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Frequently Asked Questions About

The North American Old Roman Catholic Church


Many of the answers found herein are taken either verbatim or have been paraphrased from An Historical and Doctrinal Sketch of the Old Roman Catholic Church issued in 1950 by His Eminence, Archbishop Carmel Henry Carfora, the Second Metropolitan-Primate of the North American Old Roman Catholic Church. Many others have been compiled from various Catholic and Old Roman Catholic sources, while yet others are original answers to more contemporary questions and issues.


What is the North American Old Roman Catholic Church?


The North American Old Roman Catholic Church [NAORCC] is the original Old Roman Catholic jurisdiction in North America, having been brought to this country from Utrecht via Great Britain in 1914 by Archbishop de Landas Berghes, and which simultaneously has fulfilled a long standing desire for an independent Roman Catholic jurisdiction in the United States first attempted in 1819 in Norfolk, Virginia. The NAORCC is the continuation and the perpetuation of the original Old Roman Catholic Church of Utrecht in The Netherlands, from which we are descended.


Utrecht began the process by which she would abandon her Old Roman Catholic position in 1889 when she united with the continental Old Catholic Churches to form the Utrecht Union of Old Catholic Churches with a more decidedly Protestant identity, and her relinquishment was finally consummated by 1910. In that year, Archbishop Mathew of London formally declared the autonomy of the Old Roman Catholic Church in Great Britain, of which he was the Bishop, from the Old Catholic Churches, including Utrecht, in order to faithfully preserve intact the faith and practice of the Old Roman Catholic Church and to prevent the total loss or abandonment of the Old Roman Catholic tradition.


The NAORCC is the direct descendant from Archbishop Mathew's British jurisdiction as it was he who provided Archbishop de Landas Berghes with a solid and valid line of Apostolic Succession from Rome via Utrecht, when he consecrated him to the episcopacy. We are a traditional Catholic church in doctrine and worship with a pastoral, but not liberal, approach to many issues affecting contemporary Christians and their society. While we are not under the jurisdiction of the Pope, we do recognize him as the visible center of Christian unity, we recognize his primatial role as Patriarch of the West within the universal Church bearing the title of “First among Equals”, and we pray for him as such in the celebration of the Mass.

  • We are a creedal church, meaning that the three historic creeds of the Catholic Church [i.e. the Apostles' Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed] together with and based firmly upon the Sacred Scriptures and Sacred Tradition form the foundation of our doctrinal teachings.

  • We are a sacramental church, holding the seven Sacraments of Baptism, Penance, Holy Eucharist, Confirmation, Matrimony, Holy Orders, and Holy Unction as the chief means of grace to live out our Christian life here on earth, and which serve to guide us on to our heavenly home at the end of our days, to live and reign together with Christ our Savior.

  • A principal characteristic of the Old Roman Catholic Church is our emphasis  on the necessity and the primacy of a well-formed conscience as the ultimate arbiter of Christian morality.



Why are you called "Old" Roman Catholics?


We are called Old Roman Catholics because:

  • a) we are the continuation of the original Roman Catholic Church descended through the authentic historic See of Utrecht and,

  • b) because we maintain the Catholic Faith as it had always been believed by Western Catholics. (The recent dogmas of the Immaculate Conception [Ineffabilis Deus 1854], Papal Infallibility [Pastor Aeternus 1870] and the Assumption of Mary [Munificentissimus Deus 1950] are accepted as pious beliefs but are not taught as dogmatic doctrine.)


In 1145 Pope Eugene III granted the Cathedral Chapter of Utrecht the perpetual right to elect their own bishops. In 1215 the Fourth Lateran Council (Canons 23 and 24) confirmed this privilege. In 1520, Pope Leo X decreed in his papal bull [Debitum Pastoralis] that the Bishop of Utrecht, his successors, his clergy, and his laity should never be tried by an external tribunal of canon law. If any such proceedings did take place they were null and void.


In 1691, the Jesuits falsely accused Archbishop Peter Codde, the occupant of the See of Utrecht, of favoring the so-called Jansenist heresy. (We say so-called Jansenist heresy because no one has ever yet succeeded in finding the repudiated heretical statements, either in substance or in form in the "Augustinus" of Bishop Cornelius Jansenius, where the Jesuits pretended to have discovered them.) Despite the Archbishop's proved innocence of heresy, the influence of the Jesuits was so great that they persuaded the Pope to issue a secret brief suspending and deposing Archbishop Codde. Neither the names of his accusers, nor the charges made against him were ever made known to him, nor was he permitted to offer any defence. All this happened despite the special privileges granted the See of Utrecht. This created a breach which was never healed, though Pope Clement XIV was favorably disposed towards the grievously wronged Church of Utrecht.


Despite the repeated requests and affirmed desire of the See of Utrecht to reach a canonical solution of the breach, in 1853 Pope Pius IX established another Roman Catholic hierarchy in the Netherlands. This existed alongside that of the original Roman Catholic See of Utrecht. Thereafter in the Netherlands the Utrecht hierarchy was referred to as the 'Old Roman Catholic Church' to distinguish it from those in union with the Pope. In the mind of the Holy See, the Old Roman Catholic Church of Utrecht had maintained Apostolic Succession and its clergy thus celebrated valid sacraments in every respect.


This Church is called OLD because it rejects Modernism and every recent innovation of doctrine while adhering faithfully to the doctrine and discipline of the Church of Apostolic times. She is called ROMAN because the line of her Apostolic succession from the first century until 1739 was held in common with the Roman Catholic Church and also because she uses the Roman Rite without addition or change, employing the Pontificale, Missale and Rituale Romanum with great care and exactitude as to matter, form and intention in the administration of the seven Sacraments. The Church is called CATHOLIC because she is not confined to any one nation or place or time, but ministers to all men, in all places, for all time, teaching the same Faith once delivered by her Founder, Jesus Christ, to the Apostles.


Are you really Catholic?


Yes, we are indeed really Catholic. The word Catholic is derived from the Greek word “catholicos” meaning universal. The “universal” or Catholic Church established by our Divine Savior Jesus Christ, is not limited to any one nation, one people, one time, one place, or one single jurisdiction regardless of its claims, its size, its strength, its history or its power. The Great Commission which Christ gave and entrusted to His Apostles was to make His teachings known throughout all the world, to all the people therein and to take His message of Salvation to the four corners of the earth, throughout all the ages of time. Unfortunately, the word Catholic has throughout the years, been monopolized such that the immediate connotation for most people is that of the Roman Catholic Church as the sole possessor of that title. However, there are many other churches, sometimes referred to as “particular Churches” that are truly Catholic, which possess Apostolic Succession, which profess the Nicene Creed, and which maintain all the essential beliefs of the Catholic Faith. The Roman Catholic Church despite its size and claims is but one part of the “universal” or Catholic church. The Eastern Orthodox Church bears as its official name: the Orthodox Catholic Church--symbolizing that it too, is a part of the “universal” or Catholic Church. So too, the Old Roman Catholic Church as an integral part of the western or Roman Catholic tradition is a true, valid and vital part, together with the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox Churches, of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church founded by our Lord Jesus Christ, and its members are truly members of the Catholic Church and profess the true and entire Catholic Faith. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in its Declaration, Dominus Jesus, dated 6 August 2000 states of these “particular Churches”:


“Therefore, there exists a single Church of Christ, which subsists in the Catholic Church, governed by the Successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him. The Churches which, while not existing in perfect communion with the 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. Therefore, the Church of Christ is present and operative also in these Churches...”


Thus in this canonical statement issued under the signature of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI) and with the full authority of Pope John Paul II, we see the Roman Catholic Church herself, despite her excusivist claims to be the one, only, true and valid Catholic Church and assuming for herself the title of Mother and Mistress of all Churches, acknowledging the true Catholicity of the “particular Churches”, and their profession of the entire Catholic Faith, their retention and preservation of valid lines of Apostolic Succession and Sacraments, and their true and valid claims to be integral and essential members of the one true Catholic Church of Christ.


Can you explain what you mean by a well-formed conscience?


The Old Roman Catholic Church and the Roman Catholic Church share a common belief in the need of every Catholic and indeed every Christian to make every effort to develop an informed and a well-formed conscience. In a booklet prepared by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops entitled, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, we find a concise yet precise statement of what conscience really is and what it is not.


Conscience is not something that allows us to justify doing whatever we want, nor is it a mere "feeling" about what we should or should not do. Rather, conscience is the voice of God resounding in the human heart, revealing the truth to us and calling us to do what is good while shunning what is evil.     [FCFC 17]


The current Roman Catholic Catechism of the Catholic Church has this to say about a well-formed conscience:


"Deep within his conscience man discovers a law which he has not laid upon himself but which he must obey. Its voice, ever calling him to love and to do what is good and to avoid evil, sounds in his heart at the right moment. . . . For man has in his heart a law inscribed by God. . . . His conscience is man's most secret core and his sanctuary. There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths."

- Catechism of the Catholic Church [Sec. 1776]


Most people understand and appreciate the obligation to follow their own consciences. Many of us, however, pay little attention to where our conscience “came from.” Was it born from TV, movies and popular culture? Are we totally reliant on our personal experience and beliefs? Have we studied the teachings of the Church carefully?


Our Church is clear that we have a life-long obligation to develop a well-formed conscience – one that requires us being open to the truth, the study of Scripture as well as Church teachings and prayerful consideration to discern God’s will.


People excel at making excuses for themselves, so a well-formed conscience requires consultation with others if only to make sure we are not “fooling” ourselves. To help us in forming our consciences, the Church offers the examples of the saints, the sacraments, the writings of Saints, Bishops, theologians and others, a long tradition of faithfulness to the essentials of the Catholic Faith, study of the Sacred Scripture to uncover what God is asking and requiring of us and more.


The Church also provides insights on current events through the work of policy specialists in Bishops’ conferences, parish study sessions, Catholic and Christian advocacy groups, diocesan programs and other tools designed to help us shape and inform our consciences.


Catholic teaching and tradition are, in essence, a treasure trove of information to help guide us in forming our consciences.


The Old Roman Catholic Church believes and teaches that once a Christian has developed that well-formed conscience according to the mind of Christ, he or she is obligated to follow their conscience in all things, regardless of the directives of any other authority whether civil or ecclesiastical. That does not mean that we advocate any flouting of the civil or canon law or authorities, but rather that due respect and obedience are due such authorities in all things that are not clear violations of the Commandments of God and the will of Christ for His people. A man's well-formed conscience is sacred and its authority over a man's decisions and actions must be his principal guiding rule of conduct.


In his Commentary on the Documents of Vatican Council II, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI, writes:


"Over the pope as the expression of the binding claim of ecclesiastical authority there still stands one's own conscience, which must be obeyed before all else, if necessary even against the requirement of ecclesiastical authority. This emphasis on the individual, whose conscience confronts him with a supreme and ultimate tribunal, and one which in the last resort is beyond the claim of external social groups, even of the official Church, also establishes a principle in opposition to increasing totalitarianism."

- Commentary on Gaudiam et Spes, Article 16.


Are you connected in anyway with the Utrecht Union of Old Catholic Churches?

While we share a common origin with the Utrecht Union of Old Catholic Churches via the Archiepiscopal See of Utrecht in The Netherlands, we are in no way connected to or in any affiliation with them. In 1870, Dr. Ignaz von Dollinger brought the “Old Catholics” into being to offer resistance to the dogma of Papal Infallibility. In 1873, the Old Roman Catholic Church of Utrecht was prevailed upon to provide these “Old Catholics” with a bishop, and in 1889 an amalgamation took place between the Church of Utrecht and the “Old Catholics”. Though Utrecht was eventually to abandon Old Roman Catholicism, the Church was not to perish.


Archbishop Arnold Harris Mathew of England was consecrated to the Episcopate by Archbishop Gerard Gul of Utrecht at a time when Utrecht was still truly orthodox (1909). At the time of Archbishop Mathew's consecration at Utrecht, no serious inroads had been made upon the Catholic Faith by the Church of Utrecht, nor had she yet departed in any way from Catholic traditions and practice. By the end of 1910, however, the heterodox influence of the “Old Catholics” had proved too much for Utrecht and had overwhelmed her, and so great and far-reaching were the changes which she was prevailed upon to make in her formularies and doctrinal position, that on December 29, 1910, Archbishop Mathew was forced to withdraw the Old Roman Catholic Church in England from Communion with Utrecht in order to preserve its orthodoxy intact.


Utrecht is no longer Old Roman Catholic but simply “Old Catholic.” Thus it comes about that the ancient and glorious Church of St. Willibrord and St. Boniface has its continuation and perpetuation through the present day Old Roman Catholic Church which is compelled, in defense of its orthodoxy, to refuse to hold union with either Utrecht or the Continental “Old Catholics.”


What is the difference between Old Roman Catholicism and Old Catholicism?

The honest inquirer must be cautioned not to confuse the Old Roman Catholic Church with those groups calling themselves “Old Catholic.” Much which, in this age, calls itself “Old Catholic” represents some compromise with Protestantism, or in wider digression, with such non-Christian cults as theosophy. Old Roman Catholicism has no affiliation with such groups as the Polish National Catholic Church, or the Utrecht Union of Churches, the Liberal Catholic Church, the Old Catholic Churches of the Continent or any of the various independent groups which abound in the United States and elsewhere. The heterodoxy of these groups makes union with them impossible.


Old Roman Catholicism, as Archbishop Mathew rightly understood it, was different from Modernist influenced Old Catholicism in that the Old Roman Catholic Church retained all of the ancient doctrines, formularies and praxis, of the Catholic Church, yet she also differed from Roman Catholicism by that same retention of the Catholic Faith as understood in light of the Canon of St Vincent of Lerins which defined the Catholic Faith as that which “has been believed, everywhere, always, and by all” without any additions or diminutions to the deposit of the Catholic Faith by any ecclesiastical authority or by any prescription of any cleric regardless of rank or position.


Old Roman Catholicism is a continuation of the true Catholic Faith which has always existed in the West akin to that Faith which the Orthodox Catholics have also maintained since the divide between East and West in 1054. To this end, Archbishop Mathew successfully approached and achieved communion with the ancient Patriarchal Sees of Antioch and Alexandria. This intercommunion, though short lived due to outside pressures placed upon the Orthodox hierarchy, was the first real heal of schism between Eastern and Western jurisdictions and was based upon the mutual recognition and maintenance of the ancient Faith of the Church.


Are you schismatic Roman Catholics?

Old Roman Catholicism is neither a sect nor schism as some of its self-constituted enemies may claim. Old Roman Catholics acknowledge the Bishop of Rome historically and spiritually as the Patriarch of the West and our priests pray for the Pope in the Canon of their Masses to express the desire for unity which should exist amongst all Western Catholics. A thorough reading of history clearly indicates that the Old Roman Catholics did nothing of a schismatic nature to warrant Pope Pius IX's uncanonical institution of a new hierarchy in the See of Utrecht in 1853, in opposition to the historic hierarchy of the Old Roman Catholic Church, an act in flagrant violation of the ancient historic canons of the undivided Church, nor had the Old Roman Catholics taught anything that had not always been considered to be Catholic in either Faith or practice.


In 1145 Blessed Pope Eugene III granted to the Cathedral Chapter of Utrecht the right to elect successors to the See in times of vacancy. This meant that, unlike most other Sees in the Roman Catholic Church, the Cathedral Chapter of Utrecht could elect their own bishops without permission or approval from the Pope. This had been the universal practice in the early Church. In 1215, the Fourth Lateran Council (Canons 23 and 24) confirmed this privilege.


Another significant right granted to the Church of The Netherlands was the privilege of hearing and adjudicating all of its canonical issues and matters within its own ecclesiastical courts without the necessity of referring them to Rome or any other court of canon law constituted outside of the Metropolitan See of Utrecht, either for an initial adjudication nor for any subsequent appeals. In 1520, Pope Leo X decreed in the papal bull Debitum Pastoralis that the Bishop of Utrecht, his successors, his clergy, and his laity should never be tried by an external tribunal of canon law. If any such proceedings did take place they were null and void. This extraordinary right had been granted by Pope Leo X at the request of Philip of Burgundy, who was the reigning prince-bishop of Utrecht at the time.


In 1691, the Jesuits falsely accused Archbishop Peter Codde, the occupant of of the See of Utrecht, of favoring the so-called Jansenist heresy. We say so-called Jansenist heresy because no one has ever yet succeeded in finding the repudiated heretical statements, either in substance or in form, in The Augustinus of Bishop Cornelius Jansenius, where the Jesuits pretended to have discovered them. Archbishop Codde was ordered to stand trial in Rome despite the special privilege and Papal dispensation from such a trial (see above re: Debitum Pastoralis). Despite the Archbishop's proved innocence of heresy, the influence of the Jesuits was so great that they persuaded the Pope to issue a secret brief suspending and deposing Archbishop Codde. Neither the names of his accusers, nor the charges made against him, were ever made known to him, nor was he permitted to offer any defense, all of these actions being contrary to the Canon Law of the Roman Catholic Church. This created a breach which was never healed, though Pope Clement XIV was favorably disposed towards the grievously wronged Church of Utrecht.


We believe and maintain, as we have always done since 1691, that these irregular proceedings against the Church of Utrecht, based, as they were, upon charges which were proved at the time to have been groundless, were null and void and in direct contravention of the privileged rights of the See of Utrecht for immunity from prosecution outside her territory. Add to all of this the uncanonical actions of Pope Pius IX in 1853, again contravening the ancient historic canons, as well as the privilege granted the See of Utrecht in 1145 regarding the election and appointment of her own Bishops and despite the majority opinion of the vast number of Catholic canon lawyers and academics being in favor of the Church of Utrecht, the actions of the See of Rome can be viewed in no other light than to declare them unjust, uncanonical and utterly null and void. Thus it is that we have remained, and are still in actual technical fact, and not according to any fanciful or far-fetched theory, part and parcel of the Roman Catholic Church, despite her refusal to acknowledge or honor our historic and proven position as true Roman Catholics.


Are you then "Episcopi Vagantes"?

An often misused phrase and misapplied term regarding Old Roman Catholics is the term "Episcopi Vagantes" (literally in Latin "Wandering Bishops"). This term is often used derogatorily and often by those who ought to know better. The answer is an emphatic "no"! An "Episopus vagans" is a man consecrated validly but irregularly or illicitly (unlawfully) i.e. without ecclesial approbation. Old Roman Catholics claim "canonicity" (licitness/lawfullness) because:

  • The canonical dispute between the Holy See and the See of Utrecht about whether the Ultrajectine (Latin for Utrecht) See could elect its own Bishops was never canonically (i.e. legally) concluded [Pope Pius IX ignoring due process and erecting an uncanonical heirarchy in Holland in 1853]. Thus, it is only just, according to Canonical principles, to assume that the inalienable right granted by the Papal Bull of Bl. Eugene III is still extant and in effect.

  • The rightful Archbishop of Utrecht (Archbishop Gerardus Gul) in 1909 consecrated Arnold Harris Mathew as a Bishop in accordance with the norms of universal ecclesiastical law.

  • When the See of Utrecht fell into 'apostasy' in 1910, Bishop Mathew justifiably declared autonomy from the Ultrajectine See on December 29th 1910 and justifiably claimed her canonical rights and prerogatives for the continuation and perpetuation of the Old Roman Catholic Church from the See of Utrecht.

  • On August 5th 1911, the now Archbishop Mathew was received by His Eminence the Most Reverend Archbishop Gerrasimos Messara of Beruit, Syria into the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and the East and intercommunion was established between the second most ancient See of Christendom and first "cathedra" of the Apostle Peter and the Old Roman Catholic Church was recognised as an "autocephalous" [i.e. self-governing] jurisdiction. A similar union was obtained with the Patriarchate of Alexandria in 1912, thus making the Old Roman Catholic Church a genuine canonical entity in both the Western and Eastern Catholic Churches.


Thus the term "Episcopi Vagantes" ought not justifiably to be applied to the Old Roman Catholic Church, to any of her duly constituted and canonically governed ecclesial communities around the world, nor especially in any way to her Bishops. The Old Roman Catholic Church is a recognized autocephalous and canonical ecclesial entity equal to any other so recognized Church of the East and has a legitimate claim to true and genuine canonical status within the Latin Rite.


What are some of the chief differences between Old Roman Catholicism and Roman Catholicism?

The Roman Catholic Church and the Old Roman Catholic Church share far more in common with each other than their few differences might suggest. However, those few differences are sufficient to highlight their contrasting views and their understanding on several significant features of Catholic life within the Church. These differences can be categorized under five headings: Ecclesiology, Doctrine, Discipline, Worship, and Polity. The differences are not major, nor are they sufficient to jeopardize the Catholicity of either body but rather demonstrate two distinct understandings and approaches in these five areas.




The Roman Catholic and the Old Roman Catholic Churches both hold and teach that the Church Catholic, as founded by our Divine Lord, and called His Mystical Body, of which He is the Head and we are the members, is of Divine institution and that just as it is His Body, it also is composed of two elements, the Divine and the human. We also believe that this Body, the Church, is identified by the four marks found in the Creeds, i.e. ONE, HOLY, CATHOLIC and APOSTOLIC and that it is endowed with three attributes, i.e. AUTHORITY, INFALLIBILITY and INDEFECTIBILITY. The primary difference between the Roman Catholic and the Old Roman Catholic Churches centers upon their differing understanding or application of these marks and attributes as regards the role of the Holy Father, the Pope.


The contemporary Roman Catholic Church attributes union with the See of Peter (i.e. Rome and the Pope) as part of two of the four marks found in the Creed (ONE and CATHOLIC), and as constituting an essential requirement for full membership within the Catholic Church; and since 1870 has taught that the Pope has "universal ordinary jurisdiction" throughout the entire world in every single parish, diocese, province and national church. Stated in other words, and perhaps more plainly, that the Pope is the immediate, ultimate and supreme bishop in every diocese throughout the world and that every other Bishop anywhere in the world is effectively an "agent" or "vicar" of the Pope, holding his position and role by virtue of a delegated authority and holds his office solely by the favor of and appointment by the Pope, and that he is not the sole head of his diocese nor does he hold his authority as a successor of the Apostles directly by the grace of God alone and by election by the Holy Ghost. Indeed, Roman Catholic Bishops can only be consecrated with the approval of the Pope, who has the sole power and authority to name, appoint or designate any bishop of any rank, or to assign or translate (i.e. transfer) any bishop to any diocese, or from one diocese to another, within the Roman Catholic Communion. Many Catholic are surprised to learn that this is a comparatively modern understanding of the role of the Pope, and that throughout the previous centuries most bishops were elected by their own clergy via their Cathedral Chapter (i.e. a selected group of priests representing the clergy of the diocese, to whom certain canonical authority and jurisdiction has been entrusted) or that they were nominated by the civil authority in many Catholic countries and their election was simply confirmed by the Pope; and that the contemporary doctrine of the Pope's “universal jurisdiction” has been canonically defined and established as such, only since 1870, though in various parts of the world it had been developing for many years prior. It is not without reason and justification that King Phillip II of Spain circa 1566 complained that his bishops went to the Council of Trent as bishops and came back as parish priests. Already the ground was being prepared by the Jesuits who held great sway and influence at both the Council of Trent and at the Papal Court in Rome, to diminish the independence of the various bishops and dioceses, and reduce them to simple functionaries of the Holy See, and mere representatives of an all powerful Pope and his centralized bureaucracy which they controlled especially through the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith.


Old Roman Catholics believe that every Bishop, in his own right, is a successor of the Apostles, and is himself an Apostle of Christ, and as such, has received by his election, confirmation and subsequent consecration, the supreme authority necessary to govern and to guide that portion of Christ's flock entrusted to his pastoral care, directly from our Divine Savior via the imposition of hands and the invocation of the Holy Ghost at the moment of his episcopal consecration. The Bishop and his flock are "the Church", and where they are, there also is the Church:


“Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.”


“My son, honor thou God and the king.” And say I, Honor thou God indeed, as the Author and Lord of all things, but the bishop as the high-priest, who bears the image of God—of God, inasmuch as he is a ruler, and of Christ, in his capacity of a priest. After Him, we must also honor the king. For there is no one superior to God, or even like to Him, among all the beings that exist. Nor is there any one in the Church greater than the bishop, who ministers as a priest to God for the salvation of the whole world...”


“Let all things therefore be done by you with good order in Christ. Let the laity be subject to the deacons; the deacons to the presbyters; the presbyters to the bishop; the bishop to Christ, even as He is to the Father.”

- The Epistle of St Ignatius of Antioch to the Smyrneans (circa AD 100)


St Ignatius of Antioch in his epistle to St Polycarp of Smyrna (circa AD 114) says:


“Give ye heed to the bishop, that God also may give heed to you. My soul be for theirs that are submissive to the bishop, to the presbyters, and to the deacons, and may my portion be along with them in God! Labor together with one another; strive in company together; run together; suffer together; sleep together; and awake together, as the stewards, and associates, and servants of God. Please ye Him under whom ye fight, and from whom ye receive your wages. Let none of you be found a deserter. Let your baptism endure as your arms; your faith as your helmet; your love as your spear; your patience as a complete panoply. Let your works be the charge assigned to you, that ye may receive a worthy recompense. Be long-suffering, therefore, with one another, in meekness, as God is towards you. May I have joy of you for ever!”


Thus Old Roman Catholics hold and believe that the Church of Christ is in the Bishop, together with his priests and deacons and with their people around the Eucharist. Therein is found the Catholic Church and the Catholic Faith. Old Roman Catholics understand the Church Catholic to be a federation of the various bishops, dioceses and particular Churches, holding in common the entire Catholic Faith without addition or diminution; living a common Sacramental life via the seven Sacraments, particularly the Holy Eucharist; preserving the Apostolic tradition through a common and valid Apostolic Succession of Bishops from the time of the Apostles to the present; and maintaining communion with each other unless legitimately prevented, while acknowledging the Holy Father, the "Primus Inter Pares" as the visible center of this Christian unity which they share. All bishops and their flocks together so comprise the "Catholic Church", or as St Cyprian of Carthage wrote:


“Peter speaks there, on whom the Church was to be built, teaching and showing in the name of the Church, that although a rebellious and arrogant multitude of those who will not hear and obey may depart, yet the Church does not depart from Christ; and they are the Church who are a people united to the priest, and the flock which adheres to its pastor. Whence you ought to know that the bishop is in the Church, and the Church in the bishop; and if any one be not with the bishop, that he is not in the Church, and that those flatter themselves in vain who creep in, not having peace with God's priests, and think that they communicate secretly with some; while the Church, which is Catholic and one, is not cut nor divided, but is indeed connected and bound together by the cement of priests who cohere with one another.”

-St Cyprian of Carthage, Epistle 68, circa AD 250


It has long been the practice of the Catholic Church to organize herself for administrative purposes so that a church or groups of churches may be led by a Bishop, a Metropolitan or an Archbishop, but essentially there is only one Sacramental rank of Bishop - not many. All Bishops are equal. The Pope then as Bishop of Rome, may historically have had authority to govern many churches as a Patriarch, but he is still only a Bishop and thus is recognized as the "first among equals" of his brothers in the Episcopate.


Old Roman Catholics acknowledge the Bishop of Rome historically and spiritually as the Patriarch of the West, as the office of the Holy Father was then understood within the context of the magisterium universally attributed to the first Seven Ecumenical Councils, and our priests pray for the Pope in the Canon of their Masses to express the desire for unity that should exist amongst Western Catholics.


Roman Catholics and Old Roman Catholics together acknowledge the attribute of infallibility to be the possession and promise of Our Lord to the Church Catholic given to insure her perpetual fidelity to the unchanging truths of the Catholic Faith as imparted to her by Jesus Himself and through the teachings of the Apostles as recorded in the Sacred Scriptures. While there has, for centuries, been a pious belief in various parts of the Church that the Holy Father shared in a special way this gift of infallibility, it was never considered nor was it taught as a declared doctrine or dogma of the Church, and in point of fact, many a canonized saint has vehemently denied that this unique gift to the Church was granted in any way to any person whatsoever, the Holy Father included.

  • Pope Adrian VI (AD 1522-1523), a native son of the Church of Utrecht, educated by the Brothers of the Common Life (of which Geert Groote and Thomas a Kempis were members), with a Doctorate in Theology from the prestigious University at Louvain, who counted the great Erasmus as a devotee, publicly proclaimed that: “It is certain that the Pontiff ... may err in those things which pertain to faith.”

  • Pope Paul IV [Gian Pietro Carafa] (1476-1559) through whom the Old Roman Catholic Church has obtained her impeccable line of Apostolic Succession via Scipione Cardinal Rebiba, who was consecrated Bishop by Cardinal Carafa, proclaimed: “I do not doubt that I and my predecessors may sometimes have erred.”

  • Archbishop John Purcell of Cincinnatti, on January 13, 1837 declared: “...the bishop of Rome, though he was not believed to be infallible. Neither is he now. No enlightened Catholic holds the pope's infallibility of be an article of faith. I do not; and none of my brethren, that I know of, do. The Catholic believes the pope ... to be as liable to error, as almost any other man in the universe. Man is man, and no man is infallible, either in doctrine or morals.”

  • The wide-spread and popular catechism, known as A Doctrinal Catechism, by Father Stephen Keenan, bearing the Imprimatur of two Bishops: Andrew Carruthers the Vicar Apostolic of Eastern Scotland on 10 April 1846 and John Cardinal McCloskey the Archbishop of New York on 15 April 1846 teaches:

Q: Must not Catholics believe the pope himself to be infallible?

A: This is a Protestant invention; it is no article of the Catholic faith; no decision of his can oblige, under pain of heresy, unless it is received and enforced by the teaching body, that is, the bishops of the church.

  • The Constitution of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Charleston, South Carolina, composed by no less a prelate than the great Bishop John England, published with the knowledge and consent of the Holy See in 1822 states: “We are not required by our faith to believe that the Pope is infallible nor do we believe that he is impeccable, for it is not a consequence of his being vested with great authority that he should be exempt from the frailties of human nature; but we do not believe that his authority would be diminished, nor the institutions of our blessed Savior destroyed, even if the Pope were to be guilty of criminal actions.”


Thus we can see that Papal Infallibility was not historically considered a proclaimed doctrine nor was it universally accepted by laity, clergy, prelates or even the Holy See as an “Article of Faith”, essential and necessary for salvation, nor as a prerequisite for membership in the Church Catholic. It was not until the troublesome days of 1869-1870, filled as they were for the Holy See with the threatened loss of prestige and power as well as the loss of the Papal States, did the Pope, on his own initiative, propose the definition of his “personal gift” of infallibility when speaking ex cathedra on matters of faith and morals, and sought to insure the passage of his proposal by the bishops gathered at the First Vatican Council in 1870, by means of threats, retaliations, and loss of their dioceses, if they refused to pass his agenda. Only then, did the doctrine of Papal Infallibility become a de fide defined dogma necessary for salvation for all Roman Catholics henceforth. This addition to the Catholic Faith has been an on-going and contentious barrier to any real and true ecumenical dialog between the Roman Catholic Church and any other non-Roman Catholic Churches ever since.


The Old Roman Catholic Church continues to adhere to the ancient practice and belief of the pre-Vatican I Roman Catholic Church which professes the attribute of infallibility as the unique possession and treasure of the Church, and allows but does not require anyone to accept the definition of Papal Infallibility as a pious belief, a “theolegoumena” and does not receive Papal Infallibility as a de fide dogma or doctrine of the Catholic Faith.



Contemporary Roman Catholics accept and believe in the doctrines of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Papal Infallibility, and the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven, as solemnly defined and revealed dogmatic articles of Faith necessary to salvation. Old Roman Catholics recognize, receive and accept these teachings in the same way in which the Catholic Church had always received and believed them prior to the year 1854, i.e. as pious beliefs or “theologoumenae”, in other words they are good, wholesome and pious beliefs or opinions that are not contrary to any doctrinal or dogmatic articles of the Catholic Faith but which are not deemed necessary for our eternal salvation. In other words, Old Roman Catholics do not believe that these pious beliefs, however meritorious and salutory they may be, merited such a demand upon our Faith as to declare them dogmatic and thus "necessary for salvation". For Old Roman Catholics, these pious beliefs are not equal to nor comparable to, in their essence or in their teaching, the Christological doctrines, or the doctrine of the Trinity, or the doctrines concerning the nature of the Church and the nature of the Sacraments.


The primary reason for these divergent positions is due to a difference in our appreciation of the "deposit of Faith". For Old Roman Catholics, the Catholic Faith was imparted whole to the Apostles and Divine revelation ceased with the death of the last Apostle, St John around the year AD 100, and all that was "necessary for salvation" was given to them and to the Church, by Christ. Old Roman Catholicism, like the Eastern Orthodox Church, does not hold to the modern theological theorem named and developed by John Cardinal Newman, called the "development of doctrine" which the Roman Catholic Church uses to espouse the defining of later dogmas such as those enumerated above. Like our Eastern Orthodox brethren, Old Roman Catholics recognize that our understanding of doctrine may overtime become more comprehensive, [i.e. an increased understanding of the doctrine], and this is how we interpret Christ's words regarding the Holy Spirit to His Apostles "Yet when the Spirit of Truth comes, He will guide you into all truth..." (John 16:13). Yet, we believe that what Catholics were required to believe fifteen hundred years ago and what we must believe today, must be and remain the same as that which was believed by the Apostles and by the first Christians. For Old Roman Catholics, the Catholic Faith must remain the same yesterday, today and forever.


That is not to say that the Old Roman Catholic Church rejects the “development of doctrine” as it was anciently taught and believed. Old Roman Catholics place great confidence in the Commonitorium of St Vincent of Lerins (AD 434) and in the Rule of Faith laid down therein, as to the way in which we are to distinguish the Catholic Faith from the many falsehoods of heresy. The Old Roman Catholic Church also accepts the “development of doctrine” as St Vincent also therein defines it, in the following words:


“But the Church of Christ, the careful and watchful guardian of the doctrines deposited in her charge, never changes anything in them, never diminishes, never adds, does not cut off what is necessary, does not add what is superfluous, does not lose her own, does not appropriate what is another's, but while dealing faithfully and judiciously with ancient doctrine, keeps this one object carefully in view, if there be anything which antiquity has left shapeless and rudimentary, to fashion and polish it; if anything already reduced to shape and developed, to consolidate and strengthen it; if any already ratified and defined to keep and guard it. Finally, what other object have Councils ever aimed at in their decrees, than to provide that what was before believed in simplicity should in future be believed intelligently; that what was before preached coldly should in future be preached earnestly; that what was before practiced negligently should thenceforward be practiced with double solicitude? This, I say, is what the Catholic Church, roused by the novelties of heretics, has accomplished by the decrees of her Councils this, and nothing else, she has thenceforward consigned to posterity in writing what she had received from those of olden times only by Tradition, comprising a great amount of matter in a few words, and often, for the better understanding, designating an old article of the faith by the characteristic of a new name.”

- Saint Vincent of Lerins


Note: in this final reference to a "new name" or "characteristic" Vincent is referring to pronouncements by the universal Magisterium like those at the Council of Ephesus in 431 AD which declared the Blessed Virgin Mary the "Mother of God" and the councils which defined the proper divine and human nature of Jesus Christ by the new term "Homousios", meaning "consubstantial or of one substance, essence."


This “development of doctrine” described by St Vincent of Lerins with its clarification of doctrine without any change in its essence and without any additions or diminutions is what Old Roman Catholics understand by "Apostolic Tradition", that there is one deposit of Faith that cannot be added to or subtracted from.


Old Roman Catholics recognize of course, that over time changes have been made to the externals of the faith (e.g. liturgy, devotions, habits, vestments, new feasts, Canons of ecumenical and regional Councils etc) in order to better express the same Faith to different cultures or generations, but the Faith itself cannot change.





Celibacy of the Clergy

In matters of discipline (i.e. the way in which live out and practice our Catholic Faith), the Old Roman Catholic Church is both more conservative or traditional and also more pastoral or contemporary than many of our Catholic colleagues.


In the matter of the celibacy of the clergy, the Old Roman Catholic Church, basing herself on the ancient Catholic practice of the Church, permits the ordination of properly qualified married men to the Sacred Priesthood. While we have not imposed the restriction of forbidding a cleric to marry after ordination, we recommend and prefer that our candidates for ordination are married first if they intend to marry at all. We do not believe Matrimony and Holy Orders to be mutually exclusive of each other, but we do recognize the great strain and emotional burden which the duties of the Priesthood can place upon married men, upon their spouses and upon their families. It takes a wife with an extraordinarily generous heart and a definite “vocation” of her own, to be the wife of a priest. The Old Roman Catholic Church not only expects, but rather demands, that a cleric honor first the commitments he has made in marriage before he makes new and serious commitments via Holy Orders. The Old Roman Catholic Church will not ordain a man whose wife is unwilling or unable to make the sacrifices and adjustments in their family life which are an integral and necessary aspect of the sacred ministry. Both husband and wife must be “partners” in his vocation, he in Sacred Orders and she as his constant and ever-ready helpmate and supporter in prayer and in her emotional and moral support and strength.



Marriage and Divorce

The North American Old Roman Catholic Church believes and professes that Matrimony is one of the seven Sacraments instituted by Jesus Christ. We hold and profess that it is not within the power of the Church to change any part of the substance of any Sacrament, including Matrimony. Thus in keeping with this belief and in conformity to the Sacred Scriptures, we hold that Matrimony is a Sacrament which binds one man and one woman together as husband and wife, in a lifelong union, which is blessed by Christ via the actions of the priest, and which confers a sacramental grace to enable them to live together in love and respect, and to fulfill the duties and responsibilities of married life and the raising of children, should Almighty God bless them in such a manner.


In accord with the Sacred Scripture, the unaltered and universal teaching of the Catholic Church since Apostolic times, and the living magisterium of the Church, the North American Old Roman Catholic Church maintains the absolute essential that marriage and the Sacrament of Matrimony can be validly received only by the union of one man and one woman, and that no other union constitutes a marriage according to the mind and will of Almighty God. The Church rejects all such unions regardless of their constitution (single gender, pluriform, simulated, impermanent, provisional, etc), their purpose (natural rights, equal rights, freedom of conscience, rejection of authority, etc.), or their origin (civil or pseudo-ecclesiatical) as violations of the established will and order of Almighty God.


The North American Old Roman Catholic Church, like most Christian Churches, deplores the current state of married life within the world at large. In the past several decades, a major shift has occurred in which the state of marriage has experienced drastic changes in attitudes, behaviors and even basic concepts and principles, and unfortunately the shift has not been for the better.


Too many people today, but especially young people, are rejecting the very notion of marriage and substituting it with cohabitation, i.e. living together without the benefit of marriage. They have rejected the concept that permanence, commitment, loyalty, effort and faith are essential components, which are necessary for the success of any type of union. For many people who have already entered into a marriage, they too have rejected the nature of permanence in the marriage. Divorce is seen as an easy way to "break the ties that bind", whenever the circumstances are conducive or convenient. The concept of trying to work out their differences in a difficult marriage are seen as archaic and outmoded. The underlying problem in both of these cases, as is the case in most of the other problems which face the Church when discussing the Christian principles and values of marriage, is the lack of sufficient preparation and training of young people in the essential values of our faith and in a respect for themselves, their partners, their families, their faith and their word.


The Church today is confronted more directly with this situation than perhaps at any time in the past. It is unfortunately a prevailing condition of the modern world. Thus the Church must find a way to address these circumstances, all the while maintaining the teachings and principles concerning true Christian Marriage, and yet to deal pastorally with the reality that many of today's marriages have ceased to be real marriages and that many others should never have taken place. The Church must also address her own failure to properly and adequately educate, train and prepare her faithful, especially the young, in the values, principles and responsibilities of married life, and true Christian responsibility. So too, the Church today must face the reality that many times, unions that are called and treated as marriages either were never so from the start due to some defect in the "contractual" nature of marriage, or they have ceased to be healthy or even safe unions to be preserved. How can the Church address one aspect (the breakdown of the marriage) without appearing to compromise its principles regarding the other (the permanence and indissolubility of the marriage)? Suddenly that dreaded word appears on the horizon....divorce!


The most common and the strongest objection to the issue of divorce from a Christian perspective is found in the Gospel of St Mark Chapter 10, verse 9: "What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder." How much more powerful an injunction could one look for against divorce than the words of the Savior Himself? The objection just cited is certainly the principal and most compelling dictum forbidding divorce within a Christian marriage. It is clear, authoritative and unequivocal. But, is it prohibitive... or is it perhaps directive, exhortative or admonitory?


If it is prohibitive, then there can be no appeal from its divorce is permitted! The Supreme Authority of the Church has so commanded. However, if it is primarily directive, then its purpose is not to prohibit, but rather to instruct and direct a particular course of action. If it is exhortative, then its purpose is to urge, encourage and appeal for a particular pattern of behavior. If it is admonitory, its purpose is to give strong advice, counsel and a warning of danger concerning the actions about to be undertaken. One of the problems of quoting a particular passage from Scripture is that it can often be taken out of context. Now, we are not suggesting that this passage from St Mark's Gospel is being taken out of context as it was presented. It most definitely was not. However it must also be viewed and understood within the context of the entire message of the Gospels and of our Lord's compassion for the good faith and also the human failings of His people; as well as the mission, vocation and ministry of His Church.


While it is true that there are examples in the Scripture of direct commands and prohibitions from our Divine Savior to mankind and to His Church, it must also be acknowledged that the vast amount of His teachings were directive, exhortative, admonitory and preceptive. Our Lord wished to encourage His followers to a voluntary cooperation with His Divine Plan and with his words. In no instance do we see any evidence of our Lord commanding any action contrary to the good intentions and free will choices of the faithful. He exhorts them to better things; He admonishes them to avoid those things which are dangerous to their souls; He directs them to re-focus their thoughts and actions on doing the will of the Father; and He instructs by certain precepts, what is necessary to gain entrance into the halls of heaven.


Our Lord also is seen frequently rewarding the intentions and efforts of those who try to conform to His will, and He forgives those who through human nature fail to achieve all that they would prefer to do in following Him. Mercy, forgiveness, tenderness and compassion are true hallmarks of Our Lord's ministry during His sojourn on earth. He also directs His Church to follow in His footsteps "For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you." (St John 13: 15). For this reason the North American Old Roman Catholic Church considers the passage "What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder" to be primarily exhortative and perceptive ....that it sets forth a goal to be attained and instructions or precepts to be followed as to proper conduct within married life.


St Matthew's Gospel also makes it abundantly clear that Our Lord endowed His Church with His own power and authority and that He would honor whatever decisions His Church made, when he said: "I will give to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatsoever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." Thus the Church is empowered to act

in the Name of Christ (in persona Christi). We act "in persona Christi" when we, in His Name, bind the bride and groom after they have exchanged their vows and the Sacrament of Matrimony is conferred. The Church has also been empowered by her Divine Founder, to exercise in a most judicious manner, the power to loose as well as to bind, should there be a proper pastoral need. We can find two precedents for this "loosening power" already at work within the Church. Those two precedents are commonly known as the Pauline and the Petrine Privileges. Both cases involve the dissolution of a marriage in favor of the Faith, the first being between two non-baptized persons, and the second between a baptized Christian and a non-baptized person. Thus the Church acting "in persona Christi" already exercises this power to bind and to loose, as a merciful or spiritual concession due to the failing of human nature, when a conversion to the Christian Faith is the cause of the action.


By invoking a basic principle of Theology known as "epikeia" the Church grants a kind of dispensation from the letter of the law under individual circumstances, without creating a canonical precedent or without changing the doctrinal teaching of the Church. The North American Old Roman Catholic Church also incorporates this principle into its Theological teachings, under the name of either "epikeia" or "economia". When epikeia is joined to another principle of Sacred Theology, "Salus animarum est suprema lex" (The salvation of souls is the highest law), then it is clear that the Church has the authority to adjust the conditions or to loosen the partners from a marriage that is no longer a marriage. If we are to remain true to our vocation and mission to bring all mankind to Christ and into a closer relationship with Him, we must do so with all the power and authority granted to us by our Lord, BUT, with great care and judiciousness, lest we be found wanting in our administration by the Supreme Judge of All, for misusing His gifts or abusing His love and mercy.


The next concept to be addressed is the nature of the life-long commitment that lasts until death. We in the North American Old Roman Catholic Church hold firmly to this bedrock principle of Christian Marriage and to the teachings of our Divine Savior. However, we do depart from many of our Christian brothers and sisters in how we define "death". As is common with all other Christians and Catholics, we acknowledge that death in a marriage refers principally to the physical death of one of the spouses. When this occurs, the marriage bond is broken and the surviving partner is free to enter into a new Christian Marriage (after an appropriate period of mourning and preparation). However, we also consider the marriage as the new life lived by the spouses as one person (cf: Gospel of St Mark 10: 8) "And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh."


Just as in the Sacrament of Baptism there is a "new birth in Christ" and a new spiritual life begins, which must be nourished by the Body and Blood of Christ, so too we believe that in the Sacrament of Matrimony (Marriage) a "new married life as husband and wife" begins when the spouses surrender their individual lives and now live and share a common life, which must be nourished by the food of love, honor and respect. Thus the marriage for us takes on a special kind of life of its own, apart from the physical life of the spouses. And just as the physical life of the spouses depends upon sufficient food and drink to sustain their lives; and as the New Life in Christ which begins in Baptism depends on daily and regular spiritual nourishment to sustain itself; so too the life of the marriage also depends upon sufficient food to sustain its life, and that food is: love, honor and respect. If you deprive the body of food and drink for a long enough period of time, the body will surely die. If the soul is deprived of its spiritual nourishment its spiritual life will also "die". So also, if you deprive the marriage of love, honor and respect for a long enough time, the life of the marriage will also cease and the marriage will die. It is in this context that we in the North American Old Roman Catholic Church consider the issue of divorce and remarriage. The similarities between the death of a spouse and the death of a marriage are uniquely alike. It is in this similarity that we treat the case of a marriage that is no longer a marriage.


When the body of one of the spouses begins to suffer serious illness, it is customary to seek the intervention of a doctor for medical treatment and medication, to counteract the illness. So too, when a marriage is in serious danger and suffering from a potentially fatal illness, it is customary to call the priest (a spiritual physician) for marriage counseling (treatment and medication) and to follow his advice if he refers the marriage partners to marital counselors (specialists) for more intense and specialized treatment. When it is clear that the treatment and medication has not worked and the body of one of the spouses has died, it is usual for the doctor to refer the particulars of the death to the coroner who makes the formal declaration of death and the cause of it, and issues the certificate of death. So too with the case of a marriage that has died. The priest (as the physician) determines that the spiritual treatment and medication was not successful, and he reports the death of the marriage and the circumstances of his treatment to the Bishop of the Diocese, who in turn, just as the coroner did, reviews the details of the death, the causes of it, and then issues the "death certificate" of the marriage. We call this declaration of the Bishop, an Ecclesiastical Divorce.


While the North American Old Roman Catholic Church has so addressed the issue of divorce and remarriage, and has provided a means for the marital life of persons who have experienced the weakness of human nature and the failure of a previous marriage, she does so reluctantly, and judiciously. It is not a common practice; it is not a preferred practice; and it is used only in those cases where it is clear that no other remedy was possible, it is done in good faith and not as an easy means of dissolving an inconvenient marital relationship. It is an exception, a dispensation, an act of "epikeia", an act of pastoral compassion, which allows for this merciful remedy for a marriage which has died and which has left the spouses as the survivors after its demise.




The word worship [from the Saxon weorthscipe, "honor"; from worth, meaning "value", "dignity", "price", and the termination, ship; Latin cultus] in its most general sense is homage paid to a person or a thing. In this sense we may speak of hero-worship, worship of the emperor, of demons, of the angels, even of relics, and especially of the Cross. This article will deal with Christian worship according to the following definition: homage paid to God, to Jesus Christ, to His saints, to the beings or even to the objects which have a special relation to God.


There are several degrees of this worship:

  • If this worship is addressed directly to God, it is superior, absolute, supreme worship, a worship of adoration, which is called by the consecrated theological term: latria. This sovereign worship is due to God alone; if it is addressed to a creature it would become idolatry.

  • When worship is addressed only indirectly to God, that is, when its object is the veneration of martyrs, of angels, or of saints, it is a subordinate worship dependent first on the supreme worship of God, and is thus relative, in so far as it honors the creatures of God due to their special relations with Him; this kind of worship is designated by theologians by the term: dulia, a term denoting servitude, and implying, when used to signify our “worship” of these distinguished servants of God, that it is by their service to Him that they merit our veneration [cf. Chollet, loc. cit., col. 2407, and Bouquillon, Tractatus de virtute religionis, I, Bruges, 1880, 22 sq.].

  • As the Blessed Virgin Mary, as the Mother of God, has a separate and absolutely super-eminent rank among the all of the saints, the “worship” paid to her is referred to by the term: hyperdulia.


Most often and most appropriately, we refer to worship as the act of adoration of Almighty God: Father, Son and Holy Ghost; and we refer to the acts of love and respect to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Angels and Saints as veneration and devotion. Thereby distinguishing by word, what we distinguish by action and belief.


In accordance with these principles it will readily be understood that a certain “worship or veneration” may be offered even to inanimate objects, such as the relics of a martyr, the Cross of Christ, the Crown of Thorns, or even the statue or picture of a saint. There is here no confusion or danger of idolatry, for this "worship or veneration" is subordinate to and dependent upon the worship of Almighty God. The relic of the saint is venerated because of the link which unites it with the person who is thus venerated; while the statue or picture is regarded as having a relation to a person who has a right to our homage or devotion — as being a symbol which reminds us of that person and of their service to God.


Interior worship is to be distinguished from exterior worship. The former is not manifested by external acts, but consists in internal adoration; but when this inner sentiment is expressed by words or actions: e.g. prostration, genuflexion, the sign of the cross, or any other gesture, it becomes exterior worship. Worship is also either private or public; the former, which may be an act of external worship, is performed unseen by men or seen by only a few; the second is official worship rendered by men assembled for a religious end and forming a religious society properly so called. This is not the place to show that Christian worship is a worship at once interior and exterior, public and private. It should be interior, otherwise it would be mere comedy, a purely Pharisaical worship such as Christ condemned when He told His disciples that they should worship in spirit and the truth. But it should not be purely interior worship, which certain groups of Christians and most Deists, maintain; for man is not a pure spirit but composed of body and soul, and he should adore God not only in his soul but also in his body. This is the justification of all external manifestations of worship — genuflexion, prostration, kneeling, standing, the sign of the cross, the lifting-up or imposition of hands. Furthermore, on the same principle it will readily be understood that, in rendering homage to God, man may have recourse to animate or inanimate creatures (sacrifice of animals, incense, lights, flowers, etc.). Neither is it difficult to prove that, since man is a social being, his worship should be public and in common with others. Worship in private or even individual worship in public, is not sufficient. Society as such should also render to God the honor due to Him. Furthermore, it is natural that men who believe in the same God and experience towards Him the same sentiments of adoration, gratitude, and love should assemble to praise and thank Him.


The fact that Christ founded a Church, that is, a society of men professing the same faith, obeying the same laws united with one another by the closest bonds, implies the existence of the same worship. This religious society founded by Christ should have one and the same worship — "one Lord, one faith, one baptism. One God and Father of all" (Ephesians 4:5-6). Hence Christian worship is the worship of the Church, the expression of the same faith, and exercised under the supervision of the ecclesiastical authority. Thus understood worship depends on the virtue of religion and is the manifestation of that virtue. Finally, theologians usually connect worship also with the virtue of justice; for worship is not an optional act of the creature; God is entitled to the worship of intelligent creatures as a matter of justice.


In Christianity the worship offered to God has a special character which profoundly differentiates it from Jewish worship, for it is the worship of the Trinity, God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Our worship is directed to God, Who is one, omnipotent, magnificent, sovereign, King of kings, Lord of lords, and God of gods. Prayer is addressed to Him as the living God, the Lord God of Israel, the God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers, or simply to the Lord our God. But ordinarily God is conceived of by Christians under other titles and with another form. In the worship which Christ paid to God He shows Him to us as the Father. He adores Him as His Father: "I confess to Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth" (Matthew 11:25; cf. Luke 10:21); "Abba, Father, all things are possible to thee: remove this chalice from me" (Mark 14:36); "Father, sanctify me . . . Father glorify me . . . Just Father" (John 17). Already He seems to claim for Himself a worship of adoration equal to what he gives the Father: "If two of you shall consent upon earth, concerning anything whatsoever they shall ask, it shall be done to them by my Father who is in heaven. For where there are two or three gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them" (Matthew 18:19, 20). The Apostles and even those who were not His disciples prayed to Him during His life-time: "Lord, if it be thou, bid me to come to thee upon the waters" (Matthew 14:28); "Lord, save us, we perish" (Matthew 8:25); "Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean" (Matthew 8:2; cf. Mark 1:40; Luke 5:12); "Have mercy on me, O Lord . . . But she came and adored him, saying: Lord, help me" (Matthew 15:22; 25), etc.


Worship is the foundation of faith for everything we do. For Catholics, worship stands at the center of our life of faith. Through God’s Sacred Word, and in the celebration of the holy Sacrifice of the Mass, in the Seven Holy Sacraments and by prayer we are nurtured in our faith and sent out into the world as missionaries and emissaries of God.


Connected with and central to everything we do, worship unites us in prayer, adoration, thanksgiving and communion and it helps us grow in faith. It grounds us in our Christian and Catholic roots, while demonstrating practical relevance in and for today’s world.


While some of the approaches to worship may differ between the Roman Catholic Church and the Old Roman Catholic Church, we hold certain things in common. Central to our worship life is the presence of God through His Word and His Sacraments. The Sacred Word proclaimed and the Holy Sacraments are called the means of grace. We believe that Jesus Christ is present in these means through the power of the Holy Spirit.


There is also a basic pattern for worship among Catholics. We gather together to worship God as a community of believers, as members of His one Mystical Body, as His Church. We encounter God’s Word to us. We share a fellowship and communion with each other as we approach the Altar of Sacrifice and there receive our Blessed Savior: Body, Blood Soul and Divinity in Holy Communion. And we are then sent into the world to make His loving message of mercy forgiveness, salvation and redemption known to all men. We do not think about worship so much in terms of what we do, rather worship is fundamentally about what God is doing and our response to God’s action. Worship is an encounter with God, who saves us through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, our Lord, our Savior and our Redeemer.


The North American Old Roman Catholic Church and the Roman Catholic Church, while sharing a common liturgical origin, have, since the Second Vatican Council, parted and developed in different directions. The Roman Catholic Church introduced in the 1960's a new form of the Mass under the pontificate of Pope Paul VI (called appropriately the Novus Ordo) in which the position of the altar and the priest where changed and new translations and compositions of prayers and even alternate Canons of the Mass were composed and made obligatory within that jurisdiction. In recent years a permission to return to the older liturgy has been expanded and the ancient Tridentine Rite, which is now available at limited opportunities and occasions as determined by the local Bishop, is termed the Extra-ordinary Rite of the Mass for Roman Catholics.


The Old Roman Catholic Church has continued to worship and to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass according to the ancient and revered Tridentine Rite as it has since its separation from the See of Rome. This Tridentine Rite is the common possession, heritage and patrimony of both Roman Catholic and Old Roman Catholic faithful, and is preserved with great love and care by the Old Roman Catholic Communion. While it was common in times past to celebrate this Rite of the Mass in the Latin language solely, the tradition and now immemorial custom of the Old Roman catholic Church s to permit the Mass to be celebrated in the vernacular tongue while conforming in all things to the accurate translation of the ancient prayers and to observe the traditional rubrics in its celebration. The only modifications permitted are those which have been canonically authorized by the College of Bishops of our jurisdiction. In the same way, the celebration of the Sacraments is also according to the traditional Tridentine Rite. All of the traditional devotions of the Catholic Church, such as the Stations of the Cross, the Rosary, Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament, various novenas and other extra-liturgical or para-liturgical devotions and practices are maintained by the Old Roman Catholic Church with fidelity and reverence.


The North American Old Roman Catholic Church, as a true Old Roman Catholic body, in accordance with the Principles of The North American Old Roman Catholic Church, conforms strictly to the liturgical works of the Roman Catholic Church prior to 1964. We adhere strictly to the Missale Romanum, Rituale Romanum, Pontificale Romanum, Martyrologium Romanum, and the Cæremoniale Episcoporum, and their lawful vernacular translations, variations, and emendations as approved by our College of Bishops. In accord with the principle of “Salus animarum suprema lex” (The salvation of souls is the highest law), The North American Old Roman Catholic Church retains the right to approve, authorize or establish other liturgical texts for groups of Christians who unite with us from other traditions, always ensuring that such alternate texts are in strict conformity with the doctrine of The North American Old Roman Catholic Church.


The Mass, the administration of the Sacraments, the Divine Office and other ceremonies and rites may be conducted in either Latin or in the vernacular language of the country or people of the parish, as pastoral requirements dictate and according to local custom and the local Ordinary’s instructions, but in all cases such linguistic renderings shall be uttered with precision. The use of the Latin Canon in Masses offered in the vernacular, as well as the use of Latin for the essential form of the administration of the Sacraments, may be determined as appropriate by the local Ordinary.


The Calendar of the North American Old Roman Catholic Church conforms to the essentials of the Calendar extant prior to Vatican Council II, with the provisions that saints canonized since that time shall be included and that all special Holy Days and Observances of this Church are also included.




The Old Roman Catholic Church professing itself to be a real, true and integral part of the Roman Catholic Church, though estranged at the present time from any practical unity with the Holy See, subscribes to a belief in the Collegiality of Bishops sharing responsibility for the governance and pastoral care of the whole Church worldwide, first in union with its own Primate and then in turn when Catholic unity is once again achieved, in union with the Holy Father. By the same token, the Old Roman Catholic Church firmly adheres to the doctrine of Conciliarity, which is the adherence to the supreme authority of ecumenical councils and to synodal church government, and it has done so consistently throughout the many centuries of its existence.


The Old Roman Catholic Church together with the Roman Catholic, the Eastern Orthodox and the Oriental Orthodox Churches teaches that juridical oversight over the Church is not a power that derives from human ambition, but strictly from the authority of Christ which was given to His Twelve Apostles, and that this authority given by Christ to His Twelve Apostles is transmitted from one generation to the next by the power of the Holy Spirit, through the laying on of hands, from the Apostles to the bishops, and from bishops to priests and deacons, in an unbroken line of Apostolic Succession.


The Old Roman Catholic Church, like the various Orthodox Churches identifies its ecclesiastical polity according to a Conciliar Hierarchical view of the Church with its bishops gathered around the Primate and governed by a General Synod to which even the Primate is subject according to the Constitution and Canons of the Church.


The Old Roman Catholic Church also incorporates elements of the Anglican view of episcopal polity, and understands the role of the Bishop to include the obligation of delegating certain powers and responsibility for the care of souls to the priests; to serving as true pastors, shepherds and spiritual fathers to their priests and the flocks entrusted to them; and to exercising a teaching office with respect to the wider and universal Church Catholic in its entirety.


The Old Roman Catholic Church, though governed by the Primate, the College of Bishops and the General Synod both collectively and individually, restricts and preserves the full, complete and exclusive authority in all spirtual matters (doctrine, liturgy, sacramental, etc) to the responsibility of the Bishops. All other matters coming before the General Synod or its properly constituted subordinate bodies, and any conciliar resolutions proceeding therefrom that have been passed, require episcopal assent and/or consent to take force. And thus there is an element of the Anglican “Bishop-in-Synod” concept present within the Old Roman Catholic system of episcopal polity.


The various Synods of the Old Roman Catholic Church (General, Provincial, Diocesan) consist not only of bishops, but also of elected and appointed representatives of the clergy and laity, with clearly defined authority according to the Canons and the status of the participants. The Old Roman Catholic Church understands the role of government within the Church to have been given exclusively to the Bishops via the Apostles and not to all the faithful collectively. Thus the role of the lesser clergy (those below the rank of Bishop) and of the laity as members of Synod with authority in their respective spheres, is understood as a constitutionally delegated and regulated authority, which in turn is a share in the authority of the Bishops to whom full exclusive jurisdiction within the Church has been entrusted by Christ and the Apostles via Apostolic Succession, throughout the centuries.

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