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David Allen Bawden (born September 22, 1959), self-styled as Pope Michael I, is an American citizen and papal claimant. His claim to the papacy is supported by a small group of Conclavists based in in Delia, Kansas.
He was elected by a group of six lay sedevacantists, which included himself and his parents, to fill the vacancy they consider to have been caused by the death of Pope Pius XII in 1958. Unlike other papal claimants, David Bawden's election did not involve any previously ordained clergy from the Catholic Church. Although Bawden attended two seminaries run by the Society of Saint Pius X, he was dismissed without cause from the second seminary and was never ordained as a priest and has therefore never offered a Mass.
Bawden's claim to the papacy
Pope Pius X had in Lamentabili Sane Exitu (supplementary to the general Syllabus of Condemned Errors issued by Pope Pius IX), condemned Modernism as heresy, and in 1907 had issued Praestantia Scriptura where he imposed automatic excommunication upon all Modernists who remained within the church, stating:
We declare and determine that if anyone, which may God forbid, should go forward so brazenly as to defend any proposition reprobated in either of these documents, by that fact itself, he incurs excommunication reserved to the Roman Pontiff.
The claim that Pius XII's successors are modernists as conceived by Pope Pius X is dismissed as factually inaccurate by the vast majority of Catholics, who point out that to date every ecumenical council has seen some controversy, especially councils which perform major revision and reform work such as the Council of Trent which codified the Tridentine Mass and numerous other reforms in response to the Protestant Reformation.
Either way, Bawden argues that because these previous popes were heretics the papal position is vacant and in this case it is the duty of any good Catholic to put himself forward to lead the church.
Claims against popes
Bawden accuses Pope John XXIII of modernistic heresy. He also has condemned Pope John Paul II's association with pornography, specifically the appearance of immodestly clad acrobats at a performance in the Paul VI Hall in the Vatican and the presence of "half-naked natives" at some of Pope John Paul II's masses in Papua New Guinea.
Justification for electing a pope
According to Catholic theology, the church possesses popes in perpetuity (First Vatican Council, 1870), and it has always the right to supply itself with the Pope. The official process of election, through a papal conclave of the College of Cardinals, is not a divinely ordered process for selection but a method created by the Church to replace earlier methods. Conclavists and some sedevacantists argue that if the College of Cardinals will not or cannot elect a valid pope, lay Catholics can do so, under the principle of epikeia.
The view of some sedevacantists is that none of the appointments made since 1958 to the College of Cardinals are valid, as the popes who made them were themselves invalid. As there are no surviving members of the pre-1958 College of Cardinals, there is no college to do the electing, necessitating a new interim procedure to elect a new pope who would then fill the vacancies and so create a valid College of Cardinals.
Process for his election
In the early 1980s Kansas resident Teresa Stanfill-Benns wrote an article asking "all Catholics" to join together to hold an election, which was published in a small Traditionalist Catholic newsletter. In 1990 Benns and Bawden published "Will the Catholic Church Survive the Twentieth Century" in order to state their claim that a Papal conclave was necessary to fill the perceived vacancy in the Holy see, as well as to refute the many heresies they ascribed to Traditionalists. Teresa Stanfill-Benns and David Bawden claim to have invited all orthodox Catholics to join, but they received only six respondents.
The conclave was held on July 16, 1990 in Belvue, Kansas in the United States in a store owned by the Bawden family. There were six electors: David Bawden himself, his parents Mr. Kennett Bawden and Mrs. Clara Bawden, a Mr. & Mrs. Robert Hunt, and Teresa Stanfill-Benns, who had been the main motivator of the conclave. They then formed the conclave which elected Bawden, who took the regnal name Michael. He said that his motivation came from Pope Leo XIII's decision to institute the Invocation of St. Michael the Archangel and to add it to every Tridentine Mass. However, Paul VI later removed that invocation to St. Michael the Archangel from the Mass after the Second Vatican Council, when he promulgated the new, modern Mass of Paul VI (or Novus Ordo).
Teresa Stanfill-Benns, one of the original six electors, since has withdrawn her support of Bawden, and she published a series of writings on the internet in 2007 questioning the canonical status of his election as pope. The central theses of Benns opposition to Bawden is the claim that the laity cannot under any circumstance participate in the election of a pope, and that a mere layman cannot be elected Pope, claims which contradict two thousand years of Catholic history and doctrine. Bawden condemned Benns' manuscript as heresy and sentenced her to excommunication. Recently his long-serving "papal secretary", the East Indian Lucio Mascarenhas was replaced at his own request by Phil Friedl, a young American who is studying for the priesthood under Bawden . It is not clear whether Mascarenhas still supports Bawden.
In October 2006 it was reported that Bawden hoped in the near future to obtain priestly ordination and episcopal consecration from a person prepared to acknowledge his papal claim and claiming episcopal orders in descent from the Old Catholic Arnold Harris Mathew. A Canadian Bishop, Dennis Robinson, was mentioned but the plan never materialised.
Apart from a few local newspaper articles and a single television interview with Dutch television, his presence has not spread beyond the Internet, although of the conclavist popes Bawden appears to have the largest number of adherents, albeit fewer than ten.
More recently, however, Bawden's claim to the papacy has faced some increased attention and criticism from mainstream media outlets. Thomas Frank interviewed Bawden for his 2004 book, What's the Matter with Kansas?, and devoted a chapter to him. The book Alleluia America, by the Irish journalist Carole Coleman, also contains an interview with Bawden. The 2005 book "Conclave" by John L. Allen, written before the death of John Paul II and election of Benedict XVI, begins with a description of the conclave at which Bawden was elected. Allen states that this shows that the ceremonials of a conclave are so familiar to Catholics that even a dissident group such as this tries to lay claim to them. At the 2008 Notre Dame Film Festival, a short documentary entitled Pope Michael was premiered focusing on the daily activities of Bawden. A feature-length film is currently in production.
Criticism of Pope Michael
The vast majority of sedevacanists criticize the method of the election of "Pope Michael" because three of the six 'electors', including David Bawden himself, belonged to his family, and a fourth was his friend Teresa Benns, requiring only one other elector to vote for him. However, there have been several times in the past when several members of the same family were cardinals and electors at the same election. Moreover, in the case of Pope Benedict IX, his father had obtained his election when he was only about twenty years old. There is nothing in Catholic theology or law that exclude persons from the same family from being electors.
It has further been claimed that only members of the Roman diocese have the right to elect their bishop. This claim has never been supported by the Church during the last two thousand years, and in fact, the Council of Constance, not the Roman clergy, had elected the Pope to end the Great Western Schism. Prior to Constance, the Council of Pisa had also attempted the same thing, albeit unsuccessfully.
Another claim is that since Bawden does not possess Episcopal orders, he cannot be Bishop of Rome, which is the primary or underlying office of the Papacy: one becomes Bishop of Rome, and as a consequence, Pope.
- ↑ Teresa Louise Stanfill Benns
- ↑ Secretary to Pope Michael I
- ↑ Frank, Thomas (2004). What's the Matter with Kansas?. Owl Books. pp. 336. ISBN 080507774X.
- Live Broadcasts of Pope Michael
- Documentary being prepared about Pope Michael
- Information about Pope Michael
- Pope Michael's Bloget:David Bawden