David Bawden

David Bawden

David Allen Bawden (born September 22, 1959), is a Traditionalist Catholic recognized as Pope Michael I by a small group of conclavists based in Delia, Kansas, USA.[1] He was elected by a group of six lay sedevacantists, which included himself and his parents,[1] as they felt the Catholic Church had departed too far from the teachings of Jesus,[2] and that the popes elected since the death of Pope Pius XII in 1958 were all invalid as they were "modernists".[3] Conclavists and some sedevacantists believe that if the College of Cardinals will not or cannot elect a valid pope, lay Catholics can do so, under the principle of "epikeia" (equity).[3]

Unlike other papal claimants, David Bawden's election did not involve any previously ordained clergy from the Catholic Church. Bawden attended two seminaries run by the Society of Saint Pius X, but did not receive orders from either.[4]



Bawden and his family joined the Society of St. Pius X in 1980. Bawden attended the semiary of Marcel Lefebvre in Ecône, Switzerland and Kansas. He was asked to leave both schools.[4][5][6]

In December 1983 Bawden wrote a letter to a group of friends outlining his belief that Rome no longer had authority.[7][8] This was followed in November 1985 by the paper, "Jurisdiction, During the Great Apostasy", written in response to the writings of the traditionalist Roman Catholic priest Lucian Pulvermacher, who was later elected by a small conclavist group as the antipope Pius XIII; this expanded on Bawden's views that Rome no longer had jurisdiction, and was distributed worldwide.[7][9]

In the early 1980s Teresa Benns wrote an article asking "all Catholics" to join together to hold an election, which was published in a small Traditionalist Catholic newsletter.[4] 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. Benns and Bawden claim to have invited all "orthodox" Catholics to join, but they received only six respondents.[4]

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 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 low Tridentine Mass. However, Paul VI did not include that invocation in the new, modern Mass of Paul VI (or Novus Ordo).[4] which he brought into being alongside the traditional form after the Second Vatican Council.

Benns, one of the original six electors, has since 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. Bawden condemned Benns' manuscript as heresy.[10] In 2009 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.[11]

Bawden's claim to the papacy

Bawden's position is that the elections of Pope John XXIII, Pope Paul VI, Pope John Paul I, Pope John Paul II, and Pope Benedict XVI were invalid because they are all modernists.[12]

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 in which he imposed automatic excommunication upon all Modernists who remained within the church, stating:

We declare and determine that if anyone (which God forbid) should go forward so brazenly as to defend any proposition reprobated in either of these documents, he incurs by that very fact excommunication reserved to the Roman Pontiff.

The claim that Pope 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 œcumenical 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.

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.[12]

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 a 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" (equity).

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.

Holy Orders

Bawden has never been ordained as a priest, but has been looking for a dissident bishop to ordain him.[13] 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.

Media coverage

More recently, however, Bawden's claim to the papacy has faced some increased attention and criticism from mainstream media. Thomas Frank interviewed Bawden for his 2004 book, What's the Matter with Kansas?, and devoted a chapter to him.[14] The book Alleluia America!: An Irish Journalist in Bush Country, by Irish journalist Carole Coleman, contains an interview with Bawden.[15] 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.[13] At the 2008 Notre Dame Film Festival, a short documentary entitled Pope Michael was premiered focusing on the daily activities of Bawden.

See also


  1. ^ a b Christopher Hodapp, Alice Von Kannon. Conspiracy Theories & Secret Societies For Dummies. For Dummies, 2008. p. 318. http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=xAvZkw9muqsC&pg=PA318&dq=Pope+Michael+David+Bawden#v=onepage&q=Pope%20Michael%20David%20Bawden&f=false. Retrieved 2011-02-05. 
  2. ^ Orange Coast Magazine, Vol. 16, No. 12. Emmis Communications. Dec 1990. http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=GWEEAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA112&dq=Pope+Michael#v=onepage&q=Pope%20Michael&f=false. Retrieved 2011-02-06. 
  3. ^ a b "10 Most Bizarre People on Earth - Oddee.com". www.oddee.com. http://www.oddee.com/item_65612.aspx. Retrieved 2011-02-06. 
  4. ^ a b c d e Frank, Thomas (2005). What's the matter with Kansas?: how conservatives won the heart of America. Macmillan. pp. 219–225. ISBN 9780805077742. 
  5. ^ Palmer, Eric (18 April 1982). "Traditional Catholics Seek Their Eden in Kansas". Kansas City Star. p. 1. 
  6. ^ Palmer, Eric (19 April 1982). "Shadows Dim the Portrait of a Rebel Priest". Kansas City Star. p. 1. 
  7. ^ a b "History of the Papal Election Effort". catholiccouncil.homestead.com. http://catholiccouncil.homestead.com/History.html. Retrieved 2011-02-06. 
  8. ^ "December 83 letter of David Bawden to his friends". www.old.vaticaninexile.com. http://www.old.vaticaninexile.com/2006rebuild/December83.html. Retrieved 2011-02-06. 
  9. ^ "Jurisdiction During the Great Apostasy". www.old.vaticaninexile.com. http://www.old.vaticaninexile.com/WillChurchSurvive/JurisdictionDuringApostasy.html. Retrieved 2011-02-06. 
  10. ^ vaticaninexile.com
  11. ^ Secretary to Pope Michael I
  12. ^ a b BRISENDINE, STEVE (28 May 2005). "Kansan claims he is Catholics' true Pope". Wichita Eagle. p. 15. 
  13. ^ a b Allen, John L. (2002). Conclave: the politics, personalities, and process of the next papal election. Random House. p. 198. ISBN 9780385504539. 
  14. ^ Frank, Thomas (2004). What's the Matter with Kansas?. Owl Books. pp. 336. ISBN 080507774X. 
  15. ^ Coleman, Carole (2006). Alleluia America!: An Irish Journalist in Bush Country. Liffey Press. p. 198. ISBN 978-1904148760. 

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