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The term Old Catholic Church originated with groups which separated from the Roman Catholic Church over certain doctrines, primarily concerned with Papal authority. These churches are not in full communion with the Holy See of Rome, but their Union of Utrecht of Old Catholic Churches is in full communion with the Anglican Communion and a member of the World Council of Churches. Nevertheless, according to Roman Catholic teaching, the Old Catholic churches of the Utrecht Union have maintained apostolic succession and valid (albeit illicit) sacraments. The formation of the Old Catholic communion of Germans, Austrians and Swiss began in 1870 at a public meeting held in Nuremberg under the leadership of Ignaz von Döllinger, following the First Vatican Council. Four years later episcopal succession was established with the consecration of an Old Catholic German bishop by a prelate of the Church of Utrecht. In line with the "Declaration of Utrecht" of 1889, they accept the first seven ecumenical councils and doctrine formulated before 1054, but reject communion with the pope and a number of other Roman Catholic doctrines and practices. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church notes that since 1925 they have recognized Anglican ordinations, that they have had full communion with the Church of England since 1932 and have taken part in the ordination of Anglican bishops.
The term "Old Catholic" was first used in 1853 to describe the members of the See of Utrecht who did not recognize any infallible papal authority. Later Catholics who disagreed with the doctrine of Papal Infallibility as made official by the First Vatican Council (1870) had no bishop and so joined with Utrecht to form the Union of Utrecht.
- 1 Beliefs
- 2 History
- 2.1 Church of Utrecht
- 2.2 Overview: three stages of separation from Roman Catholicism
- 2.3 Recent American attempts at unity
- 2.4 Numbers
- 3 Ecumenism
- 4 Apostolic succession
- 5 Liturgy
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 External links
- 9 Bibliography
- 10 Further reading
Old Catholic theology views the Eucharist as at the core of the Church. From that point the Church is a community of believers. All are in communion with one another around the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, as the highest expression of the love of God. Therefore, the celebration of the Eucharist is understood as the experience of the Christ's triumph over sin. The defeat of sin consists in bringing together that which is divided.
The Old Catholic Church believes in unity in diversity. As a result, more diversity of belief and practice is to be found among its churches than is characteristic of the Roman Catholic Church or the Eastern Orthodox churches. Old Catholics often refer to the Church Father St. Vincent of Lerins and his saying: "We must hold fast to that faith which has been believed everywhere, always, and by all the Faithful."
Church of Utrecht
Four disputes set the stage for an independent Bishopric of Utrecht: the Concordat of Worms, the First Lateran Council and Fourth Lateran Council, and the concession of Pope Leo X. In the 12th century, there occurred the Investiture Controversy where the Holy Roman Emperor and the Pope fought over who could appoint Bishops. In 1122, the Concordat of Worms was signed, making peace. The Emperor renounced the right to invest ecclesiastics with ring and crosier, the symbols of their spiritual power, and guaranteed election by the canons of cathedral or abbey and free consecration. The Emperor Henry V and Pope Calixtus II ended the feud by granting one another peace. The Concordat was confirmed by the First Council of the Lateran in 1123.
The Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 re-enforced the right of all Cathedral Chapters to elect their bishops. Philip of Burgundy, 57th Bishop of Utrecht (1517–1524), through a family connection with Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, secured a significant concession from Pope Leo X, granting internal autonomy in both church and temporal affairs for himself and his successors without interference from outside their jurisdictional region. This greatly promoted the independence of the See of Utrecht, so that no clergy or laity from Utrecht would ever be tried by a Roman tribunal.
Overview: three stages of separation from Roman Catholicism
Roman Catholicism's formal separation from Old Catholicism occurred over the issue of Papal authority. This separation occurred in The Netherlands in 1724, creating the first Old Catholic Church. The churches of Germany, Austria, Bohemia, and Switzerland created the Union of Utrecht after Vatican I (1871) over the Dogma of Papal Infallibility. By the early 1900s, the movement included England, Canada, Croatia, France, Denmark, Italy, America, the Philippines, China, and Hungary. The American affiliate of the Union of Utrecht until recently was the Polish National Catholic Church which ceased to belong to the Union in opposition to the ordination of women by other member churches.
Post-Reformation Netherlands: first stage
During the Protestant Reformation the Catholic Church was persecuted and the Holy See appointed an apostolic vicar to govern the bishop-less dioceses north of the Rhine and Waal. Protestants occupied most church buildings, and those remaining were confiscated by the government of the Dutch Republic of Seven Provinces, which favoured Calvinism.
The provinces that joined the political Union of Utrecht and revolted against Spanish rule persecuted the Catholic Church, confiscated Church property, expelled monks and nuns from convents and monasteries, and made it illegal to receive the Catholic sacraments. However, the Catholic Church did not die, rather priests and communities went underground. Groups would meet for the sacraments in the attics of private homes at the risk of arrest. Priests identified themselves by wearing all black clothing with very simple collars. All the episcopal sees of the area, including that of Utrecht, had fallen vacant by 1580, because the Spanish crown, which since 1559 had patronal rights over all bishoprics in the Netherlands, refused to make appointments for what it saw as heretical territories, and the nomination of an apostolic vicar was seen as a way of avoiding direct violation of the privilege granted to the crown. The appointment of an apostolic vicar, the first after many centuries, for what came to be called the Holland Mission was followed by similar appointments for other Protestant-ruled countries, such as England, which were likewise considered to have become mission lands. The disarray of the Catholic Church in the Netherlands between 1572 and about 1610 was followed by a period of expansion of Catholicism under the apostolic vicars, leading to shrill Protestant protests.
The initial shortage of Catholic priests in the Netherlands resulted in increased pastoral activity of religious clergy, among whom Jesuits formed a considerable minority, coming to represent between 10 and 15 percent of all the Dutch clergy in the 1600-1650 period. Conflicts arose between these and the apostolic vicars and the secular clergy In 1629, the priests were 321, 250 secular and 71 religious, with Jesuits at 34 forming almost half of the religious. By the middle of the 17th century the secular priests were 442, the religious 142, of whom 62 were Jesuits.
The fifth apostolic vicar of the Dutch Mission was Petrus Codde, appointed in 1688. In 1691, the Jesuits accused him of favouring the Jansenist heresy. Pope Innocent XII appointed a commission of cardinals to investigate the accusations - apparently violating the exemption granted in 1520. The commission concluded that the accusations were groundless.
In 1700 a new pope, Clement XI, summoned Codde to Rome in order to participate in the Jubilee Year, whereupon a second commission was appointed to try Codde. The result of this second proceeding was again acquittal. However, in 1701 Clement XI decided to suspend Codde and appoint a successor. The Church in Utrecht refused to accept the replacement and Codde continued in office until 1703, when he resigned.
After Codde's resignation, the Diocese of Utrecht elected Cornelius van Steenoven as bishop. After consultation with both canon lawyers and theologians in France and Germany, Dominique Marie Varlet (1678–1742), a Roman Catholic Bishop of the French Oratorian Society of Foreign Missions, ordained Bishop Steenoven. What had been de jure autonomous became de facto an independent Catholic Church. Van Steenoven appointed and ordained bishops to the sees of Deventer, Haarlem and Groningen. Although the pope was duly notified of all proceedings, the Holy See still regarded these dioceses as vacant due to papal permission not being sought. The pope, therefore, continued to appoint apostolic vicars for the Netherlands. Van Steenoven and the other bishops were excommunicated and thus began the Old Catholic Church in the Netherlands.
While the religious clergy remained loyal to Rome, three quarters of the secular clergy at first followed Codde, but by 1706 over two thirds of these returned to the Roman allegiance. Of the laity, the overwhelming majority sided with Rome. Thus most Dutch Catholics remained in full communion with the pope and with the apostolic vicars appointed by him. However, due to prevailing anti-papal feeling among the powerful Dutch Calvinists, the Church of Utrecht was tolerated and even praised by the government of the Dutch Republic.
In 1853 Pope Pius IX received guarantees of religious freedom from the Dutch King Willem II and established a Catholic  hierarchy, loyal to the pope, in the Netherlands. This existed alongside that of the Old Catholic See of Utrecht. Thereafter in the Netherlands the Utrecht hierarchy was referred to as the "Old Catholic Church" to distinguish it from those in union with the pope. In the mind of the Holy See, the Old Catholic Church of Utrecht had maintained apostolic succession and its clergy thus celebrated valid sacraments in every respect.[not in citation given] The Old Catholic Diocese of Utrecht was considered schismatic but not in heresy, but it is the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Utrecht that the Holy See sees as the continuation of the episcopal see founded in the 7th century and raised to metropolitan status on 12 May 1559.
Impact of the First Vatican Council: second stage
After the First Vatican Council (1869–1870), several groups of Austrian, German and Swiss Catholics rejected the solemn declaration concerning papal infallibility in matters of faith and morals and left to form their own churches. These were supported by the Old Catholic Archbishop of Utrecht, who ordained priests and bishops for them. Later the Dutch were united more formally with many of these groups under the name "Utrecht Union of Churches".
In the spring of 1871 a convention in Munich attracted several hundred participants, including Church of England and Protestant observers. The most notable leader of the movement, though maintaining a certain distance from the Old Catholic Church as an institution, was the renowned church historian and priest Johann Joseph Ignaz von Döllinger (1799–1890), who had been excommunicated by the pope because of his support for the affair.
The convention decided to form the "Old Catholic Church" in order to distinguish its members from what they saw as the novel teaching of papal infallibility in the Catholic Church. Although it had continued to use the Roman Rite, from the middle of the 18th century, the Dutch Old Catholic See of Utrecht had increasingly used the vernacular instead of Latin. The churches which broke from the Holy See in 1870 and subsequently entered into union with the Old Catholic See of Utrecht gradually introduced the vernacular into the Liturgy until it completely replaced Latin in 1877. In 1874 Old Catholics removed the requirement of clerical celibacy.
The Old Catholic Church in Germany received some support from the new German Empire of Otto von Bismarck, whose policy was increasingly hostile towards the Catholic Church in the 1870s and 1880s. In Austrian territories, pan-Germanic nationalist groups, like those of Georg Ritter von Schönerer, promoted the conversion to Old Catholicism or Lutheranism of those Catholics loyal to the Holy See.
United States: third stage
In 1908 the Archbishop of Utrecht Gerardus Gul, consecrated Father Arnold Harris Mathew, a former Catholic priest, as Regionary Bishop for England. His mission was to establish a community for Anglicans and Roman Catholics. During his time with the Old Catholics, Mathew attended the Old Catholic Congress in Vienna in 1909 as well as acted as co-consecrator of Archbishop Michael Kowalksi of the Mariavite Church in Poland. In 1910, Mathew left the Union of Utrecht over his allegation of their becoming more Protestant and called his church the "Old Roman Catholic Church."
In 1913, Arnold Harris Mathew consecrated Rudolph de Landas Berghes. At the beginning of World War I, Bishop de Berghes went to the United States at the suggestion of the Anglican Primate, the Archbishop of Canterbury. Berghes arrived in the United States on 7 November 1914, hoping to unite the various independent Old Catholic jurisdictions under Archbishop Mathew. Bishop de Berghes, in spite of his isolation, was able to plant the seed of Old Catholicism in the Americas. He consecrated a former Capuchin Franciscan priest as bishop: Carmel Henry Carfora. From this the Old Catholic Church in the United States evolved into local and regional self-governing dioceses and provinces along the design of St. Ignatius of Antioch - a network of Communities.
In the area of Green Bay, Wisconsin, Joseph René Vilatte began working with Catholics of Belgian ancestry and with the knowledge and blessing of the Union of Utrecht and under the full jurisdiction of the local Episcopal Bishop of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin—See C.B. Moss "The Old Catholic Movement" p. 291, middle paragraph]. Vilatte was ordained a deacon on 6 June 1885 and priest on 7 June 1885 by the Most Rev. Eduard Herzog, bishop of the Old Catholic Church of Switzerland. Vilatte's work provided the only sacramental presence in that particular part of rural Wisconsin [under the jurisdiction of the Episcopal Bishop of Fond du Lac, WI].
In time, Vilatte asked the Old Catholic Archbishop of Utrecht to be ordained a bishop so that he might confirm, but his petition was not granted because Utrecht recognized that a local Catholic Church already existed (i.e., the Episcopal Church). Vilatte sought opportunities for consecration in the Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Churches. He was made a bishop in India on the 28 May 1892 under the jurisdiction of the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch. Over the years, literally hundreds of people in the United States have come to claim apostolic succession from Vilatte; none is in communion with, nor recognised by, the Old Catholic See of Utrecht.
Polish National Catholic Church
The Polish National Catholic Church (PNCC) is no longer in communion with any other body; it is the largest of the Old Catholic communities in the United States. The Polish National Catholic Church began in the late 19th century over concerns about the ownership of church property and the domination of the U.S. church by Irish bishops. The church traces its apostolic succession directly to the Utrecht Union and thus possesses orders and sacraments which are recognised by the Holy See. In 2003 the church was voted out of the Utrecht Union due to Utrecht's acceptance of the ordination of women and open attitude towards homosexuality, both of which the Polish Church rejects.
Recent American attempts at unity
The only recognized group in America that is in communion with the Union of Utrecht is the Episcopal Church. However, there have been attempts among independent Catholic groups with recognized apostolic succession and an Old Catholic identity to begin discussions with the Union of Utrecht. These are listed in the sections below.
Conference of North American Old Catholic Bishops
With the PNCC no longer a member of the Union of Utrecht, the union's International Bishops Conference (IBC) asked the Episcopal Church - its ecumenical partner in the United States - to initiate discussions among various groups identifying as Old Catholics. The purpose was to find out how they identify as Old Catholics, their understanding of Old Catholic ecclesiology, and whether they ordain women.
The Episcopal Church, after having gathered this information, reported to the IBC the summary of the various experiences of those Old Catholic churches that responded. The report was given at the annual meeting of the IBC in August 2005. The IBC then asked the Episcopal Church to host a consultation of these American bishops. That consultation took place in May 2006, in Queens Village, New York. In attendance were observers from the Union of Utrecht.
One result of this consultation was the formation of the Conference of North American Old Catholic Bishops, a group dedicated to the formation of organic, tangible unity among American Old Catholics. The Episcopal bishop of West Virginia, liaison to the International Bishops Conference, who also attended the consultation, without an open dialogue with the Conference members or other viable Old Catholic jurisdictions, declared that there was not enough interest to form an American Old Catholic Church which could be a member of the Union of Utrecht. Many jurisdictions within the United States would like the Union to reconsider their decision but there is also a feeling that, given the different charisms, union might not be feasible.
Old Catholic Church, Province of the United States
On September 24, 2010, the members of the Conference of North American Old Catholic Bishops signed the Plan of Union, which created the Old Catholic Church, Province of the United States (TOCCUSA). This merger of the constituent members of the conference was a step forward in realizing the goal of creating a national church that patterns itself after the ecclesiology of the Union of Utrecht. The bishops of TOCCUSA recognize that full unity among Old Catholic jurisdictions is not yet accomplished. The bishops continue to invite Old Catholic bishops not yet a part of TOCCUSA to enter into dialogue, with the hopes that deeper unity may be accomplished. The Conference of Bishops itself still exists as an ecumenical arm of TOCCUSA and Old Catholic jurisdictions not able to unify themselves to TOCCUSA are encouraged to join the Conference of Bishops in order to foster greater cooperation.
Old Catholic Confederation of the United States
On February 16, 2013, the Old Catholic Confederation of the United States was officially established at the Old Catholic Oratory of St. Augustine in Philadelphia, which also initiated an Old Catholic Vicariate of priests within the Episcopal Church of the United States by the Right Rev. Rodney R. Michel, Assisting Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania, as its Episcopal Vicar. The Old Catholic Confederation has three national jurisdictions, including the Old Catholic Confederation of the United States, the Old Catholic Confederation of Italy and Malta and the Old Catholic Confederation of Great Britain and Ireland. There are several traditional, orthodox Old Catholic jurisdictions that are now a part of the Old Catholic Confederation of the United States, including the Italian National Catholic Archdiocese of the United States, the Old Catholic Diocese of Pennsylvania, the Old Catholic Diocese of New York and the Old Catholic Diocese of Missouri. The Ecumenical Catholic Church USA is now an ecumenical partner of the Confederation along with other orthodox jurisdictions. The Old Catholic Confederation regards itself as Western Orthodox and emphasizes its commitment to the ancient Church and its customs.
In 2013, it was reported there were 115,000 Old Catholic attendees and adherents in the world.
Immediately after forming the Union of Utrecht, the Old Catholic theologians dedicated themselves to a reunion of the Christian churches. The Conferences of Reunion in Bonn in 1874 and 1875 convoked by Johann von Döllinger, the leading personality of Old Catholicism, are famous. Representatives of the Orthodox, Anglican and Lutheran churches were invited. The aim was to discuss the denominational differences as the ground for restoring the church communion. The basic assumptions for participation were the following principles:
The acceptance of the Christological dogmata of Nicea and Chalcedon; Christ's foundation of the Church; the Holy Bible, the doctrine of the undivided Church and the Church fathers of the first ten centuries as the genuine sources of belief; and as criterion the famous sentence of St. Vincentius of Lerins: "id teneamus, quod ubique, semper et ab omnibus creditum est" (The true faith is what everywhere, always and by everybody has been believed) as a preferred method for historical research.
Reunion of the churches had to be based on a re-actualization of the decisions of faith made by the undivided Church. In that way the original unity of the Church could be made visible again. Following these principles, later bishops and theologians of the Old Catholic churches stayed in contact with (Russian) Orthodox and Anglican representatives.
Old Catholic involvement in the multilateral ecumenical movement formally began with the participation of two bishops, from the Netherlands and Switzerland, at the Lausanne Faith and Order (F&O) conference (1927). This side of ecumenism has always remained a major interest for Old Catholics who have never missed an F&O conference. Old Catholics also participate in other activities of the WCC and of national councils of churches. By its active participation in the ecumenical movement since its very beginning then, the OCC demonstrates its belief in the necessity of the continuation of this work.
Old Catholicism values apostolic succession by which they mean both the uninterrupted laying on of hands by bishops through time and the continuation of the whole life of the church community by word and sacrament over the years and ages. Old Catholics consider apostolic succession to be the handing on of belief in which the whole Church is involved. In this process the ministry has a special responsibility and task, caring for the continuation in time of the mission of Jesus Christ and his Apostles.
Christ-Catholic Swiss bishop Urs Küry dismissed the Roman Catholic dogma of transubstantiation as well as consubstantiation because these Scholastic interpretations presume to explain the Eucharist using the metaphysical concept of "substance". Like the Orthodox and Methodist approaches to the Eucharist, Old Catholics, he says, ought to accept an unexplainable divine mystery as such and should not cleave to or insist upon a particular theory of the sacrament.
Because of this approach, Old Catholics hold an open view to most issues, including the role of women in the Church, the role of married people within ordained ministry, the morality of same sex relationships, the use of conscience when deciding whether to use artificial contraception, and liturgical reforms such as open communion. Its liturgy has not significantly departed from the Tridentine Mass, as is shown in the translation of the German altar book (missal).
In 1994 the German bishops decided to ordain women as priests and put this into practice on 27 May 1996. Similar decisions and practices followed in Austria, Switzerland and the Netherlands. The Utrecht Union allows those who are divorced to have a new religious marriage and has no particular teaching on abortion, leaving such decisions to the married couple.
An active contributor to the Declaration of the Catholic Congress, Munich, 1871 and all later assemblies for organization was Johann Friedrich von Schulte, the professor of dogma at Prague. Von Schulte summed up the results of the congress as follows:
- adherence to the ancient Catholic faith;
- maintenance of the rights of Catholics as such;
- rejection of the new dogmas,
- adherence to the constitutions of the ancient Church with repudiation of every dogma of faith not in harmony with the actual consciousness of the Church;
- reform of the Church with constitutional participation of the laity;
- preparation of the way for reunion of the Christian confessions;
- reform of the training and position of the clergy;
- adherence to the State against the attacks of Ultramontanism;
- rejection of the Society of Jesus;
- solemn assertion of the claims of Catholics as such to the real property of the Church and to the title to it.
- Liberal Catholic Movement
- Independent Catholic Churches
- King's Family of Churches
- Liberal Catholic
- Episcopi vagantes
- Willibrord Society
- German Catholics
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|Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article Old Catholics.|
Union of Utrecht
- Union of Utrecht of The Old Catholic Churches
- Old-Catholic Church of the Netherlands
- Catholic Diocese of the Old Catholics in Germany
- Old-Catholic Church of Switzerland
- Old-Catholic Church of Austria
- Old-Catholic Church of the Czech Republic
- Polish National Catholic Church
- Old-Catholic Church of Slovakia
Union of Utrecht dependent churches
- Old-Catholic Mission in France and Fraternité St Vincent de Lérins
- Old-Catholic Mission in Italy
- Old-Catholic Mission in Sweden and Denmark
- "Old Catholics". New International Encyclopedia. 1905.
- Diocese of St. Benedict Old Catholic Church, (No relation to the Union of Utrecht)
- The Old Catholic Church, Province of the United States (No relation to the Union of Utrecht)
- Conference of North American Old Catholic Bishops (No relation to the Union of Utrecht)
- Columbus Community of Charity Independent Old Catholic Church (No relation to the Union of Utrecht)
- Holy Redeemer Old Catholic Church (No relation to the Union of Utrecht)
- Old Catholic Communion of North America (No relation to Union of Utrecht)
The Old Catholic Church in the United Kingdom (No relation to Union of Utrecht) www.oldcatholicchurchuk.com
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