Pope Francis Stripped of Power Myth

A number of sites are reporting that Pope Francis has been or is about to be stripped of power. Most report that this followed some kind of “palace coup.” Rest assured, this is not the case.

What’s the Rumor?

The articles and podcasts usually cite an unnamed “Vatican insider” with the information that Pope Francis has been stripped of his papal authority. Some of the articles say that a select group of cardinals have taken on his powers. Others say that the Pope is being controlled by a secular government.

I haven’t linked to the articles here because they don’t deserve web traffic but they’re easy to find if you’re curious enough.

Where Did it Come From?

It is unclear whether this rumor is part of a deliberate misinformation campaign or just some kind of joke.

Whatever the goal of the originators, it is a persistent rumor. A quick search of the term “pope francis stripped of power” reveals that stories have been circling for months.

The earliest articles were posted around Jan 25 of this year and seem to begin with Kevin Anett, a Canadian civil rights activist. Since then other sites have picked it up and the fallacious articles have circulated on social media sites like reddit. A quick browse will reveal that none of the sites are reputable agencies.

Since the circulation of the rumor began, Pope Francis doesn’t seem to have formally addressed it. It could be that he is unaware of the rumor, or that he is not giving it the credit of a response.

Is there Any Truth to it?

Like so many rumors, this one may be a gross misrepresentation of actual facts.

Early on in his papacy, Pope Francis wrote that too much centralized power in the Vatican would prevent Catholics from growing and spreading their faith.

“Countless issues involving evangelization today might be discussed here, but I have chosen not to explore these many questions which call for further reflection and study. Nor do I believe that the papal magisterium should be expected to offer a definitive or complete word on every question which affects the Church and the world,” Pope Francis wrote in his first Apostolic Exhortation in 2013. “It is not advisable for the Pope to take the place of local Bishops in the discernment of every issue which arises in their territory. In this sense, I am conscious of the need to promote a sound ‘decentralization.’”

Global news sites including The Telegraph and the BBC covered the document with headlines like “Pope Francis calls for power to be stripped from Vatican.” Headlines like these could have gotten further carried away leading to the “Pope Francis stripped of power” myth.

Can a Pope Be “Stripped of Power?”

There are a great deal of rules regarding the election of the pope in the event that a pope has passed. The idea of replacing a living pope are much murkier. In general, the pope is seen as infallible and beyond removal.

However, there have been at least three instances in which popes were removed. These were the councils of Pisa, Constance, and Basel. All of these were during a period of schism in which multiple figures were claiming to be the pope. As a result, the councils didn’t so much remove popes as they did determine which pope was legitimate.

Pope Francis will very likely remain the pope until he steps down as his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI did, or until his passes as most popes before him have done.

Article written by Johnathan Jaehnig with Christian Catholic Media News

Jon Jaehnig is a professional freelance writer and journalist, specializing in technology and health. He is a practicing Catholic and active Knight of Columbus living in upper Michigan, USA.


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