Requirements for Pope in Canon Law

I know there are only two requirements for becoming pope (male and Catholic in good standing), but I can’t find this information in canon law, although I seem to remember finding it before. :shrug:

Does anyone know the specific part of canon law which states these two requirements are the only requirements?

Thanks in advance for any help.

God bless you all. :smiley:

Thanks, but I can’t find anything there about being male and a Catholic in good standing.

That’s because it doesn’t say that.

If you review what the canons do say, the person must either be a bishop or be consecrated a bishop upon election. That would, of course, require a man.

I don’t think so. Every source I have seen says there are two requirements (male and Catholic in good standing). I just can’t find it in canon law.

Well good luck to you then.

In order to become a Bishop, you have to be a male and a Catholic in good standings.

There would be no reason for Canon Law to state that. The only requirement for a Pope is that he must be an ordained Bishop (either before his election or right after it)

Technically, the Pope must be a bishop (because the Pope’s most important title is “(Arch)bishop of Rome”. In order to be consecrated a bishop, one must be first a priest, and prior to that a deacon. The requirements for being ordained a deacon and then a priest (as only priests can be consecrated as bishops), are that the person be a validly baptized and confirmed Catholic man for the ordination to be valid.

Now, IIRC, in Western Catholicism, it is considered valid, though illicit (except in certain cases - primarily with Anglican and certain other clergy converting to Catholicism) for married men to be ordained to the presbyterate and episcopacy; and in the East, it’s considered valid, but illicit, for married men to be ordained to the episcopacy. Plus, all ordinations to the episcopacy must be done with the expressed permission from the Pope.

This is in theory, of course, as the College of Cardinals in practice selects one of their own for the papacy, and it has been centuries since there have been any Cardinals who have not been bishops. It is technically possible for the Pope to nominate a priest, deacon, or layman to the College of Cardinals, but this has not been done for centuries.


That’s because it’s a technicality. Technically, yes any Catholic man, clergy or lay, can become Pope. But why in the heck would you want to do that? That is why the Church created Canon Law. Specifically for things like this.

That’s not quite right. He does not have to be a bishop first. He can be appointed and is then made a bishop.

Normally this would not be a problem but I’ve got non-Catholics telling me that the pope must be a priest, then a bishop, then a cardinal before becoming pope.

Of course they also say priests can’t ever have been married. :shrug:

I thought I had read in canon law (maybe an older “edition”) that there were the two requirements of being male and a Catholic in good standing.

Oh, when I asked them to back up their claim that the pope had to be a priest first, I was given a copied and pasted section from a blog. A BLOG. :smiley:

Maybe I never saw it in canon law but just thought I did. My memory is horrible.


I don’t have the current Code committed to memory, much less the prior one, but I don’t think the phrase “Catholic in good standing” appears anywhere in any Code of Canon Law. It would not sound “right” in a legal text…

Now, you can change “Catholic in good standing” to more legal phraseology so that it says “not laboring under any ecclesiastical penalty” or something like that. That is something I could picture being written somewhere (not in the Code, though…it doesn’t say that, either).

At any rate, to be *elected *Pope, all that is essentially needed is a man. The man should be suitable for the office. To obtain the office of Pope, that man has to be baptized and ordained a bishop. He does not have to be a cardinal. If a non-cardinal is elected Pope, he can’t be made a cardinal first–that would mean he appoints himself as a cardinal and that’s nonsense.

Here’s the current legislation regarding papal elections:


He can be made a bishop after being elected, but he can’t be reigning as Pope as a layman. But again, it’s been centuries since a non-ordained man has been elected Pope - and even longer since a non-Cardinal has been elected (as in the past, not all Cardinals were bishops, and some were even laity or non-ordained religious brothers).

So, really, this is a theoretical exercise, as in practice today, the Cardinals elect one of their own, and all the current Cardinals are (and all the Cardinals for a long time have been) bishops - and primates, at that.

A Pope must be a deacon first, then a priest, and then a bishop before becoming Pope. But that could happen all on the same day. But it doesn’t have to happen before being elected, just before being installed.

A Pope does not have to be a Cardinal. I believe Pope Paul IV received votes during the conclave that elected John XXIII, even though he wasn’t made a Cardinal until afterwards by Pope John XXIII.

No, a layman can be directly ordained as a Bishop. He does not have to go through three rituals: deacon, priest, and then bishop.

There are three requirements for a valid Pope, as stated in UDG

  1. validly elected
  2. ordained a bishop (either before or after election)
  3. freely accepts his office as Pope

The canon law approves that the divine code is a secret.

You’re right. It was just:

  1. Catholic,
  2. Male.

Or the other way around. But then I don’t think I really saw it, even though I remember it.


What does that mean?


Huh. It makes sense that the highest degree of Holy Orders could be conferred immediately, but I thought it was at least customary to go through the stages in order, even if the man in question is going straight to the episcopacy.

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