A Brief History
On June 26, 1409, the Roman Catholic Church reached a low point of unity when a third pope was crowned by the Council of Pisa. There was already a Pope in Rome (Gregory XII) and another Pope in Avignon (Benedict XII) to “welcome” the newly crowned Pope Alexander V.
The Catholic Church had schisms before, that is, splits within its ranks, including the Great Schism of the 11th Century when the Eastern Orthodox Church split from the Roman Catholic fold. The Reformation in the 16th Century was another great schism, resulting in many non-catholic Christian religions.
The penalty for schism (heresy) in Catholicism is excommunication, but who would do the excommunicating if you have three separate branches, each with their own Pope? Pretenders to the throne of St. Peter are called “antipope” by the Roman Catholic Church, and Alexander V and Benedict XII are considered two of them. Did you know there had been 41 such antipopes in Catholic history? The last antipope served until 1449, and there has not been one since.
Question for students (and subscribers): Could there be another such schism resulting in another antipope? After all, we do have two living Popes today, a bizarre occurrence as it is. Tell us if you think such a thing is likely to happen again, and if so, when, how and why in the comments section below this article.
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For more information, please see…
Locke, Clinton. The Age of the Great Western Schism. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2015.