Would you tell us something about Michael Davies?
The Angelus, ten years ago, published interesting articles on the new Chesterton or Belloc of the modern age, Michael Davies. Would you consider writing something more about this interesting Knight of Tradition?
We might certainly think of putting an article together within the next months to acknowledge this great man. There is little doubt that Michael Davies was a wonderful advocate of tradition in his own capacity. British by birth and a teacher by profession, he was an articulate scholar and a man of great sincerity for the faith he had converted to after he left the Baptist Church. Witnesses to this are the various books which the Angelus Press published and carried time and again: the triple Apologia Pro Marcel Lefebvre (he died while working on the fourth volume); his famous Liturgical Revolution trilogy including Cranmer’s Godly Order, Pope John’s Council, and Pope Paul’s New Mass. He wrote a classic work on the subject of religious freedom: The Second Vatican Council and Religious Liberty. All these books are available at angeluspress.org.
He is described in the ecclesiastical world as “internationally, one of the most prolific traditionalist apologists.” Despite some hesitations over the bold move Archbishop Lefebvre took in consecrating bishops to secure “the survival of Tradition,” he never retracted his support of the traditional movement at large to his dying breath. From 1992 to 2004, he was the President of the international Traditionalist Catholic organization Una Voce. He died on September 25, 2004, aged 68, following a battle with cancer. We may only wish that other powerful pens and mouths may arise to follow in his footsteps to defend the Faith and the Mass of all time.
Do we have two popes leading the Church?
The concept of pope emeritus, which former Pope Benedict XVI has gladly endorsed, is raising eyebrows or strange hopes among conservatives. What are we to think of the term emeritus? Are we back in a situation like the one that prevailed during the Western Schism, when there were two popes leading the Church?
It is not unusual to hear of friends speaking of the status of Benedict XVI. On the appearance of a new book examining the validity of Benedict’s resignation, someone raised forceful questions, which I offer to you because it puts in writing what many are thinking in their heart of hearts.
“Who is at the helm? Many liked how Francis began. It seemed like a return to the simplicity of the Gospel. However, many faithful are now disappointed. What was expected was a moral rigor against the ‘filth’ (also within ecclesiastical circles) denounced and fought by Ratzinger. But how should we interpret the signal given by the new pontificate to the world, that of laxity and surrender on moral principles? And the surrender against anti-Christian ideologies and forces, even persecutors? And the traumatic break with the tradition of the Church? A lot of supernatural events, from the apparitions at Fatima to the vision of Leo XIII and the prophecies of Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich on the age of the “two Popes,” seem to point to our times, announcing catastrophic events for the papacy, the Church, and the world. Are they inevitable or is there another way? And with which Pope?”
Yet, when all the rhetoric is over, the question boils down to whether it makes sense to speak of ‘Pope emeritus.’ On his website Chiesa Nuova, Sandro Magister clears up the question with a few authoritative voices.
Manuel Jesus Arroba, teaching Canon Law at the Lateran, explained: “Juridically, there is only one pope. A ‘Pope emeritus’ cannot exist.”
Another luminary of Canon Law, Gianfranco Ghirlanda, S.J., rector at the Gregorian, gave his verdict in March 2013 in the quasi official Civiltà Cattolica: “It is evident that the Pope who has given his demission is not Pope anymore and cannot take part in any governmental decision. One may ask which title will be preserved by Benedict XVI. We think that he should be given the title of bishop emeritus of Rome, as any other diocesan bishop who yielded his office.”
Yet Benedict XVI did not follow this road and wished to be called “Pope emeritus.” We recall here that Pius XII, when he predisposed a letter of dismissal to be released should the Germans arrive to arrest him, said to his most intimate collaborators: “When the Germans cross this line, they will not find the Pope, but Cardinal Pacelli.”
What are Roberto de Mattei’s thoughts on the “Pope Emeritus”?
As a Church historian, Roberto de Mattei has written much about the papacy and, in this issue, has much to say about Romanitas. What are his thoughts on the matter of the “Pope Emeritus”?
“In my judgment, the admirers of Benedict XVI need to repulse the temptation of accrediting this thesis which turns to their advantage. Among conservatives, in fact, some have already started to murmur that, if the crisis grows, the existence of two Popes would allow one to oppose Benedict XVI, the Pope emeritus, to Francis, the Pope in office. This is a position distinct from sedevacantism, but characterized by the same theological weakness.
“In time of crisis it is important to look at the institutions and the indestructible principles of the Church, and not at men, who are weak and mortal. The papacy is founded on a specific theology, which teaches that Peter received his divine mission immediately from Christ. All others in the Church, priests and bishops, receive their canonical mission from Peter or his successor ‘so as to have unity in the Apostolic college’ (St. Thomas Aq., Ad Gentes, IV, c. 7).
“As regards the sacrament of Order, the pope is no greater than any other bishop. He is their superior in that he has received his jurisdiction from Peter, who received it himself from Christ. This divine mission is transmitted to each papal successor, not by heredity, but through the legitimate election freely accepted, whether the candidate is a bishop or not. Papal primacy is not sacramental, but juridical. It consists in the full power of feeding, ruling, and governing the entire Church with supreme, ordinary, immediate jurisdiction, universal and independent of any earthly authority. Thus is pope he who enjoys the supreme power of jurisdiction, the plenitudo potestatis, because he governs the Church.
“Nowadays we tend to divinize and absolutize that which in the Church is human, such as ecclesiastical persons, and instead to humanize and relativize that which in the Church is divine: its faith, its sacraments, its Tradition. Serious consequences result from this error on psychological and spiritual levels.
“Pope Francis can be criticized, even severely, with all due respect, but he must be regarded as supreme pontiff until his death or until a possible loss of his pontificate. Benedict XVI has not given up a part of the papacy, but the whole papacy, and Pope Francis is not Pope part-time, but is entirely Pope. How he exercises his power is, of course, another matter. But even in this case, theology and the sensus fidei give us the tools to resolve all of the theological and canonical problems that may arise in the future.”