As a pastor and theologian, I often hear debates about Catholicism teachings about the Pope
and his relationship with God. The Pope is the overall leader of the Roman Catholic Church. He
is the highest symbol of authority in this church. Due to the many misconceptions about the
Roman Catholic Church, some of my church members ask me, “does Catholicism teach that the
Pope speaks to God directly?”
In this article, I will answer a few of your questions, including; what is popular infallibility? Does
Catholicism teach that the Pope hears God’s voice literally? Do Catholics believe that the Pope
is closest to them? Do Catholics believe the Pope prays to God on their behalf? Read on!
What is papal infallibility?
The many misconceptions about the relationship between the Roman Catholic Pope and God are mainly rooted in the doctrine of papal infallibility. Hence there is a need to understand what this doctrine is. Papal infallibility is a doctrine invented by the first Vatican council 1869-1870 in the document pastor aeternus. This doctrine is said to have existed in the medieval theology of the Roman Catholic Church.
This doctrine gives supremacy to the Pope as the Christian leader of the Catholic church. It gives him the authority to judge what is right or wrong in matters of faith and morals. The Pope, while speaking in ex-cathedra (from the throne), can issue a doctrine concerning faith and morals that becomes irreformable. It is believed that the Pope is the successor of Peter Peter. Hence when he speaks ex+ cathedra, he is protected from teaching an error as in him is the holy spirit who was promised to Peter Peter by Jesus. Since the Pope, while speaking ex-cathedra, is protected from error, the doctrine that he proclaims becomes the church’s dogma without question or room for appeal. This doctrine has only been used two times only since it was invented.
- The immaculate conception of Mary’s (1854) decree by Pius IX was later reinforced after the first Vatican council declared papal infallibility.
- Pope Pius XII declared Mary’s bodily assumption into heaven in 1950
Though the Pope has this supremacy, it does not necessarily mean that anything he speaks or comments about is infallible. For example, if the Pope gave a speech about his opinion on family planning, his statement is not infallible as the topic does not concern faith or morals. Any other teaching or magisterium that he gives is also not infallible.
Also, though the Pope is protected from teaching error when speaking ex-cathedra, it does not mean he does not sin. He sins as all human beings do and can make errors in life. Hence it is wrong to assume that the Roman pontiff is free of sin as some may have been led to believe.
Does Catholicism teach that the Pope hears God’s voice literally?
Catholicism does not teach that the Pope hears God’s voice literally. Instead, it believes that the Pope converses with God through prayer as any other Christian would. Though the Pope is experienced, devoted, and relentless in prayer, it does not give him any special features that set him aside from any other staunch believer in the Catholic church. However, sometimes the Pope may get special revelations through prayer. However, this is not because of the office he holds or his rank. There are, however, other common ways that Catholics believe the Pope communicates with God. They include;
- Through other people – The Catholic church believe that God communicates through other people, for instance, when someone urges you to do a righteous act. God is speaking through them.
- Through an individual- God speaks to his people through an inner voice that encourages you to do right. This voice in your subconscious is usually God’s way of communicating directly to us. The same case applies to the Roman pontiff.
- Through the Bible – God speaks to us through his word, which is the Bible, and so does he to the Pope.
The Catholic church teaches that God reveals himself to his people through the above ways, which also apply to the Pope, ad his office does not give him the ability to converse directly with God or hear him literally.
Do Catholics believe that the Pope is closest to God?
Catholics do not teach that the Pope is the closest person to God. However, it may be assumed so because of his role. Also, authority comes from the lord, and it is a favor that the Pope is given that role to be the steward of his people; however, this does not mean that he is closer to God than any other Christian. Though the Pope is given the supremacy of being infallible in his decrees concerning faith and morals, through the doctrine of papal infallibility, it does not mean that he does not sin like any other human being.
Some Catholics may see the Pope as closer to God because they believe that papacy has a link to the apostle Peter Peter. Though the office of the Pope is special and holy in all aspects, it does not mean that the Pope is closer to God than other people. A similar case in the Bible is that although Peter Peter the apostle knew, so did John, James, Mary, Philip, and other disciples. Though Peter Peter had a unique role, it did not mean that he was closer to God than the other disciples.
Do Catholics believe that the Pope prays to God on their behalf?
The Catholics believe that the Pope, the general leader of the Roman Catholic church, prays to God on their behalf. Aside from being the leader and the judge of what is morally and religiously right or wrong, the Pope also intercedes to God on behalf of the holy church. The standing pontiff, pope Francis, teaches the need for intercession prayer among believers. He urges believers to pray for their fellow Christians who are suffering in one way or another, as there is power in supplication.
Just as the first pope, apostle Peter Peter prayed for the sick, sinful, and believers all at once, the Pope followed in the same footsteps. He prays that the holy church may stand firm in the face of persecution for the strength of the clergy, the congregation, and much more. The Catholic church teaches that constant prayer keeps a believer’s faith steadfast.
The Pope’s routine from morning till sundown is lined up with prayers. He starts his mornings with the liturgy of hours. He leads liturgies consisting of prayers all day, praying for the different needs of the holy church and the problems ailing different countries, like political instability, health hazards, wars, droughts, and many others. Additionally, He celebrates mass daily and engages in adoration during the evening hours. Hence it is correct to say that the Pope is a very prayerful leader who intercedes to God on behalf of the holy church.
As a devout Christian, I have always been passionate about the Christian faith. This inspired me to pursue a degree in Religious studies and a Masters in Theology in college. I have also been privileged to teach 4 Christian courses in a college and university. Since I am dedicated to spreading the word of God, I am actively involved in the Church. Additionally, I share his word online and cover diverse topics on the Christian faith through my platform. You can read more about me on the about us page.