These days, St. Catherine of Siena is frequently quoted in her love of the pope of her day (as well she should be.) However, she is less frequently quoted in what she had to say about the antipope of her day.  There have been 20-40 antipopes in history, so a discussion on this topic is not “anti-Catholic,” or “schismatic,” as the following account of St. Catherine clearly demonstrates.

The website Virgo Sacrata reads: “In 1378, after the election of Pope Urban VI, the majority of Cardinals, Prelates and the people recognized Clement VIl as pope, even though he was in reality an antipope. Thirteen out of sixteen cardinals questioned the validity of the election of Pope Urban due to the threat of violence from the Roman people against the Sacred College, and even Urban’s few supporters immediately retracted their election, summoning a new Conclave at Fondi which elected the antipope Clement VIl. Even Saint Vincent Ferrer was convinced that Clement was the real pope, while Saint Catherine of Siena sided with Urban. If universal consensus were an indefectibly valid argument for a pope’s legitimacy. Clement would have had the right to be considered the true pope, rather than Urban. Antipope Clement was defeated by Urban VI’s army in the battle of Marino in 1379 and transferred his See to Avignon, leading to the Western Schism, which lasted thirty-nine years. Thus we see that the universal acceptance argument does not withstand the test of history.”

St. Catherine warned the Cardinals:

Dearest brothers and fathers in Christ sweet Jesus: I Catherine, servant and slave of the servants of Jesus Christ, write to you in His precious Blood: with desire to see you turn back to the true and most perfect light, leaving the deep shadows of blindness into which you are fallen. Then you shall be fathers to me; otherwise not. Yes, indeed, I call you fathers in so far as you shall leave death and turn back to life (for, as things go now, you are parted from the life of grace, limbs cut off from your head from which you drew life), when you shall stand united in faith, and in that perfect obedience to Pope Urban VI., in which those abide who have the light, and in light know the truth, and knowing it love it. For the thing that is not seen cannot be known, and he who knows not loves not, and he who loves not and fears not his Creator loves himself with fleshly love, and whatever he loves, joys or honours and dignities of the world, he loves according to the flesh. Since man is created through love, he cannot live without love; either he loves God, or he loves himself and the world with the love that kills, fastening the eye of his mind darkened by self-love on those transitory things that pass like the wind. In this state he can recognize no truth nor goodness; he recognizes naught but falsehood, because he has not light. For truly had he the light, he would recognize that from such a love as this naught can result but pain and eternal death. It gives him a foretaste of hell in this life; for he who immoderately loves himself and the things of this world, becomes unendurable to himself.

Oh, human blindness! Seest thou not, unfortunate man, that thou thinkest to love things firm and stable, joyous things, good and fair? and they are mutable, the sum of wretchedness, hideous, and without any goodness; not as they are created things in themselves, since all are created by God, who is perfectly good, but through the nature of him who possesses them intemperately. How mutable are the riches and honours of the world in him who possesses them without God, without the fear of Him! for to-day is he rich and great, and to-day he is poor. How hideous is our bodily life, that living we shed stench from every part of our body! Simply a sack of dung, the food for worms, the food of death! Our life and the beauty of youth pass by, like the beauty of the flower when it is gathered from the plant. There is none who can save this beauty, none who can preserve it, that it be not taken, when it shall please the highest Judge to gather this flower of life by death; and none knows when.

Oh, wretched man, the darkness of self-love does not let thee know this truth. For didst thou know it, thou wouldst choose any pain rather than guide thy life in this way; thou wouldst give thee to loving and desiring Him who Is; thou wouldst enjoy His truth in firmness, and wouldst not move about like a leaf in the wind; thou wouldst serve thy Creator, and wouldst love everything in Him, and apart from Him nothing. Oh, how will this blindness be reproved at the last moment in every rational being, and much the more in those whom God has taken from the filth of the world, and assigned to the greatest excellence that can be, having made them ministers of the Blood of the humble and spotless Lamb! Oh me, oh me! what have you come to by not having followed up your dignities with virtue? You were placed to nourish you at the breasts of Holy Church; you were flowers planted to breathe forth the fragrance of virtue in that garden; you were placed as masts to strengthen this ship, and the Vicar of Christ on earth; you were placed as lights in a candlestick, to give light to faithful Christians, and to spread the faith, Well you know if you have done that for which you were created. Surely no; for self-love has prevented you from knowing that in truth alone, to fortify men and give a shining example of good and holy life, you were put in this garden. Had you known this you would have loved it, and clothed you in that sweet truth. Where is the gratitude which you ought to have for the Bride who has nourished you at her breast? I see in us naught but such ingratitude as dries up the fountain of pity. What shows me that you are ungrateful, coarse, and mercenary?

The persecution which you, together with others, are inflicting on that sweet Bride, at a time when you ought to be shields, to ward off the blows of heresy. In spite of which, you clearly know the truth, that Pope Urban VI is truly Pope, the highest Pontiff, chosen in orderly election, not influenced by fear, truly rather by divine inspiration than by your human industry. And so you announced it to us, which was the truth. Now you have turned your backs, like poor mean knights; your shadow has made you afraid. You have divided you from the truth which strengthens us, and drawn close to falsehood, which weakens soul and body, depriving you of temporal and spiritual grace. What made you do this? The poison of self-love, which has infected the world. That is what has made you pillars lighter than straw. Flowers you who shed no perfume, but stench that makes the whole world reek! No lights you placed in a candlestick, that you might spread the faith; but, having hidden your light under the bushel of pride, and become not extenders, but contaminators of the faith, you shed darkness over yourselves and others. You should have been angels on earth, placed to release us from the devils of hell, and performing the office of angels, by bringing back the sheep into the obedience of Holy Church, and you have taken the office of devils. That evil which you have in yourselves you wish to infect us with, withdrawing us from obedience to Christ on earth, and leading us into obedience to antichrist, a member of the devil, as you are too, so long as you shall abide in this heresy.

This is not the kind of blindness that springs from ignorance. It has not happened to you because people have reported one thing to you while another is so. No, for you know what the truth is: it was you who announced it to us, and not we to you. Oh, how mad you are! For you told us the truth, and you want yourselves to taste a lie! Now you want to corrupt this truth, and make us see the opposite, saying that you chose Pope Urban from fear, which is not so; but anyone who says it — speaking to you without reverence, because you have deprived yourselves of reverence—lies up to his eyes. For it is evident to anyone who wished to see, who it is that you presented as your choice through fear—that was Messer di Santo Pietro. You might say tome, ‘‘ Why do you not believe us? We know the truth as to whom we chose better than you.” And I reply, that you yourselves have shown me that you deserted the truth in many ways, so that I ought not to believe you, that Pope Urban VI is not the true Pope. If I turn to the beginnings of your life, I do not recognize in you so good and holy a life that you would shrink from a lie for conscience’ sake. What shows me that your life is badly governed? ‘The poison of heresy. If I turn to the election ordained by your lips, we knew that you chose him canonically and not through fear. We have already said that he whom you presented to the people through fear was Messer di Santo Pietro. What proves to me the regular election with which you chose Messer Bartolommeo, Archbishop of Bari, who to-day is made in truth Pope Urban VI. ?

In the solemnity with which his coronation was observed, this truth is clear to us. That the solemnity was carried out in good faith is shown by the reverence which you gave him and the favours asked from him, which you have used in all sorts of ways. You cannot deny this truth except with plain lies.

Ah, foolish men, worthy of a thousand deaths! As blind, you do not see your own wrong, and have fallen into such confusion that you make of your own selves liars and idolaters. For even were it true (which it is not; nay, I assert again that Pope Urban VI. is the true Pope), but were it true what you say, would you not have lied to us when you told us that he was the highest pontiff, as he is? And would you not falsely have shown him reverence, adoring him for Christ on earth ? And would you not have practised simony, in trying for favours and using them unlawfully? Yes, indeed. Now they, and you with them, have made an antipope, as far as your action and outward appearance go, since you consented to remain on the spot, when the incarnate demons chose the demon!

You might say to me: ‘‘No, we did not choose him.” I do not know how I can believe that. For I do not believe that you could have borne to stay there otherwise, had you given your life for it; at least the fact that you suppressed the truth, and did not burst out with it — for this would not have been within your power—makes me inclined to think so. Although, perhaps, you did less wrong than the others in your intention, yet you did do wrong with all the rest. What can I say? I can say that he who is not for the truth is against the truth; he who was not at that time for Christ on earth, Pope Urban VI, was against him. ‘Therefore I tell you that you did wrong, with the antipope: and I may say that he was chosen a member of the devil; for had he been a member of Christ, he would have chosen death rather than consent to so great an evil, for he well knows the truth, and cannot excuse himself through ignorance. Now you have committed all these faults in regard to this devil: that is, to confess him as Pope, which he surely is not, and to show reverence to whom you should not. You have deserted the light, and gone into darkness: the truth, and joined you to a lie. On what side soever, I find nothing but lies. You are worthy of torture, which, I tell you in truth and unburden my conscience thereof, unless you return to obedience with true humility, will fall upon you.

O misery upon misery, and blindness upon blindness, which does not let its wrong be seen nor the loss to soul and body! For had you seen it, you would not have deserted the truth so lightly, in servile fear, passionate all, like proud people and arbitrary, accustomed to pleasant and soft dealings from men! You could not endure, not only an actual correction indeed, but even a harsh word of reproof made you lift up rebellious heads. This is the reason why you changed. And it clearly reveals the truth to us; for, before Christ on earth began to sting you, you confessed him and reverenced him as the Vicar of Christ that he is. But this last fruit that you bear, which brings forth death, shows what kind of trees you are; and that your tree is planted in the earth of pride, which springs from the self-love that robs you of the light of reason.

Oh me, no more thus for the love of God! ‘Take refuge in humbling you beneath the mighty hand of God, in obedience to His Vicar, while you have time; for when the time is passed there will be no more help for us. Recognize your faults, that you may be humble, and know the infinite goodness of God, who has not commanded the earth to swallow you up, nor beasts to devour you; nay, but has given you time, that you may correct your soul. But if you shall not recognize this, what He has given you as a grace shall turn to your great judgment. But if you will return to the fold, and feed in truth at the breast of the Bride of Christ, you shall be received in mercy, by Christ in heaven and by Christ on earth, despite the iniquity you have wrought. .I beg that you delay no more, nor kick against the prick of conscience that I know is perpetually stabbing you. And let not confusion of mind, over the evil that you have wrought, so overcome you, that you abandon your salvation in weariness and despair, as seeming unable to find help. Not so must you do; but in living faith, hold firm hope in your Creator, and return humbly to your yoke; for the last sin of obstinacy and despair would be the worst, and most hateful to God and the world. Arise, then, into the light! For without light you would walk in darkness, as you have done up to now.

My soul considering this, that we can neither know nor love the truth without light, I said and say that I desire intensely to see you arisen from darkness, and one with the light. This desire reaches out to all rational beings, but much more to you three, concerning whom I have had the greatest sorrow, and marvel more at your fault than at all the others who have shared it. For did all desert their father, you should have been such sons as strengthened the father, showing the truth. Notwithstanding that the father might have treated you with nothing but reproof, you ought not therefore to have assumed the lead, denying his holiness in any way. Speaking entirely in the natural sense—for according to virtue we ought all to be equal—speaking humanly, Christ on earth being an Italian, and you Italian, I see no reason but self-love why passion for your country could not move you as it did the Ultramontanes. Cast it to earth now, and do not wait for time, since time does not wait for you—trampling such selfishness underfoot, with hate of vice and love of virtue.

Return, return, and wait not for the rod of justice, since we cannot escape the hands of God! We are in His hands either by justice or by mercy ; better it is for us to recognize our faults and to abide in the hands of mercy, than to remain in fault and in the hands of justice. For our faults do not pass unpunished, especially those that are wrought against Holy Church. But I wish to bind myself to bear you before God with tears and continual prayer, and to bear with you your penitence, provided that you choose to return to your father, who like a true father awaits you with the open wings of mercy. Oh me, oh me, avoid and flee it not, but humbly receive it, and do not believe evil counsellors who have given you over to death! Oh me, sweet brothers! Sweet brothers and fathers you shall be to me, in so far as you draw close to truth. Make no more resistance to the tears and sweats which the servants of God shed for you, but wash you in them from head to foot. For did you despise them, and the eager sweet and grieving desires which are offered by them for you, you would receive much greater rebuke. Fear God, and His true judgment. I hope by His infinite goodness that He will fulfil in you the desire of His servants.

Let it not seem hard to you if I pierce you with the words which the love of your salvation has made me write: rather would I pierce you with my living voice, did God permit me. His will be done. And yet you deserve rather deeds than words. I come to an end, and say no more; for did I follow my will I should not yet pause, so full is my soul of grief and sorrow to see such blindness in those who were placed for a light: no lambs they, who feed on the food of the honour of God and the salvation of souls, and the reform of Holy Church ; but as thieves they steal the honour which they ought to give to God, and give it to themselves, and as wolves they devour the sheep, so that I have great bitterness. I beg you by love of that precious Blood shed with such fiery love for you, that you give refreshment to my soul, which seeks your salvation. I say no more to you. Remain in the holy and sweet grace of God: bathe you in the Blood of the Spotless Lamb, where you shall lose all servile fear, and enlightened, you shall abide in holy fear. Sweet Jesus, Jesus Love.

St. Catherine of Siena, p/c Ann Barnhardt