Above: Antipope Benedict XIII (1328-1423), whom St. Vincent Ferrer defended.
We have recently been able to witness an unusual, certainly curious event. That is, the convening of a “conclave” by a group that puts forward the following theory: Benedict XVI never voluntarily renounced the Papacy, but “stepped aside” while continuing to govern the Church as pope. But if he wanted to continue to govern the Church, why did he leave everything ungoverned? The Benevacantists (or “Sedeimpeditists” or “BiP”) don’t see it that way. Some of them maintain – there are divisions among them – that Benedict was forced into a position to remain silent and inactive, even while maintaining the true office of the Papacy.
Now, we use these terms even if today they are no longer valid as Benedict XVI is no longer with us. Therefore the Holy See, according to their theory, is no longer impeded and Benedict is Pope is not really possible, even with all the good will of the deceased Pontiff. In death he cannot be Pope.
But is he dead?
Because there are some who are not so convinced. Perhaps they think that the Pope has entered into “vita impedita” to continue to govern the Church from Heaven? (But what a thirst for power this Ratzinger…).
However, most of the BiP Catholics had to accept that he was dead and had to reflect on what would happen from then on.
For Fra’ Alexis Bugnolo, the solution was simple enough: to convene a conclave.
And he summoned it to a hotel in Rome, inviting all the inhabitants of Rome and surrounding areas – provided they had proof of their belonging to the Catholic Church – to vote. The date set was January 30th – this past Monday. It must be said that the two most representative exponents of this movement in Italy – Alessandro Minutella and Andrea Cionci – did not join Bugnolo’s initiative, and indeed, they decisively dissociated themselves from Bugnolo.
Nevertheless, the conclave went ahead.
Now, if there is one thing that all members of this group agree on, it is that Benedict XVI was the Pope. And the implication of this is that Pope Francis (or Cardinal Bergoglio, as they call him), is a real curse, heretic and antipope – and these were the most polite definitions. All of us who observe this phenomenon were curious as to who they would elect. A rumor had reached us about a proposal to make American Bishop René Henry Gracida the Pope. But there was one small, insignificant problem: he is 100 years old. The very definition of a “transitional Pope.” Then the wait became feverish, who would they have put in Benedict XVI’s place to plug the disaster represented by Pope Francis?
As it turns out, the conclave was, according to the official press release, “Unanimous for Jorge Mario Bergoglio, as successor of St. Peter and successor of Pope Benedict XVI.”
You read that right: they elected Jorge Mario Bergoglio. It would be like telling a person whose house is on fire that to save the same house they will also need to set fire to the garage. Fra’ Bugnolo, however, was keen to inform the world (in the aforementioned press release) that he had proposed Bishop Gracida. And so, this rather fringe wing of BiP that actually attempted to elect an antipope, ended up calling all of the BiP to adhere to the same pope to whom the rest of the Catholic faithful adhere.
I feel grateful for all of this, because it has cheered up some days that otherwise would have been gray and boring.
Aurelio Porfiri is a composer, conductor, writer and educator. His music is published in Italy, France, USA, China and Germany. He has published more than 60 books. With Mons. Athanasius Schneider has published The Catholic Mass, now translated in several languages. He writes from Italy.