HISTORICAL NOTE ON THE OLD CATHOLIC CHURCHES

OLD CATHOLICISM

Historic Documents

From: The Encyclopedia of American Religions: Religious Creeds (1st Edition)
 
Notes: As a result of the Roman Catholic Church's adoption of the doctrine of papal infallibility as dogma at the First Vatican Council in 1870, many members in continental Europe left the Roman jurisdiction and formed the Old Catholic Church. They felt that the Roman Catholic Church had departed from traditional Catholic faith.  The Old Catholic position was spelled out in a series of documents: the so-called Founeen Theses issued by the Old Catholic Union Conference of 1874; the statement on thefiloque clause in the Nicene Creed issued in 1875; and the Declaration of Utrecht (Holland), issued in 1889. An English translation of the latter was made in 1930 and printed that year in the Repon of the Lambeth Conference  (Anglican).  The Old Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion have enjoyed many years of cordial relationship. .· . . (page 7).

Notes: In England, the Old Catholic Church was founded by Arnold Harris Matthew. In 1911, Matthew was able to work out a doctrinal statement that led to the reception into communion of his jurisdiction by the Antiochian Orthodox Church in Lebanon under Archbishop Jerassimqs Messara. (p.10)


THE FOURTEEN THESES OF THE OLD CATHOLIC UNION CONFERENCE
BONN,  GERMANY  1874

I.     We agree that the apocryphal or deutero-canonical books of the Old Testament are not of the same                       canonicity as the books contained in the Hebrew Canon.

II.    We agree that no translation of Holy Scripture can claim an authority superior to that of the original text.

III.   We agree that the reading of Holy Scripture in the vulgar tongue can not be lawfully forbidden.

IV.   We agree that, in general, it is more fitting, and in accordance with the spirit of the Church, that the Liturgy         should be in the tongue understood by the People.

V.     We agree that Faith working by Love, not Faith without Love, is the means and condition of Man's                          justification before God.

VI.    Salvation cannot be merited by "merit of condignity", because there is no proportion between the infinite             worth of salvation promised by God and the finite worth of man's works.


VII.   We agree that the doctrine of "opera superogationis" and of a "thesaurus metirorum sanctorum", i.e. , that              the overflowing merits of the Saints can be transferred to others, either by the rulers of the Church, or by             the authors of the good works themselves, is untenable.

 VIII. 1.  We acknowledge that the number of sacraments was fixed at seven, first in the twelfth century, and then           was received into the general teaching of the Church, not as a tradition coming down from the Apostles or           from the earliest times, but as a result of theological speculation.


          2.  Catholic theologians acknowledge, and we acknowledge with them, that Baptism and the Eucharist are             "principalia, praecipus, extimia salutis nostrae sacramenta."

 IX.    1. the Holy Scriptures being recognized as the primary rule of Faith, we agree that the genuine tradition, i.e., the unbroken transmission partly oral, partly in writing of the doctrine delivered by Christ and the Apostles is an authoritative  source of teaching  for all successive generations of Christians. This tradition is partly to be found in the consensus of the great ecclesiastical bodies standing in historical continuity with the primitive Church, partly to be gathered by scientific method from the written documents of all centuries.

          2.  We acknowledge that the Church of England, and the Churches derived through her, have maintained unbroken the Episcopal succession.


X.  We reject the new Roman doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, as being contrary to the tradition of the first thirteen centuries, according to which Christ alone is conceived without sin.

XI.  We agree that the practice of confession of sins before the congregation or a Priest, together with the exercise of the power of the keys, has come down to us from the primitive Church, and that, purged from abuses and free from constraint, it should be preserved in the Church.

 XII. We agree that "indulgences" can only refer to penalties actually imposed by the Church herself.

 XIII. We acknowledge that the practice of the commemoration of the faithful  departed,  i.e., the calling down of a richer outpouring of Christ's grace upon them,  has come down to us from the primitive Church, and is to be preserved in the Church.

 X1V.   1. The Eucharistic celebration  in the Church  is not a continuous  repetition  or renewal of the propitiatory sacrifice offered once for ever by Christ upon the cross; but its sacrificial character consists in this, that it is the permanent memorial of it, and a representation and presentation on earth of  that one oblation of  Christ for the salvation of redeemed mankind, which according to the Epistle of the Hebrews (9:11,12), is continuously presented in heaven by Christ, who now appears in the presence of God for us (9:24).

            2.  While this is the character of the Eucharist, it is also a sacred feast wherein the faithful, receiving the Body  and Blood of our Lord,  have communion  one with another (I Cor. 10:17).




 

 THE OLD CATHOLIC AGREEMENT ON THE FILIOQUE CONTROVERSY

1875

 

 

We agree in accepting the ecumenical symbols and the decisions in matters of faith of the ancient undivided Church.

 

We agree in acknowledging that the addition Filioque to the symbol  did  not take place in an ecclesiastically regular manner.

 

We give our unanimous assent to the presentation of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit as taught by the fathers of the undivided Church.

 

We accept the teachings of St. John of Damascus concerning the Holy Spirit, as it is expressed in the following paragraphs, in the sense of the doctrine of the ancient undivided Church .

 

The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father as the beginning, the cause, the fountain of the Godhead.

 

The Holy Spirit proceeds not from the Son, because in the Godhead there is only one beginning, one cause by which all that is in the Godhead is produced.

 

The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son.

 

The Holy Spirit is the image of the Son (as the Son is the image of the Father), proceeding from the Father, and resting in the Son as the power shining forth from him.

 

The Holy Spirit is the personal production out of the Father, belonging to the Son, but not out of the mouth of the Godhead which pronounces the Word.

 

The Holy Spirit forms the mediation between the Father and the Son, and is, through the Son, united with the Father.

 

We reject every representation and every form of expression in which is contained the acceptance of two principles, or beginnings, or causes, in the Trinity.


THE DECLARATION OF UTRECHT 1889

 

 

We adhere faithfully to the Rule of Faith laid down by St. Vincent of Lerins in these terms: "Id teneamus, quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est; hoc est eternim vere proprieque catholicum". For this reason we persevere in professing the faith of the primitive Church, as formulated in the ecumenical symbols and specified precisely by the unanimously accepted decisions of the Ecumenical Councils head in the undivided Church of the first thousand years.

 

We therefore reject the decrees of the so-called Council of the Vatican, which were promulgated July 18, 1870, concerning the infallibility and the universal episcopate of the Bishop of Rome -- decrees which are in contradiction with the faith of the ancient Church and which destroy its ancient canonical constitution by attributing to the Pope all the plenitude of ecclesiastical powers over all dioceses and over all the faithful. By denial of his primatial jurisdiction we do not wish to deny the historic primacy which several ecumenical councils and the Fathers of the ancient Church have attributed to the Bishop of Rome by recognizing him as the Primus inter pares.

 

We also reject the dogma of the Immaculate Conception promulgated by  Pope Pius IX in 1854 in defiance of the Holy Scriptures and in contradiction of the first centuries.

 

As for encyclicals published by the Bishops of Rome in recent times, for example, the Bulls, "Unigenitus" and "Auctorem.fidei" and the Syllabus of 1864, we reject them on all such points as are in contradiction with the doctrine of the primitive Church, and we do not recognize them as binding on the consciences of the faithful. We also renew the ancient protests of the Catholic Church of Holland against the errors of the Roman Curia, and against its attacks upon the rights of national churches.

 

We refuse to accept the decrees of the Council of Trent in matters of discipline,  and as for the dogmatic decisions of that Council, we accept them only so far as they are in harmony with the teaching of the primitive Church.

 

Considering that the Holy Eucharist has always been the true central point of Catholic worship, we consider it our duty to declare that we maintain with perfect fidelity the ancient Catholic doctrine concerning the Sacrament of the Altar, by believing that we receive the Body and the Blood of our Savior Jesus Christ under the species of bread and wine. The Eucharistic celebration in the Church is neither a continual repetition nor a renewal of the expiatory  sacrifice which Jesus offered once for all upon the Cross,  and it is the act by which we represent upon earth and appropriate to ourselves the one offering which jesus Christ makes in heaven, according to the Epistle to the Hebrews, 9:11-12, for the salvation of redeemed humanity, by appearing for us in the presence of God (Heb. 9:24). The character  of the Holy Eucharist being thus understood,  it is,  at  the same time, a sacrificial feast, by means of which the faithful, in receiving the Body

;Jnd Blood of our Savior, enter into communion with one another (I Cor. 1:17).


We hope that the Catholic theologians, in maintaining the faith of the undivided Church, will succeed in establishing an agreement upon questions which have been controverted ever since the divisions which have arisen between the churches. We exhort the priests under our jurisdiction to teach, both by preaching and by the instruction of the young, especially the essential Christian truths professed by controverted doctrines, any violation of truth or charity, and in word and deep to set an example to the members of our churches in accordance with the spirit of Jesus Christ our Savior.

 

By maintaining and professing faithfully the doctrine of Jesus Christ, by refusing to admit those errors which by the fault of men have crept into the Catholic Church, by laying aside the abuses in ecclesiastical matters, together with the worldly tendencies of the hierarchy, we believe that we shall be able to combat efficaciously the great evils of our day, which are unbelief and indifference in matters of religion.


STATEMENT OF UNION 1911

 

 

THE WAY OF SALVATION. Eternal Salvation is promised to mankind only through merits of our Savior Jesus Christ, and upon condition of obedience to the teaching of the Gospel, which requires Faith, Hope and Charity,  and the observance of  the ordinances of the Orthodox and Catholic Religion.

 

FAITH, HOPE AND CHARITY. Faith is a virtue infused by God, whereby man accepts, and believes without doubting, whatever God has revealed in the Church concerning true Religion.

 

Hope is a virtue infused by God, and following upon Faith; by it man puts his entire trust and confidence in the goodness and mercy of God, through Jesus Christ, and looks for the fulfillment of the Divine promises made to those who obey the Gospel.

 

Charity is a virtue infused by God, and likewise consequent upon Faith, whereby man, loving God above all things for His own sake, and his neighbor as himself for God's sake, yields up his will to a joyful obedience to the revealed will of God in the Church.

 

THE CHURCH. God has established the Holy Catholic Church  upon earth to be the pillar and ground of the revealed Truth; and has committed to her the guardianship of the holy Scriptures and of holy Tradition, and the power of binding and loosing.

 

THE CREED. The Catholic Church has set forth the principal Doctrines of the Christian Faith in twelve articles as follows:

 

I believe in one God the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and  earth, and of all things visible and invisible;

 

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all Ages, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, begotten, not made, of one substance with the Father, by Whom all things were made;

 

Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, and was Incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made Man;

 

And was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate, He suffered and was buried;

 

And the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures.

 

And ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father;

 

And He shall come again with glory, to judge the living and the dead; Whose


kingdom shall have no end;

 

And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord, and Giver of Life. Who proceedeth from the Father, Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified. Who spoke by the Prophets;

 

And in One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church;

 

I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins;

 

And I look for the Resurrection of the dead;

 

And the Life in the world to come. Amen.

 

THE SACRAMENTS. the fundamental ordinances of the Gospel, instituted by Jesus Christ as special means of conveying Divine grace and influence to the souls of men, which are commonly called Mysteries or Sacraments, are Seven in number, namely Baptism, Confirmation, the holy Eucharist, holy Orders, Matrimony, Penance and Unction.

 

THUS: Baptism is the first Sacrament of the Gospel, administered by threefold immersion in, or affusion with, water with the word, "I baptize thee in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." It admits the recipient into the Church, bestows upon him the forgiveness of sins, original and actual, through the Blood of Christ, and causes in him spiritual change called Regeneration.  Without valid Baptism  no other Sacrament can be validly received.

 

Conf'rrmation or Chrism is a Sacrament in which the baptized person, on being anointed with Chrism consecrated by the Bishops of the Church, with the imposition of hands, receives the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Ghost to strengthen him in the grace which he received at Baptism, making him a strong and perfect Christian and a good soldier of Christ.

 

The holy Eucharist is a Sacrament in which, under the appearances of bread and wine, the real and actual Body and Blood of Christ are given and received for the remission of sins, the increase of Divine grace, and  the reward of everlasting  Life.  After the prayer  of Invocation of the Holy Ghost in the Liturgy, the bread and wine are entirely converted into the living Body and Blood of Christ by an actual change of being, to which change the philosophical terms of Transubstantiation and Transmutation are rightly applied. The celebration of this Mystery or Sacrament, commonly called the Mass, constitutes the chief act of Christian worship, being a sacrificial memorial or re-Presentation of our Lord's death. It is not a repetition of the Sacrifice offered once for all upon Calvary, but is a perpetuation of that Sacrifice by the Church on earth, as our Lord also perpetually offers it in heaven. It is a true and propitiary Sacrifice, which is offered alike for the living and for the departed.


Holy Orders is a Sacrament in which  the Holy Ghost, through  the laying-on of hands  of the Bishops, consecrates and ordains the pastors and ministers chosen to serve in the Church, and imparts to them special grace to administer the Sacraments, to forgive sins, and to feed the flock of Christ.

 

Matrimony is a Sacrament in which the voluntary union of husband and wife is sanctified to become an image of the union between Christ and His Church; and grace is imparted to them to fulfill the duties of their estate and its great responsibilities both of each other and to their children.

 

Penance is a Sacrament in which the Holy Ghost bestows the forgiveness of sins, by the ministry of the priest, upon those who, having sinned after Baptism, confess their sins with true repentance, and grace is given to amend their lives thereafter.

 

Unction is a Sacrament in which the priests of the Church anoint the sick with oil, for the healing of the infirmities of their souls, and if it should please God, those of their bodies also.

 

The efficacy of the Sacraments depends upon the promise and appointment of God: howbeit they benefit only those who receive them worthily with faith and with due preparation and disposition of mind.

 

HOLY SCRIPTURE. The Scriptures are writings inspired by God, and given to the Church for her instruction and edification. The Church is therefore the custodian and the only Divinely appointed interpreter of holy Scriptures.

 

TRADITION. The Apostolic and Ecclesiastical Traditions received from the seven General Councils and the early Fathers of the Church may not be rejected; but are to be received and obeyed as being both agreeable to Holy Scripture and to that Authority with which Christ endowed His Church. Matters of discipline and ceremony  do not rank on  the same level with matters of Faith or Morals, but may be altered from time to time and from place to place by the Authority of the Church, according as the welfare and greater devotions of the faithful may be furthered thereby.

 

THE COMMUNION OF SAINTS. There is a Communion of Saints in the Providence of God, wherein the souls of righteous men of all ages are united with Christ in the bond of faith and love. Wherefore it is pleasing to God, and profitable to men, to honour the Saints and to invoke them in prayer; and also to pray for the faithful departed.

 

RELIGIOUS SYMBOLS. The relics and representations of Saints are worthy of honour, as are also all other religious emblems; that our minds may be encouraged to devotion and to imitation of the deeds of the just. Honour shown to such objects is purely relative, and in no way implies a confusion of the symbol with the thing signified.

 

RITE AND CEREMONIES. It is the duty of all Christians to join in the worship of the Church, especially in the holy sacrifice of the Mass, in accordance with our Lord's


express command; and to conform to the ceremonies prescribed by Holy Tradition for the greater dignity of that Sacrifice and for the edification of the faithful.

 

THE MORAL LAW. All Christians are bound to observe the Moral Law contained in the Ten Commandments of the Old Testament, developed with greater strictness in the New, founded upon the law of nature and charity, and defining our duty to God and to man. The laws of the Church are also to be obeyed, as proceeding from that Authority which Christ has committed to her for the instruction and salvation of His people.

 

THE MONASTIC ESTATE. The monastic life, duly regulated according to the laws of the Church, is a salutary institution in strict accord with the holy Scriptures;  and is full of profit to them who, after being carefully tried and examined, make full proof of their calling thereto.

 

ORGANIC ARTICLES

 

HEAD OF THE CHURCH. The Foundation Head and Supreme Pastor and Bishop of the Church is our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, from Whom all Bishops and Pastors derive their spiritual powers and jurisdiction.

 

OBEDIENCE. By the law and institution of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Gospel, all Christians owe obedience and submission in spiritual things to them who have rule and authority within the Church.

 

MINISTERIAL AUTHORITY. Our Lord Jesus Christ did not commit rule and authority within the Church to all the faithful indiscriminately, but only to the Apostles and to their lawful successors in due order.

 

APOSTOLIC SUCCESSION. The only lawful successors of the Apostles are the Orthodox and Catholic Bishops, united by profession of the self-same Belief, participation in the same Sacraments, and mutual recognition and Intercommunion. The Bishops of the Church, being true successors of the Apostles, are by Divine right and appointment the rulers of the Church.

 

In virtue of this appointment, each individual Bishop is supreme and independent in that part of the Church which has been committed to his care, so long as he remains in Faith and Communion with the united company of Catholic Bishops, who cannot exclude any from the Church save only them who stray from the path of virtue or err in Faith.

 

By virtue of this same Divine appointment, the supreme Authority over the whole Church on earth belongs to the collective Orthodox and Catholic Episcopate. They alone form the highest tribunal in spiritual matters, from whose united judgment there can be no appeal; so that it is unlawful for any single Bishop, or for any smaller group of Bishops apart from them, or for any secular power or state to usurp this authority, or for any individual Christian to substitute his own private judgment for that interpretation of Scripture or Authority which is approved by the Church.


CHURCH AUTHORITY. The collective body of the Orthodox Catholic Episcopate, united by profession of the Faith, by the Sacraments, and by mutual recognition and actual Inter-communion, is the source and depository of all order, authority and jurisdiction in the Church, and is the center of visible Catholic Unity; so that no Pope, Patriarch or Bishop, or any number of Bishops separated from this united body can possess any authority or jurisdiction whatsoever.

 

The authority of this collective body is equally binding, however it may be expressed: whether by a General Council or by the regular and ordinary consultation and agreement of the bishops themselves.

 

It is an act of schism to appeal from the known judgment of the Orthodox and Catholic Episcopate, however it may have been ascertained; or to appeal from any dogmatic decree of any General Council even though such appeal be to a future Council. For the Episcopate, being a continuation of the Apostolate, is clearly a Divine institution, and its authority is founded in Divine right. But General Councils are not of themselves of Divine appointment; and so the Episcopate having clearly the Scriptural promise of Divine guidance into all Truth, cannot be hampered in the exercise of its authority by the necessity of assembling a General Council, which may obviously be rendered impossible through natural circumstances.

 

There have been seven General Councils only, which are recognized by the Whole of Catholic Chri 1endom, held respectively in Nicaea (A.D. 325), Constantinople (381), Ephesus (431), Chalcedon (451), Constantinople (553), Constantinople (680), and Nicaea (787). At no other Councils was the entire body of the Orthodox and Catholic Episcopate representatively assembled; and the decrees and pronouncements of no others must of themselves be accepted as binding upon the conscience of the faithful.

 

The Authority of the Church can never be in abeyance, even though a General Council cannot be assembled. It is equally to be submitted to and obeyed in whatever way it may be exercised and although it may be exercised only through the ordinary administration  of their respective jurisdictions by individual Bishops.

 

HIERARCHY. All Patriarchs, Archbishops, and Metropolitans (that is to say, all Bishops who exercise any authority over other Bishops) owe that authority solely to the appointment or general consent of the Orthodox and Catholic Episcopate, nor can they ever cease from owing obedience to the collective body of the Episcopate in all matters concerning Faith and Morals.

 

THE FIVE PATRIARCHATES. There are five Patriarchates, which ought to be united and form the supreme authority in the administration and government of the Holy Catholic Church. These are Jerusalem, Antioch, Rome, Alexandria, and Constantinople. Unfortunately, owing to disputes and differences on the one hand, and to the lust for power and supremacy and domination on the other, the Patriarchs are not at present in Communion; and the welfare of Christendom is jeopardized by their disedifying quarrels, which, we pray, may soon have an end.

Historical Documents

Old Catholics consider their catholic, ecumenical vocation

September 05, 2007

[Episcopal News Service]


The International Old Catholic Theologians' Conference has issued a communiqué urging Old Catholics to explore what it means to be truly catholic and ecumenical in a time of globalization.

"The ecumenical vocation of the Union of Utrecht and its member churches is firstly to apply and deepen, in the context of the local Church at the level of parish communities, that which has been theologically clarified and achieved together with the Anglican and Orthodox Churches," the theologians said.

The Union of Utrecht is a federation of Old Catholic Churches in full communion with the Anglican Communion.

The conference participants called upon the Union of Utrecht's International Bishops' Conference (IBC) "to pass a resolution that each national Church develops a concept to encourage selected Old Catholic parishes to establish contacts with Orthodox and Anglican parishes or deepen existing relations and so form Places of Encounter and Co-operation."

The theologians issued their communiqué at the end of their conference, which addressed the theme of the tasks and contributions of Old Catholics in ecumenical dialogue. About 30 theologians from the Old Catholic Churches in the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Poland, and Croatia participated in the conference held August 27 through September 1 in Gwatt, Switzerland.

Diocese of West Virginia Bishop W. Michie Klusmeyer, the Presiding Bishop's representative to the Union of Utrecht, and Dr. Thomas Ferguson, the Episcopal Church's associate deputy for ecumenical and interfaith relations, represented the Episcopal Church at the conference.

The Episcopal Church has been in full communion with the Old Catholic Churches of the Union of Utrecht since 1934. The Union includes the Old Catholic Churches in the Netherlands, Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Poland, and Germany, and the Polish National Catholic Church, which also has members in the United States. The Old Catholics split from the Roman Catholic Church in 1871 over issues of papal authority.

"Our full communion relationship with the Old Catholic Churches of the Utrecht Union is our oldest such partnership, but in a way we are only really beginning to explore the potential," Ferguson said. "Both of our communions are working to deal with what it means to be a catholic church in an increasingly globalized world. This opens the doors to new partnerships and possibilities, but also presents its own shares of challenges."

Conference participants heard and discussed three papers, which "raised a series of questions and very different views as to the future ecumenical approach of the Union of Utrecht" and led to the proposal in the communiqué.

"The proposal recognizes that, compared to earlier times, there now exists, in those countries where there is an Old Catholic presence, permanent Orthodox, as well as Anglican, parishes who have become our neighbors," the communiqué says. "Parishes of other denominations who would like to participate in such a project are, of course, very welcome."

The theologians noted that each national Old Catholic Church "would take up appropriate contact with the episcopal leadership of the respective Orthodox and Anglican parishes" in order to form the partnerships.

There was mixed response among the theologians about a proposal that the Union of Utrecht take the initiative to establish a "Forum of independent Catholic Churches" to which all episcopal churches that are not part of the Roman Catholic, Orthodox or Anglican Churches -- such as the Philippine Independent Church, the Southern Indian Mar Thoma Church, and the Church of Sweden -- would belong, according to the communiqué.

"It was recognized that the proposal contained opportunities for exchange in relation to theological education and for a strengthening of the aspect of diakonia, which the Churches of the Union of Utrecht could facilitate. Furthermore it would strengthen witness to a commonly held Catholicism worldwide," the theologians wrote in the communiqué. "On the other hand, there was a fear that the Forum could develop into nothing more than a form of ecumenical tourism for bishops and theologians, as well as standing in competition to the Anglican Communion, especially as a number of the provinces are already in church communion with the aforementioned episcopal churches."

The communiqué also said that the conference wishes that the International Bishops' Conference remains "the single voice of the Old Catholic Churches of the Union of Utrecht in relation to ecumenical partners and the wider society," adding that this single voice is especially important for those Old Catholic Churches such as those in Poland and Croatia who "can only really express their Old Catholic identity in relation to the IBC."

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The Apostolic Catholic Orthodox Church (ACOC) is part of the autocephalous (self-ruling) Old Catholic Church movement, which has its origins in the Catholic Church of The Netherlands, founded by St. Willibrord in the Seventh Century.  Through the centuries the Church in the Netherlands enjoyed relative autonomy from Rome.  The Cathedral Chapter in Utrecht had formally been granted authority to elect its own bishops in 1145 A.D., with freedom to conduct its own affairs confirmed in 1215 and again in 1520.  In 1723, however, a definitive break with Rome took place over the imposition of a bishop from Rome as well as challenges to freedom of inquiry and conscience, highly valued by the Dutch Church.

The spread of the Old Catholic churches internationally came out of the reform movement stemming from the debated issues of the Vatican Council I of 1869-70.  A number of European delegations had left the council in disagreement over the impending votes on centralizing authority in Rome, and in particular promulgating the doctrine of papal infallibility, being promoted by Pope Pius IX.  A series of meetings were held during the next three years under the leadership of Dr. Ignatz von Dollinger, Germany’s foremost Roman Catholic theologian, resulting in the formation of a group of autonomous Catholic churches with Apostolic Succession who would relate with one another in collegial cooperation.

The bishops elected by the newly forming churches received episcopal consecration from the Church of the Netherlands, based in Utrecht, which had now been a fully autonomous Catholic church for some 150 years.  The new jurisdictions came to be known as “Old Catholic” in reference to their insistence upon return to the basic tenets of Apostolic Christianity including collegial style of relationships, as defined by the seven Ecumenical Councils of the undivided eastern and western Christian churches.  The beliefs of the Old Catholic churches were spelled out in a series of Statements beginning in 1874.

The Old Catholic independent church movement came to the United States as early as the 1880s through the work of missionaries from both England and Europe, as well as from autonomous eastern churches.  Bishop DeLandes Berghes, an Austrian nobleman ordained in the Old Catholic Church of Austria and then consecrated a bishop by the head of the Old Catholic Church of England, Bishop Arnold Harris Mathew, was sent to North America  in 1914.  He actively built the church on this continent and engaged in ecumenical ministry, serving for instance as the co-consecrator of the first Episcopal bishop of Cuba.  In 1916 he consecrated two other bishops to expand the ministries, William Francis Brothers and Carmel Henry Carfora, from whom the ACOC derives its lines of Apostolic Succession.  Archbishop Carfora energetically expanded the movement in North America until his death in 1958.

The sister churches of today in North America have diverse liturgical and ministerial styles. The leadership and representatives of the churches of the European (Utrecht) Union meet on a regular basis in collegial dialogues to work on pastoral and theological issues of common concern.  The ACOC  maintains friendly communications with the Union and works closely with other churches with whom the Union is in intercommunion, especially the Episcopal (ECUSA) and Evangelical Lutheran churches.  The autonomous North American churches of Old Catholic heritage relate to one another by such means as conferences of churches, concordats of intercommunion and cooperative outreach in ministry.

1994, rev. 2001.   The Most Rev. Diana C. Dale, D.Min.
Presiding Bishop - The Apostolic Catholic Orthodox Church
www.apostoliccatholicorthodox.faith