Rise of the Benevacantists: Who Is Pope? (Ryan Grant of 1Peter5). The papacy of Pope Francis has set many new bars for the Church. Many of us, who are faithful Catholics, have been shocked and dismayed as he appointed heterodox clergy and prelates; promulgated highly ambiguous documents that appear to challenge formal teaching; and terrified us with unguarded language of the latest airplane presser like a lightning bolt from the hand of Zeus, poised to strike at any time. “Who am I to judge” and the reluctance to handle the problems stemming from homosexuality in the clergy have caused many faithful even more dismay. It is little wonder that some people wish it would all go away. In recent years, some people have decided they will do just that. How? By putting it in a hat and pulling out a rabbit named Benedict. These individuals, believing that Pope Benedict did not properly abdicate the papal throne (for one reason or another, all of them wrong, as we shall see), argue that he and not Pope Francis is the true pope. Therefore, all the insanity goes away, problem solved, huzzah! Some have coined a term for them: “Benevacantists.” I will use this term as an easy reference for these individuals who hold for a certain fact that Benedict is the pope, while Francis is not. The great problem with the Benevacantists is that they have invented the principles and then imposed them upon the Church as if binding on even the pope himself. They then declare that Pope Francis is not the pope and that Benedict is. They describe his resignation as the “attempted abdication” or “attempted resignation” in a definitive sense, usually on the basis of various theories of events or on some perceived turn of the Latin of the resignation, with no hard facts. What is particularly galling is that, although this is an area that the angels fear to tread, you have people with no fundamental competence in Latin or theology proceeding to tell us what the Latin of the resignation really means, or what these nonexistent laws of resignations are. Apart from the personalities of some of those involved in perpetuating this thesis, which one priest has rightly called insanity, we can boil down the propositions to the following, which are held separately or together, depending upon whom you talk to: – The Latin switches terminology to prove that Benedict resigned only one part of the papacy and not another, making the whole thing invalid. – The Latin of Benedict’s resignation is grammatically incorrect. – Pope Benedict was under grave duress, therefore his resignation was not free. – The “St. Gallen Mafia,” as revealed by Cardinal Danneels, canvassed for votes and arranged things to elect then-cardinal Bergoglio, so the whole election of Francis is invalid. What does the resignation really say? The first place on which to focus is the question of the resignation. I have never read any translation of it, only the original Latin. As always, care really must be taken regarding the propriety of language and syntax when approaching ecclesiastical documents, and even more so when one is attempting to argue from a document a matter of grave consequence to the whole Church. One of the most notable proponents of Benevacantism attempted, in one blog post, to show that the use of the subjunctive for vacare – namely, vacet – by Pope Benedict to indicate that the See of Peter will be made vacant was a potential subjunctive that meant “may become vacant” but not that it will – so he couldn’t have resigned! But this is utterly erroneous, because the clause in which it appears, coming at the end of the second paragraph, reads (my emphasis), “declaro me … renuntiare ita ut a die 28 februarii MMXIII, hora 20, sedes Romae, sedes Sancti Petri vacet”. The clause employed here is what is called in grammar a result clause. This means that in English, it sounds indicative, indicating the result of the action, and signaled by the use of ita (so) and the particle ut. Thus, literally, it translates to “I declare that I renounce … what was entrusted to me by the Cardinals so much so that from the 28th of February 2013, at 8:00 P.M., the see of Rome, the see of St. Peter will be vacant.” When this error in the vacet argument was pointed out to the above commentator, she attempted to cover herself by saying a Latin professor somewhere told her that most students make that mistake. That is just the point: students make these errors, and we may well expect them to. In this case, the notion that the Latin subjunctive is always potential in meaning is one of those myths that afflicts the inexperienced. It is rather the opposite: the subjunctive is most often employed in a dependent clause connected to an indicative verb that has an indicative feeling or sense, not a potential one . That concept should be the backbone of understanding for anyone competent in Latin. The fact that the commentator in question made such a mistake demonstrates that she does not have the fundamental competence in Latin to be making arguments from the text, let alone the prudence to approach the question. If you are going to engage in a potentially (sic) schismatic act, you want to be darn sure you have your is dotted and your ts crossed, and not vice versa.