Can the pope bind all future popes to a specific liturgical discipline?


Full Question

Can the pope bind all future popes to a specific liturgical discipline?

Answer

Absolutely not. Discipline, by its very nature, is a changeable practice that is determined by those with the authority to impose it. Dogma, on the other hand, is a definition of objective supernatural reality and therefore cannot be changed.

The Code of Canon Law says this about the authority of the pope:

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. (CIC 331)

"Supreme, full, immediate, and universal ordinary power" includes disciplinary authority. If a preceding pope could hamstring the disciplinary authority of his successors by issuing a disciplinary decree binding upon his successors under pain of mortal sin, then the current pope could not be said to have full disciplinary authority over the Church.

The disciplinary authority of a particular pope ends with his death. Successors may choose to continue to promulgate the disciplinary edicts of their predecessors because such edicts continue to be of importance to the life of the Church, but they are not bound to do so.


Michelle Arnold