A True Pope Cannot Fall into Formal Heresy

“The question of whether a given pope has lost his office on account of heresy is hypothetical, since it has never been proven that a pope can actually fall into formal heresy. The opinion, that a pope cannot be a heretic, (the first opinion outlined by Bellarmine) is the one that is most commonly taught as the most probable by the majority of theologians and Doctors: St. Robert Bellarmine, St. Alphonsus de Liguori, Francisco Suárez, Melchior Cano, Domingo Soto, John of St. Thomas, Juan de Torquemada, Louis Billot, Joachim Salaverri, A. Maria Vellico, Charles Journet, Cardinal Tommaso de Vio ‘Cajetan’, Francesco Bordoni, Pedro de Simanca, Domingo Bañez, and Martino Bonacina – and Bonacina cites others who were of the same opinion. For roughly a century this nearly unanimous opinion has been the most common, even among those who admit only the hypothetical possibility of a pope falling from office due to public defection into heresy.”

Kramer, Paul. To Deceive the Elect: The Catholic Doctrine on the Question of a Heretical Pope (Kindle Locations 3385-3392). Kindle Edition.


“To Deceive the Elect: The Catholic Doctrine on the Question of a Heretical Pope” by Fr. Paul Kramer

I have finished reading Fr. Paul Kramer’s “To Deceive the Elect: The Catholic Doctrine on the Question of a Heretical Pope”.  It is a very enlightening ex​po​sé of the Catholic teaching on heresy and membership in the Church, whether a pope can be a formal heretic, and if it were possible for a pope to be a formal heretic, what can be done about it.  This book is NOT about proving that Jorge Bergoglio was not validly elected in 2013 and that Benedict XVI is still the true pope because of it.  Fr. Kramer does write about this matter in the Introduction, but it only forms a small part overall.  Therefore, those who disparage the content by saying, “Fr. Kramer needed 700 pages to prove that Jorge Bergoglio is not the pope,” show that they don’t know what they are talking about.  It shows they approach this book with bias even before reading it.  That is not exactly intellectual honesty.

There are three major theses that I took from this book:

1. All manifestly pertinacious heretics (including popes if it were possible that they could become such) visibly separate themselves from the Church by the nature of heresy, and not by any juridical act of ecclesiastical authority; and, as a direct consequence of being visibly severed from the body of the Church, they lose ipso facto by tacit renunciation whatever ecclesiastical office they may have held, without any declaration by the ecclesiastical authority.

This must be believed with Divine and Catholic Faith.

2. There does not exist, nor can there exist, even by way of exception, a jurisdiction on earth superior to the pope’s universal primacy of jurisdiction.  Consequently, no one on earth, not even the whole of the cardinals and bishops of the world, can judge a true pope, even for heresy, and depose him from the papal office.

This must be believed with Divine and Catholic Faith.

3. A true pope cannot fall into formal heresy, public or occult.

This must be believed as proximate to Faith.

In my opinion, no Catholic library should be without this book.  I have learned a lot from it.  I encourage readers to buy the book from The Servants of Jesus and Mary.


See here for theological notes.