Old Catholics

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Related to Old Catholics: Old Roman Catholics, Old Catholicism

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.
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, 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.
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. 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.
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) 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.
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, 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).

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References in periodicals archive ?
The three churches named above--the Armenian Apostolic Church, which ordains women deacons, the Orthodox Church of Greece, which has voted to do so, and the Old Catholic Church of the Czech Republic, which has ordained a women deacon--along with the four European member-churches of the Union of Utrecht that ordain women deacons and women priests (the Old Catholic Churches in Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, and Switzerland) have all demonstrated such apostolic succession and valid orders.
It will be worthwhile to examine below the current situation in the three churches that find that they can validly and licitly ordain women to the diaconate: the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Orthodox Church of Greece, and the Old Catholic Church of the Czech Republic.
In 1889 Old Catholic bishops of the Netherlands, Austria, Germany, and Switzerland signed the Union of Utrecht.
Merkt was a son of an Old Catholic family in the small town of Kempten in southern Swabia.
(45) The second has already been mentioned, and that was the Old Catholic Church, which until the end of the 19th century provided the moral support for popular liberalism.
His friends suggested he try the Old Catholics, of which he had never heard.
They have an easier time sitting down with a group of Protestant ministers than with us." He asks that Old Catholics be viewed not as competition but as a complementary ministry.
The discussion concerning the ordination of women to the deaconate in the Old Catholic Church is offered as a model of conciliar dialogue, and, while the Old Catholic Church was not very active in the former East German regime, it offers encouraging opportunities for Christians from that region.
Overall, these essays reflect theological connections more than narrow specializations, raise hopeful and stimulating liturgical possibilities for church unity, and acquaint readers with the status and ecumenical potential of the Old Catholic Church.
Although the Old Catholic church is small in membership, numbering about 300,000 worldwide and 50,000 in the United States, the ordinations are important because they mark the first time that women have been ordained openly by a bishop whose authority to ordain is unquestioned by the Vatican.
Male priests of the Old Catholic church are considered valid, though illicit, by the Vatican.
Chapman ends this section by recounting a visit to the United States by an Old Catholic representative, Bishop Eduard Herzog, who took the American Episcopal Church to be the American Old Catholic Church, and declined to plant separate Old Catholic congregations there.