“Modern Alternative Popes”
Article published online in 2015
The Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) is arguably the most important event in modern Catholicism, and a major act on the twentieth-century religious scene at large. On several points, the conciliar fathers made changes in how the Catholic Church perceived the modern world. The language in the decrees was different from earlier councils’, and the bishops opened up for ecumenism and interreligious dialogue, seeing at least “seeds of truth” in other religious traditions. The conciliar fathers also voted in favour of liberty of religion, as meaning something more than the right to practise Catholic faith. A very concrete effect of the Council was the introduction of the New Mass Order (Novus Ordo Missae) in 1969 that replaced the traditional Roman rite, decreed by Pius V in 1570. Apart from changes in content, under normal circumstances, the new mass should be read in the vernacular, not in Latin as before.
Though many Catholics welcomed the reforms of Vatican II, many did not. In the period just after the end of the Council, large numbers of priests and nuns were laicized, few new priest candidates entered the seminaries, and many laypeople did not recognize the church and the liturgy, which they had grown up with. In the post- conciliar era, there developed several traditionalist groups that criticized the reforms and in particular the introduction of the Novus Ordo. Their criticism could be more or less radical, and more or less activist.
Many stayed in their parishes and attended mass there, but remained faithful to traditional forms of devotions and paid much attention to modern Marian apparitions. The apocalyptic contents of many apparitions helped them understand the crisis they saw in church and society. They can be called Catholic Conservatives. Others joined traditionalist groups that were very critical of the developments and though that the Tridentine mass was the only legitimate, but still accepted the Roman popes and episcopacy. However, a much smaller group maintained that a true pope would never accept the radical changes of Vatican II, and therefore argued that the Holy See was vacant, as the pope and the curia had become heretics. A manifest heretic could not be pontiff. Furthermore, from the 1960s onwards some individuals claimed that they had been elected true popes, either by direct divine intervention or through alternative conclaves.
In this article, I will concentrate on people (males), who have claimed or still claim that they, and not the vastly more recognized popes in Rome, are the true pontiffs. I will refer to these men as papal claimants or alternative popes. From Rome’s perspective they are antipopes, while the papal claimants denounce the popes in Rome (and other alternative popes) as antipopes, who they think have nothing to do with the Catholic Church founded by Christ.
Read my full article “Modern Alternative Popes”, written in 2015 and only published online: Modern Alternative Popes