Question: I heard that there is a newly elected Pope, Pius XIII. How can this be, while Pope John Paul II is still alive.
Answer: "Pius XIII" is an antipope, a false claimant to the Chair of Peter.
Some Catholics have tried to find a solution for the sorry state of affairs in the Church for the past thirty-odd years by theorizing that we have not had a legitimately elected Pope since Pius XII died in 1958. Their erroneous reasoning usually starts out along the line that our Lord promised that "the gates of hell shall not prevail against [His Church]," therefore the Church is "indefectible" (not capable of failure in Its mission) -- so far they are correct. But then they reason, incorrectly, that since the post-Vatican II Popes have done things opposed to the Catholic Faith they could not really have been Popes. On "the other side of the coin," this "sedevacantist" confusion of the infallibility of the Pope with the indefectibility of the Church is shared by many New Order Catholics who hold that the Pope can do no wrong -- an idea quite at variance with the Vatican Council's definition of Papal Infallibility and the history of the Papacy.
They fail to distinguish between the various uses of the word "magisterium," confusing (a)the teaching authority of the Church with (b)those who exercise that authority, and (c)the authoritative pronouncements made by that authority -- effectively confusing the Pope with the Church and with Its doctrines, so that the illogic in their arguments is masked by ambiguity.
Some fail to distinguish between the Law of God and the commands given by the Pope. Again incorrectly, they reason, the Pope must always be obeyed because his orders are the orders of God -- but since he orders things that are clearly wrong, he cannot be the Pope. In this case, those "on the other side of the coin," given the same incorrect premise, reason that we are obliged to offer no resistance, even to what we know to be clearly wrong.
In order to buttress their arguments, the sedevacantists try to find precedents in Church history, law, and theology. Following poor principles of scholarship, they search only far enough to find something that seems to agree with what they hope to prove, and then stop searching. They will cite a paragraph in Canon Law, while ignoring others that are relevant; cite a medieval papal coronation oath, ignoring its cessation in the 11th century; cite an election decree of Pope Paul IV, while ignoring the legitimate changes made by his successors; cite the beginning and ending of a paragraph by St.Robert Bellarmine, while omitting the middle; etc., etc.
The sedevacantist explanation of the state of things in the modern Church is simplistic, and lacks the virtue of being true. In charity we can only hope that they are simply ignorant or misled. Some of them are holy and sincere people, but the sedevacantist error is often found among those "traditionalist" groups who value their own growth and prestige above the truth.
But, let us suppose -- just for the purpose of discussion -- that the sedevacantists were right --- that for one reason or another there was no validly reigning Pope. And, for the purposes of the same argument, there are no living Cardinals appointed by the last real Pope. "Pius XIII" came on the scene rather late to propose a solution to this contrived "problem." He is only the most recent in a comic succession of antipopes. A Spaniard, a Canadian, and a Frenchman claimed to have been appointed directly by God, the latter claiming consecration as a bishop by His Son. An American started his own religious order, got himself consecrated bishop, and declared himself Pope. A young man in Kansas organized a "conclave" that elected him but has since resigned, finding that his neighbors take him a bit more seriously as a layman. Anyone familiar with the literature will know who these men are, that some of them are still out there, that there are probably a few more that pre-date "Pius XIII," and that "Pius" is unlikely to be the last.
As successor of St. Peter, the Pope is the Bishop of Rome. The College of Cardinals originated with the bishops, priests, and deacons of the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Rome. In the eleventh century, the College took over the function of papal elections in order to avoid the political intrigues of earlier years when the aristocracy manipulated the Roman people to elect their chosen candidate. Had the clergy or the people of Rome risen up and demanded an end to the alleged post-VaticanII "vacancy" the whole thing would have been a lot more believable. In the absence of any living Cardinals, had the Romans themselves named a new bishop for the Eternal City, it would have been a lot more convincing than the election of a fellow in Montana by the telephone calls of a couple of dozen self appointed and (so far) anonymous electors.
"Pius XIII" is a simple priest; not a bishop. He has advanced the theologically unsound argument that as "Pope" he will be able to consecrate bishops, even though he is not a bishop himself -- and then one of his "bishops" can then consecrate him. This would have the same effect as placing his hands upon his own head and performing the ceremony before a mirror. The "priests" and "bishops" created by "Pius XIII" will remain laymen, unable to offer Mass or confer the Sacraments.
Like him or not, John Paul II is the Pope. Let us pray that God will strengthen him and his successors to repair the damage of Vatican II.