What Are You?

Are You Catholic?
This is a question that we are often asked, and as a result we often find ourselves in the awkward position of having to say; “Well—yes and no.” Obviously, most people immediately see this answer as confusing, since they believe that the answer can only be yes or no. However in the same respect, most people believe that there is but one Catholic Church, therefore they conclude—if Christian—you are either Protestant or Catholic, but just as there are (at the time of this writing) an estimated 3000 denominations of Protestantism, there are Catholic churches outside of the Roman Catholic church and the Orthodox churches that are in communion with the church of Rome. We have prepared this brochure as a means of informing the public that while we practice Catholicism, we are not a part of the Roman Catholic Church.
We hope you find this brochure interesting, as it discusses a fascinating part of Christian Church history, and a movement that continues to grow despite the fact it is probably the best kept secret in North America.
Independent Catholic Churches
Independent Catholic churches are Catholic congregations that are not in communion with the Roman Catholic Church or any other churches whose sacraments are recognized by the Roman Catholic Church (such as the Eastern Orthodox and some Oriental Orthodox churches). Virtually all groups in the Independent Catholic movement claim to have valid apostolic succession for their bishops. Bishops in Independent Catholic Churches are sometimes referred to as episcopi vagantes (“wandering bishops”) because of their lack of affiliation with a larger communion of churches.
Although the term Old Catholic was first used in 1853 to describe those Catholics belonging to Utrecht, Netherlands, most scholars date the “modern” Old Catholic movement to the 1870s. After the First Vatican Council in 1870 considerable groups of Austrian, German and Swiss Catholics rejected the declaration of papal infallibility and left to form their own churches independent of the pope.
The Independent Catholic movement came to Great Britain in 1908 when Arnold Harris Mathew [1] was consecrated a bishop in the Old Catholic Church of Utrecht. Before breaking with the Union of Utrecht, Mathew ordained several individuals to the episcopacy and priesthood, from whom a number of new churches quickly developed.
Joseph René Vilatte, [2] an Old Catholic priest, is credited with being the first person to bring the independent movement to North America, in 1892 Over the following twenty-eight years Vilatte consecrated a number of men to the episcopacy. These bishops, or their successors, went on to found many different jurisdictions in North America.
Many, but not all, Independent Catholic clergy claim descent from the Old Catholics of Utrecht, although Utrecht does not officially accept their orders. Like Orthodoxy, Utrecht holds that ordinations can only be done within the church as a whole and with appropriate authority. Some independent groups in North America began life as Protestant and/or Charismatic congregations; for example, the Charismatic Episcopal Church came into being when charismatic fellowships rediscovered both sacramentalism and the historical apostolic succession. Since the orders of the EOC were not regarded as valid by the Orthodox bishops, the reception of clergy into mainstream Orthodoxy was always accompanied by ordination.
The Brazilian Catholic Apostolic Church was founded in the 1940s when Bishop Carlos Duarte Costa withdrew from the Roman Catholic Church in protest against that church’s perceived support of Nazis who had fled to Latin America and its neglect of the needs of the poor. Duarte Costa went on to consecrate other bishops in Europe as well as North and South America. Several Independent Catholic bodies trace their apostolic succession through Duarte Costa, including the Catholic Apostolic Church in North America.
A number of liturgical churches are sometimes regarded as Independent Catholics, but do not fit neatly in this category. Continuing Anglican Churches are sometimes included in this grouping, but this is controversial, especially with regard to the larger Anglican bodies, and these Continuing Churches do not count themselves as being within the Independent Catholic movement. Traditionalist Catholic groups that are in irregular standing with the Holy See (such as the SSPX, not Traditionalist groups in full communion with the Pope, such as the FSSP) are sometimes regarded as Independent Catholics, but they do not see themselves in this manner; rather they regard themselves as being the true Church, believing that Catholicism has embraced teachings which are schismatic, or even heretical since the Second Vatican Council.
A very few Independent groups have grown to a larger size (e.g. the Ecumenical Catholic Communion (http://www.ecumenical-catholic-communion.org/) and the Catholic Apostolic Church in North America) but the majority consist of one or two bishops, a few priests and deacons, and a small number of adherents. In numerous cases, bishops have been consecrated without having any priests under their jurisdiction, and some bishops have undergone several consecrations in an attempt to secure a more diverse claim to apostolic succession.
Faith and practice
Virtually all members of the Independent Movement worship according to a set liturgy, usually derived from a mainstream historical Christian rite, such as the Syriac, Byzantine, or Roman. Sometimes they use a liturgy that is a combination of two or more of these historical liturgies or one that is unique to the group in question. Independent Catholicism also affirms the text of the Nicene Creed, but interpretations vary widely based upon how many councils are recognised by the independent Catholic Church in question.
However, independent groups disagree on the ordination of women, [2] homosexuality, abortion, contraception, divorce, and other issues that are controversial also in more mainstream sections of Christianity. Unlike most of their more conventional counterparts, these groups, usually being quite small, tend to be internally fairly homogeneous on these and other issues; in other words, divisions on these and other questions are between these groups, not so much within them.
Many have embraced the model of parish organization in which a bishop, not a priest, is the pastor of a parish. This model is traditionally how the Church operated in the first century and enables those who wish to return to the true Orthodoxy of Early Christianity to do so, and the charge that they “become bishops to rationalize the process even when there are no other members of the clergy in the group” is completely baseless. Thus, a higher percentage of independent clergy who love their church end up seeking ordination to the episcopacy when they feel called to such a position. [3]
It is rare to find independent clergy who are supported financially in their work. Most Independent clergy pursue their ministry as a part-time, volunteer calling, whilst engaging in some other occupation in order to support themselves and their families. [4]
Holy orders
Independent clergy have often received multiple ordinations/consecrations in an attempt to ensure a broad and diverse claim to apostolic succession. Though perhaps less prevalent than in the past, the practice continues.
Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy and Oriental Orthodoxy are based at least in part on an understanding of apostolic succession that has been held by some within the Latin Church since the time of the Donatist controversy in the 4th and 5th centuries AD. According to those who hold this view, a person becomes a bishop if consecrated in an approved rite by another (validly ordained) bishop even when he is outside the boundaries of Catholicism. Independent clergy see bishops as always ordained for the service of others and for the Christian community, whether in a defined jurisdiction or more broadly.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

[1] Bishop Benedict-Johns and other Bishops in this church have multiple valid lines of Apostolic Succession, including lines passed on by Arnold Mathews and Joseph René Vilatte.
[2] Our jurisdiction–the Arch Diocese of St. Michaels allows women to receive Holy Orders, but does not confer Holy Orders on members of the GLBT community.
[3] We support this premise, ordaining new clergy as Deacons, then moving them on to the episcopacy as fast as is prudent and practical.
[4] We support this premise and encourage all in our jurisdiction to do so likewise, embracing the tradition of the early church.


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