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A Short Background of Old Catholic History


The tradition of Independent Catholicism, although not well known, especially in North America , extends back to the earliest Christian Church. The Church, after the deaths of the Apostles was composed of autocephalous Bishops; that is, independent Bishops, each with his own Church and jurisdiction. Later, toward the close of the second century, the diocesan church came into being where the Bishop had under his authority several dependent churches, each of which was headed by a Presbyter [Priest]. Yet even during this period the Bishops remained independent of each other both in doctrine and in liturgy. The only tie between these independent Churches was their participation in Church Councils, which were regional or international meetings of bishops to discuss matters of faith and morals, the most important of which have become known as the Great or Ecumenical Councils.

Over time, these councils gave rise to a more unified Church structure under the leadership of the Patriarchies, the most influential of which were Rome in the West, and Constantinople in the East. However not all validly consecrated Bishops accepted the claims of supremacy of the Bishop of Rome or the Patriarch of Constantinople, or agreed with all of the doctrines proclaimed by the various Councils. Consequently there have always been Independent Rite Catholic Bishops and clergy; who, although holding valid Apostolic Succession and Holy Orders are not a part of the Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox Churches .

The great majority of contemporary Independent Catholic bishops and clergy in the West derive their valid succession from the Old Catholic Churches of Europe . These Churches derive their succession from the "Oud Katholieke" or Jansenist Church of Utrecht in the Netherlands , which separated from Rome in AD 1724. The Old Catholic Churches came into being at the time of the First Vatican Council in AD 1870. The primary issue that precipitated the foundation of these Churches was opposition to the doctrine of papal infallibility promulgated by the aforementioned Council. This doctrine asserts that the Bishop of Rome, when speaking as supreme teacher and lawgiver of the Roman Catholic Church on a matter of faith or morals is preserved by the Holy Spirit from the possibility of error. After its proclamation, a considerable number of Roman Catholic theologians, priests and lay persons formed independent Catholic Churches in Germany , Switzerland , Austria , and France ; and in 1897 the National Polish Catholic Church was established in the United States and Canada . Collectively, these Catholic Churches outside of the jurisdiction of Rome have become known as the "Old Catholic Churches." Please see an Article about Old Catholism. 

Together with most major Independent Catholic Churches, the Catholic Church of America has a strong and valid Apostolic Succession derived from the Roman Catholic Church thus allowing a valid and efficacious celebration of the traditional seven sacraments. The Catholic Church of America, which was canonically erected in June of 2004, as well as most other Independent and Old Catholic Churches acknowledge seven Great or Ecumenical Councils. These are: Nicaea I, AD 325, Constantinople I, AD 381, Ephesus , AD 431, Chalcedon , AD 451, Constantinople II, AD 553, Constantinople III, AD 680, Nicaea II, AD 787. The Catholic Church of America also acknowledges the doctrinal teachings of the undivided Church prior to the Great Schism of AD 1054.

As part of our pastoral reform efforts, the Catholic Church of America has eliminated the biased-based "traditional" impediments to Holy Order. Our Secular Bishops, Priests and Deacons, who have not opted to embrace the promise of celibacy, can exercise the option to enter into the Sacrament of Marriage. In addition, candidacies for Holy Order are now open to all qualified persons regardless of gender, sexual orientation, marital status or racial/ethnic background. Candidacies for those with a vocation to enter into religious life are also open to those without prejudice to their orientation, gender or racial/ethnic background. Women religious may also, depending on the charism of their community, enter into Holy Order.

The Catholic Church of America has also implemented pastoral reforms affecting the celebration of the Sacrament of Marriage. Our Catholic Church has reformed the process of obtaining an annulment of marriage, which would permit one who has been divorced to reenter the Sacrament of Marriage without unnecessary emotional or spiritual trauma. Our Catholic Church welcomes all couples wishing to enter into the Sacramental Vocation of Marriage.

Our Catholic Church endorses the concept of family planning and permits families, with the assistance of their physicians, to practice medically supervised avenues to choose appropriate times to bring children into their lives.

The intentions of the pastoral reforms of the Catholic Church of America are very simple. We wish to bring to the Lord's Table all persons who have been denied their rightful place because of the sins of social and theocratic prejudice.

Thus, we have committed ourselves to celebrating Catholicism without any sinful acts of exclusion and with complete and unconditional inclusion. We are the Kingdom of God on Earth and the catholic doctrine of social justice and peace demands that we celebrate Catholicism as an inclusive community.

We invite you to come celebrate with us.  Please call 858-522-0072.

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