Dictatus papae - every Pope is a saint?

Below are the 27 statements which comprise the Dictatus pape, from Pope Gregory VII.


That the Roman church was founded by God alone.
That the Roman pontiff alone can with right be called universal.
That he alone can depose or reinstate bishops.
That, in a council his legate, even if a lower grade, is above all bishops, and can pass sentence of deposition against them.
That the pope may depose the absent.
That, among other things, we ought not to remain in the same house with those excommunicated by him.
That for him alone is it lawful, according to the needs of the time, to make new laws, to assemble together new congregations, to make an abbey of a canonry; and, on the other hand, to divide a rich bishopric and unite the poor ones.
That he alone may use the imperial insignia.
That of the pope alone all princes shall kiss the feet.
That his name alone shall be spoken in the churches.
That this is the only name in the world.
That it may be permitted to him to depose emperors.
That he may be permitted to transfer bishops if need be.
That he has power to ordain a clerk of any church he may wish.
That he who is ordained by him may preside over another church, but may not hold a subordinate position; and that such a one may not receive a higher grade from any bishop.
That no synod shall be called a general one without his order.
That no chapter and no book shall be considered canonical without his authority.
That a sentence passed by him may be retracted by no one; and that he himself, alone of all, may retract it.
That he himself may be judged by no one.
That no one shall dare to condemn one who appeals to the apostolic chair.
That to the latter should be referred the more important cases of every church.
That the Roman church has never erred; nor will it err to all eternity, the Scripture bearing witness.
That the Roman pontiff, if he have been canonically ordained, is undoubtedly made a saint by the merits of St. Peter; St. Ennodius, bishop of Pavia, bearing witness, and many holy fathers agreeing with him. As is contained in the decrees of St. Symmachus the pope.
That, by his command and consent, it may be lawful for subordinates to bring accusations.
That he may depose and reinstate bishops without assembling a synod.
That he who is not at peace with the Roman church shall not be considered catholic.
That he may absolve subjects from their fealty to wicked men.

While most of these are canonical in nature rather than of a faith/moral nature, what are we to think of the statement which reads “That the Roman pontiff, if he have been canonically ordained, is undoubtedly made a saint by the merits of St. Peter”? This is a statement on faith and morals, is it not? Is this trying to say that every Pope is a saint?

Go to post #5 and 10 in this thread:


The writing was written in the 11th century, so in Latin. I agree with that poster that it’s a remark of the Pope being called to holiness, not so much that he is automatically a “saint”, per se.

The context of what “saint” meant in that time period is essential. Paul calls people “saints” in the Epistles, but he is not therefore canonizing anyone as a “Saint”.

I don’t know that in the dark ages popes all lived lives that equalled sainthood by the church?

Just read a little info about Pope Alexander around that time I think that did not sound so good.

Because of this I just can’t come to agreement that the Pope is infallable. Someone that would have multipel mistresses would have a hard time being infallable in matters of doctrine and morrals.

Trying hard to learn here - but there are a few things that just don’t seem to jive with the Catholic church for me…yet.

But I see a lot of good fruit in the folks I have met here so far too!

Hi Markie Boy. I think you have a misunderstanding of papal infallibility. It does not imply that a pope couldn’t be capable of sin and moral failure. It only concerns the infallibility of doctrines he proclaims ex cathedra which are universal to all the faithful. An example would the the immaculate conception of Mary.

The pope isn’t made infallible when making doctrine or moral proclamations on the faithful ex cathedra because of his moral worth. It is because the Holy Spirit prevents him from being in error when he does so.

Here is the list of Popes. Notice that many of them are not canonized saints. Most of the early Popes, though not canonized, are saints because they were martyrs for the faith. Not being canonized doesn’t automatically mean that the Pope was bad. In my personal opinion, there were some really good Popes that, for whatever reason, weren’t canonized such as Pope Leo XIII.

I am not sure I can believe that someone would follow the Holy Spirit while making rules for others, and then do such contrary on his own. It’s like you would have to be two different people.

Tell me this isn’t at least a little hard to buy?

Look at Moses then look at Peter the Apostle (our first Pope). They were chosen by God to lead all of His people. But, were they always without sin? They weren’t without sin at least in the beginning. But, with God’s power, Moses had faith to part the Red Sea, and Peter had faith to walk on water.

“For consider your call, brethren; not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth; but God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong, God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.” - 1 Corinthians 1:26-29

Do you find the words of Paul or Peter hard to buy? Of Christ’s Apostles, one denied His resurrection [until he physically witnessed it], one denied Him 3 times, one was a murderer, one was a “tax-collector” [and all that this profession implied in those days], one outright betrayed Him and handed Him over to die. Do you think Christ was unwise to select such sinners? Do you see anywhere in Scripture where Christ says “…the Holy Spirit will guide you in all truth, except the ones who sin…you guys won’t be credible because you are sinners…”? Or does He simply say to them that the Spirit will guide them in ALL TRUTH, despite their imperfections?

Peter denied Christ 3 times, yet Christ STILL gave Peter the ministry of shepherding Christ’s Flock on earth in Jn 21.

“in accordance with the glorious gospel of the blessed God with which I [Paul] have been entrusted. I thank him who has given me strength for this, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful by appointing me to his service, though I formerly blasphemed and persecuted and insulted him; but I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. And I am the foremost of sinners; but I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience for an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.” - 1 Tim. 1:11-16

If you look at the historical popes who engaged in serious sins during their reigns, you’ll notice that they didn’t issue many ex cathedra statements. They were generally too busy acquiring power or entertaining mistresses to worry about dogma. :wink:

The proof that the Holy Spirit guides and protects the Church is that despite some very bad popes (and other leaders), there has never been an ex cathedra proclamation that contradicts any other Church teaching. Pretty amazing if you ask me.

Not if you consider the humanness of popes, kings, presidents, leaders who make laws that help their people but then mess up or contradict the laws in their personal lives. Most humans are “two different people” (or more) in that it is very difficult to live a congruent life. IT IS POSSIBLE, however, and many popes, saints, and great people have been able to live exemplary lives after wrestling with their sinful nature. I just don’t think it is uncommon to find good people whose lives are somehow split.

You guys all make too good of points - and not one of you put me down.

I am going to go get the log out of my own eye, and come back and think some more.

Thus far this is a very kind and helpful place, and people don’t get huffy when I ask challenging questions.

Thank you all!

I was going to ask why someone is spending time on a 1000 year old document from the time of the Holy Roman Emperors, but I couldn’t find a way to do it without being snarky or sarcastic and so bit my tongue. :o

I’m glad I didn’t post. :smiley:


Two things come to mind. Even at that time, not all popes were saints. Second, the word for “saint” is the same as for “holy” that is, set apart and consecrated. I would think that the context my call for the second meaning, not the first. It is impossible to tell in a translation into English.

pnewton pretty much nailed it.

To be sanctus meant to be holy or saintly, but the word has always also denoted the idea of being set apart or consecrated. Thus, “holy vessels” or “holy water” are called so because they are set apart from mundane use and reserved exclusively for sacred use - they are to be immune from vulgar usages. Given that Gregory VII had been proclaimed deposed by Emperor Henry IV and that the emperor subsequently sent some thugs to physically run Gregory out of Rome, this could be a statement on the sacrosanctity of the pope’s office. In other words, the emperor behaved towards the pope as he would any other troublesome secular ruler. Perhaps, keeping in mind this treatment by Henry and his predecessors, the document could be a reminder that the pope, by virtue of being the Successor of Peter, has immunity from such treatment - or as the ancient Romans would have understood it, his person is sacrosanct - untouchable, precisely because it is “set aside” for sacred use. If this interpretation if correct, the statement in article twenty-three is a protest against secular rulers acting as though they can mistreat the pope’s person and calumniate him publicly. Given the broader context of the Investiture Controversy, this would not be too much of a stretch, and it does preserve an appropriate interpretation of the word sanctus.

Just to add to what others have said, infallibility is a charism–charisms are gifts given to one or some for the good of the Church. As gifts, they are not based on merit.

The Pope’s infallibility is analogous to the Jewish high priest’s charism of prophecy. Check out John 11:49-52. There, the high priest is plotting to have Jesus arrested and killed, and yet he still is able to prophecy the truth according to his charism. Note how it says he spoke not of himself or not of his own accord.

See also Matt.16:13-17. There, Our Lord asks a question and everyone gets it wrong except St. Peter. Jesus notes how “flesh and blood” did not reveal it to him (meaning he didn’t get the answer right on his own merits" but that God gave him the answer. Peter then turned around and acted contrary God’s plan.

As you can see from both these examples, charisms are not determined by merit.

In another thread, a modern example is being discussed. In the 1960s, a commission of theologians appointed by the Pope determined that “the pill” could be considered a morally licit form of birth control, but the successor of St. Peter got it right.

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