Is God ever against the Pope?

We know that the scripture teaches that Christ gave authority to His apostles to bind and loose.

Question: Is is ever possible for the vicar of Christ to ever deny forgiveness to someone who God actually forgives despite the fact?

Why limit your question to the popes? What about the apostles themselves?

This is a loaded question. Generally speaking, the Pope’s position will be guided and protected by the Holy Spirit. However, the situation can change over time. If someone came to the Pope and asked forgiveness sacramentally and the Pope judged that the person was not sincere, (for instance, if a man came to confess adultery but continued to live with his mistress), the Pope (and any other priest) would be obligated to withhold his absolution. However, at some later time, the man might give up his mistress and be truly penitent and confessing to another preist and be put back in the state of grace.

If Jesus said that “Whosoever sins you forgive are forgiven, and whosoever sins you retain are retained”, why would He then behave like He never said that in the first place?

Could God make a boulder so huge that He could not move it?

God’s authority subsists within the Church. The Church is the bride of Christ in the archetype of Holy Matrimony. In other words, the two are “one flesh” and one cannot act without the other. If an apostle denies forgiveness to someone in some matter, then it was never God’s will to forgive. Guided by the Holy Spirit, the Church is free to make such decisions with the mind of Christ.

Or all of us, for that matter. Did not Christ teach that we must forgive in order to be forgiven?

So much good feedback…

I believe the direct answer to your question is no it is not possible…BUT…paul c’s response below is excellent in putting things in perspective.

I would just add to this that if the person repented and gave up his mistress but died before being able to sacramentally confess…He would still stand forgiven before God.

Lastly to the OP I would say that in none of these cases would it be a matter of God being “against” the Pope, or any priest in the confessional.


And so if one of the evil popes didn’t forgive anyone then their sins are retained?

Assuming the pope was hearing confessions (which he normally would not be doing) -
and a person came to them for confession -
and the pope determined in confession that the person was not penitent…

Yes the sin is retained…

As regards “evil popes”…It is even LESS likely that he would be hearing confessions…


IMHO, the answer is a flat-out yes. Ultimately it is Christ who is the judge.

Just because someone does not resolve absolution from a priest/bishop does not mean they are not forgiven. The simple example is that the person can have perfect contrition, and ultimately Christ decides.

This is a really good question. When a priest is being insincere, is he still acting “in persona Christi”? Could he actually retain someone’s sin, say, out of spite?

I think that God would have thought of this! I think the Holy Spirit would not allow the priest to withhold absolution. However, I don’t know how to explain that theologically.

The CCC says that “The power of the Holy Spirit does not guarantee all acts of ministers in the same way. While this guarantee extends to the sacraments, so that even the minister’s sin cannot impede the fruit of grace, in many other acts the minister leaves human traces that are not always signs of fidelity to the Gospel and consequently can harm apostolic fruitfulness of the Church.” (para. 1550)

I guess the question would be, would that kind of confession even be sacramental?

I agree that it is Christ who is our judge. However, how would the person know, (say, if it is a particularly scrupulous person, and he/she leaves the confessional thinking their sin hasn’t been forgiven)? If it were me, I suppose I would find another priest and try again.

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