Francis Konrad Maria Schuckardt (Hadrian VII 1978?/1984?-) was born in Seattle in 1937. He graduated from a Jesuit University in 1959 and briefly entered the priest seminary in Carthage, Missouri, which he had to leave due to illness. Thereafter, he worked as a high school teacher and was very active in the Blue Army of Our Lady of Fatima, eventually becoming a member of its International Council. In the mid-1960s, however, Schuckardt was dismissed from the Blue Army for publically condemning Vatican II, and he became one of the first active sedevacantists in the United States.

In 1967, he started the Fatima Crusade in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. The Fatima Crusaders were dedicated to the spreading of the Portuguese apparition messages and traditional Catholic faith, in opposition to the post-conciliar developments and Paul VI. In the same year, Schuckardt founded the Congregation of Mary, Immaculate Queen of the Universe (CMRI), with nuns, brothers and priests. Strangely enough, it was initially approved by the Roman Catholic ordinary of Boise, Idaho. The group also established a community in Rathdrum, Idaho, which they called the City of Mary.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Schuckardt was very important for the spread of sedevacantist views in the United States. He went around the country, giving lectures about the heresies of the Vatican II-church and the anti-pope Paul VI. His active mission led hundreds of people to leave their hometowns for the communities in Idaho. Schuckardt maintained that the official Church of Rome was an empire of evil and that one of the few places where it was possible to live a truly Catholic life was in the Idaho communities that he had founded. Already at this time, critical voices accused Schuckardt of promoting a personality cult around himself.

In 1971, Schuckardt was ordained a priest and consecrated a bishop by Daniel Quilter Brown, a bishop of the North American Old Catholic Church, who had apostolic succession through Arnold Harris Matthew, but also via the African Orthodox Church and René Vilatte. Evidently, Bishop Brown had converted to sedevacantist Catholicism before the consecration act, and the two bishops cooperated for a couple of years before they split.

The Idaho communities grew fast and the facilities there soon became too small and in 1978, they Mount Saint Michael in Spokane, Washington, where they lived in a former Jesuit seminary. In the same year, Schuckardt changed the name of the movement to the Tridentine Latin Rite Catholic Church, of which CMRI was a part. In the first years in Spokane, the church continued to attract more members.

After ten years as a bishop, in 1981, Schuckardt had only ordained six priests, but there were no less than 120 sisters and 60 brothers in the order. The Church established missions, not only in the United States, but also in Canada, Mexico, Australia and New Zealand, and bought at least some twenty properties at different places. At the same time, there were reports of severe physical abuse of children living in the community, with draconic punishments meted out by the religious.

In 1984, Schuckardt’s position changed dramatically as he was accused of having sexually abused several seminarians. He and some twenty loyal followers abruptly left Mount Saint Michael and later settled in Greenville in northern California. The leadership of the Spokane community was assumed by one of his priests, David Chicone, who was excommunicated by the bishop, and several legal processes over properties followed.

In 1987, the police raided Schuckardt’s community in California, and together with a group of followers, the bishop was arrested for possessing large quantities of drugs, mostly prescribed, as well as some illegal weapons. The defence presented by the accused was that Schuckardt had many severe medical issues that caused him great pain and that he consumed large doses of painkillers. After a brief investigation, the charges against them were dropped. After this incident, the group had a low-key presence in Oregon and Washington, using the name Oblates of Mary Immaculate. By that time, Schuckardt had about a hundred followers.

The sources that claim that Schuckardt believed that he was the pope are difficult to assess. He did think that he was the last true bishop and there is some evidence that he used the papal name Hadrian VII, even as early as in the late 1970s or in the early 1980s, both before and after he left Spokane, but that he probably did not claim the papacy in public, though he at times wore a white cassock. According to some sources, one of the nuns of Mount Saint Michael had received a vision that Schuckardt was divinely elect pope and convinced him.

Still, there are so many different views on him that it is virtually impossible to reach a well-founded conclusion. His faithful describe him as a saint, while some former members see him as Satan in human disguise. Schuckardt died on 5 November 2006, after decades of severe illness.

References

A hagiographic account on Schuckardt by his followers, including miracles related to him: http://www.bishopschuckardt.com/

A very critical discussion group: http://bishopfrancis.blogspot.se/

A positive evaluation of Schuckardt’s person and work: http://www.bishopjosephmarie.org/doctrine/Godasmywitness.html

Michael W. Cuneo, The Smoke of Satan: Conservative and Traditionalist Dissent in Contemporary American Catholicism, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997.

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