Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Is David Bawden, AKA Pope Michael, the True Pope? If Only.

David Bawden, now of Topeka Kansas was "elected" Pope Michael I on July 16, 1990. There were six electors, including himself and his mother and father. The three electors that were not members of the family would later split off to form a rival sect.

For the past twenty-six years, Bawden has "reigned" as Pope, first from a rural farmhouse that he shared with his parents and then from a fixed-up Victorian in Topeka. He now conducts his ministry through the internet and claimed a few years ago to have thirty followers.

According to Bawden, these are the only real Catholics in the world.

I wrote the above summary in as neutral a manner as possible, but it would be understandable if, after reading it, the first things that came to your mind were "nut," crackpot," "fanatic," "egomaniac" and so on.

With respect, you would be wrong.

Bowden has more Catholic faith and love for Christ in his little finger than half the priests and bishops of the contemporary Church put together.

He has more knowledge of the history and laws of the Church than most Catholic writers.

He is more of a gentleman than any public prelate in the current curia.

And he seems to have more humility than even many of the good priests that I know. He certainly is a million times more humble than the current occupant of the Papal throne.

For a man from Kansas claiming to be the one true pope, the last is pretty amazing.

Bawden and his family, friends and followers are victims of the post-conciliar Church, just as we are victims of it. All of us have dealt with this in different ways, being as faithful to the Church as possible, as best we understood things. Obviously, Bawden chose a different path then most. And God will judge him for it just as He will judge all of us. Being wrong about who has legitimate authority in the current Church is not a trivial matter. But it is also not the worst sin in the world. Not by a mile. And in the right context it may not even be a sin. I cannot believe that a just God would condemn Bawden for what he has done. Indeed, I suspect that it might be something of the opposite.

I could be wrong.

Much of what I'm saying is based on a 2011 documentary, appropriately titled, Pope Michael. It was directed by Adam Fairholm with a small crew. None of them are followers of Bawden. I have no idea whether Fairholm is a Catholic or even Christian. I wouldn't be surprised either way.

But I thought the movie was brilliant. It is a "neutral" documentary in the best sense, but it is clearly sympathetic to Bawden as a man, if only because Bawden is a naturally sympathetic character. It is fascinating, moving, sad and ultimately inspiring.

I was directed to the movie by a post on The Okie Traditionalist blog, which appeared as one of the links on Canon212 a week or so ago. The author, like me, appears to be a "standard" traditionalist Catholic who also cannot avoid some sympathy with Bawden, the man.
Every time I hear the story of Pope Michael its about an eccentric, anomalous guy from Kansas, a sedevacantist (i.e. until he filled the chair), traditionalist Catholic with the idiosyncratic belief he is somehow the pope. But I think this characterization misses a deeper story. His story is that of a lot of traditional Catholics out there--including me--understandably crazed by the Crisis in the Church, shifting back and forth across the traditionalist, polemic spectrum, yet trying to be faithful and holy. Some just go a bit too far.
Watch the film and decide for yourself. Whatever your conclusions, I think you'll find it an interesting use of an hour. If  you want to know a bit more about "Pope Michael," you can visit his website Vatican in Exile or his Facebook page.

Is David Bawden the pope? I do not think so. But he wouldn't make a bad one.  And it's certain he would be a great improvement over the current claimant.


  1. Precisely. Great documentary, and a great soundtrack.

    1. Yes. I should have mentioned that. The music is by Derek Fairholm, who I assume is the director's brother, with an original song by Andy Burd.

  2. "He's not the pope, but he should be".

  3. This is really something. We would be thrilled to have Pope Michael, and the gentleman who was studying for the priesthood with him. I wonder if anyone has done an update on these lovely people? God bless them for their fidelity.

  4. Surely an improvement over what we have now. My guess is that God likes this guy. Sort of like we have a bad fake Pope and a good fake Pope.

  5. There is a wholesome eccentricity about "Pope" Michael. The eating of soup scene with his mom was especially touching.

    With my own weak intellect and imagination I can't help but speculate that Our Lord may be especially merciful with these Kansans who are so unlike other renegades like Joseph Smith, Luther, Mohammad and Jorge Bergoglio.

  6. David Bawden may be a gentleman, but he is delusionary. Of the six people who "elected" him as "pope" in 1990, three no longer follow him, and the other three are David himself and his parents. Your blog is too good to waste time on this unfortunate man.

    1. Thanks for the compliment, Fred. We try. :)

      I wouldn't use the term delusional. But I agree that Bawden is simply wrong. However, I don't say that based on the numbers per se. Bawden had six electors. Jesus on the cross had only half as many loyal followers, and one was his mother.

      I suppose the question I would ask him is why his election has any more claim to authority than any other election of an alternative Pope, however many electors may be involved. I'm sure he has an answer to that, but I have no idea what it would be. Hopefully he'll answer that on the blog.

      I don't believe God would allow the seat to be vacant for so long - on Bawden's own view it was vacant for 32 years - 1958 to 1990. Nor do I believe that God would allow 99% of all Catholics to be unaware that it was filled (on Bawden's view) for a further 26 years.

      "And the gates of hell will not prevail against it" would seem to preclude those two alternatives.


  8. Talk about the God of surprises! Who said traditionalist are no fun? I saw the original film on Pope Mike several years ago. Indeed, may God bless this man. He is less whacky and more charitable than Francis at this point. I doubt he would snatch children from people and smooch them for a photo opportunity. I can hear "Thats ok you hold him/hee I'll just give a blessing"

  9. Who are we to judge? In his internal forum, he is pope. You would be simply rigid if you think God's infinite mercy does not wash him clean.


    The thing about delusional men is that there is no rational way to explain to them that they are deluded but it does him no good to surrender to his delusions

  11. I disagree with any comments of approval of this person. I am angry that I wasted over an hour watching this very sad documentary of a deluded man. It was clear to me from the beginning that in spite of his feigned religiosity or "holiness" he is seriously psychologically impaired to a dangerous degree. His ideas fit perfectly with the psychology and pathology of a cult leader. (Please see 50 characteristics of a cult leader You could check off a majority of the list of 50 for this person.

    I would even say that he could have been touched by a demonic spirit even at a young age--possibly by the rearing of his own parents. These situations usually begin in early childhood.

    One striking red flag that stands out for me begins at minute 17:00 where his mother states: "I don't want to use the word manipulative as he wasn't, but whenever he was playing with kids they always end up doing what he wanted to do. Maybe it's because he had really good ideas..." With this, he is shown as a young child of 4 or 5 years old. Cult leaders are known to be convincing, manipulative and "charismatic" which is how they reel people in.

    His parents seemed to have been "practicing" Catholics at least by going to Sunday mass. This certainly influenced him and quite possibly gave him the desire to be the center of their attention. From there, the devil can take over. Notice how his parents strongly stood behind him from the beginning and encouraged him totally along the way. The dynamic was set and maybe locked in place where he had to continue and still continues to this day. His parents bought it and he fulfills their fantasy and his ego.

    I think what throws "admirers" off is that his cult is based on the Catholic faith and not anything we would consider evil like drugs, murder, and immoral sexuality. It also recognizes that the Catholic Church has made some terrible changes along the way. What a perfect set-up for one to step in and claim the Church as His property to rule.

    To call him humble is ridiculous. True humility acknowledges the Truth. There is only "ONE, HOLY, CATHOLIC and APOSTOLIC CHURCH." It is not the Church of "pope Michael" who was elected by Mommy and Daddy. We are called to be faithful to the Church and her teachings until we die even in spite of faithless leaders. Jesus calls adultery a mortal sin. To leave the One true Church for any other would be like committing adultery. Our Baptismal promises, which we renew each year at Easter, state our fidelity to the one true Church.

    The danger of Michael's cult is that he is pulling people away from the true Church and quite possibly leading them to damnation while pretending to do the opposite --"because he ha[s] really good ideas."

    He even speaks of being damned if people remain with the RC Church as it stands today. This is double talk. Beware!!

    1. Well, you have to admit, if he's a cult leader, he hasn't been a very successful one.

    2. That's very true. But who knows how many who see him on You Tube might believe. Even if they don't follow him directly, they can be led to renounce the Church thinking they will be damned if they don't.

      I am surprised no one in the Church has tried to stop this nonsense.

    3. They're too busy promoting communion for unrepentant adulterers.

    4. I do have to agree that he is delusional. This is all very self-aggrandizing. And mark 17:00 jumped right out at me, too. But then I'm a psych major. ;-)

      It's the same sort of narcissism that drives every splinter church to proclaim that somehow, THEY, all 5 of them, in no-man's land, have THE truth that God has hidden from the rest of entire world.

      God desired that all might be saved. No, they won't all be, we won't all accept salvation, but He created each of us to share eternity with Him. He is NOT a sicko abusive Father seeking to delude the majority of mankind. One, holy, catholic, apostolic... Michael should ask himself if he's missing a few marks.

      Francis is missing PLENTY- But Christ's Bride is not.

  12. The kindest thing I can say is that it/ he is a bore. Uninteresting. He comes across as a genuinely nice guy, and I'm sure he is. But there is no Sanctifying Grace at work here. It's the natural mind unaided by Supernatural Grace. The mind vulnerable to all the foolishness, stupid ideas, secret or hidden self-grandiosity, that comes from our original natures wounded by Original Sin. The level of spiritual/psychological discernment taking place here is about as trustworthy or Holy Spirit led, as a Jimmy Swaggart diatribe against the Catholic Church. That does not deny that he has the Catholic Faith in his soul, by virtue of baptism. One does not have to be as vicious or deluded, or narcissistic as Jorge Bergoglio, to be a megalomaniac. Narcissism, can be psychological from environmental causes, or spiritual, caused by an inclination to corruption in the soul, caused by Original Sin. Which is kind of interesting. Because, I believe that Bergoglio will fight tooth and nail to protect his demonic drives. Will Bawden accept the truth and repent of his ghastly pride? There's no way to know in advance. Both Bawden and Jorge profoundly lack humility in their souls. Deep deep down in his soul, he is saying, that he will not submit his will to Christ, any more than Bergoglio does. And this has been going on for 26 years.

    1. Ghastly pride, you say ... with:

      * Assisi in 1986
      * Episcopal consecrations 1988
      * his own initiative being at least as far as he told invited to people who, if attending, would have had a better chance of election ...

      Perhaps not.

    2. I'm not sure I understand your point, but if you're saying that JPll and BXVl were also corrupt, I agree. Jorge's apostasy would not have been possible without those two.

  13. I know several people that follow this beloved man.