An Old Catholic History...
The history of the Old Catholic Movement within Catholicism is significant
for our faith community because it is from the Old Catholic Church that the Catholic Church of America derives her apostolic succession.
This excerpt of the article was written by an Old Catholic Benedictine brother
who lived in an Old Catholic community in
The vicissitudes of time and the machinations of men give words strange connotations. Often they no longer fit the mental pictures they create. When Woostockians looked up to Overlook Mountain and saw high on its slopes the gray clad figures of a religious community rehabilitating the deserted little chapel below Mead’s Mountain House, they were puzzled to hear the several young men calling themselves "Old", displaying an evangelistic enthusiasm for a faith they called "Catholic". They were completely nonplused when one of the older men of the community in overalls addressed a similarly clad younger man "Father".
With the passage of days, however,
Except for the fact that "they never past a collection plate" at Saint Dunstan’s Church but believe instead in laboring with their own hands at crafts that are both beautiful and practical many good folk still know little of their past, their future hopes, their unique doctrinal and ecclesiastical position or of their modern and adaptable approach to the world’s problems. To let them know that in the first place "Old Catholicism" is not merely a local and new cult but a long existent world wide "Movement" -- that their ministrations are not bound within the limited horizons of creed and denominationalism but extend to the boundless need of people weary of religious disunity and eager for a genuine expression of Christ-likeness, is their own self-desire.
To adequately portray the gray habited Benedictines of the Old Catholic
Church necessitates a major historical operation. Out of the pages of Christian
history one must find the path that identifies their purpose. Of the various
Christian movements in
The division of Christendom into two great categories, Protestantism and Catholicism, is familiar to all. But while most people know more or less of the various denominations of Protestantism, what is known as the Catholic Church has its administrative and disciplinary divisions with which few people, not historians or theologians, are familiar. Holding the same essential faith, the Eastern Orthodox Church with 180 million souls and the Roman Catholic Church with its 240 million souls, each hold a different concept of administration. The Old Catholic Church is unique in that it holds the Catholic faith, being in union with the Eastern Orthodox Church, representing the Catholic Church in the western world, but disavowing the administrative peculiarities of the Latin (Roman) Church.
To hold a position of any kind obviously admits that there must be a counter position -- both of which must have been arrived at through the consequences of some action in the past. The touchstone of how closely the Old Catholic movement represents primitive Christianity can only be shown by proving its fidelity to the faith of the undivided Church and through the unbroken succession of its Episcopate (Bishops).
The different conceptions of truth that people hold, like words, are
paradoxical. But truth, unlike words, remains unchanging. What was truth in the
What was Christ’s Church like, then, before words like "schism", "heretic", "sect" were used by Christians to describe one another? We know that the Church was one, that its faith was Catholic in the sense best described by St. Vincent of Lerinz, "Such teaching is truly Catholic as has been believed in all places, at all times, and by all the faithful." By this test of universality, antiquity, and consent, all controversial points in belief must be tried.
Until the year 1054 AD when the first unhappy division took place, the Church was as it should be, "One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic." What happened after the division of course appears differently to the mind of every individual and the truth becomes hard to discern. It is safe to say then, that the only way of proving the truth of any contemporary interpretation of Christianity, is to submit it to the examination of the common mind of the Christian Church before its division took place. Was it believed by all Christians everywhere, at all times before the year 1054 A.D.? -- is the test every question of faith should meet.
The Old Catholic Movement maintains that the obvious basis of reuniting the several divisions of the Christian Church is the common acceptance of the Faith of the entire Church prior to the first division in the year 1054 A.D. from whence all the familiar divisions of today ultimately stem. This theory admits that the 16th century Reformation is not principally responsible for the "unhappy divisions" that beset the Christian religion in the western world.
What caused the first division was not a point of faith so much as it was a
matter of jurisdiction and administration. History reveals that the early Church
was governed by the Apostolic authority vested in all the bishops. Matters of
faith and morals affecting the whole Church were brought before an Ecumenical
Council (of which there were seven universally accepted) over which the five
great bishops of Christendom presided. These bishops, whose Sees represented the
important cities of
If we are to single out the primary cause of the first division of this
Church, it would be the deeply rooted objection of the Patriarch of Rome to this
particular theory of Church government.
But with the Church of the West developing a strong belief that a kind of primacy resided in the Roman bishop by divine enactment, the breach widened into an open division and henceforth the Christian Church in the East and in the West was to be distinct and divided. In the East, to this day, the patriarchal theory of the Church’s government is held, while in the West the emphasis on the personal supremacy of the Pope over all Christendom was gradually increased from the year 1054 until the final definition of Papal infallibility was decreed in the Vatican Council of A.D. 1870 as a dogma which all Christians were bound to accept as an article of faith.
In explanation of the abridged nature of these earlier chapters, the writer would plead his intention of placing before the reader’s eye as a picture, as vivid and complete as possible on the state of the early Church, without touching in a controversial spirit upon the sore points of its later history. But since it has been necessary to go this far to bring to light the basic reason for the existence of the Old Catholic Movement, let it be noted, that only the salient points of early history are touched upon, and those wishing to enter more fully into details of the causes that led to the division of Christianity are asked to refer to the pages of ordinary church histories.
What is important for our immediate purpose is merely to establish the basis upon which a school of thought regarding the Church’s administration developed within the Roman Church, flourishing time and again in such celebrated and glorious figures as Savanarola, Paulo Sarpl, the Scholars of Port-Royal, the so-called "Jansenists", the Church of Holland and others, to develop finally in the twilight of the nineteenth century into what came to be known as "primitive" or "old" Catholicism.
We are left free now in the following chapters to touch upon the stirring and romantic history of the Port-Royalists of France, the rise of the movement within the Church of Rome and finally the dramatic Vatican Council which culminated in the definite formation of the present Old Catholic movement whose purpose is not a new reformation from without, but a quiet restoration of the Christian Church to its original state from within.
From 1054 A.D. to the very threshold of our own times, the question of defining the extent of Papal authority continually occupied the growing Catholic Church in the West. A struggle was manifested in two distinct schools of thought.
One school of thought maintained the belief that the supreme teaching authority within the Church rested in the Ecumenical Councils on the ground that all Catholic Bishops have equal pastoral authority.
The other school in opposition advanced the principle called "ultra-montanism," which maintained that the Pope was above the authority of the Councils.
During the 17th Century "ultra-montanism" found its principle
resistance in the
The entire body of French clergy drew up a declaration in 1682 A.D. in order
to protect the canonical rights of the
The Declaration, signed by 34 Archbishops and Bishops and formulated under
the guidance of Bossuet, Bishop of Meaux, reaffirmed the position which had at
all times been dear to the
Italian Ultra-montane writers attacked the French clergy. In response, Bishop
Bossuet wrote a "Defense of the Declaration" which so powerfully
influenced belief in the principles held by the
However, the most powerful factor in preserving the "Old" Catholic
Francois Mauriac, whose judgment of Port Royal is obviously biased by
personal predilections, nevertheless admits, in his recent book on
Port Royal in France was not only the vessel containing the mental and spiritual giants of its day, but it proved a major influence in preserving for our time the Tradition of the Church, that her children believe, and that the Saints knew, loved, lived, and died for.
To trace the origin of
The community of nuns of Port Royal flourished during the 14th and 15th
centuries and attained certain fame, but in the 16th century the religious wars
and the war with
The regeneration of
To escape the unhealthy conditions engendered by the swamp land surrounding
the Abbey, the community was required to take a house in
About 1636 A.D. a remarkable group of men--physicians, men of letters, soldiers, scholars and ecclesiasts, influenced by a friend of Port Royal, the Abbe de S. Cyran, took up their residence at Les Grange, near Port Royal des Champs, where they resolved to lead a life of self-renunciation and consecration and took for their rallying cry "Thought allied with faith", making redemption of souls their mission. These men were the Solitaires. They took no vows, but systematically divided their time between religious exercises, literary pursuits, teaching and manual labor.
The Solitaires were regarded as forming a joint community with the nuns of
The Abbey of Port Royal was more than a convent of reformed nuns and the
community of "Solitaires" more than a band of holy men gathered
together from every walk of life to give themselves wholly to God. They had
ideas which, supported by brilliant minds and holy lives, were considered
dangerous to the pretensions of ultra-montanists, scholastics and ecclesiastical
politicos. Saint Cyran had worked with Cornelius Jansen, Bishop of Ypres, in a
study of the early Fathers in an attempt to restore vitality to the lifeless
theology of the time and restore the Church to the simplicity and purity of
primitive times. Jansen’s work culminated in the publication of "Petrus
Augustinus" in which their theories, based on the writings of
Richelieu, who had not been able to win Saint Cyran, whom he considered the
"most learned man in
But the Port Royalists did not flee fro the ordeal. Saint Cyran, upon the
The ruin of
Pasquer Quesnel, the last of the so-called "Jansenists" connected
Quesnel fled to
The French cause upheld by the Gallican Bishops against the growing claims of the Bishop of Rome, the Pope, was to be crushed under the heel of Napoleon, who proved an unwitting ally of ultra-montanists. However, the Tradition and Episcopate of the Catholic Church was to be carried on through the Church of Holland and preserved until the day when the ultimate goal of ultra-montanism, the Declaration of Papal Infallibility, was to enslave all Roman Catholics to the will of a few and leave a portion of the Catholic flock, that adhered to the old and unchangeable faith of the Christian Church, without shepherds.
Here the intervention of the Hand of God, through the agency of Dominique Mary Varlet, Roman Catholic Bishop of Ascalon, forged the link by which Old Catholics the world over were to receive an Episcopate of undeniable Catholic authority and Apostolic succession.
In 1697, exercising this customary privilege, the Chapter elected Peter Codde, their Vicar General and already Bishop of Sebaste, as their Archbishop. The Pope would not recognize this election and substituted a person of his own appointment, Theodore de Cock, who was expelled by the Chapter. But with the death of Archbishop Codde the See of Utrecht became vacant and Rome, refusing to accept Bishops elected by the Metropolitan Chapter, adopted a policy of withholding the Episcopate from the Church of Holland in the hope that the independent Church of Holland would submit to the will of the papacy or die a natural death.
Bishop Varlet, a French refugee in
There were Catholics in countries other than
William E. Gladstone in his book "Vaticanism" quotes Bishop Baine,
a Roman Catholic Bishop in
The ultra-montanists hoped to eliminate this belief amongst the Roman
Catholics of Great Britain and
Up to the eve of the famous Vatican I Council we have shown, in the preceding chapters, the uninterrupted existence within the Roman Church of "old" Catholics struggling always to maintain an unmutilated faith in the Catholic Church. But with the curtain rising on the first Vatican Council, we enter the final phase of their struggles, a period that is, from any point of view, the most critical in the history of the papacy. On the 18th of July 1870 the transition of Roman Catholicism into a new phase of Catholicism took place, to leave only a remnant of the faithful clinging to what the Church had always, everywhere believed--the "old" Catholic Faith, unchanged, yet progressively revealing.
Sensing the growing intellectual freedom of Catholics everywhere, the
Ultramontanists felt that only by an absolute dictatorship over the thoughts and
conscience of the faithful could
Up to the time of this Council the personal infallibility of the Pope was considered nothing more than a "pious opinion" held by a faction within the Church. The larger part of the Catholic Church so little believed in it, that when Protestants reproached them with this superstition, Roman theologians regarded it as a calumny. The Vatican Council was a bold step in an attempt to make what had formerly been regarded as a ‘Protestant invention’ into the keystone of the Catholic Faith.
Pius IX, an aging pope without much theological culture, who had been
inspired by the Jesuits into sensing his own personal infallibility,
accordingly, to secure the official recognition of the Church by a so-called
General Council in this matter, summoned the Vatican Council to open on the
Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (8th December
1870). On that very day, fifteen years earlier, Pius IX had himself proclaimed
this new dogma, and a fervid prelate, who had just returned from a visit to
In the Vatican Council the representatives of the great majority of Roman Catholics, the German, French, Austrian, English, Czech, Irish and American bishops, oddly enough formed the minority. The great majority was to be found in Italian Bishops representing numerous diminutive dioceses and in titular Bishops without dioceses, whose expenses, Cardinal Schwarzenburg said, "the Pope was obliged to pay entire, even to their very socks, so that they voted blindly at his bidding. The minority had little opportunity of voicing their opposition to the creation of the new dogma. An order of business described by a Roman Catholic Archbishop who was present at the Council as "a cursed congeries of pitfalls," precluded all free discussion.
If the minority could not be heard in Council and wished to have a memoir of
their opposition printed, the printing houses of
In a last minute appeal to the Pope, when several bishops were allowed an
audience, the proud bishop of
With all opposition dispersed the ultramontanists sealed their triumph in the final vote with still two negative voices on July 18th, 1870. On that day, in the midst of one of the fiercest storms to break across the city of Rome, accompanied by thundering and lightning, while rain poured in through the broken glass of the roof near him, Pius IX rose in the darkness, and by the aid of the feeble light of a candle, read the momentous affirmation of his own infallibility. "We declare it to be an article of faith that the Roman Pope possesses infallibility in any doctrine relating to faith and morals. If anyone shall oppose this our decision, which God forbid, let him be accursed,"
The storm has been variously interpreted by friend or foe, as comparable to
the solemn legislation of
With the declaration of the doctrine of papal infallibility at the closing session of the First Vatican Council in 1870, a new condition of faith was to be imposed on all Catholics. As far as the ultramontanists were concerned, the question that stirred men’s hearts within the church for centuries past was now settled--in their favor. "The Pope had spoken" indeed, but the cause was by no means ended. In fact, the real struggle was now taking shape.
There were able and learned members of the Roman Catholic Church to whom it was impossible to reconcile the new dogma with what they had always believed. The Catholic consciousness of early ages presented a theory out of which papal infallibility could never legitimately grow. The primitive theory, as the Councils of the Church made plain, placed final authority in the ecumenical council of all the bishops of the entire church and the transference of this authority from the entire body of the church to one individual was no true Catholic development at all, but a dislocation of the original constitution of the Church.
If most of the Bishops were coerced or threatened by official intimidation to
accept the new belief, there were others that officialdom could not touch nor
frighten. Several Bishops refused to publish the new dogma within their diocese.
But once again if Bishops were to prove as "timorous as women" in
the face of official displeasure, then it remained for theologians and scholars
to defend the faith. Such men as von Shulte, Reinkins, Lord Acton, von Dollinger
and other distinguished scholars of northern
A revulsion to the new dogma arose like a swift tide amongst lay-folk and
clergy throughout northern
Shortly before this, forty-three professors and teachers of the University of Munich, not members of the theological faculty, drew up a similar declaration, and this was followed in April 1871 by the "Munich Museum" address with eighteen thousand signers, which went to the government, its purpose being "to prevent the adoption in church and school of the new dogma and to revise the relations of church and state."
These lay-folk looked to brave men for leadership who now came to the front
in the struggle for the restoration of the ancient faith. In
The actual rebuilding of the church was far more difficult than the creation of thousand-voiced protests. How should it take shape? These men, pious Catholics, inflamed with the passion for truth, desired to remain where they were. For this very reason genuine Catholicism, not the ultra-montanist, but the ideal Catholicism of the Church as it had always, everywhere been known was the cherished hope of their souls and the pattern after which they wanted to build. Irrevocably outlawed by the Roman Church it was not to take form outside of that body and its destiny lay in their hands.
In this sense, the Munich Congress, made up of three hundred delegates from
They rejected the newly created dogmas of Pius IX, including that of the immaculate conception of Mary, and further declared, "We aim, with the cooperation of theological and canonical science, at a reform of the church which, conceived in the spirit of the ancient church, shall remove the existing defects and abuses, and in particular meet the just wishes of the Catholic people for constitutionally regulated participation in church affairs."
Under brilliant leadership the movement rose to meet the challenge of persecution and intimidation which its larger erring sister church of Rome now leveled at it. Priests were cut off from their pensions unless they subscribed to the new dogma of Papal Infallibility which soon became known amongst them as the "hunger dogma." Boycott and social ostracism and even the arm of the state were employed by the infuriated ultramontanists in their attempts to force the submission of the recalcitrant Catholic population to their wishes. Against all this the conscientious faith of thousands of earnest Christians stood firm.
Though these Catholics preserved the faith as they had always believed it, the question that was not fearfully evident to the bishopless flock was how to continue the succession of this faith for unborn generations. It was necessary with the establishment of the Old Catholic Church order and its independent government that a bishop be chosen. But how could a legitimate bishop be obtained, since according to Catholic conception, such a one could be consecrated only by another legitimate bishop?
The Dutch Archbishop, Loos, in 1872, had helped the German Old Catholics with
confirmation and was willing to consecrate their bishop, but it was necessary
first for the movement to have the recognition of the state. Dr. von Schulte
applied to the Prussian Government and received Royal recognition, as a
Catholic, for the bishop to be elected, as well as a grant of 48,000 marks for
the expenses of the bishop and his administration. Old Catholicism, without this
recognition of the state, would have been, in the eyes of many European peoples,
a sect, and it would have meant a renunciation on the part of the Old Catholic
movement of its legal standing and its right to the same support which the Roman
Church enjoyed if it had not sought this recognition. With this accomplished the
delegates of the German congregations, both clerical and lay, in the manner of
the ancient Church in the chapel of the City Hall of Cologne June 4th, 1873,
unanimously elected Professor D. Reinkins, of Bonn, as their future Bishop. As
Archbishop Loos had just died, Bishop Heykamp of
Out of the hard struggles of countless intrepid little bands of Catholic priests and laymen all the elements within the Church that rebelled against the corruption of its faith and realized the original Christian Ideal of the one Flock of Christ, were drawn together and, if at first in the shape of a small model only, assumed the form of the ancient Church again.
But the greater works of this small church were only now to begin even if its
martyrs and saints, the progenitors in small numbers through the ages, lay in
eternal sleep. A new spiritual impetus, an evangelical Catholic spirit was to be
borne on the first winds of the twentieth century as they swept, first across
The Archbishop and his little flock in
Certain unprincipled elements of this "Anglo-Catholic" group
exerted pressure on the
The clique of English churchmen continued to use this disreputable stratagem against the Old Catholics in the English speaking world even after Bishop Mathew’s death. Bishop Mathew, however, maintained a high standard of Christian tolerance and continued his work, unmoved by the persistent noisiness of his detractors who nonetheless caused him much pain.
As evidence of their confidence in Archbishop Mathew, the Dutch Bishops had
him participate in every consecration of
A noted author and historian, Bishop Mathew had an excellent knowledge of the Orthodox Church and established the most cordial relations between the English Old Catholics and the Patriarchal See of Antioch through his Eminence the Most Reverend Archbishop Gearrasimos Messara of Beruit, Syria, who on August 5th, 1911, received the Old Catholics under Bishop Mathew into union and full communion with the Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch. Thus a genuine and practical rapprochement between the Catholics of the East and of the West was for the first time established after a breach which had lasted almost 10 centuries.
What distinguished the scholarly Archbishop Mathew and the Episcopate he established in Scotland and America from that of the continental Old Catholics was his insistence on the inviolable Episcopal authority of each national body of Old Catholics. This had been in the minds of the original Old Catholic congresses, but the German Episcopate, because of its preponderance of numbers and wealth attempted to create a small hierarchical system patterned on the Roman administration with the Archbishop of Utrecht in the position of ranking prelate or "little pope." The English Old Catholics, seeing in this the possibilities of the former mistake of the Western Church with a Germanic, instead of an Italian, spiritual protectorate over the whole Christian world, restated the original Old Catholic principles of autonomy and have received the support of their Orthodox friends in this respect.
Bishop Mathew’s personal contribution to the Old Catholic Movement can be summed up as a broadening of the Catholic mind to an acceptance of the necessity of the unifying of Christ’s Church on the basis of the original tenets of the Christian Faith as it was once believed by all Christians everywhere, and the recognition that this can only be accomplished by complete cooperation with Christians of the Eastern Churches, whose proximity in language, in tradition, and in mind with the early Christians, makes them the ideal vehicle.
After Bishop Mathew’s death the small body of Old Catholics in
By far, one of the most important early 19th century events in the
development of the Old Catholic Movement has been the Mariavite*
Order in Poland. The nucleus of this movement was a community of nuns, founded
in 1893 and organized under the Rule of Saint Francis for the promotion of
asceticism and the moral purification of the
These two communities were solemnly bound by an understanding that their work
was to begin with a moral regeneration amongst their own kind within the Church
-- the clergy and religious orders. From the first they were actively opposed by
the Polish Jesuits and at last an order came from
A period of bitter persecution set in, but somehow they managed to keep together and increase their numbers. The Polish peasants were stirred up against the "Mariaviten" and their woman leader, "The Little Mother," to such a degree that armed attacks were made against the followers when they gathered together in religious meetings. The Roman authorities at one time circulated a report that the Sacrament consecrated by the Mariavite priests became not the Body of Christ, but an Incarnation of the Devil, and in consequence terrible sacrileges were committed against Mariavites and several of their churches were burned to the ground.
With the growth of its numbers and in increasing necessity of Episcopal
supervision for its parishes the Order at last decided to ask the Old Catholics
to consecrate a bishop for them. Accordingly the bishop-elect Brother Jan
Michael Kowalski and two of his brethren were sent to the international Old
Catholic Congress in
For the next several years, the Old Catholic Church in
Driven by the boycott of their Roman Catholic neighbors to depend more and more upon their own efforts, the members of the Mariavite movement soon developed a civil as well as a religious form of community amongst themselves. They worked and traded with each other, supporting one another, creating their own industries and soon, by cooperation, they rendered themselves entirely independent. Cooperation stores in villages and lodging houses in towns were organized. Hospitals staffed by their own doctors and nurses, orphanages, schools, homes for the aged, soup kitchens, milk dispensaries, fire departments, cultural activities, farms of magnificent acreage, factories -- in fact all the necessary prerequisites of modern living -- were developed and organized within their own groups and used to serve their neighbors.
Though this social and industrial reorganization greatly improved the
position of the Old Catholics in
Underlying the power and vitality of this movement which led to wholly new social groupings and industrial experiments was the ever present guidance of a strong and inspired leader -- a woman, Mary Francis Felicia, devotedly acknowledged by all as "Mateszka." Simple and unassuming in manner she nonetheless provoked a religio-social movement worth the consideration of the world’s serious minds. She proved to be, in the fullest sense, the "little mother" of her people.
The *Mariavite Movement was, up to that time, significantly different from any similar religious manifestation. It is in effect the working out of a practical application to life of the social significance of the Gospel The foundress of the movement, the Little Mother, Mary Francis Felicia, believed and taught that the Kingdom of God on Earth is to be understood as a divinely human society -- a society in which justice, brotherhood, equality and the general welfare of all its members prevailed. Basically, the Little Mother established her theory on the formula that for God’s Kingdom to come on earth His will must also be done.
The Mariavites believe that the curing of all social ills rests in properly relating the human element to the spiritual regeneration of family, nation and society. But since ethical theories and social realignments in themselves are not enough, they maintain that the "direct action of God" working on the human spirit is essential. "The direct action of God," they say, "is fulfilled in the partaking of Holy Communion, which, in the opinion of the Mariavites, must be the ‘daily bread’ of men and women." In this sense the entire religious and social life of the Mariavites centers upon the Holy Eucharist at which the faithful communicate as a means of daily regenerating the human spirit and as the first step toward the regeneration of society and the realization of the Kingdom of God on earth.
Christianity, according to the Mariavites, is to be lived. Worship enters
into every field of human activity. Its end and sole purpose cannot be found in
religious gatherings held at stated periods alone. The act of worship, the
liturgy, is an active and motivating experience in the lives of all who take
part in it. During World War II more than 350,000 followers in
Oddly enough, women play the important part in this religious movement. It was first founded by a woman who also directed its social possibilities. The administration of major communities of the movement in many parts of the country was in the hands of women. The work of the sisters had been of such beneficial influence that they have been asked by the populace of many sections to administer parochial activities. Of the total number of about 1571 religious workers, including clergy, brothers of the Order and the sisterhood, more than one thousand of them are women actually engaged in the administration of the movement. The General Chapter which meets to elect new officers and to decide the general administrative policy of the movement has an equal representation of women with votes. The Mother General of the Sisters must take part in the election of a new Archbishop as well as in all proceedings of the General Chapter.
The religious workers of the Movement were grouped into three categories. First there were the priests and members of the brotherhood who lived under the Rule of Saint Francis. The community of nuns, about 600 in number, compose another group to which were added about 400 deaconesses under the supervision of the Mother General. Under the third grouping some 500 [persons following a modified religious rule, gave their time and energies to the movement. Of this last number a great many consist of married couples voluntarily devoting their lives to buttress the work of the clergy and the sisterhood. Joy is a paramount requisite of a Christian life and the Mariavites everywhere radiate a warm and becoming mirth.
The zeal of the Movement touched the peasant populations of central
The Old Catholic Church under the administration of the Mariavite Order in
Mariavites supported themselves with the labor of their own hands and offered
their ministrations freely to all without salaries, mission funds are not a
necessary consideration of the movement., The Church, they would say, is here to
give every assistance to people both for their spiritual and material
well-being; it does not have to take from them. Perhaps it might yet be said of
the Mariavites everywhere in the world, as it was then said of them in
The growth of the Old Catholic Movement in America presents a pattern at once
historically unique and tragic, revealing as it does the unfriendliness with
which its participants were received and the unhealthy persecution which certain
religionists have consistently leveled at it. Here in this land where at last a
free religion was finding expression where such an expression was
constitutionally guaranteed it was regarded with distrust and suspicion by the
more Catholic-minded Protestants who felt the movement to be an
"intrusion" and did everything possible to confuse its people. That
the Old Catholic Church has survived the heart-breaking opposition of certain
denominational Christians to whom she has held out her hands for an expression
of brotherliness and understanding, and that her clergy have continued in their
ministrations, undaunted by the trying circumstances into which the ignorance of
their detractors often placed them, is the more wonderful. The general
sentiments directed against the Old Catholic Movement by those who might have
been its greatest friends was aptly summed up in the words of Frederick Cook
Morehouse, Editor of the Living Church, who wrote an editorial in that paper of
January 26, 1907, concerning the first Old Catholic Bishop, "Consecrated in
1897, Bishop Kozlowski began his Episcopate against the indignant protests of
American churchmen at what was deemed an act of intrusion on the part of his
consecrators. No friendly hand was outstretched to meet him from the
Stemming out of the dissatisfaction of several foreign-born groups of Roman
Catholics for the temporal administration of their ecclesiastical superiors the
Old Catholic Movement soon developed in America into three channels each
dominated and limited by its own language. Belgians under the guidance of a
former Roman Catholic, Pere Joseph Rene Vilatte, were centered chiefly in
At the Old Catholic Congress of Olten, 1904, Bishop Kozlowski was accompanied
by Mgr. Tichy who had been sent to the Old Catholics by the American Czechs as
their Bishop to pray for consecration at their hands. In 1905 Mgr. Tichy
was appointed by Archbishop Gul of
In the meantime, a group of English-speaking Old Catholics were being
gathered together by the untiring efforts of a former Roman Catholic monk, the
learned Dom Augustine de Angelis (William Harding), who had organized a
community of men devoted to the Religious Rule of S. Benedict at
In 1914 Monsignor Francis was elected to be Consecrated Bishop of the Diocese
formerly held by Bishop Tichy whose ill health forced him to give up his duties.
Since by this time relations between the American movement and the Old Catholic
In the meantime a Bishop of the Old Catholic Church, consecrated by
Archbishop Mathew of
In the spring of 1916, at the request of the European Old Catholic Bishops,
Bishop de Landas took up residence with the Old Catholic community at Waukegan,
Illinois, and, with the direct authorization of Archbishop Mathew of England, he
consecrated Monsignor William Henry Francis to the Episcopate on October 3rd,
1916, in the community Church in the presence of a large congregation (friends
and relatives of the present writer were also in attendance). Although Bishop de
Landas was received with the greatest cordiality and respect by his many friends
within Protestant communions to whom he always showed the greatest of Christian
brotherliness, he received, as did all English-speaking Old Catholic Bishops,
the implacable enmity of the "
With the passing away of Bishop de Landas the weight of responsibility in
administering the Movement was placed entirely in the hands of the young Bishop
Under the guidance of Archbishop Francis the Old Catholic Movement in
From a heterogeneous group of transplanted and isolated foreigners, the Old Catholic Movement became a cohesive one, thoroughly aware of its responsibility to the needs of the age. Like the history ht of the making of the American nation, that of the Old Catholic Movement has been made of up many tongues and many peoples to offer a spiritual haven of freedom and a home for all who sought refuge from the oppression of tyranny--and expression of religious liberty indigenous to the land it serves.
As the Old Catholic Movement combines the tradition of the great spiritual leaders of the latter ages of the Christian Church it has also effectively united the factors in Catholic Christendom that Hague untiringly labored to preserve the first administrative principles of the Apostolic Church--to hold in violate "the faith once for all delivered to the Saints." The undaunted spirits of the great Christian revolutionaries, the Port Royalists, the so-called Jansenists, the Mariavites and many others have served to prove by their struggle against ecclesiastical intolerance and pharaseeism, that in every age within the church they loved the same struggle has been manifest in the lives of but a handful of people at al times--the torch they carried from age to age many have been dimmed at times but it has always been carried forward, never dropped, never entirely extinguished. Today their efforts are merged in handfuls of many people in almost every part of the world to whom the sympathetic hands of the great Oriental Christian Church lends strength.
Added to the growing Old Catholic Movement in
Thus the Catholic Church in America though autonomous and self governed by its own synod of bishops is an organic part of the Old Catholic Church in the Western world and the great Orthodox Churches of the East, united in the faith of the first century Christian fellowship and differing only in the language and customs of its different units.
|Back to the Home Page|