David Bawden

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David Bawden
Papacy beganJuly 16, 1990
Papacy endedAugust 2, 2022
Opposed to
OrdinationDecember 11, 2011
by Robert Biarnesen
ConsecrationDecember 11, 2011
by Robert Biarnesen
Personal details
Born(1959-09-22)September 22, 1959
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, U.S.
DiedAugust 2, 2022(2022-08-02) (aged 62)
Kansas City, Missouri, U.S.
Ordination history
Diaconal ordination
Ordained byRobert Biarnesen
DateDecember 11, 2011
Priestly ordination
Ordained byRobert Biarnesen
DateDecember 11, 2011
Episcopal consecration
Consecrated byRobert Biarnesen
DateDecember 11, 2011

David Allen Bawden (September 22, 1959 – August 2, 2022),[1] who took the name Pope Michael, was an American citizen and a conclavist claimant to the papacy. In 1990 Bawden was elected pope by a group of six laypeople, including himself and his parents, who had come to believe that the Catholic Church had apostatized from the Catholic faith since Vatican II, and that there had been no legitimate popes elected since the death of Pope Pius XII in 1958.[2]

In 2011, he was ordained a priest and consecrated a bishop by an Independent Catholic bishop.

Early life and education[edit]

Bawden was born in 1959 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, to Clara (née Barton) and Kennett Bawden.[1][3][4] He attended elementary school and high school in Oklahoma City.[3] He had one brother.[4]

Bawden's parents were traditionalist Catholics who rejected Vatican II.[5] In the mid-1970s, he and his family became followers of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX).[6] Bawden entered the SSPX seminary in Écône, Switzerland, in 1977, then transferred to Saint Joseph's Priory in Armada, Michigan. He was dismissed in 1978.[5][6] His family subsequently moved to St. Marys, Kansas, where the SSPX ran Saint Mary's Academy and College. Bawden worked for the school and his brother attended it.[7] In 1981 Bawden broke with the SSPX.[2] Prior to claiming the papacy, he worked as a real estate agent and furniture maker.[8]

Claim to the papacy[edit]

Bawden believed that all the popes since the death of Pope Pius XII on October 9, 1958, were modernists, heretics, and apostates, and that their elections were invalid.[9] He considered them to have incurred latae sententiae (automatic) excommunication for violating not only Pope Pius X's laws on modernism but also the divine laws.[9]

On July 16, 1990, Bawden, his parents, and three other former adherents of the SSPX held a papal conclave at the Bawden family's thrift store in Belvue, Kansas.[2][10] Bawden, then aged 30, was elected pope.[11][12] He styled himself "Michael I" after Saint Michael the Archangel.[8] Bawden had invited hundreds of Independent Catholic bishops and sedevacantists to the election, but none attended.[13] As Bawden was not ordained until 2011, he was unable to celebrate Mass or confect the sacraments as a priest.[10]

Later years and death[edit]

After the election, Bawden continued living at home with his parents.[10] In 1993 they relocated to Delia, Kansas.[2] His father died in 1995.[14] Bawden established a presence on the internet as an alternative claimant to the papacy;[15] in 2009 he stated that he had approximately 30 "solid followers".[16] He supported himself through donations and by republishing out-of-print religious literature.[6] In 2010, the independent filmmaker Adam Fairholm released a feature-length documentary about him, Pope Michael.[17][18]

Bawden announced that he had been ordained a priest and then consecrated a bishop on December 11, 2011, by an Independent Catholic episcopus vagans, Bishop Robert Biarnesen of the Duarte-Costa and Old Catholic episcopal lineages.[19][20] Bawden said that he was able to validly confect Catholic sacraments, offer the Mass, ordain other men to the priesthood, and consecrate them as bishops, since he believed that the Duarte-Costa and Old Catholic lineages were recognized as valid by the Catholic Church.[21]

Rogelio Martinez, a Filipino archbishop in the Catholic Charismatic Church, united himself with Bawden in 2020.[22] In a 2022 interview released posthumously, Bawden said that his church had grown to more than 100 members.[23]

On July 10, 2022, his church's Twitter account posted that Bawden had to have emergency surgery and was in a coma.[24] Bawden died on August 2, 2022, in Kansas City, Missouri.[1][25]


  1. ^ a b c "Obituary for Father David A. Bawden". www.davidsonfuneral.com. Davidson Funeral Home. Archived from the original on August 3, 2022. Retrieved August 2, 2022.
  2. ^ a b c d Melton, J. Gordon (1994). "Catholic Church (Pope Michael I)". Encyclopedia of American Religions: Fourth Edition Supplement. Detroit: Gale Research Inc. p. 1. ISBN 978-0-8103-8818-5.
  3. ^ a b Seba, Erwin (July 23, 1990). "'Pope' explains theological conflicts". Kansas State Collegian. Vol. 96, no. 165. pp. 1, 5.
  4. ^ a b Henning, Sarah (October 17, 2009). "The gospel of Pope Michael: Kansan stakes own claim to Catholic Church". Lawrence Journal-World. Archived from the original on December 15, 2021. Retrieved August 3, 2022.
  5. ^ a b Brisendine, Steve (May 30, 2005). "Despite few followers, 'Pope Michael' holds to beliefs". The Topeka Capital-Journal. Archived from the original on November 28, 2012. Retrieved April 24, 2012.
  6. ^ a b c Bawden, David; Asadi, Torang (September 2, 2010). Pope Michael Oral History. Religious Studies Department, University of Kansas. Archived from the original on September 7, 2015. Retrieved August 3, 2022.
  7. ^ Crumbo, Christine (August 17, 1990). "Kansas worshippers secede, elect pope". Miami Herald. Knight-Ridder News Service. Archived from the original on August 3, 2022. Retrieved August 3, 2022.
  8. ^ a b Fruhling, Larry (November 4, 1990). "Papal pretender twits the real one". The Des Moines Register. pp. 1A, 9A.
  9. ^ a b Frank, Thomas (2004). "Antipopes among us". What's the Matter with Kansas?: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America. Macmillan. pp. 217–224. ISBN 978-0-8050-7339-3.
  10. ^ a b c Allen, John L. (2004). Conclave: The Politics, Personalities, and Process of the Next Papal Election. New York: Image/Doubleday. pp. 1–3. ISBN 978-0-385-50453-9.
  11. ^ "Group elects area man pope". Kansas State Collegian. Vol. 96, no. 164. Associated Press. July 19, 1990. p. 8.
  12. ^ Fox, Robin (2011). The Tribal Imagination: Civilization and the Savage Mind. Harvard University Press. p. 104. ISBN 9780674059016.
  13. ^ "Frequently Asked Questions". Vatican in Exile. Archived from the original on January 16, 2021. Retrieved March 24, 2021.
  14. ^ "Obituary: Bawden, Kennett". Rossville Kansas Genealogy. Archived from the original on August 5, 2022. Retrieved August 4, 2022.
  15. ^ Last, Jonathan V. (December 2005). "God on the Internet". First Things. No. 158. pp. 34–40. ISSN 1047-5141. Archived from the original on August 3, 2022. Retrieved August 3, 2022.
  16. ^ Fairholm, Adam (director) (2010). Pope Michael (Documentary). Archived from the original on December 22, 2020. Retrieved March 24, 2021.
  17. ^ Mills, David (February 28, 2012), "We have a Pope, but not that one", First Things, Institute on Religion and Public Life, archived from the original on August 5, 2022, retrieved December 25, 2018
  18. ^ Leven, Benjamin (February 2020). "Die vielen Körper des Papstes: "Die zwei Päpste" und "The New Pope"". Herder Korrespondenz. Vol. 74, no. 2. pp. 25–28. Archived from the original on August 5, 2022. Retrieved August 3, 2022.
  19. ^ Jarvis, Edward (2018). God, Land & Freedom: the true story of ICAB. Apocryphile Press. p. 169. ISBN 9781947826908.
  20. ^ Anderson, Phil (January 13, 2012). "Kansas 'pope' leads a flock in exile". The Topeka Capital-Journal. Archived from the original on August 5, 2022. Retrieved August 3, 2022.
  21. ^ Bawden, David (November 2, 2016). "Validity of The Ordination and Consecration of Pope Michael". Pope-Michael.com. Archived from the original on March 27, 2019. Retrieved March 27, 2019.
  22. ^ Martinez, Rogelio (May 2022). "My Vocation Story". Olive Tree. Vol. VII, no. 2. Vatican in Exile. Retrieved November 14, 2022.
  23. ^ Interview with Pope Michael. Pontifacts Podcast. September 2, 2022.
  24. ^ #Vatican in Exile [@Francis5Domini3] (July 10, 2022). "Please keep His Holiness Pope Michael in your prayers. He had emergency brain surgery this evening. Blood was found on the brain. For the time being he is being kept in a coma" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  25. ^ #Vatican in Exile [@Francis5Domini3] (August 3, 2022). "Today at 10:18 Pope Michael passed on into eternity. RIP" (Tweet) – via Twitter.

External links[edit]

Media appearances: