Palmarian Catholic Church: Rules and History

Palmarian Catholic Church: Rules and History
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  • 0:02 The Palmarian Church
  • 1:01 Origins
  • 1:52 Schism
  • 2:54 Beliefs
  • 5:13 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

The Palmarian Church is one of the more controversial religious bodies in Europe today. In this lesson, we're going to explore the history and ideology behind this institution and examine its relationship with mainstream Christianity.

The Palmarian Church

It's no secret that the Catholic Church has seen a few rifts in its history. The German priest Martin Luther famously published 95 complaints against Catholicism in 1517, thus starting Protestant Christianity. In 1387, there were actually three different men who claimed to be the rightful Pope, resulting in the Western Schism. In 1054, the Great Schism broke the Roman and Byzantine Churches apart. Catholicism has had its share of conflict, but we assume that most of those schisms occurred in the past. We don't, for example, typically associate that concept with the era of disco.

The Palmarian Church is a schismatic sect of Catholicism that broke from the Roman Catholic Church in the late 1970s. Centered in the Spanish village of El Palmar de Troya, the Palmarian Church insists that it is the true Catholic authority, backed by very conservative values and practices. It's a modern schism, one that continues to this day.


The origins of the Palmarian Church date back to 1968, when some schoolgirls in the southern Spanish region of Andalucía claimed to have discovered an apparition of the Virgin Mary on a tree near El Palmar de Troya. Many people in the area came to see the apparition, including an insurance broker from Seville named Clemente Domínguez y Gómez.

While the local bishop rejected the validity of the apparition, Domínguez continued to believe and amassed a small following of those who agreed. His reputation as the leader of this movement stemmed largely from the fact that he claimed the Virgin Mary had appeared to him, commanding him to purge the Catholic Church of heresy, progressivism, and communism. To fulfill this charge, Domínguez founded in 1975 the Order of the Carmelites of the Holy Face, a religious order devoted to the apparition of the Virgin.


When the Carmelites of the Holy Face, also known as Palmarians, were founded, the Catholic Church was undergoing a massive reform movement led by Pope Paul VI. The ultra-conservative Palmarians saw Paul VI as the right man to save Catholicism and supported him vigorously. The feeling wasn't entirely reciprocated. Domínguez couldn't find anyone in Europe who would consecrate him as a bishop, so he found a Vietnamese archbishop who would. That archbishop, Ngo Dinh Thuc, would later be excommunicated by Pope John Paul II, partly for ordaining too many unqualified bishops and priests.

For Domínguez, however, the title was all he needed. When Pope Paul VI died in 1978, Domínguez claimed that Jesus Christ had come to him in a vision and crowned him the new pope of the Catholic Church. The Palmarians immediately put their loyalty in Domínguez, who took the name Gregory XVII. With that, the Palmarians had formally separated themselves from the Roman Catholic Church. The Palmarian Church was founded.


To this day, the Palmarian Church insists that it is the true Catholic authority in the world, and that the Pope in Rome is a pretender and heretic. The Palmarian Church does recognize the legitimacy of almost every Roman Catholic pope up through Paul VI, but none after. Unsurprisingly, the Palmarian Church, and all of its leaders, have been excommunicated by the Church in Rome.

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