A Church in the Old Catholic Tradition
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The Catholic Church in America, while one of many independent Catholic communions, is an autocephalous jurisdiction which practices an authentic Catholicism rooted in the beliefs and worship of the historic, universal Catholic Church
Priests of our jurisdiction are ordained by Bishops who can trace their origins through the Roman Catholic Church, back to the early Church Fathers and the Apostles by way of three distinct sources:
- Utrecht Succession: The Church in Utrecht Holland had exercised autonomy (as “Prince Bishops”) from the Roman Church for nearly seven hundred years, maintaining the right to elect their own bishops. Then in 1723 when (over issues of theology and authority) seven clerics formed the Chapter of Utrecht and elected Cornelius Steenhoven as Archbishop. Steenhoven was consecrated by a French Bishop, Varlet. Almost a century and a half later, in 1870, another group of priests, led by the German theologian, Ignace Von Dollinger, invited the Church of Holland to oppose the new teaching of autonomous authority and infallibility, defined by Pope Pius IX at the First Vatican Council. An assembly of 22 priests presented Joseph Rienkins to the Dutch Independent Church for Consecration. He became the first “Old Catholic” bishop on August 11, 1873 at the hands of the Bishop of Deventer, Holland.
- The Order of Corporate Reunion: As a result of Anglican orders being claimed, null and void, in the Bull “Apostolicae Curae” by Pope Leo XIII; it is under these circumstances, some Anglicans resolved to ensure that their church had access to Holy Orders which were undoubtedly valid and that would remove the related obstacles to corporate reunion between the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church. It was in this light that the Order of Corporate Reunion (OCR) was established. The stated goal of the OCR was “recovering from elsewhere that which has been forfeited or lost – securing three distinct and independent lines of a new Episcopal Succession, so as to labor corporately, and on no sandy foundation, for the healing of the breach which has been made. In thus associating ourselves together, we solemnly take as the basis of this Our Order the Catholic Faith as defined by the Seven General Councils, acknowledged as such by the whole Church of the East and the West before the great and deplorable schism, and as commonly received in the Apostles´ Creed, and the Creed of Nicaea, and the Creed of St. Athanasius.”
- Brazilian Lines: Another line of apostolic succession was established in 1945 when a former Roman Catholic bishop, Brazilian bishop, Carlos Duarte Costa, created an independent Brazilian Catholic Church to better meet the needs of the oppressed and poverty stricken laity.
Independent Catholicism has been defined as any number of autocephalous Catholic jurisdictions, throughout the world, maintaining faithfulness to Catholic tradition and having a valid connection with historic Catholic Church through recognized Apostolic Succession.
In union with other conservative Old Catholic jurisdictions, the CCIA believes in the infallible teaching authority of the historic Catholic magisterium as outlined councils and teachings of the undivided Church of the first 1,000 years. In that light we reject as “new innovations,” modern Roman Catholic dogma regarding the infallibility and universal authority of the Bishop of Rome. The CCIA, along with Churches of Orthodoxy, maintain a traditional view and respect of the bishop of Rome, the Pope, as “Primus Inter Pares,” or first, among equals.
In union with historic Catholicism we celebrate as holy traditions the Immaculate Conception and Assumption of Mary, but do not hold these as dogmatic positions, on which our salvation, or eternal destiny rest. We view these Vatican I dogmatic positions as “new innovations” in that they were never viewed as “dogma” in the history of the Church and further they were unilaterally proclaimed, not through an authentic ecumenical council of the entire Church.
Due to the blessings of valid apostolic succession as outlined above, our sacramental ministry remains valid as well. In this light, our Bishops and Priests joyfully celebrate all seven sacraments. Churches within the CCIA generally practice modern liturgies which maintain the essential dignity of these sacred mysteries. Our liturgies are also (generally) celebrated in the vernacular, or language common to each individual community or region. At this time we do not require that each parish conform to a particular liturgy. Each bishop is responsible for approving which rite is utilized in their individual diocese.
There is a stark contrast between dogma, doctrine and discipline. We’ve already looked at Dogma and so-called new innovations, in this understanding, the CCIA’s disciplines differ from those of the Roman Church in a few areas:
- As an issue of modern-times, married couples in our jurisdiction are taught that having children is an important aspect of marriage, and that limiting family size is both a personal choice and responsibility. In that vein, we, as a jurisdiction allow for the use of artificial contraception as long as the choice of the means of birth control is not abortifacient.
- In accord with ancient tradition and in union with churches of Orthodoxy and the Anglican communion, the CCIA allows as a practice, that our clergy are permitted to be either married or celibate.
- The majority of churches who claim to be part of the “Old Catholic Tradition” in our age fall into the category of what we view to be modernist, influenced to a great deal by modern, progressive, liberal teachings. The CCIA views these churches to be “apostate,” by abandoning the teachings of the bible and tradition due to the pressures and winds of change of public opinion.
The influence of modernism into liberal churches is a great sadness. Also, how we relate to individuals influenced by modern moral teachings is critical. Our goal as a jurisdiction is to maintain fidelity to ancient moral and faith traditions of the Church. With this stated, the CCIA compassionately rejects the trends of modernism in areas of human sexuality, especially as this relates to same-sex marriage, ordaining women to the priesthood and episcopacy, as well as ordaining actively gay individuals.
The Catholic Church in America views Baptism as the universal sacrament of initiation, which makes all the other sacraments available to us. Therefore, we welcome all baptized Christians to join us in our Eucharistic celebrations, and the reception of Holy Communion, Reconciliation, and the Sacrament of the Sick. It is through this open sharing of the sacramental life that Churches within the CCIA offer a place of refuge and common ground for families of mixed Christian heritage to experience the love of Christ, rather than separation and animosity.
Though a relatively new Catholic communion, the CCIA enjoys inter-communion with many other jurisdictions affiliated with the Order of Corporate Reunion, the Philippine Independent Catholic Church, The Orthodox Church of Slovakia, as well as a new group of Churches in Cameroon, Africa.
As a long standing member of the Order of Corporate Reunion, through our late Presiding Archbishop, Juan Baladad, and his predecessors, we fervently pray for unity and reunion of separated members of the body of Christ. The Catholic Church in America is actively seeking to develop inter-communion relationships with other conservative independent Catholic jurisdictions, priests and parishes that are concerned with the growing influence and trend towards modernism.
++Michael Callahan, D.D., O.C.R.
The Catholic Church in America