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On Obedience to the Apostolic See

Popes take (or are supposed to take) an oath to uphold true doctrine and tradition. If they fail to do so, they can be removed by, for example, a Council or Cardinals.* Julius II even laid a case for disobedience of a Pope elected through simony, but that may simply have been a political attack against the Borgia. Now, just because a Pope is doing things for which he could be removed does not mean that those who have the power to do so will act accordingly. Thus it is entirely possible to have a Pope or even a string of Popes who do not uphold the doctrine and traditions of the Church, as laid down so eloquently by many previous Popes, as well as t he Saints and Doctors. Even the Popes who wrote about obedience to the Holy Father could never have imagined the situation of the past few decades and even condemned those same errors themselves. So, there is also the possibility of a Papal Puppet, in which the Pope, no matter his true views, is being manipulated by others. So, if we have a situation like either of those I mentioned, we still have a Pope. Perhaps he is a defective one, but we still have one all the same. Thus the question become one of hierarchy of obedience. We are first to be obedient to the traditions and doctrine of the Faith, for the Popes, Saints, and Doctors have all consistently said that until the recent time. Even Leo XIII's encyclical mentioning that one cannot ignore the current Holy Father in hopes of a future one approving is not applicable, for he was speaking in the context of tradition and doctrine being maintained in the Petrine office and of obedience within that context. Any Holy Father is similarly called to this obedience. Thus we best remain united with the Apostolic See through obedience to the traditions and eternal doctrine of the Faith. That is union with 2000 years rather than union with a few decades. That is union with the Holy Fathers, the Saints, and the Doctors rather than union with an historic minority who stands against them. The Apostolic See is the See of Peter. It was to Peter whom the Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven were first given. Ultimately that is union with Christ through maintaining the Faith delivered to and through the Apostles consistently through the ages until some took it upon themselves to change it.


* There have been several instances of the removal or attempted removal of a Roman Pontiff.
1. The Council of Constance deposed all three Papal claimants at the time and elected Pope Martin V (1417-1431) and, with the support of the Emperor, gained his acceptance as the sole Pope. This was also approved by Gregory XII.
2. The Council of Basel deposed Eugenius IV.
3. The deposition of a Pope by a Council was supported by Pius II until his own removal began to be discussed.
4. There was also discussion of the removal of Paul VI.
5. Benedict IX was expelled by a Roman mob.
6. Saint Martin I was effectively deposed when the Roman clergy elected Saint Eugene I.

See also:

"The manifestly heretical pope ceases per se to be pope and head as he ceases per se to be a Christian and member of the Church, and therefore he can be judged and punished by the Church. This is the teaching of all the early Fathers." Saint Robert Bellarmine, Bishop, Cardinal, Confessor, and Doctor of the Church in De Romano Pontifice, Milan, 1857

"Cardinals can depose a Pope for heresy, but they are nevertheless not greater than the Pope. Summa Decretorum, Huguccio

For further reading, see:

"Decree of Deposition of Pope Eugene IV," 7 July 1439" in Colman J. Barry, Readings in Church History, (MD: Christian Classics, 1985), p.500.

Pope Pius II, "Execrables," 18 January 1460, in Barry, op. cit., p.502; J.N.D. Kelly, Oxford Dictionary of Popes, (1986), p.247.

Francis Oakley, Council Over Pope? (NY: Herder & Herder, 1969).



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