But where was unity even within the Catholic Church during the fourteenth century, when there were three Popes at once, each with his own section of adherents?

There has never been more than one true Pope. At times there have been rival claimants to the Papacy, but if several pretenders put forward to-day their claims to be King of England, their claims would not invalidate the right of the present king. Anti-Popes are not really Popes. But take the 14th century. In 1378 Urban VI. was lawfully elected Pope at Rome. Some French Cardinals, wrongly thinking or maintaining that he had not been rightly elected, elected another who called himself Clement VII. Good men on both sides believed in each Pope’s right, but no one admitted that both could be Popes at once. All held that one only of the two could really be Pope. To settle the difficulty, another group of Cardinals later on wrent beyond their rights, declared the rival Popes deposed, and elected a second anti-Pope, Alexander V. This gave rise to three lines of claimants and thus complicated the position. A general Council was called. The legitimate successor in the Urban line, Gregory XII., resigned. The successors of the anti-Popes were declared to be unduly elected, and the difficulty was overcome by the election of Pope Martin V. in 1417. The true succession was never lost; nor was essential unity. All the time there was but one true Pope, and the mistake on the part of the faithful as to which was the true Pope was not an error in faith. The Church, under God’s guidance, weathered this difficulty of internal dissension, once more showing the divine protection which the Catholic Church has ever enjoyed in virtue of Christ’s promise to be with her all days till the end of the world.

Radio Replies Volume 1 by Rev. Dr. Leslie Rumble MSC and Rev. Charles Mortimer Carty

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The Case for Catholicism - Answers to Classic and Contemporary Protestant Objections

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