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John wrote:

Hi, guys —

Granted, Our Lord definitely said the gates of Hell will not prevail against His Church. (Matthew 16:13-20)

Despite the fact that most of our popes have been wonderful, godly, and outstanding men, one must concede that there have been some popes (in the minority) who were evil and brought disgrace to the Church (viz. Benedict IX and Alexander VI), to name two I can think of right now. Granted, even the most evil of popes haven't been able to change the teaching/tradition of the Church due to the charism of infallibility — Praise God! — I must ask the following question:

  • If the Holy Spirit always chooses who will sit in the Chair of St Peter, why in the past has He chosen (or even permitted) such evil men to be pope?

This an issue about which I'm genuinely concerned, particularly at this time in history. Maybe these evil popes were elected because way back then (from the 10th century up to 14th century) a conclave was non-existent and appointments to St Peter's Chair were largely politically motivated.

  • Is this true?

If so, human sinfulness interfered and satan did his worst to destroy the Church from within. However, Our Lord throughout these darkest times still protected His Church from error.

  • Would you agree with the scenario I've outlined?

Please do forgive me for appearing quite melodramatic however intellectual honesty obliges us to admit there have been a number of doozies (in the minority, thank God) in St Peter's Chair.

I sincerely hope and pray the next pope won't be another in the line of St. Malachy's prophecy, if it is true. A considerable number of scholars though maintain that St Malachy's prophecy concerning the popes is a forgery and is not to be taken seriously.

  • What are your views concerning this?

I look forward to hearing from you.

God bless you!


  { If the Holy Spirit chooses who sits in the Chair of St. Peter, why has He chosen evil popes? }

Eric replied:

Hi, John —

Actually Cardinal Ratzinger, before he became pope, did not believe that the Holy Spirit picked the pope. John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter wrote,

"[He] was asked on Bavarian television in 1997 if the Holy Spirit is responsible for who gets elected. This was his response:

"I would not say so, in the sense that the Holy Spirit picks out the Pope. … I would say that the Spirit does not exactly take control of the affair, but rather like a good educator, as it were, leaves us much space, much freedom, without entirely abandoning us. Thus the Spirit's role should be understood in a much more elastic sense, not that he dictates the candidate for whom one must vote. Probably the only assurance he offers is that the thing cannot be totally ruined."

As for the so-called Prophecies of St. Malachy, they are not reliable. If you examine them it is clear they have their origin in the period in which they were supposedly rediscovered, centuries after they were supposedly written.

See: Will Our Next Pope Be the Last, Ushering in the End of the World? by Jim Blackburn\


Mike replied:

Hi John,

Your question emphasizes the importance of praying and fasting during the days, weeks, and months leading up to a conclave. If Catholics want a saintly, holy pope they should be eager to pray, fast, and perform spiritual and corporal works of mercy. In my opinion, your papal examples are the fruit of what happens when we don't.

I have searched the knowledge base for you and found a couple related web postings that reaffirm Eric's reply on St. Malachy.


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