Catholic church doctrine asserts that God chose their pope. For instance, their Catechism states: ‘the Roman Pontiff as Vicar of Christ and Pastor of all Christians has complete, supreme and universal powers for caring for souls.”
But is this really the case?
Jacob Arminius first proposed the idea of prevenient grace as part of Wesleyan doctrine. It describes how human beings can receive God’s mercy and salvation through Jesus Christ – providing an alternative perspective to Calvinism’s focus on God choosing who will believe or not believe; prevenient grace also addresses how sinful men may accept Jesus’ sacrifice as payment for their transgressions.
Prevenient Grace states that, due to our fallen state, all men are neutral toward God. But His prevenient grace enables some individuals to come closer by acting prior to free will taking effect; He thus can bring individuals to accept Christ without hindering freedom of choice or choice being limited by Him. This idea parallels John Wesley’s Unlimited Atonement doctrine which states that Jesus died for every individual regardless of whether they accept his atonement.
There are multiple issues with this concept. First, it implies that God selects certain popes as saints while selecting others as sinners – which would contradict divine infallibility teachings. Furthermore, it implies that only perfect Popes can represent Him to us – something which simply isn’t true as many Popes who have led our church have committed grave offenses themselves.
Another problem with this belief is that it encourages humans to assume they are the sole judges of Pope’s behavior. Although the Holy Spirit works through Popes as guides for church governance, that doesn’t mean he or she can never commit sins or make mistakes – instead the church must take into account both his teachings and actions of his Popes when making its judgements about him or her.
Finaly, this notion puts the papacy in an elevated position within society and consciences. While not directly chosen by God himself, its influence over faith and morality worldwide cannot be denied. While not above law or ethical guidelines, its role is essential in shaping perceptions on religion and morality around the world.
The Pope is the head of the Catholic Church, one of the world’s largest Christian denominations with over 1.3 billion members worldwide. According to Church doctrine, he serves as an extension of God on Earth; God guides his role. However, like any human, he retains free will allowing for potential sinful decisions or actions from time to time.
The Church believes that Jesus appointed Peter as leader of his apostles and gave him “the keys to the kingdom”, making him infallible when speaking for Christ through ex cathedra (speaking out with authority) speech. Jesus also instructed Peter to lead both his Apostles and Church through Apostolic Succession – something called Apostolic Succession – while Peter passed his power of infallibility down through various processes throughout history to each successor of his.
Catholics believe that when a Pope dies or resigns, his or her duties as head of the church pass to a council of Cardinals – which includes bishops and Vatican officials from around the world chosen personally by him, and identified by their distinctive red vestments. Cardinals bear a heavy responsibility of trying to discern who should replace St Peter as Pope and lead its members worldwide – which can be an extremely daunting challenge.
At the election of a Pope, Cardinals are kept hidden from outside influences during their selection process. This could take days, weeks or months and each cardinal must consider various candidates before voting on one; unlike with U.S. presidential elections however, no one knows who each Cardinal has chosen in order to prevent being influenced by personal desires to become Pope and influence decisions made independently by members.
There have been accusations over time of Popes being corrupt or evil, though this should not be taken as an indisputable fact. Every Pope visits Confession every week and the Church does not consider him or her infallible unless teaching heresy; furthermore there may be many actions taken by a Pope that do not necessarily indicate evilness or corruption – there have even been Popes who committed grave personal sins but their good works outweighed these transgressions.
Historically, when a pope died, his successor would be selected through a conclave process. Cardinal electors under 80 years of age meet for several days or weeks until finally electing one as pope – during this process no discussion or decisions related to other matters should take place until after they had chosen someone new as pope.
At a conclave, cardinal-electors pray for guidance from the Holy Spirit as they make decisions regarding who will make an excellent pope. Conclave proceedings begin by chanting “Veni, Sancte Spiritus,” meaning, “Come, Holy Spirit.” Cardinal-electors must also consider what’s good for the Church and its future when choosing who should lead it – instead of sticking rigidly to personal ideas about who should become pope, they should open themselves up to whatever guidance God offers them as they discern who makes an excellent leader.
Cardinals will vote multiple times each day until they elect a new pope, first by taking secret ballots to narrow down candidates and then open voting until a winner emerges. When all voting has concluded, senior cardinals announce his name to the world as being elected as pope.
Many Catholics believe that the Holy Spirit guides cardinal-electors to choose the ideal pope. While this belief may seem plausible given the weighty influence that papal office holds over the Church at large, its true effect cannot always be predicted or guaranteed by divine inspiration alone.
Being humans, pontiffs can fall prey to temptations such as ignorance, falsehood, personal biases and unwise goals; therefore there have been times in Church history when men who weren’t perfect held the papacie.
As part of their election of Pope Francis, cardinals received two sermons before and after entering Sistine Chapel. These sermons provided insight into current Church conditions as well as qualities a potential new pope should possess.
Catholic Magisterial teaching makes it abundantly clear that the Pope and those holding his office are God’s servants. He chose them (Catechism of Trent, Canons 8-9) and has every right to judge their worthiness and obedience to His law; including whether they should remain in office. Clearly, any individual or entity who resisted God by resisting his spiritual authority – including opposing it by asserting they could better perform it themselves – was rejecting His calling on their lives. The Pope represents this highest spiritual authority; anyone attempting to resisting God Himself or claim superior ability is resisting His call on their lives by any such claims resisted by refusing Him directly or even more directly by assertive individuals than God intended by resisting Him directly ordination from Himself.
That is why we pray for and proclaim the name of every pope and bishop at every Mass: they serve as our divine shepherd, helping guide our journey and pointing back toward truth when we stray off course. It is up to us all to follow them, listen to them and pray for them!
Arguments against God choosing our Pope are based on Cardinal Ratzinger’s opinions that do not represent magisterial teachings and cannot withstand scrutiny against Scripture, Tradition and Catholic Magisterial Teachings as well as Saint and Doctor of the Church Catherine of Siena as well as our current pope. Although pious ideas like this one might sound appealing to some individuals, they can prove disastrous in reality.
Catholic Answers can help disprove this misconception; many non-Catholics erroneously assume the Church asserts her Popes as being sinless or that each utterance from him comes directly from divine inspiration. Catholic Answers provides further clarity:
The Pope possesses an infallibility gift called infallibility that ensures his teaching of Christian doctrine cannot be misrepresented or befall him through error. This differs from inspiration because infallibility protects knowledge that he already possesses against error; not that it prohibits him from imparting new information if needed to his students – rather, this protects what was already there from error in its original state. Of course this doesn’t preclude teaching anything outside the deposit of Faith but just that any such attempts must be handled with care when doing so.