When there were 3 Popes

I haven’t read about the schism which happened once in Church history in awhile, when there were 3 people claiming to be Pope. But my question is how we can know a Pope is really Pope. There are anti-Popes now. At the time of Pius IX for example, for all we know there were anti-Popes which we on this forum just haven’t read yet. It seems clear to just say that God would keep the Pope in Rome as Christ’s successor on earth. However, with the great schism there were people who whole heartedly follow one of the two anti-Popes, believing the were the Vicar of Christ. So does this put us in any way in doubt in these times? THANKS

I suppose the Catholics in that time period had to weigh the evidence for and against each claimant and decide based on that. There is a reason why we have reason, and sometimes I guess we are supposed to use it very carefully.

Today, there is only one claimant, since Benedict stepped down. Unless you count the various people living in their mothers’ basements who occasionally claim to be the real pope, Pope Francis is it. Browse the resources which defend him from the charge of unorthodoxy, and trust God. He will not leave His Church.

There weren’t three Popes, there were two or three claimants to the Papacy. The situation was resolved with a new conclave. Such an unfortunate situation does not reflect on the validity of future Bishops of Rome. Their selection is not made by the previous Pope, it is made by the conclave, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

I suspect that most Catholics didn’t much concern themselves with it at the time, since there were not three TV networks to report on it.

A historical account of the situation:

Were there 3 popes at the same time?. :wink:

Basically, this is the lineage that occurred:


According to the Church, the legitimacy of the Supreme Pontiff is a dogmatic fact which the Church holds infallibly. In other words, the whole Church could not be deceived in this matter.

[quote=CDF Commentary on Professio Fidei]With regard to those truths connected to revelation by historical necessity and which are to be held definitively, but are not able to be declared as divinely revealed, the following examples can be given: the legitimacy of the election of the Supreme Pontiff or of the celebration of an ecumenical council, the canonizations of saints (dogmatic facts), the declaration of Pope Leo XIII in the Apostolic Letter Apostolicae Curae on the invalidity of Anglican ordinations …37

ewtn.com/library/CURIA/CDFADTU.HTM (see paragraphs six and seven for a discussion of infallibility in this regard).

Here’s a good explanation of why this is from Hunter’s Outlines of Dogmatic Theology Vol 1:

[quote=Hunter’s]First, then, the Church is infallible when she declares what person holds the office of Pope; for if the person of the Pope were uncertain, it would be uncertain what Bishops were in communion with the Pope; but according to the Catholic faith, as will be proved hereafter, communion with the Pope is a condition for the exercise of the function of teaching by the body of Bishops (n. 208); if then the. uncertainty could not be cleared up, the power of teaching could not be exercised, and Christ’s promise (St. Matt. xxviii. 20; and n. 199, II.) would be falsified, which is impossible.

This argument is in substance the same as applies to other cases of dogmatic facts. Also, it affords an answer to a much vaunted objection to the claims of the Catholic Church, put forward by writers who think that they find proof in history that the election of a certain Pope was simoniacal and invalid, and that the successor was elected by Cardinals who owed their own appointment to the simoniacal intruder; from which it is gathered that the Papacy has been vacant ever since that time. A volume might be occupied if we attempted to . expose all the frailness of the argument which is supposed to lead to this startling conclusion; but it is enough to say that if the Bishops agree in recognizing a certain man as Pope, they are certainly right, for otherwise the body of the Bishops would be separated from their head, and the Divine constitution of the Church would be ruined. In just the same way the infallibility extends to declaring that a certain Council is or is not ecumenical.

Note, at the time of the Great Western Schism, the whole Church did not follow an antipope. Likewise, the way I understand it, in some sense it wasn’t really a real schism as there was no disagreement as to what the real Church was–communion was never broken–just who got to be in charge of that Church.

The source you linked to claims, “Today, the Church recognizes the authentic papal succession to have gone through the Roman line of the validly elected Urban VI, Boniface IX, Innocent VII, and Gregory XII.”

Can you somehow authenticate or cite that?

Ok, I get it now.

A side note though: the CDF’s Commentary on Professio Fidei was never approved by a Pope. Some Catholics question whether canonizations of saints are infallible. Even if the Church tried to make it a dogma, some Catholics might still claim its not part of faith and morals and so the definition was equivalent to the Church defining that orange is the best color

I read that article today. The one point that is unclear to me is this: "the Roman cardinals elected Boniface IX to succeed him. Five years later, Clement VII died at Avignon…[and] the French cardinals chose…Benedict XIII.” How do we know that the “Roman cardinals” who elected Boniface IX had the votes necessary to elect a Pope. Of course, if they did Benedict XIII’s election by the French cardinals would have been illegal

It gets stranger than that. Urban-6 was validly elected - nobody disputes that. Except the same guys that elected him. Because, just a few months later, those same Cardinals “deposed” Urban (which they had no authority to do) and “elected” Clement-7 (the first of the French line).

Later during the Schism, the body of Cardinals was divided, with each body electing their own Pope. But Clement-7 was elected by the same Cardinals that had elected Urban-6.

The Great Western Schism was ended by the (Ecumenical) Council of Constance, which deposed all three Papal claimants and installed Martin-5. But a Council cannot actually depose a Pope, so if one of those three claimants WAS legitimate (and I’m wrong about the 40-year interregnum) then Martin-5 was an anti-Pope!!! :eek: If the Roman line is legitimate then Gregory-7 (the last of the Roman line) was really still the Pope when Martin-5 took over.

If Martin-5 was NOT an anti-Pope then it means that NONE OF THE THREE LINES are valid (which is my opinion, but I seem to be in a small minority). There are really only two options: Everyone after Urban-6 was an anti-Pope, or Martin-5 was an uncontested anti-Pope.

The Great Western Schism is the strangest thing that has ever happened in the Church.

Didn’t Gregory XII (which is 12, not 7) quit in order to facilitate the end of the schism?

See why I hate stupid Roman ordinal numbers? They only serve to give a phony sense of antiquity, while just adding confusion.

quit in order to facilitate the end of the schism?

This is disputed - it seems likely to be a bit of revisionist history. If he did resign, he did so under pressure. Which is the same thing as being deposed.

Nobody really thinks Gregory woke up one day and said, “this schism thing has gone on long enough. I’m gonna resign so a Pope can be cleanly elected.”

Because a Pope was NOT cleanly elected. Martin was appointed by an Ecumenical Council, not by the College of Cardinals.

This is a bit off topic but what about Alexander VI?

Do you mean the anti-Pope Alexander-5?

Alexander-6 was not an anti-Pope. He is perhaps the worst Pope we’ve ever had, but he was the real thing.

Yes that is who I was referring to. I don’t understand if the Holy Spirit guides the conclave how he could have been appointed Pope? Maybe because man turned to greedy intentions rather than following the Spirit when voting.

All the historical sources for the essay are in the footnotes of the post. The Roman line was the one that survived through the matter. As I recall, the sources were in agreement about the prevalence of that line, although it has been a few years since I wrote that.

But I would like to know what the rule was for electing a Pope back then. How many cardinals were needed to elect a Pope, and was requirement met with Boniface IX and Gregory XII?

If this could happen, I think ironically it argues against those who say a Pope would be an anti-Pope if you could find a single unorthodox utterance from him before his election. In that case we would all be in the dark as to whether we even had a Pope! :eek:

As I said in previous post, it has been a few years since I wrote that, but the quotation you give here was a quote from Fr. John Laux’ Church History, page 405. In re-reading that section, I don’t see that he mentions a vote count. I’m not aware that it’s in question though. But yes, there were illicit protocols during that time, hence, the anti-popes.

If, hypothetically, Martin V was an anti-pope, then wouldn’t any appointments he made to the college of cardinals be invalid?
That raises another question for me…who appointed the various cardinals who were finally involved in “resolving” the schism? Can a conclave be considered valid if there is a question as to the status of the cardinals involved?

Does anyone have information on what was necessary in order to vote in a Pope back in that era?

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.