Currently the Catholic Church has a Pope Emeritus (Benedict XVI). This is, to the best of my knowledge, the first time that such position has existed. There have been and still are plenty of bishop emeritus elsewhere, but this is the first time it happens in the diocese of Rome. Is he infallible?

This is more of an hypothetical question, as it seems unlikely Benedict XVI will ever attempt to speak about moral or faith issues ex cathedra. So far, he has rather kept a very low public profile. If he ever tries to, it will probably be with the consent (and perhaps sponsorship, if not directly under the name) of the Pope.

My guess is that he is not. In my view, the Chair of St. Peter is occupied by Pope Francis and not by Benedict XVI, so he has lost the infallible protection the Holy Spirit gives to the occupier of that Chair. But maybe I'm wrong. Any ideas?

  • Emeritus means "former" Pope... He is no longer the Pope. Feb 22, 2019 at 13:21

2 Answers 2


No, a retired pope is not infallible because that guarantee is not a personal quality; it is attached to the office that he no longer holds. This is true in terms of the pope’s extraordinary teaching authority, which Pope Pius XII used in his 1950 definition of Mary’s assumption into heaven. He acknowledged consulting the world’s bishops prior to that decision.

Benedict XVI remains a member of the college of bishops—though obviously a unique member. When that group collectively teaches something as essential to the Catholic faith (for example, the Nicene Creed, the Trinity, or the Incarnation), it teaches infallibly. The college of bishops has “supreme and full authority over the universal Church; but this power cannot be exercised without the agreement of the Roman Pontiff” (Vatican II’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, 22).

Infallibility is a guarantee that the Church cannot lead Catholics into definitive error on a matter essential for their salvation.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has chosen a hidden life of prayer as his new ministry within the Church. Less than 12 hours before he resigned on February 28, he publicly pledged to the College of Cardinals that he would accept and obey whomever they elect as his successor.

Theoretically, a retired pope could become a point of division within the Catholic Church; Benedict XVI has promised not to cooperate with any such attempt.

Taken from Ask a Franciscan.


I also think that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has lost supernatural assistance and related "infallibility" about his possible formal declarations concerning faith and moral as Pope when he abdicated this role.

This is on the basis that the infallibility has given by Holy Spirit to the Pope (other than to the apostolic collegium) when he officially speaks as Supreme Pastor of the Catholic Church about faith and moral themes in a formal declaration.

Since "Supreme Pastor", by the same definition of the word supreme, can be only one man at time, I think that Pope Emeritus has lost this role and consequently has lost its related particular assistance given by Holy Spirit.

But surely he has a lot of other particular assistance by Holy Spirit. :)

  • Thank you for fixings and sorry for my very bad english, as said from an other great Pope "se mi sbaglio mi corrigerete" ;) Feb 23, 2019 at 23:19

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