Are you a real Catholic Church?
The short answer is Yes, we are a real, authentic Catholic Church. When people think of Catholics in today's world, they all too often mean the Roman Catholic Church. However, the word "catholic" comes for the Greek word "Catholicos," meaning "universal," or "according to the whole." The earliest use of the word is found in a letter written by St. Ignatius of Antioch to the Smyrnaeans in about 110 AD. In his letter, the word is used in reference to the "universal" Christian Church which existed at the time. The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition also defines the word "catholic" in much the same manner: "Of or involving the Roman Catholic Church; Of or relating to the universal Christian church; Of or relating to the ancient undivided Christian church; Of or relating to those churches that have claimed to be representatives of the ancient undivided church."
Our faith tradition is one of many in the family of churches who follow the Independent and Old Catholic tradition, and can trace their beliefs, teachings, and origins back to the undivided Apostolic Church. In holding valid orders and an unbroken line of apostolic succession, we are part of the "one holy, Catholic and apostolic Church" proclaimed in the Nicene Creed.
What is the Old Catholic Church?
The Old Catholic Church can trace its roots to the 7th century when an Anglo-Saxon monk by the name of Saint Willibrord began to evangelize the area of Europe now known as the Netherlands and France. He eventually became the first Bishop of Utrecht and was considered by many as Apostle of the Frisians. Pope Eugene III granted the Diocese of Utrecht the right to elect and consecrate its own Bishops and clergy in 1145. A unique autonomous authority that was reconfirmed by the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215, and by Pope Leo X in 1520. It wasn't until after the First Vatican Council in 1870, when a number of central European Bishops did not agree with the Roman dogmatic declaration of Papal Infallibility and the universal authority of the Bishop of Rome, that the dissenting churches from the Netherlands, Germany, Holland, and Switzerland separated from Rome, and began to refer to themselves as Roman Catholics of the “Old Episcopal Clergy;” formally adopting the name "Old Catholic Church."
How does your faith tradition view the Pope?
We view the Pope as the primus inter pares, the first among equals. He is considered the Patriarch of the West and prayed for during our liturgical celebrations, as are the Patriarchs of the East and the leaders of other faith traditions who seek Gods truths and give glory to his Holy name. In this sense, he can be a spokesman for the Christian Community of churches, but only in the same manner as other leaders of faith traditions from the East and West, Independent, Orthodox or Anglican are spokesmen and the first among equals in their own rite.
Our faith tradition, and the majority of Independent and Old Catholic churches, adhere to the teaching from apostolic times that only the Church in General Council is infallible. We choose not to accept the decrees of the First Vatican Council concerning the Infallibility and Universal Episcopate (authority) of the Bishop of Rome.
How does your faith tradition view the Sacraments and Ecclesiastical Authority?
We believe, as our Roman counterparts do, that a sacrament is an outward and visible sign of the real but invisible grace of God. All of the sacraments and liturgies, especially the Divine Liturgy, celebrated by our clergy are valid because of an authentic and unbroken line of Apostolic Succession.
As a faith tradition, walking in the footsteps of Christ and the Apostles, our pastoral center offers valid Sacramental celebrations that are open to all the People of God. Unlike our Roman counterparts, we do not recognize artificial barriers, expressed or implied, with respect to the reception of the Sacraments.
We believe that Jesus Christ is the head of the Church, and as proclaimed by the Early Church Fathers, the Holy Spirit is the Vicar of Christ. We also believe that infallibility belongs to the Church as a whole, that is, to the entire Mystical Body of Christ. Our faith tradition maintains validity through their unbroken lines of Apostolic Succession, which can be traced to the ancient and undivided Christian Church. In our understanding of this ancient and undivided Church universal, a faith community is led by its bishops and pastoral councils, not a single person acting with infallibility and ultimate authority. As members of the Mystical Body of Christ, we fully participate in the life and ministry of our faith tradition.
For further information, please click here to be directed to the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) tab of the Ecumenical Catholic Communion (ECC) website.