Vagante Bishops and Aping Rome

In my posting of 5th March, Towards the Unknown, I mentioned an individual described by the secular press as a fake bishop who tried to infiltrate himself into a pre-conclave meeting of Cardinals. I made fun of the individual mainly on grounds of his mistakes in terms of dress. Actually, the man’s name is Ralph Napierski, a German who appears to have received vagante ordinations.

I decided to do a little research, and found this fellow had been consecrated, by a German bishop called Athanasius Seiwart, himself consecrated by one Jean-Gérard Roux. Roux claims, on the basis of lies and false documents, that he was consecrated by Archbishop Pierre Martin Ngô Đình Thục personally in a place called Loano in Italy. A witness affirms that the Archbishop was in Munich on the day in question! What more needs to be said? Roux is a fraud known to the French authorities and has a rich criminal record to his credit. Such a record would not invalidate the transmission of Holy Orders, if Roux received them validly from someone, but this is not someone we would want to invite to dinner.

To substantiate my position on Roux’s consecration, I quote the words of Dr Eberhard Heller in Einsicht – Röm.-Kath. Zeitschrift, December 1993, page 95.

Da sich der Erzbischof, den ich am 29. Januar 1982 in Nizza mit dem Flugzeug abgeholt hatte, zu diesem Zeitpunkt in München befand- er flog erst am 1. Mai 1982 wieder von München nach Nizza (Abflug: 15 Uhr 35, Ankunft: 17 Uhr 05), wo er von Herrn Norrant mit dem Auto abgeholt wurde -, kann eine Weihe zu diesem Zeitpunkt nicht erfolgt sein.

I have also seen a dated video of his priestly ordination in November 1985 by Bishop Jean Laborie – and this also refutes his claim to have been consecrated by Archbishop Ngô Đình Thục. I read reams of material about 14 years ago provided by an acquaintance who lives in Nice, and I still have much of it in my archives mouldering away in a cardboard box in my loft! There’s nothing personal: I just hate to see this kind of person besmirching the credibility of Christianity.


The above photo is Napierski in Roux’s chapel in France, at La Ferté Gaucher, some way to the north-east of Paris in the Seine-et-Marne near Meaux. A site still exists – Abbaye de Marie Reine – but is “closed for administrative reasons”. Perhaps Roux can still be found on Facebook if you’re interested. I’m not.

Roux has had himself photographed with Pope Benedict XVI, unless the photo was a Photoshop job, which is not difficult. I guess the photo was taken in the Paul VI Audience Hall, but how the heck did this creep do it? What is even more ironic is that Roux is an on-and-off sedevacantist!


Napierski’s consecrator, Seiwart, claims to have been reconciled with Rome and accepted as a valid bishop. I don’t believe that. Rome never takes back “apostate” clergy. Seiwart got himself “in” with Pope John Paul II. He is wearing Mass vestments and it is clearly a Papal Mass in St Peter’s Square, so I suppose concelebrating clergy are not required to show credentials called a celebret, what we Anglicans call a canonical licence. Of course, Rouxs’ forgery department and department of dirty tricks might at last have found a way to do a good job on their papers!


Now, Naperski describes himself as a bishop in communion with the Roman Catholic Church – katholischer Bischof in Union mit der römisch-katholischen Kirche. How do these guys have the cheek to do this kind of thing? They might have got valid ordinations from somewhere, as I did to my shame, but with claims to be genuine Roman Catholics, they are indeed fakes and frauds. They discredit many independent Old Catholic and other Sacramental Christian clergy with genuine vocations.

These bandits are not the only ones. There is also a bishop by the name of David Bell who also somehow gets into Papal Audiences and Masses.


If there are any accusations of libel, they should be addressed to my source of information – The strange case of “His Eminence” Bell.

But who is David Bell and what is the Roman Catholic Society of Pope Leo XIII really? Bell is a forty two year old Englishman who was ordained priest and then bishop within the Brazilian Catholic Apostolic Church (ICAB). ICAB is a group that was created in Brazil during the 30’s and was made up of priests and a bishop who did not want to follow the teachings of Pius XI against communism. Over the years, ICAB has adopted certain old Catholic positions, refusing to recognise the dogma of papal infallibility imposed by the Second Vatican Council and opening up to the idea of priests being able to marry. Today in Brazil, the ICAB has a number of bishops and communities which celebrate new marriage ceremonies for divorcees who wish to remarry.

It was ICAB’s superior, the elderly “patriarch” Luis Fernando Castillo Mendez, inappropriately referred to as “cardinal”, who consecrated Bishop Bell in 2006, proclaiming him “cardinal” in 2009, shortly before he passed away. Mendez had been in contact with the Holy See at the end of the 80’s but had not yet accepted John Paul II’s outstretched hand.

A video of Bell’s consecration ceremony is available on YouTube. Both the international and Italian Society of Pope Leo XIII websites regularly publish photographs of Bell kissing the Pope’s hand during one of the Wednesday Audiences in June 2011. There is even one image of the bell and another bishop from the congregation apparently co-celebrating mass in St. Peter’s Square.

Bell is undoubtedly a valid bishop, but he is a false Roman Catholic, hardly a way to endear himself to the instances of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for his reconciliation. The quote article points this out clearly. The problem is not being an independent bishop, but pretending to be what one is not!

The latest rascal is Ralph Napiersk gate crashing a meeting of Cardinals, at least for the purpose of getting himself photographed with them for the purpose of getting false credentials.  Get Religion links to various versions of the story. Napierski’s site is Corpus Dei, and he shows us what he’s got or claims to have. It’s strange the site is in English and not in his native German. The reason is not given.

I will end this unsavoury subject by a few reflections. Men like these cause all independent priests and bishops to be tarred with the same brush and called fakes and phony. That has been going on for a long time with the famous books by Brandreth (Episcopi Vagantes and the Anglican Church) and Peter Anson (Bishops at Large). I remember reading Anson’s evaluation of Freidrich Heiler, a man he respected on account of his intellectual achievements. Most of the others were aping something they were not or were at the limits of honesty to understate it.

I have written articles under the category Independent and Old Catholicism, and I am still sympathetic to the idea of independent sacramental communities in which the Church can subside through the Priesthood and the holding of the full Apostolic Faith. A community might be one priest or bishop and a handful of laity, or he might belong to an organised Church like one of the Continuing Anglican bodies. There are communities that identify with orthodox Catholicism whilst being honest about not belonging to the Roman Catholic Church. There is no problem there.

The problem is being a “wannabe” Roman Catholic and setting out to imitate what one is unable to become. This just plays into the hands of apologists and polemicists of all kinds. The “blood-crazed ferret” Damian Thompson wrote Wandering bishops, grief-crazed Lib Dems… and Hillary Clinton’s Croydon facelift some time ago. It isn’t flattering. Who can blame him when you get the more honest bishops doing a Post the Host service and other shenanigans? It is heartbreaking.

I tip my hat to the blog Bože!, which inspired me to look into the case of Napierski and write this article from my own perspective. Bishop Alexis, who runs this blog tells of his painful awareness of the proportion of men in the independent sacramental world who are either mentally ill or suffer from some personality problem like narcissism. He points out that the mainstream churches also have bad clergy. Alexis’ approach is praiseworthy, which consists of blogging, researching and writing and putting a positive side to a spiritual world that is not well known, and against which the bad eggs bring adverse publicity. This is also one of the purposes of this blog – dispelling ignorance and prejudice through education and reasoning.

But, some characters are indefensible and show nothing to condone!

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12 Responses to Vagante Bishops and Aping Rome

  1. Edson says:

    No the Roman Catholic Church and the Roman Catholic Church in Brazil, its National Conference of Brazilian Bishops DO NOT accept as Valid any ordinations of the Brazilian National Churches, and this includes the ordination conferred on Bell. The RC Church does NOT even recognise their celebration of baptism as valid and should any member of the Brazilian Church wish to join the RC Church they must have a baptism given in its absolute form. This is because they lack the necessat intention ‘to do what the Chuch does’ but merely copy and mimic the Roman Rites. This was decided several years ago and there was a signed Directive by Pope Paul VI to that regard. There ‘ministers’ don’t have any training wahtsoever and each of their ‘bishops’ mixes the rites some using a mixture of Anglican, RC and Orthodox Rituals. There sacremants are classied as NULL and Void as though they never happen. Other Chritian Churches, such as the Presbyterians and Anglicans etc celebration of baptism is accepted as valid and is not repeated should members from these Churches enter the RC Church. It is not unknow for sums of Money also to pass for the Brazilian National Churches to administer sacraments. There is NO one Brazilian Church but one must speak of Brazilian Churches, as many as there are ‘bishops’. They are not even admitted to the Brazilian National Ecumenicial Council of Christian Churches.

    • I have to admit that I met some of those “Boys from Brazil” in Portugal some nine years ago. I was surprised and shocked at the extent of their indiscipline and lack of spirituality and education. Some seemed to be better than others. I remember a Bishop Josivaldo Pereira de Oliveira who is a quiet and prayerful fellow and spoke several languages other than Portuguese. He and I spoke in French.

      Generally, it does seem a strange setup that I would never want to join or recommend to anyone. That being said, I don’t think we can be too vocal about our criticism of anyone, even the mainstream Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches. We all have our crosses to bear.

      That being said, I know who you are from your e-mail and IP addresses, and we have been cordial with each other by correspondence. I understand you are yourself seeking regularisation of “irregular” orders, and we await the results of your various approaches. Whilst I pray for this intention, I remain very discreet here on this forum and hope you will find the way of your conscience, I find that scepticism easily gets the better of me.

      Humility behoves us all.

  2. William Tighe says:

    Now wait a minute. If “Edson” is correct, how could Rome have recognized the Orders of this man:

    who was married and a bishop, and Rome received him as a bishop? (Some years ago I spent much time fruitlessly trying to find out whether Bishop Barbosa Ferraz has originally been a Roman Catholic. It appears that his parents left the Catholic Church to become Protestants, at least that seems to be the most-frequently-and-credibly-encountered-story, but it remains uncertain and undocumented.)

  3. Edson says:

    I agree 100% with Fr Anthony.

    As regards the comments of “William” the case you mention of Bishop Salamao Ferrez is such a long time ago, from Pope John XXIII (more than 50 years ago) to be of any relevance for today. Bishop Ferrez was ordained , deacon, priest and Bishop by Bishop Carlos Duarte da Costa a former RC Bishop who founded the Brazilian National Catholic Church. And was an old man when he was accepted into the RC Church and recognised as Bishop. No one doubts this. But the problem is that in his day the Brazilian National Catholic Church was more or less one but nowadays there are as many brazilian national churches as there are ‘bishops’ each one sometimes mixing sacramental rites. Some using the Anglican Ritual others the Traditional RC Pre Vatican II Ritual and others the Orthodox and still others mixing the Rituals. The Holy See does not recognise as Valid any sacrament conferred by the Brazilian National Church not even baptism. And if a member of the Brazilian National Church wishes to enter the RC Church he receives baptism in it’s absolute form while others from other Christian denominations don not need too. Batpism of the Brazilian Churches is seen as null and void, as though it did not happen because lack of ‘intention’ on the part of the minister who merely imitates the RC sacramental forms using the RC Liturgical books. Their clergy are unqualified and often Money passes hands, so I have been told from reliable sources for the administration of their ‘sacraments’. They remarry, contrary to catholic tradition many who have been divorced not only once but many times over. The ‘pipe line theory,’ does not therefore hold up since so and so was ordained by a catholic Bishop then he has valid Orders, not considering this mode of operation. They imitate or mimic catholic sacramental rites without a real ‘intention’ of doing what the ‘Church does.’ Bishop Salamao Ferraq was born a Presbyterian later became a minister of that church, then he becam na Anglican and Anglican Minister, later he founded his own church called the Free Catholic Church of Brazil, the the Order of St. Andrew then then ordained by Bishop Carlos Duarte da Costa for the Free Catholic Church of Brazil and finally was received into the RC Church but ‘secretly’ continued to ordaining ‘bishops’ and priests for other non Roman catholic churches.

    • William Tighe says:

      “The Holy See does not recognise as Valid any sacrament conferred by the Brazilian National Church not even baptism.”

      Thank you for this interesting information. Is this the case as regards every and all “fragments” of the Catholic Apostolic Church of Brazil/Brazilian National (?Catholic) Church? I am aware, or at least I have been so informed, that in his last years (before his death in 2009) “Patriarch” Castillo Mendez carried on some sort of secret dealings with the Holy See, supposedly with the purpose of reconciling his church with Rome. I do not know how seriously these discussions were carried on by either side, but I was told that these “secret discussions” cane to public knowledge a year or two before his death, occasioning a split among the church’s bishops resulting in the emergence of two rival groupings. My knowledge at this point becomes vague to nonexistent, but my impression (gained, I must add, from highly partisan sources) was that neither of these two groupings were really favorable to a return to Rome, but that one of them claimed to be upholding the traditional stance of the ICAB, at least as regarding the ordination of women to the episcopate, priesthood and diaconate as an impossibility and as concerning holding Anglican Orders to be “absolutely null and utterly void,” while the other group was claimed variously to be moving towards the ordination of women (and by one report as actually having ordained women) and towards some sort of “detente” with the liberal official (Canterbury Communion) Anglican Church of Brazil (a foundation of the Episcopal Church, and embracing many of the same attitudes and practices as the Episcopal Church). Are you in a position to supply interested readers with more detailed and accurate knowledge of these matters?

      • William Tighe says:

        I might add that there may be a sort of parallel here to the goings-on i the Phillipine Independent Church in the 1970s, 80s and 90s. This body, having been founded as a kind of nationalist ecclesiastical revolt against Rome in ca. 1897, associated itself for many with the Unitarian “Church” in the USA, but in the 1940s entered into communion with the Episcopal Church and subsequently the Anglican Communion, and its bishops were all reconsecrated by Episcopalian bishops in 1947. (In 1965 it entered into communion with the Union of Utrecht Old Catholic churches.) In the mid-1970s well on into the 1980s a number of its bishops, the most prominent of them being Francisco Pagtakhan, involved themselves with the Continuing Anglican movement and in the consecrations of some Continuing Anglican bishops. Eventually there emerged a split within the PIC episcopate, and in the early 1990s the liberal element became predominant among them, with the PIC approving the ordination of women in 1997. At this point, the PIC supposedly split, and there supposedly emerged an “orthodox” alternative body calling itself the “Philippine Independent Catholic Church.” I write “supposedly” because I have never been able to ascertain, despite continued efforts, whether this PICC is a genuine, really existing, church body, or a kind of ecclesiastical “Potemkin Village” without any genuine on-the-ground existence

  4. Edson says:

    William, I can assure you that Castillo Mendez was NOT” carrying on some sort of secret dealings with the Holy See, supposedly with the purpose of reconciling his church with Rome.’ The man was almost blind and in his 80′s and not so lucid and had a ‘hatred’ of the Roman Catholic Church. I knew the man, myself and don’t rely on others for this info. He was, without speaking ill of the dead a ‘sacramental mill’ machine – ‘ordaining all and saundry without demanding any profession of Faith whatsoever! In fact I learned that the lawyer who was selling a piece of his land and doing legal buisness for him and as his ‘payment’ asked to be ordained ‘priest’ and wow and behold he was apparently granted his wish, without any study or profession of Faith! Considering such you cannot rely on his ‘intention’ to do what the church does- so in sacramental theology a ‘doubtful sacrament’ must be presumed as INvalid. Castello Mendez had problems even with Bishop Carlos Duarte da Costa because Castello Mendez deceived a RC elderly Spanish Bishop into ordaining him priest (during the turmoil of the 40′s) in Spain and when it was discovered that he presented false papers to be ordained the Nuncio in Spain sent letters to all the Spanish bishops warning them about him. Mendez was never ordained deacon. Just make a calculation concerning his age and when he was ordained! And he presented himself to Bishop Carlos Duarte da Costa again under deception and was ordained to the ‘episcopate’ by Costa based upon that deception. Considering all this validily cannot be presumed and the Holy See in a special Directive signed by Pope Paul VI denies it!

  5. Edson says:


    I was in the library of CNBB (the Brazilian Conference of Roman Catholic Bishops of Brazil) and found a copy of the directive of Pope Paul VI about ICAB and its ramifications. They have no working photocopy machine but I will take notes and specific details and tell you about it translating the more important parts in english. It was published in a Canon Law Digest of Rio de Janeiro and mentions Cardinal Seper and the CDF and Pope Paul VI signing the directives of the result of the theological study undertaken by a Brazilian RC theologican called Mons. Roberto Roxo, long passed away. The article was written by a leading Brazilian Canonist, Fr Jesus Hortal SJ who is still living an who was Presient for a long time of the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de JANEIRO. The digest is called “Direto e Pastoral- Rio de Janeiro, October 1989 pp. 58 (124) until 62 (128)

    The begining of the article says that “in our Diocese (Rio de Janeiro) baptism conferred by the ‘brazilian catholic national churches’ is considered ‘nulo’ and is repeated by our (RC) priests in absolute form on members of the brazilian church seeeking admission to the RC Church – baptism conferred by the brazilian churches is ‘nulo’.” (Notice, the word they use is ‘nulo’ and not illicit !)( My comment)

    Later on the article mentions that Pope Paul VI signed the Directive saying that ordinations of the brazilian churches are ‘ greatly dubious’! So we both know that in Dogmatic theology a ‘dubious’ sacrament not to mention a ‘greatly dubious’ sacrament is as an INvalid sacrament, the safer course of action is always preferred. Cardinal Seper the then Prefect of the CFD in a letter of 16th Feb 1972 (prot. 373-57) confirmed to Brazilian Bishops on their “ad limina’, in 1986 (20th September) (Bishops from the North East 1 and 1V of CNBB) that´priestly ordinations and episcopal ordinations of the brazilian catholic national churches are considered ‘duvidosas’. The Holy Father Pope Paul VI signed the Directives that were sent to Him by the then Apostolic Nunico, Dom Umberto Mozzoni, in an audience on 4th Septemer, 1986.

    Hoping this helps you.

  6. Edson says:

    sorry but the date was 4th September, 1976 AND NOT 1986!

  7. Edson says:

    Another important thing I forgot to mention is that the Holy See does NOT accept the validity of an ordination if it it a couple of removes away from the orginal Roman source because they think the further it becomes distant from the original source ,doubts about the sacramental intention exist. Of course the Churches of the Communion of Utrecht are given a different consideration for various reasons because they have an established hierarchy and seminary formation etc etc

    • Dear Edson (I’m itching to use your real name!),

      I think you have made your point about the Brazilian community originally founded by Bishop Duarte Costa, and effectively trashed it. I don’t think many of our readers care one way or the other. Why insist? My statistics show no “views” from Brazil. All +Bell seems to have is a big and very badly written website, and a few men he consecrated bishops.

      That being said, would you like to talk about your own situation, and perhaps “come out” with your real identity? I’m sure readers would be most interested.

  8. Pingback: Valid but Irregular? | As the Sun in its Orb & New Goliards

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