The Old Catholic Communion of North America

An Old Catholic Communion made up of autocephalous Old Catholic Churches.

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including the Common Order of the Holy Service of the Mass, a short illustrated history of the Old Catholic Church, the Old Catholic-Anglican Agreement, the Declaration of Utrecht of 1889, and a list of parish churches. Published by the Society of St. Willibrord and on sale at:

"Centraal Oud-Katholiek Boekhuis",
c./o. Oud-Katholiek Seminarie,
Koningin Wilhelminalaan 3,
Amersfoort, Holland. 1961


On July 2nd, 1931, at Bonn, Germany, a joint session of Anglican and Old Catholic Commissions agreed to terms of intercommunion. They were accepted unanimously by all the delegates, and have since been ratified by the various Old Catholic Churches, by both Convocations of the Church of England, and by the other Churches of the Anglican Communion.

The following are the terms of the agreement:

(1) Each Communion recognizes the Catholicity and independence of the other, and maintains its own.

(2) Each Communion agrees to admit members of the other Communion to participate in the sacraments.

(3) Intercommunion does not require from either Communion the acceptance of all doctrinal opinion, sacramental devotion, or liturgical practice characteristic of the other, but implies that each believes the other to hold all the essentials of the Christian Faith.


Resolution 14 of the Lambeth Conference 1958 runs as follows:

The Conference endorses the paragraph in the Report of the Committee on Church Unity and the Church Universal which refers to the use of the terms "full communion" and "intercommunion" and recommends accordingly that where between two Churches not of the same denominational or confessional family, there is unrestricted "communio in sacris", including mutual recognition and acceptance of ministries, the appropriate term to use is "full communion" and that where varying degrees of relation other than "full communion" are established by agreement between two such Churches the appropriate term is "intercommunion".

The Report of the Committee on Church Unity and the Church Universal mentions the confusing use of the terms "full communion" and "intercommunion" and says: The Committee therefore has concluded that it would be less confusing and indeed more true to reality to use the term "full communion" in all cases where a Province of the Anglican Communion by agreement enters into a relation of unrestricted "communio in sacris", including the mutual recognition of ministries, with a Church outside our Communion. This would mean, for example, that the relation already existing between Churches of our Communion with the Old Catholic Churches would henceforth be described as that of "full communion" rather than "full intercommunion".



Who are the Old Catholics? They are a federation of several independent national Churches which are definitely Catholic in faith and worship, and are also non-Papal. Amongst them the Archbishop of Utrecht holds a Primacy of honour not dissimilar from that accorded in the Anglican Communion to the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Wherever they are found they are the Church of a minority of the people, but smallness of numbers does not mean that they are an unimportant Church. On the contrary, they occupy a very definite place in Catholic Christendom and they are in communion with almost all the Churches of the Anglican Communion.

Old Catholicism results from the fusion of two separate and distinct movements away from the Church of Rome. The first of these was caused by Jesuit intrigue which in the eighteenth century drove the See of Utrecht into separation from the Roman Obedience. This Mother- diocese of the Netherlands had been founded by St. Willibrord, a missionary from Northumbria, in A.D. 696.

The schism in the Church of the Netherlands arose, when the Pope deposed Archbishop Petrus Codde and appointed a new bishop, which was contrary to church law. Part of the Church remained loyal to the Chapter of the Archbishop (the Old Catholics) and the others took the side of Rome (the Roman Catholics).

The Church of Utrecht was not prepared to bow before the Jesuit-Papal striving after power. It maintained its rights and elected Cornelis Steenoven Archbishop of Utrecht (1723). He was consecrated by the Roman Catholic Bishop Dominicus Maria Varlet. In separation from Rome (and with the revived Sees of Haarlem and Deventer) Utrecht retained a valid Apostolic Succession in its ministry and continued to be Catholic in faith and worship.

For Utrecht the Scriptures and Tradition were and are the sources of the Catholic faith, in such a manner that Tradition can never add anything to, or take away from, the Scriptures. For Rome Tradition came to stand above the Scriptures and was finally embodied in the Pope (187O).

The Vatican Council of 1870 killed any hope of reconciliation with Rome. The same Vatican Council produced another separation from Rome, a secession of some magnitude, which occurred in Central Europe where its leader was the celebrated Dr Ignatius von Dollinger, a Theological Professor of the University of Munich.

His followers came to be called Old Catholics because they rejected the new doctrines of the Papal Church and appealed to the standard of faith and worship in the Undivided Christian Church. Excommunicated by Rome, they sought and obtained recognition by the See of Utrecht, and in consequence enjoy Orders, which even the Roman Church admits as valid.

The Old Catholic Churches have revised doctrine, worship and discipline and there are differences between the different Churches in these matters, but all are united on the basis of the Declaration of Utrecht, as agreed in 1889. A translation of that Declaration will be found hereafter.

From 187O onwards the Old Catholic Churches have been in close touch with the Anglican Churches. The Old Catholics responded to the Lambeth Appeal of 192O with regard to Christian Unity. In 1925, the Old Catholics declared their unqualified acceptance of Anglican Orders and Sacraments. At Bonn, in 1931, terms of intercommunion were agreed upon, and have since been ratified on both sides.

Members of either Communion may, therefore, obtain hospitality in matters spiritual in the Churches of the other. Since the Union conferences held in Bonn in 1874 and 1875 under the leadership of Von Dollinger, excellent relations have been maintained with the Eastern Orthodox Churches. These bonds were strengthened by the presence of official Eastern Orthodox delegates at several international Old Catholic congresses.

Finally it may be noted that from the very beginning the Old Catholic Churches have taken a great interest in the work of the ecumenical movement. This is the logical consequence of their conviction that they are the continuation of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church and that, with a view to the Roman Catholic aberrations on the one hand and those of the Protestants on the other hand, it is their duty to bear witness to the faith of the one and undivided Church.


SEPTEMBER 24th, 1889

1. We adhere faithfully to the Rule of Faith laid down by St. Vincent of Lerins in these terms: "Id teneamus, quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est; hoc est etenim vere proprieque 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 thousand years.

2. We therefore reject the decrees of the so-called Council of the Vatican, which were promulgated July 18th, 187O, concerning the infallibility and the universal Episcopate of the Bishop of Rome, decrees which are in contradiction with the faith of the ancient Church, and which destroy its 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 Church 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.

3. We also reject the dogma of the Immaculate Conception promulgated by Pius IX in 1854 in defiance of the Holy Scriptures and in contradiction to the tradition of the first centuries.

4. 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 contradiction with the doctrine of the primitive Church, and we do not recognize them as binding on the consciences of the faithful. We also renew the ancient protests of the Catholic Church of Holland against the errors of the Roman Curia, and against its attacks upon the rights of national Churches.

5. 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 so far as they are in harmony with the teaching of the primitive Church.

6. 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 the Blood of our Saviour 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; but it is a sacrifice because it is the perpetual commemoration of the sacrifice offered 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 Saviour, enter into communion with one another (1 Cor. X. 17).

7. We hope that Catholic theologians, in maintaining the faith of the undivided Church, will succeed in establishing an agreement upon questions which have been controverted [i.e. in controversy - Ed.] ever since the divisions which have arisen between the Churches. We exhort the priests under our Church to teach, both by preaching and by the instruction of the young, especially the essential Christian truths professed by all the Christian confessions, to avoid, in discussing controverted 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 Saviour.

8. 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 the 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.



Old Catholic ceremonial follows the general tradition and practice of Western Catholic Christendom. Those Roman Catholics who contended against erroneous doctrine and discipline and became the first generation of Old Catholics had little or no quarrel with matters connected with ceremonial. The old customs were, therefore, adapted to the new vernacular rites.

Any person familiar with the ceremonial of the Roman Catholic Church will, therefore, have no difficulty in following an Old Catholic Mass even though the language used may be a strange one. Eucharistic Vestments are worn, and the Celebrant is attended by Servers. The Altar and its ornaments are similar to those in a Roman Catholic or Anglican Church. A Sanctus Bell is rung generally. Incense is in common use in the Netherlands on festivals.

There are no silent Masses. Said Masses, without music, will be found, but a Sung Eucharist is the usual Sunday morning service. Occasionally a High Mass with a Deacon and Sub- Deacon in addition to the Celebrant is provided. No hymns are sung while any part of the rite is proceeding at the Altar. The Celebrant will wait until singing ends before continuing the service. In some Parishes the congregation answers with the Server. Various settings of music are employed for parts of the Liturgy, but traditional Gregorian music (well known to Anglicans) is always used for Sursum Corda, the Prefaces, and the Lord's Prayer.


(1) Old Catholics attend Mass regularly, but the majority communicate only on certain recognized Sundays and Holy Days. Generally they inform the Priest in advance of their intention to communicate. Anglicans similarly should give notice. If they do so they may communicate at any Mass.

(2) Visitors should find out in advance the address of the Old Catholic Church, and are recommended to make themselves known to the Priest, who will welcome them.

(3) Anglicans should be prepared to receive Holy Communion according to the local Old Catholic custom, unless the Priest volunteers to give the visitors Holy Communion according to the Anglican manner. Communion in Both Kinds is the general Old Catholic custom. In some churches Communion is given by Intinction.


The Society of St. Willibrord, founded in 1908, exists to promote understanding and intercourse between members of the Anglican and Old Catholic Churches. The Society has two sections, an Old Catholic and an Anglican. The Old Catholic section has the patronage of the Archbishop of Utrecht and its president is the Bishop of Haarlem. The Anglican section has the patronage of the Archbishop of Canterbury and its president is the Bishop of London.

An Anglican who intends to visit Old Catholic churches in Europe is recommended to get into touch with this Society.

Hon. Secretary of the Anglican Section is the Rev. J. A. Burley. M.A., F.R.G.S. St. James's Vicarige - Clacton- on-Sea.

Hon. Secretary of the Old Catholic Section is Pastor G. A. van Kleef, Oud-Katholieke Pastorie, Nieuwe Bin- nenweg 23, Rotterdam 3.



This revised translation into English of the Eucharistic Rite of the Old Catholic Church of the Netherlands according to the Missal issued by the Episcopal decision of January 6th 1960, is approved.

Imprimatur! September 1961

+ANDREAS, Archbishop of Utrecht
+JACOBUS, Bishop of Haarlem
+PETRUS JOSEPHUS, Bishop of Deventer