Old Catholic Church

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Wikipedia, "Old Catholic Church"
The term Old Catholic Church is commonly used to describe a number of Ultrajectine Christian churches that originated with groups that split from the Roman Catholic Church over certain doctrines, most importantly that of Papal Infallibility. These churches are not in communion with the Holy See of Rome, but their Union of Utrecht of Old Catholic Churches is in full communion with the Anglican Communion and a member of the World Council of Churches. 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. Döllinger. Four years later episcopal succession was established with the 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. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church notes that since 1925 they have recognized Anglican ordinations, that they have full communion with the Church of England since 1932 and have taken part in the ordination of Anglican bishops.
The term "Old Catholic" was first used in 1853 to describe the members of the See of Utrecht who did not recognise any claimed "infallible" papal authority. Later Catholics who disagreed with the doctrine of Papal Infallibility as made official by the First Vatican Council (1870) had no bishop and so joined with Utrecht to form the Union of Utrecht.
The Polish National Catholic Church (PNCC) is no longer in communion with any other body; it is the largest of the Old Catholic communities in the United States. The Polish National Catholic Church began in the late 19th century over concerns about the ownership of church property and the domination of the U.S. church by Irish bishops. The church traces its apostolic succession directly to the Utrecht Union and thus possesses orders and sacraments which are recognized by the Holy See. In 2003 the church was voted out of the Utrecht Union due to Utrecht's acceptance of the ordination of women and open attitude towards homosexuality, both of which the Polish Church rejects.
Catholic Encyclopedia, "Old Catholics"
The sect organised in German-speaking countries to combat the dogma of Papal Infallibility.
Filled with ideas of ecclesiastical Liberalism and rejecting the Christian spirit of submission to the teachings of the Church, nearly 1400 Germans issued, in September, 1870, a declaration in which they repudiated the dogma of Infallibility "as an innovation contrary to the traditional faith of the Church". They were encouraged by large numbers of scholars, politicians, and statesmen, and were acclaimed by the Liberal press of the whole world. The break with the Church began with this declaration, which was put forth notwithstanding the fact that the majority of the German bishops issued, at Fulda on 30 August, a common pastoral letter in support of the dogma. It was not until 10 April, 1871, that Bishop Hefele of Rotterdam issued a letter concerning the dogma to his clergy. By the end of 1870 all the Austrian and Swiss bishops had done the same.
The movement against the dogma was carried on with such energy that the first Old Catholic Congress was able to meet at Munich, 22-24 September, 1871. Before this, however, the Archbishop of Munich had excommunicated Döllinger on 17 April 1871, and later also Friedrich. The congress was attended by over 300 delegates from Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, besides friends from Holland, France, Spain, Brazil, Ireland, and the representatives of the Anglican Church, with German and American Protestants. The moving spirit in this and all later assemblies for organization was Johann Friedrich von Schulte, the professor of dogma at Prague. Von Schulte summed up the results of the congress as follows:
  • Adherence to the ancient Catholic faith;
  • maintenance of the rights of Catholics as such;
  • rejection of the new dogmas,
  • adherence to the constitutions of the ancient Church with repudiation of every dogma of faith not in harmony with the actual consciousness of the Church;
  • reform of the Church with constitutional participation of the laity;
  • preparation of the way for reunion of the Christian confessions;
  • reform of the training and position of the clergy;
  • adherence to the State against the attacks of Ultramontanism;
  • rejection of the Society of Jesus;
  • solemn assertion of the claims of Catholics as such to the real property of the Church and to the title to it.
The fiction brought forward by Friedrich von Schulte that the Old Catholics are the true Catholics was accepted by several governments in Germany and Switzerland, and many Catholic churches were transferred to the sect. This was done notwithstanding the fact that a decree of the Inquisition, dated 17 September, 1871, and a Brief of 12 March, 1873, had again shown that the Old Catholics had no connection with the Catholic church; represented, therefore, a religious society entirely separate from the Church; and consequently could assert no legal claims whatever to the funds or buildings for worship of the Catholic Church.
The designation of themselves as Catholics by the Old Catholics is all the stranger as in essential doctrines and worship they hardly differ from a liberal form of Protestantism.
The Old Catholic Church shares most of the same liturgy with the Catholic Church, Orthodox Christianity, and High Church Protestants.
Christ-Catholic Swiss bishop Urs Küry dismissed Roman Catholic transubstantiation as well as consubstantiation because those concepts tried to explain the divine mystery of communion with concepts based on substance. The Old Catholic Christian has to accept an unexplainable mystery as such, and should not try to speculate on the ways of God.
Because of this approach, Old Catholics hold an open view to most issues, including
  • the role of women in the Church,
  • the role of married people within ordained ministry,
  • the morality of same sex relationships,
  • the use of one's conscience when deciding to use artificial contraception, and
  • liturgical reforms such as open communion (because no human can presume to exclude any Christian from communion).
Its liturgy has not significantly departed from the Tridentine Mass, as is shown in the English translation of the German Altarbook (missal).
In 1994 the German bishops decided to ordain women as priests and put this into practice on 27 May 1996; similar decisions and practices followed in Austria, Switzerland and the Netherlands. The Utrecht Union allows those who are divorced to have a new religious marriage, and it has no particular teaching on abortion, leaving such decisions to the married couple.