The strange case of “His Eminence” Bell – ‘Archbishop of London’!

A tough clash has broken out between the Bishop of Fiesole and Leo XIII’s “Tridentine” congregation, whose superior, the “Archbishop of London”, is not in communion with the Roman Catholic Church and is cursing

Andrea Tornielli (Vatican Insider)
vatican city

Monsignor Bell with the Pope

Monsignor Bell with the Pope

The media often report on news to do with the negotiations between the Holy See and the Society of St. Pius X, founded by Mgr. Lefebvre, who in his lifetime only consecrated four bishops without a papal mandate, in 1988. Their excommunication was lifted by Benedict XVI in January 2009. Even less is said or known about the hundreds – some say a thousand – of “episcope vagantes” wandering around the world: bishops who have been illicitly consecrated as Christian bishops and who thus have apostolic succession but are not in communion with the Pope and as such are formally schismatic.

The Diocese of Fiesole has come under the spotlight in recent weeks because its Bishop, Mario Meini issued a decree for the dissolution of the private association of faithful, the “Clarisse del Cuore Immacolato di Maria” (Clares of the Immaculate Heart of Mary), a new monastic community founded in 2008 and based in the convent of St. Francis, in San Giovanni Val d’Arno, Italy, offered by the Franciscans.

The decree outlines the gripes of faithful and Franciscans and refers to real estate projects that have “raised a great deal of confusion.”The nun’s collaborators have responded by presenting a letter signed by Bishop Meini, himself, in which authorises them to help the new community. They say the real reasons for the dispute are quite different and are to do with affairs relating to the diocesan clergy.

What really brought the case into the limelight was the hospitality the nuns showed to Bishop David Bell – who uses the title “Eminence”, reserved for cardinals, referring to himself also as “Archbishop of London” – superior of the Roman Catholic Society of Pope Leo XIII, a traditionalist group that celebrates the Tridentine Mass and has numerous bishops (at least twenty of which were consecrated by Bell himself).

The “Archbishop of London” celebrated a diaconal ordination in the monastery of San Giovanni Val d’Arno, conferred the Orders to two Italians: Michael Upmann (journalist and spokesman for Leo XIII in Italy) and Antonio Fabbroni.
Both were apparently also ordained priests later on by the congregation’s superior.

Bishop Meini responded almost immediately. After verifying with the Vatican Secretariat of State and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he issued a communiqué stating that Bell is not a Catholic bishop in communion with Rome, quoting the words of the former Holy Office. He pointed out that Bell has “committed a schismatic act” and that both he and the two ordained priests have incurred excommunication.

Bishop Meini’s communiqués do not question the validity of “Mr. David Bell’s” Episcopal ordination but recall that it does not constitute communion with the Pope. London also sent an immediate, sour and tough response, saying that in the space of a few hours “Archbishop” Bell has indeed prepared a “curse” against Bishop Meini, asking God to “forgive his mistakes,” reeling off the Council of Trent Canons on the validity of Episcopal ordination. Just to add to this, Bell put down on paper his conviction that Messini was a bad bishop “who wears the mitre of Satan.”

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 [Editor: It should be the First, the mistake was made by Vatican Insider Staff and without being detected, being copied here, mistake corrected thanks to a reader’s comment, see the comment thread] 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.

The images of “His Eminence the Archbishop of London David Bell” before Benedict XVI aim to show that the bishops of the Society of Pope Leo XIII are Catholics and Romans and faithful to the Pope. The website also publishes Bell’s papal blessing certificate, which any Catholic can obtain from the Office of Papal Charities or from certified shops around St. Peter’s. But one only need take a quick look at the documents published on the congregation’s international website to realise that its bishops are not in communion with Rome.

Vatican Insider spoke both to the abbess of the monastery of San Giovanni in Val d’Arno, Sister Maria Michela (Elisabetta Negra) and to the spokesman for the Italian branch of the Society of Pope Leo XIII, Michael Upmann. Both spoke of “direct and continuous contact with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei.”

In particular, Upmann underlined that the specific constitutions of the Society’s Italian branch, which was founded by Bell and has new headquarters in the city of Bologna, are completely faithful to Catholic doctrine and obedient to the Pope. “A process is underway – Upmann explained – and Archbishop Bell has asked to enter into communion with Rome. We intend to submit ourselves to the Pope’s authority.” The congregation therefore hopes to obtain canonical recognition. “Benedict XVI’s meeting with Bell and other bishops of the congregation – the Society’s spokesman concluded – was not a coincidence; it was planned.”

But if the Society wants to submit itself to the Pope’s authority and enter into communion with the Roman Catholic Church, it certainly has a funny way of showing it, going ahead and celebrating illicit Episcopal, priestly and diaconal ordinations and attacking legitimate diocesan bishops who in accordance with the Code of Canon Law forbid these celebrations, warning faithful not to participate in them.

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18 Responses to The strange case of “His Eminence” Bell – ‘Archbishop of London’!

  1. JessicaHof says:

    If this man has incurred excommunication, what is the problem from the point of view of the Church? For a poor non-Catholic this is all very puzzling.


  2. Sixupman says:

    Also remember that many CofE bishops, in order to claim and continue direct lineage, take further consecration from such as those mentioned, “Old Catholics” and the like.


  3. Toppie says:

    “the dogma of papal infallibility imposed by the Second Vatican Council” – have I misread this ? What do you mean ?

    Vatican 2 was not a dogmatic Council.


  4. vincent says:

    Bishop David is a valid Roman Catholic bishop.


  5. Aloysius says:

    Bishop David is a valid ‘bishop’, but he is ilicit. He is schismatic, and excommunicated. He is not a Roman Catholic Cardinal. Where is his cathedral church? does he have any churches in England?


  6. The Raven says:

    The whole ICAB thing is very sad: what began as a justifiable identification with the poor became schism and deviation from the teaching of the Church.

    David Bell may well have received valid orders from Luis Fernando Castillo Mendez and may well have been validly consecrated to the order of bishops, but the schismatic act of consecrating a bishop without the assent of the Holy See renders the consecration illicit and both Mendez and Bell incurred automatic excommunication by committing this schismatic act.

    Although Bell is under the ban of excommunication and his acts lack the authority of the Church, he has the capacity to confuse and to lead astray. It is this capacity to sow confusion that alarms the Church so profoundly about these “vagantes”.

    There is a good example on this thread: Vincent is clearly misled by Bell – even if Bell is a bishop, he is not a Roman Catholic bishop because he is not in communion with the Holy Father.


  7. 2012melchior says:

    “Vincent” is, from previous similar writings under all sorts of names, quite likely to be the aforesaid ‘Bishop’ David Bell – as he is very, very quick to personally respond to any posts attacking his personally perceived authority or legitimacy.


  8. The Raven says:

    Thank you for the heads-up Melchior, although I don’t think that we were intending to attack David Bell, merely wishing to point out the strangeness that the status of these “vagantes” can bring about.

    I just pray that Our Lord will grant David Bell and his followers the grace to embrace orthodoxy and communion with the Holy Father.


  9. No Catholic bishop would describe himself as a ‘Roman’ Catholic, a term invented by those who pretend that there is more than one valid brand of Catholicism.


  10. Edson says:

    David Bell is NOT a validly nor illicitly orddained bishop. The Bishop of Brentwood in England made a public statement warning the faithful about him pretending to be a RC. He was ordained in the Brazilian National Catholic Church a sect founded in the 1940’s. Their celebrations of sacraments are not accepted by the RC Church not even is their celebration of baptism accepted as vaild – it is accepted as “nul and void” and is repeated in the absolute form should he become a catholic.


  11. Edson says:

    I was in the library of CNBB (the Roman Catholic National Conference of 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 made notes and noted specific details relevant to the Bell case, translating the more important parts into 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 President 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). So imagine if the Roman Ctaholic Church does not even accept the most basic scrament of baptism administrated by the brazilian nation catholic churches as valid not even illicit but NULL!

    Later on the article mentions that Pope Paul VI signed the Directive saying that ordinations of the brazilian churches are ‘ greatly dubious’! Everyone knows that in Dogmatic theology a ‘dubious’ sacrament not to mention a ‘greatly dubious’ sacrament is presumed as an INvalid sacrament, the safer course of action is always beginning 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.
    I hope this helps clear the matter up- with the straight forward facts!


  12. James Atkinson-Wake says: I understand that as from today 5th of November 2012, Mr David Bell is officially excommunicated and all of his ordinations are null and void.


  13. I am a little concerned; and perhaps alarmed; by the last post by this person James Atkinson-Wake. If many of you have not researched this man Bell; as I have been given cause to recently; you will not know that James Atkinson-Wake is the ‘other’ name that David Bell is known by, Prior to being David Bell, this man using the name James Atkinson-Wake, used the ‘title’ ‘archbishop of Cambridge’. It would also seem from research, that it was under the name of Atkinson-Wake that he was ‘ordained’ into the Brazilian Catholic Church; who are in schism with our beloved Holy Roman Catholic Church, which in turn means that any ‘society’ run by this man; under whatever name he chooses to run it under; is also a schismatic one. It was also under the name of James Atkinson-Wake; and can be confirmed by the security surrounding the Holy See; that this man was held by the Papal Security and handed over to the Italian Police for ‘impersonating a Catholic Archbishop’. It was also; it appears; under the name of Atkinson-Wake, that this man(now known as David Bell) ‘married’ twice, firstly to a David Glen Atkinson-Wake; according to the web information this civil ceremony took place in Chesterfield; and then later to a Martin Lee; and this civil ceremony according to web info took place in Gretna Green. Apparently David Bell took his first ‘husbands’ name during the partnership; and it must have been around this time Atkinson-Wake/Bell aligned himself with the Brazilian Catholic Church, as it was as Atkinson-Wake the it appears these ‘ordination’ papers were issued in. How they remained ‘valid’ once he; apparently; reverted to his ‘supposed’ birth name of David Bell is a question only this man can answer; because none of them or him or his society will ever be ‘valid’ in the eyes of the Holy See or our beloved Roman Catholic Church. The reason Atkinson-/wake/Bell aligned himself; and his silly little society; to the Brazilian Church was because it not only ‘accept’ gay priests/bishops, but also accepted the ‘marriage’ of said priests/bishops. Does this man James Atkinson-Wake really believe; to those of us who know who he really is; that by now ‘publicly’ on here ‘announcing’ that “Mr Bell is officially excommunicated and all of his ordinations are null and void”; we will ‘believe’ this statement. Those of us who have VALID ordinations of the Sacrament into the priesthood with the One Holy True Roman Catholic Church, will be very aware, that, this man Bell; or whatever name he chooses; has NEVER been ‘valid’ in the eyes of our beloved Roman Catholic Church, and all our Blessed Pope has confirmed; in the ‘letter’ we are sent a link to; is that which we are already aware of, Bell’s/Atkinson_Wake’s ‘society’ never has, nor with the Grace of God, never will be accepted as ‘valid. My main concern and worry here is, that by ‘denouncing’ Bell; and giving the link as proof; is that Bell will try and use another pseudonym to keep either this ‘society’ running, or begin running another schismatic society; with his new name; and try to – once again – to align himself to our beloved Roman Catholic Church. Whichever ‘door’ he tries to ‘enter’ under, we who are truly Blessed to have a true vocation within the Holy Roman Catholic Church, must keep prayers flowing that this man under whatever guise does not enter in. After all the research I’ve done; and all I’ve found out about this man; I truly believe this is ‘satan dressing in the Lamb’s clothes’ to try to enter and destroy the Blessedness of Our One True Church. I ask all of you, who are truly in communion with the Roman Catholic Church, to perhaps do your own research so you can see who this man really is. For those of you who cannot perhaps find this information, if I have sight of your e-mail addresses I will willingly furnish you with what I have found. I leave you in the Love and Blessings of Our Lord Jesus Christ.


  14. Jonathan says:

    If it isn’t too much trouble, I need help from Edson and Christy Genesis and other if possible concerning this topic. I would like it if you gave me sources for your claims about Bell and the ICAB and, if possible, pictures of documents you mention. Basically, I’d like to see your research on this.

    The reason I am asking is because Bell “consecrated” Ramzi as bishop in 2009, who is now the archbishop of the Arabic Catholic Church of the East. He started an Anglican Rite with an Anglican priest whom I know. I am worried for my friends who are in that rite and wish to seek ordination by him. Thanks and God Bless.


  15. Dearly Beloved Jonathan, I was asked about this man Bell and his ‘society’ by one of my parishioners, who became quite ‘disturbed’ about this man Bell. They have friends and relatives in an area close to where Bell is living with his ‘husband’ Martin Lee. Some of these friends appear to have been ‘confused’ into believing Bell was who he claimed, but then became ‘concerned’ about such ‘validity’ when they ‘witnessed’ some of his ‘attitudes’ towards his fellow man; apparently he swears quite profusely when angry, and this seemed to be quite often in relation to some people who lived near him. These friends of my parishioner then decided to ‘distance’ themselves from Bell, but were left ‘concerned’ that some other friends were still of the belief he was ‘valid’ and were even contemplating ‘joining’ this man Bell’s ‘society’; perhaps even as ‘bishops’. When I began ‘researching’ this man Bell, I too found I was extremely ‘troubled’ by what I found. Bell was originally ‘ordained’ by Mendez of the Brazilian Catholic Church, is a schismatic church not recognised by the Holy See in Rome; nor any of it’s faithful ordained or not. I got much of my ‘information’ to go ‘hunting’ from the ‘Catholic Answers Forum’, but this ‘question’ and blog is no longer available. However, I did ‘copy’ much of the blog from there. I also found information on the ‘Valle Adurni’ Church news-site, but this was also ‘shut down’ because; in the words of Leo – possibly admin; this ‘society’ “looked to be a very strange organisation”. I also managed to print a copy of the blogs on this site about Bell; before it was deleted; and also a copy of the comments by this man Leo. I also found information on this site; Vatican Insider; which gave more ‘pointers’ for my research. During this research, I was ‘directed’ to such places as wikipedia, and this is where I got ‘confirmation’ of Bell’s present address, his now ‘husband’ Martin Lee, information about a previous civil ceremony in Chesterfield to a David Glen Atkinson-Wake; performed by a Rev Pam Haynes, who runs Pink Weddings with her ‘wife’. If you contact me at, I will be able to ‘furnish’ you with some of these copies. This man Bell; formerly using the name James Atkinson-Wake; now resides with his ‘husband’ Martin Lee in Castle Gresley, Swadlincote, and area of South Derbyshire. Also; on checking; this man Bell DOES NOT actually have any churches owned in any way by this ‘society’ of his, and apparently Bell ‘borrows’ Churches; not just from the Roman Catholic Church’s pool; to utilise for his ‘ceremonies; such as ordination, baptism, with funerals I understand ‘performed’ at local crematoriums. Someone who attends a CofE Church in Swadlincote, was told that Bell asked to ‘borrow’ the local CofE building for a ‘sevice’,but this was duly refused. I’m sure if you look up the nearest CofE Vicar closest to Bell; who lives in Foxfield; this can be confirmed to you; and if not the closest they may be able to confirm which building he asked to ‘borrow’. It was also asked; on wikipedia, “was the excommunication of David Bell also know as James Atkinson-Wake by Patriarch Mendez of Icab in 2007 for deception ever actually revoked?” If this statement is actually true; and would then give ‘weight’ to the Patriarch’s niece saying that Bell’s ‘actions’ were “such unchristian evil acts”. Bell also has ‘nuns’ in his ‘society’, and one such ‘nun’ actually made news headlines; in a local paper; because she was engaged; possibly now married; to a ‘lifer’ in an American Jail. The ‘nuns’ name is Julie Cottingham; apparently she took the finance’s surname so I do not know her ‘original’ surname; and on looking up this ‘fiancé/husband of this ‘nun’ I was amazed to find that not only is Dante Cottingham a SIR; knighted by one James Atkinson-Wake – copy of the ‘certificate of knighthood is posted on this Dante’s blog; but this Dante ‘runs’ a group called ” Advocates for Abandoned Adolescents, and it’s patron is none other than one David Bell! CBCP News also had an article about the ‘Vatican warning’ about Bell’s schismatic Group. On the blog for Valle Adurni; I think; there was also information in relation to Bell from a finbar_the_scot, who must have been ‘close to Bell/Lee at one time; possibly one of the ‘bishops’; as he claims to have a copy of Bell’s ‘marriage certificate’ when he married Martin Lee under the name James Atkinson-Wake; and apparently Martin took the name Martin James Atkinson-Wake Lee; whilst in another blog comment, ‘finbar states that one of Bell’s neighbours was a ‘witness’ to the ceremony, and this neighbour provided a ‘witness’ statement for this ‘union’ of which finbar also has sight of. I don’t know what is required of a ‘same-sex’ civil partnership ceremony, but for a marriage in Church; and at the Registry Office; no ‘witness’ statement is required. If you want sight of any of these ‘documents’ please contact me via my e-mail address, and I will gladly give these to you. I leave you in the Blessings of Our Lord Jesus Christ.


  16. Jenny Wilson says:

    I realise this comment comes late, but: Bell (aka Atkinson-Wake) was first ordained deacon and priest by John Christopher Simmons, a London-based episcopus vagens. When Bell apporached ICAB they didn’t recognise his Simmons ordinations, and re-ordained Bell and his partner, known as David Atkinson-Wake, up to Bishop. They were also both united in a same-sex marriage by a lesbian minister called Rev. Pam Haines. Luis Fernando Castillo Mendez, furthermore, also a lifelong homosexual, procured priestly ordination by deception aged 21 in Spain, and the Diocese of Salsona denies knowledge his ordination. Bell was also excommunicated by ICAB a year or two after his episcopal ordination, apparently for deceitful actions.


  17. Christy Genesis says:

    Dear Blessed Sister in Christ Jenny,

    Many thanks for the information posted in response to a blog in the ‘*Catholicism Pure & Simple’ relating to Bell (Atkinson-Wake). This info was forwarded to my e-mail address, and confirms the findings of my research that this man is; as stated by many on these blogs; a ‘charlatan and a fake. Those of us who belong to the One True Church, must continue to share all the information we find confirming this man as ‘totally false/fake’, and allowing the those protecting the Holy See and Our Church from allowing such charlatans to enter amongst us.

    * *I leave you with the Blessings of Our Lord Jesus Christ. God Bless you my child.

    * *Christy Genesis. *


  18. John Unther says:

    Harold don’t you have anything better to do?


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