Let's go for an extreme case and consider, for example, that the Pope started behaving in absolute opposite ways to te catholic doctrine.

Even with him being the head of the catholic church. Could people of lower hierarchy declare him as such if he were to behave like that?


1 Answer 1


This is a very good question and relevant to current events. There is some debate on what would happen with a heretic pope. I think the majority opinion is that a pope who professes formal heresy ceases by that act to be pope automatically. There is both scriptural precedent and precedent in Church history for bishops and others in the church hierarchy rebuking the pope for wrong teaching. You might find this article on the dubia helpful, it touches on your question.

Usually, you wouldn't lose your office for misconduct as pope (though the pope can punish anyone else for misconduct), but you could definitely be rebuked. There's plenty of precedent for that. If Cardinal Burke is correct, and I believe he is, a Pope preaching formal heresy would immediately cease to be pope, however, and could and should be replaced by the college of cardinals once he has done so.

  • Canon1404 debunk your answer, and Cardinal Burke is automatically excommunicated by openly,repeatedly and continuously violating Canon751 and Canon752, thereby merited Canon1364 Commented Dec 17, 2021 at 20:59
  • Can 1401, to which 1404 is referring, does not mention heresy. It is speaking of spiritual matters (ie how one is living) and matters of ecclesial law. If the Pope preaches heresy, he's a heretic, plain and simple. I said in my answer that the Pope can't be punished by others for misconduct, which appears to be the essence of 1404. I've never once seen Cardinal Burke violate either canon 751 or 752, that's a tall claim. You have some evidence of this, I presume? Since he hasn't, to my knowledge, violated these canons, canon 1364 doesn't apply.
    – jaredad7
    Commented Dec 20, 2021 at 14:32
  • Here's the proof, the fish got caught on his mouth. wherepeteris.com/… Commented Dec 20, 2021 at 21:43
  • Pope Francis hasn't taught infallibly that Catholics cannot support the death penalty, nor that it is intrinsically evil, which is what his revision to the Catechism seems to imply, so I don't think Burke is being disobedient here. He definitely isn't espousing defined heresy. Good faith Catholics can disagree with the Pope about some things, including cardinals without breaking their vows. If/when Francis tries to define this teaching of his ex cathedra, we will be able to assess who is correct more accurately (btw that might make him a heretic and no longer pope ;)
    – jaredad7
    Commented Dec 20, 2021 at 21:58
  • Read Canon752, the likes of Cdl.Burke are subject to Donum Veritiatis which he is openly, repeatedly and continuously violating. Commented Dec 21, 2021 at 10:20

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