Frequent Questions - OCCNA

Old Catholic Communion of North America
An Orthodox Old Catholic Church
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Frequently Asked Questions

Are you Catholic?
When people speak of Catholics today, they often mean Roman Catholics. However, the term catholic was first used in the letter of Saint Ignatius of Antioch to the Smyrnaeans (about AD 110) in reference to the “universal” church. The following is a definition for the word “catholic”: Catholic Abbr. C... a. Of or involving the Roman Catholic Church. b. Of or relating to the universal Christian church. c. Of or relating to the ancient undivided Christian church. d. Of or relating to those churches that have claimed to be representatives of the ancient undivided church. [1]

There are in fact many Communions (Churches) that are in fact part of the Catholic Church as they can trace their beliefs, teachings, and origins to the ancient undivided Apostolic Church. One of the primary attributes of a Catholic Church is that each maintains a line of Apostolic Succession in their clergy thus making them part of the “One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church” as proclaimed in the Nicene Creed.
Some of these Communions are the Orthodox (Greek, Serbian, Russian, Coptic, and many more), Anglican (Episcopal), and Old Catholic.

What is “Old Catholic”?
The Old Catholic Church traces its roots to the 7th century.  It was during this time when the church was one and undivided. that the Anglo-Saxon monk Willibrord missionized the area of Europe now known as the Netherlands and France.

The name "Old Catholic" began to come into use in 1741 when the Church in Utrecht turned from Roma and began to refer to call themselves as Roman Catholics of the “Old Episcopal Clergy” (Old Catholics). It wasn't until late 19th century in Europe when over the refusal to accept Papal Infallibility that the Churches in Europe formally adopted the name "Old Catholic". Please see our History page for more information.

It is this earlier “undivided” Christianity that was taught to the people in this part of the world and it is that “undivided” Church that Old Catholics seek to restore.

Is the Old Catholic Church part of (in communion with) the Roman Catholic Church?
No. The Old Catholic Churches separated from the Roman Catholic Church in the late 19th century over the refusal to accept the dogma of Papal Infallibility. [2]

Old Catholic - does that mean your Mass is in Latin?
No. The name Old Catholic was chosen to signify the desire of the Church to return to the traditions and teachings of the undivided Church prior to the great schism of 1054. Our services are conducted in the language of the people. In addition, each parish is allowed to use a rite that suites the local congregation. For example, some parishes may use the current Roman Rite, others the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer, others the Old Catholic Rites of the European Churches, etc.

Since you are not under the authority of the Pope then who is the head of the Church?
Jesus Christ is the head of the Church and as proclaimed by the Early Church Fathers the Holy Spirit is the Vicar of Christ. However, the Old Catholic Diocese of the Holy Spirit parishes and clergy, like all other Catholic Communions, are under the guidance and authority of a Bishop. The Old Catholic Diocese of the Holy Spirit maintains valid lines of Apostolic Succession, which can be traced to the ancient and undivided church. All clergy in the Old Catholic Diocese of the Holy Spirit are ordained by the “laying on of hands”.

I noticed that you are married. How can this be?
Celibacy was not required in the Roman Communion until the 13th century. Celibacy is not required in most of the other Catholic Communions. The Old Catholic Diocese of the Holy Spirit believes that to refuse the full sacerdotal ministry to a married individual is to act in a manner as to limit whom God may call to His service.

Do you have the same Sacraments as the Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox, and Anglican Churches?

Yes. The Old Catholic Church professes and provides seven sacraments.

You say all validly baptized Christians may receive communion. What is validly baptized and how come you have this "open" type communion when other catholic churches do not?
It is the stance of OCCNA that all Christians baptized in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit either by triple immersion or infusion (pouring water over the head) are members incorporate in the Body of Christ and should be allowed to fully participate in both the Liturgy and Sacraments of the Church. This belief is founded on the ancient tradition of the Eastern Church who in its wisdom provides the Sacrament of Communion to even infants when they are baptized as all need the true spiritual food of the Body and Blood of Christ to grow in the faith. It is the belief of the OCCNA that one may be physically an adult but spiritually young in the catholic faith and therefore needs to be fed.

I am divorced and remarried may I receive Communion?
Yes. While Orthodox Old Catholic Churches look upon matrimony as a sacrament, and believe that marriage should be a lifelong commitment between a man and a woman we do realize though that situations will arise that will lead to divorce. It is our opinion that to refuse Communion to a divorced individual who is sincerely seeking to repent and turn to Christ is to inflict additional emotional pain and suffering.

Do I have to go to confession?
If you are asking if you must confess and repent of your sins to be forgiven – then the answer is yes. If you are asking must you confess your sins before a priest to be forgiven, then the answer is no. Orthodox Old Catholic Churches teach if intent is sincere then the sacrament of Reconciliation is provided by receiving absolution. Absolution takes place both in the General Confession of the Mass and through private confession to either a Priest or Bishop. However, it is our belief that matters of serious sin one should partake of private confession in order to obtain not only absolution but to receive the counsel and guidance of the confessor – just as one would go to a doctor for a serious physical illness one should go to their confessor for a serious spiritual illness.

What does the OCCNA teach about abortion?
Orthodox Old Catholic Churches consider abortion at any time during the pregnancy to be the taking of a life. We encourage any woman faced with an unwanted pregnancy to consider adoption over abortion. We realize that a woman might be faced with making a decision about a pregnancy that could result in harm, or even loss of life, to herself. In these situations, we encourage that she consults with qualified professionals and clergy prior to making

May Roman Catholics, Episcopalians, Orthodox receive the sacraments from an OCCNA church/clergy member?
Absolutely! This OCCNA encourages faithful from other traditions and denominations to visit our churches and learn more about us. We do not restrict the reception of any sacraments based solely on denomination or tradition.

What about Pre-Marital Sex?
This OCCNA holds to the biblical teaching that sexual intercourse is reserved for marriage. Sex is a gift of God to be fully enjoyed and experienced only within marriage. The marriage bed is to be kept "pure and undefiled" (Hebrew 13:4), and men and women are called to remain celibate outside of marriage. Our sexuality, like many other things about us human beings, affects our relationship with God, others, and ourselves. It may be employed as a means of glorifying God and fulfilling His image in us, or it may be perverted and abused as an instrument of sin, causing great damage to others and us. St. Paul writes, "Do you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore, glorify God in your body" (I Corinthians 6:19, 20).

Why do you not say “from the son” in the Nicene Creed?
This clause the “filioque” was added to the creed by the Roman Church in the second millennia of the Church. The creed itself was written in an Ecumenical Council of the early church at which time it was agreed to by all in the catholic church that no one church would change the creed outside of council. The Roman Church claimed supremacy when making the change – this action led to the separation of the Eastern (Orthodox) and Western (Roman) Churches.

What does the OCCNA believe about the current “modern” teachings of the both Old Catholic Churches the Utrecht Union of Europe and some in the USA, some Anglican Churches, as well as other churches?
As an Orthodox Old Catholic we must first look to the Declaration of Utrecht for an answer which begins by stating, “We adhere faithfully to the Rule of Faith laid down by St. Vincent of Lerins in these terms: "Id teneamus, quodubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est; hoc est etenim vere proprieque catholicum." (We hold that which has been believed everywhere, always, and of all people; for that is truly and properly Catholic.) For this reason, we preserve in professing the faith of the primitive Church, as formulated in the Oecumenical synods and specified precisely by the unanimously accepted decisions of the Oecumenical Councils held in the undivided Church of the first thousand years.

Therefore, based on the Declaration of Utrecht we both accept and profess that the Scriptural interpretations and Traditions of the greater Catholic Church (Orthodox, Roman, and vast majority of Anglican) and when they differ we turn to the inspired wisdom of the undivided Church, especially in council. For these reasons we do not bless same sex unions nor do we ordain women to the priesthood and episcopacy.

Dear Reader,
As you can imagine as an Old Catholic Bishop I am asked many questions about the Old Catholic Faith. If you have a question that is not covered here please do not hesitate to send me an Email.

God Bless,

[1] Excerpted from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition © 1996 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Electronic version licensed from INSO Corporation; further reproduction and distribution in accordance with the Copyright Law of the United States. All rights reserved.
[2] Old Catholics, Christian denomination organized in Munich in 1871 by Roman Catholics who protested the dogma, proclaimed the previous year by Vatican Council I, of the personal infallibility of the pope in all ex cathedra pronouncements. Excerpted from Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia 2000

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