Rorate Caeli

One is Simon, the other is Peter? - Gänswein: Papacy was changed in 2013 into an "expanded" Petrine Office with two members. - Does this confirm the Socci-Messori thesis of a papal diarchy?

Double-Headed Church?

Edward Pentin's latest column on National Catholic Register (Archbishop Gänswein: Benedict XVI Sees Resignation as Expanding Petrine Ministry) reports on a speech delivered by Archbishop Gänswein at the Pontifical Gregorian University, May 20. The speech, as reported by Pentin, has two topics of capital significance.

From the viewpoint of "current events" perhaps the topic that will attract more attention is his reference to the election of Benedict XVI in 2005 as the outcome of the battle between two factions of Cardinals: the infamous "St. Gallen" group of liberal Cardinals who wanted to prevent Ratzinger from ascending to the papacy and the "Salt of the Earth" group of conservative Cardinals who supported him. Surely our regular readers will remember the furor last year when the machinations of the St. Gallen "mafia" was first revealed in a biography of Cardinal Danneels -- see our posts about it (St. Gallen Mafia) as well as the Pentin's detailed interview about the 2005 conclave with Paul Badde. 

From a theological and dogmatic point of view however, more attention is warranted by Gänswein's comments on the transformation of the very office of the Papacy after February 11, 2013, his claim that the resignation of Benedict XVI was of a different character compared to previous papal resignations, and his assertion that there are "not two popes", but one yet expanded Petrine Ministry with Francis and Benedict both as members -- one active, the other contemplative.

The idea that the papacy itself has now been transformed in its very depths, and that to effect this transformation Benedict XVI's will and actions in February 2013 were enough, raises extremely sensitive, nay, disturbing questions about the very theology of the Church. Questions and.... implications we dare not discuss here for the moment. As for how two men cannot be both Popes and yet be both members of one Petrine ministry....

It is all too easy to dismiss Gänswein's comments as merely his personal opinion, if not for the fact that in addition to being a doctor of Canon Law and a former official of the CDF he is, above all, the secretary and daily companion of Benedict XVI himself. Surely we can take his interpretation of Benedict's resignation as a faithful reflection of the latter's own thinking.

The thesis that since March 13, 2013 the papacy has become some kind of "diarchy" was first expressed in the writings of Antonio Socci early in 2014, then taken up by Vittorio Messori a few months later on the basis of an article written by the canonist Stefano Violi. Providentially, Rorate had published translations of both Socci's and Messori's articles in just one post:

We beseech all of our readers to read the above post, which now assumes tremendous importance.

Coming back to Pentin's article, here are the relevant passages regarding the conclave of 2005 and the "transformation" of the papacy:

In a speech reflecting on Pope Benedict XVI’s pontificate, Archbishop Georg Gänswein has confirmed the existence of a group who fought against Benedict’s election in 2005, but stressed that "Vatileaks" or other issues had "little or nothing" to do with his resignation in 2013.

Speaking at the presentation of a new book on Benedict’s pontificate at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome May 20, Archbishop Gänswein also said that Pope Francis and Benedict are not two popes “in competition” with one another, but represent one “expanded” Petrine Office with “an active member” and a “contemplative.”

Archbishop Gänswein, who doubles as the personal secretary of the Pope Emeritus and prefect of the Pontifical Household, said Benedict did not abandon the papacy like Pope Celestine V in the 13th century but rather sought to continue his Petrine Office in a more appropriate way given his frailty.

“Therefore, from 11 February 2013, the papal ministry is not the same as before,” he said. “It is and remains the foundation of the Catholic Church; and yet it is a foundation that Benedict XVI has profoundly and lastingly transformed by his exceptional pontificate.”

Gänswein drew attention to “brilliant and illuminating” and “well documented and thorough” passages of the book, written by Roberto Regoli and entitled Oltre la crisi della Chiesa. Il pontificato di Benedetto XVI — “Beyond the Crisis of the Church, The Pontificate of Benedict XVI.”

The German prelate especially highlighted Regoli’s account of “a dramatic struggle” that took place in the 2005 Conclave between the “so-called ‘Salt of the Earth Party’” (named after the book interview with Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger) comprising “Cardinals Lopez Trujillo, Ruini, Herranz, Ruoco Varela or Medina" and their adversaries: "the so-called St. Gallen group” that included “Cardinals Danneels, Martini, Silvestrini or Murphy O’Connor” — a group Cardinal Danneels referred jokingly to as “a kind of mafia-club,” Archbishop Gänswein recalled. (...)

“The election was certainly the outcome of a battle,” Gänswein went on, adding that the “key” to the Conclave was Cardinal Ratzinger’s “dictatorship of relativism” homily that he gave on the first day of the election when he was Dean of the College of Cardinals.

Various reports have suggested that pressure was exerted on Benedict to step down. One of the latest came last year from a former confidant and confessor to the late Cardinal Carlo Martini who said Martini had told Benedict: "Try and reform the Curia, and if not, you leave.”

But in his speech, Gänswein insisted "it was fitting" for Benedict to resign because he "was aware that the necessary strength for such a very heavy office was lessening. He could do it [resign], because he had long thought through, from a theological point of view, the possibility of a pope emeritus in the future. So he did it.”

Drawing on the Latin words “munus petrinum” — “Petrine ministry” — Gänswein pointed out the word “munus” has many meanings such as “service, duty, guide or gift”. He said that “before and after his resignation” Benedict has viewed his task as “participation in such a ‘Petrine ministry’.

“He left the Papal Throne and yet, with the step he took on 11 February 2013, he has not abandoned this ministry,” Gänswein explained, something "quite impossible after his irrevocable acceptance of the office in April 2005.“

Instead, he said, "he has built a personal office with a collegial and synodal dimension, almost a communal ministry, as if he had wanted to reiterate once again the invitation contained in the motto that the then-Joseph Ratzinger had as Archbishop of Munich and Freising and naturally maintained as Bishop of Rome: "cooperatores veritatis", which means ‘co-workers of the truth’.”

Archbishop Gänswein point out that the motto is not in the singular but in the plural, and taken from the Third Letter of John, in which it is written in verse 8: "We must welcome these people to become co-workers for the truth".

He therefore stressed that since Francis’ election, there are not “two popes, but de facto an expanded ministry — with an active member and a contemplative member.” He added that this is why Benedict XVI “has not given up his name”, unlike Pope Celestine V who reverted to his name Pietro da Marrone, “nor the white cassock.”

“Therefore he has also not retired to a monastery in isolation but stays within the Vatican — as if he had taken only one step to the side to make room for his successor and a new stage in the history of the papacy.” With that step, he said, he has enriched the papacy with “his prayer and his compassion placed in the Vatican Gardens.”

Archbishop Gänswein repeated that Benedict’s resignation was “quite different” to that of Pope Celestine V.

“So it is not surprising,” he said, “that some have seen it as revolutionary, or otherwise as entirely consistent with the gospel,  while still others see in this way a secularized papacy as never before, and thus more collegial and functional, or even simply more humane and less sacred. And still others are of the opinion that Benedict XVI, with this step, has almost — speaking in theological and historical-critical terms — demythologized the papacy.”