The Papacy is a "monarchy"


I am in conversation with an opponent of the Papacy who keeps calling it a “monarchy”. How close do you think the Papacy resembles a “monarchy”?


Only in the pomp and circumstance that surround him. But then, that’s true for most heads of state, which the pope is in the secular part of his office.

I would ask this person how anyone who is elected to his office can possibly be called a monarch? Don’t monarchs inherit their positions?


The pope is referred to as “the first among equals”. Not a monarchy. Actually, the papacy is a unique institution in all the world. It doesn’t fit easily into any one secular classification.

Bad analogy, but he probably is a little like the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court - if only on an institutional level.


Not really, he’s holding the Keys until the King returns, he’s just a servant, a servant of Christ.


Well let’s see.

In no way at all does the Papacy resemble a monarchy.

A Monarch is in a position of absolute authority over those under his/her rule.

The Pope cannot force anyone to become or remain catholic.

He cannot force anyone who is Catholic to do any thing.

He has no right to the possessions of his “subjects”.

The Pope is frankly one of the least powerful though most influential people on the planet.

The Pope holds no more authority over his “flock” than your local non-denominational preacher. In fact, I would argue he as significantly less “authority.”

While we apply terms that Protestants object to like “infallible” to papal teaching authority the fact of the matter is that there is very little that the pope can actually “infallibly proclaim.”

The pope can never proclaim anything to be true that conflicts with the words of scripture, the teaching Magisterium of the church, Apostolic Tradition or the previous teachings of his predecessors (and is protected from doing so by the Holy Spirit).

Though he has the Power to “Bind and Loose” he is limited to binding and loosing only that which God has revealed (and might choose to reveal in the future.)

The Pope is not the “ruler” and “greatest” of us all, he is the “servant” and “least” of all.



The “papacy” is not a monarchy. It is an office within a Monarchy.

That Monarchy is called the Kingdom of God and theKing is Jesus Christ.

The Pope, who occupies the office of the “Papacy” is the steward of the King. He excersizes the office of Steward through the offices of the Magisterium.



This is probably a misunderstanding of terminology on his part. The Catholic, Orthodox and I believe the Anglican forms of Epicopal government are often referred to as “monarchial”. This simply used as a designation that within their jurisdiction a bishop is the definate and singular leader of his diocese in terms of administration and issues of how the Faith is taught.

Monarchial here is not meant to be taken in a litteral sense that the bishop (or Pope) has ultimate power over his subjects. Instead it is meant to draw a line between other less “authoritative” leadership styles in the various Christian Denominations.

The person your debating with probably heard this term used and without understanding assumed it meant bishops were litterally like kings.


I would say it IS a Monarchy - headed by our King and High Priest, Christ Jesus, with His vicar (agent) on Earth being the Pope.

What’s wrong with that? Even Jesus called heaven a Kingdom and not a democracy!


Not nessesarily, there have been many Electoral Monarchies in history such as the Holy Roman Empire.

The Sultan of Malaysia is elected by the princes of the various states in Malaysia.

Anyway, what’s wrong with the Papacy being a monarchy? It was King David not Prime Minister David and Christ is called King of Kings not President of Presidents.


It is, the pope answers to no one but Christ Himself.


The Pope is refered to as “First among equals” only from an Orthodox perspective.

The “Chief Justice” idea isn’t correct. The Pope has absolute authority and is judged by no one on earth.


People who hold this view probably do so because they misinterpret or misunderstand the reason for all the pomp and circumstance that surrounds his office. They see people bowing to the Pope, kiss his ring, kneel before him, and they link all this behavior to that of some Medieval monarch. They do not have an understanding of liturgy and liturgical ceremony so it does not make sense to them.


Well, I just learned something. Shows how lacking was my education. :blush:

It puts me in mind of how some of the American forefathers once wanted to elect the president–by having the senators elect a president from their ranks. That might be more the equivalent of how the popes are elected.

Anyway, what’s wrong with the Papacy being a monarchy? It was King David not Prime Minister David and Christ is called King of Kings not President of Presidents.

Yes. Peter was the first Steward of King Jesus. Unlike some stewards in history/fiction, though the papacy is an elected position not an inherited one.


Marco, if you will go here:

and then go into the Apologetics area to articles on the Papacy, you will find Catholic apologist Mark Bonocore addressing at length the monarchial episcopate.




It’s probably not that inaccurate to refer to it as a monarchy, but most people probably don’t properly understand what a monarchy is.

Secular authority, in the modern sense, is said to originate ‘inherently’ from individuals. That means that a ‘secular’ monarchy would run counter to the source of legitimate authority and thus be a dictatorship.

The Church views God as the source of ecclesiastical authority, and the bishops are in that sense His delegates. God, in the Catholic (and Orthodox and Anglican) view, did not rain down His authority dilutely on all people who were then free to re-concentrate it into the hands of their leaders, but rather He, as Jesus, specifically transferred that authority in person to His Apostles and they to their successors. No one gave to another more power than they had received.

Our secular conception of authority is a ‘bottom-up’ one which has become so ingrained in the Western psyche that most cannot think outside of it. The traditional view espoused by the Apostolic Church’s is a ‘top-down’ view of authority. There was a time when the secular and religious were combined, the so called ‘Divine Right of Kings’, but no one today views that as appropriate, and to reject it is not to reject all conceptions of monarchical authority. After all, to use modern secular terms, God is an unelected ‘dictator’ and the Apostles were unelected ‘governors’. In that sense, why would such a God care who we elected into ecclesiastical positions, if we have no ecclesiastical power in the first place? Even the most democratic Protestants have to admit that all Christians are worshipping a ‘dictator’ (to use incredibly blunt terminology) and that their Scriptures were (mostly) written by people who’s authority could hardly be characterised as democratic in nature.

Monarchy has become a dirty word, and rightly so when it comes to secular rule. But ecclesiastical rule is something altogether different. No one can give others more authority than they themselves possess. In secular government the inherent liberty of the individual is ‘given-up’ to rulers on trust by the source of secular power, the people. But in ecclesiastical government, God is the source of all authority so what could the people possibly give their rulers (for e.g. ‘elders’)? Mere approval but no authority.


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