The term Benevacantist refers to those Catholics who, between the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI and his death (31 Dec 2022), claimed that Pope emeritus Benedict was still the Roman Pontiff. This claim implied (and often stated) that Pope Francis was a false Pope. A similar claim was that Benedict only resigned part of his office, and so the papacy was somehow split between Francis and Benedict. All such persons are guilty of the objectively grave sin of schism and likely also heresy.
The papacy can never be split between two Roman Pontiffs. The dogma of Vatican I, also taught by Vatican II and the ordinary universal Magisterium, is that each successor of Peter has the full authority given by Christ to Peter and his successors. The assertion that any Pope has only partial authority contradicts that dogma directly and openly, and is therefore heresy.
Now consider the claim that Benedict’s resignation was not valid, such that he would be still the valid Roman Pontiff, and Pope Francis would be a false Pope. This claim implicitly contradicts the dogmas that the Church is indefectible and apostolic. The body of Bishops has accepted Pope Francis as the true successor of Peter; they have also accepted the resignation of Pope emeritus Benedict. If the body of Bishops were to go astray by following a false successor of Peter, the Church would no longer be indefectible and apostolic. For the Apostolic nature of the Church is based on the Roman Pontiff as the successor of Peter and the body of Bishops as the successors of the other Apostles. Therefore, any Roman Pontiff accepted by the body of Bishops is the true Roman Pontiff and successor of Peter, as a dogmatic fact. The contrary position rejects, at least implicitly, the dogmas of the Church as indefectible and apostolic.
But now that Pope Benedict XVI has passed away, what will the Benevacantists say about Pope Francis? Their possible positions are few:
1. They could become sedevacantists, now claiming that the Church is without a Roman Pontiff. Such a position is schismatic and heretical, as explained above. But most Benevacantists have tried to distinguish themselves from sedevacantists, so they might not be comfortable with that position.
2. They could repent of their schismatic and heretical errors, accepting Pope Francis as the true Pope.
3. As for those who claimed that the papacy was divided between Francis and Benedict, they now are in the absurd position of seeming to claim that Pope Francis is only a partial Pope. I don’t think many persons, if any, would make such a claim.
On Judging Popes
The occasion of the passing of Pope Benedict XVI has led to a number of articles passing judgment, harshly and extensively, against Pope Francis as well as articles denigrating Benedict for alleged errors in his papacy. First, this is the sin of pride. The First See is judged by no one by God. Second, condemnatory judgment against the exercise of the Keys of Peter by any Roman Pontiff is schismatic.
No one but God has the authority to judge any Roman Pontiff. We ought not to judge one another, in the sense of judging persons; we can judge words and deeds, objectively, by comparison with the Gospel. But as concerns the Vicar of Christ, we cannot judge his person, nor can we judge his decisions on doctrine and discipline. See these teachings of Popes, Councils, Saints, Fathers, and Doctors.
Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Barnhardt says the Interregnum starts now:
I saw that. Good example of a Benevacantist now turned sedevacantist. I did delete the link to her site though. Ann Barnhardt has gone far astray from Catholicism. I can’t have a link from this site to hers, esp. with her very negative views of trans persons and Islam. Her malice toward Pope Francis is also very harmful.
Yes, the accusations against bento and francisco have already started, some sedevacantists in Brazil are already making videos entitled: “the hersies of benedict XVI”
Perhaps in 2023, at the synod of bishops, the Pope will teach something very controversial to conservatives and Francis will end up resigning.
This is a great article/post. Pope Francis has never been an antipope and a heretic like the antipope Vigilius. But it could at least be said we are in sort of similar situation but not precisely. There is the truth of the universal acceptance by the body of bishops and the faithful as sign of valid Roman Pontiff which Pope Francis has always had. So another argument now against the Benevacantists is to give the historical example of Pope Vigilius as first antipope then there was death of real pope then Vigilius had the universal acceptance as the Roman Pontiff so was valid Roman Pontiff. Pope Francis continues to have the universal acceptance so if hypothetically he was an antipope before death of Benedict XVI then he is clearly not now even according to their line of thinking unless they totally reject this truth of universal acceptance which is of Sacred Tradition as much as all of the other things of Sacred Tradition.
Thank you for this article. I thought of Fr. Jeremy Leatherby (Sacramento, CA) after BXVI’s death (may he rest in peace). Wonder what he thinks now.
Leatherby denied the legitimacy of Pope Francis’ pontificate, and was excommunicated. He was also laicized.