Could Pope Francis announce a heresay "Ex-Cathedra"?

Non-Catholic here with a serious question. The more i research Pope Francis the more i see the man has an agenda to re-make the RCC as quickly as possible. Some are reporting that he will push through some new revisions on teachings based on the recommendations of the Synod of Youth. Possible examples could be Communion for divorced, Communion for same sex relationships, etc etc.

It is very easy for Catholics to say, well, if he teaches heresay it doesn’t matter as we will ignore it and/or the next Pope will right the wrongs.

So to put my question in context, i am a non-Catholic who at times ponders returning to Rome but Papal Infallibility really bothers me. So the specific question could be what would happen if Pope Francis announced a heresay ex-cathedra, but the question could also be a more broad - can any Pope announce a heresay ex-cathedra? If so, then it’s a very dangerous doctrine. If not, why not?

Thank you and God bless

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I don’t think so on something official and “from the Chair”. Don’t think the Holy Spirit would let that happen.

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The indefectibility of the Church and infalliblility of the Petrine See are doctrines which Catholics accept. No Catholic who accepts these doctrines would ever believe it possible for the Pope to embrace and teach heresy ex-Cathedra.

Asking a Catholic what they would do if the Pope announces heresy ex-Cathedra is a bit like asking a mathematician what if MIT announces 2+2=5 or what if the US CDC announces that all babies and children under 5 should smoke a pack of unfiltered cigarettes a day to be healthy.

It’s both nonsensical and impossible, at least in light of what we know to be true.


“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” F. Scott Fitzgerald

He says two, but i am only asking you to hold one. Simply saying its nonsensical and impossible, or that the Holy Spirit wouldn’t allow it as the first reply says, is not a sufficient answer in my eyes.

Especially considering the Catholic Church and it’s history of intellectual enquiry - Scholasticism, philosophy, Thomas Acquinas, etc. I hardly believe this is the one intellectual enquiry the Roman Catholic Church would refuse to answer.

Let me put a question to you.

Is it possible under our current laws of nature for 2 plus 2 to equal 5?

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By the very defintion, an ex-Cathedra statement could not be heresy. That means the Pope has spoken infallibly, protected from error.

But it is very, very rare for a Pope to issue a proclamation ex-Cathedra (the last time it was done being in 1950). And when they do, they usually try to seek wide agreement among the Catholic Bishops. Usually it is a very widely accepted Church doctrine being proclaimed a binding Dogma of the Catholic Church.


The obvious answer is no. To which you will respond something like “well it is the same with your question it couldn’t happen” and yet again i will tell you that answer would not satisfy me, so i suggest you try a different track if you want to make your point.

Then the answer to your question remains likewise, no matter how much you fight against it or don’t like it.

No. By definition he cannot.

There are certain steps that must be taken before something can be declared “ex cathedra”, including reviews of the proposed pronouncement by a number of Vatican committees, etc. First and foremost, it must be something related to Faith and Morals. The Pope does not have the authority to simply get up one morning and pronounce “Recognition of same-sex relationships”, etc. That’s why I don’t view his recent pronouncement saying the death penalty was by definition immoral as valid and binding. There’s no evidence that it was ever “vetted” and so on, and since it contradicts two millenia of Catholic teaching, it’s not something that would be cast aside easily.

Do some research on Pope Formosus. (Ignore the Wikipedia article – very thin on facts.) He reigned from 891 to 896. During that time he attempted to support the Eastern Empire (based in Constantinople) by supporting the Emperor’s teaching of a heresy that would logically mean that Jesus was a created being made divine. In the time after the death of Formosus the doctrine of the Homeostatic Union (Jesus is both True God AND True Man) was reinforced, and Formosus was found to have SUPPORTED the teaching, but NEVER went so far as to TEACH this heresy. This was the first step in finding that the Pope cannot teach heresy.

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All of these responses are assuming the Holy Spirit guide’s the Pope, which of course i do not necessarily believe. Hence the cries of “it couldn’t happen”, “it would violate the laws of nature”, etc.

But to someone like me who doesn’t believe a Pope can be infallible, then a bad Pope like Pope Francis could certainly make a heresay binding on the rest of the Church (i don’t think he would, i am just saying that this is theoretically possible).

Well, you sure convinced me. You are a Master Apologist. Well done!

This is a bad faith thread. Best just leave this one alone.

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No. By definition he cannot

Hardly a satisfying answer.

There are certain steps that must be taken before something can be declared “ex cathedra”, including reviews of the proposed pronouncement by a number of Vatican committees, etc.

It seems as if most of the Vatican is full of Francis’s Lavender Mafia, so passing this test is not out of the question.

How is this a bad faith thread? I have asked a genuine intellectual enquiry that would test papal infallibility?
I am an Orthodox Christian who genuinely considers returning to Rome (in fact, i am going to a Traditional Latin Mass tomorrow).

I have numerous issues with Rome to overcome, one being Papal Infallibility. And i have just finished reading Rod Dreher’s blog where he has asked a similar question of Catholics regarding Pope Francis. It does not seem to be unreasonable question.

I have responded tersely only with Spyridon who thinks saying “it violates the laws of nature” is a valid argument.

A pope could not pronounce a “hearsay ex-cathedra” statement, becuase he is protected from doing so.


Catholics believe in the Bible, where Jesus told Peter that he would hold the keys to the kingdom (i.e., earthly authority) and that the gates of Hell would not prevail against it. Many protestants teach that Jesus was talking about the Church in general and not Peter in particular, but the texts written in the original Aramaic (NOT Greek) support the Catholic view. This sets up a single authority to determine what is and is not Catholic doctrine, rather than (as Luther wanted) “every man a pope” (i.e., every person deciding for themselves what Scripture really teaches and says.)

The only way for this single source to succeed is to make sure that the Holy Spirit guides the teaching of matters of faith and morals. Without such a single source supported by G_D (through the Holy Spirit) we will have – AND HAVE SEEN AND EXPERIENCED – a drift in moral and catechesis standards. View the teachings of the Anglican Communion (Church of England) concerning homosexuality as an example.

As an aside, we see demonstrations of infallibility fairly often, as in every recognition of sainthood. People are not “raised” to the title of saints; they ARE saints, and sufficient evidence has been provided to support that they are indeed in heaven. Each of these decrees are infallible. See Miracles attributed to Pope Paul VI, Romero clear way for sainthood.

I can see this thread is just going to go around in circles…

Ok, for the last time… I have already said i am not Catholic, and do not believe the Holy Spirit is guiding the Pope, so is there any argument that can be made that is NOT a variation of “it’s impossible”, “it violates the laws of nature”, etc.

Or, is this the only argument there is?

This is an article of faith, meaning we may find numerous logical reasons to support it, but only through that “leap of faith”, that act of will, can one truly believe it. If you don’t believe that the Holy Spirit CONSISTENTLY guides the Pope in his role as teacher, then nothing about Catholicism can be believed. I could point to 2,000+ years of Catholic teaching that have remained consistent over the millenia (i.e., every element of Catholic faith can be traced back to the teachings of the Apostles and the Early Church Fathers) as evidence of the Holy Spirit’s guidance, but you could deny that as “proof”, since it requires faith to believe that this is the result of guidance by the Holy Spirit.

So, given that restriction, what WOULD you accept as “proof” of Papal Infallibility?

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Just becuase you do not believe in Papal infallibility doesn’t mean that doesn’t exist. It exists regardless of whether you believe it does or not.

There is no other argument. Papal infallibility would be impossible without the grace and guidance of the Holy Ghost.


I am not asking for proof of Papal Infallibility. I am asking what would happen if a bad Pope tried to enshrine a heresy as “infallible”, a not to unreasonable question considering his proclivities for change and desire to oust the conservatives in the Church.

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