Jesus did not seem to have any method to prevent a false apostle to become an apostle, as Judas has shown. (Not to imply that he could not have used one if it was the Father's will). Also, in Christianity under any denomination, there are 'weeds' that grow up with the 'wheat.' Leaders of all kinds of different groups have on occasion turned out to be wicked unbelievers. (Matth 13:24-30)

Is there some special test or method to try and filter out the candidates for the Pope to ensure he is not a Judas? Some secret means unknown to the human nature of Christ, or at least unused by Jesus in calling Judas? If he does turn out to be a wicked unbeliever, is their a way to fire him from the office and choose another?

  • 1
    Hugely related almost to the point of being a duplicate: christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/14341/… Mar 10, 2013 at 9:50
  • @AndrewLeach - not a duplicate at all as the Holy Spirit chose Judas. This should be quite evident in comparing the two questions.
    – Mike
    Mar 10, 2013 at 10:04
  • @AndrewLeach Definitely hugely related, but probably not a duplicate (since this presumably covers the process beyond the role of the Cardinals).
    – Alypius
    Mar 10, 2013 at 10:15

2 Answers 2


This is a bit like asking if the NFL has a procedure in place to prevent someone who secretly can't play football from playing as a quarterback. The answer is yes, but it's impossible to explain in full detail how this works. Here's a rough idea, though:

At the very least, the would-be pope would undergo the scrutiny of: his fellow priests, his own bishop, various parishioners, various fellow scholars, various bishops, those in the Holy See who check up on candidate bishops, priests over which he would gain authority, fellow bishops including cardinals, and the present pope. He would also spend a fair bit of his life being busy in the Church.

Then, at some unpredictable point in time, he would need to be considered not only "good enough", but the best candidate by 2/3 of the cardinals during a papal conclave. This is an event that, due to modern media coverage, can be followed by up to over a billion praying Catholics. And also non-Catholics.

The Holy Spirit surely plays no small role in all aspects of this process, a process which has been developed over a period of about 2000 years. Many of the stages are specifically aimed at attempting to ensure that the devil does not succeed in having a non-believer elected as pope.

This process was, of course, not used by Christ when he intentionally chose Judas as one of the twelve, knowing that Judas would betray him. (Judas should not to be confused with St Peter, the first pope.)

As for "firing" the pope, this is a separate question, but the short answer is: no.

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    + 1 for explaining the process in a nut-shell, I have to say though that it seems naive 'This is a bit like asking if the NFL has a procedure in place to prevent someone who secretly can't play football' - if this were true it should have been 'obvious' to all the disciples that Judas could not toss a ball. If the Devil can appear as an angel of light, why can't an unbeliever fool others into thinking he is a believer. Seems this is a belief that God would 'never allow it' like he did Judas, but there seems no biblical basis for this mystical belief as you have not appealed to scripture.
    – Mike
    Mar 10, 2013 at 10:54

Canon Law specifically forbids firing the pope, because to do so would first require an objection to be raised against an act he had committed.

Canon 1372: A person who appeals from an act of the Roman Pontiff to an Ecumenical Council or to the College of Bishops, is to be punished with a censure.

Canon 1373: A person who publicly incites his or her subjects to hatred or animosity against the Apostolic See or the Ordinary because of some act of ecclesiastical authority or ministry, or who provokes the subjects to disobedience against them, is to be punished by interdict or other just penalties.

Canon 1375: Those who hinder the freedom of the ministry or of an election or of the exercise of ecclesiastical power ... may be punished with a just penalty.

  • Curious - I have read all three Canons you posted here and I think I can understand the meaning of the last two, but can't figure out what the first one means? Can you translate it?
    – Mike
    Mar 10, 2013 at 10:55
  • @Mike It's a direct translation from Latin, and the word from is odd; I'd use about. A person will be punished if they complain to a meeting of bishops about an act of the pope. "Meeting of bishops" is simplistic, as an Ecumenical Council is all the bishops of the Church. Mar 10, 2013 at 12:24
  • Do you mean that not only can the Pope not be found to be an unbeliever, but if anyone objects to his behavior to some formal council, i.e. accuses him of being in error, then the person accusing the pope should be punished? Therefore if the pope was for example, arrested for manslaughter when accidentally killing another in a fit of rage, the police should be arrested in principle, if the police complained to an ecumenical council? Am I basically understanding this, or am I totally confused?
    – Mike
    Mar 10, 2013 at 12:33
  • I would apply Canon 1372 to an ecclesiastical act (for example, issuing a Bull), not a potentially criminal act. Mar 10, 2013 at 12:42
  • @Mike, you should look up the conciliar movement, which is what this canon is aimed at. There was/is a school of thought saying that an ecumenical council could (weak form) judge the pope in situations of schism or heresy, or (strong form) overrule him on any matter. The 15th century bull Execrabilis condemns any who appeal to a future council - ie, saying "we don't have to follow what the pope says, we'll wait for a council to decide".
    – James T
    Mar 10, 2013 at 13:18

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