Is there anything that prevents the Pope from teaching heresy?


I am a protest feeling the pull to the CC. Have a question regarding the authority of the Pope. Is there anything that prevents the Pope from teaching a heresy and making it doctrine of the Church? Has this ever happened in church history? Thanks for your time :smiley:

The way we see it, God preserves the pope from teaching error in matters of faith and morals just like he preserved the authors of scripture from writing error in matters of faith and morals too.

The Pope is given a special charism by the Holy Spirit in order to prevent him from teaching heresy–similar to how He protected the writers of the Bible. The Church has never taught heresy because heresy, by definition, is against the teaching of the Church. Thus, it is a contradiction in terms.

i understand the logic. but here are some things that i’ve found on the net. i’m not saying they are true, but i’m presenting the evidence that i have found that seems to contradict your argument. These all seem to teach that Salvation comes through Mary.

The foundation of all our confidence is found in the Virgin Mary. God has committed to her the treasury of all good things, in order that everyone may know that through her are obtained every hope, every grace, and all salvation. For this is His will: that we obtain everything through Mary. Sweet heart of Mary, be my salvation! Pope Pius IX

For, since it is the will of Divine Providence that we should have the God-Man through Mary, there is no other way for us to receive Christ except from her hands. Pope Pius X

He will not taste death forever who, in his dying moments, has recourse to the Blessed Virgin Mary. What will it cost you to save us? Has not Jesus placed in your hands all the treasures of His grace and mercy? You sit crowned as Queen at the right hand of your Son: your dominion reaches as far as the heavens, and to you are subject the earth and all creatures dwelling thereon. Your dominion reaches even down into the abyss of Hell, and you alone O Mary, save us from the hands of Satan. Pope Pius XI

Nothing comes to us except through the mediation of Mary, for such is the will of God. O Virgin Most Holy, no one abounds in the knowledge of God except through thee; no one O Mother of God, attains salvation except through thee! Every one of the multitudes, therefore, whom the evil of calamitous circumstances has stolen away from Catholic unity, must be born again to Christ by that same Mother whom God has endowed with a never-failing fertility to bring forth a holy people. Pope Leo XIII

Mary, not one of thy devout servants has ever perished; may I, too, be saved! Pope Benedict XV


The Holy Spirit will not permit the Church, in her teaching authority, to teach as true something that is false. This is part of the meaning of Christ’s words of institution when he calls Peter the “rock” on which He will build his Church and promises him that the gates of Hell will never prevail against him. This, I think, is the basis for the doctrine of papal infallibility.
Nevertheless, this does mean that the pope is protected from all error, nor does it mean that he will be especially holy. It means that he will not teach, as infallible and revealed truth, something that is false in a way that deceives the christian laity into thinking it is true. Some people think that the doctrine of papal infallibility means that the pope cannot be wrong about anything, and that he cannot sin. Neither of these are true, and neither are necessary in order for the doctrine of “papal infallibility” to prove true.


No. It cannot.

but we all have free will. and we are able to speak the truths of God when we wish and are (sadly) able to make lies about Him. since the pope CANNOT teach without err, does this mean that he no longer has free will once he takes office?

we are also all guided by the Holy Spirit. when we willingly turn away from God we commit sin (mortal, i believe as the church would classify it). so since we all have free will, and are able to turn from God and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, wouldn’t the pope be capable of willingly turning from the Holy Spirit and teaching false doctrine?

I believe God prevents the pope from teaching heresy and false teachings in faith and morals. At one point in early church history, 80% of the Churches were teaching various heresies (which were later corrected), and it seems there was a lot of confusion about doctrine. But the ones that were in communion (taught the same things as) Peter’s successor (I’m not sure if the title “Pope” was in use yet) did not.

so then in line with papal infallibility, is it possible, say, for Pope Benedict XVI to retract a doctrine of Pope John Paul II?

The first thing that I would look at on a site like this is that they reference a quote to a certain pope and yet they do not supply references so you can go and read it for yourself. This normally is a sign of one or two things. Either they took the quote out of context or they fabricated the quote. For example the Bible states that “There is no God” yet you have to have the full passage to understand what is being taught here and it is “A fool says in his hear that there is not God”.

The reason why these type of sites do this is that they do not want you to check the references that they are supposedly quoting from and as such I personally view these sites as trash sites and not to be trusted.

God bless.

By definition an infallible doctrine cannot be contradicted or retracted by a future Pope.
Also even though there have been some bad popes in the past none of them ever taught anything heretical. The Holy Spirit prevents this.

The doctrine of infallibility of the pope does not apply to him as a person. The pope is just a man like you and me and has the ability to sin and be wrong about certain points. What the infallibility covers is when the Pope speaks “Ex Cathedra”, which is when he speaks as the chief shephard of the Christian church. It is only about faith and morals and quite honestly it is never a new doctrine.

The reason for this charism given to the pope is to protect and safeguard the deposit of Faith handed down to us from the Apostles. You will never hear the pope speak “Ex Cathedra” and change the teachings of faith and morals. This is what is safeguarded by the charism of infallibility.

God bless.

if a pope can’t teach err, then what do you mean by bad popes? i’m not trying to trip you up or anything, but i’ve read that popes are never wrong, yet there were some “bad popes”. what exactly constitutes a “bad pope”?

They mean that there is a big difference between infallibility and impeccability.

Failing to live a moral life vs teaching corrupted doctrine.

Infallibility applies only to when he teaches on faith and morals, not weather forecasts, sports preferences, or fashion choices.

Suggested reading; Papal Infallibility

so your saying then that these “bad popes” taught doctrines that were inline with God’s will and teaching as provided in the Bible, but when they weren’t teaching doctrine, they were making some bad personal choices?

I’m glad you raised these with humility, because there’s at least two things going on here.

First, the pope’s don’t mean what you might think. It’s true that salvation comes through Mary, but that doesn’t mean She atoned for your sins. Consider what Scripture says:
*]Jesus Himself taught that salvation comes through the Jews in John 4:22. He doesn’t mean that the Jews all died on the Cross for your sins. He means that they brought and preserved the Gospel. They carried the Gospel delivered by God to you, allowing you to be saved.
*]Likewise, 1 Cor. 7:14 teaches that a believing spouse can save an unbelieving spouse by living a Christian witness, day in and day out.
*]Jude 1:22-23 explicitly says that we save others by being merciful to them when they’re doubting.
*]James 5:19 says the same for when we turn back an unbeliever.

Now, considering that Biblical wealth, look at the role that Mary plays, in faithfully bringing the Savior, Jesus Christ, into the world. From Her is taken Jesus’ Flesh and Blood, the Same which hung on the Cross. St. Ireneaus, in 180 A.D., proclaimed that through Mary’s obedience, the knot of Eve’s disobedience was untied. Just as Jude says that we save others by showing Christ to them spiritually, Mary literally and physically introduced Jesus Christ to the world. She was the instrument of His Incarnation. Just as Paul is a savior of the Gentiles in bringing the Gospel to them, Mary did the same for every Christian ever. Look at how She’s depicted in Glory in Revelation 12, bringing Christ to the world on a cosmic level. Clearly, Scripture supports the idea of Mary as a savior, both in the sense that all Christians are called to be saviors, and in the particular sense of Her unique mission as Theotokos, the Mother of God.

The second thing is what you suspected: at least some of these quotes are forgeries. I tried to find the first few quotes that you mentioned. All I could find were anti-Catholic lists, none of which sourced the documents that they were “quoting” from. The only document I could find confirmed my suspicions even further. The very first quote you provided was:

Here’s the document that quote comes from. And here’s what it actually says:

The foundation of all Our confidence, as you know well, Venerable Brethren, is found in the Blessed Virgin Mary. For, God has committed to Mary the treasury of all good things, in order that everyone may know that through her are obtained every hope, every grace, and all salvation. For this is His will, that we obtain everything through Mary.

Now whatever you think of the actual quote, let’s first recognize that wherever you got the original quote from, it was false, and the “Sweet heart of Mary, be my salvation!” was added for an obvious and devious reason.

The few bad ones there were were generally to busy being the miscreants they were to concern themselves with the teaching functions of their office.

Right. Papal infallibility doesn’t mean that every word that comes from the mouth of a pope, even on faith and morals, is correct. So there are certainly times where, (for example, in a homily), a pope might make a dumb or even heretical point. But when he’s acting as pope, issuing some statement on faith and morals as head of the Church, "from the chair of Peter, " as we say, he’s protected.

The Scriptural basis for this is sound, as well. Jesus promises to build His Church upon Peter (Matthew 16:17-19; Luke 22:24-32), promises that the Church lasts forever (Matthew 16:18; Mt. 28:20; John 14:16), and will have absolute Truth (John 14:28; Jn. 16:13; see also 1 Timothy 3:15). Jesus also establishes the Church as the last resort in cases of conflict (Matthew 18:17-18).

Catholics take Christ at His word. He promises a Petrine-headed Church protected from all error, and that’s what we’ve got.

:thumbsup: (I think your namesake would be pleased to see your posts on this. :))

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