Pope in a coma. Who's in charge?

The former PM of Israel, Ariel Sharon, has now been in a coma for 22 months. If a Pope was to suffer severe incapacitation, for example by a cerebrovascular incident, and go into a coma for months or even years, who would lead the Church? How would important matters which only the Pope can pronounce on, or approve, be dealt with?

I suppose that this is not very likely. I dont think the Pope would be kept alive through artificial means, so long as he was given food and water, so the chance of him remaining in a coma is low.

But in hypothetical situation, a new Pope could not be elected so long as he is still alive. Although a couple Popes did abdicate the throne, nobody can relieve him of his office.

These days, I think the Vatican Sec. of State is considered the “number 2 guy”.

But for those things that only a pope can pronounce, approve, or deal with…they’d have to wait.

DustinsDad

When the leader of a nation is permanently incapacitated, there is legislation to protect the state and provide for a successor. In the case of our Church, as you suggest, all we can do is wait. But why? If a Bishop of a diocese other than Rome were incapacitated, I believe there would be a procedure for replacement if there were no hope of recovery. Why is it different in the case of a Pope?

Because in the case of a diocesan bishop, the authority to remove him from his diocese (for whatever reason) comes from the pope. In the case of the pope, nobody can take away his office. He may abdicate, but no person or group may budge him from the throne. In such a situation, the Church would have to wait for his death before a conclave could be called.

The pope is not a mere governmental leader.

The Pope has the authority to remove a Bishop. I suppose the Pope’s direct superior is the Lord Almighty, and if the Pope were in a coma, the Lord would decide when best relieve him of his office, if you know what I mean. :o

What I’m getting at is that if the Pope were in a coma, he could not replace a sick Bishop. He couldn’t do anything at all. It’s not at all improbable that such a thing would happen. Heaven forbid it should! I used the example of leader of a nation merely to indicate that some unfortunate things can happen to leaders. I do not intend to liken the Church to a nation. I know that Popes continue in office until death, but I believe that this is simply a long-standing tradition. It’s not a rule or regulation imposed on the Church from without, or is it?

But nobody can remove the Pope from office. Think about it this way, if a situation like the one envisioned above took place and the curia or the College of Cardinals voted to remove the Pope from the Petrine Office, think of what a precident that would set- that would turn the authority of the Church into a democracy, usurping the hierarchy and allowing groups to impeach and overthrow the Holy Father by a vote.

Besides, what reasons can you think of for allowing such a thing?

Just curious, if you might know if the Pope has something like a living will? I’m sure this has been a concern to many in the Curia and also to the Pope.

He has a will. It specifies what is to be done with his personal belongings, the details of his Requiem Mass, and it might also contain additional documents to be published or destroyed after his death.

But like I said, this situation is not likely to happen, and if it were to happen then the Church would continue while awaiting his death. There have been periods in history where the Holy See was vacant for years, and the Church continued.

Caesar:
Exactly. There does not appear to be a procedure for dealing with such an emergency. I’m not suggesting one; I’m just cognizant that the emergency is not impossible. The thought of removing by a vote is fraught with serious difficulties. I really do see the problems. As I understand it, in the case of the Pope, should one ever suffer such a disaster, we seem to have to wait it out and see what happens. Still…!

If that happens, then we wait. The Church will survive. Things will still get done. Like I said, there have been times when the Holy See was vacant for years; there have been other times when the Pope might as well have been in a coma.

Ok, here is my opinion, from a realistic point of view. I do not condone such an action, I shudder to even think of it, but if such a situation ever took place, and it looked like the pope could be in a coma for a long period of time, then I can easily forsee that some in the curia might just decide to speed up the natural process, if you know what I mean. It has happened before after all.

We cannot establish a procedure to ‘depose’ a pope simply because no means to do that was ever given to us by revelation.

Catholic teaching is not primarily the sum total of a bunch of clever guys thinking, it is Divinely revealed truth. For whatever reason, He hasn’t revealed to us what to do in this case.

suppose that this is not very likely. I dont think the Pope would be kept alive through artificial means, so long as he was given food and water, so the chance of him remaining in a coma is low.

Need a Doctor to chime in on this one.

What constitutes artificial means?

I see an IV as artificial

I see a tube in the mouth or into the stomach as artificial.

If the comatose person does not have the swallowing reflex…

Yes he has. We revert to natural law and do away with technology. If a Pope went into a Coma, say 200 years ago, what would happen without all of this technology?

There was talk that Pope John Paul II had considered drawing up guidelines for replacing a completely incapacitated Pope. But apparently, he never did.

Anyone else heard of this???

Exactly. That is why such a situation would probably never take place- those we do not condone active euthanasia, we are not obliged to keep anyone alive through artificial means. So long as someone, in this case a pope even, is given food, water, hygene, and shelter we have done everything necessary. If he lives, Deo gratias, otherwise nature takes its course.

I don’t see what the big deal is. Life would go on. All in the Church is not reliant upon the pope.

Would, perhaps, some bishops not be able to retire? Yes. But, until recently, they never did retire, anyway. Dioceses would continue to run with their assistants or adminsitrators, even if they died. The Vatican would run as it always has with its own staff. Even the Diocese of Rome would continue to be led by the bishop who is responsible for handling the day to day activities of the diocese. Some matters would be slowed down, as there would be no pope available to approve of things. Backlogs might accumulate. But we’d get by well enough, as we always have.

Need a Doctor to chime in on this one.

What constitutes artificial means?

I see an IV as artificial

I see a tube in the mouth or into the stomach as artificial.

If the comatose person does not have the swallowing reflex…

Actually, we don’t need a doctor to chime in on this one (except maybe a Doctor of the Church, LOL…), as the Church does not rely on the opinions of individuals on a message board to define what constitutes natural or articial means. She has already done that on numerous occasions, including in John Paul II’s *Evangelium Vitae. *Hydration and nourishment in and of themselves, even by an IV, are never considered extraordinary (which is why the Terri Shiavo case was so conspicuous.) Neither is a swallowing reflex in and of itself an indicator.

That is why the Chuch has teachings, to guide us in these difficult decisions. We should study them accordingly.

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