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Church History Forum: Schism

by Catherine Frakas 22 Dec 2001

Schism QUESTION from Antonio Basto July 4, 2001 What is the history of the schism between the Popes of Avignon and the Popes at Rome (I believe that the last Pope to be accepted by the whole of christiandom before the schism was Urban VI)? Who were the true Supreme Pontiffs and who were the Anti-Popes? Is this schism connected in any way to the schism between the true Pope Gregory XII and the anti-pope John XXII, which came to an end with the election of Martin V in accordance with norms set out by the Council of Constance in accordance with the authorization given by H.H. Pope Gregory XII when he abdicated? In this context who were Alexander V and Benedict XII?
ANSWER by Q & A Staff on July 9, 2001 Dear Antonio,
You are correct in saying that the last validly elected Pope before the schism was Pope Urban VI. The list of true pontiffs during the time of the Great Western Schism was : Urban VI, Boniface IX, Innocent VII, and Gregory XII. Gregory XII called the Council of Constance in 1414 on condition it accept his authority to call it and then resigned as promised. The schism was ended with the election of Pope Martin V.
The history of the schism is complicated by the fact that there were actually two lines of antipopes. The first line was begun by Cardinal Robert of Geneva in 1478. This came about because the French cardinals questioned the validity of Pope Urban's election (however, Robert of Geneva even wrote to the Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV to comfirm the election, and Pedro de Luna, another major figure in the schism, wrote similarly to his rulers in Spain). Robert of Geneva was elected at Anagni in Itlay took the name Clement VII (NOT to be confused with the true Pope at the time of Henry VIII's divorce efforts). Robert of Geneva was succeeded by Pedro de Luna in 1394, who took the name Benedict XIII. Pedro de Luna lived until 1422, living on after the schism ended but never repentant. This was the first line of antipopes.
The second line of antipopes was started by the unauthorised Council of Pisa in 1409. There, a group of disaffected cardinals from both the Gregory XII and antipope de Luna's camps (they were disillusioned by the military and political actions of both, and by Gregory's having reneged on his promises to meet de Luna in Savona (near Genoa) to seek a settlement). There the Cardinal Archbishop of Milan, Peter Philargis, who had previously been true to Pope Gregory XII, called on both papal claimants to resign. The Council went even further, eventually condemning both claimants for schism and heresy. This incident was a good example of the heresy of conciliarism, the idea that the Pope is subject to an ecumenical council (in actual fact, the COuncil of Pisa wasn't even a valid council, since the Pope didn't call it in the first place!). Peter Philargis was duly elected Pope at the council of Pisa and took the name Alexander V. He was succeeded by Baldassare Cossa in 1410, who took the name John XXIII.
Both the Anagni (Robert of Geneva line) and the Pisa (Peter Philargis) lines were ended at the Council of Constance. Although Pedro de Luna did not accept its rulings, he lost all following and fell completely from significance.
For a full explanation of all the political and military aspects and further details of this story, I recommend Warren Carroll's The Glory of Christendom (volume 3 of his History of Christendom series), chapter 11. As a general note, I recommend this series to all readers of this forum.
People my buy these volumes from (and a referral fee will be paid to help support this apostolate) by using the URL's below. (This URL have a special code to give us credit for the sale):
The Founding Of Christendom, Vol 1
The Building Of Christendom, Vol 2
Glory of Christendom, Vol 3
Also, please see the answer given by Suzanne Fortin regarding the Council of Constance in the list of questions in this forum.
God bless, .
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