In the early years the Church grew up around five historical Patriarchs.
The government of the Church was “Conciliar” as evidenced
by the first Seven Ecumenical Councils which defined the faith of
the Church between 325 and 787AD.
For the first thousand years the Church was known as the One Holy
and Apostolic Catholic Church. This unity was divided in the 11th
Century when the Patriarch of Rome claimed to exercise jurisdiction
over the whole Church. This led to the Great Schism of 1054, separating
the Eastern Catholic Patriarchs from Rome through excommunication
since they did not agree to accept Papal Supremacy. Therefore,
the Eastern Churches became known as the Eastern Orthodox Churches
and became primarily ethnic and national churches. The Western
Catholic Church set itself apart from the other Patriarchs and
established the Roman Catholic Church as we know it today.
In 1870 Pope Pius IX presided
over what became Vatican I. It was at this Council that the notion
of Papal Infallibility was proclaimed a
dogma of the Roman Catholic Church.
Infallibility means that when the Pope, by virtue of
his office, speaks on behalf of the Church in regards to faith
and morals, he speaks without error. In other words, it is impossible
for the Pope to make a mistake when he speaks for the Church.
idea was made a dogma which means that every
Roman Catholic must believe it under pain of sin.
“Old Catholic Movement”
A large number of clergy left that council in disagreement with
that idea saying that Christ was the only one who was perfect
and infallible and that no man was infallible. Thus the “Old
Catholic Movement” was birthed.
dissenting Catholics throughout Europe believed that, although
the Pope may be the leader of the Catholic Church, he is never
infallible, for that had never been
authentic Catholic teaching
teaching of Jesus
these Catholics formed independent communities
that became Old Catholic. They were called Old Catholic because
they sought to turn back the clock and adhere to the beliefs and
practices of the Catholic Church prior to the various divisions,
particularly prior to the great schism of 1054 AD which divided
the Eastern and Western churches.
Most Old Catholic jurisdictions derive their apostolic succession
through the independent Catholic Archbishop of Utrecht
in Holland. In
the early half of the eighteenth century, a dispute between
the Archbishop of Utrecht
the development of a break with Rome. The Pope intervened on the
side of the Jesuits contrary to Canon Law in that Utrecht was
exercising its right to elect its own Bishop under Papal authority
given by Pope Eugene III in 1145 that had been confirmed again
by the Vatican in 1215, 1520 and 1717. The Bishop and his See
and his successors were given sovereign rights as a national church.
A second Papal Grant was given by Pope Leo X, "Debitum Pastoralis"
which conceded that neither the Bishop of Utrecht nor any of his
successors, nor any of their clergy or laity, should ever have
his cause taken to an external tribunal (Rome or anywhere else)
for any reason. Any such proceeding would be null and void.
papal concession (the Leonine Privilege), in
1520, is the most important defense of the rights
of the Catholic Church of Utrecht. It concedes that the House
of Bishops is the final recourse in any Old Catholic diocese.
the trouble really began in 1592 when the Jesuits
began interfering in the affairs of the archbishop of
Utrecht. The Jesuits were rebuked by the Pope; however, they did
not stop. This continued until 1611 when again the Jesuits raised
trouble with the newly elected Archbishop Peter Codde and Rome
over the use of the "vernacular in the liturgy"; nevertheless
the Utrecht church continued its use. Finally in 1691 the Jesuits
charged Archbishop Codde with favoring the so-called Jansenism
"heresy" (Rome now concedes they are only errors.) Pope
Innocent XII appointed a Commission of Cardinal to investigate
the charges; the result was a complete and unconditional
exoneration of the Archbishop.
the Jesuits and politically motivated French authorities, many
Jansenists fled to Holland for sanctuary. Archbishop Peter Codde
refused to comply with the Pope's demand that he condemn the people
and was wrongly deposed by the Pope in 1702 according previsions
documents mentioned above. The Pope appointed a new Archbishop
for Holland and the church was divided as most remained faithful
to their elected Archbishop Peter Codde.
a result, many Dutch Catholics remained loyal to their archbishop
and became an independent Catholic Church. The
Archbishop of Utrecht traces his apostolic succession back to
the Holy Apostles. Other Old Catholics hold valid lines of apostolic
succession from the Assyrian Church of the East,
and branches of the various Eastern Orthodox Churches
in addition to various other Eastern Catholic Churches.
See the apostolic succession
of Bishop Robert W. Burgess, Jr.
Old Catholics are closely related to other Catholic communities
that became independent of Rome. These
Catholic communities are growing throughout the world.
example there are over 5 million in the Independent Catholic
Church of Brazil. Another 3 million in the Independent
Catholic Church of the Philippines. There is a growing
number of over 600,000 Old and Independent
Catholics in numerous jurisdictions in the United States
worshiping our Lord, of which we are a part.
figures do not include the members of jurisdictions throughout
all of the European nations.
liturgy, rites and sacraments
Since we are a western Catholic Church we use
the same liturgy as the Roman Catholic Church, which includes
all the rites and seven sacraments.
since our bishop traces his apostolic
Assyrian Church of the East
the St. Thomas Church of India, directly from
St. Thomas the Apostle;
he also holds additional lines from both
Russian Orthodox Church
Greek Orthodox Church
is also the influence from those churches with the use of
icons in the church. This we like to believe, gives us
an example of the fulfillment of Christ's prayer that His church
should be a visible sign of unity as one body
on earth worshiping together.
The Declaration of Utrecht is the founding document
of the Old Catholic churches. A translation
of the profession of faith, or declaration formulated by the Old
Catholic bishops assembled at Utrecht, September 24, 1889.