Rev. Dr. Jim Waters, PhD Chancellor   [email protected]

Old Catholic History
"Independent Catholicism" as distinct from the Roman Catholic Church
"The Historic Foundations of the Old Catholic Church"
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Short History of the Old Catholic Church

Introduction: The Catholic Family

Today the Catholic (universal) Church is made up of sister congregations:
- Roman Catholic
- Old Catholic
- Eastern Uniate and Eastern Orthodox
- “Oriental” Churches, such as Coptic, Syrian and “Nestorian” Churches.

Relating to each other in love, these sister Churches hold that by baptism, we are each made members of the one Body of Christ. In addition, we are nourished by the Body and Blood of Christ under the appearances of bread and wine consecrated in the Liturgy. 

Moreover, according to the faith handed down to us from the apostles (Apostolic Tradition) there are other sacraments for special occasions in our life’s journey, such as Marriage, Ordination, Confirmation, Penance, and Healing of the Sick. The sister Churches interpret God’s plan of salvation essentially the same. But like all sisters in a family, there are differences, most of them administrative and disciplinary, but some theological. Certain differences are expected and accepted. Nevertheless, the universal Churches remain united by means of the closest bonds: Baptism, Eucharist, and apostolic succession.

Who are the Old Catholics?

The Old Catholics are a body of Christians committed to the Person of Jesus Christ and His teaching. We accept and believe the testimony of the apostles, eyewitnesses of His life, death, and resurrection from the dead. The apostles passed on to succeeding generations their own testimony about Jesus Christ and His life. By proclaiming the Gospel and giving their own testimony (called the Apostolic Tradition), the Church developed worldwide. 

Historically, Old Catholics are part of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church and have their origins in the Catholic Church of the Netherlands.

The Great Schism

While the division of Christendom into two great categories, Protestant and Catholic, is familiar to all, fewer people are aware of the jurisdiction (administrative) and disciplinary divisions within the universal Churches. Since the earliest times of Christianity, the local 
bishop determined local liturgical practices. Periodically local synods (convocation of bishops) were called by local bishops to determine larger issues of beliefs and disciplines. 

When Christianity was tolerated as a religion in the Roman Empire in 313, “General Councils” of bishops from all areas of the Roman Empire were called by the leading political leader, the emperor Constantine and his successors, to decide uniformity of dogma based on the Greek language. At these General Councils, all five Patriarchs (Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria, Rome and Constantinople - Constantinople being a political, not an apostolic based See) were equal in jurisdiction. With the collapse of the Roman Empire and the rise of the Papacy in Rome, the Patriarch of Rome ascertained himself to have jurisdiction over 
all Christianity. Because of this, around 1054 both the Eastern Churches (known as the Orthodox Churches) and the Western Church (known as the Roman Catholic Church) mutually declared each other in schism and mutually excommunicated each other.

The Beginnings of the Old Catholic Movement

St. Willibrord evangelized the area of Europe known as the Netherlands in the seventh century. Utrecht eventually became the archiepiscopal See. Assenting to a petition made by the Holy Roman Emperor Conrad III and Bishop Heribert of Utrecht in 1145, Blessed 
Pope Eugene III granted the Cathedral Chapter of Utrecht the right to elect successors to the See in times of vacancy. The Fourth Lateran Council confirmed this privilege in 1215. 

The autonomous character of the Church in the Netherlands was further reaffirmed by a second grant in 1520 by Pope Leo X, Debitum Pastoralis. This meant that, unlike anywhere else in the Roman Catholic Church, the archbishop of Utrecht could consecrate bishops 
without permission or approval from the Pope, just as the Orthodox and Oriental Churches have always done.

Modern Times

Following the First Vatican Council in 1870 (to which the bishops of the Netherlands Church were refused admittance), considerable dissent arose among the Catholic bishops, especially in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, over the proposed dogma of papal infallibility. The dissenters held the Church in General Council to be infallible (as the earliest Church believed), not the Pope acting alone in matters of faith and morals. 

Many of the dissenting bishops formed independent communities that came to be known as Old Catholic because they sought to adhere to the beliefs and practices of the Catholic (universal) Church of the apostolic era existing prior to 1054 (see Declaration of Utrecht). 

The Old Catholic communities collaborated with the Archbishop of Utrecht, who consecrated the first bishops for these communities. Under the leadership of the Church of Holland, these Old Catholic communities joined together to form the Utrecht Union of Churches. The Old Catholic Church expanded rapidly in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Holland. Old Catholic communities were also established in Poland, France, and throughout the world. In 1990 there were about 500,000 Old Catholics in the United States and about 
15 million world-wide.

In the United States

The establishment of Old Catholic Churches in the United States occurred very soon after the Utrecht Union of Churches. The Belgium Old Catholics were led by Bishop Joseph Rene Vilatte in Wisconsin; the Czech Old Catholics were lead by Bishop Jan Francis Tichy in 
Cleveland, Ohio; and the Polish Old Catholics were led by Bishop Anton Kozlowski in Chicago, Illinois. All these national Old Catholic Churches were thriving before 1915. In 1917 an additional Old Catholic bishop, Prince Rudolph Edward de Landes-Berghes, was appointed by the Utrecht Union of Churches for the English speaking people of the United States. Bishop de Landes-Berghes’  consecrated several other Bishops to carry on the mission and encouraged the various ethnic groups to accept diversity in their own Churches.

With the passing of these original organizers from the ecclesiastical scene, the Old Catholic Church in the United States has evolved from a fairly centralized administration with structured oversight of ministry to a local and regional model of administration with self-governing dioceses and provinces. This local model more closely follows the ancient tradition of the early Christian Churches as a communion of communities each laboring together to proclaim the message of the Gospel.  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 autonomous North American churches of the Old Catholic heritage relate to one another by such means as conferences of churches, concordats of intercommunion and cooperative outreach in ministry.

What Old Catholics Believe

Like the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches, the Old Catholics accept the first seven General Councils of the Early Church without apology or excuse. Thus, Old Catholics, tracing their apostolic succession through the Roman Catholic Church to the apostles, participate in the full sacramental ministry of the Church. The “Rule of Faith” of Old Catholics is faithful adherence to Sacred Scripture and Apostolic Tradition.

How Do Old Catholics Differ from Roman Catholics?

1. Papal infallibility defined by Vatican Council I is a non-issue for Old Catholics, since we are independent of papal jurisdiction. Like the various Eastern Orthodox Churches, all Old Catholic communities accord the Holy Father respect due him as Patriarch of the West and 
“First among Equals,” but not having ultimate jurisdiction over all Christian Churches. Old Catholics adhere to the teaching from apostolic times that the Church in General Council is infallible.

2. In some matters of discipline (non-dogmatic issues). For example:
- Clerical celibacy is optional
- Married men may be ordained
- Deacons and priests are selected based on their individual
suitability for ministry
- In some Old Catholic jurisdictions, members participate in the
ministerial priesthood in response to a genuine vocation regardless
of gender, sexual orientation or physical disability
-Sexuality and orientation are seen as a gift from God
- Divorced Catholics may remarry within the Old Catholic Church, as
divorced Orthodox may remarry within the Orthodox Churches
- EVERY person, as a participant in the Royal Priesthood of Christ,
plays an important and prominent role in the government and
ministry of the Church.

3. There is some diversity in liturgical expression.  Spirit of Hope and many other Old Catholic communities have adopted the liturgical renewal promulgated following the Second Vatican Council (as used in most current Roman Catholic communities), while others maintain the Tridentine Mass in Latin and others use direct translations into 
classical or modern English.

4. Because Old Catholic communities are usually smaller in comparison to mainline churches, they are able to successfully implement the Apostolic model of the Church referred to earlier. This model views the faithful with their clergy and bishop as a community (or family) in loving concern for each other and each working together to live the Scriptural commands in their daily lives as Christians bringing the love of Christ to others. Old Catholic communities - because of a less hierarchical structure - are promptly able to implement decisions affecting the sacramental life of the faithful, doing so always within the authority of Sacred Scripture and Apostolic Tradition.



Old Cathpedia:About:About Old Catholic History

This history is the project of Dom Donald Weeks, PhD

Donald Weeks is an Internet entrepreneur and a history enthusiast, and founder of the Old Catholic History project. He was named Chair of the Association Board in July 2010.

He was born July 27, 1943, at Scott Field (Shiloh), Illinois. He attended local parochial schools in Belleville, Illinois and in high school he decided to study for the priesthood at Maryhurst Preparatory Seminary in Kirkwood, Missouri.

He also attended Simpson Bible College, Southern Illinois University, Saint Louis University and Howard University School of Religion. From time-to-time, other religious schools of religious education. I am honored to have served as President of the East Saint Louis Bible Institute and Dean of the American Urban University.

On August 15, 1970, He was ordained a priest by Bishop Michael Itkin of the Eastern Orthodox (Syro-Chaldean-Malabar) Church. The same religious body that Bishop Joseph Rene Vilatte was consecrated by. The ordination took place at the Oratory of Saint Francis (on Hyde Street). After ordination he returned to Saint Louis. A year later he moved to San Francisco. There he became the Director of the United Catholic Conference and Pastor of Our Lady of the Rosary Old Catholic Church. From there, he served as President of the East Saint Louis Bible Institute (1984-1989); Holy Angels Old Catholic Church (1990-1999); Saint Patrick Abbey (1999-2005). He also served as President of the Ancient Christian Fellowship; the American Congregation of Saint Benedict and the Old Catholic Benedictines.



OldCathpedia history

OldCathpedia was founded as a project to produce a free encyclopedia concerning Old Catholicism. During 2008, Donald Weeks, founder of Old Catholic History, and Dennis McKay, whom Weeks turned to, to work on the project, discussed ways of supplementing Old Catholic History with a more open, complementary project. Multiple sources suggested the idea that a wiki might allow members of the public to contribute material, and Old Catholic History's first website went online in January 2009.

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Old Catholic Studies: the files of Dom Donald M. Weeks, OSB. STD, Ph.D;      Retired Abbot of Saint Patrick Abbey

WHO IS Catholic?

(Does the Roman Catholic Church have exclusive rights to the word "Catholic")By, Dom Donald M. Weeks, OSB, STD, Ph.D  Retired Abbot of Saint Patrick Abbey


The word Catholic is derived (via Late Latin catholicus and French catholique) from the Greek adjective ????????? (katholikos), meaning "universal". The name is derived from the Greek phrase ?????? (kath'holou) meaning "on the whole" or "in general" and is a combination of the Greek words ???? meaning "about" and ???? meaning "whole." In the context of Christian ecclesiology, it has a rich history and several usages.

The term "Catholic Church" typically refers to the Roman Catholic Church: in full communion with the Bishop of Rome, made up of the Latin Rite and the 22 Eastern Catholic Churches; this is the common usage in most countries.

Many Protestants sometimes use the term "catholic church" to refer broadly to the Christian Church and all believers in Jesus Christ across the world and the ages, regardless of denominational affiliation.

The Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Anglicans, Lutherans and some Methodists believe that their churches are catholic in the sense that they are in continuity with the original universal church founded by the Apostles. The Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Oriental Orthodox churches all believe that their church is the only original and universal church. In "Catholic Christendom" (including the Anglican Communion), bishops are considered the highest order of ministers within the Christian religion, as shepherds of unity in communion with the whole church Another. Catholicity is considered one of Four Marks of the Church, the others being unity, sanctity, and apostolicity. according to the Nicene Creed of 381: "I believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church."

History of ecclesiastical use of "catholic"

Ignatius of Antioch

A letter written by Ignatius to Christians in Smyrna[ around 106 is the earliest surviving witness to the use of the term Catholic Church (Letter to the Smyrnaeans, 8). By Catholic Church Ignatius designated the universal church. Ignatius considered that certain heretics of his time, who disavowed that Jesus was a material being who actually suffered and died, saying instead that "he only seemed to suffer" (Smyrnaeans, 2), were not really Christians.The term is also used in the Martyrdom of Polycarp in 155 and in the Muratorian fragment, about 177.

St Cyril of Jerusalem

St Cyril of Jerusalem (circa 315-386) urged those he was instructing in the Christian faith: "If ever thou art sojourning in cities, inquire not simply where the Lord's House is (for the other sects of the profane also attempt to call their own dens "houses of the Lord"), nor merely where the Church is, but where is the Catholic Church. For this is the peculiar name of this holy Church, the mother of us all, which is the spouse of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Only-begotten Son of God" (Catechetical Lectures, XVIII, 26).

Theodosius I

The term Catholic Christians entered Roman Imperial law when Theodosius I, Emperor from 379 to 395, reserved that name for adherents of "that religion which was delivered to the Romans by the divine Apostle Peter, as it has been preserved by faithful tradition and which is now professed by the Pontiff (Pope) Damasus and by Peter, Bishop of Alexandria for the others, since in our judgement they are foolish madmen, we decree that they shall be branded with the ignominious name of heretics, and shall not presume to give their conventicles the name of churches." This law of 27 February 380 was included in Book 16 of the Codex Theodosianus. It established Catholic Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire.

Augustine of Hippo

The use of the term Catholic to distinguish the "true" church from heretical groups is found also in Augustine's wrightings. In them he wrote

    "In the Catholic Church, there are many other things which most justly keep me in her bosom. The consent of peoples and nations keeps me in the Church; so does her authority, inaugurated by miracles, nourished by hope, enlarged by love, established by age. The succession of priests keeps me, beginning from the very seat of the Apostle Peter, to whom the Lord, after His resurrection, gave it in charge to feed His sheep (Jn 21:15-19), down to the present episcopate (in Rome; here Augustine refers to the Petrine succession of the Pope).
    "And so, lastly, does the very name of "Catholic", which, not without reason, amid so many heresies, the Church has thus retained; so that, though all heretics wish to be called Catholics, yet when a stranger asks where the Catholic Church meets, no heretic will venture to point to his own chapel or house.
    "Such then in number and importance are the precious ties belonging to the Christian name which keep a believer in the Catholic Church, as it is right they should ... With you, where there is none of these things to attract or keep me... No one shall move me from the faith which binds my mind with ties so many and so strong to the Christian religion... For my part, I should not believe the gospel except as moved by the authority of the Catholic Church."
    - St. Augustine (354-430): Against the Epistle of Manichaeus called Fundamental, chapter 4: Proofs of the Catholic Faith.

St Vincent of Lerins

A contemporary of Augustine, St. Vincent of Lerins, wrote in 434 (under the pseudonym Peregrinus) a work known as the Commonitoria ("Memoranda"). While insisting that, like the human body, church doctrine develops while truly keeping its identity (sections 54-59, chapter XXIII), he stated: "In the Catholic Church itself, all possible care must be taken, that we hold that faith which has been believed everywhere, always, by all. For that is truly and in the strictest sense 'catholic,' which, as the name itself and the reason of the thing declare, comprehends all universally.

This rule we shall observe if we follow universality, antiquity, consent. We shall follow universality if we confess that one faith to be true, which the whole church throughout the world confesses; antiquity, if we in no wise depart from those interpretations which it is manifest were notoriously held by our holy ancestors and fathers; consent, in like manner, if in antiquity itself we adhere to the consentient definitions and determinations of all, or at the least of almost all priests and doctors" (section 6, end of chapter II).

Western and Eastern Catholics

The Latin Rite of the Catholic Church and the twenty-two Eastern Catholic Churches consider that they continue and are charged with preserving the catholic tradition as handed down through the Early Church Fathers. Eastern Catholic churches are those particular churches that, in full communion with the Bishop of Rome - the Pope - while remaining autonomous (in Latin, sui iuris), preserve the liturgical, theological and devotional traditions of the various Eastern Christian churches with which they are associated. They include the Ukrainian, Greek, Greek Melkite, Maronite, Ruthenian Byzantine, Coptic Catholic, Syro-Malabar, Syro-Malankara, Chaldean and Ethiopic Rites. Under Pope John Paul II the Catholic Church issued a book of beliefs under the title Catechism of the Catholic Church, which states: "To believe that the Church is 'holy' and 'catholic,' and that she is 'one' and 'apostolic' (as the Nicene Creed adds), is inseparable from belief in God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit."

The term Roman Catholic Church is associated with the whole of the church that is led by the Roman Pontiff, currently Pope Benedict XVI, and whose over one billion adherents are about half of the estimated 2.1 billion Christians. Other Christian churches also lay claim to the description catholic as a theological quality, including the Eastern Orthodox Church and those churches possessing the historic episcopate (bishops), such as those in the Anglican Communion. Some of them claim to be the one true Catholic Church from which, in their view, other Christians, including those in communion with the Pope.

Many of those who apply the term "catholic church" to all Christians indiscriminately object to this use of the term to designate what they view as only one church within what they see as the "whole" catholic church. However, the church in communion with the Bishop of Rome, both in its Western form and in that of the Eastern Catholic Churches, has always considered itself to be the historic Catholic Church, with all others as "non-Catholics" and regularly refers to itself as "the Catholic Church". This practice is an application of the belief that not all who claim to be Christians are part of the Catholic Church, as Ignatius of Antioch, the earliest known writer to use the term "Catholic Church", considered that certain heretics who called themselves Christians only seemed to be such.

Though normally distinguishing itself from other churches by calling itself the "Catholic Church", it also uses the description "Roman Catholic Church". Even apart from documents drawn up jointly with other churches, it has sometimes, in view of the central position it attributes to the See of Rome, adopted the adjective "Roman" for the whole church, Eastern as well as Western, as in the papal encyclicals Divini illius Magistri and Humani generis.

Another example is its self-description as the "Holy, Catholic, Apostolic and Roman Church"in the 24 April 1870 Dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Faith of the First Vatican Council. In all of these documents it also refers to itself both simply as the Catholic Church and by other names. The Eastern Catholic Churches, while united with Rome in the faith, have their own traditions and laws, differing from those of the Latin Rite and those of other Eastern Catholic Churches.

Divergent usages

The Eastern Orthodox Church also identifies itself as Catholic, as in the title of The Longer Catechism of the Orthodox, Catholic, Eastern Church. This church and also Oriental Orthodoxy and the Assyrian Church of the East all see themselves as the "one holy catholic and apostolic Church" of the Nicene Creed (in distinction from each other, not collection).

Anglicans and Old Catholics see themselves as a communion within that one church and Lutherans see themselves as "a reform movement within the greater church catholic".

Roman Catholics view the Bishop of Rome as the "Successor of Peter" to serve as universal pastor to the entire Church, though certain churches in communion with him are allowed distinct pastoral heads with respect to ordinary administration. Anglicans and Old Catholics accept that the Bishop of Rome is primus inter pares among all primates[ci but they embrace Conciliarism as a necessary check on what they consider to be the "excesses" of Ultramontanism.

Recent historic ecumenical efforts on the part of the Catholic Church have focused on healing the rupture between the Western ("Catholic") and the Eastern ("Orthodox") churches. Pope John Paul II often spoke of his great desire that the Catholic Church "once again breathe with both lungs", thus emphasizing that the Roman Catholic Church seeks to restore full communion with the separated Eastern churches.

After the East-West Schism, conventionally dated to 1054, a brief reunification was agreed to between the Pope and a number of Eastern Orthodox bishops at the Council of Florence. However, this agreement was denied by one of the EO bishops present, namely Mark of Ephesus, and the common folk of the EOC generally rejected said agreement as well. The present pope, Benedict XVI, has stated his wish to restore full unity with the Orthodox. The Roman Catholic Church considers that almost all of the ancient theological differences have been satisfactorily addressed (the Filioque clause, the nature of purgatory, etc.), and has declared that differences in traditional customs, observances and discipline are no obstacle to unity.

Other Western Christians

Most Reformation and post-Reformation churches use the term catholic (often with a lower-case c) to refer to the belief that all Christians are part of one church regardless of denominational divisions; e.g., Chapter XXV of the Westminster Confession of Faith refers to the catholic or universal Church. It is in line with this interpretation, which applies the word catholic (universal) to no one denomination, that they understand the phrase "One Holy catholic and Apostolic Church" in the Nicene Creed, the phrase the Catholic faith in the Athanasian Creed and the phrase holy catholic church in the Apostles' Creed.

  • The term used also to mean those Christian churches which maintain that their episcopate can be traced unbrokenly back to the apostles and consider themselves part of a catholic (universal) body of believers. Among those who regard themselves as catholic (lower-case "c"), but not Roman Catholic (upper-case "c"), are Anglicans and some smaller Breakaway Catholic Churches such as the Polish National Catholic Church, Independent Catholics, Ancient Catholics and the Liberal Catholic Churches, as well Lutherans (though the latter often prefer the lower-case "c" and stress that they are both Protestant and catholic). Some nineteenth and twentieth century churches like the Old Catholic Churches and Traditionalist Catholics (who may or may not be in communion with Rome) consider themselves to be catholic and also "true" Catholics.
  • The term can refer to the one (singular number) church that, according to Matthew 16:18-19, Jesus told the Apostle Peter he would build: "And I tell you, you are ???? (Kepha) (Aramaic for "rock"), and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."
  • Some use the term catholic to distinguish their own position from a Calvinist or Puritan form of Reformed-Protestantism. These include High Church Anglicans, often also called Anglo-Catholics, 19th century Neo-Lutherans, 20th century High Church Lutherans or evangelical-Catholics and others.

Methodists and Presbyterians believe their denominations owe their origins to the Apostles and the early church, but do not claim descent from ancient church structures such as the episcopate. However, both of these churches hold that they are a part of the catholic (universal) church. According to Harper's New Monthly Magazine:

The various Protestant sects can not constitute one church because they have no intercommunion...each Protestant Church, whether Methodist or Baptist or whatever, is in perfect communion with itself everywhere as the Roman Catholic; and in this respect, consequently, the Roman Catholic has no advantage or superiority, except in the point of numbers.

As a further necessary consequence, it is plain that the Roman Church is no more Catholic in any sense than a Methodist or a Baptist.[22]

-Henry Mills Alden, Harper's New Monthly Magazine Volume 37, Issues 217-222

As such, according to one viewpoint, for those who "belong to the Church," the term Methodist Catholic, or Presbyterian Catholic, or Baptist Catholic, is as proper as the term Roman Catholic.[23] It simply means that body of Christian believers over the world who agree in their religious views, and accept the same ecclesiastical forms.[23]

Some Protestant churches avoid using the term completely, to the extent among many Lutherans of reciting the Creed with the word Christian in place of catholic.[24][25][26] The Orthodox churches share some of the concerns about Roman Catholic papal claims, but disagree with some Protestants about the nature of the church as one body.

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The Old Catholic SourceBook.

The Sourcebook is compiled from articles, documents, manuscripts and other information from Old Catholic sources, the results of a 10-year search through more than 12,000 volumes of journals, etc.

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 Documents of the Old Catholic Movement

This section contains documents related to the Old Catholicism.

A good collection of source documents and original texts that provide some foundations for Catholic thought in general, and Old Catholic thought in particular. These include very early documents accepted by the undivided church (`The Rule of Faith', by St. Vincent of Lerins, from the year 434), to general pieces related to the history of Old Catholicism in Europe (Munich, Bonn, and Utretch writings), and pieces to do with the American strand of Old Catholicism (coming through Mathew and Vilatte).

Old Catholic Documents

  Bp. Donald Weeks, OSB passed on to eternity on Aug. 25, 2011

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Old Catholic History

This Section contains Information and documents about the history of Old Catholicism.

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.


        Old Catholic History - USA

Old Catholic History - USA

This Section contains Information and documents about the history of Old Catholicism in the United States.

Soon after Old Catholicism's momentous events at the end of the 19th century, Old Catholic missionaries came to the United States.

Many independent Old Catholic bishops in the United States claim to trace their apostolic succession to Arnold Harris Mathew. Mathew was consecrated bishop on 28 April, 1908, by Utrecht Archbishop Gerhardus Gul, assisted by the Old Catholic bishops of Deventer and Berne, in St. Gertrude's Old Catholic Cathedral, Utrecht. Only two years later, Mathew declared his autonomy from the Union of Utrecht, with which he had experienced tension from the beginning. Bishop Mathew sent missionaries to the United States including the theosophist Bishop J. I. Wedgwood (1892 - 1950) and Prince (Bishop) Rudolph de Landas Berghes et de Rache (1873–1920).

Bishop de Landas arrived in the United States on 7 November, 1914, hoping to unite the various independent Old Catholic jurisdictions under Archbishop Mathew. De Landas contributed greatly to the growth and of the independent Old Catholic movement, ordaining and consecrating others including William Francis Brothers and Carmel Henry Cafora.

In the area of Green Bay, Wisconsin, Joseph Rene Vilatte began working with Roman Catholics of Belgian ancestry, who tended to be isolated from Roman Catholic influence due to their geographical position. 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. After ordination, Fr. Vilatte worked diligently on behalf of his congregations in Wisconsin, providing the only sacramental presence in his very rural part of the state.


      Old Catholic review of The Ecumenical Councils
The Ecumenical Councils


Most of these councils addressed questions of Jesus' divine and human natures. Other councils addressed the Trinity, Mary, and the use of religious imagery in worship. During these councils, the participants also discussed and agree upon non-dogmatic subjects, such as church administration, discipline, and ordination practices.

It was during these Ecumenical Councils that the Nicene Creed was defined. The Nicene Creed is the statement of faith of all Catholic and many Protestant churches.

It is to the Gospels, these seven Ecumenical Councils, and the Apostles' Council of Jerusalem, that the Old Catholics look for the essentials of the Christian faith.

First Ecumenical Council
  First Council of Nicea, A.D. 325 This council was called by the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great. It was in response to the heresy of Arianism, which said Jesus was not divine, but merely human. The Nicean Council declared that Jesus was both human and divine and it denounced Arianism as heresy. The Council also defined the first part of what would later be called the Nicene Creed. 318 bishops attended this Council.

Second Ecumenical Council
  First Council of Constantinople, A.D. 381 This council was called by Roman Emperor Theodosius 1. It was in response to the heresy of Macedonianism which said the Holy Spirit was merely one of Gods powers and not a person like God the Father and God the Son. The Council defined the doctrine of the Holy Trinity that God is three persons God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. This doctrine along with other articles was added to the Nicene Creed. 150 bishops attended this Council.

Third Ecumenical Council
  Council of Ephesus, A.D. 431 This council was called by Byzantine Emperor (Eastern Empire) Theodosius II, grandson of Theodosius I. It was in response to the heresy of Nestorianism, which said Jesus was merely a man in whom the Word of God dwelled (as in a temple). Nestorianism also taught that Mary, Jesus mother, was merely the mother of Christ, not Mother of God. The Council declared that Jesus Christ is completely God and completely man (although without sin) and that Mary is rightly called the Mother of God. Furthermore, the Council declared that the Nicene Creed, defined during the first two Councils, was complete and never to be changed. 200 bishops attended.

Fourth Ecumenical Council
  Council of Chalcedon, A.D. 451 This council was called by Byzantine Emperor (Eastern Empire) Marcian. It was in response to the Monophysitism, which said Jesus human nature was transformed by his divine nature, making him divine and not human. The Council declared, as it did in previous councils, that Jesus was both fully human (though without sin) and divine. 630 bishops attended.

Fifth Ecumenical Council
  Second Council of Constantinople, A.D. 553 This council was called by Byzantine Emperor (Eastern Empire) Justinian the Great. It was called due to the persistence of the Nestorian and Monophysite heresies. The Council confirmed, again, the dual nature of Jesus Christ as both God and man. 165 bishops attended.

Sixth Ecumenical Council
  Third Council of Constantinople, A.D. 680-681 This council was called by Byzantine Emperor (Eastern Empire) Constantine the IV. Like the previous Council, it was called to deal with the persistence of the heresies about the human and divine nature of Jesus Christ. The Council declared that Jesus was fully man and fully divine and that the two natures exist with no confusion, no change, no separation, no division. 170 bishops attended.

Seventh Ecumenical Council
  Second Council of Nicea, A.D. 787 Called by the Byzantine Empress (Eastern Empire) Irene, this Council considered the question of icons: art which depicted Jesus, Mary, and the saints. This included crucifixes. Many Christians, particularly in the East, venerated icons. Others considered this idolatry and sought to destroy icons. These opponents are the source of todays word iconoclasts (Greek for image destroyer). The Council declared that religious icons are not idols, but only representations. Therefore icons could be used to venerate Our Lord, Mary, and the saints, and had to be respected. However, icons were not to be worshipped for themselves. 367 bishops attended. These are the statements of faith defined by the united Church. Along with the Gospels and the Apostles Council of Jerusalem, they form the essential, shared faith of all Old Catholics.
                  The Apostles

Apostolos (Apostle) means one who is sent forth, who is entrusted with a mission. The period of Early Christianity during the lifetimes of the apostles is called the Apostolic Age. In the second century, association with the apostles was esteemed as evidence of authority and orthodoxy.

 Who were the Apostles of Jesus?

The Twelve Apostles of Jesus

The Twelve Apostles by Donald Weeks
  The apostles have long fascinated us, the chosen circle of associates who traveled with Jesus during his earthly ministry. Tradition and legends through the centuries have embellished the stories of their activities in the early days of the Church. But the kernels of truth behind these legends lie in the Bible.

How the Apostles of Jesus Christ died

The Apostles from the Book of Acts

St. Luke - Catholic Online

Saint Luke the Apostle - Patron Saints Index

James, the brother of Jesus
  by Father Patrick Americk, OSB. Saint James Old Catholic Monastery. In Acts chapter 21 Paul makes another visit to Jerusalem to meet with the leadership and the only name mentioned is James. Other than the letter attributed to James, he is only mentioned three times in the entire NT. How did James become the leader of the Church in Jerusalem?
   Apostolic Fathers and Times

Apostolic Fathers

Who exactly were the Apostolic Fathers? Why were they given that name? Most important, what windows into the shaping of Christianity's canon, church hierarchy, and creed are opened for us with an understanding of works that include the letters of 1 Clement or Ignatius, the Didache of the Apostles, or the Letter to Diognetus? In this section of the SourceBook we try to present various articles, documents, etc. about the Apostolic Fathers and Apostolic Times. As we come across more it wil be posted here. Hopefully the following information is usefull to you in getting to know the Apostolic Fathers and their contributions to Christianity.

CHRISTIANITY - The First Three Centuries

Joseph of Arimathea

Joseph of Arimathea , according to history was a well-to-do man. He owned mines in Britain and a fleet of shipping vessels. Some historians claim that Joseph was the uncle of Jesus and often took him to Britain. Tradition says Joseph brought the “Holy Grail” to Glastonbury and there he established a religious community. He planted his staff on the Glastonbury grounds and there; is a thorn bush said to be in that spot. Many books and ledgens surround Joseph’s life.


     Writing by Late Bishop and Abbott Dom Donald Weeks, OSB