What if Pope Bergoglio never actually existed? The hypothesis of canonical nullity
by Aldo Maria Valli
A priest who is in a religious order has written to me, signing his name as “A Wild Boar Hunter in the Lord’s Vineyard.” He explains: “I am not signing my name because I want the attention to focus not on my identity but on the argument I have made. I hope you will forgive me.”
by a Wild Boar Hunter in the Lord’s Vineyard
Dear Mr. Valli,
I ask you to follow my thinking patiently in this attempt to understand a problem that has been poisoning our lives for years now.
- «Is this pope truly the pope?»
The more that time passes, the more confusion and opposition grows within the Catholic Church at all levels: lay people, priests, bishops and cardinals… And this, not only on individual doctrinal, moral, liturgical and disciplinary aspects… but also against the person of Jorge Mario Bergoglio himself, alias Francis.
Yes, because at the end of every private reasoning and every public discussion about the Church, the same question always resurfaces: “But is this pope really pope?” That is, does he occupy that throne legitimately or illegitimately? And the question is more pertinent than ever because, if there are a thousand reasons to consider him legitimate, there are at least a thousand more to consider him illegitimate.
Now, if after ten years of Bergoglio wearing the white robe, we are still discussing this issue more and more animatedly, perhaps this means only one thing: that, nowadays, none of us – simple lay people and priests, but also individuals bishops and cardinals – can clarify in an irrefutable and definitive way either that Bergoglio is an effective pope, or that Bergoglio is an abusive pope. Because, if the matter were peaceful and obvious, there would be no reason to have such doubts.
This paradoxical situation, however, does not prevent us – instead it actually forces us – to form our own personal idea that is as well-argued as possible, so as not to passively give into, nor harshly counter, the positions of those who do not think like us.
Let us therefore examine the two possible solutions to the great dilemma, specifying again that here we are not in the field of mathematical demonstrations, nor in that of definitive sentences, but in that of simple canonical hypotheses.
- Bergoglio could be a legitimate pope
This thesis is certainly more convenient on a practical level, but it is becoming less and less tenable on a logical level.
In fact, Bergoglio already de facto occupies the papal throne (and after the death of Benedict XVI, there is no longer anyone who contests it); and he is openly recognized as supreme pontiff by the main social, political and religious institutions of the world, and – perhaps – also by the majority of those who call themselves Catholic. He therefore cannot be displaced from the place he occupies without thereby producing an authentic ecclesial earthquake, with the subsequent danger of split and schism.
Here, however, some questions that are now unavoidable arise, which should be answered above all by those who, on the one hand, say they are convinced of the canonical validity of his election and yet, on the other, increasingly denounce the confused and ambiguous – if not downright heretical – character of his entire pontificate.
These are the questions:
- If Bergoglio is a pope willed or at least permitted by the Lord, why does one sometimes have the impression that he does not have even a minimum of the grace of state or spiritual anointing to positively carry out his mission?
- Why not only does he not confirm his brothers in the faith, but in an ever bigger and more devastating way embitters them and throws them into confusion and bewilderment, becoming himself the most thorny and divisive issue within the Church?
- Why does he not only waver on individual theoretical or practical points of the faith, but is now imposing with an increasingly despotic style a true anti-Catholic revolution, a sort of new October Revolution, cleverly disguised with the name of the Synodal Church and carried forward precisely by means of the October Synods?
- And therefore: what is the point of recognizing the substantial validity of Bergoglio’s election, if we are then forced to rebut – every day and with increasingly embittered tones – his continuous and growing ambiguities that lead to real heresies? In fact, if he is a legitimate pope, then he ought to be excused, protected and interpreted in the most benevolent way possible (as one would do with one’s parent who, due to age or illness, began to lose his sanity).
- And further: what sense does it make – as a collateral effect of the presumed legitimacy of Bergoglio’s election – to have to severely accuse poor Benedict XVI of being, in the final analysis, the true person responsible for everything that has happened since his resignation onwards, thus transforming Benedict from probable victim to executioner?
On a logical level, therefore, it does not seem to me that this first thesis is very linear, precisely in consideration of the destructive impulse that this pontificate is exercising towards the Catholic Church as a whole; a destructive charge that is comparable to the terrible earthquake that destroyed the basilica of San Benedetto in Norcia on October 30, 2016, leaving only a shaky façade standing.
- Bergoglio could be an illegitimate pope
This thesis is certainly more problematic and destabilizing on a practical level, but it seems much more enlightening and offers resolution on a logical level.
As has already been said, the starting point that forces us to develop this hypothesis is the complete absurdity of the situation that has been created in the Catholic Church in recent times, a situation that perhaps has no precedent in two thousand years of history: the one who is supposed to be the Vicar of Christ on earth, has become – as some would say – a true inimicus Ecclesiae, that is, one who binds everything that ought to be loosed, and looses everything that ought to be bound.
These therefore are the possible grounds of nullity – all very serious and which also cumulatively build upon each other – for which Jorge Mario Bergoglio, alias Francis, could one day be officially and definitively declared to be a pope who never existed:
a. The forced resignation of Pope Benedict XVI in February 2013 (cf. CIC, can. 188; 332, § 2), a situation which then led him to adopt, for almost ten years, those rather atypical behaviors and distinctions that we all know well (retaining the papal name, papal dress, papal residence, claiming to separate the active and contemplative exercise of the Petrine munus, etc.). How can we fail to mention here: the continuous bombardment against him by the mainstream mass media, due to the sexual scandals of the clergy almost everywhere in the world; the exclusion of the Vatican Bank from the SWIFT international banking circuit during the days immediately preceding his resignation,; that “murderous chatter” that the Pope Emeritus later spoke about in one of his interviews, referring to the German circles that opposed him the most; and the condition in which some prelates who are still alive find themselves, who personally experienced those events up close and who perhaps do not speak out for fear of disciplinary retaliation?
b. The application at the 2013 conclave of two invalidating canons of matrimonial canon law: malicious deception (cf. CIC, can. 1098) and the vice or defect of consent (CIC, can. 1101). This double hypothesis of nullity (formulated in an ingenious way some time ago by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò and applied to the aforementioned conclave by analogy) would mean that on that occasion Cardinal Bergoglio would have deliberately deceived at least part of his electors (= fraud), simulating in their eyes a correct pastoral purpose which instead he knowingly excluded by means of a positive act of will (= defect of consent), already having intended to implement a true and proper revolutionary plan to the detriment of the Catholic Church, as in fact has happened. Now, if these legal provisions are capable of making a canonical marriage null, why should they not also nullify the act with which Bergoglio accepted the pontifical election which took place, which – complete with a ring on his finger – bound him with a new spousal bond to the Church of Rome and to the entire universal Church? Can someone be the earthly Vicar of the Heavenly Bride who, from the very beginning, has intentions opposed to her good?
Then there is also be the explicit accusation of heresy – if not downright apostasy (cf. CIC, can. 751) – which emerges from the following details in particular: the cardinals’ dubia presented in both 2016 and 2023; the various doctrinal interventions that Cardinal Müller has carried out from 2017 onwards; as well as the programs linked to the Synod on Synodality of 2023-2024 (cf. the specific Instrumentum laboris of 2023). This heresy, when it affects third parties (cf. CIC, can. 1330), produces a latae sententiae excommunication, that is, automatic or immediate (cf. CIC, can. 1364, § 1);  and which – according to some theologians and canonists such as Cardinal Saint Robert Bellarmine, when it concerns a pope and is evident and well-known, would ipso facto also produce a sort of “self-deposition” of the pope himself.
If the hypothesis of notorious or manifest heresy – which as we know does not yet have a clear and official canonical procedure by which it can be proven – can be applied to one who is truly pope (i.e., valid), in an attempt to limit the damage and gradually push him to step aside without compromising the stability and unity of the Church, then such a hypothesis acquires a simply additional or demonstrative value in the case of a pope who, from the first moment of his election, is completely illegitimate (i.e., invalid).
In other words: in the case of Bergoglio, the progressive awareness of his multiple heresies could serve as a starting point or as a litmus test, with respect to the various grounds of nullity indicated above: a) the forced resignation of Benedict XVI; b) the malicious deception and defective consent of Bergoglio himself. 
- «And you, what do you think?»
If, after this explanation of the various possible hypotheses, someone were to ask me, “So, what do you think?” I would reply: “If I am forced to choose – and the more time passes, the more a choice becomes necessary – to me the choice that seems more logical and that offers resolution is the hypothesis of nullity.”
In fact, if Bergoglio is a legitimate Pope, later on down the road – when the Lord has taken the fate of his Church more directly back into His hands (because sooner or later He will surely intervene!) – there will have to be a future Catholic Pope who will begin to seek out and condemn every single ambiguity, inaccuracy or heresy that Bergoglio himself disseminated orally and in writing over the course of all these years. A truly prohibitive job!
If, however, it would be possible to demonstrate that Bergoglio is simply illegitimate, then his pontifical name and his Roman magisterium would disappear from the face of the earth in a fraction of a second. Everything would be so much easier and more effective!
Now, it is clear that an official and definitive clarification of this kind can only be achieved “when the dust has settled” – that is, when Bergoglio is no longer there and the helm of the Barque of St. Peter has returned to safer hands.
Yes, because as long as he is still in office, it is almost impossible for some cardinal to try to challenge him on the grounds of a suspected invalidity of his election: in addition to being very daring from a legal point of view, this would also be too dangerous for the unity itself of the Church. Better to wait for the final results of his revolutionary work – which has increasingly disastrous and unsuccessful results – so that the whole world can one day say: “Bergoglio dug his own grave with his own hands!”
Therefore, the possible grounds of nullity that we have tried to identify above, although already useful and enlightening on a theoretical level, are certainly do not have any immediate application on a practical level: perhaps we will talk about them again in five or ten years!
- «In the meantime, what should we do?»
When I try to explain these concepts to believers who are clamoring and shouting about the current situation, I often hear the same question: “And in the meantime, what should we do?”
Certainly the answer cannot be that of some journalists who, with their investigative obsessions, claim to decode and demonstrate everything and more, using every single clue, including – if it were possible – the color of the underwear of His Holiness Benedict XVI, who was born Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger! Nor can it be that of some clerics who, with their narcissistic pathologies, claim to personally replace both the renouncing and the usurping pope!
The solution instead should be the following: a) remain firmly in the Catholic Church, through effective fidelity to what she has always taught; b) “be content” with any thoughtful and argued initiatives taken by authoritative cardinals and bishops;  c) assume, in the secrecy of one’s conscience, an increasingly clear and decisive position against the insane magisterium of Bergoglio.
But perhaps – or even without saying “perhaps” – these three indications are still not enough: and here the discussion becomes much more difficult, not to say lacerating.
In fact, continuing along this line, other questions inevitably emerge: «Is it possible to limit ourselves to rejecting the erroneous teachings of Bergoglio’s magisterium, without going further? Or, if at a certain point the rope breaks, is it legitimate and necessary to distance oneself from his person as well, going so far – in the secret of one’s conscience – to declare him “self-deposed” as a heretic and excommunicated, or to judge him as “illegitimate” since he is completely inadequate for the role he holds?”
I reply: “But who am I to prevent subjective evaluations of this type, especially when they are the result of a long and painful discernment about the general situation of the Church and about the pertinacious behavior of those who lead it?”
It is clear, however, that such acts, precisely because they arise from one’s conscience, are simply of a private nature, and therefore they cannot be presented as absolute truths that are already demonstrated and official; nor can they be imposed with imperative tones on those who do not yet understand their meaning or necessity.
In this sense we can say that initiatives such as those of the cardinals’ dubia of 2016 and 2023, although they may appear to some as not very incisive, are actually very useful, especially in clerical and religious environments, because they contribute to the growth in an orderly way of a healthy critical sense towards Bergoglio’s magisterium, and – in the long run – perhaps also towards his papal election.
Because the point of the matter is precisely this: it is not a question here of opposing the 2013 coup with an instantaneous and decisive coup (because, even if many do not want to understand why, this is almost impossible!); but rather to work in a calm and reasoned manner, so that the awareness of what is happening in the Church grows among as many people as possible; and so that we may seriously question the credibility – and then the legitimacy – of the person who is primarily responsible.
In fact, without a broad and deep-rooted diffusion of these critical evaluations within the entire People of God, it will be more difficult for a future Catholic Pope – let’s say, a Pius XIII – to decide to arrange a specific canonical investigation, aimed at evaluating the hypothesis of a complete nullity of the election as Bishop of Rome of the man who will most likely go down in history as “the great apostate” (cf. CCC 675).
- In conclusion
By way of recap, we can say:
- The “Bergoglio problem” exists, and it is an increasingly evident and devastating problem for the entire Catholic Church.
- It not only requires us to respond blow by blow to the ambiguities and errors of his magisterium, but also allows us to formulate hypotheses of canonical nullity about his election and about his entire pontificate (of great interest are the hypotheses of fraud and defect of consent, in analogy to canons 1098 and 1101).
- This situation pushes many faithful to formulate a very severe judgment of conscience against him, to the point of withdrawing all trust in him, and even internally denying his validity or legitimacy as Supreme Pontiff.
- However, a judgment of this kind, even if understandable, has a totally private and subjective character; and therefore it cannot be considered as official and definitive, nor can it be imposed on others in an imperative way.
- The complete clarification of the “Bergoglio problem” is not the duty of the lower base of the Church, but rather of its highest summit; and this will be able to be achieved in the time and way that only Divine Providence is capable of deciding and implementing.
 However, it must not be forgotten that latae sententiae excommunication, in order to produce concrete effects in the “external forum,” must be declared, that is, it must be made explicit and communicated in writing to the person concerned by one of his hierarchical superiors. But in the case of a pope, who can consider themselves superior to him, so as to impose such a canonical punishment on him? Nobody.
 Similar considerations can also be made in reference to the latae sententiae excommunication that paragraph n. 81 of the Apostolic Constitution Universi Dominici Gregis (22 February 1996) provides for all those cardinal electors who, on the occasion of a conclave, make “any form of pact, agreement, promise, or other commitment of any kind” to elect a candidate or to boycott another (such as the one made by the “Saint Gallen mafia”??). Let’s say right away that this rule (to be read in the context of paragraphs 78-83) is still very generic; remains limited to the “internal forum” only; and does not produce the nullity or invalidity of the election however carried out with similar intrigues (cf. by analogy n. 78). It therefore does not appear to be decisive for addressing the Bergoglio problem: it is better to resort to the invalidating hypotheses indicated above.
 Otherwise, perhaps it is better to join some clique or sect among those already existing, or create one on your own, complete with an alternative “pope” and “cardinals”!
Fonte: Duc in altum