“Sedevacantists” are people who say that the office of the papacy is currently vacant. In other words, they don’t think the current pope is really the pope. Most sedevacantists hold that all popes since Pius XII or John XXIII are actually antipopes.
Recently, a new variation of this spiritual disease has emerged: “Benevacantism.” Benevacantists believe that Pope Benedict XVI was the real pope until his death at the end of 2022. They say that his resignation in 2013 wasn’t legitimate; therefore, Pope Francis is not the real pope.
We love Pope Benedict and miss him dearly. But he really did resign in 2013. Here’s how we know.
The pope does not need to resign in any specific way.
The conditions required for a pope to resign are that he does it freely and makes it manifest. That’s what the law of the Church provides. He doesn’t even have to write a resignation letter.
In 2013 — when Pope Benedict broke the shocking news — he made it clear that he was going to resign in such a way that the See of Peter would be vacant. He also said that a conclave would be called to elect a new pope. He emphasized that he would no longer be pope after the resignation went into effect.
That’s pretty manifest! Also, there’s no solid evidence that the pope was forced to resign. Therefore, Pope Benedict’s actions meet the criteria of a legitimate resignation.
By giving up the ministry, the pope gave up the office.
A theory of some Benevacantists is that Pope Benedict didn’t give up the office of pope, but only the active ministry of teaching and governing. The problem with this argument is that jurisdiction makes a man a pope and jurisdiction involves teaching and governing.
By admitting that Pope Benedict gave up the ministry of teaching and governing, Benevacantists are really admitting that he gave up the papacy in full. That’s because if he gave up teaching and governing, he gave up jurisdiction. And if he gave up jurisdiction, he gave up the office of pope.
Pope Benedict continued to pray and suffer for the universal Church during the last years of his life. But this didn’t make him head of the Church.
We’re not required to be personal fans of any one pope. Some people have concerns about Pope Francis and think that Benedict was a better pope.
But Francis is the real pope. We are bound in conscience to accept him as such and obey him when he acts with the authority of his office.
After all, this is Christ’s Church, not ours.