There is no pope

Pope Benedict’s resignation goes into effect today.  So, until the cardinals get together to elect a new one, there is no pope in office.  Canon law used to require a conclave to meet within 20 days of a pope’s resignation, but the outgoing pope changed that so that the cardinals can set the date whenever they want, and no date has been set yet.  So if the church of Rome can exist without a pope for 20 days and even longer, with the bishops and priests still doing what they do, I’m curious in what sense the office of the papacy is considered to be necessary.

The official Vatican statement, giving the effective date:

“I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry,” starts off the message of Bendict XVI to his cardinals on Monday morning.

His brief speech, issued in Latin, the Pope explains that in today’s fast-paced world, strength of mind and body are necessary to lead over one billion Catholics worldwide, and that his age has taken a toll on both.

Benedict XVI went on to say that his resignation will go into effect as of February 28, 2013 at 8 p.m. European Central Time.

“A Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is,” the Pope stated.

The current number of cardinals eligible to choose the next Pope stands at 118. By canon law, the consistory must be scheduled within 20 days of the resignation of Benedict XVI.

via Official Vatican press release on the Pope’s resignation.

Go here for details about the conclave of cardinals, how no date has yet been set, and how the whole election will be conducted.

"The text wouldn't have to be misinterpreted. It would just have to be applied in ..."

California to Ban Books? Or Just ..."
""We have a society in which credit-card debt is legally much more difficult to escape ..."

Is Liberal Democracy Diminishing or Intruding ..."
"Plus those legislators who push whatever bills their handlers give them sight unseen."

California to Ban Books? Or Just ..."
"True 'nuff. It's more "is this headline on the Facebook post my reactionary auntie sent ..."

California to Ban Books? Or Just ..."

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Grace


    Has anyone read  ‏ “The Final Conclave” by Malachi Martin- published in 1978?


  • tODD

    Veith said:

    if the church of Rome can exist without a pope for 20 days and even longer, … I’m curious in what sense the office of the papacy is considered to be necessary.

    I’m sure someone else is more knowledgeable about this, but isn’t this a fairly modern approach to the concept of office? Seems to me that, back in the day, many monarchies — and the papacy is one, at least politically — went unfilled for days, months, or even longer periods. That was just the way things had to be, of course, back before instant communication and rapid travel.

    Still, I would think that even Catholics would largely argue that the Pope’s job — let’s say the Pope’s main job — is not one of responding immediately to rapidly developing situations. (Indeed, critics of the RCC’s reaction to the whole priest sex abuse scandal would argue that “immediate” and “rapid” are not words to be applied at all.) Rather, he is more akin to a CEO, a high-level thinker and/or administrator. And, much like a CEO, you probably don’t want to hurry the process just to have a warm body to fill the chair. You want the Right Guy. (Of course, that’s “Right Guy” as understood by Catholics, not Lutherans.)

  • Grace

    Dr. Veith,

    “I’m curious in what sense the office of the papacy is considered to be necessary.

    It isn’t necessary, the Pope does not hold any viable ‘standard for those who are Born Again Christians, who believe that Jesus died on the Cross for their sins. The Pope cannot forgive anyone from anything, he is not God.

    “The Saviour Himself is the door of the sheepfold: ‘I am the door of the sheep.’ Into this fold of Jesus Christ, no man may enter unless he be led by the Sovereign Pontiff; and only if they be united to him can men be saved, for the Roman Pontiff is the Vicar of Christ and His personal representative on earth.
    Pope John XXIII, in To the Bishops and Faithful Assisting at His Coronation, Homily given on November 4, 1958.

    This is more than an interesting topic. For years, people have wondered about all the prophecy, etc., about the Pope.

    Do you have any specific thoughts on the subject?

  • Grace

    “We teach, . . . We declare that the Roman Church by the Providence of God holds the primacy of ordinary power over all others, and that this power of jurisdiction of the Roman Pontiff, which is truly episcopal, is immediate. Toward it, the pastors and the faithful of whatever rite and dignity, both individually and collectively, are bound by the duty of hierarchical subordination and true obedience, not only in matters which pertain to faith and morals, but also in those which concern the discipline and government of the Church spread throughout the whole world, in such a way that once the unity of communion and the profession of the same Faith has been preserved with the Roman Pontiff, there is one flock of the Church of Christ under one supreme shepherd. This is the teaching of the Catholic truth from which no one can depart without loss of faith and salvation.”
    Given at St. Peter’s, in Rome, June 29th, the feast of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, in the year 1958, the 20th of Our Pontificate.

  • SKPeterson

    The Pope is the Bishop of Rome. That other bishops choose to align themselves under his guidance is their own affair. The Orthodox have their own structure, but the Metropolitan of Constantinople holds nowhere near the sway as the Roman pontiff. (As a curious aside, I wonder why the Orthodox continue to place the bishop of Constantinople in the position of first among equals, when the position was originally only given primacy because of its colocation with the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire, while others were in major population centers and places of learning: Antioch, Alexandria, Jerusalem, etc, and now there is no more Eastern Empire, and Constantinople is Istanbul. It would make more sense for the Metropolitan of Athens or Moscow or St. Petersburg to be the putative head of the EO’s.)

    But, as Grace has duly noted above, the Roman church has arrogated to itself powers that it does not have. In fact it is the claim of these powers (though Grace errs when she says the Office of the Keys is a moot authority of the ordained ministry), and their continual “mission creep” over the centuries, that speaks directly to the claims of the papacy and Rome as anti-Christ found in the writings of the Confessions. This process appears to have actually accelerated (keeping in mind Todd’s note of Church time) over the last two centuries per Grace’s quote @ 4 until Vatican II, John Paul II and now Benedict, in which Rome appears to have softened it’s stance. However, softening by Rome rarely leads to actual reversal or repudiation of previous error – it simply gets swept under the rug (the priestly abuse scandals are somewhat par for the historical course are they not?) or the Romans go all in and double down on the error (the Council of Trent and the Counter-Reformation).

    So, is the Papacy necessary? Obviously not. Do the good Christians of Rome need a Bishop? Probably. Let them decide on it in their local, Roman congregations.

  • Rev. Paul T. McCain

    You raise a very interesting question, Dr. Veith.
    The Catechism of the Catholic Church makes it abundantly clear that all spiritual authority in the Roman Catholic Church is believed to flow immediately and directly from the successor of Peter, through the bishops, and by virtue of the bishop’s authority, to the priests, etc. The validity of every pastoral act in the Roman communion depends up and rests with the Pope himself: confessions, Eucharist, last rites, marriage, baptism, etc. etc.

    The very fact that it is possible for there to be a vacancy in the Seat of Peter bespeaks the invalidity of the Roman claim that this is the case.

  • Kempin04

    “So if the church of Rome can exist without a pope for 20 days and even longer, with the bishops and priests still doing what they do, I’m curious in what sense the office of the papacy is considered to be necessary.”

    I suppose that it is necessary in the same way that an annual federal budget is necessary. Perhaps the cardinals can just pass a continuing resolution on the validity of those sacraments . . .

  • That’s ok.

    Many Christians still have a paper pope.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    The pope is also the Head, the absolute monarch of a state. How long can the state operate without it’s king? I suspect longer than they think.

  • TE Schroeder

    Dr. Veith pondered: “I’m curious in what sense the office of the papacy is considered to be necessary.”

    The answer from the Roman Catholic Church regarding its necessity: “We declare, say, define, and pronounce that it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff” (Pope Boniface VIII, Unam Sanctam). In other words, no Papacy, no salvation. Among other teachings, this especially marks the Papacy as blasphemous and as the very Antichrist (that is, usurping the place of Christ).

    St. Paul and Jesus Christ also said that it would stand until the Judgment Day; so in those terms, it is necessary.

  • trotk

    I don’t see why there is a question here. Any overseer (whether bishop, CEO, mayor, or president of the LCMS) could disappear without monumental short-term effect, absent incompetent leadership at the local or immediate level. Obviously long-term effects would arise – more for complex or large organizations and less for simple or small organizations – but most organizations could last quite some time without their heads.

  • Cincinnatus

    I’m with trotk (and Todd) here: this is a non-issue and a non-question. Pope Celestine V was only elected after 2 years and 3 months, and Gregory X took three years.

    Also, there’s a Wikipedia article on this very topic!

    To wit, the College of Cardinals oversees the papal see when the seat has been vacated by the pope upon his death or, in this case, abdication. In common parlance, an empty seat between popes is nothing more than an interregnum, which surely presents a small opportunity for crisis, but not necessarily. Would the United States collapse into anarchy if the President resigned? Did Apple go bankrupt when Steve Jobs died? No. Because contingency plans are in place to insure continuity of governance. That does not mean, however, that their offices were/are inessential.

  • Carl Vehse

    Good news: In the meantime the world is Antichrist-free, as far as Lutherans are concerned.

  • Dave Ruddat

    Carl, the office still exists, so technically, we aren’t free from the Anti-Christ. The position, not the person.

  • Tom Hering

    Airports survive without airplanes. Wait. Is this the right thread?

  • It just seems odd to retire half way through Lent. Why would you not wait until after Easter. Things like this puzzle me. Knew an ELCA Pastor who retired on Reformation Sunday, I think his last sermon was “Here I Stand, But No Longer.” Perhaps there should be a cannon law, marriages and retirements only June through August.

  • It is astounding how irrational some of the responses here have been. Do you really think your short paragraph on a blog has disproven the validity of the papacy because of a technicality on a rule you read about once? Or does your reason have an interregnum when it comes to institutions you abhor?

    Have none of you ever worked in an office where the director resigned and the position wasn’t filled for several days, if not weeks?! Did that really show that the director position was unnecessary? Did that really mean that all the work you did during that period amounted to nothing, since it wasn’t done under the authority of a director? Heck, in government it’s all the more common. Historically, legislative recesses could last weeks or months. That didn’t mean that the legislatures were not ever necessary or that their legislation did not last during the recess.

    Sheesh, it’s no wonder why Catholics are so easily able to ignore Protestant murmuring when so many of my fellow Protestants simply don’t know what they’re talking about.

  • I’m no Catholic, and have a Congregational view of church polity, so I don’t even think “bishops” as formulated by the Anglicans, Catholics, Orthodox, and others are particularly Biblical.

    That said, if I conceded that our Lord set up an office in Rome for His Vicar, I would have to conclude that it is important in the long term that this office be filled. It’s a necessary conclusion, given the premiss.

    Now note that I say “long term,” as others have rightly noted that the job of any leader is not to respond to every day to day problem. It is to set the general course of the institution so that those at “lower levels” can handle the day to day things. When leaders get involved in the day to day, it is demoralizing for all levels of the organization–I’ve had a couple of examples in the past few years with a company where I worked and a church attended.

    And regarding the idea that one is not saved unless in proper submission to the Pope; let’s find it in the Scriptures.

  • Dr Luther in the 21st Century

    @#17 I’m sure the others can and will offer a more vigorous defense; but, this is a question we have been asking the RCC for a long time. We do not operate in a vacuum of ignorance. Several of the commentators are pretty familiar with RCC teachings and history or at least should be as we cover the subject in our seminary classes.

  • As I heard it explained on the local Catholic station, there is much business that goes undone while there is no Pope.

  • Gene Veith

    Let me explain my question. (Steven Mitchell is completely misunderstanding what I offer as an honest question. I’m not trying to refute anything. Surely Catholics have a theological answer, but I haven’t heard one yet.) If the papacy is just an administrative position–like Steve Jobs running Apple, or a King reigning over a nation–then, of course, the office is vacant until it’s filled and there is no problem. But the Catholic theology I have heard and read seems to assign a much bigger role than that to the papacy. I have heard that the whole hierarchy of the church and indeed in some sense the church on earth itself inheres in the Pope. So it would seem to be problematic for there to be a time–when a pope dies or resigns in the period between papacies–that there is “no pope.” Now if the papacy were just an administrative position, then even Lutherans (according to our confessions) would have no problem with the office and might even consider joining it. But it’s these other beliefs about the papacy that are problematic to us. Here is a mental experiment: There are lots of calls within Catholic circles to reform the church and hopes that whoever is chosen to be pope would advance these causes. What if the college of cardinals refuses to meet and just leaves the office open indefinitely? Could that, theoretically, happen? What would that do to Roman Catholic theology? Practically, it would leave the governance of the church to the bishops, as in the Orthodox and Anglican churches.

  • Dr. Veith, you are correct. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, as I mentioned previously, teaches that all spiritual authority in the Church resides with the Pope and flows from him through the bishops to the priests, etc.

  • Dr. Veith, here are some pertinent quotes from the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

    The Lord made Simon alone, whom he named Peter, the “rock” of his Church. He gave him the keys of his Church and instituted him shepherd of the whole flock.400 “The office of binding and loosing which was given to Peter was also assigned to the college of apostles united to its head.”401 This pastoral office of Peter and the other apostles belongs to the Church’s very foundation and is continued by the bishops under the primacy of the Pope. (553, 642)

    882 The Pope, Bishop of Rome and Peter’s successor, “is the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful.”402 “For the Roman Pontiff, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ, and as pastor of the entire Church has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered.”403 (834, 1369, 837)

    883 “The college or body of bishops has no authority unless united with the Roman Pontiff, Peter’s successor, as its head.” As such, this college has “supreme and full authority over the universal Church; but this power cannot be exercised without the agreement of the Roman Pontiff.”404

  • Carl Vehse

    Dave Ruddat @14 says: “Carl, the office still exists, so technically, we aren’t free from the Anti-Christ. The position, not the person.”

    Dave, you are expressing the Lufauxran view. Here is the Lutheran understanding:

    “This teaching shows forcefully that the Pope is the very Antichrist, who has exalted himself above, and opposed himself against Christ because he will not permit Christians to be saved without his power, which, nevertheless, is nothing, and is neither ordained nor commanded by God.”

    “Therefore, just as little as we can worship the devil himself as Lord and God, we can endure his apostle, the Pope, or Antichrist, in his rule as head or lord. For to lie and to kill, and to destroy body and soul eternally, that is wherein his papal government really consists, as I have very clearly shown in many books.”

    “Now, it is manifest that the Roman pontiffs, with their adherents, defend [and practice] godless doctrines and godless services. And the marks [all the vices] of Antichrist plainly agree with the kingdom of the Pope and his adherents.”

    “This being the case, all Christians ought to beware of becoming partakers of the godless doctrine, blasphemies, and unjust cruelty of the Pope. On this account they ought to desert and execrate the Pope with his adherents as the kingdom of Antichrist; just as Christ has commanded, Matt. 7:15”

    “On this account our consciences are sufficiently excused; for the errors of the kingdom of the Pope are manifest. And Scripture with its entire voice exclaims that these errors are a teaching of demons and of Antichrist.”

    “Therefore, even though the bishop of Rome had the primacy by divine right, yet since he defends godless services and doctrine conflicting with the Gospel, obedience is not due him; yea, it is necessary to resist him as Antichrist. The errors of the Pope are manifest and not trifling.”

  • fws

    “His brief speech, issued in Latin…”

    Was that REALLY necessary? Seems just a tad pretentious to me…. but then, that´s Rome for ya.

  • fws

    Breaking news:

    “Pope Benedict , explaining his decision to step down, in Latin, offered the following advice to the next pope hope that he will avoid a similar fate:

    “semper ubi sub ubi!”

  • fws

    More breaking news:

    “Pope Benedict, also offered the following advice , in Latin (!) should the next pope NOT be from the continent of África:

    ‘Minemike maneo, Africanum súbito. Prendas pedit ditigo. Si clamabit mittito. Minemike maneo.”

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    So, what is the correct terminology here?

    Did he “de-pope”? Or did he “pope-out”?

  • Grace

    Jesus is the foundation the Chief corner stone, the ROCK upon which the church is built not Peter, or any other man.

    3 Because I will publish the name of the LORD: ascribe ye greatness unto our God.
    4 He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he. Deuteronomy 32

    No mention of Peter being the ROCK here.

    And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ. 1 Corinthian 10:4

    No mention of Peter being the ROCK here.

    Paul makes it crystal clear who the ROCK is – Christ Jesus is the foundation of the Church, HE is the ROCK, not Peter –

    “You above all, venerable brothers, have known how this dogma of our religion has been unanimously and unceasingly declared, defended and insisted upon in synods by the Fathers of the Church. Indeed, they have never stopped teaching that ‘God is one, Christ is one, the Church established upon Peter by the voice of the Lord is one;’ ‘the massive foundation of the great Christian state has been divinely built upon, as it were, this rock, this very firm stone;’ ‘this Chair, which is unique and the first of gifts, has always been designated and considered as the Chair of Peter;’ ‘shining forth throughout the world it maintains its primacy;’ ‘it is also the root and matrix whence sacerdotal unity has sprung;’ it is not only the head but also the mother and teacher of all the Churches…’the Roman Pontiff, who holds Primacy in the entire world, is the Successor of Blessed Peter the Prince of the Apostles and the true Vicar of Christ, the head of the whole Church, and is the visible Father and Teacher of all Christians.’ There are other, almost countless, proofs drawn from the most trustworthy witnesses which clearly and openly testify with great faith, exactitude, respect and obedience that all who want to belong to the true and only Church of Christ must honor and obey this Apostolic See and Roman Pontiff.” Pope Pius IX, Amantissimus (On The Care Of The Churches), Encyclical promulgated on April 8, 1862, # 3.

  • Carl Vehse

    Even Romanists will concede the “Holy See” has now become “un-pope-ular.”

  • Grace

    19 Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.

    20 And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord.

    21 Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.

    22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost:

    23 Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.
    John 20

    The words of Christ were made to the Disciples/Apostles, they were in the room, when Christ appeared – they were given many gifts we don’t have today. Just as they were inspired by the HOLY Spirit to write the Scriptures which we have today.

    IF anyone believes that these passages were to be handed down, and that somehow there should be a Pope, or anyone else who could offer absolution, what Scripture is there that can substantiate such a belief? And I do mean Scripture.

    The POINT being they were gifted to the Apostles, nowhere does it say they were to be handed down.

    Were the keys of Heaven given only to Peter, NO they weren’t – Jesus gives them to everyone who makes confession as Christ their Savior just as Peter did. A child of God has the the keys to Heaven if they are Born Again. Every single person who is a Believer right this moment has the keys to Heaven. If we withhold the Word we “bind on earth” if we give out the Word, we “loose on earth” No man or individual Church has the keys to the exclusion of all other believers.

    Rome denies that Jesus is the ROCK, they believe that Peter was the rock.

    Jesus never said that there would be a line of so called ‘Pope’s’ making rules (traditions of men) which would supersede what Christ HIMSELF had stated.

  • Dr Luther in the 21st Century

    Grace, I am trying to figure out why you are posting what you are posting. If this were a Catholic board seeking to defend their position on the Papacy, I’d understand. But, nobody is defending the Papacy. We are just asking a simple question about what their “inside baseball” means about their theological position and what impact it may have on them. Or are you conflating the doctrine of the Office of the Keys with the doctrine of the Papacy? They are two separate issues.

  • Carl Vehse

    Since quotes from Hermann Sasse cause some theologians these days to feel a thrill going up their legs, here is a little excitement for them:

    “That there may be no doubt about our position, let it be clearly said: A theologian who merely because it happens to be in the Confessions lets the doctrine stand that the pope is the Antichrist, and is not solidly convinced that it is so, cannot truthfully be called a Lutheran.”

    “If there was any doubt on the part of some Lutherans as to the correctness of Luther’s judgment, then this was removed when Pius IX, with the consent of the Vatican Council, on 18 July 1870 promulgated the constitution Pastor aeternus. In it eternal salvation was denied to those who consciously oppose the dogma that the pope has the exercise of direct episcopal power over the whole church, over the infallibility with which Christ has equipped His church, and that his ex cathedra decisions in questions of faith and morals are, ‘of themselves, and not from the consensus of the church,’ true and irreformable (ex sese, non autem ex consensus Ecclesiae irreformabiles [Denzinger 3074]). And when the first of these new ex cathedra decisions was proclaimed—the dogma of the Assumption of Mary, in 1950, on All Saints’ Day, the day inseparably connected with the Reformation—the shock wave hit all Christendom. Here became visible something of the reality which Luther had recognized with deep dread—the reality of the man who puts himself in God’s place and proclaims his fantasies as divine revelation.

    Hermann Sasse, We Confess Anthology, Trans. Norman Nagel, St. Louis: CPH, 1999, pp. 118 and 120.

    HT: Stand Firm

  • Matt Jamison

    My understanding of the Roman position:

    The authority of any Christian priest to perform his sacramental duties depends on his fellowship with the Bishop of Rome and the validity of his ordination with regard to the apostolic succession. But with the vacancy, the work of the church does not stop; priests continue to do their sacramental work. The problem would develop over the long term as new priests could not be ordained and wayward priests could not be excommunicated without papal authority.

  • Matt Jamison

    Carl found a great quote.

    Any guy who preaches new doctrines that are not found in scripture and condemning all who do not hold these doctrines is doing exactly what Joseph Smith did and should be held in the same regard by Christians.

  • Cincinnatus

    I can understand why Lutherans would object substantively to popery in general, but I still don’t understand the procedural objection here. By the way many of you are framing the issue. it’s as if you are objecting to the fact that popes die. But even Lutherans should understand that the Church, however understood, is both a human and a divine/spiritual institution. Even its highest representatives are humans, with all the infirmities attendant thereto.

    When a CEO dies, his business authority is held in trust by the Board of Directors until a replacement is appointed. When a king/queen dies, his/her political authority is held in trust by designated representatives until a replacement can be coronated. When a pope dies, his spiritual authority is held in trust by the College of Cardinals until a representative can be appointed. I simply don’t see the procedural, logical (as distinct from substantive, doctrinal) problem here.

    Remember the medieval distinction between office and officeholder: the body of the king may die, but the king–that is, the office of king–never dies. So it is with the pope.

    Similarly, even Lutheran congregations would be problematic according to your objection: if your pastor were to die unexpectedly, would the congregation descend into spiritual anarchy until a replacement is called? Do you always have an immediate order of succession prepared “just in case” so not a moment goes by without a replacement? Of course not.

  • Cincinnatus

    And, yes, Matt Jamison makes an important point: the spiritual authority of the officers of the Church, as I understand it, does not disappear if the pope vacates his seat. There are still cardinals, bishops, priests, and so on who have been suitably ordained to administer the sacraments. The spiritual authority of the church would only be endangered if the seat were never refilled: spiritual authority flows down from the pope. The pope ordains cardinals, who ordain bishops, who ordain priests, etc. The process functions similarly in Anglicanism. The pope doesn’t have to be alive to “exude” spiritual authority forever; an ordained cardinal/bishop/priest is ordained for life.

  • Excuse me for interrupting, Pastors, but off topic, is it LCMS policy that its pastors not comment on a “layperson’s” blog? I and other laypersons have noticed that on, LCMS pastors will leave copious comments on each other’s blogs, but will rarely if ever comment on a blog by an LCMS layperson. Just curious. Thanks!

  • Grace

    21st Century @ 32

    I can see why you would question my motives, or why I would post what I have.

    The reason is; almost the entire Roman Church is built upon “tradition” and what they want it to be, it’s not Scriptural. The Pope, whether there is one in 25 days, or two months makes no difference, it isn’t Biblical. The Pope has not the power to make changes to the Bible, or what God stated clearly. Christ is the mediator between man and God. No where in Scripture is Mary mentioned as having the ability to stand between man on earth and her Son, our LORD and Savior.
    But that is just what the RCC believes.

    Mary places herself between her Son and mankind in the reality of their wants, needs and sufferings. She puts herself “in the middle,” that is to say she acts as a mediatrix not as an outsider, but in her position as mother. She knows that as such she can point out to her Son the needs of mankind, and in fact, she “has the right” to do so.”
    Given in Rome, at Saint Peter’s, on March 25, the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, in the year 1987, the ninth of my Pontificate.

    How many men and women have been led astray by the RCC?
    How many unlearned have prayed to Mary who can’t hear prayer, nor can she answer prayer?

    I believe that we as Believers are to teach the Gospel, not a trumpted up rituals and rules that aren’t in the word of God. We are going to be held accountable someday.

    Maybe you feel that I am not on track, however I disagree. The world is in a mess, and it gets worse every day. I see and talk to people who are looking for answers to their deepest heart needs, they are lost, that’s why many of them turn to drugs, and anything else, because they don’t see that there is a future, one that we as Believers have, because we have put our trust and faith in Christ.

    The name of this blog is “There is no Pope” – in actuality, Biblicaly, there never was a real one.

  • #35: Galatians 1:8. If any man preach another Gospel…….

  • Gene Veith

    Well, Gary, I’m a layperson and lots of LCMS pastors comment here.

  • Gene, to be clear, I wasn’t criticizing you. It’s perfectly fine to ask the question, because it is certainly an extraordinary situation. What I was criticizing is the ‘gotcha’ responses who appear to think that they can unravel the Cod of Canon Law and Catechism in one paragraph, such as Rev. McCain’s post above. Yes, the office of Supreme Pontiff, as they call it officially, is much more than an administrative position. But that does not mean that the non-administrative powers need to be treated radically different. In a sense, they are already devolved to the bishops and priests regularly. In the case of sede vacante, John Paul II’s apostolic constitution Universi Dominici Gregis makes a lot of this explicit.

    A good example of how spiritual authority (i.e., something beyond mere administration) is exercised sede vacante is the provision for if the person elected is not already a bishop. In such a case, he is first ordained before he is made bishop. Even though the power of ordination lies within the office of Supreme Pontiff, it is regularly devolved to those lower in the hierarchy. In this particular case, it is necessarily so. Because the principle here is both implicit and explicit, it doesn’t cause any particular hand-wringing.

    I would sincerely suggest that if you want a good answer than I, a mere religious legal historian, can provide, and which explores the intricacies of law and doctrine, it would be worth your while to ask a canon lawyer or Catholic theologian.

  • Gene Veith

    No, Cincinnatus, Lutherans have no procedural objection here. We have no problem with an office being vacant at all. That fits perfectly well with our polity and theology. What I have been asking is why isn’t this a problem in Roman Catholicism, given the more-than-functional theology of the papacy.

  • tODD

    Gary (@38), I count at least four LCMS pastors commenting on this layperson’s blog, for what it’s worth.

    Grace asked (@39), “How many men and women have been led astray by the RCC?” To which I’d answer: none (that I know of) in this conversation. So, again, to whom are your comments addressed?

  • tODD

    Carl, it’s not clear to me how your confessional quotes (@24) disagree with Dave’s statement (@14). But then, I guess I’m not clear on what your position is. Can you explain?

  • Grace

    ““How many men and women have been led astray by the RCC?” To which I’d answer: none (that I know of) in this conversation. So, again, to whom are your comments addressed?’

    This blog, and those who comment are not the multitudes the question was posited to, or about: that should be apparent, but then…..

  • Grace

    Codes of Canon Law – The Holy See – Archive

    Code of Canon Law
    [Traditional Chinese, English, French, German, Italian, Latin, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish]

    Apostolic Letter “Motu Proprio data” Omnium in mentem, modifying some canons of the Code of Canon Law (October 26, 2009)
    [English, French, German, Italian, Latin, Portuguese, Spanish]

    Codex Canonum Ecclesiarum Orientalium

  • helen

    fws @ 25
    The Pope announced his resignation in Latin because that is the official language in the Vatican, never mind that the everyday business is likely to be conducted in Italian. So, legally, saying it in Latin was necessary.

    [Getreligion has been a very useful site on this subject and others!]

  • Grace


    I think fws was just joking, he obviously knows that the Pope would most likely make his address in Latin, he does on numerous occasions.

    Many doctor’s today, still write all their prescriptions in Latin, it’s a holdover from another era. It’s not a requirement any longer, but it’s still used by many doctor’s.

  • Grace

    I should have added that Latin abbreviations are almost always used in prescriptions, such as
    sl – under the tongue …. sq – under the skin …. tid – take three times a day etc.

  • As a postscript to my posts above:
    I like analogies, so let me use one here. I would compare the simplistic ‘debunking’ above to the problem of evil charge against theism. The atheist takes one tenet of theism (God is all-good and all-powerful) and one observation (evil exists), synthesizes them, and claims the synthesis is untenable, thus disapproving the tenet.

    But we theists know that the argument is flawed in its simplicity: God’s nature of goodness and power is more than how the doctrine reads on first glance; and the existence of evil is likewise more nuanced. The failure of the atheist is in not giving the theist enough credit as an intelligent human being. So also many criticisms of Rome by Protestants.

    I firmly believe the papacy is illegitimate, but I give Catholics more credit than that their entire doctrine can be debunked by a simple syllogism. If I ever arrive at a place where I believe otherwise, I would sooner presume that I do not fully understand and do just as you did, Gene, and ask the questions. For the fatal flaw in Catholicism is certainly not their logic but their interpretation of Scripture.

  • Thanks for the feedback!

    The reason I asked is because often the posts on my blog are among the most popular posts of the day/month/3 month period on…but rarely ever does an LCMS pastor leave a comment. I and my readers would enjoy some pastoral feedback. I thought maybe there was a secret rule against LCMS pastors posting comments on the blogs of the “laiety”. I see now that that is not the case. I guess it just means that I need to work alot harder to make my posts more interesting…or at least more controversial! 🙂

    I enjoy your blog, Dr. Veith. God bless!

  • Grace

    Below, comments made by Joseph Ratzinger, before becoming Pope –

    “The clay became man at the moment in which a being for the first time was capable of forming, however dimly, the thought of “God”. The first Thou that—however stammeringly—was said by human lips to God marks the moment in which the spirit arose in the world. Here the Rubicon of anthropogenesis was crossed. For it is not the use of weapons or fire, not new methods of cruelty or of useful activity, that constitute man, but rather his ability to be immediately in relation to God. This holds fast to the doctrine of the special creation of man … herein … lies the reason why the moment of anthropogenesis cannot possibly be determined by paleontology: anthropogenesis is the rise of the spirit, which cannot be excavated with a shovel. The theory of evolution does not invalidate the faith, nor does it corroborate it. But it does challenge the faith to understand itself more profoundly and thus to help man to understand himself and to become increasingly what he is: the being who is supposed to say Thou to God in eternity.”

    — Joseph Ratzinger

    A convoluted piece, if I ever read one.

    The “theory of evolution” when believed, invalidates Scripture. For that reason, it would then give rise to whether any, or parts of Scripture are to be tossed aside, in favor of ‘little mans small mind, rather than trusting in HOLY Scriptures, which was given by God ALMIGHTY.

    For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
    Isaiah 55:9

    Genesis is thrown aside, when little man can’t understand. God can create anything, he can confound we poor humans who believe we might have a go at unfolding the onion of life, what a disaster when man thinks he then knows how God formed the beginning, from EVERLASTING to EVERLASTING, it is all HIS!

  • Cincinnatus

    Gene Veith@43 (or whoever wishes to respond):

    If the concern isn’t procedural, I still fail to see the substantive issue here. The mechanics of apostolic succession are fairly straightforward. Of course, I’m not asking any Lutheran to assent to apostolic succession. But it’s perfectly internally coherent. If your rather petty objection were valid, the whole thing would have been abandoned long ago.

  • Joe

    Cincy – it is not a question of apostolic succession, its a question of papal primacy. As I understand the question it is thus:

    Since the RC confesses that all of the power and authority of the church on earth is vesting in the single man who holds the office of the papacy and then is only available to under-shepherds as derivative of the power of the Pope, what is the status of the under-shepherds and their power/authority when there is no Pope?

  • Joe

    “If your rather petty objection were valid, the whole thing would have been abandoned long ago.”

    Oh yes, your right because the RC church often admits its mistakes and corrects its failures. It never doubles down on poor theology or wrong doctrine. 🙂

  • Cincinnatus

    Joe@55: I’ve already countered this objection. The derivative power of the Pope doesn’t depend upon the continued life of the pope. The cardinals, bishops, priests, etc., still have their derivative authority after the pope dies–and even if there is no immediate replacement. As I understand it, the only potential problem would arise if no replacement pope were appointed by the time all the cardinals–who had already been duly ordained by the previous pope–died, thus breaking the chain of authority. And of course, there would be a problem if a theological/ecclesiastical crisis emerged requiring papal oversight. But that’s why the college of cardinals are obligated to appoint a new pope as soon as possible.

    Note that I’m not a Catholic, and I object to papal primacy. But I am an Anglican and am thus conversant in (and comfortable with) the mechanics of apostolic succession and clerical primacy. The Catholic Church has been handling papal succession more or less (sometimes less) successfully for thousands of years. They seem to have managed to deal with the inescapable mortality of popes rather well, in my opinion.

    As for your comment @56, you’re again misunderstanding the issue. Obviously, from the perspective of a Lutheran, the office of the papacy itself is theologically problematic. But that’s not the objection you and others are raising. You’re attempting to find some sort of internal inconsistency or incoherence within the mechanics of papal primacy. But there are no such internal inconsistencies. This is not an “AHA! You were wrong all along because of this minor logical flaw we just now discovered after 2000+ years!” moment. If you accept the assumptions of Catholicism, what’s going on right now in the Vatican is perfectly acceptable and logical.

    The problem for Lutherans is that the papacy lacks “external validity,” as it were: it doesn’t comport with what you regard as theological truth. Meanwhile, you’re not going to get very far in this silly game of logical “gotcha.” I assure you that the Roman Church has thought this one through. The procedure itself isn’t logically flawed.

  • Joe

    Cincy – I can’t speak for others but I’m)not playing gotcha (I don’t need to, I already confess the pope is the anti-Christ regardless of a gap in power due to a vacancy) – I’m asking a question. (It would do you good to put your broad brush away, you’ve been here long enough to know that not all of us Lutherans approach each issue in lock step. The fact that some here might be simply looking to slam the papacy doesn’t mean that others of us are not trying to understand something that doesn’t make sense to us.)

    “You’re attempting to find some sort of internal inconsistency or incoherence within the mechanics of papal primacy. But there are no such internal inconsistencies.”

    No I am trying understand why it doesn’t all fall apart. Look, I’m a lawyer in my line of work I deal with derivative claims on a regular basis. A derivative claim is wholly dependent on the current existence of a primary claim. If the primary claim goes away – the derivative claim ceases to exist. So, extrapolating if all church power and authority is vested in the pope and there is no pope – notice no one is currently interim pope, no one is currently holding St. Peter’s Throne – then the derivative power is not extant. If, the doctrine, were that the power is vested in an unbroken line of bishops and then those bishops select a presiding bishop, this problem would not exist. But that is not the teaching of the RC. Is it that the power remains even if the office is unfilled? If so, for how long? Can a bishop ordain a priest today? What if the office stays empty for a year can the bishop still ordain a priest?

    “I assure you that the Roman Church has thought this one through” great, what have they said? Anyone know? I seen lots of non-RC assumptions and suggested answers but what say the RC? I’ve read through the document cited @ 42, it does not seem to actually answer these questions. Instead, it confirms that the pope need not be selected via the college of cardinals and simply states here are some limited things the cardinals can do in the absence of a pope. It does, go into why the power and authority of the church remains.

  • Joe

    Sorry for the typos – the last sentence should read “DOES NOT GO INTO.”

  • Cincinnatus


    I’ve already posted a link explaining in some detail the locations of authority when a pope dies or abdicates–which happens, you’ll recall, every couple of decades at least. In short, a regency of the college of cardinals maintains limited authority over the church until the papal enclave concludes its business.

    No, the cardinals (for example) do not “lose” their authority to, say, ordain a bishop during this period, nor does a priest lose his capacity to bless the sacrament, etc. The fact that you would think so is very odd to me, and shows just how little many Christians know about other denominations. When one is duly ordained, one retains all the rights and prerogatives and authorities appropriate to the office until one dies or is excommunicated. These prerogatives do not depend on the temporal presence of a pope after ordainment. This is true in Anglicanism, Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and other episcopal traditions. It’s not as if priests “check in” with the pope for permission before leading a mass.

    In other words, why would you think it would “all fall apart”? The Roman Church doesn’t fall apart when a pope dies any more than other rigorously institutionalized systems do. Sure, a vacant papacy could open the door to usurpation, heterodoxy, and other mischief, presumably–just as the unexpected death of an heirless king could lead to civil war. But there are claims and systems in place specifically designed to ensure continuity of authority in the United States government, for example, and in the Roman Church. Police officers in theory don’t lose their prerogative to arrest criminals if their superiors suddenly disappear; similarly, bishops, priests, and cardinals don’t lose their prerogative to conduct the daily business of Christendom when the pope disappears–in theory (and usually in practice).

  • Mick Lee

    Boy, you guys! I’m not a Catholic and have no intention of ever becoming one; but the bitter bile launched at Rome is uncalled for. The tone in many of the comments above remind me why I’ll never join the LCMS.

  • Joe

    Cincy – the fact that you continually equate the RC papal primacy doctrine with a simply episcopal system based on succession demonstrates that you don’t actually know what the RC teaches about the nature of the pope’s power and authority. It is substantively different than the Anglican, Orthodox, etc traditions. Unless I missed the part whether the Anglican Communion has announced that the entirety of the authority and power of the church on earth is vested solely and exclusively in the Archbishop of Canterbury you are comparing apples and oranges. You might notice that the Lutheran Church has not confesses that the Archbishop is an anti-Christ.

  • SKPeterson

    Mick @ 61 – Not everyone who posts on here is from the LCMS. If you have specific examples of “bitter bile” being offered up, please address those, but please don’t assume that such bilious talk is strictly from those of us in the LCMS.

  • TE Schroeder

    Mick Lee @61 — For example???

  • Cincinnatus


    1) I’m fully aware that Lutherans regard the Pope as an antichrist, and I’m fully aware that this has something to do with the notion of papal primacy. I’m not sure in the least how that tidbit bears on this discussion, though. That’s a polite way of saying that it doesn’t.

    2) The Roman Catholic Church does, in fact, employ an episcopal polity. The pope, after all, is the Bishop of Rome. No informed Catholic will dispute this claim.

    3) That said, while I’m deeply sympathetic to Catholic theology, there is a reason that I nonetheless remain Anglican, and papal primacy is one of the major reasons. Of course I recognize that there are substantive distinctions between Anglican and Roman “episocpalianism.” There are different varieties of episcopal governance–as another example, the United Methodist Church does not believe in literal apostolic succession as the Anglican Church does.

    As I’ve repeated several times, though, papal primacy does not mean that the pope has to be effectively immortal in order for other church officers to conduct their affairs. Why is this so difficult to grasp? Papal primacy means, for example, that a bishop can’t change doctrine. It means that a congregation can’t vote on who should be a cardinal. It means that, when a cardinal is ordained, his prerogatives are limited and subordinate–though they are “valid” for life. It thus does not mean that the pope must be alive or sitting on the throne for the cardinal to continue exercising his prerogatives. It does mean that, while there is no pope, the Church can’t make pronouncements on theological matters. It can’t alter dogma. It can’t ordain new cardinals. It doesn’t mean that there is no church at all.

    In short, as I’ve noted several times already, I simply don’t understand what you’re not understanding. This systems seems simple enough to me, even if you don’t agree with it.

  • SKPeterson

    Cincinnatus @ 65 – I’m mostly indifferent or casually curious regarding the new pope, but I agree with you regarding episcopal policy. The papacy did not supplant the local bishoprics, but merely provided a theological and administrative oversight in the Western Church. As you noted, the absence of a sitting pope does not invalidate the bishoprics, and it is in these bishoprics that the authority of the sacraments is operative. According to ancient church practice and teaching, the validity of the sacraments flowed from the office of the bishop as the inheritor of the Office of the Keys established by Jesus. It needs to be reminded that in the ancient church, the bishop was the local congregational pastor, over time, as Christianity grew, new churches sprang up, and these local pastors began to train and ordain new pastors for these congregations. As a result, the senior pastor’s position evolved into the office we now have as bishop. This is uncontroversial and recognized as a suitable form of organization for the Church – the episcopal system allows for the good ordering of the affairs of the church, sees to training, missionary activity and care of the congregations. Is it biblically mandated? No, but neither is it forbidden. It is a means for the Church to organize itself.

    The issue that has been brought up, and which is not especially germane to this discussion, is the theological and doctrinal primacy that the papacy has arrogated to itself over time, coupled with some very serious and problematic theological positions that have been declared dogma of the Church that are clearly in contravention to the teachings of Scripture. Hence, anti-Christ.

    However, to joe’s point: the papacy has claimed with varying fervor over the centuries various doctrines that elevate the papacy itself as an institution holding special extra-biblical rights and powers. These powers and rights have been invested in the papacy to such an extent, coupled with various justifying arguments, that the criticality of the papacy is not just to the effective administration of the Church, but it is held forth also to being central to the actual spiritual capacity and capability of the Church. So much so, that if one takes Roman arguments at face value regarding the position and powers of the papacy, one would have to question whether or not the Roman Church could actually function. That the Church clearly continues to do so would appear, then, to belie the arguments as to the centrality and criticality of the papacy in providing the spiritual wherewithal for the Church to function.

  • Cincinnatus


    At this point, your objection is bordering on innuendo or spurious hyperbole. The argument seems to be that, because the Catholic Church claims the pope is really, really important–“central and critical”–then the church obviously can’t function at all in his absence.

    Ok, but this isn’t a real argument. What precisely in the Church’s teachings suggests that the Church can’t function, either spiritually or administratively, in the temporary absence of a pope?

    Note, again, that I’m not asking you to condone papal primacy. I deny it on theological grounds. But I still don’t buy the sort of logic you guys are using. The implicit aim of some of you–not necessarily you, SK, or Joe–seems to be a chance to say, “Aha! See? The Church doesn’t need the pope!” Nothing happening in Rome right now indicates anything of the sort, though.

  • rvs

    The priesthood of believers is probably not what they are thinking in Rome. The Unbounded Now–maybe. The new pope is already the pope in one sense; he just has not been recognized as such… yet.

  • helen

    Grace @ 49
    I think fws was just joking, he obviously knows that the Pope would most likely make his address in Latin, he does on numerous occasions.

    Gee, d’ya think so?

  • Wonderful website. Lots of useful info here. I am sending it to some friends ans also sharing in delicious. And of course, thanks on your effort!