You're Not The Pope Of Me
I recently watched a documentary entitled “Pope Michael”. Apparently there is a man in Kansas that says he is the legitimate Pope. David Bawden aka Pope Michael, believes that through heresy and corruption that the Church has forfeited it’s authority. The Church, the magisterium and the Pope are not the Pope of him. As a matter of fact he believes that there has not been a legitimate Pope since the death of Pope Pius XII in 1958. So the last six popes have not been the Pope of him. In 1990, in order to fill the seat of St. Peter that had been vacant for 32 years, a conclave was held. The conclave consisted of Bawden, his parents and three friends, all of them laity as Bawden had never been ordained. So, there you go, that’s how you make yourself Pope. How about that? You learn something new every day. For the past 23 years there has been a Pope in Kansas. According to reports there are about 30 people in Bawden’s flock, including his mother and possibly two seminarians studying under him. His facebook has 16 followers and 372 friends. The Pope Michael facebook page has 145 likes, there is a Fan Club page with 64 members and a Debunking Pope Michael Hoax page with 15 likes. He gets a lot of hits on youtube though.
Crazy crackpot you say? Ridiculous you say? Sad and deluded you say? Erroneous, heretical, dangerous you say? Maybe so. It is so easy to dismiss this poor unfortunate, foolish fellow or criticize and condemn without looking at the underlying plank in our own eye. You are not the Pope of me is pretty prevalent in the Church today. We might all want to honestly examine our attitude towards the Church to see if we ever, through a conclave of me, myself and I or within our groups of the like minded, we have decided that we know better, act on our own authority and say “you are not the pope of me.” We might be surprised at what we see.
When we go back as far as Martin Luther, we talk about indulgences, abuses within the clergy, solo fide and sola scriptura. Not that those things weren’t there but when the rubber met the road it came down to “you are not the pope of me.” Luther thought, the same as David Bawden, that the Church had forfeited its authority because of the behavior of human beings. As if the authority was dependent on human endeavor and not on Christ who established the Church and imbues it with its power and authority and with the Holy Spirit who guides it. We all know how many agreed with Luther, how many still agree with him and how all that turned out. We can go back and examine the heresies and schisms that have existed in the history of the Church and realize that the underlying issue, no matter what they were actually arguing or debating about, came down to whether or not the Pope and the magisterium had the right, the authority and the power to say yes and no. “I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Mt 16:19 Jesus was talking to the Twelve, his ekkesia, the ecclesiastical body that would have the right, the authority and the power to say what was so and what was not for his Church. We may argue over the meaning of these verses but the Apostles understood Jesus or were given the understanding of what Jesus taught. The only way to preserve that truth is through apostolic teaching and the authority that has been handed down through apostolic succession.
David Bawden, aka Pope Michael is not alone in believing that the Church has forfeited its authority and that the last six popes have been antipopes. Sedevacantists, conclavists and many extreme traditionalists groups are not in communion with the Pope are in fact schismatic. If somewhere in your thought process you have considered that this Pope is an antipope, the antichrist or at least think that you are more Catholic than the Pope, I would venture to say that you are at least flirting with not the pope of me.
The Catholic faithful have been you-are-not-the-pope-of-meing for the last 50 years. We want to blame the Church but we need to take responsibility, to be accountable for our part in what has happened to the Church in the last 50 years or so. Churches are closing because attendance is so low. Why isn’t the Church drawing us back in? Is it the liturgy? Do we need more exciting and charismatic priest? Perhaps better music would help. Maybe. Or maybe it is because we have decided to let our busy lives come first. We decided that we were the authority, that we knew better, that maybe the Church was overstating that mortal sin thing. I’m good if I call myself a Catholic, try to be a good person and show up on Christmas and Easter. Because I am the pope of me. What about abstaining from meat on Fridays? But wait, didn’t the Church say we didn’t have to do that anymore? Sort of. What the Church said was that we needed to substitute an act of piety every Friday or abstain from meat. We took that to mean that we didn’t have to do anything. Unless we are performing an act of piety we really should be breaking out the mac & cheese and fish sticks on Fridays. We think that it is scandalous that the Church is granting so many annulments. It’s just divorce Catholic style. Fifty percent of all annulments are administrative, nothing but the paper work, because of defect of form. That means that a lot of Catholics are not even getting married in the Church so their marriages are not sacraments in the first place. I do not like the requirements of the Church, I will get married without the sacrament, you are not the pope of me. Do we want to talk about how we weren’t showing up for confessions? Talk about how long priests sat twiddling their thumbs in empty confessionals until they decided to make it by appointment and now its hard in some places to go to confession? Should the Church have continued to make itself available? Sure. But we have to be responsible too. After all we were the ones who said you are not the pope of my sacraments. I could go on talking about lukewarm to nonexistent prayer lives. We don’t read the Bible, which makes the Protestants right about us. We don’t continue to educate ourselves after we leave CCD. The Church encourages us to and often gives us the opportunities too but we have decided through a conclave of me, myself and I that our own individual authority is the overriding authority. We may not be as extreme as Pope Michael but we have declared ourselves the pope all the same.
In the past year the Holy Spirit has seen fit to give us Pope Francis. There have been a lot of controversy concerning how he is being quoted by the secular press. The thing that is getting me is that many Catholics are getting so shocked and shaken by believing the press rather than believing in the Pope. We so quickly and easily believe that the Pope was somehow wrong rather than believing that he was misquoted. We think that he is forcing us to excuse him and explain him and we resent him for it. We don’t stop to think that even if he were the most eloquent speaker in the world the secular press would continue to twist his words because that is their agenda. We make excuses for him as if we are embarrassed by his lack of communication skills. We reprimand him for heaven’s sake. We do not say instead “The Pope meant what he said and he said what he meant and our Pope is faithful one hundred percent…you guys are the ones getting it wrong not the Pope.” We do not give him the benefit of the doubt, we do not give him the benefit of the Holy Spirit. In the few short months that he has been the Pope we have expected him to fix all the problems of the Church, stop abortion and same sex marriage, bring about world peace and force everybody to tow the line. If not, then he is not strong enough, not forceful enough concerning the issues. He is not the Pope we expected, not the Pope we wanted, not the Pope we need. In saying so we are saying he is not the Pope of us.
Two thousand years ago the Jews were expecting a Messiah. They expected a Messiah that would swoop in kicking butt and taking names. What we got instead was Jesus and a Gospel centered on love and mercy. What we got was God made man and a crucifixion for the sake of our sins. So they said “You are not the Messiah we expected, you are not the Messiah we need, you are not the Messiah we want. You are not the Messiah of us.
David Bawden aka Pope Michael is just luney tunes…right? Not at all like the rest of us.