Generally, an appointment to the papacy is for life, but on several occasions, most recently Benedict XVI in 2013, the Pope has resigned from the post. This means that the Catholic Church recognises that someone can cease to be Pope. As the Pope is elected by the Papal conclave, consisting of members of the College of Cardinals, it stands to reason, therefore, that Cardinals may also be able to remove the Pope from his position.

However, the Fundamental Law of Vatican City State states that

  1. The Supreme Pontiff, Sovereign of Vatican City State, has the fullness of legislative, executive and judicial powers.

Which seems to indicate that such a removal would not be legitimate, as the Pope could just declare it illegal.

Is there any process by which the Pope can be removed from office through no fault or wrongdoing of his own? If not, are there any circumstances whatsoever, including potential wrongdoing by the Pope, that would enable him to be removed from office short of resignation?

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    There actually is a precedent for an ecumenical council disposing a living pope and electing a new one. But that was 600 years ago and in a rather chaotic situation. So i am not sure if that would still apply today. – Philipp Mar 11 '20 at 9:54
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    The fact that you could not remove a pontiff from office was a point of discussion in news media during the final days of Pope Saint John Paul II the Great, who was in failing health and mentally feeble before his passing in 2005. – hszmv Mar 11 '20 at 10:52

The general answer seems to be NO.

The Pope is considered a religious leader appointed by God

The proper term here is that the Pope is considered to be infallible (when acting ex cathedra, in his office as Pope).

Papal infallibility is a dogma of the Catholic Church that states that, in virtue of the promise of Jesus to Peter, the Pope is preserved from the possibility of error "when, in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church." Infallibility is, according to the New Catholic Encyclopedia, "more than a simple, de facto absence of error. It is a positive perfection, ruling out the possibility of error".

General Catholic doctrines would preclude removal for abuse of power

To answer [the original question about abuse of power], in the case of a grossly misbehaved Pontiff, the only course of action would be to bring some kind of moral or political pressure to bear on him. Such a pope would be morally obligated to resign, but he would have to do so freely.

Also, the Pope cannot be removed for lapses in judgment (i.e. moral or mental)

You can't 'impeach' a Pope for changing something which doesn't pertain to the Faith. That's his right. It's your obligation to obey: IF it isn't equivalent to asking you to abandon some part of the Faith or morality in the process, in which case the obligation becomes one of refusal to obey a sin.

Then there is the fact that the Popes and other bishops will all be judged according to the morality and reasonablness of their decisions, and how that impacted the souls under their care (Heb 13:17; Jas 3:1). But this is distinct from here on earth, while alive, where unless sinful, all their decisions are theirs to make, and the faithful to obey.

  • I've suggested an edit regarding the term ex cathedra - it's closely associated with Papal infallbility, and it's definitely worth mentioning here, but it's not a direct synonym. Ex cathedra (literally "from the seat") means that "in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church" clause - infallibility is the preservation from error, and ex cathedra is when that applies. – LizWeir Mar 12 '20 at 10:09

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