Is the Pope Catholic?


What's the meaning of the phrase 'Is the Pope Catholic?'?

A jokey rhetorical question.

What's the origin of the phrase 'Is the Pope Catholic?'?

Like the unquestioned fact that bears s*** in the woods, the Pope’s Catholicism must be considered beyond doubt – hence the ironic humour in merely asking the question. Apart from the occasional dissident Catholic writer who might ask the question provocatively in order to make a theological point, no one would actually ask the question seriously. Anyone who uses the phrase does so in response to some other query that they wish to answer with a strong affirmative. An example of that, from the earliest citation of ‘Is the Pope Catholic?‘ that I can find, was printed in the New Jersey newspaper The Asbury Park Press in February 1959. It relates to a boxer, Max Baer Jr:

After being stopped in the first round by Stanford junior Trev Grimm, a joker in the audience hollered, “Does he hit hard?”
“Is the Pope Catholic?” young Baer answered.

Trend of is the pope catholic ? in printed material over time

Gary Martin is a writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.

Gary Martin

Writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.