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three popes at once

In 1378, cardinals in Rome elected an Italian pope, Urban VI. Urban showed signs of madness. The cardinals regretted electing him and said he was not a true pope for they had fiddled his election and were forced to elect him. Soon they gathered in a new conclave and produced a rival pope, Clement VII.

Urban VI wasnít mad all the time. He knew he shouldnít stay on as pope and should have resigned in favour of Clement VII. That way even if Clement were not validly elected he would still become pope.

Surely a pope who causes division and heresy like Urban and who is unsuitable must be considered an ex-Catholic who deposes himself from the papacy? It is ridiculous to say that a person who breaks from the Church becomes an ex-Catholic by excommunication and that a Catholic who causes others to break away or who keeps that kind of trouble up is still a true Catholic.  The Church says that the pope like Peter is the rock Jesus said his Church is built on. Urban was not the rock the Church was built on. He was the hammer that smashed it. He was not the rock so he was not the pope.

All of the cardinals agreed that the election of Urban VI was invalid. They asserted that they didnít have any freedom during the conclave due to threats from a mob demanding a Roman or an Italian so the election was a fiddle. The mob had even invaded the building they were in. The Catholics say that Urban was accepted by the Church as pope and this made him pope even if the cardinals invalidly elected him. But how could their acceptance be genuine when it was based on the election that was a trick? In those times, the idea of deposing a pope was very acceptable. However, the cardinals didnít try that route. They just argued that you can't depose a non-pope. They didnít want a schism - they wanted the Church to accept Clement and ignore Urban. All this indicates their sincerity, the election really was fiddled. They didnít have to admit it and they did.

Anyway, the two rival popes caused the Great Western Schism and resulted in one Roman Catholic Church being led by Urban in Rome and another led by Clement VII in Avignon, France. Nobody knew then who the real pope was. St Catherine of Siena backed Urban and St Vincent Ferrer backed Clement VII. Both popes excommunicated one another and one anotherís followers as well. Each Church claimed to be the true Church and that the other was a fake Church. They launched violent crusades against one another with a view to killing each other. The confusion was exacerbated by the fact that the election of Urban was indeed carried out under threats of violence.

History says that before they let Urban know he was pope, they presented a Roman in pontifical robes to the mob as their pope. This was strange for they knew the mob would go berserk if they thought they were being fooled. It is possible that this was the man they really elected and not Urban? It certainly must have been the case. They changed their minds and lied about Urban being elected probably because they thought he would be a better political choice. They were wrong.

The Church today says that if an election is faked the pope chosen is still a valid pope for God doesnít want schism and God doesnít necessarily like the new pope. The Church doesn't believe this at all for if a female to male transsexual or somebody that had no intention of being a valid pope and who didnít believe in it or if a plastic surgery copy of some papable person was made pope they would consider this an invalid election resulting in a fake pope. All the Church acceptance in the world cannot help. The Church says that a woman does not validly accept a man she doesn't know well enough to be her husband. Her accepting is not real accepting and they fail to validly marry. So why should it be different if a papal election is invalid and accepted by the Church? If acceptance by the Church is valid then why donít they acknowledge Alexander V (who was appointed when the Council of Pisa deposed both the Roman and Avignon popes as heretics and schismatics) as a real pope when he had the most support and the Roman pontiff Gregory XII who they consider the true pope had hardly anybody? Didnít the whole Church accept antipope Vigilius leaving the alleged real pope Saint Silverius in a dungeon without any followers or support? (page 125, Reasons for Hope).

Today the Church regards Urban VI and his successors as the real popes. They were not so the Church today is in communion with fake popes and so is schismatic and heretical. To follow the wrong pope is heresy for it means you believe in the wrong rock and regard the wrong man as shepherd and father and teacher of all Christians. Antipopes are not infallible so they are dangerous and since the supreme authority in Catholicism is tradition it follows that the wrong pope means separation from tradition and the means of its protection and the forfeiture of its infallibility.