Does God choose the Pope?

Catholic Apologists Patrick Madrid and Jimmy Akin have similar views regarding the position that God does not choose each and every validly elected Pope.

Patrick Madrid teaches that the Church has not taught that the Holy Spirit (God) chooses the Pope; therefore, if anyone says that the Holy Spirit (God) chooses the Pope, it is just a pious idea that is not based on Catholic teaching. He starts to speak about this topic about the 38:40 minutes mark of his radio show (The Patrick Madrid Show: November 19, 2018 – Hour 2), third bullet point of the following link:
https://relevantradio.com/2018/11/the-patrick-madrid-show-november-19-2018-hour-2/

Podcast:
https://relevantradio.com/?powerpress_pinw=31894-podcast

Jimmy Akin teaches similarly: Does God Pick the Pope?

However, as I’ll show on this post, their conclusions are actually not true.

Before going to Magisterial documents, let’s see what Sacred Scripture teaches us:

[Romans 13]
{13:1} Let every soul be subject to higher authorities. For there is no authority except from God and those who have been ordained by God.
{13:2} And so, whoever resists authority, resists what has been ordained by God. And those who resist are acquiring damnation for themselves.

[John 19]
{19:11} Jesus responded, “You would not have any authority over me, unless it were given to you from above. For this reason, he who has handed me over to you has the greater sin.”

If our Lord talks about authorities in general, how much more it is when it is regarding His own Church! that is indefectible and built on the Rock.

Now let’s see regarding His Own Catholic (Universal) Church:

[Mark]
{3:13} And ascending onto a mountain, he [Jesus] called to himself those whom he willed, and they came to him.

The calling is not made by the Apostles or the Popes, it is Jesus who calls in order to follow Him. That’s why the term “vocation” originated in Christianity, referring firstly to a “call by God” to an individual, for those who Jesus calls. This event is mentioned to be God’s will since our Catholic Church’s origins.

The word “Church” means assembly, so when Jesus called the twelve Apostles to follow Him, He established an assembly, a congregation of twelve. Here is when we can say that our Catholic or Universal Church was “conceived” for it was not yet “born” or openly displayed to the crowds until the day of Pentecost (CCC#’s 767, 830, 1076, 1226, 1302, 2617, 2818). That’s why our Catholic Church is Christian for it was Christ Himself who called the Apostles and founded Her. If Christ does not choose (through His servants) the Popes and His ministers, then She would stop being “Christian” for She would cease to be built by the will of Christ as He promised (Matthew 16:18). Since Her origins, our Church has had apostles, and what does “apostles” mean? “sent ones”. Someone has to send. Who is the one who sends? It is Christ Himself who sends.

[John]
{15:16} You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you. And I have appointed you, so that you may go forth and bear fruit, and so that your fruit may last…

Here we see that it is Jesus Himself who explicitly says to His Apostles that He is the one who chooses them. In the case of Pope Francis, he had no plans to be Pope. ‘I didn’t want to be Pope,’ Francis tells children His plans were to go back to Argentina after the conclave and resume his mission there.

[Matthew]
{28:19} Therefore, go forth and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
{28:20} teaching them to observe all that I have ever commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, even to the consummation of the age.”

He is the One who sends them and tells them that He is with them always, even until the end of the world. That “always” is always, our Lord doesn’t especify as long as they behave good. No, always.

The Pope is the Rock upon Jesus built His Church (Matt 16:18-19). The bishops are the successors of the Apostles (CCC # 77), the Pope is the bishop of Rome, successor of the Apostle Peter, and the Pope orders and approves how conclaves have to be done [i]. Jesus said to Peter and the Apostles in communion with Peter “Whatever you bind on earth….” (Matthew 18:18). It is His choice; therefore, the way how new validly elected Popes are chosen at conclaves are also Jesus’ choice. Otherwise, per His promise, Jesus would be forced to give the gifts of infallibility (per Vaticans I & II) or the gift of Truth and Never Failing Faith (per Vatican I) to a man whom He didn’t want as a Pope in the first place.

[Ephesians]
{3:21} to him be glory, in the Church and in Christ Jesus, throughout every generation, forever and ever. Amen.

How can we give glory to God in a Church where God hasn’t elected His representatives or pastors? without guidance and instruction? as sheep without shepherd? (Matthew 9:36).

How can we know that a particular person has been chosen Apostle or not? How can we distinguish between a true Apostle and a false one or an impostor? By Apostolic Succession:

[Acts]
{13:2} Now as they were ministering for the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said to them: “Separate Saul and Barnabas for me, for the work for which I have selected them.”
{13:3} Then, fasting and praying and imposing their hands upon them, they sent them away.
{13:4} And having been sent by the Holy Spirit, they went to Seleucia. And from there they sailed to Cyprus.

Notice that it says that it was the “Holy Spirit” the One who sent Saul and Barnabas away, even though it was His (Ordained) Ministers through the imposition of their hands who sent them away. This Book has been given the title of “Acts of the Apostles” for a reason, it teaches us how the Apostles and the early Church acted and how our Church works. It is not only about past events, but a teaching for all generations “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away” (Matthew 24:35).

Here we see that the Holy Spirit selects Saul and Barnabas through the imposition of His Minister’s hands on them. The Ministers “sent them away” to preach, but Sacred Scriptures teach us that Saul and Barnabas were sent “by the Holy Spirit”, the Holy Spirit said: “I have selected them”, in order to teach us that it is the Holy Spirit who works through His Ministers. The Holy Spirit is transmitted by the imposition of the hands (Acts 8:18).

[Acts]
{15:28} For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to impose no further burden upon you, other than these necessary things:

The decisions of the Apostles are the decisions of the Holy Spirit. Decisions taken by the Pope or the Bishops in communion with the Pope (following the rules of the conclave as the Pope indicated) are the decisions of the Holy Spirit.

[Acts]
{20:28} Take care of yourselves and of the entire flock, over which the Holy Spirit has stationed you as Bishops to rule the Church of God, which he has purchased by his own blood.

So we see the constant teaching of Sacred Scriptures that God Himself chooses His Bishops to rule His Church.

Regarding the Pope, we cannot say: “Ah, but Jesus only chose Peter, but we don’t know if He chooses any of Peter’s successors”. This assessment is refuted by the Papal Bull Unam Sanctam (as we shall see down below). If Jesus only chose the original Apostles but we cannot be sure whether their successors are chosen by God or not, then there wouldn’t truly be an “Apostolic Sucession” (CCC# 815, 816).

Jesus said to the Apostles:

[Matthew]
{18:18} Amen I say to you, whatever you will have bound on earth, shall be bound also in heaven, and whatever you will have released on earth, shall be released also in heaven.

Except at conclaves? Of course not. Jesus is saying here that “whatever they bind….”, He signs and stamps it! Whenever the Cardinals validly elect a new Pope at conclaves, Jesus is with them. It is His choice; otherwise, He wouldn’t have said so.

{28:18]…All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth.

John {20:21}
“…As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”

The Apostles and their successors have received authority by Christ Himself! They act in persona-Christi.

In a human institution we can say that a man founds his company, that he only chooses the managers of his company, but the owner let those managers (not him) to choose the personnel for the respective positions within his company. But our Church is not humanly instituted but Divinely instituted. It is God’s Own Church.

[Matthew]
{16:18} And I say to you, that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.

Notice that “build” is an ongoing process, not a once-in-a time event. Our Lord is the One who is “constructing” our Church, it not a mere past event, but a current, ongoing, event. Our Lord is “building”, He is the “Constructor”. Therefore, when a new Pope is elected, our Lord is involved in that “building” or “construction” of His Church.

There is a relationship between our Lord Jesus Christ and His Church as a marriage between a man and a woman.

[Ephesians]
{5:22} Wives should be submissive to their husbands, as to the Lord.
{5:23} For the husband is the head of the wife, just as Christ is the head of the Church. He is the Savior of his body.
{5:24} Therefore, just as the Church is subject to Christ, so also should wives be subject to their husbands in all things.

The husband is the head of his wife. They are intimately united that they cannot separate. Christ loves His Church, as a husband should love his wife. If we say that Christ does not choose His Main representative on earth, His Vicar, it is tantamount to saying that Christ is prostituting His Church, that He is involved in some type of false marriage which is, of course, impossible! An invalid or null marriage happens when the husband or the wife does not freely choose his or her spouse and intends to do as the Church teaches. So, to say that His Vicar is someone who Jesus did not choose is prostituting His Church! Notice the offense of this particular claim when we dig in profoundly.

All the validly elected Popes are chosen and wanted for that position by Christ as a husband freely chooses his wife in a valid Sacrament of Marriage.

If a man “marries” a woman whom he didn’t choose or love, that marriage is invalid, null and void. Therefore, all validly elected Popes were chosen by God. We pray for the Pope and his intentions, pronouncing his name along with the Bishop’s name of each particular diocese at all Masses! The Church is nothing more than the family of God (CCC# 1655), and the family is the domestic Church (CCC# 1658, 1666, 2685).

{5:25} Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the Church and handed himself over for her,

{5:29} For no man has ever hated his own flesh, but instead he nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ also does to the Church.

Jesus cannot be in a situation where a successor of Peter is someone whom He abhorred or did not want for Pope. On the contrary, He nourishes and cherish him for His Church, His Body. God loves His Church with all, He never prostitutes Her, He never harbors or hates Her. Therefore, God is involved in the election of the Popes. Jesus is the One who sanctifies His Church whose members are sinners.

[Ephesians]
{4:15} Instead, acting according to truth in charity, we should increase in everything, in him who is the head, Christ himself.
{4:16} For in him, the whole body is joined closely together, by every underlying joint, through the function allotted to each part, bringing improvement to the body, toward its edification in charity.

Christ is the One who joins the body together. If God doesn’t choose the Popes, He is not really “joining” His Body together. If a validly elected Pope at a conclave was not really God’s choice, then God has failed to join His Church, His Body.

Pope St. Paul VI teaches regarding God’s loving design:

“Married love particularly reveals its true nature and nobility when we realize that it takes its origin from God, who “is love,” (6) the Father “from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named.” (7)” – (Humanae Vitae # 8).

St. Paul VI teaches that “every” family in Heaven and on earth takes its origin from God.  So if a domestic church (a family) has its origin from God; how more so His actual Universal Church? Of course every head of the big family, the Pope, was designated and takes its origin from the Father.

Now, can the wife divorce from the head of the family? No. Neither the Church. We cannot separate the Head from the Body, the Bride of Christ who is His Church, for that will be unfaithfulness by one of them.  Jesus cannot be unfaithful to His Church for He is God and the Pope cannot be unfaithful to Jesus’ Church (to the extent of committing the sins of heresy, schism or apostasy) for he has received the gift of Truth and Never Failing Faith (Vatican I) (Luke 22:32). If a Pope was not really chosen by God, doesn’t make sense to say that our Church is the Body of Christ, because His Main Vicar or representative would be like an unwanted member of His Body at that position. Wanting to separate the Body from the Head is a sin.

Can we say: “Ah, but that was the original Apostles, does the Holy Spirit intervenes in Apostolic Succession?” Of course He does, as he did in the early Church (Acts 13:2-4). Conclaves is a way of how Apostolic Succession is performed.

The Universal Church prays in the Our Father: “Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven” (Matthew 6:10). Jesus Himself prays for Peter in particular: “And the Lord said: “Simon, Simon! Behold, Satan has asked for you, so that he may sift you [The Apostles representing His Church] like wheat. But I have prayed for you [Peter in particular], so that your faith may not fail, and so that you, once converted, may confirm your brothers.” (Luke 22:31-32). How can this not be done at conclaves? Would Jesus prayer fail miserably so that an unwanted person be validly chosen? Of course not! The Catechism teaches:

“Christ and his Church thus together make up the “whole Christ” (Christus totus). the Church is one with Christ.  The saints are acutely aware of this unity…” (CCC# 795).

How can they make the “whole Christ (Christus totus)” but without Jesus choosing His Main Vicar?

Now lets see Patrick Madrid arguments:

Regarding the saying that the Holy Spirit picks the Pope, he says: “It is not true because the Church doesn’t teach that [the Holy Spirit picks the Pope]”.

Actually, the Church does teach that God chooses or selects the visible rulers of His Church as we’ll see below. Now, of course, God doesn’t appear to someone and says “Hey you, I want you to be Pope”. It is by Divine Providence that happens as explained further down.

“The Holy Spirit guides the Church …[Ref John 14:26] we do believe that, there is no question about that”… “you have heard people say that the Holy Spirit chooses the Pope at conclaves where the Popes are elected, this is simply not true.” “The Church nowhere says [that the Holy Spirit chooses the Pope]… you will not find anywhere any teaching of the Catholic Church that the Holy Spirit chooses the Pope”.

This statement is actually not true as demonstrated by the actual magisterial documents which teach that God does choose or select the rulers of His Church, which, of course, include the Popes. Actually, the teaching that “God does NOT choose the Pope, or some of the Popes” is nowhere to be found in any Magisterial document. Before going to some of the Magisterial documents that actually do teach that God chooses the validly selected Popes, lets continue with his arguments.

“And that’s different, by the way, from Divine Providence, I saw this pop up, somebody trying to defend the notion that the Holy Spirit chooses the Pope as if it where something that the Catholic Church teaches fell back upon the references that you find for example in some of Papal documents …. Saying: “By Divine Providence, Pope” and I have to point out that Divine Providence is not a synonym of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is a Person, the Third Person of the Holy Spirit.

Actually, God IS Providence, God is not separated in what He is or does. He is One Divine Eternal Act. Divine Providence God’s “way” to provide things. That’s why it’s called “Divine” because It is God who provides. It is God the Provider. It is God from Whom the unfolding of the events come from. God is the Source of the Provision.

When a Pope says: “By Divine Providence, Pope” he is saying that it is God who has provided for him to become Pope. And not only that, it goes beyond that, for the Pope to be at that position, many providential things had to unfold such as where he studied, lived, his birth, the engagement of his parents, the story of each of his ancestors all the way back to the start of creation. The same thing for all of us.

Sacred Scriptures teaches:

[John 3]
{3:27} … “A man is not able to receive anything, unless it has been given to him from heaven.

To imply that some validly elected Popes may NOT have been willed by God is tantamount to say that God is not in control of His own Church. It cannot happen a situation where God would say like: “Oops, I didn’t want that man to be Pope but My Bishops validly elected him so, Oh, well. Now I have to bind and loose, whatever this man I didn’t want at this office, in Heaven as well”. No. For example: Mr. Madrid and all of us were willed by God to be born by Divine Providence.

In the old covenant, God chose Moses to be in charge of His people, then Joshua succeeded Moses by imposing his hands upon Joshua and Sacred Scriptures teaches us that it was God who chose Joshua (Numbers 27:18), then Judges were appointed. It was God’s will to be this way with a selected group of people, the Israelites. How could this not be with God’s now UNIVERSAL Church? The Council of Florence teaches that “the vicar of Christ [the Pope] is superior in authority and status even to Moses” – (Session 7 – [Decree of the council of Florence against the synod at Basel]). So how can God not will or choose some of His Vicars? – it is simply not the case.

Patrick Madrid continues:

Divine Providence is God’s way of allowing things to unfold and it includes in which you can bring good out of evil”.

This part of his argument is true but notice that it actually refutes his previous argument for it is ultimately God who wills how things are to be unfolded. It can be argued that “God permits but does not will some things to happen”.  God certainly does not choose evil for that is contrary to His nature.  He does not send a thief to plunder a house, He just permits it.  He wills to permit it.  St. and Doctor of the Church Alphonsus of Liguori teaches:

“When the messenger came to announce to Job that the Sabeans had plundered his goods and slain his children, he said: “The Lord gave and the Lord taketh away” (Job 1:21). He did not say: “The Lord hath given me my children and my possessions, and the Sabeans have taken them away”. He realized that adversity had come upon him by the will of God. Therefore he added: “as it hath pleased the Lord, so is it done. Blessed be the name of the Lord”. – (Uniformity with God’s Will; TAN books pg. 9).

…we should consider the events which are happening to us now and which will happen to us in the future, as coming from the hands of God” – (ibid pg. 31).

Of course, we need to differentiate between God willing an event by passive permission (He decides not to stop it), and willing an event actively (He chooses the event for a purpose).  The choosing of a Pope is God’s willing actively, choosing an event for a purpose, as taught in Sacred Scriptures (Romans 13:1-2) (John 3:27) (John 19:11) (Acts 20:28), the Magisterial documents that we are going to see down below.

Patrick Madrid continues:

“But God’s Providence, would be in the same category as some as “God’s Benevolence” or “God’s Mercy”, or “God’s Justice”. Those things are not God, “God’s Benevolence is not God”, Benevolence is the way how God deals with His creatures, etc…” “[the saying] By Divine Providence, Pope” doesn’t mean that the Pope is saying that the Holy Spirit chose me to be Pope”.

Actually, God IS Love (1 John 4:8), God is Good (Mark 10:18), God is Perfection (Matthew 5:48), God IS the Way (Providence is a Way), Truth, Life (John 14:6), God is Gracious, Merciful (Nehemiah 9:31), and of course, God is also all Good such as Benevolence, Mercy, Justice, etc. which, in God, is One Divine Eternal Act.  All these attributes are One in God and are not separated from Him.  Here Patrick Madrid errs by saying that God is not Benevolence itself. We as creatures can have some good attributes such as being merciful or loving, but in God, it is a different story, He IS Love, He IS Mercy itself, and all that is Good. God simply “IS” (Exodus 3:14) (John 8:58). Saint Augustine said: “God is truly and absolutely simple” [ii]. St. Thomas Aquinas followed up by saying: “The absolute simplicity of God may be shown in many ways” [iii]. He also added: “in every composite there must be potentiality and actuality; but this does not apply to God…”. [iv] So, All that God is, and all that God does, is entirely actual. Nothing in God is unexpressed. For more information read the book: “God is One Divine Eternal Act” by Ron Conte.

Now, as mentioned earlier, Divine Providence is God’s Way to provide things and God IS the Way (John 14:6). That’s why it’s called “Divine”. It is God who provides.

[Genesis]
{22:7} Isaac said to his father, “My father.” And he answered, “What do you want, son?” “Behold,” he said, “fire and wood. Where is the victim for the holocaust?”
{22:8} But Abraham said, “God himself will provide the victim for the holocaust, my son.” Thus they continued on together.

This is why we call “Divine” Providence because it is God Himself who provides.  God actively chooses to provide. But God is not separated by a set of acts. God provided (God’s Providence) the victim for the holocaust (22:13), so are we going to say that God did not choose that ram as victim for the holocaust? Of course not. God’s Providence is God providing.

So when the Pope writes: “By *Divine* Providence, Pope”, he is saying that he has been appointed to, or arrived at, that position because of God’s active intervention.

He continues:

“[regarding the selection of Popes at conclaves] not all have been good Popes… some of them have been absolutely [scandalous?/bad]”

The logic that because there have been some “bad” Popes it can be an indication that God “did not” choose those particular Popes is erroneous. We all have free will, able to choose good or bad. The fact that God has placed us in a determined position, even a holy position, doesn’t mean that we are to be without any failings. Judas Iscariot, for example, was directly chosen by God and turned out to be a bad, scandalous Apostle. Can we say that “because Judas Iscariot was bad, therefore, God could not have chosen him”? of course not. St. Peter himself, he is not considered to be the “best” of the Apostles by human standards and yet, he was chosen to be the Rock upon Jesus built His Church – by God Himself. St. Peter failed to a limited extent regarding his conduct even after the Church was born at Pentecost (Galatians 2:11-16), though he continued to be the Principal Pastor, the leader of Jesus’ Church. Before His ascension to Heaven, Jesus did choose and confirmed Peter to be His Rock (John 21:15 ff).

Patrick Madrid himself, at another program, admits that Peter had failings even though He was chosen by God Himself when he says:

“…think of it this way, if you look at Jesus hand-pick men, all twelve of them, they included Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus as you know, and included Simon Peter who denied Jesus three times. They all bickered, they all fought over positions of honor and… who knows what other problems may be going around… we don’t know the fullness of it, but we know that the Scriptures tells us [about it]. But in spite of their weakness… their failings, the Lord accomplished His will through them…… and all except for Judas, all turned out to be great Saints even though they had in themselves serious failings. Serious failings like denying Jesus three times. That’s apostasy! The first Pope, committed apostasy! Public apostasy!….and yet he is a Saint in Heaven.”

https://relevantradio.com/2018/11/the-patrick-madrid-show-november-26-2018-hour-1/
[The Patrick Madrid Show: November 26, 2018 – Hour 1 – starting at 20 minutes mark]
Podcast: https://relevantradio.com/?powerpress_pinw=32086-podcast

So here he admits that even though Jesus hand-picked the twelve Apostles, they had their failings. So we cannot hold the position that because a certain Pope does not act like our expectations, it means that “God may have not chosen him”. However, and by the way, it is incorrect to say that the first Pope committed the sin of apostasy. When Peter denied Jesus three times he was not Pope yet, he had not taken the See, this role, and had not started his ministry as Pope which began on the day of Pentecost. At Caesarea Philippi, Peter was chosen to be the Rock but that position (the See of the Papacy) was not taken until the day of Pentecost receiving the Sacrament of Baptism, “with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:5). In other words, before Pentecost, the Apostles were chosen and being “trained” but they “took office” at Pentecost. Notice that in Matthew 16:18 Jesus says “I “will build” (future tense). Jesus does not say “I’m building” (as of right now). So the first Pope did not commit the sin of apostasy. Peter’s Papacy started at the day of Pentecost when the Church was openly displayed to the crowds. To say otherwise is to contradict Vatican I which teaches that the Gift of Truth and Never-Failing Faith was divinely conferred on Peter and his successors but in the See (of the Papacy).

Now let’s go to Jimmy Akin who has a similar position, among other things he says:

“Does the Holy Spirit really select the best possible man for the job, or is this a form of pious hyperbole?”

We can ask the same question regarding Peter, the first Pope, and yet he was selected by God Himself. The fact that God selects a person simply means that He wants that person for such role or mission regardless of what we think, whether we think he is the best possible man or not according to our standards.

“There are too many contrary instances of popes the Holy Spirit obviously would not have picked!”

But this assertion does not necessarily mean that God did not actually chose them for the same can be said about Judas Iscariot, after what he did, God would not have picked him. It is said in Sacred Scriptures that God actually “repented” (in a manner of speaking, not literally, of course) having made man on earth after how sinful they became (Genesis 6:6).

“The cardinals in a conclave certainly invoke the Holy Spirit and seek his guidance, but he does not override their free will.”

To say that God chooses the Pope, is not tantamount to saying that God disrespects the Cardinals’ free will or forces the voters against their free will for that is contrary to Love. It means that it is the active will of God that the man selected at a valid conclave be the new successor of Peter, this way God chooses that particular man. God operates through the Cardinals without interfering with their free will.  With prevenient grace (CCC # 2670) which is operating, not subsequent or cooperating grace, God governs His Church without intruding in people’s free will. Prevenient or operating grace occurs when God acts on the soul without any cooperation by our free will (CCC# 2008).

Sacred Scripture is the Word of God, yet God did not interfere with the sacred author’s free will.  The sacred authors consigned to writing everything and only those things which God wanted (Dei Verbum # 11).  Also, God selected or chose, through His Ministers (the Popes and the Bishops in communion with the Pope), which books belong to the Canon of Sacred Scripture.  So we see here different instances of how God does govern His Church without interfering with His Ministers free will.

“There have been genuinely bad actors: for example, Benedict IX, who reigned three different times between 1032 and 1048.
So in what sense can the election of a pope be said to be God’s will?”

As previously referred, Peter was not a “qualified man” by human standards, he himself declared before our Lord that he was a sinful man (Luke 5:8), he was also an unlearned man (Acts 4:13), he had failings; yet no one can deny that Peter was chosen and confirmed by Jesus to be the Rock upon His Church is built. Saul (O.T.) was chosen by God to be the first king of Israel (1 Samuel 9:15-17) and he turned out to be bad (1 Samuel 15:10-11) (1 Samuel 28:7 ff). Even so, he was respected for being the “anointed one” of God (2 Samuel 1:14). To “anoint” is to consecrate or set apart a person for a determinate task, in the case for Saul, it was to govern a people. Solomon was also chosen by God (2 Samuel 7:12) (1 Kings 1:47-48) (1 Chronicles 22:7-10) (28:5) but then he became unfaithful to our Lord worshipping other gods (1 Kings 11). So just because a person freely chooses to become bad, that doest not equate as “not being chosen by God”, or is a “proof” that such person was not chosen by God.

“It may be God’s will to allow a man to commit adultery, but that doesn’t mean he approves of the act.
Is the election of a pope in accord with God’s will only in this minimal sense or does it involve something greater?”

Certainly, God does not approve evil, like the evil of invalidly electing a Pope. An invalidly elected Pope is certainly not God’s will in the active sense though He has allowed the illicit process to occur. However, it is God’s will for the man elected at a validly elected conclave to become the successor of Peter. That’s why Jesus uttered the words “Whatever you bind…” (Matthew 16:18) (18:18). Otherwise, He wouldn’t have said so.

“If an individual man seeks God’s guidance, he can count on it being given. This does not mean it will be easy to hear or understand, or that the man will act on it, but it does mean that God will offer his assistance in some way.”

This can be true for the individual Cardinal, where he may not hear or understand God’s will. But this cannot happen with the College of Cardinals or with the Body of Cardinals, as a group, for Jesus’ promise of binding and loosing applies to them as a group. With the Pope alone (Matthew 16:18) or with them as a group (Matthew 18:18). Let’s recall that the way conclaves are done are a “binding or loosing” of the successor of Peter, it has his approval. The majority of Cardinals cannot go astray as to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Otherwise, our Church would not have been founded on the Rock but on sand and the Holy Spirit would not really govern His Church as the Catechism teaches (CCC # 869).

Then he goes on to compare it with marriage, but as I explained previously, for a Sacrament of Marriage to be valid, the couple only have to freely choose his or her partner and have the intention to live as the Church teaches. If they don’t freely choose or don’t choose their spouse, that is NOT a valid marriage. It doesn’t mean that the woman whom the man has chosen is the “best qualified woman in the world” by other person’s standards, of course not. The woman whom the man has chosen to be his wife is simply the woman whom he loves and sees fit to be with him in this Sacrament for the rest of his life.

“When he was still a cardinal, back in 1997, Benedict XVI acknowledged that cardinals can elect sub-optimal popes. When asked on German television whether the Holy Spirit is responsible for the election of a pope, he said:

I would not say so, in the sense that the Holy Spirit picks out the pope. . . . I would say that the Spirit does not exactly take control of the affair, but rather like a good educator, as it were, leaves us much space, much freedom, without entirely abandoning us. Thus the Spirit’s role should be understood in a much more elastic sense, not that he dictates the candidate for whom one must vote. Probably the only assurance he offers is that the thing cannot be totally ruined.”

Previous to his pontificate, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI responded on television that the Holy Spirit does not coerce “take control of the affair”.  God certainly does not take control of the person’s free will. The Holy Spirit does not force anyone against his free will and that is true. Here he is responding how the Holy Spirit works. We are not sure how the question was framed for he could have understood whether the Holy Spirit “forces” someone to pick the Pope which, of course, is not the way God works. Regardless of how the question may have been framed, notice his mention that the Holy Spirit does not “entirely abandon us” so, by his response, it is still arguable that the Holy Spirit does not permit that the choice, as a group of the College of Cardinals, is an unwanted person. Later as Pope, he also wrote in his book of private theology “Jesus of Nazaret” the following:

“It goes without saying that this book is in no way an exercise of the magisterium, but is solely an expression of my personal search ‘for the face of the Lord’ (cf. Ps 27:8). Everyone is free, then, to contradict me. I would only ask my readers for that initial goodwill without which there can be no understanding.” (Joseph Ratzinger, Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth, p. xxiv.)

He wrote that everyone is free to contradict him as long as such contradictions are in good will for that particular book is not a magisterial document. And even more so regarding a TV interview when he was not Pope yet. The disagreement has to be based on Tradition, Scripture, Magisterium, of course.

“He [Cardinal Ratzinger] continued:

There are too many contrary instances of popes the Holy Spirit obviously would not have picked!”

The same can be said of Judas Iscariot, King Saul, Solomon, God Himself said that He has “repented” of having created man (Genesis 6:6).

“Similarly, in his final address to the College of Cardinals, Pope Benedict stated:

Before I say goodbye to each one of you personally, I would like to tell you that I shall continue to be close to you with my prayers, especially in these coming days, that you may be completely docile to the action of the Holy Spirit in the election of the new pope. May the Lord show you the one whom he wants.

Benedict’s prayer that they will be docile to the Holy Spirit indicates the possibility that they will not be docile.”

This message is an advise and reminder of how the Cardinals should act so that none of them lack good will. But this applies to the individuals. There is the possibility that some of the Cardinals may lack docility, not be completely docile, or would be hard for some of them to discern God’s will. That is the reason why not all of them vote for the same person! It is not the case that all the Popes receive 100% of the votes. That’s why this message is fitting.  However, that lack of docility cannot happen to the majority of Cardinals, or to the Cardinals as a body, but to some of them. An individual Cardinal or some of the Cardinals may fail to be completely docile, but not all of them as a group. See how Pope Emeritus finishes this same letter:

“And among you, in the College of Cardinals, there is also the future pope to whom today I promise my unconditional reverence and obedience. For this reason, with affection and gratitude, I cordially impart to you the Apostolic Blessing.”

“There IS the future Pope to whom today I promise my unconditional reverence and obedience” he wouldn’t have outright said so to an expected impostor or an expected person non-willed by God.  Notice the “unconditional”. He doesn’t say “as long as he fits my standards”.  Pope Emeritus is teaching us that Pope Francis deserves our unconditional reverence (a more meaningful word that a simple respect) and obedience.

Saint and Doctor of the Church Catherine of Siena had revelations from God and in her book “The Dialogue” it says:

“Wherefore, as I have said to you, I, God, have become man, and man has become God by the union of My Divine Nature with your human nature. This greatness is given in general to all rational creatures, but, among these I have especially chosen My ministers for the sake of your salvation, so that, through them, the Blood of the humble and immaculate Lamb, My only-begotten Son, may be administered to you.”

A man cannot declare himself to be a valid ordained priest. In order for a man to be ordained as priest, he has to receive the call from God first, it is not just the man’s own decision.

[Hebrew]
{5:4} Neither does anyone take up this honor himself, but rather he who is called by God, just as Aaron was.

So, just as marriage, both parties have to choose each other but God is the one who calls first (John 15:16). God consecrates or “sets apart” this particular person for Him. After the candidate receives this call, he cannot declare himself “ordained priest”, he has to go to the Seminary in order to continue his discernment and to confirm this call of God by Church’s authorities. At the Seminary, he is going to be scrutinized by Church authorities in order to confirm whether or not he is fit for the ordained priesthood. After discernment and completion of some requirements, he is ordained priest by the imposition of the hands of the Bishop. Otherwise, he would not be an ordained priest, and yet, God is telling St. Catherine that He is the one who has “especially chosen” His (ordained) ministers; so long, of course, as these requirements are followed with sincerity and faithfulness of mind and heart.

Now, if this happens with any ordained person, so much more with the Rock upon Jesus founded His Church and the highest given authority. A validly elected Pope cannot be someone whom God has not chosen. Otherwise, Jesus would not be like the wise man who builds his house on the rock, but would have chosen “sand” to be His Vicar. If Jesus taught us about it (Matthew 7:24-29), how is that He is not going to do the likewise?

“The angel himself has no such dignity, for I have given it to those men whom I have chosen for My ministers, and whom I have appointed as earthly angels in this life.”

Here we clearly see that God explicitly tells St. Catherine that He chooses His (Ordained) Ministers, but can we say that among this group is not the Father and Teacher of All Christians? Of course not. Notice that God not only says “chosen” but “especially chosen”, so for the Pope who is the highest visible authority, it would have to likely be “very especially chosen”.

“They are My anointed ones, and I call them My Christs, because I have given them the office of administering Me to you, and have placed them like fragrant flowers in the mystical body of the holy Church. The angel himself has no such dignity, for I have given it to those men whom I have chosen for My ministers, and whom I have appointed as earthly angels in this life.”

“…as I told you of Peter, the prince of the Apostles, who received the keys of the kingdom of Heaven. I say the same of these others, who have administered, in the garden of the holy Church, the Light, that is to say, the Body and the Blood of My only-begotten Son, who is Himself the undivided Sun, as has been said, and all the Sacraments of the holy Church, which all give life in virtue of the Blood. Each one, placed in a different rank, has administered, according to his state, the grace of the Holy Spirit.”

Just as Peter was chosen by God, so Peter’s successors. Peter’s successors are at the highest rank.

Now against those who attack God’s anointed ones, against those who think that they are more Papists than the Pope:

“and I have told you of the dignity in which I have placed them, having elected them for My ministers, on account of which dignity and authority I do not wish them to be punished by the hand of seculars on account of any personal defect, for those who punish them offend Me miserably….”.

So we see here that just because God chooses His ministers, that doesn’t mean that they all are going to respond with holiness to their call. By the way, the word “vocation” is a call, a call by God Himself (Hebrews 5:1-4). So the claim that a Pope who is not as holy as one expects may not have been chosen by God, is not true.

“But I wish seculars to hold them in due reverence, not for their own sakes, as I have said, but for Mine, by reason of the authority which I have given them. Wherefore this reverence should never diminish in the case of priests whose virtue grows weak, any more than in the case of those virtuous ones of whose goodness I have spoken to you; for all alike have been appointed ministers of the Sun — that is of the Body and Blood of My Son, and of the other Sacraments.”

“but not on that account appoint yourselves their judges, which I forbid, because they are My Christs, and you ought to love and reverence the authority which I have given them.”

“…contrary I have given them to you, and appointed them to be earthly angels and suns, as I have said. It not being My will that they should be in this state, you should pray for them, and not judge them, leaving their judgment to Me.

So the claim that alleged bad Popes or bad Ministers means that they were not chosen by God goes down to the floor by these revelations approved by the Church.

Going back Patrick Madrid’s November 19, 2018 program, he says:

“An easy way to defuse that is by saying, ok, could you please show me where the Church teaches that the Holy Spirit reaches down and selects the Pope.”

As mentioned earlier, it is not like the Holy Spirit appears at conclaves and tells the Cardinals “Hey everyone, I want that man to be Pope”, no, it does not work that way (unless He would like to make an out of the ordinary intervention – without overriding anyone’s free will, of course), but let’s see what the Magisterial documents have to say:

“They (priests) must preserve and strengthen a necessary oneness with their brothers in the ministry, especially with those whom God has selected as visible rulers of his Church.” (Decree – Presbyterorum Ordinis – On The Ministry And Life Of Priests # 15, n 3; Vatican II).

This is an explicit teaching of the Magisterium that God has selected the visible rulers of His Church and the Pope is certainly the highest authority among those rulers.  To “select” is to choose.  So, again, we are taught about an active participation of God in His Church.

“The ultimate and absolute responsibility of the Pope is best guaranteed, on the one hand, by its relationship to Tradition and fraternal communion and, on the other, by trust in the assistance of the Holy Spirit who governs the Church.” – (The Primacy of The Successor of Peter in The Mystery of The Church # 10)

If the Holy Spirit does not choose the Popes through his servants, then the Holy Spirit doesn’t really govern the Church.  And IF the Holy Spirit doesn’t govern the Church, then the gates of Hell would have already prevailed over Her long time ago.

“We are all invited to trust in the Holy Spirit, to trust in Christ, by trusting in Peter.” (ibid # 15).

If we don’t trust in Peter, we don’t trust in Christ.

In order to continue doing the will of his Father in the world, Christ works unceasingly through the Church. He operates through his ministers, and hence he remains always the source and wellspring of the unity of their lives.” (Decree – Presbyterorum Ordinis – On The Ministry And Life Of Priests # 14, n 2 – Vatican II).

The Church clearly teaches that Jesus works through His ministers in order to continue doing the will of the Father. But not so much at the conclaves? Of course not.  This is an active will of God. This work is “operating” (prevenient grace), without intruding with His Ministers free will.

Christ is himself the source of ministry in the Church. He instituted the Church. He gave her authority and mission, orientation and goal” (CCC# 874).

Christ is the source of ministry as well of orientation in His Church. If a validly elected Pope is not God’s choice then God has failed orienting His Church.

“How are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher? And how can men preach unless they are sent?”390 No one – no individual and no community – can proclaim the Gospel to himself: “Faith comes from what is heard.”391 No one can give himself the mandate and the mission to proclaim the Gospel. The one sent by the Lord does not speak and act on his own authority, but by virtue of Christ’s authority; not as a member of the community, but speaking to it in the name of Christ. No one can bestow grace on himself; it must be given and offered.” (CCC # 875).

It is Christ who sends and has entrusted the office of Apostles to their successors as well. Notice the question “unless they are sent?” Ok, by Who? Then this teaching responds that is the Lord who sends.

“Finally, it belongs to the sacramental nature of ecclesial ministry that it have a personal character. Although Christ’s ministers act in communion with one another, they also always act in a personal way. Each one is called personally: “You, follow me397 in order to be a personal witness within the common mission, to bear personal responsibility before him [Jesus] who gives the mission, acting “in his person” and for other persons: “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit . . .”; “I absolve you . . . .”” (CCC# 878).

The Catechism links the phrase “Each one is called personally”, “You follow me” to biblical passages ([397] Jn 21:22; Cf. Mt 4:19-21; Jn 1:4) where our Lord Jesus Christ Himself gives the calls. The phrase “before him” refers to “before our Lord Jesus” and the Catechism teaches that it is He who gives the mission.

“3. These individual Churches, whether of the East or the West, although they differ somewhat among themselves in rite (to use the current phrase), that is, in liturgy, ecclesiastical discipline, and spiritual heritage, are, nevertheless, each as much as the others, entrusted to the pastoral government of the Roman Pontiff, the divinely appointed successor of St. Peter in primacy over the universal Church.” – (Decree – Orientalium Ecclesiarum – On the Catholic Churches of the Eastern Rite# 3, n 1; Vatican II).

Another clear teaching that the Pope is “Divinely appointed” which means appointed by God.

“And we, by the apostolic authority given us by Christ…” (Decree – Orientalium Ecclesiarum – On the Catholic Churches of the Eastern Rite# 30, n 4; Vatican II).

The authority which the Pope and God’s ministers receive are given by Christ Himself, by Divine Providence that is. So this is not a random or baseless pious opinion but based on Scripture and Magisterial teachings.

“2. For “no one can be in doubt, indeed it was known in every age that the holy and most blessed Peter, prince and head of the apostles, the pillar of faith and the foundation of the Catholic Church, received the keys of the kingdom from our lord Jesus Christ, the savior and redeemer of the human race, and that to this day and forever he lives” and presides and “exercises judgment in his successors the bishops of the Holy Roman See, which he founded and consecrated with his blood [46]” – – (1st Dogmatic Constitution – Pastor Aeternus; Vatican I).

How can an unwanted by God person receive the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven and be called “Pillar of Faith and the Foundation of the Catholic Church”? What an irresponsibility! How can Jesus not choose “the Pillar of Faith and the Foundation of the Catholic Church”? Of course not! And this teaching tells us that Jesus presides and exercises judgment in Peter’s successors.

“3. Therefore whoever succeeds to the chair of Peter obtains by the institution of Christ himself, the primacy of Peter over the whole Church. “So what the truth has ordained stands firm, and blessed Peter perseveres in the rock-like strength he was granted, and does not abandon that guidance of the Church which he once received” [47].” – (1st Dogmatic Constitution – Pastor Aeternus; Vatican I).

“Obtains by the institution of Christ Himself” very clear. “So what the Truth has ordained” “The Truth” refers to Christ Jesus. What Christ has ordained stands firm.

“5. Therefore, if anyone says that it is not by the institution of Christ the lord himself (that is to say, by divine law) that blessed Peter should have perpetual successors in the primacy over the whole Church; or that the Roman Pontiff is not the successor of blessed Peter in this primacy: let him be anathema.” – – (1st Dogmatic Constitution – Pastor Aeternus; Vatican I).

This teaching actually has an anathema attached, so it is heresy to say that a validly elected Pope is not truly the successor of Peter; or that Christ (or God) Himself “has not” instituted him. Peter and his successors are instituted by “Divine Law”.

“1. … which must be believed by all faithful Christians, namely that the “holy Apostolic See and the Roman Pontiff hold a world-wide primacy, and that the Roman Pontiff is the successor of blessed Peter, the prince of the apostles, true vicar of Christ, head of the whole Church and father and teacher of all Christian people. To him, in blessed Peter, full power has been given by our lord Jesus Christ to tend, rule and govern the universal Church. All this is to be found in the acts of the ecumenical councils and the sacred canons.” – – (Vatican 1, Chapter 3).

The Roman Pontiff, whoever is elected, whether we like him or not, is the rightful successor of Peter given us by our Lord Jesus Christ Himself.

“What is more, with the approval of the second Council of Lyons, the Greeks made the following profession: “The Holy Roman Church possesses the supreme and full primacy and principality over the whole Catholic Church. She truly and humbly acknowledges that she received this from the Lord himself in blessed Peter, the prince and chief of the apostles, whose successor the Roman Pontiff is, together with the fullness of power. And since before all others she has the duty of defending the truth of the faith, so if any questions arise concerning the faith, it is by her judgment that they must be settled.”[57]” – (Vatican 1, Chapter 4; # 2, n 2).

This teaching is so clear that would not need further explanation.

“Then there is the definition of the Council of Florence: “The Roman Pontiff is the true vicar of Christ, the head of the whole Church and the father and teacher of all Christians; and to him was committed in blessed Peter, by our lord Jesus Christ, the full power of tending, ruling and governing the whole Church.” (ibid # 2, n 3).

“By our Lord Jesus Christ”, that is, by God Himself.

“8. But since in this very age when the salutary effectiveness of the apostolic office is most especially needed, not a few are to be found who disparage its authority, we judge it absolutely necessary to affirm solemnly the prerogative which the only-begotten Son of God was pleased to attach to the supreme pastoral office.” (ibid # 8 ).

“But now it is our purpose to profess and declare from this chair of Peter before all eyes the saving teaching of Christ, and, by the power given us by God, to reject and condemn the contrary errors.” – (Vatican 1, #10).

“4. Everything that God has brought into being he protects and governs by his providence,..” (Vatican 1).

And that includes, of course, the Pope!

“But this authority (the Pope’s), even though it may be given to a man, and may be exercised by a man, is not human, but rather divine power, having been given by the divine mouth of Christ to Peter, and to him as well as to his successors, by Christ Himself, that is, to him whom He had disclosed to be the firm rock, just as the Lord said to Peter himself: “Whatever you shall bind,” [Matthew 16:19] etc. Therefore, whoever resists this authority, such as it has been ordain by God, resists the ordination of God.” [Romans 13:2]” (Unam Sanctam).

Any claim that says that only Peter was chosen or ordained by Jesus, but not (any or some of) the successors of Peter is utterly rejected by Unam Sanctam. The Petrine office is not human but Divine; therefore, it is in His constant care.

This Papal Bull also does not give us any option for judging the highest authority, the Pope.  This, of course, includes whether the Pope was not chosen by God:

“Therefore, if the earthly power goes astray, it will be judged by the spiritual power; but if a lesser spiritual power goes astray, [it will be judged] by its superior; and truly, if the highest [power] goes astray, it will not be able to be judged by man, but by God alone. And so the Apostle testifies, “The spiritual man judges all things, but he himself is judged by no one.” [1 Corinthians 2:15]” – (ibid).

Therefore, no lesser person can remove a validly elected Pope, nor use the judgement that he was not chosen by God or may have not been chosen by God. This document teaches us that only God can judge the highest spiritual authority (the Pope); also, that whoever resists the Pope’s authority, resists the ordination of God Himself.

Now let’s see some of our current Pope’s insights and teachings:

Pope Francis Coat of Arm’s motto “Miserando atque eligendo” based on Matthew 9:9–13 which refers to the scene where Jesus chose St. Matthew despite being a sinner, clearly teaches that he (the Pope) was chosen by Jesus. So this is something that the Church authoritatively believes.

In Pope Francis’ recent meeting with new Bishops, he stated the following:

Becoming a bishop is not the result of a merely human scrutiny, but of a choice from Aboveand the ministry “requires not intermittent dedication, fidelity to alternating stages, a selective obedience, no.” He said: “you are called to consume yourselves day and night.”
Pope Francis tells new bishops holiness is their ‘most urgent task’

Here Pope Francis explicitly teaches that God (with the phrase “from Above”) has chosen the bishops and that it is not a mere human scrutiny (or selection).  So we see this teaching constantly stated by Church authorities.

The argument that “it’s a pious idea (that God chooses the Pope)….. but in itself is absolutely not true” falls down before the above mentioned Scriptural references, Catholic Magisterial teachings, the teachings of Saint and Doctor of the Church Catherine of Siena, also our current Pope Francis’ teachings.

-Francisco Figueroa.

See related posts:
Does God Choose the Pope? Yes. He certainly does.
Providence and Grace in the Election of the Pope
Commentary on the Third Letter of Archbishop Vigano
In Support of Pope Francis

Recommended read:
The Heretical Pope Fallacy

[i] In 1970, Pope St. Paul VI limited the electors to Cardinals under 80 years of age in Ingravescentem Aetatem. The current procedures were established by Pope St. John Paul II in his Apostolic Constitution Universi Dominici Gregis as amended by Pope Benedict XVI in 2007 and 2013. A two-thirds supermajority vote is required to elect the new Pope.

[ii] Saint Augustine, De Trin. iv, 6,7; quoted by Saint Thomas Aquinas in the Summa Theologica, First Part, Question 3, Article 7.

[iii] Saint Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, First Part, Question 3, Article 7.

[iv] ibid.

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4 Responses to Does God choose the Pope?

  1. I thought Catholicism.io was your site for long posts?

  2. Fr Joseph says:

    This teaching is so clear and it is what really makes us Catholics. It’s a shame that some so called “orthodox ” theologians are deviating. There is the precarious assertions of a Fr. Malachi Martin who claims to have read the third secret of Fatima back in 1960 who basically claims that the Pope will be possessed by the devil and nowadays there is a string of catholic speakers who believe and promulgate such a claim. Well, it just seems to me like he badly interpreted what he read or never read the real secret and thought he did. Nonetheless, this erroneous thought is out there and it’s sad because they are just like many Protestants who claim that the Pope is the Antichrist and that the Catholic Church is the whore of Babylon.

    • Ron Conte says:

      Whatever Fr. Martin read, it wasn’t the third secret. I’ve long suspected that some other text has been mistaken for this alleged real third secret of Fatima. As for the Pope, my twenty years of study in eschatology finds no support for the idea that the Antichrist, or the devil, or the false prophet will ever be the Pope or possess the Pope. I don’t think the Antichrist or the false prophet will even be an antipope. They don’t want to be the servant of servants. The Antichrist claims to be God, not Pope.

      In any case, Jesus promised that the Church would be indefectible for the very reason that She is founded on the Rock that is the Pope. So the Pope must also be indefectible.

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