Can a Pope be Deposed?

I was reading a medieval history book recently, and it mentions that there were quite a few popes deposed during the medieval ages. The example I am thinking of off the top of my head here is the Council of Constance in the 15th century. So my question here is this: can a pope still be removed from office in some way, or are there things put in place so that this does not happen? Also, please note that this is just speculation, and I am not saying anything about the current pope.:shrug:

Wasn’t Constance the one where the Pope sent a delegate with the authority to resign on his behalf? This was to end the great western schism. No, the Pope can’t be deposed.

[quote=Wikipedia]With the support of King Sigismund, enthroned before the high altar of the cathedral of Constance, the Council of Constance recommended that all three popes abdicate, and that another be chosen. In part because of the constant presence of the King, other rulers demanded that they have a say in who would be pope.[3]
Gregory XII then sent representatives to Constance, whom he granted full powers to summon, open and preside over an Ecumenical Council; he also empowered them to present his resignation to the Papacy. This would pave the way for the end of the Western Schism.
The legates were received by King Sigismund and by the assembled Bishops, and the King yielded the presidency of the proceedings to the papal legates, Cardinal Dominici of Ragusa and Prince Charles of Malatesta. On 4 July 1415 the Bull of Gregory XII which appointed Malatesta and Cardinal Dominici of Ragusa as his proxies at the council was formally read before the assembled Bishops. The cardinal then read a decree of Gregory XII which convoked the council and authorized its succeeding acts. Thereupon, the Bishops voted to accept the summons. Prince Malatesta immediately informed the Council that he was empowered by a commission from Pope Gregory XII to resign the Papal Throne on the Pontiff’s behalf. He asked the Council whether they would prefer to receive the abdication at that point or at a later date. The Bishops voted to receive the Papal abdication immediately. Thereupon the commission by Gregory XII authorizing his proxy to resign the Papacy on his behalf was read and Malatesta, acting in the name of Gregory XII, pronounced the resignation of the papacy by Gregory XII and handed a written copy of the resignation to the assembly.
Former Pope Gregory XII was then created titular Cardinal Bishop of Porto and Santa Ruffina by the Council, with rank immediately below the Pope (which made him the highest-ranking person in the Church, since, due to his abdication, the See of Peter was vacant). Gregory XII’s cardinals were accepted as true cardinals by the Council, but the members of the council delayed electing a new pope for fear that a new pope would restrict further discussion of pressing issues in the Church.
By the time the anti-popes were all deposed and the new Pope, Martin V, was elected, two years had passed since Gregory XII’s abdication, and Gregory was already dead. The council took great care to protect the legitimacy of the succession, ratified all his acts and a new pontiff was chosen. The new pope, Martin V, elected November 1417, soon asserted the absolute authority of the papal office.


The real pope resigned it was an antipope who was deposed.

So do you have an example of a valid pope being lawfully deposed?

A validly elected Pope can not be deposed.

But what happens in the case that he is incapacitated and refuses or is unable to abdicate?

Similar question: In the U.S., when a chief executive of a government (U.S. President or state governor) is incapacitated (goes under general anesthesia, for example) his/her second-in-command assumes the office until he/she regains consciousness.

Is there a similar provision for the Papacy?

This has got to be captioned.

“Lord, give me the strength to sit through another dance recital.”


The Pope was chosen by God. If and when the Pope leaves the office it will be because of God’s will not human intervention.

No. The US President is not the Pope. The two positions are not remotely comparable. The President of the USA is merely somebody elected by other men.

The Pope is God’s representative on Earth and has been given the powers to bind and loose. The Pope is guided by the Holy Spirit.


But that doesn’t answer the question.

In other words, if Pope Francis were to suffer an injury and slip into a coma, the Church is without a leader.

Is a pope who is incapacitated and unable to fulfill his responsibilities considered to have left the office, even if he is still alive?

Over the past 2,000 years, the pope would have died if he suffered severe medical trauma. With medical advances over the past couple decades, doctors can keep people alive, though they may be incapacitated, far longer than they would have been able to before.

We trust in the Holy Spirit to guide us. The Holy Spirit has never, will never and can never let us down.

We are not a secular, earthly organisation. We trust in God, not management contingency plans to guide and protect us.

And the Pope is not actually the leader of the Church. Christ is the leader of the Church, the Pope is the Vicar of Christ, but the Church is led by Christ.

Yes, I know that. I thought, ‘maybe I should specify that I’m referring to the pope as the human who is delegated with leading the Church,’ but then I thought, ‘it’s understood that Christ is the leader of the Church so there’s no need to make qualifications in this case.’

I guess there’s no more discussion to be had with this.

I tend to think if someone like Alexander VI were around today, public pressure would mount until he resigned.


It is acknowledged that the Pope could be “completely impeded” from exercising his office (and this could be from an external agent such as terrorists kidnapping him or from physical incapacity) but there is no legal description as to how that “complete impediment” is to be verified and officially declared (cf. canon 335). Since the Pope is “always free” in the exercise of his supreme office (c. 331), it would seem that he alone is able to declare whether or not he is “completely impeded” but if he is completely impeded, then how is he able to make that declaration? It is a conundrum.

We have to trust that those associated with the Pope, aiding in his ministry, would honorably carry out their duties as they did while the Pope was able to act. They, then, would “run things” in the Pope’s stead. If the Pope was able to declare his complete impediment, I suspect he would rather resign than make that declaration and leave the governance of the Church in limbo.

Due to the medical advances you mention, I suspect we will see more regular papal resignations in the future.


The Pope is not chosen by God. While God chooses to allow Popes to be elected, as he chooses to allow all things to happen, it is up to the cardinals to follow God’s direction when it comes time to vote. The Cardinals could very well choose a man who is not as well fitted for the job as another, and perhaps even one that was not in God’s will. This is a big reason of why we pray for the election of a new Pope; we aren’t praying that God will make the right choice, but that the Cardinals will be sensitive to God’s decision and cooperate with his counsel.

As for whether or not the Pope can be deposed: No.

I’m curious to see how other will receive your comment.

Sorry, I didn’t answer the question in my previous post. No, he is not considered to have left the office. He retains it even if he is impeded from exercising it.


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit