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The meaning and origin of the expression: Is the Pope Catholic?

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Is the Pope Catholic?

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A jokey rhetorical question.


Like the unquestioned fact that bears shit 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 Oshkosh Daily Northwestern in November 1969:

An avid sports fan Tom Pech of Oshkosh was asked before the library board meeting if he planned to attend the Packer-Lion game at Green Bay come Sunday. His reply? "Is the Pope Catholic?"