act with a derogation of its terms.
If both the text of the Code of Canon Law and canonical tradition require the mention of munus in a papal resignation, then in virtue of Canon 17, do those who claim Benedict’s renunciation of ministerium is valid, have any ground to stand upon? — No, none at all.
Then, must all Catholics recognize that in virtue of the law itself, the resignation is invalid? — Yes.
Does not the fact that the Cardinals all act as if it were valid, mean anything? — No, because according to canon 332 §2, even if the whole world held it to be valid, if it does not meet the conditions of Canon 332 §2, it is not valid. There is no wiggle room here.
But does not the very fact a Conclave was held in March of 2013 to elect a new pope make the resignation of Benedict XVI valid? Does not his tacit consent to this make it valid? — No on both accounts. First of all, because nothing makes a resignation valid except its conformity to canon 332 §2. Second, because by Divine Institution, the Petrine Munus cannot be shared by more than one individual. Ergo, if Benedict did not renounce it, he retains it. If he retains it, its contrary to divine law to elect another pope so long as he lives. And in his act of renunciation he never ordered a Conclave to be called in his lifetime. That he consented to such a thing may be either because of fear or of substantial error as regards what is necessary to resign his office. If it is fear, it does not make it valid. If he is in substantial error, then in accord with Canon 188, its expressly invalid by the law itself.