Death of A Pope

Before you go running to Whispers in the Loggia or your copy of NCR, I will ease your fears: Pope Benedict 16 is still alive and well. There is no period of mourning, nor will we be watching CNN in anticipation of white smoke from the conclave.

However, if you are a member of the True Catholic Church, then this a public notice that Pope Pius XIII reportedly received his final reward on November 30, 2009.

If you're still a little confused, let me tell you a little story about an infamous former friar from my province: Lucian Pulvermacher.

Pope Pius XIII was born Earl Pulvermacher on April 20, 1918. He professed solemn vows with the Order of Friars Minor, Capuchin in 1946, taking the name Lucian. He served for a short time as an assistant priest at St. Francis Parish in Milwaukee, WI before going to the Ryuku Islands in 1948. In 1955 he was transferred to Okinawa. After spending much time in Japan and surrounding islands, he moved to Australia in 1970 as a missionary. It was in 1976 that he left Australia and cut himself off from the Catholic Church and the Capuchin Order.

He and three other friars left Australia, claiming issue with the reforms of Vatican II; afterwhich they spent time with Traditionalist groups, specifically the Lefebrve group in Milwaukee. His desire was with the tradition of the Latin Mass and opposition to the many new changes that he saw as leading people astray.

Finding dismay even with this group, stating "that they were not truly Catholic,"(1) he broke off on his own. In his own words:

Father Hector Bolduc (Society of St. Pius X) even kicked me out of the area that was served by the Society. Why? I refused to give the sacraments to the Novus Ordo Catholics. That made me bad in their sight. I just could not understand why they, who called themselves Catholics, could give the sacraments to people who regularly went to the Novus Ordo churches for the sacraments.(2)

Breaking from the Order and the SSPX he was on his own again, until he met a German priest; they got together to discuss the election of a new Pope. Finding fault with this priest, he again separated, and with a group of conclavist Catholic separatists (for lack of a better term) set up the means by which a new pope could be elected.

Seeing Pope Pius XII as the last true pope, saying the following popes: " have usurped the name of the Catholic Church from which they of their own free will departed,"(3) Pulvermacher chose the name Pius XIII. Many of his encyclical writings can be found on his site on such topics as the Invalidity of Vatican 2, how Catholics can marry without a pastor present, and the "False Beatification of JPII."

Yeah. Wow.

Karl Keating wrote about Pulvermacher years ago in an eletter:
You wonder what happened to the Fr. Pulvermacher of three decades ago. What made him leave not just Australia and the Capuchins but the real Catholic Church? What propelled him, in just a few months, clear past the Traditionalist movement and into a church of his own making?(4)
And Karl has a point. We can joke about how far Pulvermacher "slingshot" from being a part of the Church and the Order to making his own Church and papal office. Perhaps this is God's great joke to the rest of us: "When I said you have to love all of My children, I meant guys like this, too!"

But what happened to this man that caused him to leave everything?

When we in the Order learned of Lucian's passing on the 30th of November (as we often keep in contact with friars who have left us), there was a sense of loss mixed with the occasional joke. I find it admirable that during his time of searching, the Order chose not to force Br. Lucian out. Rather, they valued his fraternity in the community and hoped that he just needed time to work through some personal things. But by taking the title of "Pope" his break from the Capuchins was complete.

And so today, as I ate lunch with Regis ArmstrongJim Peterson, and other friars of my Order, we lovingly joked and remembered our former brother. And in spite of everything Br. Pulvermacher did, these guys still talked of him in the same way they lovingly talked of other friars who have passed. Regardless of it all, these guys still saw him as their brother - making me proud to be a Capuchin.

So please keep the passing of P13 in your prayers. He may have been a little crazy, but he was my brother...if not in faith, at least in Christ.

1-3 History, Encyclicals, and General Letters
4 I Get A Letter From the Pope by Karl Keating April 2004,
Discussions with friars from St. Mary's & St. Joseph Province of Capuchin Franciscans

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1 Response to Death of A Pope

January 4, 2012 at 4:10 PM

By chance I came across your brief memorial. Though two years after you posted, I'm prompted to provide a purely personal recollection, since I think that it seemed a little sad that no-one else commented - I feel the passing of anyone should at least have one person at the graveside so to speak. I met Fr Lucian a couple of times around 1971 in Sydney. (I also met several times his brother Fr Carl, who I think was supplying at a small inner city parish not far from the Capuchin friary at St Fiacre's, Leichhardt.) I recollect him as a neat, almost dapper, bespectacled man. At that time both brothers were already sympathetic to the retention of the old Mass, though I had the vague impression Carl was further advanced along that path. Interestingly, not long afterwards I also happened to meet Gordon Bateman, the person in red cardinal's zucchetto appearing in the photograph with Fr Lucian at the bottom of your post page. (At that time, Gordon had a young family and lived in Melbourne. That was on the occasion of a week-long visit by Archbishop Lefebvre to say the traditional Mass, which I attended.) I would never have imagined that years later these men would have ended up as an alternative church, which I only heard about a couple of years ago. I thought the idea and picture of Fr Lucian's conclave and his small, perhaps miniscule, following evoked a sad and truly pathetic image, significantly removed from where we all might have been at, all those years ago.

Well those were distant and separate universes ago and everyone has long changed. Still, we are all on an existential journey to the unknown, and who are we to judge, as the saying goes? After all his sense of representing an isolated remnant, I hope he found peace at the last.