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Historical Background

The North American Old Roman Catholic Church is the canonical American expression of the worldwide Old (Roman) Catholic movement. This so-called Old Catholic movement results from the fusion of separate movements away from Roman domination of the Western Church.


The first of these movements developed in The Netherlands when the Dutch Catholics exercised their canonical right of electing their own Bishops. Due to political pressures, the Holy See refused to recognize those elections. Therefore, rather than deny their liberty in Christ by bowing to Papal authoritarianism, certain Dutch Catholics, under the leadership of the ancient Archiepiscopal See of Utrecht have maintained a separate existence from Rome since the 18th century.


The second movement developed as a result of the First Vatican Council's declaration of Papal Infallibility in 1870. Rejecting this non-Scriptural novelty, other Churches in Austria, Germany and Switzerland separated from Rome and came into a loose connection with Utrecht and are known as the "Old Catholic Churches".


The movement spread with the consecration of a Bishop for England in 1908, namely Arnold Harris Mathew, a former Roman Catholic priest. It was from this English Old Roman Catholic Church that The North American Old Roman Catholic Church received its foundation in Apostolic Faith and Episcopal Succession in 1916 through the person of Archbishop Rudolph de Landas Berghes et de Rache.



We hold the Holy Scriptures, the Old and New Testaments, as the basic Rule of the Christian Faith, in which we find the record of God's revelation of Himself to man through His people Israel, and above all in His Son, Jesus Christ.


We accept and seek to apply the tradition of the Apostles and the Fathers of the Early Church in interpreting Scriptural revelation. We accept this tradition in line with the rule formulated by St Vincent of Lerins in the 5th Century, that the standard of Catholic orthodoxy is what has been believed "... everywhere, always and by all". Basing ourselves on this rule, we persevere in professing the Faith of the primitive Church as formulated in the Catholic Creeds and specified precisely by the unanimously accepted decisions of the Ecumenical Councils held in the undivided Church of the first thousand years.


The North American Old Roman Catholic Church thus stands as an orthodox Catholic Church. Catholic in holding the historic Faith derived in unbroken line from the Apostolic Church, without any doctrinal novelties; North American in its mode of expressing that Faith and in its scope of apostolic ministry and works; Old Roman in the orthodox tradition of the Apostolic See of Rome in the undivded Catholic Church.


Today we see that other Churches including the Roman Catholic Church itself are advancing towards positions on points of doctrine and discipline that the Old Roman Catholic Church adopted years ago. We welcome such developments towards a common understanding of the Christian and Catholic Faith and also seek to work with all Catholic minded Christians for the establishment of Christ's Kingdom on Earth.



Our concerns with the foundations of our Faith is not an academic exercise but is rather an emphasis on our continuity with the undivided Church, with the Apostles, with Christ, and through Him with the Jewish Faith of the Old Covenant. The action of God in man's history through His people did not cease with the Apostles - it goes on and will continue. The first Christians saw the Church as a living organism. We are not expected to be Christians of the 19th or 16th or even the 1st Centuries. We are called to be Christ in the world today, to speak and live His love today, to show the oneness of God and man in a fragmented world, in an idolatrous society.


It is only because of Our Lord's Gospel of love that we have been able to continue to proclaim His message of love and salvation in the face of all hostilities. Now we must bring this Gospel, this "good news" or "good word" of freedom in Christ to all men, as Jesus Himself directs us. Of course, just listening to the Word, or giving verbal assent to some abstract Article of Faith is not sufficient to help us in living our lives - we must open ourselves to live the Word, sharing it with all of our brothers and sisters. This is the mission of our Church, the reason for its existence, to be the fellowship of men striving to live the Gospel, to really live this love.


The parishes and missions of The North American Old Roman Catholic Church are striving to serve this mission by firmly retaining the traditional Mass, Rites and Ceremonies of the Catholic Church, while also addressing the carious needs of other Christians who have united with our Church, by providing other various and valid expressions of worship, and a truly Christian and Catholic life.

Who Are We?




A Catholic Church... rooted in the Scripture, based on Tradition, and accepting as dogmatic the first Seven Councils of the Undivided Christian Church.


An Apostolic Church... preserving the Apostolic Succession– an unbroken line of bishops from the Apostles to the present day bishops and priests.


A Sacramental Church... which acknowledges Seven Sacraments:

  • Baptism– by water and the Holy Ghost conveys new birth and forgiveness of sins. (Matt 28: 19; John 3:5; Romans 6:4; Acts 2: 38; 1 Peter 3: 21)

  • Holy Eucharist- also called the Mass, the Divine Liturgy, or Holy Communion was instituted by Our Lord at the Last Supper when He said: “Do this in remembrance of Me” and by which He feeds His people with His Body and Blood. (1 Cor 11: 24; Matt 26: 20-28; Mark 14: 17-25; Luke 22: 14-20; John 6: 41-59)

  • Penance– conveys forgiveness of sins committed after Baptism. (John 20: 23; James 5: 16)

  • Confirmation– conveys the gifts of the Holy Ghost. (Acts 8: 14-17; 19: 1-7; Ephesians 1: 13)

  • Matrimony– is the union of one man and one woman for life before God. This relationship, St Paul tells us is like Christ and His Church. (Ephesians 5: 31-32)

  • Holy Orders– denotes the Apostolic Ministry of Bishops, Priests and Deacons, instituted by Christ and is male in character. Our Lord commissioned the Apostles and their successors, the bishops, to proclaim His work of salvation which He accomplished on Calvary. When Catholics speak of Apostolic Succession, we mean an unbroken line of consecrations, carrying with them the same commission and authority from Our Lord to our present bishops, continuing the same teaching and ministry established by Jesus Christ. (John 20: 19-23; Matt 16: 18-19; 18: 18; Act 6: 1-6)

  • Holy Unction– is the anointing with oil for healing. (James 5:14; Mark 6: 13)


An Evangelical Church... which means “of the Gospel” (i.e. Good News), and indicates that the Church is based upon the teachings of Christ as found in the Gospels, and seeks to spread the knowledge of the Gospels to all mankind.


A Worshipping Church… where regular attendance at Divine Service(especially the Mass) is expected on Sundays (the Lord’s Day) and other Holy Days. These services call us to give praise, and honor God. The Church uses the Tridentine Mass in either Latin (where available)or in the vernacular language of the congregation.


A Liturgical Church... worshipping God and showing our love for Him in corporate worship. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the official liturgy of the NAORCC; together with the Divine Office or Breviary(Psalms and Prayers recited daily by clergy, religious and laity), it makes up the principal liturgical life of the Church. Other acts of liturgical worship include: Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, Stations of the Cross, the Rosary, Novenas, Retreats, Quiet Days, Processions etc.


A Penitential Church… where the Sacrament of Penance is administered through private confession of sin to God through the presence of the priest, and where in a general way it is received at the opening of Mass.


A Creedal Church… basing its beliefs upon the three great creeds of the Catholic Church (The Apostles Creed, The Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed) coming to us from the earliest days of the undivided Church of Christ.


A Doctrinal Church… holding all of the Catholic doctrines including that of the Incarnation, Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ; the personal union in Him of the two natures (human and divine); the mystery of the Holy Trinity; the veneration of the Blessed and ever-Virgin Mary as the Mother of God; the true Catholic doctrine of the Virgin Birth of Christ; the Real Presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist; the spiritual efficacy of the Sacrifice of the Mass for both the living and the dead; the teaching and practice concerning each of the seven sacraments. It believes in the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament as the basic rule of the Christian Faith; that it is the Word of God. The NAORCC accepts and seeks to apply the tradition of the Apostles and the Fathers of the Early Church in interpreting Scriptural revelation. It accepts this tradition in accord with the Rule of Faith formulated by St Vincent of Lerins in the 5th century, that the standard of Catholic Orthodoxy is that which has been believed everywhere, always and by all. Based on this rule, the NAORCC perseveres in professing the faith of the primitive church of the first thousand years of the Christian era.


A Teaching Church… using catechetics and other teaching tools for children, teens and adults. It maintains a School of Christian Doctrine(Sunday School) for all ages to impart the rich heritage left by Christ and His Apostles to all mankind.


An Ecumenical Church… reaching into the community and cooperating with other churches, while remaining true and faithful to our own beliefs, to make the city or town a better place in which to live.


An Historical Church… tracing its foundation by Jesus Christ to the year 33 AD in Jerusalem. It is not strictly speaking, a separate Church. It is a jurisdiction within the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, established by Our Lord upon the Apostles. In the year 1145, Pope Eugene III, granted to the Church of Utrecht in Holland (and thus to us) permission to elect our own bishops without the need for a Papal Mandate. This did not separate us from the Church, but rather granted us autonomy and autocephaly to become a self-governing part of the Church. In 1520, Pope Leo X, in the Papal Bull “Debitum Pastoralis”, confirmed our rights to be self-governing. It was not until the year 1853, when Pope Pius IX attempted to change our self-governing status by consecrating and installing a rival hierarchy of Bishops, by means of uncanonical actions, that the people gave us the name that we bear today and we became known as the “Old Roman Catholic Church” to distinguish us from the illegally installed Bishops of the “new” Roman Catholic Church. We became separated from Rome because of unjust political actions and practices of the time, and through no fault of our own. The Church today in this country is the successor of that ancient and esteemed Little Church of Utrecht.


An Independent Church... while striving for Christian Unity, it is self governing, and autonomous under a Primate, a College of Bishops, and a General Synod, which maintains communion with other similar bodies throughout the world, but is not bound by decisions emanating from those bodies.


An American Church… the canonical American expression of the world-wide Old Roman Catholic movement, thoroughly loyal to American ideals and institutions, while acknowledging the Primacy of the Successor of St Peter (the Pope in Rome) as “Primus Inter Pares” (i.e. “First Among Equals”).


A Democratic Church… in which clergy and laity interact responsibly in church policy and management, with voice in parochial, deanery, diocesan, provincial and general church levels.


A Responsive Church… meeting the religious needs of its faithful through the Mass, the Sacraments and the other acts of divine worship; and their social needs through various other organizations.


A Friendly Church… where all parish members join in welcoming and enlarging their circle of Christian fellowship with each new member.


A Church That Cares For All Of Its Members… not only those who belong to a parish, but for those whose membership is less clearly defined; for those less fortunate who do not have families or other relatives to care for them, by supporting various agencies or organizations which perform works of Christian service.



On June 16, 2000, Pope John Paul II, issued a Pastoral Letter entitled “Dominus Jesus” which reads:

     “...The Churches which, while not in perfect communion with the (Roman) Catholic Church, remain united to her by means of the closest bonds, that is, by Apostolic Succession, and a valid Eucharist, are true particular Churches.”


Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI)

The Old Roman Catholic Church when worshipping follows a set form of worship called a Liturgy. This worship consists of the Eucharistic Sacrifice and Holy Communion called the Mass, including readings from scripture, prayers, hymns, psalms and often a sermon or homily. The North American Old Roman Catholic Church uses the Tridentine Mass as the standard for worship. We celebrate this Mass in either Latin (where available) or the language spoken by the congregation.


In addition to the Mass, Old Roman Catholics worship God in praying the Divine Office, reciting the Rosary, and in many extra-liturgical and para-liturgical practices such as Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament, Novenas, Stations of the Cross, Processions and many other forms of devotion.


Old Roman Catholics also spend time reading and studying the Sacred Scriptures, attending Retreats, Quiet Days and Days of Recollection. Many parishes also conduct an annual Mission to rekindle devotion and fervor amogst their parishioners.


A basic principle for worshipping in the North American Old Roman Catholic Church is the following:

                                              Kneel for prayer...

                                                        Sit for instruction...

                                                                  Stand for praise.

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