Is the Pope the head of Catholics


I read in an article that the Pope is the head of the Apostolic College and not the head of Catholics. This statement is a rejection of the headship of the Pope over each individual member of the body. I believe this statement is false yet I am opened to changing my mind given sound argument. I would therefore like to provide evidences to the contrary and then open this post to discussion.

Article in Question -
and I quote, “The pope is not the head of Catholics, he is the head of the apostolic college.”
‘Pope head of the Church’ - OP is unsure of the headship of the Pope

[Ephesians 5:23] RSV2CE For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the Church, his body, and is himself its Savior.

I believe this verse shows the headship of the Pope quite well. Notice that this is an analogy of two bodies. Jesus is described as the body of the Husband. The Church is described as the body of the wife. What goes without saying, yet is probably usually unnoticed, is the fact that the body of the wife does indeed have it’s own head. I would argue that to claim that the Pope is not the head the of Church and its members is paramount to decapitating the wife in the analogy given in [Ephesians 5:23] Note that in this analogy a function that is Christ’s alone is that of Savior.

Ephraim the Syrian

“[Jesus said:] Simon, my follower, I have made you the foundation of the holy Church. I betimes called you Peter, because you will support all its buildings. You are the inspector of those who will build on Earth a Church for me. If they should wish to build what is false, you, the foundation, will condemn them. You are the head of the fountain from which my teaching flows; you are the chief of my disciples. Through you I will give drink to all peoples. Yours is that life-giving sweetness which I dispense. I have chosen you to be, as it were, the firstborn in my institution so that, as the heir, you may be executor of my treasures. I have given you the keys of my kingdom. Behold, I have given you authority over all my treasures( Homilies 4:1 [A.D. 351]).

And More…

Pope Leo I

"Although bishops have a common dignity, they are not all of the same rank. Even among the most blessed apostles, though they were alike in honor, there was a certain distinction of power. All were equal in being chosen, but it was given to one to be preeminent over the others. . . . [So today through the bishops] the care of the universal Church would converge in the one See of Peter, and nothing should ever be at odds with this head" (ibid., 14:11).

Catholic Encyclopedia
I believe this article puts the issue to rest.

I believe the error is occurring where people have read that the Pope is the head of Bishops/Apostles and the articulation of his headship ends there. This occurs in many early writings. I would argue that his headship of Bishops betrays his headship of the Church.

So any takers?


I would post the article that made this comment because context matters.

The Pope is the head and shepherd of the entire Church, but he isn’t literally the boss of a Catholic layman/laywoman whereas this would be the case if you were a bishop.


I would argue that this statement is a contradiction but I understand if you did not intend it that way. To stay on topic I would assert that the Pope is indeed the head of each individual member of the Church and his authority is in no way severed from his headship.

To paint this picture in a different way, to say that the Pope is not the head of each individual member would be on par with saying that your own head is not the head of say one your fingers. This a false statement.


Subsidiarity. Ultimately, the Holy Father is the “CEO”, but Christ established a hierarchical Church in which your local Ordinary (Bishop) is in charge.


Subsidiarity is an organizing principle that matters ought to be handled by the smallest, lowest or least centralized competent authority. Political decisions should be taken at a local level if possible, rather than by a central authority.

First I would like you to note that at least according to this definition of Subsidiarity the direct authority of the central authority over a lower member of said community is possible. Subsidiarity does not absolutely deny the highest authority the ability to act directly upon a much lower authority. Furthermore this is a practice of the organization not an absolute rule.

Your analogy of the Pope as CEO supports my point of view in my opinion. I can provide evidence of several previous Apple employees who can tell you that Steve Jobs authority was not limited to the board of directors.

I would return you to my previous statement, “to say that the Pope is not the head of each individual member would be on par with saying that your own head is not the head of say one of your fingers.” Or rather to say that the relationship between your finger and your head is not one of headship to a finger.

Allow me to provide one more evidence mainly that of Martin Luther a priest who was excommunicated by the Pope. This is an example of the highest authority exercising its authority over one of its members not directly under itself in terms of authority.


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