2 Popes at once

My dad (who is southern baptist) keeps saying that at least on two occasions there was two popes at the same time. Can anyone elaborate on this? He uses this to try to degrade the popes authority. Is he getting confused with the patriarch of Constantinople? He didn’t even know that orthodox is different than catholic.

There have been, several centuries back, a couple instances of Popes resigning the office. I think only two though prior to Benedict XVI.

There have also been some anti-popes. They are false claimants to the papacy. You can read up on some of them here:


Yes, there have been competing claimants to the papacy. But that does not argue against the office of the papacy? It agues for the sinfulness of false claimants. The false anti popes were revealed and the validity of the Holy Spirit to guide the Church with a true successor to Peter was confirmed. There will be an anti Christ according to Revelation. That does not argue against the validity of Christ! Many people will be fooled and fall for the authority of the anti Christ, just like some supporters of the anti popes. There were those who knew the anti pope was false. But that does not degrade the authority of the papacy anymore than those supporting the anti Christ, intentionally or not, undermines the authority of Christ!

Having two men at the same time claiming to be pope is very different from having two actual popes at the same time.

The first step would be to ask for specifics. Otherwise, it’s just repeating an anecdote without and possible way to substantiate it or refute it. Once the specifics are given, then you can look up the history (and a page like newadvent.org would be helpful for that) and explain what was actually taking place.

I thought this thread was going to be about Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis. :stuck_out_tongue:

So did I!! :smiley:

The study of Papal history is fascinating!

A dispute in 1378 resulted in there eventually being THREE men who all claimed to be pope. The conflict was not resolved until 1417. Until then, all three popes claimed to be the only legitimate leaders of the Catholic church.

The conflict began in 1378 with the death of Pope Gregory XI. Gregory XI had been the last of the Avignon popes. These were popes who held power while the papacy was located in Avignon, France. Gregory had just relocated the papacy back to Rome in 1377, when he died the following year. After his death, the citizens of Rome rioted in the street, demanding that a Roman be chosen as the next pope since the papacy had been essentially controlled by the French for almost seventy years. There were no Roman candidates, however, so they chose the Archbishop of Bari from Naples who took the name Pope Urban VI

The cardinals soon became unhappy with their choice when Urban VI proved to be a bad choice, so most of the college of cardinals met in Anagni where they elected a new pope, Pope Clement VII. Pope Clement VII set up his papacy back in Avignon, but Urban VI and his supporters refused to acknowledge him as the legitimate pope. Some people supported Urban VI in Rome as the legitimate pope while others supported Clement VII as the legitimate pope. Furthermore, support for these two rival popes often depended on one’s nationality. The French and their allies support the Avignon pope while those who resented France’s influence on the papacy supported the pope in Rome. The schism continued after the death of the two popes as each camp elected its own pope.

In 1409, some church leaders hoped to resolve the conflict by holding a church counsel in Pisa. Those in attendance elected a third pope, Alexander V, who was supposed to replace the other two. They refused to acknowledge his legitimacy, however, so there were now three popes all claiming to be the only legitimate leader of the Catholic Church.

In 1414, the conflict was finally resolved when the Council of Constance met and deposed Alexander V’s successor and the Avignon pope and received a formal resignation from the Roman pope. They were then able to elect a new pope, Martin V, that everyone acknowledged as legitimate. Today, the Catholic church recognizes only the original Roman line that started with Urban VI. It has declared the others, antipopes.

Thanks, memaw

there is provision for the resignation of a pope in the Code of Canon Law. in centuries past we have had a pope resigning. according to the canon law a pope can resign legitimately if he was not coerced but did it out of his own free will.

on the other hand it is very wrong to say the orthodox church is different from the Catholic church. it is under the Catholic church and the pope weilds supreme, universal and absolute power over the church. the eastern patriarchs are less powerful than the pope because they do not possess supreme universal and absolute power. however they enjoy autonomy in their own rites to preside over their territory and areas under their jurisdiction.
the summary is that the autonomy of the patriarchs is not a slight on the papal authority: rather it is an expression of the church’s rich traditional heritage, rooted in tolerance and respect for non-destructive cultural values.

so if I brought this story up to my dad I’m sure he would say “see look at all the chaos. The church wasn’t unified and how can we know which pope had true authority?” in sure he will try to use this to say that it’s subjective to which group you side with. How can I explain how this doesn’t discredit the papal authority? Right now all I can think of is that the church used the method of counsels to resolve it which is what Jesus left us as a way to settle disputes

My suggestion, next time your dad mentions something like this, ask for details and specifics and source of his info-like ask for the time period, the specific name of the popes, for starters. This will nail the time period and and also give an opportunity for your dad and you to really examine his claim.

The Papacy has been here for 2000 years as has the Catholic Church. There have been 267 popes who have valid succession back to Peter. There is only one valid pope at a time.

It’s easier to see this in the list in chronological order

Maybe acknowledge that he’s right but just because Judas was a disciple of Christ doesn’t invalidate the other disciples (who were later apostles)…just a thought. There will always be Judas’ throughout history.

Indeed, look at the chaos. And, despite the chaos, look at how swiftly and decisively the Church acted to overcome the chaos.

The church wasn’t unified and how can we know which pope had true authority?

None of them had true authority. That’s why all three were deposed, and an unimpeachable Pope was elected.

None of these three were universally recognized as the Bishop of Rome, so none of these three were ever Pope. The Church underwent a period of interregnum during which three persons claimed the Chair. So what? If a thousand people claimed the Chair, it would make no difference.

Your father (and you) might be under the mis-impression that there is such a thing as Papal succession (whereby each Pope inherits authority from his predecessor). If there were such a thing, then it would be very important to establish the legitimacy of each Pope. But there is no such thing. Papal authority is not passed from one Pope to his successor. It springs forth from the Church recognizing a person as the Bishop of Rome. If the Church underwent a thousand year interregnum (with a million claimants to the Chair), She could still elect a valid Pope.

-Thank your dad for me for having a legitimate question. A lot of questions about the Papacy that I run across are based more on “I don’t like the Papacy” than a legitimate concern.

  • en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antipope A link for the basic information on anti-Popes (anti-Pope is the term used for someone who claims to be the Pope but really isn’t). In the notes section you’ll see that most of the anti-Popes were due to political motivations of various political powers, 1 founded a heresy, and 2 were later recognized as being a Pope.
    -As indicated in the notes of the link above, the main issue surrounding who was the Pope and who wasn’t was based on concerns (secular politics) that really had nothing to do with questions over the authority of the Pope or the Church.
    -This “it was really about secular politics and not the authority of the office or the Church” argument is also supported by the fact that it was very rare for a break away faith to be created at the resolution of the question of who was the Pope and who wasn’t. If the real issue was the authority of the office and Church and who was the real Pope than we wouldn’t see those who supported an anti-Pope just “drop the issue;” but instead we would see numerous break away faiths created with the various anti-Popes as their Popes.
    -A poor analogy would be the Presidential elections of Jefferson (it almost resulted in a civil war) and Bush v. Gore. The question over who was the President didn’t evolve into a question of the legitimacy of the office. In fact, the widely held legitimacy of the office is what led to the national issue of who was the President. The same goes for the Papacy. If the Papacy were “just another office” and not really viewed universally by Catholics as legitimate than we would have the term “anti-Pope” or instances of multiple people claiming to the Pope at the same time. What we would have would be a Catholic version of the Baptist faith ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Baptist_sub-denominations#North_America ) in which there are several organizations claiming to be the authority or as equal in authority as others who claim authority.

I’m sure your father believes there will one day be an Antichrist who will deceive many. Does this fact mean Christ has no authority? Of course not and neither does an antipope (someone falsely claiming to be Pope) causing confusion mean the Pope has no authority.

Your dad would be right…there was a lot of chaos. I’m just repeating history.

Remember this…the Papacy is the longest running organization in the history of the world.
We have had popes who were saints, popes who were very spiritual, popes who were world leaders, warrior popes, and even a pope who didn’t want to be pope and kept running away.

We had popes who went mad. We had a pope who fathered so many illegitimate children…“you could throw a stone in Rome and probably hit one”. One pope was complacent in the murder of his predecessor.

Sure the Church could sweep some of this under the carpet…re-write a little history or even deny it…but we don’t.

Through out the entire history of the Papacy no pope (even the odd balls) has ever done anything that harmed the Church or violated the doctrines or dogmas revealed by Christ.

How can this be…???


"Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church…and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it…what you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven…

Pretty heavy stuff. Popes take it VERY seriously.

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