Vatican Corner 08-26-18

An antipope, by definition is a person who is opposed to the legitimately elected Pope and makes a significant competing claim to be the Pope. At various times between the 3rd and mid 15th centuries, antipopes were supported by a substantial number of cardinals and non – religious monarchs. About forty men hold the dubious distinction of being antipopes. You would think that the concept of an antipope would be straight forward, however it is not always so, and can be quite complicated. The problem is that standard procedures for electing the Pope were not always followed and the procedures have changed over time. A duly elected Pope remains Pope until he dies or resigns as has happened seven times so far. So if a Pope is removed from his office and has not died or resigned then he is still the Pope, and anymore claiming to be Pope is an antipope. In the first thousand years of history of the Papacy, priests and deacons elected the Pope, while atter that time it became the job of the College of Cardinals. The papal election procedures is controlled by the current Pope at the time, and he can make any changes he wants to that procedure. His changes remain in effect until a newly elected Pope changes them again. Any papal claimant not following the current election procedures is also an antipope. Since all antipopes are defying Church authority in making their claim to be Pope, they have all been harmful to the Church, although a few have later reformed and given up their claim. But for some reason sometimes not following the election rules does not matter. Pope Innocent II was elected in secret by only a minority of cardinals, but he is treated as a legitimate Pope today. To complicated things more, the Vatican over time has moved names back and forth between the official list of Popes and the list of antipopes because those in charge have changed their minds. There still remain four instances where it is not absolutely clear if someone was a legitimate Pope or an antipope. And moral character doesn ’ t matter either, since some of the legitimate Popes lead terrible lives, while the first antipope, Hippolytus as an example was made a saint. Hippolytus was part of a group of conservative church leaders who opposed Pope Callixtus I (217 – 222) who gave absolution to those Christians that had committed grave sins like adultery. Hippolytus was the leader of the Greek speaking Christians in Rome and he allowed himself to be elected as a rival Pope. For 15 years he opposed the legitimately elected leaders: Pope Urban I and Pope Pontian. He and Pope Pontian were persecuted by the Roman Emperor Maximinus Thrax and were exiled together to the mines in Sardinia where they died. It is likely that before his death Hippolytus reconciled with the legitimate section of the Church because later Pope Fabian had the bodies of both men interred in Rome with Hippolytus ’ placed in a cemetery, given the rank of priest and considered a martyr. Legend has it that Hippolytus was dragged to death by horses, and he was considered the patron saint of horses during the Middle Ages.