The Heresy of Conciliarism


Many of the laity are falling into the heresy of Conciliarism, which was condemned by the Fifth Lateran Council , 1512-1517.

The heresy of Americanism also involves the heresy of Conciliarism, which limits the power of the pope and indicates that people have a right to judge him.

Here are some of the facts surrounding this heresy, under a few bullet points. In other words, as much as we do not like a pope or what he says, the laity cannot judge him, especially cannot judge his soul.

Many commentators on blogs are in error regarding calling the present popes names or labelling him. Beware, your own soul is in danger of not only false judgement, but inappropriate judgement.


• Because of the tendencies of both religious and secular leaders in the 13th and 14th centuries, that is kings and schismatics, the nature of the papacy had to become more defined. For example, the Orthodox, who left the Church, judged the popes, and still do, in error. See the history of the Council of Basel for that information.

• The Council of Constance from 1431-1449, got rid of two popes because of the Western Schism, This was the height of Conciliarism. After the Council of Basel, and finally at the Fifth Lateran Council, then Pope Julius II stated that the authority of the pope was greater than any council.

• However, the question of how to remove bad popes remained, as there were some, of course. This heretical movement gained strength in the obvious heretical movements of Gallicanism and especially Febronianism, both which demanded a limit to papal authority.

• Great saints and theologians plowed into the argument, men such at St. Robert Bellarmine, Doctor of the Church, John of St. Thomas, a great Thomas, and one of my favourites, Francisco Suarez, who all maintained that in case of heresy, the Church is not superior to the Pope and that the Church, in the role of a council, judges and declares his crime, while Christ deposes a pope, not people. This is a fine but keen distinction. The pope can lose his office if declared a heretic, especially by a subsequent pope, but only God Himself, in the Person of Christ, can made a pope a non-pope.

• In other words, and I quote Robert Bellarmine, only the College of Cardinals can judge a pope. Here are Bellarmine’s words on this subject from one of his documents on the subject, De Romano Pontifice: Jurisdiction is certainly given to the Pontiff by God, but with the agreement of men [who elect him], as is obvious; because this man, who beforehand was not Pope, has from men that he would begin to be Pope; therefore, he is not removed by God unless it is through men. But an occult heretic cannot be judged by men, nor would such wish to relinquish that power by his own will.

• The men to whom the great Doctor of the Church refers are the College of Cardinals. Whether an Ecumenical Council can judge a pope is still an open question among theologians and canon lawyers.

• To simplify, we cannot judge a pope as laity AT ALL, and only Christ can remove him from office, AFTER a judgement of heresy, which can take a long time

I hope this helps.

By Supertradmum

JMJ, pray for us!

God is good,


17 comments on “The Heresy of Conciliarism”

  1. What do you mean by judge? I see you make a clarification as between soul and judging? For example, are you stating that those like Edward Feser who say the Pope is wrong because he’s contradicted the Magisterium? Or something else? Or that Pope Francis is not the Pope or the Anti-Pope? Also, how does the square away with Pope JP II articulating that the Church should listen to lay theologians? To be a theologian, in the proper sense, aren’t you suppose to push back to some degree?

    I’m just looking for a bit of clarification?


    1. Thank you, I asked Supertradmum to respond. Here is her response: Judgement of the soul is never permitted for anyone, by anyone, the Pope included. And, legal judgement is also not in the power of the laity. Theologians may have different opinions as to what the Pope states in and out of his formal role, but they cannot judge him as either a formal or material heretic.

      Theologians have limited power, and lay theologians are not in the same category as bishops or cardinals, who have canonical status. A lay person, even a brilliant one, does not have canonical status. The cardinals who wrote the dubia have the legal right, the canonical right, to present such a thing to the pope. We cannot do that, although, of course, we may have our own opinions.

      Pushing back is fine, as long as the ideas are being “pushed” and not the person. Too many people online and in the press have crossed a barrier.


  2. Reblogged this on All Along the Watchtower and commented:
    An interesting reflection on councils, doctrine, and heresies in regards to the Pope. I wanted to share this post with AATW to see if there were any thoughts of agreements or refutation on thesis presented here. Note, I did comment for a clarification of what is meant by “judge.” Please refer to that for further explanation.


  3. I think the problem is that some of the laity do not understand the hierarchy which is our Church. The laity are NOT equal to the clerics in status, sorry, but this is true. And, priests are not equal to bishops or cardinals. Priests are under the bishops, who are in the role of the first 12 apostles, as the primary pastoral leaders. Cardinals are really princes of the Church, and their main duty is to elect the pope, with secondary duties of doing the jobs the pope appoints them to do. Cardinals as a college also can judge, legally, a pope as to his office, but as the pope is ordained by God and under oath to God, only God can release a pope from being pope. This spiritual reality may be hard for some to understand, but men cannot unmake a pope, only make him give up his office, not take away his papal status.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Interesting, what are the people to do, in your opinion, when they more or less become battered victims of hierarchy since they have no function within this posited idea of the Churc?


      1. The Pope has diplomatic immunity, btw, and therefore, the civil authorities in the USA could not call him before a tribunal or judge. The College of Cardinals would have to meet with him and produce lots of documentation to ask him to abdicate. Again, he would still be pope until he dies, as only God can remove the oath of office and the authority given to him by the Church.

        These are serious considerations, which most Americans just do not understand, not “getting” the intricacies of how the Church hierarchy works. The Pope, for all his faults, would have to be asked to step down. He can say no. He has already said no to reporters, which is not a bad thing for him, as he most likely will get legal advice before saying anything.

        The Pope is not just any other man and, in the past, when there have been obviously sinning popes, great reformers, such as St. Peter Damian, came to the fore to deal with these things. Canonically, laity cannot remove a pope, nor can the council of bishops. I suggest most of the commentators take time to read the history of the removal of popes, and the complexities this brings. Most likely, this pope will step down, eventually, unless he becomes stubborn, and allow for another election.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I get the intricacies of hierarchy fine. It just makes me appreciate Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington a whole lot more.

        Hey Scoop, you think I should mail Pope Francis a copy of Common Sense? I’ll cross out all the references to King George III and write his name?


  4. Today’s readings in the NO Gospel Mt 23:13-22

    Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples:
    “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.
    You lock the Kingdom of heaven before men.
    You do not enter yourselves,
    nor do you allow entrance to those trying to enter.

    “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.
    You traverse sea and land to make one convert,
    and when that happens you make him a child of Gehenna
    twice as much as yourselves.

    “Woe to you, blind guides, who say,
    ‘If one swears by the temple, it means nothing,
    but if one swears by the gold of the temple, one is obligated.’
    Blind fools, which is greater, the gold,
    or the temple that made the gold sacred?
    And you say, ‘If one swears by the altar, it means nothing,
    but if one swears by the gift on the altar, one is obligated.’
    You blind ones, which is greater, the gift,
    or the altar that makes the gift sacred?
    One who swears by the altar swears by it and all that is upon it;
    one who swears by the temple swears by it
    and by him who dwells in it;
    one who swears by heaven swears by the throne of God
    and by him who is seated on it.”

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I consider the proper separation of powers: legislative, executive, and judicial, an essential part of government. The Church still operates in many ways like an absolute monarchy, or perhaps more like the Kremlin in Soviet days, i.e. as a hierarchy which knows neither checks and balances, nor any separation between branches of government, and has no independent judiciary. Anyone can know that such a system is predestinated to its own corruption. Day by day we are confirmed in this by the endless stream of news about sexual abuses, cover-ups, dubious financial transactions, &c, &c. The Church has no proper means to investigate itself in a credible manner, or to properly prosecute its own criminal offenders within the clergy.

    Today no catholic in his right mind would trust a civil official who was his own judge, or who united in his person the full and undivided powers of the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government on any level. Yet in the Church catholics are supposed to trust their bishops and Pope, who exactly enjoy these full powers. This is an unsustainable anomaly.


    1. The post on Conciliarism is about judging the pope. Trust and judging are two different issues, in my opinion. I will leave judgment to God. I understand the issue of how can we trust them to monitor themselves. A solution to that, I believe, is within the structure and potential structure of canon law.


    2. The history of the hierarchy of the Church is based on two revelations from God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost.

      Beginning in the Old Testament, God the Father created a patriarchal society in the Hebrew tribes, which was not common among the ancient people’s of the Middle East, as many of the tribal organisations were based on the female line, hence were matriarchies. This was because one always knew who the mother was. God chose, in the very beginning, calling Abraham and creating the line of patriarchs, which, of course, include the Twelve heads of the tribes of Israel, the sons of Jacob.

      This organisation of the People of God, set forth in legal terms in the Pentateuch, was changed by the Second Son of the Blessed Trinity, Jesus Christ, true God and true Man, when He called the Twelve Apostles to carry out the institutions of HIs Church, under the first pope, Peter. This papal leadership became the ordinary means of ruling the Church, with the other eleven apostles, the first bishops, who, like St. Peter, formed the Apostolic Succession.

      God created the patriarchy and Jesus, His Son, created the Church, as an institution while He still walked on this earth. Never was a democracy, known at the time from the ancient Greeks, considered as the form of governance for the one, holy, Catholic and APOSTOLIC Church. Christ was not needing to conform to His times, a Modernist heresy, btw, as He is God and could have set up any form of governance. The role of the pope and the bishops was clearly that of leadership, not only pastoral, but practical, or bureaucratic. This apostolic form of governance is part of the Creed we say weekly in the Church, and if we depart from this view, we become heretics.

      Apostolic succession had come down intact to the present day, despite the sins of several popes. The addition of the College of Cardinals, as part of this hierarchy, to vote for the pope, and to help with the administration of the Church, was simply an adaptation in keeping with the hierarchical structure.

      The Church has never been nor ever will be a democracy, as the condemnation of conciliarism as a heresy, was clearly made in 1870 during the First Vatican Council, clarifying the heresy which began hundreds of years before during the Great Schism. Vatican II, again, revisited this issue, and re-stated the clarification of Vatican I.

      To deny that the Church has the right and privilege to maintain the hierarchy established by Christ Himself, the Second Person of the Trinity, is heresy.

      Therefore, the Church, which by the way does have not only the executive branch of the pope and bishops, also has the legislative workings of the council, where all the bishops convene, to judge doctrine, and clarify doctrine. A judicial branch does exist in the form of Canon Law, which is applied at all levels of the hierarchy. In fact, rules of Canon Law regarding the priesthood are overwhelmingly more in number than those regarding the laity.

      God promised always to protect His Church. There are good bishops and good cardinals as well as evil ones. One must rely on the gift of Faith, which shows us that God will use the goodness of the Church to root out the evil.

      Of course, civil laws pertain to criminal actions. And, those who committed criminal actions must be brought to justice. The end of protection by those who collude with evil has begun, thank God, but these scandals do not mean that the institution of the Church are ordained by God Himself as a hierarchy if flawed. Men may sin, but that does not mean the entire system can be changed. That is out of the provenance of any lay person or prelate. We cannot change what God has ordained.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. In Ancient Israel the theocracy was never a totalitarian system, nor was the priesthood a totalitarian power. There was a King, a patriarchial aristocracy, a High Priest, and a Sanhedrin, but none of these institutions had the full and undivided power over the nation. Additionally, there were Prophets, — which were not representatives any established class or position in society — who were raised up by God in times of crisis.

        The Catholic clergy, however, is a functional hierarchy which doesn’t tolerate any external supervision or correction. It is a totalitarian system comparable to the Kremlin in Soviet times and for that very reason it is inherently corrupt. Whatever the intentions of godly Popes, Bishops, and other high prelates, it is the structure itself which invites and endorses moral corruption.

        Canon Law and the legislative actions of Councils can never correct the fact that the Pope unites in his person all the legislative, executive and judicial powers, or that the bishops have these same full powers on a lower level. You haven’t explained at all how we can trust executive officials who are their own judges and lawgivers, which is exactly what the Pope (and the bishops) are. Catholic faithul laity are living under a dictatorship of the clergy. This was never the case in Ancient Israel.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. The Church is not ancient Israel. Jesus appointed Peter pope and the apostles His first bishops. He gave them the keys to the kingdom, not the laity. Jesus understood the weaknesses and sin of all men.

        The laity has a role in reform. We must follow the lead of St. Catherine of Sienna and we must strive to become saints. The Church needs great saints to help guide the reform.


  6. Oh, and I should add that the heresy of conciliarism, is why the Orthodox are in schism and why the SSPX is also in schism–both groups reject papal authority and the proper authority which must be obeyed. It is clear in the case of the Orthodox, less so with the SSPX, but after all these years of rejecting papal authority, the reality is that those members are in the state of schism. Obviously, sede-vacantinists are in schism.

    The small group called Old Catholics are also in schism, refusing to acknowledge papal infallibility is areas of faith and morals. Conclavism is yet another heresy, which states another group besides the college of cardinals can elect a pope. Conclavists have elected false anti-popes, of which in the 20th and 21st century now number about 22, not all living, some voted in by false conclaves, and some, the majority of these anti-popes, claiming to be popes by mystical visions. This type of chaos is one reason why the Catholic Church has defined the heresies of conciliarism and conclavism.

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