"The American Catholic Communities"
We are Catholic Christian communities that are committed to the person of Jesus Christ and to His
teaching. We accept and believe the testimony of His apostles who were His first disciples and
eye witnesses of His life, death, and resurrection from the dead. It was these same disciples that
passed on to the church their own testimony about the person of Jesus and the events of His life.
Embodied in their testimony are the very teachings of Jesus Himself.
THE APOSTOLIC TRADITION AND THE GOSPEL
We call this testimony of the first disciples the Apostolic Tradition. The word "tradition" is that
which is passed on from one generation to another. The first disciples, whom we call apostles,
proclaimed and taught the message of Jesus called the Gospel, which means Good News. Those
who believed in the Good News were baptized and brought into a new community that was
formed by the apostles. This community was called the Church. Within this community the
Christians, as they came to be called, worshiped together, worked together, and took care of one
another. They made every effort to follow the command of Jesus to love one another. The
apostles gave to this community their testimony, the Apostolic Tradition, to be passed on to
succeeding generations. It was their desire that the newly formed Church would not forget this
tradition. As Saint Paul wrote, "So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold to the traditions
we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by written letter." The Apostolic Tradition
was passed on in the written letters of the apostles, which were collected into what we now call
the New Testament. The Apostolic Traditions were also passed on by "word of mouth." This
"oral tradition" is to be found in the community. The Liturgy, that is the Mass and the
sacraments, embody both the written and oral traditions of the apostles.
THE HOLY SPIRIT
Within the Christian community people experience the very presence of God Himself. This
presence of God is known as the Holy Spirit. It was the Holy Spirit that empowered the apostles
so that they could continue the work of Jesus Christ in healing the sick and forgiving sins.
Without the Holy Spirit there could not be an authentic Christian community.
THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
With the passing of time, the message of Jesus spread and the Church grew. Very early, the
Church came to be called the Catholic Church. The word "catholic" means universal. What
Christians meant when they used the term "catholic" was that Jesus Christ was universal; that the
Church embodied those Christians who lived in Rome or Antioch, as well as those who lived in
Jerusalem. It also meant that the Church included those Christians of the past as well as those of
the present. In other words, the community founded by the apostles is one, continuous in both
time and space.
THE CATHOLIC CHURCH EXPANDS
The Church quickly expanded across the known world: eastward into Russia and India, to the
West across Europe as far as England. There is much legend surrounding Christianity coming to
England, but there is solid historical evidence of an active Celtic, or English, Church even from
the time of St. Paul and St. Peter. There were British bishops at the early Councils of the Church.
The well-known St. Patrick was a British missionary to Ireland. Almost all of England was
gradually christianized through various sources.
In 664 A.D., the various bishops of England voluntarily agreed to come together under the
leadership of the Roman Pope, out of obedience to the King and to further unify the entire
AND BRANCHES. . .
By the time the Catholic Church was about 1000 years old, disagreements among Christians of
the East and Christians of the West caused the Church to virtually split in half. Each half of the
Church claimed to be the one true Catholic and Apostolic Church. Most of the Eastern church
became known as the Orthodox Church, and the Western church became the Roman Catholic
Church; yet, all remained Catholic.
The leaders of the Orthodox Church were called Patriarchs and resided in the prominent cities of
Antioch, Alexandria, Jerusalem and Constantinople. The Roman Catholic Church was lead by the
Pope of Rome.
THE ISSUE OF EARLY CHURCH LEADERSHIP
One of the major disagreements that has caused the fractioning of the Catholic Church throughout
her history, and was a major factor in the East-West rift, was the issue of Church leadership.
Jesus commissioned His apostles to be the first leaders of His church. Before they died, they appointed others to lead
the Church. These leaders were called bishops. This appointment was a sacrament called
ordination. The Holy Apostles ordained the first bishops to be their successors. These bishops in
turn ordained others to succeed them. This sacred line of leadership is called Apostolic
As the Church grew and developed, some bishops became more powerful than others. The
bishops of Rome acquired considerable influence. It was not long before the they began to call
themselves Popes, and insisted they were the head of the entire Catholic Church and by Divine
Right. Many bishops, particularly of the Eastern Church resisted the claim of the Roman bishops.
This insistence finally provoked the first major rupture in the Catholic Church, which is now
called the Great Schism of 1054.
After the Great Schism, the Roman Catholic Church continued to develop in Western Europe. For
the next 450 years, during the Middle Ages, the Popes consolidated their power and extended
their influence over the Church and society. With the dawn of the sixteenth century, the Roman
Catholic Church was over laden with moral and political corruption. Many concerned religious
leaders made efforts to reform the Church.
These efforts at reform became known collectively as the Reformation. Two very different
reformations resulted from these tensions. One became known as the independent communities
that became Old Catholic. They were called Old Catholics because they sought to turn the clock
back and adhere to the beliefs and practices of the Catholic Church prior to the various schisms.
Old Catholic communities derive their Apostolic Succession through the independent Catholic
Archbishop of Utrecht. The Archbishop of Utrecht traces his Apostolic Succession back to the
Holy Apostles. The Old Catholics have a valid line of succession, therefore, a valid priesthood
with valid sacraments. This fact has never been denied by the Roman Catholic Church.
Old Catholicism is closely related to other Catholic communities that became independent of
Rome. These Catholic communities are growing throughout the world. There are over five
million independent Catholics in Brazil and nearly three million in the Independent Catholic
Church of the Philippines. Other Catholic communities of this movement are called by various
names such as the Polish National Catholic Church,
The American Catholic Communities
Roman Catholic Church, and of course millions of parishioners in the Anglican
AN AUTHENTIC CATHOLIC COMMUNITY
To be an authentic Catholic community, a group must be able to trace its Apostolic Succession
back to the original apostles. That same group must maintain a faithful adherence to the Gospel
of Jesus as expressed through Apostolic Tradition. Finally, that group must actively participate in
the sacramental ministry of the historic Catholic Church.
THE SACRAMENTAL MINISTRY
The American Catholic Communities are catholic because they participate in the sacramental
ministry of the Church. The seven Sacraments of the historic Catholic Church are affirmed and
- Baptism - The first rite of initiation into the church which signifies the cleansing from sin. It
opens the door to all the other sacraments.
- Confirmation - Through the anointing with oil and the laying on of hands, the bishop confers
the Holy Spirit upon the Christian. In receiving the Spirit, the Christian is strengthened with
the gifts he will need to take on an adult role in the Christian community.
- Holy Eucharist - The celebration through which we renew and participate in Christ's birth,
sacrificial death, resurrection and ascension into heaven. During this celebration we receive
the actual Body and Blood of Christ, given to us in bread and wine for our spiritual
- Reconciliation - Along with Catholic and other Christian communities, we acknowledge that a
sincere prayer of sorrow to our God will bring the response of His forgiveness. We also
believe that Christ left us a special sacrament which is a powerful encounter with Jesus Christ
and His loving forgiveness. Also called the sacrament of reconciliation, Penance can be
celebrated in two ways:
A. Individual absolution is usually preceded by a Christian's confession of personal sins.
The priest's prayer of forgiveness or absolution is said for each sincere penitent, at which
time the additional gift of grace is imparted.
B. General absolution is sacramental absolution, given once to a large number of people,
especially when the number of penitents is too great to allow for individual confession of
5. Sacrament of the Sick - Consists of the anointing of sick members of the Christian community
with oil, and prayers for their healing and forgiveness. The effects of this sacrament are
strength and peace for the Christian in the face of his illness, and physical healing and recovery
according to God's will.
6. Marriage - A man and woman join their two lives together into one. This sacrament is
administered by the two partners themselves, with the priest or deacon acting as a witness on
behalf of God and the Church. The Holy Spirit breathes God's own love into the couple's
love, so that each becomes a source of grace for the other.
7. Holy Orders - Is the sacrament through which the Church sets aside people for the special
service of ministry to the Christian community. This sacramental act is called ordination.
There are three ranks or major orders in the ministry of the Church. They are deacon, priest,
How does The American Catholic
Communities differ from a Roman Catholic Church?
- The Catholics of our community do not accept the teaching of papal infallibility and, therefore,
are independent of the pope's jurisdiction. As a result, we are not bound by some of the
canons and regulations that are formulated and enforced in the Roman Catholic Church.
- Priests and bishops are permitted to marry.
- Women are encouraged to be more fully involved in the ministry of the Church. As Saint Paul
writes, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in
- Divorced people who remarry are able to be reconciled to the church through the grace of
God and, therefore, are not excluded from the sacraments. Therefore, a divorced person may
remarry with the blessing of the Church.
- Artificial contraception is an issue of conscience between husband, wife and God.
- Each Catholic is an equal part of the Church. Therefore, lay people are encouraged to play a
prominent role in the Church.
- No Christian is excluded from the sacramental ministry. All baptized Christians are invited to
participate in the worship and sacraments of the Church.
THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC MISSION
The distinctive mission of The American Catholic
Communities is two-fold. The brief history
surveyed in this booklet serves to explain the particular call of
The American Catholic Communities
to bear witness to, and be a living active example of, the essential spiritual unity that exists
among all the branches of Catholicism. Therefore, through our archbishop, we are one of the
founding denominations of the Ecumenical Communion of Catholic and Apostolic Churches. The
ECCAC is an ecclesial communion commissioned to affirm, recognize and pray for all the
branches of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, and to embrace the clergy and laity of
these branches as true brothers and sisters of Christ's One, Holy Church. In this, to be at least a
prophetic pointer or prototype of unity in both an attitude of humility and charity, and in our
works, worship and mission, that we may bear witness to that divine hope and calling, outwardly.
Secondly, we believe we have been called to draw all Christians into the fullest expression of
Christ's church in the convergence of sacramental ministry, charismatic power and evangelistic
zeal in order to most fully portray the face of Christ's Church to the world.
Finally, The American Catholic
Communities have a very special heart for those Catholics who for
any reasons have felt separated from their Catholic roots and are seeking a valid and authentic
way to be Catholic in today's world.
THE DECLARATION OF UTRECHT. A TRANSLATION OF THE PROFESSION OF
FAITH, OR DECLARATION, FORMULATED BY THE OLD CATHOLIC BISHOPS
ASSEMBLED AT UTRECHT. SEPTEMBER 24TH, 1889
- We adhere faithfully to the Rule of Faith laid down by St. Vincent of Lerins in these terms: "Id
teneamus, ubique quod semper, quod ab onmibus creditum est; hoc est etenim vere pro-
prieque catholicum." For this reason we persevere in professing the faith of the primitive
Church, as formulated in the ecumenical symbols and specified precisely by the unanimously
accepted decisions of the Ecumenical Councils held in the undivided Church of the first
- We therefore reject the decrees of the so-called Council of the Vatican, which were
promulgated on July 18th, 1870 concerning the infallibility and the universal Episcopate of the
Bishop of Rome, decrees which contradict the faith of the ancient canonical constitution by
attributing to the Pope the plenitude of ecclesiastical powers over all Dioceses and over all the
faithful. By denial of his primatial jurisdiction, we do not wish to deny the historic primacy
which several Ecumenical Councils and the Fathers of the ancient Church have attributed to
the Bishop of Rome by recognizing him as the Primus inter pares.
- We also reject the dogma of the Immaculate Conception promulgated by Pius IX in 1854 in
defiance of the Holy Scriptures and the contradiction to the tradition of the first centuries.
- As for other Encyclicals published by the Bishops of Rome in recent times; for example, the
Bulls Unigenitus and Auctorem fidei, and the Syllabus of 1864, we reject them on all such
points as are in the contradiction of the doctrine of the primitive Church, and we do not
recognize them as binding on the conscience of the faithful. We also renew the ancient protest
of the Catholic Church of Holland against the errors of the Roman Curia, and against its
attacks upon the rights of national Churches.
- We refuse to accept the decrees of the Council of Trent in matters of discipline, and as for the
dogmatic decisions of that Council, accept them only so far as they are in harmony with the
teaching of the primitive Church.
- Considering that the Holy Eucharist has always been the true central point of Catholic worship,
we consider it our duty to declare that we maintain with perfect fidelity the ancient Catholic
doctrine concerning the Sacrament of the Altar, by believing that we receive the Body and
Blood of our Savior Jesus Christ under the species of bread and wine. The Eucharistic
celebration in the church is neither a continual repetition nor a renewal of the expiatory
sacrifice which Jesus offered once for all upon the Cross, and it is the act by which we
represent upon earth and appropriate to ourselves the one offering which Jesus Christ makes in
Heaven, according to the Epistle to the Hebrews ix.11, 12 for the salvation of redeemed
humanity, by appearing for us in the presence of God (Heb. ix. 24). The character of the Holy
Eucharist being thus understood, it is, at the same time, a sacrificial feast, by means of which
the faithful, in receiving the Body and Blood of our Savior, enter into communion with one
another (I Cor. x. 17).
- We hope that Catholic theologians, in maintaining the faith of the undivided Church, will
succeed in establishing an agreement upon all such questions as caused controversy ever since
the Churches became divided. We exhort the priests under our jurisdiction to teach, both by
preaching and by instruction of the young, especially the essential Christian truths professed by
all Christian confessions, to avoid, in discussing controversial doctrines, any violation of truth
or charity, and in word and deed to set an example to the members of our churches in
accordance with the spirit of Jesus Christ our Savior.
- By maintaining and professing faithfully the doctrine of Jesus Christ, by refusing to admit those
errors which by the fault of men have crept into the Catholic Church, by laying aside the abuses
in ecclesiastical matters, together with the worldly tendencies of hierarchy, we believe that we
shall be able to combat efficaciously the great evils of our day, which are unbelief and
indifference in matters of religion.
A reference from the Old Catholic Movement
1978 CATHOLIC VISITOR, INC..
(Which is an official publication of the Roman Catholic Church)
Old Catholic-several groups, including: (1) the Church of Utrecht, which severed relations with
Rome in 1724; (2) The National Polish Church in the U.S., which has its origin near the end of the
19th century; (3) German, Austrian and Swiss Old Catholics, who broke away from union with
Rome following the First Vatican Council in 1870 because they objected to the dogma of papal
The formation of the Old Catholic communion of Germans, Austrians and Swiss began in 1870 at
a public meeting held in Nuremberg under the leadership of A. Dolinger. Four years later
Episcopal succession was established with ordination of an Old Catholic German bishop by a
prelate of the Church of Utrecht. In line with the "Declaration of Utrecht" of 1889, they accept
the first seven ecumenical councils and doctrine formulated before 1054, but reject communion
with the pope and a number of other Roman Catholic doctrines and practices. They have a valid
priesthood and valid sacraments. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church notes that they
have recognized Anglican ordinations since 1925, that they have full communion with the Church
of England since 1932, and have taken part in ordination of Anglican Bishops.
published with Ecclesiastical Approval
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