Do the laity have a right to request that the Pope resigns?


Cardinal Burke said “yes,” and while he was referring to Abp. Viganò’s request, he seemed to include lay people in his answer.

I’ve heard it said that, while people don’t have a right to judge a Pope in regards to Theology, when it comes to a Pope’s moral conduct, people are entitled to request a Pope’s resignation. Is all of what I typed so far correct? What does canon law say about lay people requesting a Pope’s resignation?

Also please try to keep the subject away from what’s happening in Vatican right now, and more on the subject of these questions specifically.

#2 This may help you in your quest.


when it comes to a Pope’s moral conduct, people are entitled to request a Pope’s resignation. Is all of what I typed so far correct?

As far as I understand it, yes. Canon 212, section 3, the laity can make their opinions known if they believe it to be for the good of the Church.

Can. 212 §1. Conscious of their own responsibility, the Christian faithful are bound to follow with Christian obedience those things which the sacred pastors, inasmuch as they represent Christ, declare as teachers of the faith or establish as rulers of the Church.

§2. The Christian faithful are free to make known to the pastors of the Church their needs, especially spiritual ones, and their desires.

§3. According to the knowledge, competence, and prestige which they possess, they have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful, without prejudice to the integrity of faith and morals, with reverence toward their pastors, and attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons.

So, if people have the opinion that the resignation of the pope would be for the best, they have the right to make that opinion known. Though of course, other members of the faithful can also speak up and disagree. So… here we are today.

Here’s the full section on the obligations and rights:


As far as the pope resigning, he can’t be forced out. He would have to resign freely on his own will.


Well, sure…they also have the right to request that The Pope gives them all a pony.


You can ask what you want, but the Pope answers only to God. If after prayerful discernment, the Pope feels he should stay, he will and vice versa.


I think in 11 out of 10 cases, the laity who would be vocal in making such a request probably wouldn’t have sufficient reliable information to go by but would do so based on emotion, which is almost always the poorest driver of decision making available.


St Catherine of Siena had a lively correspondence with a pope or two, in which she asked him to return to Rome from Avignon.

This was not a request for a resignation, but it was a demand for changed behavior and fidelity to the Church. You can ask for those things, certainly.

And you can ask for ponies too if you want.


It is a very unusual case for any pope to resign for any reason. Before Benedict XVI, it was centuries since the last papal resignation.

On the other hand, before John Paul II, it was almost 500 years since the last non-Italian pope, and we haven’t had a Italian since.

Maybe papal resignations are now the new normal.


I don’t think one instance makes a new normal.


Of course once the Holy Father has resigned or passed on, a subsequent Pope or ecumenical council can judge his legacy… but yes, while reigning, no one can judge the Pope.


In theory, people have a right to request most anything. People have made requests from Popes tons of times throughout the centuries.

But the Bishop of Rome is the Bishop of Rome. He doesn’t have his ecclesial authority because of his own merits, and none of them ever have. He has it through Christ. If the Pope answered to mob rule, the CC would have ceased existing a long time ago.


Fair enough, but if Pope Francis resigns, maybe it will be?

Different popes have faced different trials over the years. John Paul II was quite ill for a number of year, ditto for Pius XI who was struggling, John XXIII was ill with cancer.

But the option of resignation was’ never one seriously considered until Benedict XVI did it.


2 out of how many? Nope, still not normal.


I’m Not sure we may request his resignation, but I’m sure we can reject his erros and defend the infallible Magisterium whenever needed without creating scandal


We (the laity) have the right to request his resignation; what we don’t have is a right to the expectation that he will pay any attention at all to our request.



Yes, the laity can request the Pope to resign, but the Pope doesn’t have to listen to the requests.


What do you use as arguments to defend your position?




Well, sure…they also have the right to request that The Pope gives them all a pony.

Best answer I’ve read here in ages :rofl:


Which is precisely why he won’t resign. If Popes start resigning every time a group of Catholics starts complaining loudly, it would seriously destabilize the Church.


Haven’t we had the question posed by the title of this thread on another thread recently ?

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