The History of the Old Roman Catholic Church


The Old Roman Catholic Church is a self governing body within the One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church - the Catholic or Universal Church.

It is the lineal descendent of the ancient Church of Britain. Amongst her saintly founders she numbers St Egbert of Northumbria who, in the seventh century, sent St Willibrord and his eleven companions to evangelise the Catti, Batavi and Frisionses in that area of Europe known as the Low Countries. St Willibrord went to Rome to solicit the Papal Benediction upon his mission and was there consecrated to the Episcopate by Pope Sergius I in AD 696. Upon his return to the field of his labours he founded his See at Utrecht. The Catholic Faith and Tradition was firmly established there in what we now know as the Netherlands and other countries of that region.

After fifty years missionary work among the pagan Frisians, St Willibrord died and was buried at his favourite monastery, Echternach in Luxembourg (where his relics are still venerated). His feast is kept on November 7th.

St. Willibrord, who baptised Pepin the Short, son of Charles Martel and father of Charlemagne, was succeeded in the see of Utrecht soon after his death by his friend St. Boniface - a native of Crediton in Devon - Bishop of Mainz and Apostle of Germany, who crowned Pepin King of the Franks at Soissons. Our Saintly Founders were, therefore, the progenitors of the Holy Roman Empire. St Wilfrid of York also took part in founding the venerable Church of Utrecht by consecrating St. Swinbert Bishop of the Boructuarians. The names of a large number of Bishops, Clergy and members of the Church of Utrecht appear in the Calendar and in the Roman Martyrology. The Church of Utrecht also provided a worthy occupant of the Throne of Peter, in 1552, in the person of Pope Adrian VI and two of the most able exponents of the Religious life: Greert Groote , known as Gerard the Great, who founded the Brothers of the Common Life, for the purpose of teaching the young , sending out preachers, and recommending the study of Holy Scripture, and Thomas a' Kempis , author of several important works of which one, "Of the Imitation of Christ", occupies it's own particular position of pre-eminence.

Assenting to a petition made by the Holy Roman Emperor, Conrad III, and Bishop Herbert of Utrecht, Blessed Pope Eugene III, in the year 1145, granted the Cathedral Chapter of Utrecht the right to elect successors to the see in times of vacancy. This privilege was confirmed by the fourth Council of the Lateran in 1215. The autonomous character of the ancient Catholic Church in the Netherlands was further demonstrated by a second grant by Pope Leo X. "Debitum Pastoralis" conceded to Philip of Burgundy, 57th Bishop of Utrecht, that neither he nor any of his successors, nor any of their clergy or laity, should ever, in the first instance, have his cause evoked to any external tribunal, not even under pretence of any apostolic letters whatever and that all such proceedings should be, ipso facto, null and void. This papal concession, in 1520, was of the greatest importance in defence of the rights of the Church.

The Church in the Netherlands and the Reformation.

In the sixteenth century, the Netherlands, like the rest of Germany, England and indeed nearly all Northern Europe, had far too few bishoprics. The remoteness and the secular duties of the bishops were reasons why the Reformers did not value episcopacy. Philip II of Spain, on succeeding to the hereditary possessions of his father Charles V, decided to reorganise the Church throughout the Netherlands and in 1559, when the war with France was over, persuaded the Pope to set up a number of new provinces and dioceses. Utrecht became an Archbishopric, with the five new sees of Haarlem, Deventer, Groningen, Leeuwarded and Middelburg under it. Unfortunately, though, this necessary reform came too late and only precipitated the revolution. The provinces of the Netherlands were full of men who had learned from Erasmus to study the Bible and to adopt a critical attitude towards the abuses of the Church. The Reformation therefore found fruitful soil there.

Armed with the protection of the Papal concessions, the Church in the Netherlands continued to minister even through the reformation. During this period of strife, the Church in the Netherlands, as in many other countries, was forced to ''go underground'' in order to survive. In 1565 Philip II of Spain introduced the Spanish Inquisition, whose aim was to suppress heresy. National hatred of the Spaniard, combined with an independent attitude towards religion and a determination to maintain the ancient privileges of provinces and cities, led to the Dutch War of Independence (1568-1648), carried on by both sides with horrible atrocity. It became a religious war in which both sides had a great number of martyrs. The most celebrated martyrs on the Catholic side were the nineteen martyrs of Gorcum whose feast day is July 9th. Finally, the seven northern provinces - Holland, Zealand, Utrecht, Gelderland, Overyssel, Friesland and Groningen - became a republic, and adopted the Reformed religion (Reformed rather than Protestant, because it was Calvinist not Lutheran).

Meanwhile the new bishops took possession of their sees. The struggles with the Calvinists continued until, eventually, the Archbishop of Utrecht and other Church leaders reached informal agreement with the civil government whereby it could again function openly without interference from the Reformers.

The Breach With Rome.

While a semblance of peace existed between the Church in the Netherlands and the civil government, a growing state of tension was emerging within the church itself. The cause of this uneasiness was the motivation of the counter reformers, most notably the Jesuits, to attempt to ''re-missionise'' the Dutch Church.

For reasons which were for the most part political, the Jesuits began to invade the jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Utrecht in 1592. The next one hundred years saw no less than twelve popes succeed to the Throne of Peter. The Jesuits were rebuked by them a number of times and ordered to submit themselves to the authority of the Archbishop, but their machinations against the Church of Utrecht continued unabated. In 1691 the Jesuits falsely accused Archbishop Petrus Codde of Utrecht of favouring the so-called Jansenist heresy. We say the so-called Jansenist heresy because, although the condemned propositions which are said to constitute 'Jansenism' are unquestionably heretical and have been many times condemned as such by the Church of Utrecht, in common with the rest of the Catholic Church, no one has never succeeded in finding them, either in substance or form, in the Augustinus of Cornelius Jansenius, where the Jesuits pretended to have discovered in them. Pope Innocent XII (1691-1700) appointed a congregation of Cardinals, under his own presidency, to try the charge of "Jansenism" which the Jesuits had brought against the Archbishop of Utrecht. The result was a unanimous and unconditional acquittal of the Archbishop. Despite this, the Jesuits persisted in their attacks upon Archbishop Codde and, through him, the Church of Utrecht. In 1700, Archbishop Codde was invited to Rome to take part in the Jubilee. He received a most cordial welcome at the hands of Pope Clement XI (1700-1721) and the Cardinals. But soon after his arrival another congregation of Cardinals, assisted by theological consultors, carefully selected on account of their known favourable disposition towards the Jesuits, was instituted to try the charges of "Jansenism" which, notwithstanding his former acquittal, the Jesuits had continued to bring against the Archbishop. Yet not even this packed tribunal was able to find him guilty. Despite the Archbishop's proved innocence and Orthodoxy, the influence of the Jesuits was such as to force the Pope to issue a secret brief suspending and deposing the Archbishop of Utrecht and appointing a Pro-Vicar Apostolic in his place.

Archbishop Codde, who was still in Rome, was not informed of his suspension and deposition and first learned it from letters he received from his friends in the Netherlands! Neither the names of his accusers nor the charges made against him were ever made known to him; he had not been allowed to offer any defence and even the Ultramontane canonist, Hyacinth de Archangelis, issued a formal opinion that a Vicar-Apostolic with the rights of an ordinary, as Codde undoubtedly was, could not be arbitrarily deposed. The Chapters of Utrecht and Haarlem unanimously decided not to recognise the authority of De Cock, the Pro-Vicar Apostolic, on the grounds that the Pope had no canonical right to deprive even a Vicar-Apostolic, still less an Archbishop, without trial and condemnation. From this point begins the break between the two parties in the Dutch Roman Catholic Church.

Meanwhile the Archbishop found himself in a difficult position at Rome. The Jesuits announced, in the Netherlands, that he was in the hands of the Inquisition and would be imprisoned for life, beheaded or burned. In reality, he was not interfered with; but the Italian clergy could not understand his lack of personal ambition or his refusal to sign what he called "equivocal documents", even to further his own cause. However, the Dutch Government, urged on by his three nephews, who were Burgomasters of Amsterdam, commanded him to return within three months and warned the Court of Rome that if he were prevented from coming the Jesuits would be banished from the country and De Cock confined to his own house. De Cock accordingly begged the Pope to allow Codde to return and, in 1703, the Archbishop left Rome and returned to the Netherlands. He retired from the exercise of his office, while protesting against his suspension, and De Cock, who had rashly accused the government of being bribed by the secular clergy, was banished and fled to Rome.

In the absence of an Archbishop the government of the See of Utrecht reverted to its Chapter. The Chapter of Utrecht maintained that the Province and Diocese of Utrecht, with all their ancient and canonical rights and privileges, were still in existence; that the Vicariate instituted by Archbishop Rovenius (1614-1651) was the ancient Chapter of Utrecht, and possessed all the rights of the Chapter, including the right to elect The Archbishop of Utrecht; and that the later Archbishops from Vosmeer to Codde, were not only Vicars-Apostolic of the Roman See, but also Archbishops of Utrecht, the canonical successors of St. Willibrord. The Jesuits, who were now in control of papal policy, and their party held, as Rome holds to this day, that the Province of Utrecht had ceased to exist at the time of the Reformation and that the Roman Catholic Church in the Dutch Republic was a mere mission, governed by a Vicar Apostolic, who was appointed by the Pope at his discretion, and subject to the Congregation de Propaganda Fide, where the Jesuits were then all powerful. Differences of political philosophy, ecclesiastical authority, devotional and ethical issues also divided the two parties in the Dutch Roman Catholic Church. After the failure of such negotiations as were found possible, the Ancient Church of Utrecht could only refuse to acquiesce in so unprecedented an injustice which she well knew to be a step towards her own predetermined destruction by the Jesuits rather than an unwarrantable personal attack upon her Archbishop. So without fault of any kind of her own and against her will, in spite of everything which she could do to prevent it, and not withstanding her frequent reasoned protests and appeals, she was forced out of communion with the Apostolic See of Rome in 1711.

Public indignation was unbounded and the just cause of the Church of Utrecht was espoused by many of the Cardinals, the Empress Maria Theresa, the Ecclesiastical Council and the Court of Spain, the Court of Naples, the Tuscan Church, nearly all the Religious Orders, the See of Salzburg, the Universities of Louvain and Siena, one hundred Doctors of the Sorbonne, and a very large number of Bishops and ecclesiastics in all parts of the world. Canonists everywhere - even those of the Ultramontaine Party, as detailed above - condemned the suspension and deposition of the Archbishop of Utrecht and declared it unjust , irregular and invalid. But all this availed the Church of Utrecht nothing against her powerful enemy bent upon her destruction. Pope Clement XIV was favourably disposed towards the grievously wronged Church but his sudden death, which took place before he could take action in her cause, was believed at the time to have been not wholly unconnected with his benevolent attitude towards her.

We believe and maintain, as we have always done, that these irregular proceedings against the Church of Utrecht, based most as they most assuredly were upon charges which were proved at the time to have been groundless, were null and void, and that we have remained and are still, in actual and indisputable fact, part and parcel of the Roman Catholic Church. The decrees of the Second Council of Utrecht, held under Archbishop Meindaerts in 1763, are a monument of orthodoxy and loyalty to the Apostolic See of Rome. In a declaration made by Archbishop Van Os and his two suffragans to the Papal Nuncio who visited Holland in 1823, they said "We accept, without any exception whatever, all the Articles of the Holy Catholic Faith. We will neither hold nor teach, now or afterwards, any other opinions than those that have been decreed, determined and published by our Mother the Church.....We reject and condemn everything, especially all heresies, without one exception, which the Church has rejected and condemned. We detest at the same time every schism which might separate us from the communion of the Catholic Apostolic and Roman Church and its visible head on upon earth. We have never made common cause with those who have broken the bond of unity''. Speaking of the Old Roman Catholic Church of Utrecht in 1889 Archbishop Heykamp declared; "The Church of Holland recognises the Roman Catholic Church as the only true Church of Jesus Christ, and the Pope of Rome as the centre of Catholic Unity..... She, by the Grace of God, remains in the Roman Catholic Church, and abhors schism as one of the greatest crimes in the Church. Thus, by an unmerited Grace, she maintains a sound and correct position within the Roman Catholic Church."

First Years of Independence.

Archbishop Codde performed no Episcopal act after his suspension in 1702; at his death in 1710 the Church of Utrecht was without a Bishop and therefore, except for the intervention of God, unable to escape extinction. One Irish and a few French Bishops expressed their willingness to ordain Priests secretly for her and some few were so ordained, but, without a Bishop and without hope of recovering the Episcopate, continued existence for any length of time was impossible.

In 1719, Dominique Marie Varlet, Bishop of Babylon, had occasion to pass through Holland on his way via Paris to his distant diocese. The ship upon which he was to embark was delayed at Amsterdam by bad weather. The Sacrament of Confirmation had not been administered in Holland for nearly twenty years and, moved to compassion by the pitiable state of the Church of Utrecht, he was prevailed upon to administer Confirmation to six hundred and four persons who, for the most part, were too poor to go to another country in order to receive that Sacrament. For this act of charity the Bishop of Babylon was suspended and removed from his charge. He returned to Holland and remained there until his death in 1742. In 1724 he restored the Episcopate to the Church of Utrecht by consecrating Cornelius Steenoven to the Archiepiscopal See.

In 1827, an effort was made to restore the Church of Utrecht to communion with the Holy See. The negotiations were rendered extremely difficult by the awkward fact that the Church of Utrecht had always remained absolutely orthodox and therefore had no error to retract and no dogma to accept. There had never been any question with regard to matters of Faith and Morals between the Holy See and the Church of Utrecht, but there had been this question with regard to a simple matter of fact: were the condemned propositions the false notions of Jansenius, which had been promulgated after his death by the publication of the Augustinus, or were they the fictitious inventions of the Jesuits? Moved by the overwhelming influence of the Jesuits, Pope Innocent X had reversed the policy of his predecessor Pope Urban VIII and had not only declared the condemned propositions to be of Jansenius, but had required that they should be condemned, not merely as being heretical, but also as being "of Jansenius and in the sense of Jansenius". The Jesuits were aware that the Church of Utrecht had examined the Augustinus and, like all others who had done so, had convinced herself that Jansenius was not the author of the condemned propositions. Having failed to embroil her in heresy with regard to the doctrine of Grace they then sought her destruction by means of a question of fact. Hence the Apostolic Constitution of Pope Innocent X. The Church of Utrecht had readily condemned the five propositions as heretical, but, as was expected, she was unwilling in the absence of proof (which she and others had sought in vain) to incur the grave responsibility of declaring Jansenius to be the author of heresy which he would have detested and condemned. That Jansenius would have detested and condemned the odd collection of heresies to which his name has been attached, there is ample proof. The Church of Utrecht pointed out that only matters of Faith and Morals and not matters of fact - which were capable of proof by demonstration - were within the scope of Infallibility.

But it was of no avail. This single question of fact as to whether the condemned propositions were or were not to be found in the Augustinus of Jansenius was the only matter raised by the Papal Nuncio, Monsignor Capaccini, at his meeting with Archbishop Van Santen of Utrecht in 1827: if it could have been disposed of to the Nuncio's satisfaction it is absolutely certain that the Church of Utrecht would have been restored to communion with the Holy See. Archbishop Van Santen expressed his willingness to condemn the propositions as being "of Jansenius, and in the sense of Jansenius" if he could be sure that they really were of Jansenius and asked that the condemned propositions be shown to him in the Augustinus. The request was not an unreasonable one and it should have been a very easy matter for the Nuncio to accomplish, but it was not possible. The Nuncio took refuge in an argument which, so far from convincing Archbishop Van Santen, forced him to declare that he dared not to purchase the removal of the injustice inflicted upon the Church of Utrecht by committing an act of perjury, nor could he believe that the Pope (LeoXII) either desired or demanded such a thing. No further step has been taken.

The establishment of the rival Hierarchy in the Netherlands by Pope Pius IX in 1853, after a struggle which had continued for two hundred and sixty years, caused great public disturbances. The Archbishop of Utrecht and the Bishop of Haarlem, as the canonical occupants of those sees, issued a formal protest against the new Hierarchy (Bishop Vet of Deventer had died on March 7th 1853). They pointed out that it was contrary to the rights of the Churches of Utrecht and Haarlem to set up rival Bishops for sees that were already occupied.

The establishment of the rival Hierarchy must be viewed as the Pope's final reply to a simple question of fact, which it could have been so very easy to prove by the simple process of demonstration. Innocent X is by no means the only Pope either to have been deceived with regard to a matter of fact or to have been overborne. There has never been, and there is not now, any question of holding or defending any single one of the many heresies which it has been found convenient to label "Jansenism".

Old Catholics.

During the greater part of the nineteenth century the struggle between authority and liberty was going on all over Europe. The principles of the French Revolution were matched in Roman Catholic countries against the principles of the Counter Reformation; the Papacy, which had maintained for centuries absolute authority in its most extreme form, not to be resisted or even criticised, was, naturally, the rallying point for those who feared and hated "liberalism", whether in Religion or politics.

The struggle against the new ideas, by which the whole of Europe was being so profoundly changed, came to a head in the pontificate of Pope Pius IX, whose attempt to strengthen and centralise his authority was carried out in three stages: the definition of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady, in 1854; the promulgation of the Syllabus of Errors in 1864; the summoning of the Vatican Council (Vatican I ) in 1869.

Giovanni Mastai-Ferretti was born in 1792, of a noble family at Sinigaglia. In his childhood he was taught to pray for Pius VI, persecuted by the French Revolution; He was growing up when the conquests of Napoleon were making the future of the Church and of the Papacy uncertain. As a boy he suffered from epilepsy and was, for that reason, refused admission to the Papal Guards. He then decided to seek ordination and, in spite of his scanty theological education and his disease, he was ordained in 1819. At first he was only allowed to say Mass when another Priest was present but, after he had been for a long time completely free from epileptic fits, this prohibition was removed. He became Archbishop of Spoleto, his native diocese, in 1827 and, later, Bishop of Imola. He was made cardinal in 1840 and elected Pope, with the name of Pius IX, in 1846. As priest and Bishop he had always been specially devoted to the orphans and the poor; he had friends among the liberals, for which reason he was distrusted at the Vatican. On becoming Pope he at once proceeded to introduce a number of reforms to the government of the Papal States and, for a time, was very popular as a liberal Pope. In 1848, Mazzini and Garibaldi set up a republic at Rome and the Pope had to take refuge at Gaeta, in the Kingdom of Naples. The Roman Republic was soon overthrown by the French and Pius IX was restored. But he had learned his lesson. He would have no more to do with liberalism or Italian national aspirations. During his exile, Pius IX had promised the Blessed Virgin Mary that, if she would, by her prayers, restore him to his throne, then he would make her Immaculate Conception a dogma which all Roman Catholics must accept as necessary to their salvation. On December 8th 1854 (feast of the Conception of the Blessed Virgin), Pius IX, by his own authority and without support from any council, issued the Bull " Ineffabilis Deus", in which he decreed that "the doctrine which teaches that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first moment of her conception, by a special gift of Almighty God, in consideration of the merits of Jesus Christ the Saviour of mankind, was preserved pure from all taint of original sin, is revealed by God, wherefore it shall also be the object of sure and certain faith on the part of all believers". The proclamation of the Immaculate Conception as a dogma necessary to salvation was followed by the usual anathema against all those who should fail to believe it sincerely and deny the dogma. The new dogma was received with tremendous enthusiasm wherever the teaching of the Jesuits prevailed, and the only formal protest was made by the three Bishops of the Church of Utrecht. They addressed a letter to the Pope protesting against the new dogma on three grounds: it was contrary to both Scripture and tradition, the Bishops of the whole Church had never been consulted about it, it was a new doctrine and, therefore, according to Tertullian and St. Vincent of Lerins, a false one. As a matter of order, the Bull "Ineffabilis Deus" was an entirely new departure and was universally recognised as being so. Never before had any Pope added a fresh dogma to the Faith without a Council.

The second stage in Pius IX's programme of reaction was the Encyclical "Quantra Curia" against the errors of modern times, to which was attached a list or Syllabus of Errors and, therefore, became known as the Syllabus of Errors. Eighty errors of various kinds were condemned, divided into ten groups. Within these groups there were propositions condemned that any Christian Church would, at that period, certainly have condemned. The chief problems raised by the Syllabus of Errors were concerned with the relations of Church and State; it was a final protest against the challenge to the apparently invincible progress of the liberal conception of the secular state represented by Cavour's slogan "A free Church in a free State".

Whilst the Syllabus of Errors was not a direct reason for the Old Catholic revolt, as, for example, the dogma concerning the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary certainly was, it, nonetheless, exposed the tension between the Papacy and the modern state, from which the Old Catholic revolt was, to some extent, the result.

The third and final part of Pius IX's programme was the Vatican Council. Since the Council of Trent had been closed, in 1563, no General Council had been held. The work of Vatican Council I, opened by the Pope in 1869 (on his favourite date, December 8), resulted in two constitutions. One, "De Fide Catholica", was made up of chapters and canons on the primary truths of natural religion, on revelation, on faith and the connection between faith and reason. The other, "De Ecclesia Christi", was chiefly concerned with the primacy of the Roman See and defining the Popes immediate authority over all Christians.

In May 1870, the second (dogmatic) constitution on the Church, in four chapters, was introduced. The first defined the institution of the apostolic primacy of St Peter, a primacy of true and proper jurisdiction, not merely of honour; the second the perpetuity of this primacy of jurisdiction in the Roman Pontiffs; the third the universal ordinary jurisdiction of the Pope over all churches, together and separately and all and each of the pastors and the faithful; the fourth that the Pope, when he speaks ex cathedra, is infallible and his decisions are irreformable.

From the historical point of view every one of the four chapters if false. That St Peter had a primacy of jurisdiction, and not merely of honour, over the other Apostles is contrary to the evidence of the New Testament. This denial of primatial jurisdiction is not a denial of the historic primacy of honour which several Oecumenical Councils and Fathers of the ancient Church have attributed to the Pope as "first among equals". That "it is necessary that every church should agree with the Roman Church" is a false interpretation of St. Iranaeus. That the Pope has always been held to have immediate ordinary jurisdiction over each and all of the faithful, and to be infallible when he speaks ex cathedra on faith and morals, is contrary to the plainest facts of history. But to all this every Roman Catholic since Vatican Council I is irrevocably committed, for these decrees were agreed by the Council in July 1870.

The effect of Vatican Council I was to create another secession from Rome. This time it was one of greater magnitude when Catholics in Central Europe, under the leadership of Dr. Johann Josef Ignatius von Dollinger, a Theological Professor of the University of Munich, refused to accept the definition of the dogmas of the infallibility and of the universal jurisdiction of the Pope. They came to be known as "Old Catholics", because of their rejection of the "new Catholicism" of the papal dogmas, and their appeal in matters of faith was to the primitive Church. In Germany, Switzerland and Austria, those who could not accept the decisions of the First Vatican Council were excommunicated by the Pope and became separate. In 1873 the Church of Utrecht was prevailed upon to provide the German Old Catholics with a Bishop. The hopes of these separate national groups, that a large section of the Roman Communion would join them and then that they would be able to bring about immediate reunion with the Orthodox or the Anglican churches, were not fulfilled.

Although the three Old Catholic Churches were independent of each other, they were in full communion and had close communion with one another. However, possibly because the movements in the different countries began in contrasting circles, the character of the Churches differed quite considerably. The German Church had begun in university circles whereas the Swiss Church reflected the republicanism of its national government and was a lay movement rather than clerical. The Austrian Church was not fully organised till later, but was a further contrast by reflecting its roots among the artisans.

The Church of Utrecht had always been conservative and any reforms in faith or order were undertaken with great caution, whereas the Swiss and Austrian Churches reflected a more revolutionary spirit and were a cause of alarm to the more conservative Church of Utrecht. Indeed the Old Catholic Church of Switzerland has never actually used the term or title, 'Old Catholic', using instead the title "Christkatholisch" - Christian Catholic.

Two conferences were held at Bonn, to which the Anglicans and Orthodox were invited to attend, and the faith, belief and practice of the Old Catholic Churches was formulated with the significant decision made in the conference of 1875 to depart from Western tradition and adopt the Orthodox view of the dogmatic side of the Filioque question - that the Holy Ghost proceeds or issues out of the Father only, and not both the Father and the son. The agreed declaration was as follows:

The Holy Ghost issues out of the Father as the beginning, the cause, the source of the Godhead.

  1. The Holy ghost does not issue out of the Son, because in the Godhead there is but one beginning, one cause, through which all that is in the Godhead is produced.

  2. The Holy Ghost issues out of the Father through the Son.

  3. The Holy Ghost is the image of the Son, who is the image of the Father; issuing out of the Father and resting in the Son as the power radiating from Him.

  4. The Holy Ghost is the personal production out of the Father, belonging to the Son, but not out of the Son, because He is the Spirit of the mouth of the Deity, and utters the word.

  5. The Holy Ghost forms the mediation between the Father and the Son, and is united to the Father through the Son.

Dr Dollinger delivered a long, historical address at the same conference in which he defended the validity of Anglican ordinations on the ground that the English Church, in addition to possessing the historic succession, clearly taught that a grace of the Holy Spirit was conveyed by ordination, and rejected the entire system of papal indulgences. The seed that was sown at this conference ripened some fifty years later when, in 1925, the Archbishop of Utrecht, Mgr. Kenninck, representing the Utrecht Union of Old Catholic Churches was able to write to the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury announcing that his Church formally accepted Anglican ordinations as valid. The Papal Bull Apostolicae Curiae, issued by Pope Leo XII in 1896, had declared Anglican orders to be "absolutely null and utterly void" and this view of Anglican orders by the Roman Catholic Church remains unaltered.

The Declaration of Utrecht.

While the Old Catholics of Germany, Switzerland and Austria were formulating their new church organisations and introducing drastic reforms, the Church of Utrecht, with its dioceses of Utrecht, Haarlem and Deventer, was maintaining its old traditions as before the Vatican Council. The Church of Utrecht had asserted its full acceptance of the decrees of the Council of Trent and was greatly alarmed at the rejection of the authority of Trent by the German and Swiss Old Catholics. No representatives of the Church of Utrecht had been at the Bonn Conferences and, for a time, it seemed likely that the Dutch would fall back into isolation and the German-speaking Old Catholics would attach themselves to Canterbury rather than to Utrecht. However, this was not to happen and, in 1889, Archbishop Johannes Heykamp of Utrecht convened the conference which led to the Declaration of Utrecht. It consisted of five Old Catholic bishops - Utrecht, Haarlem and Deventer, Bishop Reinkens of the German Church and Bishop Herzog of the Swiss Church, together with theologians representing the Dutch, German and Swiss Old Catholic Churches. The Austrian Church accepted its decision later. The Conference reached complete agreement and decided to take three steps to unite the churches:

  1. The five bishops agreed to establish a Bishops Conference for mutual consultation. No Church was to have priority or jurisdiction over any other; all the bishops agreed that they would not consecrate any bishop without the consent of all the Old Catholic bishops, and without the acceptance of the Convention of Utrecht by the candidate.

  2. An International Old Catholic Congress was to be held every two years.

  3. The five bishops issued a declaration of doctrinal principles by which all Old Catholic bishops and priests were to be bound. The most significant point in the Declaration of Utrecht is in its fifth article, which is as follows:

"We refuse to accept the decrees of the Council of Trent in matters of discipline and as for the dogmatic decisions of that council we accept them only in so far as they are in harmony with the teaching of the Primitive Church".

This rejection of the infallible authority of the Council of Trent meant that effectively the Church of Utrecht had ceased to be in any sense Roman Catholic and had placed herself, with the other Old Catholic churches, alongside the Orthodox and Anglican Communions.

The Union continued to develop and was later joined by churches in Poland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and even France and Italy. In 1959 the Old Catholic Mission of St. Paul was opened in Kaffraria, South Africa.

The Old Roman Catholic Movement in Great Britain.

In June 1906 the Royal Commission appointed in 1904 to enquire into Ecclesiastical Disorders, afterwards known as the Ritual Commission, presented its report and this was followed by the issue of Letters of Business. At the time it was confidently expected that the catholic-minded Clergy, together with their congregations, would be cut adrift from the Anglican Communion and isolated by Act of Parliament. This led to negotiations with the Old Roman Catholic Church at Utrecht and, finally, to the election to the episcopate of Arnold Harris Mathew.

Arnold Harris Mathew was born on 7 August 1852. His father was "de jure" Earl of Llandaff in the Irish peerage, and Count Povoleri, through his mothers Italian family. He was educated at Cheltenham College, and, afterwards, at Bonn and Stuttgart Universities. Recognising a vocation to the Priesthood, he went to study theology at St. Peters Theological College, Glasgow with a view to taking orders in the Scottish Episcopal Church. In 1875, however, he changed allegiance, entered a Roman Catholic Seminary and later became a novice at the Dominican Priory, Woodchester, Gloucestershire, but did not proceed to final vows. He was ordained priest in 1877 in Glasgow Roman Catholic Pro-Cathedral by the Most Revd Charles Eyre, Archbishop of Anazarba in partibus infidelium, Vicar-General of the Western District of Scotland, who, upon the restoration of the Hierarchy to Scotland, became the first Roman Catholic Archbishop of Glasgow. Fr Mathew was granted a degree of Doctor of Divinity by Pope Pius IX. He continued to exercise his Priesthood in the Roman Church until 1889, when various doubts and problems caused him to retire, and he never again resumed it in the Roman obedience.

In 1891, he was persuaded to "make a trial" of the Anglican Ministry and went to assist the Rector of Holy Trinity, Sloane St, London. He was never officially received into the Church of England, neither did he formally leave the Roman Catholic Church. This produced the rather eccentric situation of a Roman Catholic Priest officiating in Anglican Churches. In 1892, the Archbishop of Canterbury gave instructions that all ex-Roman Catholic clergy serving in the Church of England were to sign a document called "A form of Renunciation of Roman Errors". To this Fr. Mathew could not conscientiously subscribe and, upon his refusal, was compelled to sever links with the Anglican Church. He retired into private life, writing and publishing a number of books. During this period Fr Mathew married and the result of this union was a son and two daughters. On the death of his father, in 1894, he succeeded as claimant to the Earldom of Llandaff, as fourth Earl, and also to the Italian title of Count Povoleri.

In 1897, Fr Mathew came into contact with Fr Richard O'Halloran and developed an interest in the proposal for the establishment of an Old Roman Catholic Rite in Great Britain under its own Bishop. O'Halloran informed Mathew that he was in touch with the Old Roman Catholic Bishop in Holland and the Old Catholic Bishop in Germany and stated that if such a movement could be established large numbers of Roman Catholic and High Anglican Clergy and Laity would immediately adhere to it. He appears to have made similar statements to the Dutch Bishops. Upon the strength of the representations made by O'Halloran, Fr Mathew decided to support the movement and, in 1908, he was elected first Regionary Old Catholic Bishop for Great Britain and the Archbishop of Utrecht was petitioned to consecrate him to this charge.

On April 28 1908, in St Gertrudes Cathedral, Utrecht, Arnold Harris Mathew was consecrated Regionary Old Catholic Bishop for Great Britain and Ireland at the hands of Dr Gerardus Gul, Archbishop of Utrecht, assisted by Mgr James John van Thiel, Bishop of Haarlem, Mgr Nicholas Bartholomew Peter Spit, Bishop of Deventer, and Mgr Joseph Demmel, Bishop of Bonn.

Although there were at this time a small number of Old Catholics in England, Bishop Mathew was to some extent elected by those who expected soon to become clergy as a result of the anticipated action of the Government. However, other important issues, including questions of Tariff reform, having arisen to claim the immediate attention of the Government, the Kings Letters of Business dealing with the Report of the Ritual Commission received no further attention and no action was taken. The result of this was that those who had taken part in Bishop Mathews' election, and in so doing had helped to secure his consecration as something in the nature of a precautionary measure in their own interests, were able to remain undisturbed within the Anglican Communion, thereby leaving Bishop Mathew without any considerable number of adherents. Bishop Mathew was quite unprepared for the position in which he then found himself and laid the matter fully before the Dutch Bishops who, together with the Old Catholic Bishops, held a full inquiry into all the circumstances. The Bishops unanimously and publicly exonerated Bishop Mathew from all blame in a joint letter to the Guardian of June 3rd 1908, but refused his request to be permitted to retire, insisting upon his continued activity in this country as circumstances might demand.

Bishop Mathew, therefore, continued to take forward the work in England as best he could and, in 1909, issued The Old Catholic Missal and Ritual, prepared for the use of English-speaking congregations of Old Catholics by himself under the Imprimatur of Mgr Gerardus Gul, Archbishop of Utrecht. Relations with the Old Catholic Bishops on the continent continued to be friendly and, in September 1909, Bishop Mathew attended the Old Catholic Congress in Vienna, where he made a somewhat outspoken speech supporting the conservative stand point of the Dutch Old Roman Catholics in opposition to the innovations then being introduced among the German and Swiss Old Catholics in regard to acceptance of the decrees of the Holy Synod of Jerusalem (1672), the Sacrament of Penance, Invocation of the Saints and alterations in the Liturgy, including the omission of the Pope's name from the Canon of the Mass. He expressed fears that the trend of Continental Old Catholicism was towards Modernism, due largely to their associations with Anglicans and Lutherans, and hoped that there would be a return to the stricter principles of the Church of Utrecht. In October 1910, he was present in Utrecht, and assisted at the consecration of Michael John Maria Kowalski as Archbishop of the Old Catholic Church of the Mariavites of Poland.

The Breach with Utrecht.

For some time the Continental Old Catholics had been drawing closer to Anglicanism and Modernism and, thereby, becoming more Protestantised. Utrecht, herself, began to depart from her former rigidity. Bishop Mathew was much disturbed at the situation and consulted his clergy as to whether the time had come for the British Old Catholics to take an independent stand. Most of the clergy supported Bishop Mathew and, on the 29th December 1910, he issued a Pastoral Letter entitled "A Declaration Of Autonomy And Independence". Briefly summarised, the points of difference between the Old Catholics on the Continent and the Old Catholics in Great Britain and Ireland were:

  1. Certain sections of the Continental Old Catholics had rejected the doctrine of the Seven Sacraments as defined by the Council of Trent(1545) and the Synod of Jerusalem(1672).

  2. Auricular confession having been made optional, many Continental Old Catholics had ceases to practice it at all.

  3. All Old Catholics, other than the Church of Utrecht, had abolished the Invocation of the Saints.

  4. The new liturgies introduced were considered to be inexpedient.

  5. The name of the reigning Pope had been omitted from the new liturgies.

  6. Daily Mass had ceased to be the practice among Continental Old Catholics.

  7. Statues and pictures of Our Lord and the Saints had been abolished.

  8. Persons were admitted to Holy Communion in respect of whose baptism and orthodoxy there was considerable doubt.

  9. Compulsory fasting had been abolished.

Thus Bishop Mathew was forced to withdraw the Old Catholic Church in Great Britain and Ireland from Communion with the See of Utrecht in order to preserve its orthodoxy intact.

Up to this time the Movement had been known as The Old Catholic Church in Great Britain and Ireland, but, in consequence of its autonomy, it now described itself as The Old Roman Catholic Church in Great Britain, in order to distinguish itself from the European Old Catholics.

When it became clear that the Church in England would have to withdraw from communion with the See of Utrecht, the question of the preservation and continuation of the Old Roman Catholic Church in Great Britain became the paramount consideration. It appeared certain that, in the event of the death of Bishop Mathew, the Archbishop of Utrecht would not provide another Bishop for the English Church, not only on account of its paucity, but also because of the increasing divergence in matters of Faith which were taking place between it and the See of Utrecht. It would also have been undesirable, if not impossible, to be placed in the position of having to seek the Episcopate from a source which had now become tainted with heresy. It thus became imperative that Bishop Mathew should consecrate one or more Suffragans in order to secure possession of the Episcopate and the Apostolic Succession, without which the English Church could not continue to exist. On the 7th January 1911, Mgr Mathew consecrated Archdeacon Francis Herbert Bacon, Canon Cuthbert Francis Hinton, Fr William Edmond Scott-Hall and Fr Frederick Clement Christie Egerton to the Episcopate. After the consecrations an Episcopal Synod was held at which Bishop Mathew was unanimously elected Old Roman Catholic Archbishop of Great Britain and Ireland, taking the title of the Archbishop of London. In February 1911, Pope Pius X issued a Bull of Excommunication against Bishop Mathew for conferring the Episcopate without first having obtained the permission of the Holy See. Since the unjust suspension of Archbishop Codde in 1702, application for the Bulls giving permission to confer the Episcopate had been disregarded by the Apostolic See at Rome and, except in a very few cases, the same disciplinary action had followed upon an act of consecration to the Episcopate. Unpleasant and condemnatory though this Bull was, nevertheless it constituted a firm recognition on the part of the Pope, both of the validity of Mgr. Mathews own consecration, and also of the Orders conferred by him, and therefore places the fact of the absolute validity of the Orders of the Old Roman Catholic Church in GB beyond all possibility of question.

Union With The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch.

For some time, Archbishop Mathew had been in contact with a group of prominent people who were interested in extending the influence of the Eastern Orthodox Church to Western Europe. On the 5th August 1911, a conference took place at Bredon's Norton, Worcestershire attended by amongst others, Mgr Gerassimos Messarra, Prince-Archbishop of Beirut, Legate of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, and Mgr Mathew. After a very long and full discussion, it was agreed that the faith of the Old Roman Catholic body under Archbishop Mathew was in full was in full accord with that of the Eastern Orthodox Church. That being so, the Prince-Archbishop solemnly received Mgr Mathew and his rite into union with the Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and Dr. Mathew took an oath of Fidelity to the Patriarch. Later, on 26th February 1912, His Holiness Photos, Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria, also accepted this union. These Acts of Union have never been repudiated either by the Eastern Orthodox Churches or ourselves.

Assuring The Succession.

Of the four original Bishops consecrated by Archbishop Mathew, Bishop Bacon had gone to Canada, Bishop Hinton had left the Movement to join the Protestant Episcopal Church in the U.S.A., Bishop Scott-Hall had deserted the Movement in disgrace and Bishop Egerton had submitted to Rome. By 1913 a number of converts to the Movement had been made in Scotland and so, not only to once more safeguard the succession but also to provide the adherents in Scotland with a Bishop, Mgr Mathew elevated the Prince de Landas Berghes et de Rache, to the Episcopate as Bishop for Scotland.

Bishop de Landas eventually moved to America and the Church in England continued to suffer various misfortunes. With the onset of the First World War, Bishop de Landas was utterly unable to do anything to assist the English Old Roman Catholics and there was no other Bishop active in the Movement. To safeguard the succession once more, Canon Bernard Mary Williams was consecrated by Mgr Mathew on the 14th April 1916.

On the 2nd July 1916, Mgr Mathew consecrated Canon James Columba McFall as Bishop for Ireland, which country he detached from his own charge and constituted it a separate Province.

Meanwhile, in the United States of America, Bishop de Landas had been making considerable headway. There were many there with Old Roman Catholic leanings and there was a strong group known as National Catholics. In September 1916, various Old Roman Catholic groups and the National Catholics united together and were incorporated as the North American Old Roman Catholic Church. Bishop de Landas was elected their Archbishop and he consecrated, on 3rd October, William Henry Francis Brothers and, with his assistance, on the following day, 4th October, consecrated Carmel Henry Carfora, an ex Roman Catholic Priest, as his Perpetual Coadjutor cum jure successionis. The American Church never came under the jurisdiction of the English Church but was regarded as a sister Church.

On the 25th March 1917 Mgr. Mathew appointed Bishop Williams as his successor and on the 20th December 1919, His Grace Arnold Harris Mathew, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Old Roman Catholic Church in Great Britain, "de jure" Earl of Llandaff, passed to his rest at South Mymms, Hertfordshire, where he had been resident for some months past. No better appreciation and valuation of Mgr Mathew could be offered that that of Mgr Williams, his successor, who wrote:

Of the truly great Prelate who has passed beyond the veil, our most venerable and revered Archbishop, I could write much. He was truly one of those of whom the world was not worthy - a man without guile. His kindness, sympathy, and generosity were only too easily aroused, and knew no bounds. Himself a good man, he seems to have been incapable of suspecting or understanding bad faith and treachery in others and, so, became a very easy victim to the unscrupulous. Unhappily, he was constantly preyed upon by persons of this type, who never failed to misrepresent him, grossly, deliberately and of evil purpose, to all who had not the happiness of knowing him. No man has ever been more thoroughly misunderstood or more viciously, wantonly, and most unjustly persecuted. He was a man of simple tastes, possessed of a high appreciation of the beauties of nature, with a deep knowledge of Natural History. A real scholar, whose sound learning was by no means confined to the usual fields of clerical knowledge; a nobleman of great courage, perfect courtesy, the highest integrity and an address which can only be described as charming. A Prelate of wonderful humility and very great personal sanctity, he, died in the 67th year of his age, the 43rd of his Priesthood, and the 12th of his Pontificate.

By virtue of his perpetual coadjutorship, Mgr Bernard Mary Williams immediately succeeded the deceased Archbishop on 20th December 1919. Being now the only active Old Roman Catholic Bishop in Great Britain, Mgr Williams considered the question of safe guarding the succession. Being unwilling to see any repetition of the scandals of the past, he arrived at a mutual understanding with Mgr Carfora, who had succeeded Archbishop de Landas as Archbishop of the North American Old Roman Catholic Church, that, should either die without leaving a successor, the survivor would consecrate a duly elected person to fill the vacancy.

In 1925 Mgr Williams issued a new constitution which repudiated the whole historical and doctrinal position of Old Roman Catholicism, the position upon which Archbishop Mathew had stood firm. By this constitution, he repudiated the objections of the Church of Utrecht to the Roman Church and renewed his acceptance of the canons and decrees of the council of Trent, all with the aim of creating a Pro-uniate Rite and eventual reconciliation with Rome. Archbishop Bernard Mary Williams died on the 9th of June 1952.

Recent Times.

Three priests had remained loyal to Mgr Williams and continued to maintain the Old Roman Catholic Church. They elected a former priest of Archbishop Mathew, Gerard George Shelley, who had gone to America, where he was consecrated by Bishop Marchenna - who himself had been consecrated by Archbishop Carfora - to succeed Mgr. Williams. Bishop Shelley became resident in Rome and so was able to succeed Mgr Williams as third Archbishop of the Old Roman Catholic Church in GB. On Whit Sunday, 1960, Mgr Shelley consecrated Mgr Geoffrey Peter Paget King, as coadjutor Bishop for England of the Old Roman Catholic Church. Archbishop Shelley resigned in 1962 and Archbishop Paget King was elected as Archbishop. Archbishop Paget King retired in 1982 and was succeeded by Archbishop James Charles Hedley Thatcher as fifth Archbishop. Upon his retirement he was succeeded by Archbishop Denis St Pierre as sixth Archbishop and, following his death in 1993, the Most Reverend Douglas Titus Lewins succeeded as seventh Archbishop. Archbishop Lewins retired in 2021 and was succeeded by the current Archbishop and Metropolitan, the Most Reverend William Myers.