Is It Heresy to say that Popes can be Deposed? I believe it is proximate to heresy to say that a Pope can be deposed. It is schismatic to attempt to depose a Pope. It is heretical to accuse a Pope of teaching or committing heresy. It is also heretical to deny any of the papal charisms.
Recently, there have been discussions on whether or not Pope Francis, or any Pope, can be deposed. What would be the reason for the deposition of a Pope? The most commonly cited reason is heresy.
It is contrary to dogma to say that a Pope can teach or commit heresy. The First Vatican Council and the ordinary universal Magisterium infallibly teach that every Pope has the charism of truth and never-failing faith. This excludes absolutely any possibility of material or formal heresy, as material heresy is contrary to truth and formal heresy is contrary to a never-failing faith.
Moreover, there are other dogmas on the papal charisms each of which is contrary to the claim that a Pope can be deposed: the divine right of Apostolic primacy; the permanence of his primacy; the requirement that all churches be in agreement with the Roman Church, the mother and mistress of all churches; the duty of obedient submission to the Roman Pontiff; that the Roman Pontiff is the principle of unity in the Church; that Christ and His Vicar constitute one only Head of the one Church; the right of free exercise of papal authority over the whole Church; that papal authority is supreme and so is without appeal or recourse to any other authority; that the Pope is the Rock on which the Church is founded; that the Church is indefectible, therefore Her head cannot defect; the freedom from blemish of the Apostolic See; that controversies in the worldwide Church are settled and damages to the faith are mended in the Apostolic See; and the charism of truth and never-failing faith; and even the charism of Papal Infallibility.
Starting with the last one in the list: if a Pope is accused of heresy, and is therefore in danger of being deposed (in this counter-factual hypothetical), he can use papal infallibility to settle the dispute, preventing his deposition. And those who would depose the Pope, what would they do then? Knowing fallen human nature, they would still accuse the Pope of heresy; then they would be excommunicated for denying a dogma.
Popes cannot teach or commit heresy, as this is contrary to the dogma of the charism of truth and never failing faith. So this removes the most common reason for proposing deposition.
Apostolic primacy is contradicted if any Pope can be deposed at any time, if a serious accusation is made against him. Whoever holds the power of deposition would be above the Pope. The person at work who can fire you is your boss, at least de facto.
The permanence of this primacy is also contradicted, as Popes would only reign until deposed. As we can see from politics in the current contentious age, there is always a group seeking to remove whosoever is in power. The conservatives wish they could depose Francis. But then the liberals would try to depose the next conservative Pope. And the charism of permanence would be gravely harmed.
Agreement with the Roman Church would be contradicted, as churches in disagreement could attempt to depose the Pope, and even if they failed, they could claim that he was deposed and is now invalid. Then this also destroys the principle of unity in the Church, which is the Roman Pontiff and agreement with his See.
The dogma of obedient submission to the Roman Pontiff — subjection to the Roman Pontiff is from the necessity of salvation — is contradicted by deposition, as those who depose the Pope are subjecting the Pope to their judgment. The Pope becomes subject to them, contrary to dogma. But if it is claimed that they are simply acknowledging the Pope’s “manifest heresy”, my response is that, when the Pope is accused of heresy, it is never manifest. For he is the authority without which heresy cannot be distinguished with certitude from dogma.
That Christ and His Vicar constitute one only Head of the one Church: if a Pope could teach or commit heresy, or err so gravely in any other way that would justify deposition, Christ would be blamed, which is impossible. Since Christ and His Vicar constitute one only Head, errs in the Pope to grave extent are not permitted by prevenient grace.
The dogma of the papal right of free exercise of his authority over the whole Church is contradicted by deposition, as the reason for the deposition is the exercise of papal authority over the Church, some teaching of his or some decision of discipline. Those who would depose the Pope wish to stop the Pope from exercising his authority over them; other Catholics are happy to continue to have the Pope in authority. It is a case of some persons trying to prevent the Pope from teaching or enacting something they dislike.
That papal authority is supreme and so is without appeal or recourse to any other authority: this dogma is contradicted by deposition. If anyone disagrees with a teaching of the Pope, they could appeal to those who can depose him. This contradicts his supreme authority and the absence of appeal.
That the Pope is the Rock on which the Church is founded: if the Pope could be deposed, then those who depose him become the Rock, as they have more authority than he does. It is always proposed that the Pope, in the hypothetical, is heretical and certainly wrong; but if fallen human persons had the authority to remove a Pope, false accusations against Popes would multiply, and the Rock would never be secure.
The Church is indefectible, therefore Her head cannot defect; and therefore, there is no reason for deposition. The same argument holds for the freedom from blemish of the Apostolic See. No Pope can err gravely on doctrine or discipline, therefore, there is no reason to remove him.
That the Pope settles controversies in the worldwide Church and that damages to the faith are mended in the Apostolic See: this is contradicted by the claim that a Pope can be deposed. For instead of settling controversies by recourse to the Pope, controversies would ever be settled by removal of the Pope by those who disagree. Some would claim that the Pope was removed, even if he remained in office, and so they would say that he became invalid.
So the idea that a Pope can be deposed contradicts every papal charism, each of which is infallibly taught by a Council or by the ordinary universal magisterium.
Can we look at the history of the papacy to determine if a Pope can be deposed? No. There are no indisputable examples of papal deposition. Therefore, any evaluation of history would be a fallible judgment of the prudential order on the part of either side. The only dependable answer, then, is to consider the papal charisms, the divinely-conferred gifts possessed by every Roman Pontiff. And what I find, summarized briefly above, is that every papal charism without exception is contrary to the idea that a Pope can be deposed. Every. Single. Papal. Charism.
You would have to deny and contradict every gift given by God to the Roman Pontiff, in order to simply propose the removal of any Pope, no matter how sinful he might be. Can very sinful Popes be deposed? No, that is contrary to the permanence of the Apostolic primacy. It is not merely permanence in the sense of a continuous succession of Popes but also permanence within each Pontificate.
Therefore, the claim that Popes can be deposed is proximate to heresy and is incompatible with at least a dozen dogmas on the papal charisms.
Ronald L Conte Jr