If the words of a statement, however, must be changed to give it an orthodox sense, then it is objectively heretical and an offense to God. We take God's side in such a case, not the transgressor's - especially when he shows himself to fight against the Catholic Church.
In studying the writings of Benedict XV, I became increasingly alarmed at the multitude of un-Catholic things that the man said and taught, as well as the damnable disciplines he promulgated (the '1917 Code of Canon Law', which contains the heresy of baptism of desire and allowing children to attend non-Catholic schools), and no less troubling are the objectively heretical statements contained in his writings.
The first example coming to mind, again, is the first paragraph of Ad Beatissimi Apostolorum, in which he states that “the whole of mankind was freed from the slavery of sin”. The objective sense of his encyclical is an appeal for temporal peace, which in and of itself is praiseworthy, but with an opening such as this, his orthodoxy is immediately tenuous. Considering his renown as a diplomat, and thus his skill with words, and the manifestly heretical doctrine he taught concerning uniting with non-Catholics, it is entirely reasonable to assume the worst of this statement; that is to say, that he meant it to sound as it does, confusing and contradictory.
And then compare that with the following, that "and there is no one who is excluded from the benefit of this Redemption:"
This is objectively heretical. Many are excluded by their own actions from the benefit of the redemption.
Also among these teachings and disciplines are the concept that The Blessed Virgin Mary was in fact a redeemer along with Christ, which he stated explicitly in no uncertain terms in Inter Sodalicia. This is an untrue statement, and it directly contradicts the Council of Trent’s decree, wherein it is stated that Jesus Christ alone is our Redeemer.
Pope Pius IV, Council of Trent, Session 25, On Invocation, Veneration and Relics of Saints, and on Sacred Images, ex cathedra: “…God, through His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who alone is our Redeemer...”
Benedict XV, Inter Sodalicia, March 22, 1918: “As she suffered and almost died together with her suffering and dying Son, so she surrendered her mother's rights over her Son for the salvation of the human race. And to satisfy the justice of God she sacrificed her Son, as well as she could, so that it may justly be said that she together with Christ has redeemed the human race.”
So this statement is unlawful, as it is in direct opposition to the decree of Trent. The question is this: Can a pope publicly teach a heresy such as this, and remain the pope? Some people would argue that it is the duty of Christians to prove that the heresy was in fact formal, and that the person held to it obstinately or pertinaciously.
However, we find an interesting piece of evidence that contradicts this notion, in the very ‘Code of Canon Law’, which Benedict XV himself ‘promulgated’:
The ‘1917 Code of Canon Law’, Canon 2200 §2: “Positing an external violation of the law, dolus [evil will] in the external forum is presumed until the contrary is proven.”
So this ‘Law’, to which Benedict XV would have to hold himself accountable, actually teaches that a person who teaches a heresy publicly (an unlawful act) is to be presumed to be aware of the law, which they are violating, and thus are to be held as GUILTY until proven innocent.
This is in itself a sufficiently just ground upon which to assert that Benedict XV was in fact a heretic, when he uttered this teaching. By promoting this ‘Code’, Benedict needs no one else to hang him, he has hung himself.
Another teaching of Benedict XV, which is directly opposed to dogma, is that all the nations of the world, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, should unite.
Benedict XV, Pacem, Dei Munus Pulcherrimum, #17, 1920: “... all States, putting aside mutual suspicion, should unite in one league, or rather a sort of family of peoples ...”
Unjust causes of strife… mutual suspicion… indifferentism… peace is God
This writing of Benedict XV, teaches that nations should untie into a single league. He goes on later to call these people to conversion, however the damage has been done. Despite the appearance of having peace as his purpose, Benedict XV is paving the way for religious indifferentism, by exhorting the faithful to unite with heretics, schismatics and other non-Catholics. This is in fact prohibited by Scripture and Tradition:
2 Thessalonians 3:14-15: “And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed: Yet do not esteem him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.”
Some people get hung up on the second of these two verses, and use it in defense of Benedict XV, but they neglect the fact that we are exhorted to NOT keep company with such people. Of course we may pray for them, and we hope for peace with them, but we DO NOT unite with them, unless they convert to the one true Faith of the one true God.
2 Corinthians 6:15: "And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath the faithful with the unbeliever?"
Benedict XV also indicated his willingness to deny the common consensus of the Fathers of the Church concerning the doctrine that earth is fixed and immovable at the center of the universe.
Benedict XV, Praeclara Summorum (#4): “If the progress of science showed later that that conception of the world rested on no sure foundation, that the spheres imagined by our ancestors did not exist, that nature, the number and course of the planets and stars, are not indeed as they were then thought to be, still the fundamental principle remained that the universe, whatever be the order that sustains it in its parts, is the work of the creating and preserving sign of Omnipotent God, who moves and governs all, and whose glory risplende in una parte piu e meno altrove; and though this earth on which we live may not be the centre of the universe as at one time was thought, it was the scene of the original happiness of our first ancestors, witness of their unhappy fall, as too of the Redemption of mankind through the Passion and Death of Jesus Christ.’
And according to Robert Bellarmine, the doctrine of geocentrism is in fact de fide, to deny which is heresy:
Robert Bellarmine, Letter to Paolo Antonio Foscarini: “But to want to affirm that the sun really is fixed in the center of the heavens and only revolves around itself [turns upon its axis] without traveling from east to west, and that the earth is situated in the third sphere and revolves with great speed around the sun, is a very dangerous thing, not only by irritating all the philosophers and scholastic theologians, but also by injuring our holy faith and rendering the Holy Scriptures false…
“Second. I say that, as you know, the Council (of Trent) prohibits expounding the Scriptures contrary to the common agreement of the holy Fathers. And if Your Reverence would read not only the Fathers but also the commentaries of modern writers on Genesis, Psalms, Ecclesiastes, and Josue, you would find that all agree in explaining literally (ad litteram) that the sun is in the heavens and moves swiftly around the earth, and that the earth is far from the heavens and stands immobile in the center of the universe. Now consider whether the Church could encourage giving to Scripture a sense contrary to the holy Fathers and all the Latin and Greek commentators.”
“Nor may it be answered that this is not a matter of faith, for if it is not a matter of faith from the point of view of the subject matter, it is on the part of the ones who have spoken. It would be just as heretical to deny that Abraham had two sons and Jacob twelve, as it would be to deny the virgin birth of Christ, for both are declared by the Holy Ghost through the mouths of the prophets and apostles.”
This is in perfect agreement with what the Council of Trent and later also the Vatican Council laid out concerning the unlawfulness of interpreting of the Scriptures contrary to the unanimous teachings of the Fathers.
With this evidence we see strong support for a third violation of the law by Benedict XV in the external forum. Again, the ‘Canon Law’ ‘promulgated’ by Benedict XV states that evil will is to be presumed until the contrary is proven. While this ‘Canon Law’ is in itself invalid and therefore not binding, it provides a very strong case against him, for if anyone were to hold that Benedict XV were a legitimate pope, then this canon would have to be applied, and thus Benedict XV would lose office on account of his public heresies. He would have hung himself.
And indeed the canon cited represents a common sense approach, namely that when there is an objective offense against God, we side with God rather than the offender and view the offender as guilty until he proves this is not so.
Now that we have established that Benedict XV is to be viewed as publicly and objectively guilty of crimes against dogma (as, ironically Bellarmine himself is on another point - for teaching Baptism of desire, his "canonization" by Antipope Pius XI notwithstanding), it is clear that the man was a publicly heretical antipope. His teachings on uniting with non-Catholics has certainly led souls to hell, and it would be unjust to think that this teacher of heresy, who was renowned as a diplomat, was not aware of the contradictions in his own words, and the captious nature of them.
There are many other examples of the bad teachings Antipope Benedict XV, and the willful ambiguity of his words, such as in his teachings on peace and unity with non-Catholics, and his false teachings on redemption.
What Must You Do To Get to Heaven?