Not a lot of people know this, but Benedict XVI is not the real Pope. The red carpets, the gratuitous use of Prince Philip, Susan Boyle's warbling--these were all hollow, superficial gestures that unfortunately succeeded in entrenching the power of the heretic and impostor Joseph Ratzinger, side by side with his fellow fraud Mrs. Elizabeth Windsor-Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. In fact, the true Pope lives in a town of 130 people in rural Kansas. He is Pope Michael I, and he is unhappy that Benedict gets all the golf-buggies when he can't even get everyone to call him by his proper pope-name.
"A lot of people around the town address me as Pope Michael, but some still call me David. Yes, true... I'd prefer to be called Pope Michael, but many people find it strange," Pope Michael admits, not long after I'd phoned him up for a chat.
There can be no doubting his veracity: his email address is prefixed: "thetruepope," he runs the small website vaticaninexile.com, and he signs himself off: "+ Michael pp." Elected in 1990, the 50-year-old Pope has tended his small but global flock for 20 years now. Being Pope is his full-time job: "I was lucky enough to have parents who were financially well-off enough to allow me to go about my Papal duties without the need for a full-time job. We've set up a press to print out-of-publication Catholic books, but that's more to help with the costs of our network."
Here's how it works: Brought up in a devoutly Catholic family, from boyhood, David Bawden felt that he had a calling to the priesthood. When he came of age, he took up that calling. But after a stint at foreign seminaries under the Pius X order, disillusioned with what he viewed as the confused and heretical teachings of the latter-day church, unordained, he returned home and wrote a book with a woman called Teresa Stanfill-Benns, which aimed to answer the question: "Will The Catholic Church Survive The Twentieth Century?" The conclusion? By virtue of their heresies, the Roman lineage had vacated the Papacy. There was no fricken' Pope! Conclusion: elect a Pope! Conclusion to the conclusion? Hold a papal conclave.
So it was that a small band of supporters gathered together to search for a man who would uphold and repair the true Catholic tradition that they had watched degenerate over their lifetimes. They were pissed about things like Vatican II: Paul VI's 1963 series of reforms that generally eased the church into the liberal climes of, say, the 18th century. This was to be overturned, as was pretty much everything that wasn't deeply, profoundly conservative.
In the past, Bawden/Michael has railed against Pope John Paul II while holding mass in front of semi-naked Papua New Guinean tribespeople. These were and are theologians who think that, really, it all started to go wrong when they began allowing the mass to be said in English instead of Latin. It's not only the Baptist and Mohammedan traditions that have a lockdown on fundamentalism, you know.
So the election went smoothly. The seven needed to elect a pope gathered in a small room. July 16, 1990: the traditional message that has been echoed for 2,000 years went out from Belvue, Kansas: "habemus papam" or, "we have a Pope!" Imagine that--you're barely thirty--one day you can't even make priest and the next you end up Pope! It's like being a ballboy at Wimbledon, then getting promoted to Roger Federer.
He'd won, although he batted me down when I asked if he had any Papal rivals, "It's not really an 'election,'" he said, "You don't 'run' for Pope." Over the phone, the Pope Michael sounds meek at times, almost tremulous--a pinched, high-pitched voice and a clipped manner of response. He is, of course, celibate. It's always an awkward question to ask, but it had to be done. He also refudiates birth control, as well as every single Pope since the 1958 election of the heretic Angelo Roncalli, whose heresies apparently included "being soft on Communism." "The best of the Vatican line, to me, would be John Paul I--simply because he ruled for the shortest time. It's difficult to choose between them, because they are all heretics."
VICE: So would you say you're infallible, as Popes are meant to be?
The Pope: Oh, definitely. It's in the teachings. The Pope's edicts are true. There can't be one church at the time of Christ, another a thousand years later, and another today. There is only one true interpretation of scripture.
I see. So it's not like you just always have to win at snooker, or something?
Oh no! Nothing like that. It's only in matters of scripture.
Is the Vatican aware of your existence? Have you ever corresponded with them?
I sent a notice of excommunication of Pope John Paul II to The Vatican in 1982. Obviously, I didn't hear back from him. Also, when I was first elected in 1990, one of the newspapers did a story about it and they phoned up the Vatican for comment. Obviously, it was just a typical "no comment" situation.
[Here the interview veered away from the standard Q & A format. The remainder contains choice quotes from the conversation selected by the author, as well as brief interjections and commentary. - Ed.]
If he held the reins in Rome, he assures us, the pedo-priests would've had their chips by now. He quotes a 16th Century Pontiff who decreed the punishment for pedophilia to be death, and a 1917 bill about the instant excommunication of sex-abusing priests.
"I hold prayer meetings, I perform the stations of the cross... And of course there's a lot of people interested in the Church around the world--and keeping up with all that correspondence takes a lot of my time."
Twenty years in, he's still only 50 and has a lifetime of Popery ahead of him. Although, just in case, his organization has plans in place for a fresh papal conclave should he pass away suddenly.
"Definitely. It will run like any normal conclave. Who will succeed me? Well, I don't know, and to be honest, it's forbidden to discuss the matter of a successor to the present Pope before his death."
That's a lot like Big Brother nominations, I'd suggest. I wondered what the best part about being pope is.
"The best thing about being Pope? Probably that I can never be outside of the church. The teachings say that the Pope can never be exiled from God."
And who, after all, would want to be exiled from God? I like the Pope. The Pope stokes hope.