Non Catholic Wondering

This may not be the right place, or right forum I apologize in advance if it’s not and if someone could point me to the right place I will happily move it there.

Though a non-Catholic I am reading through a bunch of Catholic books trying to understand more about it because I am dating a Catholic woman.

Reading through a lot of different things (one being Catholics for dummies.) The way that they described the pope was having the ultimate authority on interpreting and implementing the practices and viewpoints of the Catholic church. My understanding is that he is the ultimate authority on issues.

It seems very similar to an Independent Baptist view on a pastor of a church just on a global scale opposed to a single church scale.

Some references to popes authority and inability to judge him.
First Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Pastor Aeternus
Chapter 3

My understanding is that before the first Vatican Council cleaned up a lot of different beliefs that were held by different Catholics in regard to the Papacy and overruled some of the beliefs that could be held before it. For that reason, I look to it and writings that came after as the most accurate on the Papacy? I am sure there are many different ideas on it and I would welcome feedback as to what Catholics believe about it.

According to what I have read even if a pope goes insane and completely against what Catholics believe he has the authority to change the stance of the church on a lot of different things with almost no checks and balances in place.

I have been reading through the controversy with Pope Francis and talking with my girlfriend who is not a fan of his at all wondering how according to the teaching that I have read you can disagree with the pope who is supposed to guide the beliefs of the Catholic church. I have not found anywhere past the 1869 council where it showed you could denounce or judge The Popes office.

What all am I missing here?

Are you going against the Catholic faith not agreeing with the Pope?

It seems to be two-sided. If I were to say I agreed with abortion she would say it’s not Catholic and Catholics can’t be pro-abortion and still be in good standing with the Catholic church.

But if the Pope declared abortion as ok, would it not be against the Catholic church to say they were wrong for approving of it? Wouldn’t that leave me in bad standing with the Catholic church?

You’re only missing one thing. The Pope is only infallible when speaking in Ex Cathedra, so if he ever goes insane(it’s happened a few times), there’s nothing he can really do to change Church teaching.


The Pope speaks “ex cathedra” very rarely, so we can usually find some basis to disagree with him on most social justice issues like environment, immigration, etc.

However, not on abortion because it is intentional killing of a human being, in other words, murder. The Pope will never declare abortion to be OK (unless, as Capitalist Catholic said, he just lost his mind, in which case we would all reject the teaching and the others in the Vatican would be looking to see how they could get him to retire).


No we do not have to agree with all of the Pope’s opinions. As already stated he would have to be speaking Ex cathedra.

Ex cathedra is a Latin phrase which means “from the chair.” It refers to binding and infallible papal teachings which are promulgated by the pope when he officially teaches in his capacity of the universal shepherd of the Church a doctrine on a matter of faith or morals and addresses it to the entire world. The concept derives from Jesus.

In Matthew 23: 2-3 Jesus spoke of the authority of the Old Testament magisterium saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair [Gk. cathedras ] of Moses. Therefore, do and observe whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach what they do not practice.” Since Jesus recognized the authority of the Old Testament magisterium when it spoke ex cathedra (with the authority of Moses), we recognize that the New Testament magisterium of the Church, which speaks with the authority not of Moses but of Jesus Christ himself (Mt 10:40, 16:18-19, 18:18; Lk 10:16; 2 Cor 5:18-20), possesses a binding, infallible teaching office which is guaranteed by Christ (Mt 28:20; Jn 14:16, 26, 16:13).

Doctrine can only develop it can not be changed. Going from pro-life to pro-abortion would a reversal of doctrine not a development of better understanding.

Here’s an article.

Hope this helps,

If you need more info feel free to ask.

God Bless

The Pope would never say a heresy that abortion is ok. Some things the Pope say are his own opinion, some are already defined doctrine. We can differ on a thing the Pope says that are his opinion, but we must be very humble, he is Our Holy Father and Supreme Head of the While Church, the successor of Peter, so we must have the utmost respect and humility for all Pope’s. Remember we are just the laity and the Pope is the Head of the Church. Not sure what your girlfriend means by not being a fan of the Pope,that’s not the best attitude, we don’t want to fall into schism.


What would happen if he spoke Ex Cathedra while insane? What process is used to determine if he is insane or not?

I was completely missing the Ex Cathedra I am going to go read up on it a lot more.

As Catholics we believe when the Pope speaks Ex Cathedra that he is being inspired by the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit would never lead him astray or have him say anything that would leave any Catholics astray. That’s where our Faith in God comes in because HE=GOD left us the Papacy since Saint Peter.

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If he said something that was wildly out of step with 2000 years of Catholic teaching, like “abortion is okay”, then that would be a sure sign that something was very wrong and the Vatican would be all over it.
Also if he showed symptoms of a mental disturbance.


The whole point is he cannot; he is its servant. He cannot make up new doctrines or change the moral law or the contents of the deposit of faith. A Pope who thinks he can would be pridefully exceeding his authority. He would be rightly resisted in such a case.

The infallibility of the Pope is tied to the general infallibility of the Church. We believe the Holy Spirit ensures that the true faith is handed on from generation to generation. It didn’t–and can’t–be corrupted along the way like the Protestants claim happened. The Pope is only infallible when he makes a definitive (irreformable) judgment the requires the whole Church to profess as the truth (usually this is to finally settle some controversy) because in such a case his judgment implicates the whole Church. Other than that, he can err like anyone else.

But as the First Vatican Council explained, this is not give a new doctrine, but to defend what has been handed down:

  1. For the Holy Spirit was promised to the successors of Peter not so that they might, by his revelation, make known some new doctrine, but that, by his assistance, they might religiously guard and faithfully expound the revelation or deposit of faith transmitted by the apostles.

The Pope can’t impose doctrinal novelty on us.

As an example, the immorality of abortion has been taught always and everywhere by the Church–it has been handed on infallibly. It’s the Pope’s job to keep handing it on. On top of that, a prior Pope made such a definitive judgment for the whole Church on it since it was being questioned in some circles at the time:

St. John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae

Therefore, by the authority which Christ conferred upon Peter and his Successors, in communion with the Bishops-who on various occasions have condemned abortion and who in the aforementioned consultation, albeit dispersed throughout the world, have shown unanimous agreement concerning this doctrine-I declare that direct abortion, that is, abortion willed as an end or as a means, always constitutes a grave moral disorder, since it is the deliberate killing of an innocent human being. This doctrine is based upon the natural law and upon the written Word of God, is transmitted by the Church’s Tradition and taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium.


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