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Canon 332 §2 & Substantial Error: Mazza vs. Feser & The Catholic Monitor would love to see a Dr. Feser vs. Dr. Mazza Debate on Camera

The Catholic Monitor would love for Dr. Edward Feser to have a debate on camera or in his blog with Dr. Edmund Mazza. In the hope of this event we thought it might be fun to look at Dr. Feser's Francis is definitely the pope argument referring to Canon 332 §2 and "the influence of an erroneous theological theory about the papacy" which appears to be his attempt to debate Dr. Mazza from afar:

It is also a non-starter even apart from all that, because there can be no reasonable doubt that Benedict validly resigned.  Canon 332 §2 of the Code of Canon Law tells us:

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.

Now, Benedict publicly and freely resigned his office, and has publicly reaffirmed that his decision was taken freely, in answer to those who have speculated otherwise.  He has also explicitly acknowledged that there is only one pope and that it is Francis.  His resignation thus clearly meets the criteria for validity set out by canon law.  End of story.

Some have suggested that the resignation cannot have been made freely because, they say, it was done under the influence of an erroneous theory of the papacy, namely the one described by Gänswein.  But this is a non sequitur, as any Catholic should know who is familiar with the conditions for a sin to be mortal – grave matter, full knowledge, and deliberate consent.  My point isn’t that Benedict’s resignation was sinful, but rather that these conditions illustrate the general point that the Church distinguishes acting with full knowledge and acting with deliberate consent or freely.  And canon law makes only the latter, and not the former, a condition for the validity of a papal resignation.  Hence, even if Benedict’s resignation was made under the influence of an erroneous theological theory about the papacy, that would be irrelevant to its having been made freely and thus validly. []

Now, here is Dr. Mazza's take on Canon 332 §2 and "the influence of an erroneous theological theory about the papacy" or substantial error:

He had an erroneous understanding. You know, thanks to the Nouvelle theologie… Like... Charlie Brown. If I was Linus I could say to Pope Benedict, as respectfully as possible, “Joseph Ratzinger you’re the only person in the world who could take an easy thing like resigning and turning it into a problem.”

I don’t think he [Pope Benedict XVI] is guilty of heresy per se. As a matter of fact, what my research has uncovered is that there’s a slight possibility that he might be right, because the church has actually never come down and defined the mechanics, of how you are made a bishop in the church. There’s an outside possibility that he could be right, in which case his renunciation was valid. I could send that to you to maybe put in the show notes. But the fact of the matter is he could be in just error. You know just genuine sincere error; if that’s not the way the mechanics of the church, if that’s not a correct ecclesiology.

As I understand it, he kind of sees becoming pope as almost like... a second Episcopal consecration... he told Seewald, “If you think that you can just step down from the office, because of old age, that’s a functional misunderstanding.

That’s the functional misunderstanding. The munus enters into your very being. In fact, he has repeatedly said in interviews like the 2020 Seewald book, the latest Sewald interview with him, he insists that as Pope Emeritus, he has a spiritual ontological link to the diocese of Rome that can never be separated and done away with. But again, so he can be off about something without actually being a heretic. So I just want to be clear, I’m not casting aspersions, but that being said, he comes very close.

For example, in his again, Principles of Catholic Theology, he talks about how groundbreaking it was when Pope Paul VI met with the patriarch of Constantinople.

Listen to what Ratzinger has to say, “When Athenagorus embraced Paul VI, he used a formula from St. Ignatius of Antioch. When St. Ignatius of Antioch wrote to the bishop of Rome, in the early 2nd century, he talked about that See that presides in charity, Right? That presides in love. The word, I’ll just quote from Ratzinger. “It would be worth our while to consider whether this archaic confession of Ignatius, which has nothing to do with the primacy of jurisdiction, but confesses a primacy of honor and agape [charity].” 

[Agape] Charity... “Might not be recognized as a formula that adequately reflects the position Rome occupies in the church.”  I mean that’s going against Vatican I. Vatican I talked about the primacy of jurisdiction. And then he goes on to say. “Holy courage requires that prudence be combined with audacity. The kingdom of God suffers violence.”

Well, oddly enough, Ganswein in his characterization of what Benedict did on February 11th or February 28th, his last day on the job, he uses in his May, 2016 speech the same vocabulary to describe this expanded Petrine ministry. In fact, Ganswein analogizes what Benedict did to what God did with Mary’s Immaculate Conception.

Let me give you a quote from Ganswein. “It was fitting. God could do it, therefore he did it. In this case, so did Pope Benedict.” And then he goes on to say words and phrases like, “The papacy has been profoundly transformed. This was extraordinary courage, spectacular, unexpected, a new phase, a turning point, historic, never been a step like it, Unprecedented.” Just because the Pope resigned? No, there’s a lot more going on here than just a simple ordinary resignation from a position in the church.

That’s the thing. People again look at scholars like myself and say, What do you think your doing? Do you think that Benedict didn’t know how to resign? Do you think that he didn’t know what he was doing? He says it was free. He says just accept him at his word, but that’s the thing Patrick. We are accepting him at his word and his word is that there’s more to go on than meets the eye here. He’s been very open about it, like you say and substantial error means again, your will chose something, when your intellect was operating on error. And that means that your will was not free. So Canon 332.2, star date point 2 says, “In order for a papal resignation to be valid, its got to be free,” but according to the church’s moral theology, if you commit substantial error your will is not free. [ and]

Moreover, Mazza explains further why Pope Benedict XVI's resignation appears to be in "substantial error":

Then his stipulating that he’s only gonna resign to become Bishop Emeritus or Bishop of Rome Emeritus or Pope Emeritus, would mean what? If a man becomes Bishop of Rome, what does he automatically become? Vicar of Christ. So if a man becomes Bishop of Rome Emeritus, what does he automatically become? Vicar Emeritus of Christ. Does that logically follow? And if that’s true, then not only would Benedict be claiming, the way he does claim publicly in writing, that he still has an ontological connection to the Diocese of Rome that can never be severed as Bishop Emeritus, but he would also have to claim a spiritual share of Vicarship of Christ only as the Emeritus Vicar of Christ. 

But actually this is formal error because in the 17th century during the height of the Jansenist heresy, a pope came out and said there’s only one vicar of Christ and he doesn’t share power because the Jansenists were trying to say that Paul was just as much the leader of the church as Peter was because they were both in Rome. Long story short, the church is on record as saying that you cannot share Vicar of Christ, but I would argue from my research so far to claim to be Bishop of Rome Emeritus or Pope Emeritus is to simultaneously claim to be Vicar of Christ Emeritus, and that’s a complete fiction. That’s a unicorn. It doesn’t exist. Again that would be substantial error because I argue he only resigned because he thought he was still going to be papal, he was still going to share in the shadow of Peter, so to speak. []


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