Pertinent Canons on the Power of the Roman Pontiff and the College of Bishops


For those who are wondering what the Code of Canon Law for the Catholic Church says about the authority of the Pope and the College of Bishops, here are the pertinent canons, for reference sake, which are found in the first chapter of the first section of The Hierarchical Constitution of the Church

Can. 330 Just as, by the decree of the Lord, Saint Peter and the rest of the Apostles form one College, so for a like reason the Roman Pontiff, the successor of Peter, and the Bishops, the successors of the Apostles, are united together in one

Can. 331 The office uniquely committed by the Lord to Peter, the first of the Apostles, and to be transmitted to his successors, abides in the Bishop of the Church of Rome. He is the head of the College of Bishops, the Vicar of Christ, and the Pastor of the Universal Church here on earth. Consequently, by virtue of his office, he has supreme, full, immediate and universal ordinary power in the Church, and he can always freely exercise this power

Can. 332.1 The Roman Pontiff acquires full and supreme power in the Church when, together with episcopal consecration, he has been lawfully elected and has accepted the election. Accordingly, if he already has the episcopal character, he receives this power from the moment he accepts election to the supreme pontificate. If he does not have the episcopal character, he is immediately to be ordained Bishop

Can. 332.2 Should it happen that the Roman Pontiff resigns from his office, it is required for validity that the resignation be freely made and properly manifested, but it is not necessary that it be accepted by anyone

Can 333.2 The Roman Pontiff, in fulfilling his office as Supreme Pastor of the Church, is always joined in full communion with the other Bishops, and indeed with the whole Church. He has the right, however, to determine, according to the needs of the Church, whether this office is to be exercised in a personal or in a collegial manner

Can 333.3 There is neither appeal nor recourse against a judgment or a decree fo the Roman Pontiff

Can. 336 The head of the College of Bishops is the Supreme Pontiff, and its members are the Bishops by virtue of their sacramental consecration and hierarchical communion with the head of the College and its members. This College of Bishops, in which the Apostolic body abides in an unbroken manner, is, in union with its head and never without this head, also the subject of supreme and full power over the universal Church

Can. 337.1 The College of Bishops exercises its power over the universal Church in solemn form in an Ecumenical Council

Can. 337.2 Its exercises this same power by the united action of the Bishops dispersed throughout the world, when this action is as such proclaimed or freely accepted by the Roman pontiff, so that it becomes a truly collegial act

Can. 337.3 It belongs to the Roman Pontiff to select and promote, according to the needs of the Church, ways in which the College of Bishops can exercise its office in respect of the Universal Church in a collegial manner

Can. 338.1 It is the prerogative of the Roman Pontiff alone to summon an Ecumenical Council, to preside over it personally or through others, to transfer, suspend or dissolve the Council, and to approve its decrees.

Can. 338.2 It is also the prerogative of the Roman Pontiff to determine the matters to be dealt with in the Council, and to establish the order to be observed. The fathers of the Council may add other matters to those proposed by the Roman Pontiff, but these must e approved by the Roman Pontiff

Can. 339.1 All Bishops, but only Bishops, who are members of the College of Bishops, have the right and the obligation to be present at an Ecumenical Council with a deliberative vote

Can. 341.1 The decrees of an Ecumenical Council do not oblige unless they are approved by the Roman Pontiff as well as by the Fathers of the Council, confirmed by the Roman Pontiff and promulgated by his direction

Can 341.2 If they are to have binding force, the same confirmation and promulgation is required for decrees which the College of Bishops issues by truly collegial actions in another manner introduced or freely accepted by the Roman Pontiff

6 thoughts on “Pertinent Canons on the Power of the Roman Pontiff and the College of Bishops

  1. Erik,
    I was wondering whether you are familiar with “The Papacy,” by Abbe Guettee, a Catholic priest convert to Russian Orthodoxy. I often see it quoted by Orthodox and Anglicans online and have never seen a Catholic response to it. Thanks for the great content (sorry if this is a duplicate, internet is unreliable).

    • Sam,

      Yes, I have it on the shelf. It is such a long book with so may topics. One thing you might want to do is read it in pieces, and then send me a message @ and I can make a response in the form of a blog. I apologize, but it is just so diverse and lengthy to make a single post for it.

      God bless!

  2. Hello Erick,

    An excellent idea for an article (one I’ve never seen written before) that I think a lot of people would benefit from is a response to Orthodox objections to the Immaculate Conception.
    This series of objections written by an orthodox saint seems to be a good list:
    Objections 4 and 5 have genuinely stumped me at this moment too, so it would certainly help me out.

    Thanks for your work!

    • Kcorrigan,

      Regarding Objection 4, was not John the Baptist sanctified in the womb of St. Elizabeth? Tradition says he was. Does the sanctity received by a child in baptism mean that God saves us apart from our will? No, that would be nonsense. Why are some born into Christian homes and others born to pagans in foreign lands? This objection is very weak in my estimation.

      Regarding Objection 5, was Christ without virtue? The implication that Mary’s received sanctity made her life easy and without temptation is nonsense.

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