Is a Pope Beyond Criticism?

The pope holds a unique position in all the world. No other existing religious or civic government has a leader of an office that has lasted for two thousand years like the Chair of St. Peter. No other religious leader represents over one billion people in a successive role founded by Jesus Christ Himself. What leader of such a longstanding organization with such massive global proportions and authority can rightfully claim to possess the charism of infallibility?

The successor of Peter uniquely fills a successive role founded by Jesus Christ Himself—to be the rock upon which the Church is built, to be the keeper of the kingdom’s keys (Matthew 16:17-19), to be the shepherd of God’s flock (John 21:15-17), and to be the visible source of unity and protector of the deposit of truth. The pope and the structure of the Church are ordained by God to maintain Christ’s visible presence and unity among the faithful.

Since the pope has the charism of infallibility, some feel that it is schismatic or heretical to question, challenge, or criticize the pope, even when he is not exercising that charism within the strictly defined conditions. Since the Church does claim that the pope has the special gift from Christ as the successor of St. Peter (CCC 891), we must ask what this infallibility consists of and if this pope, or any pope, is then beyond scrutiny and criticism?

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