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Old Catholics,Christian denomination established by German Catholics who separated themselves from the Roman Catholic Church when they rejected (1870) the decrees of the First Vatican CouncilVatican Council, First,
1869–70, the 20th ecumenical council of the Roman Catholic Church (see council, ecumenical), renowned chiefly for its enunciation of the doctrine of papal infallibility.
..... Click the link for more information. , especially the dogma of the infallibility of the pope. The Old Catholic movement began publicly with a meeting of professors at Nuremberg (1870) under the leadership of Johann Joseph Ignaz von DöllingerDöllinger, Johann Joseph Ignaz von
, 1799–1890, German theologian and historian, leader of the Old Catholics. Ordained in 1822, he was subsequently professor of church history and ecclesiastical law at the Univ.
..... Click the link for more information. . By 1874, a new church had been established with a bishop consecrated by a Jansenist bishop (see under Jansen, CornelisJansen, Cornelis
, 1585–1638, Dutch Roman Catholic theologian. He studied at the Univ. of Louvain and became imbued with the idea of reforming Christian life along the lines of a return to St. Augustine.
..... Click the link for more information. ) of the Church of Utrecht, which had itself separated from Rome in an earlier (1724) schism considered to be a precursor of the Old Catholic movement. Church doctrines were codified by the Declaration of Utrecht (1889), which rejected communion with the pope and many Roman Catholic doctrines and practices; priests were allowed to marry and confession was made optional. Roman ritual was retained but was usually performed in the vernacular.
Old Catholicism spread to Switzerland and Austria and then to other nations, arriving in the United States as early as 1885. The Polish National Catholic Church of America, one of the most important early groups, was formed in 1897. Christ Catholic Church, established in 1968, is one of the newest. In 1990, U.S. membership in various Old Catholic churches numbered some 500,000. Other important Old Catholic groups include the Philippine Independent ChurchPhilippine Independent Church,
religious body that separated from the Roman Catholic Church in 1902 and rejected the spiritual authority of the pope. It is known popularly as the Aglipayan Church, after its founder Gregorio Aglipay.
..... Click the link for more information. , with approximately 3 million adherents, and the German Old Catholics, with some 24,000 members. The German church began ordaining women in 1996.
See K. Pruter and J. G. Melton, ed., The Old Catholic Sourcebook (1983).