Papal excommunication


Can the Bishop of Rome be excommunicated? How, by whom, and under what circumstances if it be possible.



So, in short, it is theoretically possible if he met ALL of the many requirements, but since he is judged by LITERALLY no one on earth, even if he met them it would not have any effect.


Hypothetically, the Pope could resign of his own freewill if it became clear that the majority of the episcopate, or even the majority of the cardinals, opposed him. Otherwise, he could be judged by his successor. In he abdicated and still lived, the reigning Pope could formally judge him as an individual. If he died, the reigning Pope could formally declare his predecessor’s actions or teachings problematic. This has happened historically on a couple occasions.


Interesting timing of this question.


Indeed; one wonders what might motivate someone to ask such a thing at this time.


Perhaps the spirit of “Church as democracy” is ascending.


While the pope cannot be judged, the cardinals can have a proceeding to determine if he is the pope (or ceased being so for heresy, for example).



Nobody can excommunicate a Pope but a Pope is subject to automatic excommunication. Any member of the Catholic Church can automatically excommunicate themselves if the sin is grave enough and listed for an automatic excommunication. This is called a “latae sententiae” excommunication. This includes even the Pope himself, should he ever commit a sin of such severity.

If the Pope were ever in this circumstance and got excomunicated then he would not be able to lift it by himself as an excommunicated person is forbidden to exercise any ecclesiastical offices, ministries, functions, or acts of governance (cf. Canon 1331). It would be then logical to assume it as a practical period of Papal interregnum where the Camerlengo would be called upon to act in the Pope’s capacity, until such time as the Pope has received his excommunication lifted and receives Sacramental Confession, and been readmitted to the Sacraments. Along with the Camerlengo, the major penitentiary Cardinal alone retains their office during the period of papal interregnum. The major penitentiary Cardinal will be in charge of lifting excommunications reserved to the Apostolic see during this period. Thus he would be lifting the excommunication of the Pope.


Not to mention in centuries past, some Cardinals tried to have the Pope assinated or had their kings declared war against the Papal States

NOTE: I’m not condoning anything here. Just stating historical fact because that seemed to be the only way to get rid of a Pope


You should read the full article from Canon Law Made Easy. It’s very enlightening on this specific point (automatic excommunication).


The Pope can defect from communion with the Church like anyone else through heresy or apostasy (I’m pretty sure he can’t commit schism by definition). In such a case, no one would be passing judgment on the First See. Rather, just as the Church recognizes the First See to be vacant when its prior occupant dies or resigns so that it cannot elect a new one, so too would it recognize the vacancy of the See after a defection and proceed to elect a new one.


By definition, he cannot. Excommunication is a penalty issued by the pope, severing communion with him until some sinful situation is resolved.

To elaborate on the text linked above, the Pope is not subject to Canon Law. The pope cannot be penalized by the law, because he is the source of the law.

Like any man, however, he is subject to moral law. He can commit mortal sin, and be unworthy to receive communion. (Like any man, too, he can confess to any priest and have his mortal sins absolved as well).

The office of the papacy has the chrism of infallibility. The pope cannot formally teach sin and heresy, but as a man, he can commit the grave sin of scandal by living a hypocritical, immoral life.

There is no formal way to force a pope out of office, but historically Kings or Cardinals have pressured Popes to resign on rare occasions. Today, if an evil Pope were to attempt to wreak havoc, most clergy would resign and leave him isolated, making if physically impossible for him to enforce irresponsible actions.

As Popes are traditionally selected from among men would have already dedicated decades of their lives to the service of the church, it is highly unlikely we will ever see such an incident. We place our faith in God that such unchecked authority is never abused towards the destruction of the church.


Lol…yes, seemingly most convenient for the Pope if your statement is true.


How do you think so?


:slightly_smiling_face:Well that sounds…equivocating.


Five years ago, this question was unthinkable.

The answer lies in prayer.


Are you serious? A Pope can excommunicate himself? Fascinating. I cant imagine anyone willingly damning themselves nor having the inerrant Godlike personal judgment to do so. Would it be possible to be automatically excommunicated but at the same time not have anyone including the excommunicated be aware of it?


I C? Why only five years ago? Are you saying previous to five years ago no Pope has done anything which might warrant the question?


This is confusing, so a Pope may excommunicate for an offense against the church yet if the Pope might commit a similar offense he may not be excommunicated himself? In other words are you saying the Pope may judge yet may not be judged or am I misunderstanding you?

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