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How many popes? As many as you like, because, Nominalism!

Antonio Socci (“Sotch-ee”) is a greatly respected Italian Catholic journalist who published a book in 2014, “Non e Francesco,” (He’s not Francis”) talking about how he believes Bergoglio isn’t really the pope. I haven’t followed Socci’s writing but I’ve heard that he has since distanced himself from this position.

But here we are again, with Socci revisiting the question, and saying that there are lots of people asking more and more awkward questions about this insane situation. Why right now? Because Peter Seewald has published yet another interview-book with the man we used to call Pope Benedict XVI, and the prelate formerly known as Cardinal Ratzinger has, again, said some things that simply make no sense, either on their own or when compared to things we know.

This is from Socci’s blog, dated yesterday, Sept. 10. I’m going to do some highlighting and we can examine the points. [My own comments or clarifications will be like this. HJMW]

Is Benedict XVI the last pope? “Everything could ‘be’,” he says. [ think a better translation would be “anything’s possible,” HJMW]

But who is now the Pope and precisely how many there are? Confusion reigns and the new output of Benedict XVI – the book-interview “Breaking conversations” – instead of dissolving doubts multiplies them.

I start from the most curious detail.

Question Peter Seewald Benedict XVI: “You know the prophecy of Malachi, in the Middle Ages compiled a list of future popes, while also providing the end of the world, or at least the end of the Church. According to this list the papacy would end with this pontificate [Ratzinger’s] if he was actually the last to represent the figure of the pope as we know it so far? “.

Ratzinger the answer is surprising: “Anything’s possible“. Then even he adds: “Probably this prophecy was born in circles around [St.] Philip Neri” (that is, he calls it a “prophecy” and connects it to a great saint and mystic of the Church). He concludes with a joke to lighten, but that was his answer.


Thus does Benedict XVI believe that he was the last pope (by the end of the world or the end of the Church)? Probably not. So consider – at least according to the interviewer’s version – that he was the last to have exercised the papacy as we have known it for two thousand years? Maybe yes.

And even this second startles, because it is known that the papacy – a divine institution – the Church cannot be changed by human will.

Moreover what change? There is a break in the constant tradition of the Church?

Another of the book flash door in this direction. “He is seen as the last of the old world popes” Seewald asks, “or as the first of the new?”. [Benedict] answers: “I would say both.”

But what does it mean? What “old” and “new”, especially for someone like Benedict XVI, who has always fought the interpretation of the Council as a “rupture” of tradition and has always maintained the necessary continuity, without breaks, in Church history?

On page 31, Seewald says (and the text has been reviewed and endorsed by Benedict XVI) that Ratzinger has taken a “revolutionary act” that “changed the papacy like no other pope of modern times.”

This thesis – which evidently alludes to the institution of “emeritus pope” – has any link with the things he says Ratzinger in this book? Yes, on page 39.

THE YELLOW [“Il Giallo”… yeah, no idea either…]

Before summarizing what Pope Benedict said here, however, I must mention that the figure of “emeritus pope” has never existed in the history of the Church and the canonists have always claimed that it can not exist, since the “papacy” is not a sacrament, as it is the episcopal ordination, in fact, in two thousand years, all those who have renounced the papacy returned to their previous status [cardinals], while the bishops are bishops even when they no longer have the jurisdiction of a diocese.

Nevertheless, Benedict XVI, in the last days of his pontificate, going against everything that canonists had always claimed, he announced that he would become just “emeritus pope.”

He has not explained its theological [meaning], but in his last speech he said: “My decision is to give up the active exercise of the ministry, not revoke it.”

Benedict accompanied these words with the decision to stay in the Vatican, to continue to get dressed in the cassock and white skull cap, to keep the papal coat of arms with the keys of Peter and the title of “His Holiness Benedict XVI”.

It was enough to [prompt people to] ask what was happening and whether he had really resigned from the papacy. Which I did in these columns, because in the meantime the canonist Stephen Violi had studied the “Final Declaration” of surrender and had come to these conclusions: “(Benedict XVI) renounces the ministry. Not from the Papacy, according to the wording of the rule of Boniface VIII; munus not according to the dictates of can. 332 § 2, but ‘the ministerium,’ or, as specify in its last hearing, active the ‘exercise of the ministry’. “

Following my articles, the Vatican correspondent Andrea Tornielli [Italy’s leading papal positivist and Francis-apologist] , very close to Pope Francis, in February 2014, went to ask why Benedict XVI was left emeritus pope and insisted that the answer was this: “The white robe and maintaining the name Benedict it is one thing simply in practice. At the time of the resignation there were no other clothes available.”

[This response was perhaps the strongest indication that a) everyone in the Vatican, including Benedict/Ratzinger, had lost his mind and b) nothing they say to us officially can ever again be taken as truthful or reliable in any way and/or c) they think they can say anything at all and it doesn’t matter at all whether it makes sense or is believable. Because reality simply doesn’t matter to them. HJMW]

The Vatican in question boldly trumpeted this scoop from the rooftops, however, made a serious observation; it revealed an elegant humorous joke (for there were black robes Vatican?) To evade a question of which Benedict XVI, who obviously at that time could not speak.

And in fact he speaks today, after three years, explaining the reasons for the choice that obviously have nothing to do with sartorial matters.


Therefore in the recently published book of Pope Ratzinger from the reflection over the bishops. When it came to deciding their resignations at 75 years [of age] established the concept of “bishop emeritus” because – they said – “I am ‘father’ and the rest forever.”

Benedict XVI noted that even when “a father ceases to be a father”, because the children are grown, “does not cease to be a father, but he leaves the concrete responsibilities. He continues to be a father in a deeper sense, more intimate.”

By analogy Pope Ratzinger makes the same reasoning about the Papacy: “If he resigned, he retains responsibility that he has taken in an inner sense, but not in function”.

This poetic reasoning, however, is explosive on the theological level because it means that he is Pope.

[Actually, logically it can also mean other things. It can mean that when he resigned he thought he was really resigning, and that he thinks that Jorge Bergoglio is now the pope, but that in some magic new Wonderland-way he is too. This seems to be what Georg Ganswein was saying he believes.

It can also mean that because his own thinking on the subject is so muddled and so bogged down with modernist, relativistic, nominalist gobbeldygook, that he doesn’t actually have the first notion of what he himself means. Or that words and concepts actually have to correspond to reality in order to have “meaning” at all. All of which, out here in Actual Reality, means that, because he intended to resign, and because he can’t actually make up reality as he goes along, he’s really just Cardinal Ratzinger once again and this whole “Pope Emeritus” thing is complete and utter tosh.

He does seem to have had the intention of resigning, and Canon Law allows for this if he was free. The fact that he goes around calling himself something that isn’t real, doesn’t and can never exist, doesn’t mean that he didn’t really resign. He intended to resign. He has said repeatedly that he was acting freely. Therefore, he’s not the pope any more. Whether he thinks he can invent a half-pope-thing to be, a magical “pope emeritus,” out of thin air because of the mighty power of his brain, is a separate question.

Whether a person who believes he can make up reality out of his own head can be described as mentally competent is yet another separate question. But since nearly everyone imagines this, it is a question that could be – and possibly ought to be – asked about nearly everyone you’ve ever met, talked to, bought something from or sat next to on a bus… which is why I spend a lot of my time at home, away from other people. … Back to Socci… HJMW]

To understand the theological framework behind the revolutionary Ratzinger page, we must read the resounding [“clamoroso”] text of the conference that his secretary, Msgr. Georg Gaenswein, held last May 21 at the Pontifical Gregorian University.


In that speech – “censored” by the media, but in the Curia was an atomic bomb – Don Georg said that “from 11 February 2013, the papal ministry is not the same as before. It is and remains the foundation of the Catholic Church; and yet it is a foundation that Benedict XVI has profoundly and lastingly transformed in his pontificate exceptional.

His was a “well thought of millenial historic step”, a “step that until now had never been there.”

Why Benedict XVI “has not abandoned the Office of Peter”, but “instead renewed it.”

[Which of course, supports my comments above. Neither Benedict nor any other pope has ever been granted by God the power to do this. It is impossible in the same way it is not possible for a mathematician to re-write mathematics or a physicist to decide gravity will work upwards. If Benedict really does think he had the power to substantially change the nature of the papacy, the nature of the Church – which has Christ as its author – then he is wrong. Or delusional. Or demented. Or posessed. Or lying. The one thing he can’t be is right. HJMW]

In fact, “he integrated the personnel department with a collegial and synodal dimension, almost a ministry in common” and “understands his task as participation in such a ‘Petrine’ ministry … there are not therefore two popes, but de facto a ministry expanded – an active member and a contemplative member. “

[The fact that everyone who read this knew immediately that it was complete nonsense – and that Ganswein and apparently Benedict/Ratzinger didn’t – tells us that these people are so immersed in the way of thinking the I have called the anti-rational principle, that they are incapable of using language in a way that describes objective, external reality. That, moreoever, they are so far gone that they have no idea they’ve become blithering loons.

I think this is Jorge Bergoglio’s mindset as well, which is why he thinks he makes sense when he’s blithering incomprehensibly, like a mental patient. It’s not that he’s crazy or stupid; it’s that this anti-rational principle – that has become the way Catholic academia is run, especially in Jesuit circles, makes you sound mentally incompetent to people who still think normally. HJMW]

Up to that address on May 21, Bergoglio – who must have heard these things from Benedict XVI (but without understanding them well) – explained the emeritus papacy on the same line: he said that what Benedict had done had been an “act of government”, but he had only waived the active exercise, and made the analogy with the bishops emeriti.

But after the speech of May Ganswein, the bergoglian court realized the scale of the problem and the alarm was triggered. So in June, at his return from Armenia, Bergoglio rejected the idea of a “shared” papal ministry.

CATFISH ON BENEDICT […?…Yeah, I got nothin…]

Then, in mid-August, to “Vatican Insider” (thermometer of the Curia) came out of an interview Tornielli an important canon lawyer and ecclesiastical Curia, where delegitimize in toto the figure of “emeritus pope” because “the uniqueness of the Petrine succession does not admit within it any further distinction or duplication of offices or merely nature designation ‘honorary’ or ‘nominalistic’ “. Also “it does not give any subdistinction between the munus and its exercise.”

But Benedict XVI, in the fullness of his powers, decided just to stay pope and give up the active exercise of the ministry. If his decision is unacceptable and nothing means anything, including his resignation?

Antonio Socci

From “Libero”, 10 September 2016


OK… let’s see if we can make some sense of this.

First, I don’t really believe it’s very useful for us at this point to exercise ourselves over whether a future pope or ecumenical council (the only people who do have the authority to say it) will some day either declare Jorge Bergoglio to have been an antipope or will simply anathematize him with all his works. This seems a no-brainer to me. Since Francis has said in Amoris Laetitia … well… all that he said there, his pontificate is going to have to be … let’s just say “reviewed” by the competent authorities. I want to make this perfectly clear: I am not that authority.

Now, logic and the simple observation of phenomena tell me that the whole thing, including the immensely strange resignation of Benedict XVI, is going to have to be very carefully studied. Logic, the Holy Catholic Faith and observable phenomena also tell me that some future pope or ecumenical council are going to have to either declare Bergoglio to have been either an antipope or a heretic whose ideas if followed will lead us into Hell. They are going to have to go over all his acts with a fine-toothed canonical and theological comb. I’m pretty much on board with what Steve said yesterday; all this isn’t my task.

For practical purposes, for deciding What To Do Right Now, the issue is moot. If Bergoglio is, in the eyes of God, an antipope it matters, of course. But we simply do not have the power to know this at this time. For this moment and for practical purposes the fact that the whole world and most of the Church thinks he’s the pope makes his acts de facto the acts of the pope, until the official word comes that they’re not. So, for the moment, and for the foreseeable future, we who have our doubts must respond to him and his actions in the same way everyone else does. We may get more information later, (or it might not be resolved for another century) but right now, our suspicions and doubts – mixed heavily with our loathing and disgust – can’t be our guide. We can only work with facts.

So, let’s deal with what we can deal with.

Socci writes that Benedict/Ratzinger, when asked whether he’s the “last pope” says, “anything’s possible.” I think this is a hint about what the problem is, because no. Not at all. Lots of things are not possible. One of the thing’s that isn’t possible is the “expansion” of the “petrine ministry” to include more than one person.

Socci goes on about how the papacy itself is radically different now because of what Benedict has done.

No. It isn’t.

This is backed up by an actual churchman who is not irrational, Cardinal Brandmuller, who says no. Sorry. There can’t be a pope emeritus.

881 The Lord made Simon alone, whom he named Peter, the “rock” of his Church. He gave him the keys of his Church and instituted him shepherd of the whole flock. “The office of binding and loosing which was given to Peter was also assigned to the college of apostles united to its head.” This pastoral office of Peter and the other apostles belongs to the Church’s very foundation and is continued by the bishops under the primacy of the Pope.

This is de fide. The pope is one man.

It’s not always the case that we can know for sure who the pope is. In other times, the question has been so confused that saints have contended over it. We have had antipopes since the 3rd century. There have been lots and lots of antipopes. In every case – EVERY CASE – it has only been decided for sure that this or that guy was in reality an antipope AFTER THE FACT. And by the COMPETENT AUTHORITY… (which, btw, isn’t bloggers).

But the main thing we can learn from this history is that Socci is quite right: in 2000 years, there has only ever been either one pope or no pope. Never two. A pope who resigns isn’t pope any more. Even if he is so mentally wacked out on Nominalism that he thinks he’s still a half-pope, or the “contemplative” part of an “expanded petrine ministry” or whatever else he comes up while smoking whatever it is he’s smoking. Reality is still what it is, and can’t be changed by the whim of any man.

the doctrine that universals or general ideas are mere names without any corresponding reality. Only particular objects exist, and properties, numbers, and sets are merely features of the way of considering the things that exist. Important in medieval scholastic thought, nominalism is associated particularly with William of Occam.


One of the useful things we can take away from all this is that we now know for sure exactly how much damage can be done by bad philosophy, by bad metaphysics. This set of ideas, that have been adopted by our leaders in the ecclesiastical and secular realms, can lead only to total chaos and collapse. This is the real reason it is inevitable that without a massive shift back to rational principles, our entire civilization is in serious trouble. Because chaos can’t be sustained. And out of chaos comes totalitarianism.

But to get back to Ratzinger and whether he is or isn’t … frankly, the imprecise way modern prelates use language tells me that we can’t really have any way of sussing out what they actually mean. If we have to rely on what a modern churchman “means” to determine what reality is, we’re sunk. We’ve gone so far down the rabbit hole that it’s impossible to tell what anyone in the hierarchy means by anything they say. If a prelate told me it was noon, I’d check my phone. It’s not even that nearly all of them have been demonstrated to be pathological liars (“politicians”) it’s that they themselves have become so steeped in the New Paradigm of anti-rationality that they don’t know what reality is. 

(Remember when Ratzinger/Benedict was always going on about the “dictatorship of relativism”? Yeah, so do I.)

The fact is, our civilization is crumbling around us because the anti-rational principle has become the foundation of all our civic discourse and activity. Professors and politicians, media people and business people, all the people who make up the pillars that hold our entire civilization up, believe that reality is just something we can make up ourselves.

Our societies are now founded on ideas that not only don’t make sense, but are the opposite, the antithesis of sense. We have people who believe (if that word can still be said to have meaning) that logical contradictions are just fine. The expression, “True for me,” is the basis of everything. Truth, reality, is no longer matter for observation and rational description; the New Paradigm tells us now that reality is a matter only and exclusively of personal preference. (Does the “only and exclusively” part of that sentence make your bullshittometer bury the needle? Did you spot a logical contradiction there? Congratulations, you’re still capable of rational thought.)

So, by this anti-rational metric, perhaps it makes sense to Ratzinger and his friend Georg that it’s possible to invent the idea of the “Pope Emeritus,” to snap their mental fingers and have it just pop magically into existence. They seem to actually think the pope can just make up this whole business of there being an “expanded Petrine ministry” that could have two people exercising it, while at the same time having it not mean that there were two popes. Maybe in their personal bubble-universe a thing and its negation: “There is one pope” and “There is not one, but two popes;” can both be “true.” But I think this “reality” is something that necessarily exists only in the minds of the people asserting it, and that these minds are substantially broken.

Out here in the real world, a thing and its negation can’t both be true.

So now we’ve got someone who used to be pope making things up out of thin air, things that have absolutely no theological precedent, make no sense, have nothing more to back them up than the say-so of the man who invented them. I think I remember reading somewhere that the charism of the papacy doesn’t mean the pope has the power to just make stuff up about reality out of his head.

Reality is still real. That, at least, we can hold on to.



21 thoughts on “How many popes? As many as you like, because, Nominalism!”

  1. Porfirio Molton says:

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  2. c matt says:

    Maybe the third pope is the strong admiration between Francis and Benedict, so strong that it proceeds from them in the form of a person known as “Mercy.”

  3. Mike says:

    The line that “the pope is the pope until the pope says he isn’t” is often proposed among several blogs, but there doesn’t seem to be any way around the Magisterium which says the contrary:

    “47. Likewise, the proposition which teaches that it is necessary, according to the
    natural and divine laws, for either excommunication or for suspension, that a personal
    examination should precede, and that, therefore, sentences called ‘ipso facto’ have no
    other force than that of a serious threat without any actual effect” – false, rash,
    pernicious, injurious to the power of the Church, erroneous.”
    Pope Pius VI, Auctorem fidei, Aug. 28, 1794

    “All apostates from the Christian faith and each and every heretic or schismatic: 1) Incur ipso facto excommunication”
    Canon 2314, 1917 Code of Canon Law

  4. Deacon Augustine says:

    Katherine to complete your analogy there would obviously have to be three Popes in one. As the third has not yet been manifested perhaps he or she is typologically equivalent to the Holy Ghost and we are just waiting for a new Pentecost for all to be revealed. This would explain why Frank keeps banging on about the God of surprises.

    OTOH maybe this whole universe is just a figment of my nominalist imagination and I am the third Pope who is going to sort it all out by excommunicating everybody who eats pasta.

  5. Katherine says:

    Maybe in their personal bubble-universe a thing and its negation: “There is one pope” and “There is not one, but two popes;” can both be “true.” But I think this “reality” is something that necessarily exists only in the minds of the people asserting it, and that these minds are substantially broken.

    Maybe “mystery” is the key to what they are thinking. Reading the above put me in mind of the mystery of the Blessed Trinity. Benedict is pope and Francis is pope, yet there are not two popes, but one.

  6. Wilma says:

    Not “CATFISH”; missile or projectile

  7. Wilma says:

    “IL GiALLO” = the detective story, the mystery

  8. Regular Italian Reader says:

    Hello, I would just like to offer an explanation for those two strange paragraph titles:

    “Il Giallo” – since 1929, the Italian publishing company Arnoldo Mondadori has been publishing mystery books sporting a typical yellow cover. The design has not changed much over the years (you can see examples from different seasons with a simple image search such as Therefore, in informal language, in journalism especially, “giallo” has become a synonym for “mystery”, “enigma”, a question that remains unexplained.

    “Siluro su Benedetto” – the right translation of “siluro” here is “torpedo”. Again, in journalistic jargon they sometimes use the verb “silurare” to mean that someone, or something like a project, or a political initiative, has been brought down with some kind of maneuver by an opposing force, like it was hit by an underwater missile. But “pesce siluro” or, briefly, “siluro”, is a kind of large freshwater fish too, hence the confusion.

  9. Robert Wolske says:

    @Janet Wilkie: Sorry for the off-topic, but ‘dark matter ‘doesn’t usually refer to ordinary matter that’s not illuminated. The term refers to a form of matter presently detectable only by its gravitational effects (it has mass) but that doesn’t interact with electromagnetic energy in any way (thus ‘dark’). Real or not, it’s a handy way to make your equations balance.

  10. claude says:

    My mother who was a nurse and had worked in geriatrics always said that the senility of oder patients was only due to the fact that it became more evident and apparent as they aged. In reality they had always been senile but nobody dared to notice or care because of their successful careers, money, looks, etc ….

  11. S. Armaticus says:

    So what you are saying is that BXVI didn’t go quitely.

    Excuse the self promotional aspect of the link, but here is something that you also need to consider, something that isn’t commented on regularly but mentioned by Archbishop Georg: State of Necessity.

    It’s the second half of the puzzle.

    PS There are also reports that Vatican personnel are accessing SSPX material. No doubt this material is liturature about the SSPX’s use of the State of Necessity mechanism.

  12. Janet Wilkie says:

    Response to Tradman: please read more astronomy. Dark matter is simply ordinary matter that is not bright – not illuminated by light. Dust, bits of rock and miscellaneous debris too far from stars to be lit. It is unreasonable to think that the only dust in the universe is located next to lights.

    Black holes, or rather the effects of them, have been observed. They do gobble up stars. Nasty things.

    Dark energy: I haven’t a clue. Will have to catch up on my own reading.

    I don’t argue with your point otherwise because I can’t. String theory is utterly beyond my comprehension. But it is the job of science to come up with hypotheses that, at least in principle, can be tested. Most hypotheses are wrong.

  13. Ademar says:


    Louie Verrecchio is of the opinion that Papa Ratzinger has been speaking contradictory
    things since his “resignation” because he is under duress,
    not unlike a person answering the phone with a burglar holding a gun to his head:
    he has to sound normal to the burglar but say things sufficiently nonsensical to alert
    the listener to something being seriously amiss.

    Whatever the reality of the situation is, it’s in a way more fun than a
    Sherlock Holmes story!…except it’s real, WITH ETERNAL CONSEQUENCES FOR MANY.

    Our Lady of Fatima, ora pro nobis!!

  14. Pingback: Antonio Socci and Hilary White on that “Resignation” | Biblical False Prophet
  15. Trackback: Antonio Socci and Hilary White on that “Resignation” | Biblical False Prophet
  16. Remnant Clergy says:

    If you truly believe that a “pope emeritus” goes against the faith (de fide), then you have your certain answer. Even a real pope cannot change de fide, right, so how much less a fake pope? Why are you so afraid of acknowledging the obvious?

  17. Rubyroad says:

    Benedict got rid of the gay lobby ( 3 or 5 or so ) and gave Francis the BIG BOOK telling how he did it.

  18. Tradman says:

    Coincidentally, physicists these days make up stuff all the time that doesn’t correspond to reality. Stuff like dark matter, dark energy and black holes. Curiously, these mathematical constructs cannot be observed, by definition. So it’s a game of, “trust me, I’m the expert.” Nominalism is everywhere you look now.

  19. Hilary White says:

    Actual LOL.

  20. Michael Dowd says:

    Excellent summary Hilary. Good work. What you are describing seems to be the official position of Vatican II where the concept of essence was broomed and St Thomas Aquinas along with it making it, much easier for the new theologians to “explain” their work. Appropriate phrase comes to mind: “Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad”

    For further reading I highly recommend the book ‘Iota Unum’ by Romano Amerio–A Study of Changes in the Catholic Church in the XXth Century.

  21. Jeff C. says:

    Listening to many of the Prelates in the Church today reminds me of “the boring prophet” in Monty Python’s Life of Brian! (I’d link to the video clip, but I don’t know how to do that.)

  22. James says:

    This from the very Pope who was supposed to be walking us back from the edge of the cliff of papal positivism. The mind boggles—Ratzinger’s at least.

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