Who We Are
We are a Diverse People, United in our Faith and Liberated by the Gospel!
The Reformed Catholic Church endeavors to provide a place where all people can come to worship God, pray, receive the Sacraments, and be fed with the Word. Of particular concern to us is the offering of valid sacraments to those who have been disenfranchised by the exclusionary practices of other churches and other Christians seeking forms of worship and beliefs founded in the traditions and beliefs of the early church.
Who We, As Old Catholics, Are
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 His Apostles, eyewitnesses of His Life, Death and Resurrection from among the dead. They passed on to succeeding generations their own testimony about Jesus Christ and His life. By the proclaiming of His Gospel and the giving of their own testimony (called the Apostolic Tradition), the Church, which the Lord instituted, was built up. Old Catholics are an historic part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church and have their origins in the Ancient Catholic Church of the Netherlands.
The Ancient Catholic Church of the Netherlands
St. Willibrord missionized the area of Europe known as the Low Countries in the Seventh Century firmly establishing the Catholic Faith and Tradition in the Netherlands and other countries in that region. Early on, three principal dioceses were established in the cities of Utrecht, Deventer and Haarlem to administer the affairs of the Church in the territory. Utrecht eventually became the archiepiscopal see with supervision over Deventer and Haarlem. Assenting to a petition made by the Holy Roman Emperor Conrad III and Bishop Heribert of Utrecht, Blessed Pope Eugene III, in 1145 A.D. granted the Cathedral Chapter of Utrecht the right to elect successors to the See in times of vacancy. The fourth Council of the Laterian confirmed this privilege in 1215. The autonomous character of the Ancient Catholic Church in the Netherlands was further demonstrated when a second grant by Pope Leo X, Debitum Pastoralis, conceded to Philip of Burgundy, 57th Bishop of Utrecht, that neither he nor his successors, nor any of their clergy or laity, should ever, in the first instance, have his cause evoked to any external tribunal, not even under pretense of any apostolic letters whatever; and that all such proceedings should be, ipso facto, null and void. This papal concession, in 1520, was of the greatest importance in defense of the rights of the Church.
The Church in the Netherlands and the Reformation
Armed with the protection of the papal concessions, the Church in the Netherlands continued to minister even through 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. But survive and remain extant, it did. Eventually, the Archbishop of Utrecht and other Church leaders reached an informal agreement with the civil government, whereby it could again function openly without interference from the Reformers.
The Move from Isolation
Following the First Vatican Council in 1870 (at which the hierarchy of the Church of Holland were refused admittance), a considerable dissent among Catholics, especially in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, arose over the dogma of papal infallibility. The dissenters, while holding the Church in General Council to be infallible, could not accept the proposition that the Pope, acting alone, in matters of faith and morals is infallible. Many formed independent communities that came to be known as Old Catholic. They are called Old Catholics because they sought to adhere to the beliefs and practices of the Catholic Church of the post-Apostolic era. The Old Catholic communities appealed to the Archbishop of Utrecht who consecrated the first bishops for these communities. Eventually, under the leadership of the Church of Holland, these Old Catholic communities joined together to form the Utrecht Union of Churches. The Utrecht Union of Churches approbated, in 1908, the establishment of a mission in Great Britain. Archbishop Gerardus Gul of Utrecht consecrated Father Arnold Harris Matthew, a resigned Roman Catholic priest, Regionary Bishop for England. It was Bishop Mathew’s charge to minister among Anglo-Catholics and Roman Catholics impeded from full participation in the life and sacraments of the Church. Toward this end, Bishop Mathew consecrated Austrian nobleman, Prince Rudolph Edward de Landes Berghes, in 1913 for work in Scotland. Prince Rudolph (1873-1920) left England for the United States at the onset of World War I.
In the United States
Bishop de Landes Berghes, in spite of great difficulty and isolation from the Utrecht Union of Churches, due to Bishop Mathew’s hasty action in withdrawing from the Union, was able to plant the roots of an independent expression of Catholicism in America. He elevated to the episcopacy two priests, Carmel Henry Carfora and William Francis Brothers. Each of these bishops, in his own manner, continued the mission begun by Bishop de Landes Berghes. 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 more closely following St. Ignatius of Antioch’s concepts of the Church as a communion of communities each laboring together to proclaim the message of the Gospel.
At the suggestion of the Archbishop of Utrecht, the Old Catholic bishops in the United States established the Council of Independent Catholic Bishops as a means to more closely coordinate ministry and serve as a forum for better communication and exchange of ideas and planning. Since it’s founding in 1982, the Council has achieved some success in bringing a greater sense of unity and purpose and action to the Old Catholic hierarchy in the United States.
What Old Catholics Believe
The faith of Old Catholics is simply that of the Catholic Church as taught by the Church from apostolic times to the present day. The ecumenical Councils clearly express what Old Catholics believe without the need for apology or excuse. In 1823, Archbishop Willibrord van Os of Utrecht reiterated adherence to the unchanging doctrine of Catholicism in the following words:” We accept without any exception whatever, all the Articles of the Holy Catholic Faith. We will never hold nor teach, now or afterwards, any other opinions than those that have been decreed, determined and published by our Mother, Holy Church…” Thus, Old Catholics, tracing their Apostolic Succession through the Roman Catholic Church to the Apostles, participated in the full sacramental ministry of the Church. The Rule of Faith of Old Catholics is faithful adherence to Sacred Scripture and the Apostolic Tradition.
How we differ
In matters of discipline, administration and procedure, Old Catholics differ from the Roman Catholic Church. For example, clerical celibacy (which is a matter of discipline) is optional among Old Catholics. Married men and women may be ordained and in many of our dioceses clergy may, with prior Episcopal consent, enter into Holy Matrimony after ordination. Liturgical expression is also a matter of discipline determined by the local bishop. Consequently, many Old Catholic communities have adopted the liturgical renewal promulgated following the Second Vatican Council while still maintaining Tridentine liturgy, in Latin or direct translation into classical or modern English, in those parishes that desire it. Eastern rite Old Catholic parishes exist as well, which follow the ancient liturgies of that rich tradition. Because Old Catholic communities are small, they are able to success fully implement the Ignatian model of the Church referred to earlier. This concept 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 utilize their size and lack of highly detailed structure to the very best advantage organizationally by their ability to expedite decisions affecting the sacramental and community life of the faithful, within the revelation and authority of Holy Scripture and Apostolic Tradition.
There are other distinctions by which Old Catholic communities are differentiated from Roman Catholic parishes. The matter of papal infallibility defined by Vatican Council I is a non-issue for Old Catholics, since we are independent of papal jurisdiction. All Old Catholic communities accord the Holy Father that respect due him as Successor of St. Peter, Prince of the Apostles and Patriarch of the West. Old Catholics adhere to the teaching from apostolic times that the Church in General Council is infallible. Another difference is that divorced people who remarry are treated in a pastoral manner and not excluded from the sacramental life of the Church. Further, the matter of contraception is treated as a matter of personal conscience between husband and wife. Old Catholic theology recognizes that the Church’s teaching magisterium has no less than two objects: the formation of conscience, in which case authority has an instructive quality; and the nurturing of an informed conscience to full maturity, in which case authority is guiding but not directive.
Old Catholic Ministry
By developing new methods and ideas with an emphasis on community, and Catholicism, which expresses a warmth and interest in the total person, Old Catholic communities are able to address the needs of today’s society in the waning years of the Twentieth Century. For the contemporary Catholic searching to maintain his/her Faith but desiring to do so without excessive institutionalism that often loses contact with the individual; for those with a Catholic background who feel impeded from full participation in the life and Sacraments of the Church; for the many unchurched who desire the joy and peace of Our Lord’s Word and His Holy Sacraments, Old Catholic communities provide available alternative and allow a person to be a part of Christ’s Church, and beat peace with his/her conscience. Old Catholic communities, because of their size, can give individual attention to the individual spiritual needs of the faithful and, where necessary, develop unique ministries to meet those needs.
Encyclopedia Article on 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 The Munich protest, by 44 professors under the leadership of the German theologians and historians Johann Joseph Ignaz von Döllinger and Johannes Friedrich, was directed against the binding authority of the Vatican Council. To this protest a number of professors at Bonn, Breslau (, Freiburg, and Giessen declared their adherence. At Cologne in 1873 the German theologian Joseph Hubert Reinkens was elected bishop of the Old Catholics in the ancient fashion, by “clergy and people,” that is, by all the Old Catholic priests and by representatives of the Old Catholic congregations. He was consecrated at Rotterdam by the bishop of Deventer, the Netherlands, and acknowledged by the German states of Prussia, Baden, and Hessen. Döllinger refused to become involved in organized schism and eventually broke with the movement, but he never returned to the Roman Catholic Church.
Statements on The Old Catholic Movement
CATHOLIC VISITOR, INC. 1978
(An official publication of the Roman Catholic Church)
Old Catholic – several groups, including: (1) the Church of Utrecht, which severed relations with Rome in 1724; (2) The National Polish Church in the U.S., which has its origin near the end of the 19th century; (3) German, Austrian and Swiss Old Catholics, who broke away from union with Rome following the First Vatican Council in 1870 because they objected to the dogma of papal infallibility.
The formation of the Old Catholic communion of Germans, Austrians and Swiss began in 1870 at a public meeting held in Nuremberg under the leadership of A. Dolinger. Four years later Episcopal succession was established with ordination of an Old Catholic German bishop by a prelate of the Church of Utrecht. In line with the “Declaration of Utrecht” of 1889, they accept the first seven ecumenical councils and doctrine formulated before 1054, but reject communion with the pope and a number of other Roman Catholic doctrines and practices. They have a valid priesthood and valid sacraments. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church notes that they have recognized Anglican ordinations since 1925, that they have full communion with the Church of England since 1932, and have taken part in ordination of Anglican Bishops.
Published with Ecclesiastical Approval
OUR SUNDAY VISITOR, INC.
Huntington, Indiana 46750
Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith Declaration: Dominus Jesus
17. Therefore, there exists a single Church of Christ, which subsists in the Catholic Church, governed by the Successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him. The Churches which, while not existing in perfect communion with the (Roman) Catholic Church, remain united to her by means of the closest bonds, that is, by apostolic succession and a valid Eucharist, are true particular Churches. Therefore, the Church of Christ is present and operative also in these Churches, even though they lack full communion with the (Roman) Catholic Church…
From the Vatican, August 6, 2000
 “When a Catholic sacred minister is unavailable and there is urgent spiritual necessity, Catholics may receive the Eucharist, penance, or anointing from sacred ministers of non-Catholic denomination whose holy orders are considered valid by the Catholic Church. This includes all Eastern Orthodox priests, as well as priests of the Old Catholic or Polish National Church.” Rights and Responsibilities, A Catholics’ Guide to the New Code of Canon Law, Thomas P. Doyle, O.P., page 44.
 “A validly consecrated bishop can validly confer all orders from the minor orders to the episcopate inclusively … For this reason the ordinations performed by the bishops of the Old Catholics are consider valid.” A Practical Commentary on the Code of Canon Law, revised and enlarged edition, by Rev. Stanislaw Woywod, OFM, LLB. Vol. 1, Sec. 881 P. 558.
 “They [Old Catholics] have received valid orders.” Roman Catholic Dictionary, by Addison Arnold.
 “The Old Catholic Church has received valid episcopal consecration”, Christian Denominations, by Rev. Konrad Algemissen.
 “Their [Old Catholic] Orders and Sacraments are valid.” A Catholic Dictionary, by Donald Attwater.
 “The Far East Magazine of June, 1928, published by the Saint Columban Fathers of St. Columbans, Nebraska, in reply to any inquiry about the Old Catholic Church, published the reply that: “These [Old Catholics] Orders are valid.”
 “The Roman Church recognizes the validity of Old Catholic Orders and other Sacraments.” 1974 Catholic Almanac, by Felician A. Roy, OFM, page 368. “Our Sunday Visitor.”
 “We have no reason to doubt that the Old Catholic Orders are valid. The Apostolic Succession does not depend on obedience to the See of Peter but rather on the objective line of succession from Apostolic sources, the proper matter and form, and the proper intention … likewise Old Catholic bishops are bishops in Apostolic Succession … The Old Catholics, like the Orthodox, posses a valid priesthood.” Separated Brethren, William J. Whalen, pp. 204, 248.
 (Apostolicae Curae) “…Whenever there is no appearance of simulation on the part of the minister, the validity of the sacrament is sufficiently certain … “
 “Every validly consecrated bishop, including heretical, schismatic, simonistic or excommunicated bishops, can validly dispense the Sacrament of Order, provided that he has the requisite intention, and follows the essential external rite (set. Certa). Cf. D 855, 860; CIC 2372.” 1952 Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma by Dr. Ludwig Ott, pp. 456.
[These sources were printed with the imprimatur of various Roman Catholic Bishops]
Catholic Almanac – 1974
“The Roman Church recognizes the validity of Old Catholic Orders and other Sacraments.”
(Foy, Felician A., O.F.M. Catholic Almanac. Indiana: Our Sunday Visitor, 1974.)
“We have no reason to doubt that the Old Catholic Orders are valid. The Apostolic Succession does not depend on obedience to the See of Peter, but rather on the objective line of succession from Apostolic sources, the proper matter and form, and the proper intention … likewise Old Catholic bishops are bishops in Apostolic Succession … The Old Catholics, like the Orthodox, possess a valid priesthood.”
(Whalen, William Joseph. Separated Brethren: A Review of Protestant, Anglican, Eastern Orthodox and Other Religions in the United States. Indiana: Our Sunday Visitor, 2002.)
Rights and Responsibilities: A Catholic’s Guide to the New Code of Canon Law
“When a Catholic sacred minister is unavailable and there is urgent spiritual necessity, Catholics may receive the Eucharist, penance, or anointing from sacred ministers of non-[Roman] Catholic denominations whose Holy Orders are considered valid by the Catholic Church. This includes all Eastern Orthodox priests, as well as priests of the Old Catholic or Polish National Church.”
(Doyle, Thomas P., O.P. Rights and Responsibilities. New York: Pueblo Publishing Company, 1983.)
of the early church.e Reformed Catholic Church endeavors to provide a place where all people can come to worship God, pray, receive the Sacraments, and be fed with the Word. Of particular concern to us is the offering of v
alid sacraments to those who have been disenfranchised by the exclusionary practices of other churches and other Christians seeking forms of worship and beliefs founded in the traditions and belief