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The Utrecht Union of Old Catholic Churches

Discussion in 'Scripture,Tradition,Reason-Anglican & Old Catholic' started by Father Rick, Dec 15, 2004.

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  1. Father Rick

    Father Rick Peace be with you

    A Historic Overview of the Old Catholic Churches
    by The Most Rev. Francis P. Facione

    It seems appropriate to begin this discussion with a statement of what the Old Catholic Church is not. It is not a sect or a schism as some of its self-appointed critics may claim. The Old Catholic Church is a body of Christians committed to the Person of Jesus Christ and His teaching and, as shall become evident in this article, forms an historic part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

    The Old Catholic Church affirms its historic continuity with the Apostolic Church of the first century through the ancient See of Utrecht in Holland. St. Willibrord, the Apostle of the Netherlands was consecrated to the Episcopacy by Pope Sergius I in 696 A.D. at Rome. Upon his return to the Netherlands, he established his See at Utrecht. In addition, he established the dioceses at Deventer and Haarlem. One of his successors was St. Boniface, the Apostle of Germany. The Church of Utrecht also provided a worthy occupant for the Papal See in 1552 in the person of Pope Hadrian VI, while two of the most able exponents of the spiritual life, Geert Groote, who founded the Brothers of the Common Life, and Thomas a Kempis, who is credited with writing the Imitation of Christ, were both from the Dutch Church.

    Assenting to a petition made by the Holy Roman Emperor, Conrad II and Bishop Heribert of Utrecht, Blessed Pope Eugene III, in the year 1145 A.D., granted the Cathedral Chapter of Utrecht the right to elect successors to the See in times of vacancy. This privilege was affirmed by the Fourth Council of the Lateran in 1215. The autonomous character of the Ancient Catholic Church in the Netherlands was further demonstrated when a second papal grant by Pope Leo X, Debitum Pastoralis, conceded to Philip of Burgundy, the 57th Bishop of Utrecht, that neither he nor any of his successors, nor any of their clergy or laity, should ever, in the first instance, have his cause evoked to an external tribunal, not even under pretense of any apostolic letters whatever; and all such proceedings should be, ipso facto, null and void. This papal concession, in 1520, was of the greatest importance in the defense of the rights of the Church of Utrecht.

    Armed with the protection of the papal concessions, the Church in the netherlands continued to minister even through the turbulence of the Reformation. During this period of strife, the Church in the Netherlands, as in many other countries, was forced to "go underground" in order to survive and remain intact, it did. Eventually, the Archbishop of Utrecht and other church leaders reached informal agreement with the civil government whereby it could again function openly without interference from the Reformers.

    While peace and toleration was achieved with the civil government, a new, growing tension was developing for the Church in Utrecht. The cause of this uneasiness was the motivation of the Counter-Reformers, most notably the Jesuits, to "re- missionize" the Dutch Church. In 1592, the Jesuits, for reasons largely political, began to invade the jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Utrecht, and although more than once rebuked by the Pope and ordered to submit themselves to the authority of the Archbishop, their machinations continued unabated. This intrusion of the Counter-Reformers was strongly resisted by the clergy and bishops of the Netherlands as well as frowned upon by the Dutch government. Nevertheless, in 1691, the Jesuits took the step of falsely accusing the Archbishop, Petter Codde, of favoring the so-called Jansenist heresy. The Holy Father, Pope Innocent XII appointed a Commission of Cardinals to investigate the accusations against Archbishop Codde. The result of this inquiry was a complete and unconditional exoneration of the Archbishop.

    Undaunted by the decision of the Commission appointed by Pope Innocent XII, the Counter-Reformers prevailed upon the new Pope, Clement XI, to summon Archbishop Codde to Rome in 1700 under the pretext of participating in the Jubilee Year whereupon a second Commission was appointed to try the Archbishop. The result of this second proceeding was again a complete and unconditional acquittal. While this should have ended the matter, it didn't. Pope Clement was prevailed upon to issue an order which suspended the Archbishop in 1701 and appointed a successor to the See of Utrecht.

    When news of these events was made public, the indignation, even on the part of those most favorable to the Counter-Reformers' position was unbound. Believing the suspension of their Archbishop to be an unprecedented injustice, those left in charge refused to acquiesce in it, and maintained not only the wrongfulness of the action, but also their unassailable right to choose a successor to Codde, and refused to recognize the person whom Pope Clement wished to thrust upon them. In this stance, they were joined by many theologians and canon lawyers as well as bishops and civil officials including the Dutch Government which not only refused to allow Archbishop Codde's "successor" to function in Holland, but also demanded that Codde be allowed to return to Utrecht.

    Upon his return to Utrecht in June of 1703, Archbishop Codde found everything in the wildest confusion. Continued conflict seemed inevitable as attempts to resolve the matter were useless. Finally, in a Pastoral Letter of 19 March 1704, Codde announced his decision to retire from the actual exercise of his office, under protest against the injustice of his suspension. He retired to his country house near Utrecht where he died on December 18, 1710.

    With Archbishop Codde's decision to retire, the administration of the diocese reverted, according to all principles of canon law, to the Cathedral Chapter which ably discharged its duties. During this period, the chapter arranged to have an Irish bishop, Luke Fagan, Bishop of Meath and later Archbishop of Dublin, ordain priests for the Church of Utrecht. Following Luke Fagan's lead, three French bishops also signified their willingness to ordain clergy for the Dutch church.

    Meanwhile, the oppressed Church continued its efforts to obtain a hearing for resolution of its grievances. Its case was presented to the University of Louvain in May of 1717. In the course of that year and the next, the entire body of theologians and canonists of the University agreed that the rights of the Chapter of Utrecht had been violated and the actions against it were not only contrary to church law but null and void. Its appeal to a future General Council of the Church was ignored. As a result, the Church of Holland which had been, de jure, autonomous, became, de facto, an independent Catholic church.

    Thus was the situation to remain until 1723 when on April 27th, the Cathedral Chapter proceeded to the election of the Seventh Archbishop of Utrecht, Dr. Cornelius Steenoven, who had been the companion of Archbishop Codde during his sojourn at Rome. Steenoven was consecrated to the episcopacy on October 15, 1724 by Monsignor Dominique Varlet, Bishop of Ascalon, then resident in Amsterdam because of his own difficulties with Counter-Reformers and others intriguing against him. Bishop Varlet was to be called upon to consecrate three other archbishops for Utrecht between 1724 and 1739. He died at the Hague on May 14, 1742.

    The Tenth Archbishop, Peter John Meindaerts, consecrated by Varlet on St. Luke's Day, 1739, proceeded to the consecration of Jerome de Bock for the diocese of Haarlem thus assuring the episcopacy for the Church of Holland following Varlet's death.

    The question of a third bishop had long occupied the attention of Archbishop Meindaerts. After much discussion and considerable delays, the Archbishop and Canons assembled in September, 1757 and elected Bartholomew John Byevelt, one of the Canons, Bishop of Deventer. He was consecrated bishop on the Conversion of St. Paul, January 25, 1758.

    In 1763, at the call of Archbishop Meindaerts, a synod of the bishops and clergy was held, and the acts of this synod are a remarkable testimony to its firm hold of the Faith, and its intention that the church of Holland should remain steadfast in it. With the publication of these acts in other countries, there was considerable hope that a medium had been found to heal the breach between Rome and the church of Holland. Unfortunately, these hopes were destined to remain unfulfilled and the church of Holland continued in its forced state of isolation.

    In 1853, Pope Pius IX established a rival hierarchy to that of the church of Holland, and so now there were two churches of Holland, both catholic, rivals, though not actually enemies. It was this "restoration" of the hierarchy which gave rise to the name "Old Roman Catholic" which began to be applied to the original Church to distinguish it from the new establishment of Pius IX.

    In 1870, Pope Pius IX convened Vatican Council I, enriching the hope of the church of Holland that it would receive a hearing on its grievances. Alas this was not to be as its bishops were refused seating in the deliberations of that synod. In fact, at the instigation of those unfavorable to the cause of the church of Holland, the Vatican Council abolished the principle of appeal to a general council of the Church.

    Following the Vatican Council I, a considerable dissent among Catholics in parts of Germany, Austria and Switzerland arose over the issue of the definition of papal infallibility as a dogma of the Church. The dissenters, while holding the Church in General Council to be infallible, were unwilling to accept the proposition that the Pope, acting alone in matters of faith and morals is infallible (cf Bishop Josip Strossmayer (1815-1905) speech at Vatican I). Many of these Catholics formed independent communities that came to be known as Old Catholic because they sought to adhere to the beliefs and practices of the Catholic Church of the post-apostolic era. These communities appealed to the Archbishop of Utrecht who consecrated the first bishops for these groups. Eventually under the leadership of the Church of Holland, the Old Catholic communities joined together to form the Utrecht Union of Churches.

    The foregoing text file is an electronic "reprint" of the first in a series of articles by Bishop Facione, Presiding Bishop of the
    Old Roman Catholic Church in North America, published originally in The Scroll by the Society of St. Mark, who has
    given its permission that it be freely distributed with attribution.
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  2. Father Rick

    Father Rick Peace be with you

    Frequently Asked Questions:

    Are you Catholic?

    When people speak of Catholics today, they often mean Roman Catholics. However the term catholic was first used in the letter of Saint Ignatius of Antioch to the Smyrnaeans (about AD 110) in reference to the “universal” church. The following is a definition for the word “catholic”: Catholic Abbr. C.. a. Of or involving the Roman Catholic Church. b. Of or relating to the universal Christian church. c. Of or relating to the ancient undivided Christian church. d. Of or relating to those churches that have claimed to be representatives of the ancient undivided church. The American Heritage®
    Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition [1]

    There are in fact many Communions (Churches) that are in fact part of the Catholic Church as they can trace their beliefs, teachings, and origins to the ancient undivided Apostolic Church. One of the primary attributes of a Catholic Church is that each maintains a line of Apostolic Succession in their clergy thus making them part of the “One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church” as proclaimed in the Nicene Creed.

    Some of these Communions are the Orthodox (Greek, Serbian, Russian, Coptic, and many more), Anglican (Episcopal), and Old Catholic.

    What is “Old Catholic ”?
    The Old Catholic Church traces it roots to the 7th century.

    It was during this time when the church was one and undivided that the Anglo-Saxon monk Willibrord missionized the area of Europe now known as the Netherlands and France.

    The name "Old Catholic" began to come into use in 1741 when the Church in Utrecht turned from Roma and began to refer to call themselves as Roman Catholics of the “Old Episcopal Clergy” (Old Catholics). It wasn't until late 19th century in Europe when over the refusal to accept Papal Infallibility that the Churches in Europe formally adopted the name "Old Catholic".

    It is this earlier “undivided” Christianity that was taught to the people in this part of the world and it is that “undivided” Church that Old Catholics seek to restore.

    Are you in communion with the Roman Catholic Church?
    No. The Old Catholic Churches separated from the Roman Catholic Church in the late 19th century over the refusal to accept the dogma of Papal Infallibility. [2]

    Old Catholic - does that mean your Mass is in Latin?
    No. The name Old Catholic was chosen to signify the desire of the Church to return to the traditions and teachings of the undivided Church prior to the great schism of 1054. Our services are conducted in the language of the people. In addition each parish is allowed to use a rite that suites the local congregation. For example some parishes may use the current
    Roman Rite, others the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer, others the Old Catholic Rites of the European Churches, etc.

    Since you are not under the authority of the Pope then who is the head of your church?
    Jesus Christ is the head of the Church and as proclaimed by the Early Church Fathers the Holy Spirit is the Vicar of Christ. However, our parishes and clergy, like all other Catholic Communions, are under the guidance and authority of a Bishop. Our denomination maintains valid lines of Apostolic Succession, which can be traced to the ancient and undivided church. All clergy in the OCCNA are ordained by the “laying on of hands”.

    I noticed that you are married. How can this be?
    Celibacy was not required in the Roman Communion until the 13th century. Celibacy is not required in most of the other Catholic Communions. Our bishops believe that to refuse the full sacerdotal ministry to a married individual is to act in a manner as to limit whom God may call to His service.

    Do you allow women to be ordained?
    Yes. Once again the our bishops believe that to refuse the full sacerdotal ministry to an individual is to act in a manner as to limit whom God may call to His service.

    My spouse is not Catholic may they receive Eucharist/Communion?
    Yes. The OCCNA believes that any person Baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is a member of the Body of Christ (Church) and therefore may receive Communion.

    I am divorced and remarried may I receive Communion?
    Yes. While the OCCNA looks upon matrimony as a sacrament, and believes that marriage should be a lifelong commitment between a man and a woman we do realize though that situations will arise that will lead to divorce. It is our opinion that to refuse Communion to a divorced individual who is sincerely seeking to repent and turn to Christ is to inflict additional emotional pain and suffering.

    Do I have to go to confession?
    If you are asking if you must confess and repent of your sins to be forgiven – then the answer is yes. If you are asking must you confess your sins before a priest to be forgiven then the answer is no. The OCCNA teaches that the sacrament of Reconciliation is provided in both the General Confession and Absolution, which is included in the Mass, and through private confession to either a Priest or Bishop. It is our belief that the INTENT (sincerity) of the individual takes precedent over form.

    Do you have the same Sacraments as the Roman Catholic Church?
    Yes, we profess and provide seven sacraments. They are:

    Baptism: The means of spiritual rebirth through which we are made children of God and heirs of Heaven: ``Amen, amen I say to thee, unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.'' (John 3:5. Also see Acts 2:38, Rom. 6:2-6).

    Confirmation: Confers the Holy Spirit to make us strong and perfect Christians and soldiers of Jesus Christ: ``Now when the apostles, who were in Jerusalem, had heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John. Who, when they were come, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost.... Then they laid their hands upon them, and they received the Holy Ghost.'' (Acts 8:14-17. Also see Acts 19:6).

    Eucharist: Also known as Holy Communion, which nourishes the soul with the true Flesh and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus, under the appearance, or sacramental veil, of bread and wine: ``And whilst they were eating, Jesus took bread; and blessing, broke, and gave to them, and said: Take ye. This is my body. And having taken the chalice, giving thanks, he gave it to them. And they all drank of it. And he said to them: This is my blood of the new testament, which shall be shed for many.'' (Mark 14:22-24. Also see Matt. 26:26-28, Luke 22:19-20, John 6:52-54, 1 Cor. 10:16).

    Reconciliation: Also known as Confession, through which Christ forgives sin and restores the soul to grace: ``Receive ye the Holy Ghost. Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained. '' (John 20:22-23. Also see Matt. 18:18).

    Anointing: Sometimes called Unction, which strengthens the sick and sanctifies the dying: ``Is any man sick among you? Let him bring in the priests of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord . . . and if he be in, sins, they shall be forgiven him.'' (James 5:14-15. Also see Mark 6:12-13).

    Holy Orders: Empowers priests to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, administer the sacraments, and officiate over all the other proper affairs of the Church: ``For every high priest taken from among men, is ordained for men in the things that pertain to God, that he may offer up gifts and sacrifices for sins.... Neither doth any man take the honor to himself, but
    he that is called by God, as Aaron was.'' (Heb. 5:1-4. Also see Acts 20:28, 1 Tim. 4:14). Also: ``And taking bread, he gave thanks, and broke; and gave to them, saying: This is my body, which is given for you. Do this for a commemoration of me.'' (Luke 22:19).

    Marriage: Unites a man and woman in a holy bond: ``For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they two shall be in one flesh. Therefore now they are not two, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let no man put asunder.'' (Matt. 19:5-6. Also see Mark 10:7-9, Eph. 5:22-32).

    [1]Excerpted from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition © 1996 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
    Electronic version licensed from INSO Corporation; further reproduction and distribution in accordance with the Copyright Law of the United States. All rights reserved.

    [2]Old Catholics, Christian denomination organized in Munich in 1871 by Roman Catholics who protested the dogma, proclaimed the
    previous year by Vatican Council I, of the personal infallibility of the pope in all ex cathedra pronouncements. Excerpted from Microsoft
    Encarta Encyclopedia 2000
  3. Father Rick

    Father Rick Peace be with you


    The terms of the Bonn agreement (1931) which led to full communion between Old Catholics and Anglicans, and which continues to be a pattern for further intercommunion relations between the churches, reads as follows:

    1. Each Communion recognises the Catholicity and independence of the other, and maintains its own.
    2. Each Communion agrees to admit members of the other Communion to participate in the Sacraments.
    3. Intercommunion does not require from either Communion the acceptance of all doctrinal opinion, sacramental devotion or liturgical practice characteristic of the other, but implies that each believes the other to hold all the essentials of the Christian Faith.

    Lay people

    The members of both churches may participate in each other's sacramental life and enjoy the benefits of pastoral and congregational life.


    Since the orders of each church are recognised by the other, priests and deacons of Anglican and Old Catholic Churches can fully participate in each other's ministries.


    Bishops participate in the consecrations of bishops of both churches and have regular consultations at many levels.
  4. ps139

    ps139 Ab omni malo, libera nos, Domine!

  5. karen freeinchristman

    karen freeinchristman More of You and less of me, Lord! Supporter

    Bumping to get our sticky section in order.
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