Is Pope Francis the Valid Pope?

How can we know which person is a valid Pope, and which persons might be antipopes (a false claimant to the papacy)? The answer is simple and dogmatic: the Church is indefectible. Therefore, God’s providence and grace NEVER permits anyone to be accepted by the body of Bishops as the Roman Pontiff, the Head of the Church, other than a valid Pope. There have been many antipopes in the history of the Church. Not a single one was a Head accepted by its Body, the Church.

What factors make a papacy valid?

There are only three factors needed for a papacy to be valid:

1. The person must be validly elected.
2. The person must freely accept the papal office.
3. The person must be ordained as a Bishop.

Some commentators add that the candidate for the papacy must be an adult male. But those requirements are included in the condition that he must be ordained as Bishop (before or after his election). Only adult men can be ordained to the episcopal degree.

You might think that, once all three conditions for a valid Pope are met, the candidate must be installed in some type of ceremony before he is actually the Pope. But technically, this ceremony is not essential. The three factors needed for a valid Pope are explained by Pope Saint John Paul II in the Apostolic Constitution Universi Dominici Gregis:

Pope Saint John Paul II: “While it is indeed a doctrine of faith that the power of the Supreme Pontiff derives directly from Christ, whose earthly Vicar he is, it is also certain that this supreme power in the Church is granted to him ‘by means of (1) lawful election (2) accepted by him, together with (3) episcopal consecration’.” [Universi Dominici Gregis; inner quote from Canon law]

The ceremony for the inauguration of the Roman Pontiff is traditional, and should be observed. But it is not required for validity. Indeed, the ceremony used to include a literal coronation. The last to be crowned with the papal tiara was Pope Paul VI. Each of his successors opted to omit that portion of the ritual.

Proof of Validity

But I suppose that malicious persons are always able to invent a set of fictitious accusations, sufficient to rise to a level that would, if true, invalidate an election. So how can we know that such a case has not occurred? The answer is simply the same as for the other questions already resolved above. God protects the Church, making Her indefectible. The Ark of Salvation can never sink. The Rock on which the Church is founded can never fail.

Therefore, if the Bishops and dioceses of the world accept the election of anyone as Pope, then this work of the Holy Spirit confirms the validity of his election and his papacy. For if the Bishops as a body were to accept an invalid Pope, the Church would no longer be indefectible. She would have gone astray by having an invalid leader. Therefore, the acceptance of any Pope by the body of Bishops dispersed in the world confirms the validity of his election and his papacy.

Much more on this point in my book: In Defense of Pope Francis.

by
Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

Please take a look at this list of my books and booklets, and see if any topic interests you.

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4 Responses to Is Pope Francis the Valid Pope?

  1. king robert the bruce says:

    hello ron there is news today of cardinal Vincent nicholls re consecrating England and wales to the immaculate heart of our lady could this be a fore runner to the return of England coming back to rome I think there are many concerned Anglicans not happy with the direction theyre church is going

  2. John Platts says:

    I have recently encountered online commentators who claim that Pope Francis is not a valid Pope because they believe that Pope Francis had taught positions that contradict infallible teachings of the Catholic Church and because they believe that Pope Francis will change some of the teachings of the Catholic Church that had been infallibly taught by the Catholic Church prior to Pope Francis’s heresy.

    Did Pope Francis support same-sex marriage or homosexual unions in contradiction to Catholic Church teaching prior to his papacy as claimed by some online commentators? Will Pope Francis change Catholic Church teaching to allow same-sex marriage, homosexual unions, contracepted sexual acts, and direct abortion?

    • Ron Conte says:

      “Will Pope Francis change Catholic Church teaching to allow same-sex marriage, homosexual unions, contracepted sexual acts, and direct abortion?”
      No, the prevenient grace of God absolutely prevents any Pope from teaching material heresy and all of the examples you gave are material heresy.
      “Did Pope Francis support same-sex marriage or homosexual unions in contradiction to Catholic Church teaching prior to his papacy as claimed by some online commentators?”
      No. But when each Pope is elected, and he accepts his office, he is given the gift of all the graces needed to be entirely free from the sins of apostasy, heresy, and schism. So if a heretic were ever elected, he would immediately cease to be a heretic upon election, by prevenient grace.

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