David Bawden (Michael I, 1990-) was born in 1959 in Oklahoma City, Kansas. Aged eighteen, in September 1977, he entered the Society of Saint Pius X’s seminary at Ecône Switzerland, but soon left for their seminary in Armada, Michigan. Bawden was dismissed from the seminary in December 1978. Later, he appealed against the dismissal to Marcel Lefebvre and his appeal was accepted in the following year. In January 1980, Bawden took a position at the SSPX College in Saint Marys, Kansas, but encountering many “un-Catholic things” there, on March 5, 1981, he resigned. At the same time, he also left SSPX for good.
Realising that it would be difficult to become a Catholic priest under current circumstances, Bawden approached various traditionalist priests, searching advice and assistance, but according to him, none of them was willing to help. Instead, he pursued theological studies on his own, gathering a very large collection of traditional Catholic books. Through his studies, Bawden came to the conclusion that there was something fundamentally wrong with the whole traditionalist movement. During the prolonged sedevacancy that had begun in 1958, traditionalist bishops and priests administered the sacraments without proper jurisdiction and necessary licenses. In 1985 he presented a paper on the matter: Jurisdiction during the Great Apostacy, which was distributed in traditionalist circles.
He saw the situation as very problematic. On the one hand, he thought it impossible to ever have another true pope through a conclave made up by cardinals, but according to the (First) Vatican Council, St. Peter would have perpetual successors at the Holy See. By 1987, Bawden became convinced that it would be possible, and even necessary, to convene a conclave which even included laypeople. At the time, he met Fr. Khoat to investigate the Siri Thesis, but was not convinced about the matter, and on May 2, 1989, Siri died.
Bawden and Teresa Benns compiled a series of texts which were printed in book form as: Will the Catholic Church Survive the Twentieth Century? In 1990, they sent copies to sedevacantist groups worldwide, including all Thuc-line bishops, in order to convene a conclave. The event took place in Belvue, Kansas on 16 July 1990. While others had announced their presence, in the end, the conclave was only made up by six laypeople, including Bawden himself, his parents, and Teresa Benns. At the conclave, David Bawden was elected pope and took Michael I as his papal name.
Pope Michael moved from St. Marys in 1993 and lived for twenty years in Delia, Kansas, where the Vatican-in-Exile was located. In 2013 he moved to Topeka, Kansas. As Pope Michael was not ordained a priest, he could not read mass. In 2011, however, he was both ordained and consecrated by Robert Biarnesen, a bishop with apostolic succession through the Duarte Costa lineage. Before the consecration, Bishop Biarnesen converted to the Catholic Church, rendering obedience to Pope Michael.
The group that accepts Pope Michael as pope is not big. In 2009, he stated that he had “thirty solid followers”. He is very active on the internet, including several websites, Facebook and Youtube
Web sites of Pope Michael:
David Bawden & Teresa Benns, Will the Catholic Church Survive the Twentieth Century?, Christ the King Library, 1990.
Pope Michael, 54 years that changed the Catholic Church: 1958-2012, Christ the King Library, 2013.
The documentary “Pope Michael”, directed by Adam Fairholm, 2010: http://popemichaelfilm.com