How Absolute is Pope's Power?

I have been investigating the Catholic claims of papal authority, and while I am willing to admit that the office of “Head of the Church” was held by Peter and has been held by his successors, I am still very unsure of precisely how much power and authority this office holds. I have read many of the Early Church Fathers, Catholic apologists (like Scott Hahn, Steve Ray, and Brant Pitre), and numerous Eastern Orthodox apologists on the issue as well. The conclusion I have come to is that Peter’s successors definitely have a place of primacy, but what exactly that means and how much authority the Catholic Church claims about the Pope and the bishops in communion with him are entirely different matters.

Can those of you who are more educated than I PLEASE address the issue of HOW MUCH authority the Pope has as the “first among equals” and PRECISELY WHAT the OFFICIAL Catholic documents say on the matter?

How absolute is the Pope’s authority? Can he, completely on his own, choose to define and discipline on matters of “faith and morals”?

Ideally, I would like to be pointed to specific official documents, councils, etc.

Just a thought, Jinc - would it be more efficient (for your purposes) to start a thread discussing his teaching authority, and discuss his jurisdictional/disciplinary authority here (or vica versa)?

As far as jurisdiction is concerned, I was just reading a portion of this thread, which may be useful to you: You’ll notice that the first few posts on page two explain the meaning of the terms “immediate,” “ordinary,” and “proper” as used to describe the Pope’s (and other bishops’) authority.

Miles, I will check it out. Thanks for the suggestion as well. I will consider making the revision.

Just saw this today after your post. Perhaps you already saw it.

There is also the principle of Jesus’ identity with Peter and the office He gave him and the principle of the corporate covenant.

This I got from a friend of mine and I quote him here at length:

The corporate covenant.*This is the family covenant. In this covenant, God deals with his family as a whole. It is seen in Leviticus 16 where the high priest, who is covenant head and representative between the nation and God, offers YOM KIPPUR to forgive the sins of the covenant family (nation/corporate entity). This is the covenant which is mentioned also in Hebrews 7-10 as we see Jesus as the Great High Priest offering an eternal YOM KIPPUR for the sins of His people. Since His people is now the Church, this means that the Church can never fail to be in covenant, for no sin which the Church commits, either through misguided or wicked leaders, or evil people within, can fail to be paid for by the covenant renewal sacrifice of Christ’s eternal Blood. This Sacrifice of renewal is eternally present before the Father in heaven and continually renews the covenant between the Church and the Father. If Christ was not there in the heavenly tabernacle offering this, the Church would have long ago been cast away for Her spiritual and physical acts of adultery and another kingdom family would have been sought."

(emphasis mine)

That said, it appears by virtue of Christ that the People’s authority is absolute and his jurisdiction is in fact universal-i.e. Catholic.

I have not read this before…BUT I will say it was very interesting and quite good.

I just read a very lengthy an in-depth thread by Mardukm, a long-standing writer here on Catholic Answers Forums. In this thread, he addresses the differences between various views of the papacy within the Church, both historically and officially (today). His conclusions are interesting to say the least and, in my opinion, laid out brilliantly. It’s definitely worth the time if you are willing to trudge through some philosophical mud.

(emphasis mine) Roman Pontiff ever recognized this equalization of the sees or accepted that only a primacy of honour be accorded to the See of Rome.It should be noted too that this patriarchal structure typical of the East never developed in the West.

if the pope has absolute power he could undo even an infallible statement. Is that even possible? No. It would make nonsense out of infallibility.

popes can’t prevent other popes on issues of disciplines.

Re: Womens ordination for example

John Paul II addressed the issue in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis.

the Pope stated unequivocally, “I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.”

For purposes of discussion, I draw attention to the highlighted words
*]I declare
*]this judgement is to be difinitively held by all the Church faithful.
[/LIST]For anopther reference, here’s the definition of infallibility

o we teach and define as a divinely revealed dogma that
*]when the Roman pontiff speaks Ex Cathedra,
*]that is, when,

  1. in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians,

  2. in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority,

  3. he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole church,
    *]he possesses,
    *]by the divine assistance promised to him in blessed Peter,
    *]that infallibility which the divine Redeemer willed his church to enjoy in defining doctrine concerning faith or morals.
    *]Therefore, such definitions of the Roman pontiff are of themselves, and not by the consent of the church, irreformable.

*]Is that an infallible statement on womens ordinations by JPII? I would suggest it is, given the language he used.
*]Can it be changed? if it is deemed infallible, … then No
[/LIST]for further reading
[/FONT]The Pope


I am not sure you ever really addressed my concerns. You did bring up a good example though…You spoke of Women’s Ordination. Now, you say, quite clearly, that women cannot be ordained because the Pope said so. That is essentially your argument and has been for quite some time about papal authority. I think what others would say, however, is that the Pope’s authority only extends as far as the deposit of faith. In other words, he has the authority to say women cannot be priests because that is what the church’s magisterium, or teaching authority, has always taught. His power is arbitrary or absolute; if it were, he could, like a king, rule that virtually ANYTHING is one way or the other. He can’t, however, do this.

Further, I don’t believe the Pope’s primacy is merely one of honor. He occupies a very real office that Peter held. The issue is how much power that office has. You say it’s absolute, and I don’t think the Church as a whole has ever held that and I don’t believe that is an apostolic teaching.

Further, you would have the world separate the papal office from the rest of the bishops, insisting that the Pope’s power is absolute separate from the other bishops, but this is erroneous. It would be like saying Barack Obama’s power would still exist if the rest of the country left him and decided he wasn’t a valid president. You can’t be president of a country that doesn’t exist and you can’t be Pope of a church that doesn’t exist. So if a Pope is out on an island, forsaken by the rest of the world, including all validly ordained bishops, he is no longer the Pope. Why? Because his office essentially ceases to exist. The Pope is the Head of the Church like a CEO is head of a company. No company means no CEO and no church means no Pope. An office cannot exist without an organization. Thus, the Pope’s office, which was established by Jesus at the SAME TIME He established His Church, is indistinguishable from the organization it leads and REQUIRES the rest of the bishops to be a valid post. This doesn’t mean the bishops must all agree for the Pope’s words to be valid (bishops could all be in error). What does it mean, however, is that without the bishops, there is no Church, and without the Pope, you could also argue there is no Church, at least not a universal church. I would argue the Church exists anywhere that Christians exist and especially where bishops are present, but that’s an entirely different matter.

jinc1019 #1
PLEASE address the issue of HOW MUCH authority the Pope has as the “first among equals” and PRECISELY WHAT the OFFICIAL Catholic documents say on the matter?
How absolute is the Pope’s authority? Can he, completely on his own, choose to define and discipline on matters of “faith and morals”?
Ideally, I would like to be pointed to specific official documents, councils, etc.

How many more times do you need the same facts?

In the Logical Case for papal infallibility thread, you had the reality given to you by Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI) through steve b on the nonsense of “first among equals”:

steve b #163
'Card Ratzinger, talked about 1st among equals and the pentarchy, both ideas never accepted by a Roman Pontiff.

"3. In Christian literature, the expression begins to be used in the East when, from the fifth century, the idea of the Pentarchy gained ground, according to which there are five Patriarchs at the head of the Church, with the Church of Rome having the first place among these patriarchal sister Churches. In this connection, however, it needs to be noted that no Roman Pontiff ever recognized this equalization of the sees or accepted that only a primacy of honour be accorded to the See of Rome.It should be noted too that this patriarchal structure typical of the East never developed in the West.

“4. The expression appears again in two letters of the Metropolitan Nicetas of Nicodemia (in the year 1136) and the Patriarch John X Camaterus (in office from 1198 to 1206), in which they protested that Rome, by presenting herself as mother and teacher, would annul their authority.In their view, Rome is only the first among sisters of equal dignity." ’

In the Logical Case for papal infallibility thread:
Abu in #69 wrote:
“Who has said that the Pope has absolute authority – as though he is God?

“The Pope has, by Christ’s mandate, final authority in defining teaching on faith and morals, challengeable by no one.”

It would help if you retained the facts.

Abu, answer this questions: Can the Pope teach anything he wants? Or does it have to be within the Deposit of Faith?

What are the facts? Does the Pope have the authority to teach something that contradicts the direct teachings of Christ? If not, then you admit he has a limit on his authority. Were the other apostles promised “binding and loosing” authority in Matthew 18? Or was this a fabrication? You would have me overlook all of the promises made to the other apostles and imagine that they are only valid if a communion with Peter exists, yet no such claim can be drawn from scripture. None.

I think you meant to say “Pope’s” not “People’s?”

Oh and one more thing…With all due respect to Cardinal Ratzinger, his OPINION is really just an opinion and has absolutely NO theological bearing on the Church, as I am sure you know.

As a successor of Peter what the Pope teaches is to grounded in Jesus’ command to feed His sheep. Teaching which would starve the sheep would not be acceptable. The charism of infallibility would prevent him from teaching any error in regards to faith and morals. As our shepherd, he can teach anything consistent with the deposit of the faith or can reasonably derived from it. This can and should include any prudential judgments regarding everyday life.

Or does it have to be within the Deposit of Faith?

See above.

How do you know it is his OPINION and not the truth?

The Pope does not derive his power from the fact that there are people in the pews, but from Jesus Christ alone. If the Pope were the only Catholic left on earth, he would still be Pope over a Church on earth of one, namely, himself. I don’t believe it is stated anywhere that the Body of Christ on earth depends on a certain number of people being members of it. The idea that the Pope does not exist if no other Catholics exist also flies in the face of Christ’s promise that “the gates of hell shall not prevail.” It simply cannot happen. There will always be a Church.

The Pope’s power is absolute, for in the case where the bishops of the church wish to go one way and the Pope instead wishes to go another, the Pope’s way has precedence over all the Bishops. Their power is alway in conjunction with the Pope and cannot exist apart from his approval, whereas his power in independent of the Bishops’ approval. Also, “Whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven” is a statement of absolute power. (I assume Christ meant in matters of faith and morals, which is the subject matter of the Church, and which the Church has already addressed.)

Lastly, “the Pope is therefore first and foremost the Supreme Pastor. That means that he represents Christ’s love and concern for every single individual.” Like a Pastor of a parish, he is the Pastor of all the people within his parish’s boundaries, not just those who are Catholic, and the Pope’s “parish” includes the entire people of the earth, not just Rome, where he serves as Bishop of that locality. .

Yes. Stupid auto correct on my phone.

I have the same issue with my own phone. It puts words in that are unintended by guessing what I want to say. :mad:

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