The Twelve Papal Charisms

The 12 papal charisms are organized into three related sets of four charisms each: authority, indefectibility, unity.

— Authority —
1. The Pope has supreme authority over the one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
2. The Pope has supreme authority over the body of Bishops and every Council.
3. As the supreme judge of the faithful, the Pope can be judged by no one but God.
4. Papal decisions under this supreme authority allow no appeal.

— Indefectibility —
5. The Pope is the indefectible Rock on which the indefectible Church is founded.
6. The Pope has the charism of truth and never-failing faith, making him indefectible.
7. The Apostolic See is unblemished by any grave error, making his See indefectible.
8. The Pope is the head of the body of Bishops, which is indefectible due to this union.

— Unity: one Lord, one Church, one Teaching, one Salvation —
9. The Pope is one Head with Christ over the Church and head of the body of Bishops.
10. The Pope is the principle and foundation of unity of the whole Church.
11. The Pope has the charism to teach infallibly, unifying the faithful in doctrine.
12. Subjection to the Roman Pontiff is from the necessity of salvation.

The three sets of charisms are a reflection of the most holy Trinity: the charisms of authority are a reflection of the Father; the charisms of indefectibility are a reflection of the Son; the charisms of unity are a reflection of the Holy Spirit. Each and all the charisms are from the one God, who is the most holy Trinity. But we attribute certain gifts or acts to individual Persons of the Trinity based on their relation to one another and to the Church.

Each and Every Roman Pontiff has always had, during his Pontificate though not before or after his Pontificate, all 12 charisms. Each of these charisms (divinely-conferred gifts) have certainly been taught by the Church, definitively, constantly, from ancient times. But whether these charisms should be numbered as 12 or should be organized and categorized differently is an open question. Perhaps the Roman Pontiff has other charisms, in addition to those listed here; perhaps two or more closely-related charisms can be joined together, so that the numbering would be fewer. But the charisms remain essentially the same.

The First Set of Four Charisms: Authority

1. The Pope has supreme authority over the one holy catholic and apostolic Church.

The first four all relate to the supreme authority of the Pope. The Church has always taught that the Roman Pontiff has supreme authority over the whole Church.

Example Teachings:

* Pope Saint Innocent I, in 417, praised the local Council of Carthage for having “kept and confirmed the example of ancient discipline.” He states: “You have referred to our judgment, knowing what is due to the Apostolic See, from which the Episcopate itself and all authority of this Name has come…. You know that nothing, even in the most distant provinces, is to be settled until it comes to the knowledge of this See; so that the decision be established by the whole authority of this See.”

* Saint Augustine: the Roman Church, “in which the ruling authority of the Apostolic See has always held firm.”

* Pope Saint Zosimus, 417-418: “the tradition of the Fathers attributed so much authority to the Apostolic See that no one dared to challenge its judgment and has always preserved it through canons and regulations … such great authority belongs to Us that no one could argue again with Our decision….”

* Pope Saint Celestine I, 422-432: “The sanctions of the blessed and Apostolic See may not be violated.”

* Pope Saint Nicholas I: “Since, according to the canons, where there is a greater authority, the judgment of the inferiors must be brought to it to be annulled or to be substantiated, certainly it is evident that the judgment of the Apostolic See, of whose authority there is none greater, is to be refused by no one…the judgment of the Roman bishop being no longer open for reconsideration….”

* Pope Saint Nicholas I (the great), 858-867, Letter to the Emperor: “Furthermore, if you do not listen to Us, it necessarily follows that for Us you are to be considered, as our Lord Jesus Christ commands, as those who refuse to listen to the Church of God, especially since the privileges of the Roman Church, built upon blessed Peter by the word of Christ, deposited in the Church herself, observed in ancient times and celebrated by the sacred universal councils and venerated jointly by the entire Church, can by no means be diminished, by no means infringed upon, by no means changed: for the foundation that God has established, no human effort has the power to destroy, and what God has determined remains firm and strong…. These privileges, therefore, which were given to this holy Church by Christ, not by the councils, but only celebrated and venerated [by them] thereafter… constrain and compel Us ‘to have solicitude for all of the churches of God’ [cf. 2 Cor 11:28]….”

* The Council of Florence: “We also define that the holy Apostolic See and the Roman pontiff holds the primacy over the whole world and the Roman pontiff is the successor of blessed Peter, prince of the apostles, and that he 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 the full power of tending, ruling and governing the whole Church, as is contained also in the acts of Ecumenical Councils and in the sacred canons.”

* Vatican I, Pastor Aeternus: “So, then, if anyone says that the Roman Pontiff has merely an office of supervision and guidance, and not the full and supreme power of jurisdiction over the whole Church, and this not only in matters of faith and morals, but also in those which concern the discipline and government of the Church dispersed throughout the whole world; or that he has only the principal part, but not the absolute fullness, of this supreme power; or that this power of his is not ordinary and immediate both over all and each of the Churches and over all and each of the pastors and faithful: let him be anathema.”

2. The Pope has supreme authority over the body of Bishops and every Council.

This supreme papal authority implies supreme authority over the body of Bishops, whether dispersed in the world, or gathered in a Council. The Church has specifically taught the supreme authority of the Pope over every Council, including Ecumenical Councils, and over the body of Bishops. This specific authority over the body of Bishops, over the Ecumenical Councils, and over every type of council, synod, or Bishops Conference is part of the supreme authority of each and every Roman Pontiff.

Example Teachings:

* Pope Saint Damasus I, the Roman Synod of 378, to the emperors Gratian and Valentinian II: “Certain bishops, unworthy pastors, have carried their insolence and contempt to the point of refusing obedience to the Bishop of Rome. If the accused is himself a Metropolitan, he will be ordered to go at once to Rome, or in any case to appear before the judges whom the Bishop of Rome shall appoint.”

* Pope Saint Boniface I, to the bishops of Thessaly: “It is therefore certain that this Church [the Roman See] is to the Churches throughout the world as the head to its members. If anyone cut himself off from this Church, not being in union with her, he is outside the Christian religion.”

* emperor Valentinian III, 423-455: “We must defend the faith handed down by our fathers with all care; and we must keep the proper reverence due to the blessed apostle Peter incorrupt in our time also. Therefore the most blessed Bishop of the Roman city, to whom ancient right has given the authority of the priesthood over all, shall have his place, and power to judge about the faith and about bishops.”

* The Council of Florence condemned the proposition that the pope “cannot in any way by his own authority dissolve a universal general council”.

* Lateran V: “For it is clearly established that only the contemporary Roman pontiff, as holding authority over all councils, has the full right and power to summon, transfer and dissolve councils. This we know not only from the witness of holy scripture, the statements of holy fathers and our predecessors as Roman pontiffs, and the decisions of the sacred canons, but also from the declarations of the same councils.”

* Pope Leo XIII, Satis Cognitum: “This power over the Episcopal College to which we refer, and which is clearly set forth in Holy Writ, has ever been acknowledged and attested by the Church, as is clear from the teaching of General Councils. ‘We read that the Roman Pontiff has pronounced judgments on the prelates of all the churches; we do not read that anybody has pronounced sentence on him’ (Hadrianus ii., in Allocutione iii., ad Synodum Romanum an. 869, Cf. Actionem vii., Conc. Constantinopolitani iv) [Pope Adrian II, in Allocutions 3, to the Synod of Rome, year 869; compare Acts 7, Fourth Council of Constantinople]. The reason for which is stated thus: ‘there is no authority greater than that of the Apostolic See’ (Nicholaus in Epist. lxxxvi. ad Michael. Imperat.) [Pope Saint Nicholas I in Letters 86 to emperor Michael] wherefore [Pope Saint] Gelasius on the decrees of Councils says: ‘That which the First See has not approved of cannot stand; but what it has thought well to decree has been received by the whole Church’ (Epist. xxvi., ad Episcopos Dardaniae, n. 5) [Letters 26, to the Bishops of Dardania]. It has ever been unquestionably the office of the Roman Pontiffs to ratify or to reject the decrees of Councils. [Pope Saint] Leo the great [I] rescinded the acts of the Conciliabulum of Ephesus [the so-called robber council of Ephesus in 449; not the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus in 431]. [Pope Saint] Damasus [I] rejected those of Rimini [Council of Ariminum], and [Pope] Adrian I, those of Constantinople [Council of Constantinople (692), also called Trullo or Quinisext Council; Council of Constantinople (754), also called the Council of Hieria]. The 28th Canon of the Council of Chalcedon, by the very fact that it lacks the assent and approval of the Apostolic See, is admitted by all to be worthless. Rightly, therefore, has Leo X laid down in the 5th council of Lateran ‘that the Roman Pontiff alone, as having authority over all Councils, has full jurisdiction and power to summon, to transfer, to dissolve Councils, as is clear, not only from the testimony of Holy Writ, from the teaching of the Fathers and of the Roman Pontiffs, and from the decrees of the sacred canons, but from the teaching of the very Councils themselves.’ Indeed, Holy Writ attests that the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven were given to Peter alone, and that the power of binding and loosening was granted to the Apostles and to Peter; but there is nothing to show that the Apostles received supreme power without Peter, and against Peter. Such power they certainly did not receive from Jesus Christ. Wherefore, in the decree of the Vatican Council as to the nature and authority of the primacy of the Roman Pontiff, no newly conceived opinion is set forth, but the venerable and constant belief of every age (Sess. iv., cap. 3) [Pastor Aeternus, chapter 3].”

* Vatican II: “But the college or body of bishops has no authority unless it is understood together with the Roman Pontiff, the successor of Peter as its head. The pope’s power of primacy over all, both pastors and faithful, remains whole and intact. In virtue of his office, that is as Vicar of Christ and pastor of the whole Church, the Roman Pontiff has full, supreme and universal power over the Church. And he is always free to exercise this power. The order of bishops, which succeeds to the college of apostles and gives this apostolic body continued existence, is also the subject of supreme and full power over the universal Church, provided we understand this body together with its head the Roman Pontiff and never without this head. This power can be exercised only with the consent of the Roman Pontiff. For our Lord placed Simon alone as the rock and the bearer of the keys of the Church, and made him shepherd of the whole flock; it is evident, however, that the power of binding and loosing, which was given to Peter, was granted also to the college of apostles, joined with their head. This college, insofar as it is composed of many, expresses the variety and universality of the People of God, but insofar as it is assembled under one head, it expresses the unity of the flock of Christ. In it, the bishops, faithfully recognizing the primacy and pre-eminence of their head, exercise their own authority for the good of their own faithful, and indeed of the whole Church, the Holy Spirit supporting its organic structure and harmony with moderation.

* Vatican II: “The supreme power in the universal Church, which this college enjoys, is exercised in a solemn way in an ecumenical council. A council is never ecumenical unless it is confirmed or at least accepted as such by the successor of Peter; and it is prerogative of the Roman Pontiff to convoke these councils, to preside over them and to confirm them. This same collegiate power can be exercised together with the pope by the bishops living in all parts of the world, provided that the head of the college calls them to collegiate action, or at least approves of or freely accepts the united action of the scattered bishops, so that it is thereby made a collegiate act.”

3. As the supreme judge, the Pope can be judged by no one but God.

Then supreme papal authority also means that the Pope is the supreme judge of all the faithful, and therefore that the Pope can be judged by no one but God. The Church has always taught that the First See cannot be judged by anyone but God.

The First See is also called the Apostolic See, Holy See, Roman Church, the See of Peter, or similar expressions. The First See refers to the Roman Pontiff, in his exercise of his authority over the Church as the successor of Peter.

Example Teachings:

* Pope Saint Boniface I, 418-422: “No one has ever boldly raised his hands against the Apostolic Eminence, from whose judgment it is not permissible to dissent; no one has rebelled against this, who did not wish judgment to be passed upon him.”

* Pope Saint Nicholas I (the great), 858-867: “Neither by the emperor, nor by all the clergy, nor by kings, nor by the people will the judge be judged…. The first See will not be judged by anyone….”

* Pope Saint Leo IX, 1049-1054: “By passing a preceding judgment on the great See, concerning which it is not permitted any man to pass judgment, you have received anathema from all the Fathers of all the venerable Councils…. As the hinge while remaining immovable opens and closes the door, so Peter and his successors have free judgment over all the Church, since no one should remove their status because ‘the highest See is judged by no one.’ ”

* Pope Boniface VIII, Unam Sanctam, approved by Lateran V: “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 Cor 2:15]”

* Pope Gregory XI, in 1377, Condemned the Error: “An ecclesiastic, even the Roman Pontiff, can legitimately be corrected, and even accused, by subjects and lay persons.”

* Canon 1404: The First See is judged by no one. [Current Code of Canon Law, 1983]
* Canon 1556: The Primatial See can be judged by no one. [Previous Code, 1917]

4. Papal decisions under this supreme authority allow no appeal.

The supreme authority of the Pope implies that his final decisions on doctrine or discipline allow no appeal to any other authority on earth. And even though non-infallible teachings are non-irreformable, only the Pope can reform such a teaching (Donum Veritatis 24, 28-31). Then decisions on discipline can be changed or dispensed by a subsequent Pope (acting alone or with the body of Bishops). But while the current Pope continues to reign, not only what is infallible, but also whatever is non-infallible, allows for no appeal to any other authority. This absence of appeal is not only implied, but has also been taught directly.

Example Teachings:

* Pope Saint Boniface I, 418-422: “there is to be no review of our judgment. In fact, it has never been licit to deliberate again on that which has once been decided by the Apostolic See.”

* Pope Clement VI, 1342-1352: “whether you have believed and do believe that the supreme and preeminent authority and juridical power of those who were the Roman pontiffs, We who are so, and Those who will be so in the future have been, are, and will be such that They and We were not, are not, and in the future will not be able to be judged by anyone; but that They and We have been, are, and will be reserved in judgment by God alone; and that it was not possible, is not possible, and will not be possible for Our decisions and judgments to be appealed to any other judge.”

* Vatican I, Pastor Aeternus: “Since the Roman Pontiff, by the divine right of the Apostolic primacy, governs the whole Church, we likewise teach and declare that he is the supreme judge of the faithful, and that in all cases which fall under ecclesiastical jurisdiction recourse may be had to his judgment. The sentence of the Apostolic See (than which there is no higher authority) is not subject to revision by anyone, nor may anyone lawfully pass judgment thereupon. And so they stray from the genuine path of truth who maintain that it is lawful to appeal from the judgments of the Roman Pontiffs to an Ecumenical Council as if this were an authority superior to the Roman Pontiff.”

* Lateran IV: “the Roman church, which through the Lord’s disposition has a primacy of ordinary power over all other churches inasmuch as it is the mother and mistress of all Christ’s faithful”

* Lateran IV on the Greeks: “conform themselves like obedient sons to the holy Roman church, their mother, so that there may be one flock and one shepherd.”

* Lateran IV on the Patriarchal Sees: “In all the provinces subject to their jurisdiction let appeal be made to them, when it is necessary, except for appeals made to the Apostolic See, to which all must humbly defer.”

* Saint Bellarmine: “Now our adversaries respond that the Church ought to hear him [the Roman Pontiff] so long as he teaches correctly, for God must be heard more than men. On the other hand, who will judge whether the Pope has taught rightly or not? For it is not for the sheep to judge whether the shepherd wanders off, not even and especially in those matters which are truly doubtful. Nor do Christian sheep have any greater judge or teacher to whom they might have recourse. As we showed above, from the whole Church one can appeal to the Pope; yet from him no one is able to appeal; therefore necessarily the whole Church will err, if the Pontiff would err.”

* Pope Benedict XV: “The ancient Fathers, especially those who held the more illustrious chairs of the East, since they accepted these privileges as proper to the pontifical authority, took refuge in the Apostolic See whenever heresy or internal strife troubled them. For it alone promised safety in extreme crises. [Saint] Basil the Great did so, as did the renowned defender of the Nicene Creed, [Saint] Athanasius, as well as [Saint] John Chrysostom. For these inspired Fathers of the orthodox faith appealed from the councils of bishops to the supreme judgement of the Roman Pontiffs according to the prescriptions of the ecclesiastical Canons.”

— This set of posts on the 12 papal charisms is based on my forthcoming book on the same topic “The Twelve Papal Charisms”.

** References for the quotes above are found on this webpage, which has a larger set of quotes on the papal charisms. The book will include extensive commentary on the larger set of quotes as well as material found in the articles.

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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6 Responses to The Twelve Papal Charisms

  1. James Belcher says:

    I am wondering if the German Synodal Way is the Synod referenced by Conchita prior to the Warning. I know Pope Francis has just said the the German bishops are being unlawful in their progressive ways.
    Any thoughts?

    • Ron Conte says:

      It has been predicted that a Synod (a controversial one?) will precede the Warning. 2023 is a possible year for the Miracle (and therefore the Warning also), since Thurs. May 11 is the vigil of the feast of Bl. Imelda, who died on the vigil of the feast of the Ascension. May 11 is the week before the Ascension that year.

  2. Thank you Ron. I’ll be looking forward to this very necessary book. BTW, per # 2 the current German Synod is null and void for it doesn’t have Pope Francis approval. On another note, Ron, are you aware of President Putin’s recent trip to Iran? – This nuclear alliance is not good news for us here in the USA and I think it may go in line with your eschatology.

    • Ron Conte says:

      I’m concerned that Putin will offer Iran help with their nuclear program in exchange for weapons. Iran needs maraging steel to improve the efficiency of its gas centrifuges (used to make enriched uranium). Russia has that capability. The other component that Iran could use is higher quality carbon fiber, so that its centrifuges can be spun faster. I don’t know if Russia has good carbon fiber, but they could conceivable import it, and then transfer it to Iran.

      Iran already has enough 60% uranium to make a nuclear bomb. According to a recent analysis from the Institute for Science and International Security:

      “Due to the growth of Iran’s 60 percent enriched uranium stocks, Iran has crossed a dangerous new threshold: its breakout timeline is now at zero. It has enough 60 percent enriched uranium, or highly enriched uranium (HEU) in the form of uranium hexafluoride (UF6) to be assured it could fashion directly a nuclear explosive. If Iran wanted to further enrich its 60 percent HEU up to 90 percent HEU, typically called weapon-grade uranium (WGU), used in Iran’s known nuclear weapons designs, it could do so within weeks utilizing only a few advanced centrifuge cascades. In parallel, within a month, including a setup period, Iran could produce enough WGU for a second nuclear explosive from its existing stock of near 20 percent enriched uranium. Whether or not Iran enriches its HEU up to 90 percent, it can have enough HEU for two nuclear weapons within one month after starting breakout.

      “Within 1.5 months after starting breakout, Iran could accumulate enough WGU for a third nuclear weapon, using its remaining near 20 percent enriched uranium and some of its 4.5 percent enriched uranium. In 2.75 months after starting breakout, it could have a fourth quantity by further enriching 4.5 percent enriched uranium up to 90 percent. At six months, it could have produced a fifth quantity by further enriching both 4.5 percent enriched uranium and natural uranium.”

  3. James Belcher says:

    With the lack of Prayer and Repentance, I am wondering if the devils are tempting our governments to make foolish decisions towards society as a whole. I am asking this because I cannot understand the rejection of common sense and conventional wisdom. We have the war with Russia & Ukraine, China and USA escalating tensions over possible trip to Taiwan by Pelosi and now Iran dropping New York as possible destination for its nuclear arms. I can only conclude that the devils are indeed tempting the governments to perform in a manner that is contrary to God. I truly can’t believe without these temptations, people would act in this manner.
    Can you shed some light?

    • Ron Conte says:

      The three influences on free will toward sin: the flesh (concupiscence), the world, the devils. These are in order of greatest to least influence, generally. The devils do have some influence, but I would attribute most of the increase in disorder in the world to sinful use of free will, not usually influenced by devils.

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