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23 August, 2010

A Tale of Two Popes - Retold

A Tale of Two Popes -- Retold
By Scott Corrales - INEXPLICATA

Five years ago I wrote an article that was a departure from the usual mix of high strangeness and ufology that has come to characterize Inexplicata. Even as the world mourned the passing of John Paul II and celebrated the accession to the papal throne of the new Pope Benedict, few outside of the Mediterranean basin were aware that for many years, an Antipope – the dreaded word of the late medieval and Renaissance period – claimed the obeisance of global Catholicism. Ruling not from fortified Avignon but from southern Spain, Pope Gregory XVIII governed the Palmarian Church and its singularly conservative agenda.

I’m taking the liberty of reprinting a few paragraphs of A Tale of Two Popes (2005):

“The media overlooked the passing on March 22, 2005 of the Pope Gregory XVII – the first “antipope” since Renaissance times – at his see in southern Spain. This controversial character presided over a thriving orthodox catholic church (for want of a better term) that embraced the pre-Vatican II Tridentine Mass and other ceremonies and beliefs done away with by that assembly of prelates in the 1960s. With millions of dollars in his treasury, a monumental basilica and bishops all over Spain and even in the United States, Gregory XVII had excommunicated John Paul II early on, accusing the Bishop of Rome of being the true “antipope” (one of the first items of business for the Council of El Palmar, held in October 1980).

“Before stepping into his papal slippers, Gregory XVII had been Clemente Domínguez, better known in the media as “el papa Clemente”, eternally linked to the alleged apparitions of the Blessed Virgin at El Palmar de Troya in the community of Utrera (Seville).

“The first “antichurch” since the Papal Captivity in Avignon during the 14th century was established in 1978 with Clemente’s ascension, formally known as the Iglesia Palmariana de las Carmelitas de la Santa Faz (Palmarian Church of the Carmelites of the Holy Visage). It was this year, following the death of Paul VI, that the separatist church claimed the right to be considered the true see of worldwide Catholicism.

“The Palmarian Church’s officials, however, were quick to deny any rumors of Gregory XVII’s passing, flatly telling reporters from Europa Press that “no Pope has died here” and barring them from entering the basilica. It was Mayor Manuel García who ratified that the antipope had indeed died, after receiving confirmation from the local vital statistics office. Mayor García limited himself to saying: “The Palmarian Church has been 35 years [in our community] and we have always gotten along well.”

“Thirty seven years ago—on March 30, 1968 -- southern Spain had been stirred by the alleged apparition of the Virgin at a farmstead known at La Alcaparrosa within Palmar de Troya: as had occurred in Ezkioga in the 1930s and in Garabandal earlier in the 1960s, four pre-teenage girls – Ana Aguilera, Ana García, Rafaela Gordo and Josefa Guzmán – had gone out to cut wildflowers to decorate the small altar to Our Lady of Carmen in their school. As they accumulated their cut flowers at the foot of a tree, they became aware of a watchful pair of eyes. A strange sensation of peace overcame them as a lovely female face materialized around the eyes; they fell into fell into religious ecstasy and returned home reporting having seen the Blessed Mother.

“Hundreds of townspeople reported to the miraculous tree, where miracles soon began to occur: the enrapt features of a local woman appeared to glow from within, as if fuelled by divine light; a man began running around on his knees at an utterly impossible speed; another began singing songs in Aramaic. The Virgin imparted boilerplate messages concerning the coming of the Antichrist and the approaching Apocalypse while communion wafers materialized on the tongues of the faithful. Miraculous healings were also reported, most notably that of a deaf-mute teenage boy who suddenly complained that all the noise was hurting his ears, and no Marian apparition would be complete without the “dance of the sun”, which occurred in August 1969 over El Palmar.

“Other seers soon began experiencing the same visions, among them a local accountant named Clemente Dominguez. From that moment on, it was Clemente who became the official seer of El Palmar de Troya, supposedly displaying stigmata and shedding an amazing fourteen liters of blood. Two years after the original sightings, forty thousand faithful converged on El Palmar de Troya to witness a new round of Marian apparitions. In 1972, a wealthy dowager bequeathed Clemente a princely sum of money toward “his good works” and this led to the purchase of La Alcaparrosa – the farmstead where the Marian sightings had repeatedly taken place.

“Martin Ngô-Dinh Thuc, the Vietnamese bishop of Hue, exiled from his country after the fall of Saigon, found his way to El Palmar de Troya. The divine apparition commanded him to ordain a new clergy with Clemente Dominguez at its head, and the seer and his affiliates were promptly created priests and bishops on January 1976 after having received minor and major orders alike.

“The separatist juggernaut was already in motion: the Order of the Carmelites of the Holy Visage was established with Spanish, Irish and American presbyters. An enraged Catholic Church excommunicated Clemente Dominguez and his followers; two years later, civil authorities arrested them for impersonating men of the cloth. But the worst blow was dealt on May 29, 1976, when Clemente and his bishops suffered a car accident near San Sebastián in northern Spain. None of the bishops were injured. Clemente, however, lost both eyes.

“Upon learning of Paul VI’s passing, The Palmarian Church proclaimed itself as the true church on the strength of a message allegedly received from Jesus Christ himself: “The reign of the glory of the olives has commenced…the pope heralded by many mystics and many prophecies, the pope who joins the blood of Spain with the genuine blood of France, and the blood of the Chosen People, the Jews. He shall not delay in wielding the sword to carry out the mission of an Emperor. There is no other way to counteract the official election of the Conclave in Rome, from whence shall spring the Antipope. Only the meek and humble at heart shall acknowledge the true pope: Pope Gregory XVII.”

“Crowned by four of his bishops, Gregory XVII began building a cathedral and papal palace in El Palmar – a walled compound that includes a well of miraculous water dug at the behest of the Virgin and a tall white cross where apparitions allegedly occurred through the early 1990s. The Tridentine Mass was reestablished (perhaps inspired by Archbishop Levefre, who had done the same in France that year) and 24 cardinals ordained. Three dioceses in Spain, several in Europe, and one in the United States constituted the Palmarian Church. The newly minted pope proceeded to canonize the heroes of the Spanish right wing: the dictator Francisco Franco was elevated to sainthood along with the Gothic king Don Pelayo and Christopher Columbus. Other deceased officials of the Franco regime soon found themselves wearing haloes and looking down from altars.

“Funding for the majestic, if garish, basilica and Gregory XVII’s papal state was secured from donations made by disgruntled Catholics around the world, who shared his anti-communist, anti-progressive and decidedly right-wing agenda. In the late 1970s charter flights arrived in Seville from all over the world, according to journalist Joaquín Gómez, bearing donations from believers. “In one month alone,” he writes, “the Palmarian Church received donations from the United States alone in excess of a hundred million Pesetas (USD $ 763,946.00)

As of 1998, when Gregory XVII celebrated the Jubilee of the original apparitions at El Palmar de Troya, his secessionist church’s coffers held nearly ten billion Pesetas – nearly eighty million dollars -- and over two thousand masses had been held in the basilica that year. With his passing, the fate of the Palmarian Church is uncertain, but if past performance is an indicator, we can expect the coronation of a new pope in Utrera who will challenge the rule of the “antipope” chosen by the Vatican.”

The preceding dozen paragraphs were the entirety of what appeared five years ago. New information has since emerged, and we present it here.

As it turns out, the Palmarians and the good people of Utrera may have gotten along swimmingly, but a schism was already taking place within the bosom of the Iglesia Palmariana. Its very own website at states that Pope Gregory had “fallen into heresy” during the last years of his reign in spite of “all his valuable services to the Church” and regrettably died without having “repented from such heresies.”

Bishops loyal to Gregory, however, did not hesitate to acclaim his chosen successor – Manuel Alonso Corral – as the next pontiff of the Palmarian Church (the one true church, we must remember) who took on the ominous name of “Peter II”, the last pope in Saint Malachy’s Papal Prophecies, supposedly written in 1139 A.D. when the saint spent a month in Rome under the sponsorship of Pope Innocent II. The broader public did not know these prophecies until the 1590s.

Crowned with the splendid papal tiara of the Palmarian Church, Peter II, with the motto “De cruce apocaliptica”, commenced his reign even as elements of his schismatic church condemned him and called him a usurper. The website adds that his accession is invalidated by having embraced “the same errors and heresies as Pope Gregory XVII” adding that a neither a heretic nor those under the ban of excommunication may rise to the papacy.

The website – obviously maintained by the faction opposed to the de facto rulership – insists that the true doctrine is being upheld by “those bishops who bravely opposed Pope Gregory XVII” and represent the only valid hierarchy in the church, adding – as though the reader had forgotten at this point – that the Church in Rome lost its privilege when it accepted the “heretical teachings of Vatican II”.

And what, we may well ask, were the oft-mentioned heresies that Clemente Dominguez indulged in?

The website does not abound on the matter beyond the following: “We believe that Pope Gregory XVII eventually lost all authority as Pope, bishop and member of the Catholic Church due to his heretical personal beliefs, which led him to other grave errors, including the confection of a “Bible” called the “Sacred History” or “Palmarian Bible.” This fifty-page document is of a purportedly Messianic bent, with the Palmarian Pope as the agent of a mission of salvation. Names are named, to use the expression. The Balkan nations, Turkey and China plot “a terrible battle” in which Russia will endeavor to play the conciliatory role: “When all the countries are aflame, when the Fourth Reich has been brought into being, this shall be the justification for communism to rise again. Beware of Moscow! Beware of China!

But the matter appears go far deeper, according to an article written by Moises Garrido, a Spanish researcher who has held the matter up for scrutiny in “El Palmar de Troya” ( Pope Gregory seemingly feared a palace revolution worthy of the Medicis and the Borgias. The holy father of El Palmar learned of a coup attempt by one Father Isaac María, prompting the southern Spanish pontiff to make the following statement: “Perverse Father Isaac, who has been Our official chaplain for twenty-three years, is the mastermind of this shadowy faction that has formed within the Church...any bishop who flouts papal authority clearly displays the fact that he is a minion of Satan.” This pronouncement acquired physical form in the dismissal of several bishops and nuns who allegedly formed the backbone of the dark cabal. Most notably, says Garrido in his article, was one “Father Laureano”, who apparently had designs on Pope Gregory’s very existence. Incriminating items – including a switchblade – were found in the cleric’s quarters. This merited yet another papal pronouncement. “When we have seen this terrible hour for the Church, and have been close to being assassinated, and still run the risk of being assassinated, Gregory XVII, awake and vigilant, naturally cannot leave the Seat of Peter an orphan. We cannot be at peace until We have appointed a successor, Father Isidoro María de la Santa Faz...”

All this neomedieval skullduggery aside, the focus on El Palmar de Troya as an “Antipapal See” is on its finances and not its theology. Manuel Carballal, author of many books on UFO and conspiracy matters, interviewed Moisés Garrido for his El Ojo Crítico journal (, learning that the Palmarian Basilica – a vast, mock Romanesque structure – had an appraised value of nearly 16 million U.S. Dollars. Aside from the true faithful interested in traditional, pre-Vatican II teachings, Garrido suggests that ultraconservative groups found El Palmar’s set-up attractive for their own ends, reacting against anything that smacks of reform, modernity or liberal thought.

Many of the bishops went on to become owners of valuable property not only in the sleepy community, but also in cosmopolitan Seville itself. The worldwide economic crisis, however, has not been kind to the Palmarian Church either, and some of its holdings have been liquidated out of financial necessity.

In 2008, Garrido risked physical harm by entering the Palmarian Basilica and taking photos of Pope Peter II. He was forcefully expelled from the place of worship, and a scuffle nearly ensued ( “Visiting the Palmarian Basilica, erected in its day by the megalomaniac Clemente Dominguez, aka Gregory XVII, is a spectacle,” writes Garrido. “Entering the place is akin to time travel. You think you’re in the age of the Council of Trent. The environment, the Latin mass, the women wearing veils over their heads, nuns covered from head to toe, the ostentation of the curia, the overloaded religious’s a unique experience.”

1 comment:

  1. We even have Palmarians in Australis...4 Clemente was blind. The blind leading the blind.