The Catholic Church in America was formed in part to provide a Sacramental and Spiritual home for the untold thousands of individuals and families who have found themselves pastorally and sacramentally orphaned and without any place to celebrated their gifts of faith with a welcoming community. The tragic results are that these individuals and families have stopped actively participating in the life of Catholicism and in attending the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Given the times in which we live and the challenges we collectively face, people need God, but sadly, many have find themselves no longer welcomed to the treasures of the Faith.
Research provides us with distressing facts:
Approximately 24 percent of American adults who identify themselves as members of the larger Catholic jurisdictions attend Mass weekly.
The number of Americans identifying themselves as “unaffiliated” with a religious tradition (whether atheist, agnostic, or “nothing”) is increasing.
As many as 100,000 baptized Catholics are either drifting away from their Church home each year or have been made unwelcome.
Evangelization is critically needed now!
Perhaps you or someone you know are in this situation and do not know how to return to a welcoming community of faith.. The first thing you need to know is that you are always welcome by the Evangelical Catholic Church Our Church knows from collective personal experience who you are and hopes that you will choose to come home as an active member. To help people with this journey, we simply wish to say that our doors are unconditionally opened to you and we invite you to share your gift of faith with a community that will celebrate the gift of your presence.
We would like to share with you some common questions we have experienced in welcoming home orphaned Catholics:
Answers to Common Questions Regarding Churches in the Old Catholic Tradition
Q. Many Christians that I talk to tell me that Catholics are not Christians! What’s up with that?
A. Catholics who “believe and are baptized” are indeed Christians. Being a Christian is not dependent upon what Church you attend, or the good works that you do, but rather on your relationship with Jesus Christ. There are people who attend any Church: Protestant, Catholic, or Nondenominational, who may have never committed their trust in the saving grace of our Lord. Expressing these truths in love is part of our distinctive mission.
The Catholic Church in America is dedicated to evangelizing our particular communities and establishing new missionary outreaches in the furtherance of the Great Commission given by Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus, before ascending into heaven, commanded his disciples to proclaim the Gospel to the whole world and to baptize all nations: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.
He who believes and is baptized will be saved; he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mk 16:15-16); “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the world” (Mt 28:18-20; cf. Lk 24:46-48; Jn 17:18,20,21; Acts 1:8).
The Church’s universal mission is born from the command of Jesus Christ and is fulfilled in the course of the centuries in the proclamation of the mystery of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and the mystery of the incarnation of the Son, as the saving event for all humanity. The fundamental contents of the profession of the Christian faith are expressed thus: “I believe in one God, the Father, Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen. I believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one being with the Father. Through him, all things were made. For us men and for our salvation, he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate of the Virgin Mary and became man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day, he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father. With the Father and the Son, he is worshipped and glorified. He has spoken through the prophets. I believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.”
I like to refer to us as “Born Again Catholics,” or simply “Catholic Christians.”
Q. Are there really more than one way to be authentically Catholic?
A. Yes, there is more than one Catholic Church. There are several Catholic jurisdictions (or denominations) including Roman Catholic, Greek Catholic, Polish National Catholic, Assyrian Church of the East, and various independent Old Catholic jurisdictions including the American Old Catholic Church of which we are a part.
Since we decided to become a visible witness of Christ’s Church to the world, we often receive email and social media communication, from people who for any number of reasons resent the fact that we call ourselves “Catholic.” It is true; we are not Roman Catholics. Our clergy are permitted to be married. We do not consider divorce to be a sin worthy of separation from the sacraments of the Church. And we do not submit ourselves to the leadership of the Pope.
The distinctive that separate us from the Roman Church seems to be a source of consternation for many faithful Roman Catholics. I want to take this opportunity to say that we respect the Roman Catholic Church, their sacraments, it’s curia, magesterium, clergy and laity. We believe in the same God and recite and profess the same ancient creeds. Our sacraments are the same and our liturgies are similar. Our bishops and clergy are ordained into Apostolic Succession just like the Roman Catholic Church.
Q. I have been told that all Old Catholic priests and bishops are just former Roman Catholic clergy who have left to get married. Is this true?
A. Although many former Roman Catholic priests find their way to Old Catholic Churches, the preponderance of priests associated with the Catholic Church in America have been ordained to the priesthood by our own archbishop, their own diocesan bishop or bishops of other Old Catholic denominations.
Q. I am Catholic and my spouse is a nondenominational Protestant; can we both receive communion in your church?
A. Holy Eucharist is given to all baptized Christians who approach the altar in faith and respect.
Q. I have been divorced and remarried. Do I have to get my previous marriage annulled prior to receiving the Sacraments at your Church?
A. We do not require annulments. We do not believe in saying that a marriage did not exist. Rather, we believe in the disillusionment of ones past vows, similar to a priest leaving his vows and the ministry. Therefore, our Church permits the remarriage of a divorced person after counseling. We do not believe that divorce is the “unforgivable sin.”
Click here to view our episcopal letter on divorce and remarriage.
Q. How come Old Catholic priests are not required to be celibate?
A. Celibacy was not mandated until the 11th century. Prior to that clergy (deacons, priests, bishops and even popes) were both married and celibate. Therefore according to Tradition and CCIA constitution, most of our clergy are married.
Q. My husband and I do not feel that we can afford to support large family and have considered using artificial contraception. Is this acceptable in your Church?
A. The Catholic Church in America believes and teaches that family planning is best left to the conscience and judgment of the married couple. We do not believe that it is an infallible moral teaching that if you use birth control measures you must give up your Catholic faith, as required by the Roman Catholic Church.
Q. My parish priest told me that “Old Catholic Clergy are not really ordained and that their sacraments are invalid.” How do you answer these issues?
A. First off, your parish priest is misinformed; the Roman Catholic Magisterium does not teach this position. American Old Catholic deacons, priests, and bishops are ordained to the same sacramental and apostolic ministry as are their Roman Catholic Church (RCC) counterparts, they even share a common heritage of apostolic succession. However, Roman Catholics who wish to be faithful to the teachings of the RCC are obligated to receive the sacraments from their local parish or another local RCC if there are traveling. They may only receive the sacraments outside their Church in cases of dire emergency.
We believe that the sacraments bring us into a deeper relationship with the whole church (i.e. the body of Christ – the “universal” Catholic Church). While the RCC teaches that (according to Msgr. Richard A. Loomis, vicar for clergy for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles ); “The choice of a church can have serious implications, first Communion and Confirmation are viewed as sacraments of initiation that bring one deeper into a relationship with the Church,” he said. “In our view, people who receive these sacraments in the Old Catholic Church have made a formal act which separates them from their faith,” Loomis said.
Clearly, for the RCC the sacraments are a sectarian and guarded treasure. For Old Catholic Churches, Christians from all faith expressions (including Roman Catholic) are welcome to participate in our sacramental ministries.
We as “Old” Catholics, feel a distinct calling to reach out to the multitudes of Roman Catholics, who for reasons of conscience no longer feel welcome to partake of the Sacraments in the Roman Catholic Church. Yes, by the Roman Catholic Church’s own policy, if you are a Roman Catholic in good standing, and wish to remain so, you should not participate in our sacramental ministry. However, if you or your family are falling through the sacramental cracks of the Roman Catholic Church, contact your local Old Catholic Parish. You will be welcomed!
1 L.A. Times Special Report titled “A Confusion of Churches.” 2-27-00 by Margaret Ramirez
According to the document “DOMINUS IESUS,” issued by +Pope John Paul II, June 16, 2000, and signed by +Joseph Cardinal, Ratzinger, Prefect, August 6, 2000, from the Offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; “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…”
Q. Why don’t Old Catholics believe in the Pope?
A. It would be inaccurate to say that we don’t believe in the Pope. It would be more correct to say that Old Catholics do not believe in the dogma of “Papal Infallibility” and therefore have separated themselves from Papal authority. Papal Infallibility is not an historic, authentic Catholic belief, nor was it ever a part of the teachings of Jesus, the Apostolic Traditions, nor of the early Church Fathers. The dogma of Papal Infallibility which was promulgated at Vatican I, is the primary factor which caused the Churches who became Old Catholic to break away from Rome. They called themselves “Old Catholics” because they sought to turn the clock back and adhere to the faith, beliefs and practices of the One Holy and Apostolic Catholic Church prior to the Schism of 1054.
Q. Why does the Catholic Church “Hate” people who identify as “LGBTQ?”
A. 1st off, let me state unequivocally, that Catholics are commanded to love everyone. If you were to attend one of our parishes, and identify as one flavor of LGBTQ, or another, you would be welcomed with loving arms. However, please be patient, and don’t be surprised that we maintain traditional moral teachings.
There is a false narrative in our modern times that if you don’t support something a person does, that “you are a hater.” This response is typically designed to make people feel guilty and shut down the discussion rather than truly attempting to understand this particular Catholic teaching. As I told my own daughter recently (who came out as a lesbian), there is a difference between love and approval. Loving someone does not necessitate embracing every choice or action they make.