Papal Authority

I was just randomly thinking of this and I couldn’t find anything addressing this regarding the authority given to the Apostles and specifically the power of the Pope. Two things related to the Pope’s power: first, when the Pope canonizes someone, that person is certain to be in Heaven, so why can’t the Pope technically just canonize everyone, and then everyone would be in Heaven? Because whatever the Church binds on earth shall be in heaven, right? Second, more temporally speaking regarding the administration of the Church, and given the struggles from “liberal” and “conservatives” in every successive Papacy, the Pope has the power to put whoever he wants in positions of power, over dioceses and also in the Curia; aside from the logistical nightmare, couldn’t a newly elected Pope technically just strip all bishops throughout the world of their diocese, same thing in the Curia, and then reappoint those who agreed with him to every post to avoid conflict?

Obviously this is not really a logical action to take like I said from an administrative or logistical standpoint, but the point is simply that it could technically be done, and I’m surprised in previous eras when the Church was much smaller that this wasn’t done. I mean, when you’re the Pope and you have that power, why would you want to deal with bishops who didn’t agree with your agenda or the emphasis of your Papacy.

Anyway, granted, they are kind of far-fetched scenarios, but wanted to hear some thoughts on this. Thanks!

God bless,

Canonization doesn’t put someone in heaven. It recognizes that the person is ALREADY in heaven.

The person who is canonized is not affected in any way. The distinction is for our benefit alone.

First, Papal supremacy is final, not absolute. He has the final say on disputed, crystallized issues, if you will–not carte blanche freedom to alter the Faith as it was deposited to the Apostles, and passed on to their hand picked successors, on a whim.

Second, the Pope has no authority to introduce sin into Heaven; so he can’t just haphazardly dictate that a person may go to Heaven.

Third, Canonization is an official recognition, that the canonized person is in Heaven–it is not a binding decision on that person’s fate. Christ in Heaven, remains the ultimate Judge. Canonization is not the reason the Saint is in Heaven; its a determination of the judgment, rather than the actual judgment itself. This is why the Church has such a detailed process before making such a determination.

Fourth, the Pope is the ‘servant of the servants’–not ‘the master.’ He serves the people, who serve the Church, which serves Christ. His ‘final say’ while authoritative, is not dictatorial.

CAVEAT: This represents just my humble layman’s understanding; no pretense at authority.

Bottom line is that from a human perspective, the pope can abuse his authority, and frankly, several popes have. But the Church enjoys the Guarantee of the Holy Spirit to keep and protect the Church.

The popes–perhaps rather, the Papacy–have(has) proven extremely effective as an instrument of the Holy Spirit in keeping and protecting the Deposit of Faith intact, and the Body of Christ, unified (schism and r[d]eformation notwithstanding). No other… ‘office’…has had as great an impact in these 2 regards. This is particularly apparent when juxtaposed against the disastrous disunity caused by Protestantism, and the stagnation of the Catholic Churches in the East, who are holding on for dear life, as they’ve lost so much of their lands to the Muslims, while the Churches in communion with the Pope, in the aggregate, continue to grow.


Correct, but does not “whatsoever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven” mean that technically anything we say down here will be made so in heaven?

:thumbsup: Concur.

A grave responsibility…taken gravely, by the proper fiduciaries of that extraordinary authority.

Begging the question…to whom has that authority inured, under the doctrine of “sola scriptura”???

…I digress…

This is the Church that Christ left to us.

What man-made doctrine can anyone propose, that could be expected to discharge such a grave authority more responsibly, than the system conceived and created by Christ Himself, and maintained and guarded by the Holy Spirit?

Not if it is in error. We can’t make something that is false into a truth.

This is why we say that the Holy Spirit protects the Church when speaking infallibly - to be sure She doesn’t teach error.

I’ve never been completely convinced that canonization is recognized as infallible. But, so, it is protected by the Holy Spirit (just like any other infallible teaching).

Canonizations are not infallible which is how several saints got dropped from the roles (e.g. St Christopher.) when proof they once lived could not be found or there was evidence they were composites of more than one person.

The catechism teaches that truth is not bound by infallibility but rather Infallibility is the servant of the truth.

Historically, no matter how bad a pope we got, the Holy Spirit was true to the Church and preserved the scriptures and sacred traditions. Can anyone point to an error or heresy promulgated by a pope that actually took hold?

Excellent post, Antegin. :thumbsup:


A very interesting thread.

Antegin #8
Canonizations are not infallible which is how several saints got dropped from the roles (e.g. St Christopher.)


See Catholic Answers at:
Is St. Christopher still a saint?

St. Christopher is still recognized as a saint, though his feast day no longer appears on the Church’s universal liturgical calendar. He was one of the early martyrs about whom not much is known. His name means “Christ-bearer,” which reflects the story told of him that he carried the child Jesus across a river. Because so little is known of Christopher, he may have been known only by his story and people gave him a name that reflected the story. Canonizations arose centuries after Christopher’s time. Many of the early saints, including Christopher, were never formally canonized but were acclaimed as saints by Christian communities. In recent decades the Church has removed the feast days of obscure saints from the universal liturgical calendar, but the saints still remain saints, and their feast days may still be observed by parishes bearing their name and by those with a continuing devotion to the saint.

Answered by: Michelle Arnold

The reality on canonizations:
From EWTN Q&A: Answer by David Gregson on Nov-22-2002:
“You are correct in stating that **the Pope exercises his charism of infallibility **not only in dogmatic definitions issued, ex cathedra, as divinely revealed (of which there have been only two), but also in doctrines definitively proposed by him, also ex cathedra, which would include canonizations (that they are in fact Saints, enjoying the Beatific Vision in heaven), moral teachings (such as contained in Humanae vitae), and other doctrines he has taught as necessarily connected with truths divinely revealed, such as that priestly ordination is reserved to men.”

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