Did he or didn’t he? Did Pope Benedict really think he could resign part of the papacy while retaining part? That there were two simultaneous ministries in the papacy, the active and the passive? Or was this merely a way of speaking colloquially about his post-abdication retirement plan?

Are there or aren’t there? Did Pope Benedict correctly note that the Novus Ordo and Traditional Mass are actually two forms of only one Roman Rite? Or was this a way of speaking colloquially about a plan to allow two rites to co-exist without causing upheaval in the Church?

Before his putative abdication Benedict asked us to buy another duality, based on nothing but his say so. This duality may give an insight into his thinking about the papacy.

N.B. I have expressed certain practical cynicism about the efficacy of the putative abdication. I have written on it so much before that I’ll just summarize here: I think it likely the abdication may not have been valid, but this is based on a large degree of speculation. As a result, because a) there are facts I do not and cannot know, and b) I do not have the authority to pronounce on this, I must accept the abdication as a fact. I must do so at least until either Benedict himself publicly claims the throne or until one of the few good Cardinals or Bishops states he thinks the abdication invalid. Then I can reassess. It is partly because Francis as pope is so little to my liking that it probably is true for that reason only. But, really, it is a matter of authority. I have none, and the last thing I want to do is to lead anyone astray. My spiritual director has given me the good advice to exercise necessary humility, and not waste time on this question until and unless developments warrant.

I respect those sincere Catholics who might hold differently. I speak for myself only. And lest you think I take my position out of fear, think again. I only require Benedict to claim it, and I am spoiling to back him. I make no money from this blog; and in fact very few even read it anymore. And I have no fear of the neo-Catholic book shills. But I hold to Unam Sanctam, and desire to submit to the Roman Pontiff as a necessary element of salvation.

This long disclaimer aside, I think the juridical structure of Summorum Pontificum is about as unsatisfying, intellectually, as is the bifurcation of office and ministry in the papal abdication. Trads rightly wlecomed SP, but was it merely because we desired the result? We had to swallow an unreality in order to get what Benedict correctly stated was our right— the Holy Mass. We swallowed the unreality that there were two “forms”of “one Roman Rite”.

A “banal, on-the-spot product”, a “fabrication”, is how Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger described the N.O. “Two forms” of the same Roman Rite, is how Pope Benedict XVI explained Summorum Pontificum.

These two concepts cannot be reconciled without undermining one or the other Missal. Because there was no “development” of the Roman Rite into the train wreck that is the Novus Ordo. And the Traditional Mass is in no way either banal, or an on-the-spot fabrication. These are two rites. Plain and simple. One is handed down over a span of nearly two millenia, almost palpably directed by the Holy Ghost. It safeguards and amplifies the faith. The other was made up in a hurry by a committee of modernists, freemasons and protestants. It weakens and minimizes the faith.

There is one pope at any one time. This is reality. Nobody, not a pope and not a council, can split the papacy into two, or three, or a million pieces. How does one attempt it? If, and I mean IF, Benedict attempted such a thing, look to Summorum Pontificum for the approach. It pits positivistic juridical structure versus objective reality, to distract from the differences between the two, and to dampen investigation into those differences.

Take the Mass. There is one Roman Rite, but it has been wrongly, practically (not validly) suppressed by modernist popes, prelates and priests. Benedict wished to perform an act of justice in acknowledging that the Mass had not been abrogated, but had little interest in the upheaval that such an acknowledgement could provoke. So to rock the boat as little as possible– and we see it was plenty as it was– and leave the N.O. intact, he simply decreed by legislation: there are two forms of one Roman Rite. I have decreed it!

Take the papacy. There is one pope, but evil men were anxious that Benedict, already predisposed to retirement, should get out of the way. Benedict wished (for reasons that are not yet clear, but will become clear in God’s time) to remain in the Vatican–dressed in white, wearing the papal ring, using the papal style– and to keep close to things. So, to provide the rationale for this unprecedented situation, he simply decreed that there are active and passive ministries of the See of Peter, and that he would man the passive one. He wrote his abdication thusly: I no longer have the strength to hold the office of the papacy, so I resign the ministry of the See of Peter. I have decreed it!

So what follows? Beats me.

If we are assuming a valid abdication, it provides a reason why Benedict is sticking around. What we don’t know is why. If we are assuming Benedict really thought the papacy could be partially abdicated and partially retained, it gives credibility to the substantial error/invalidity theory. But we don’t know that Benedict thought this, and he has not explicitly said so. I share Ann Barnhardt’s concern but not her certainty. No words of Ganswein, and no after-the-fact commentary by Benedict himself, provide the conclusive evidence a mere layman would need in order to pronounce on the subject.

What I hold to is mere objective reality: Whatever semantics one uses to pretend there are two forms of the one Roman Rite, there can only be one pope.

St. Gregory the Great, pray for us!