You may not have realized it, but a new “Pope” will be elected this coming Monday, the 30th of January. Why do I put it in quotes? For two good reasons. The first is that you cannot elect a new Pope if there is one still alive; the second is that this whole story, more than ridiculous, seems tragic to me.
Let’s take a step back.
For some years there have been people who have argued that Benedict XVI’s resignation was not valid, indeed that he had voluntarily entered an impeded office, continuing to be Pope. It follows that for them, Pope Francis is not a Pope, but an Antipope. This movement is known in various ways, benevacantists, sedeimpeditists, BiP (Benedict is Pope). Obviously these names are no longer very representative, since as we know, on December 31, 2022, Benedict XVI died. Now for BiP, how to move forward? As for the moment, for those who follow these ideas, there is no Pope.
But why bother with all this? Because the people who follow the theory are not so few. In Italy the key figures are Alessandro Minutella – a priest laicised and twice excommunicated – and Andrea Cionci, journalist and writer. The reference text of this movement comes from Mr. Cionci and is called Ratzinger Code, translated into various languages. The well-known Italian philosopher Diego Fusaro has also adhered to this thesis. Besides Italy, the movement has proselytes in the Latin American world and also in the United States, think for example of the well-known Catholic commentator Patrick Coffin.
But let’s go back to Italy. Among those who support these theories is Alexis Bugnolo from the United States but of Italian origins, who came out of the Franciscans of the Immaculate. He is defined as a “Franciscan friar of private vows.” Now, Fra’ Bugnolo has announced that once the days of waiting after the death of Benedict XVI (for them the real Pope) have expired, they will have to elect a new Pope. But who elects him? Because I don’t think there is a single Cardinal who follows these theories.
Thus, since the Italian BiP deemed the situation urgent, the faithful of Rome and the suburban dioceses were summoned to elect a new pope, provided they have a proof of residence and that they belong to the Catholic religion (which I fear they will lose immediately by participating in a clearly schismatic act).
Now you might think that Alessandro Minutella and Andrea Cionci would support Alexis Bugnolo. But no, they are distancing themselves from this gesture and therefore the circle of followers of this thesis is beginning to split. But then, who are the candidates? Because to my knowledge, there is no legitimate Bishop who is BiP. So who do they elect? A priest? A layman?
If they began by trying to convince us that Benedict XVI was still Pope despite his resignation (and his own declarations against this thesis!), now they will try to convince some unsuspecting bishop that he is Pope without his knowledge! Unless some bishop elected without a papal mandate lends himself to such a thing.
I believe that all of this should help us make an important reflection on the great confusion that grips the Catholic Church and also, it must be said clearly, a certain Catholic segment of traditionalism. Unfortunately, a sensationalist approach has become prevalent and, to the important questions that the faithful are rightly asking, answers are offered that are not only wrong, but which only cause chaos and confusion to grow.
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.