The Most Reverend
Arnold Harris Mathew, D.D.
First Old Roman Catholic
Archbishop of Great Britain and Ireland
Any discussion of the various Old Roman Catholic Church jurisdictions must begin with Archbishop Arnold Harris Mathew, the ecclesiastical progenitor for all of them.
Arnold Harris Mathew was born in Montpelier, Herault, France on 6 August 1852 of a Roman Catholic father and an Anglican mother. First baptized as a Roman Catholic, he was, two years later at the insistence of his mother and then re-baptized as an Anglican. He began his seminary and theological studies at the Anglican College of the Holy Spirit on the Island of Greater Cumbrae, but had a change of heart and subsequently entered the Roman Catholic Seminary of St Peter at Patrickhill in Glasgow, Scotland. He was ordained to the Sacred Priesthood in the Roman Catholic Church on 24 June 1877 at the age of 24, by Archbishop Charles Eyre. Father Mathew was assigned to a number of pastoral ministries over the ensuing years, until his final assignment in 1888 at St Mary's in Bath.
While on vacation in France, he met Father Hyacinthe Loyson, an Old Catholic priest who was also friends with Archbishop Joseph Rene Vilatte, and others within the Old Catholic, Independent Catholic and Orthodox ecclesiastical worlds. Father Mathew left the Roman Catholic Church in 1889, and served as an Anglican priest at Holy Trinity Church on Sloane Street in London, where he met and married his wife, Margaret Duncan. After ten years as an Anglican priest, he left the Anglican ministry in 1899 as a result of learning of the scandalous homosexual activity occurring within the Anglican Church, without the hierarchy taking any canonical action to prevent it at that time. He re-entered the Roman Catholic Church as a layman, due to his marriage, and became a prolific author and translator, earning acknowledgement from the Roman Catholic Church for his academic and literary accomplishments. Having tired of his status as a layman, he entertained the idea of returning to the Anglican ministry, (the only option open to him as a married cleric) but having not received any support for this option, by 1907 he had entered into communications with the Old Catholic Bishop of Switzerland, Edward Herzog, where they discussed the reaction of many High-Church Anglo-Catholics who feared the report of the Roman Catholic Ritual Commission set up in 1904, which denied the validity of Anglican Orders, and the strong likelihood of their embracing an indigenous Old Catholic jurisdiction in Britain. He was joined in that discussion by another former Roman Catholic priest, Father Richard O'Halloran.
Father O'Halloran claimed that seventeen priests with eight fully organized parishes were ready to affiliate themselves with a new Old Catholic Bishop if one could be provided for them in England. As a result of Father O'Halloran's claims and presentations, the Old Catholic Bishops were impressed enough to take the decision to establish a branch of the Old Catholic Church in Great Britain. Father O'Halloran then presented to the Old Catholic Bishops, a document purporting to have been the Mandate of Election, in which the said priests and parishes had elected Father Arnold Harris Mathew to be their Bishop. To the best of everyone's knowledge, Father Mathew had been unware of this election or of its transmittal by Father O'Halloran to the Old Catholic Bishops, until after the fact.
Once informed of his election and having secured the approval of the Old Catholic Bishops for his episcopal consecration, Father Mathew traveled to Utrecht, the ancient Archiepiscopal See of the Old Roman Catholic Church in the Netherlands, to be consecrated as the first Old Catholic Bishop for Great Britain and Ireland. Upon his arrival and upon closer examination of his life, theological belief, formation, training and ministry, the fact of his marriage came to light. The Church of Utrecht was dismayed at this development as they had never considered the consecration of a married man as a bishop, but the Swiss and German Old Catholic bishops had no such hesitation as they had abolished compulsory clerical celibacy since 1875 and 1877 respectively. Only in 1922 did the Church of Utrecht follow suit. After deliberating on the issue, the Old Catholic Bishops agreed to proceed with the consecration of Father Mathew to be the Old Catholic Bishop of Great Britain and Ireland. His consecration took place during a Solemn High Pontifical Mass on 28 April 1908 in the historic Cathedral of St Gertrude in Utrecht. The consecrators were: Archbishop Gerardus Gul of Utrecht, Bishop Johannes Jacobus van Thiel of Haarlem, Bishop Nicolas Bartholomaeus Petrus Spit of Deventer, and Bishop Johan Josef Demmel of Bonn, Germany. The consecration took place according to the Pontificale Romanum, which was the only ritual for conferring Holy Orders permitted within the Old Roman Catholic Church of Utrecht. Soon after his return to London, Bishop Mathew discovered that he and the Old Catholic Bishops had been duped and mislead by Father O'Halloran as to the true numbers of clergy willing to establish an Old Catholic Church in Great Britain, and in good faith, Bishop Mathew tendered his offer to resign to the Archbishop of Utrecht. His resignation was not accepted, and Bishop Mathew proceeded under great difficulties and hostilities from both the Roman Catholic Church and from the Church of England, to build his missionary church as had originally been envisioned at the time of his consecration.
At the time of his death, Archbishop Bernard Mary Williams, Archbishop Mathew's successor, described the late Archbishop Mathew in the following words:
"Of the truly great Prelate who has passed beyond the veil, our most venerable and revered Archbishop, I could write much. He was truly one of those of whom the world was not worthy — a man without guile. His kindness, sympathy, and generosity were only too easily aroused, and knew no bounds. Himself a good man, he seems to have been incapable of suspecting or understanding bad faith and treachery in others, and so became a very easy victim to the unscrupulous. Unhappily, he was constantly preyed upon by persons of this type, who never failed to misrepresent him, grossly, deliberately, and of evil purpose to all who had not the happiness of knowing him. No man has ever been more thoroughly misunderstood or more viciously, wantonly, and most unjustly persecuted.
He was a man of simple tastes, possessed of a high appreciation of the beauties of Nature, with a deep knowledge of Natural History. A real scholar, whose sound learning was by no means confined to the usual fields of Clerical knowledge; a nobleman of great courage, perfect courtesy, the highest integrity, and an address which can only be described as charming. A Prelate of wonderful humility and very great personal sanctity..."
Elsewhere he had described the late Archbishop Mathew thusly:
"A more lovable man, or one of greater personal sanctity than the late Archbishop Mathew could hardly have been found, and yet the choice proved an unfortunate one, because Bishop Mathew was entirely lacking in statesmanship, and his lack of guile rendered him an easy victim to the unscrupulous. This lack of statesmanship, together with the ease with which he could be imposed upon, and persuaded to ordain and sometimes, alas, consecrate men wholly unsuitable for those high and holy states, and the scandals resulting therefrom, together with the incessant and extremely bitter persecution at the hands of Ultramontane (Roman) Catholics, Protestants, and the irreligious, has so far prevented the daughter Church in England from making much real progress."
This brief eulogy succinctly describes the life of Archbishop Mathew from the time of his Consecration at Utrecht until his repose on 20 December 1919 in the arms of the Lord he had so faithfully served.
Other Old Roman Catholic
Clerics and Jurisdictions
- A Review and Clarification -
The world of "independent" Catholicism is populated by numerous clerics, jurisdictions, associations/councils/conferences, most of them making exaggerated claims to possessing valid Holy Orders, autonomy, and numbers of clerics, churches and faithful which may not be grounded in fact; which are often in conflict with each other; which are or may be based upon "revisionist history"; which are sometimes put forth with the intention of misleading and confusing those who may be disposed to support them; or which are used to prop up with false claims, a status which they seek but are unable to attain on their own merits, and which, more often than not, exist or may rely upon the weakest of theological or canonical supports. In some cases jurisdictional names have been misused or misappropriated to continue a long-standing dispute with the original jurisdiction from which it separated. In other cases the jurisdictional name has been slightly altered in the hope that many unsuspecting or unknowing persons may be led to believe that the jurisdiction in question is, in reality, the original jurisdiction and it can thus "trade-in" on the history, canonicity, validity and respect rightly belonging only to the original jurisdiction.
Another source of confusion and consternation to the faithful is the all too common but very incorrect application and/or interchangeable use of the terms: "Old Catholic" and "Old Roman Catholic". The two terms are NOT synonymous. While both trace their Catholic identity and Apostolic Succession and Origin to the ancient Archdiocese of Utrecht in Holland, these jurisdictional terms represent two entirely different ecclesiological positions in theology, liturgy and canonical tradition from each other. They share a few common characteristics but in actuality they are almost mutually contradictory in theology, liturgy, polity, and Canon Law. Christian truth requires that these terms be properly clarified and then applied and used accurately. A third term often used and equally confusing to the average person is the term Ultrajectine.
We will start by defining the last term first. This term Ultrajectine is simply the Latinized word to denote the Catholic tradition emanating from the Archdiocese of Utrecht in Holland. The Latin name for Utrecht is "Ultrajectensis", and thus the term Ultrajectine is the adjectival form of the Latin name of the Archdiocese of Utrecht. While denoting primarily the Archdiocese of Utrecht, it is used to also represent those church bodies and jurisdictions which to this day represent and/or continue the theological, liturgical, canonical and historical positions of the ancient See of Utrecht before its capitulation to the protestantizing influences of the continental Old Catholic Churches of Germany, Switzerland, Austria and others with whom it associated itself beginning in 1889 and culminating during the years of 1909-1925.
The term Old Catholic properly refers to those churches and jurisdictions which espouse, uphold and either continue or have developed beyond the tradition of the churches of the Utrecht Union of Old Catholic Churches. These church bodies include the original Old Catholic Church of The Netherlands, the Old Catholic Church of Germany, the Christ Catholic Church of Switzerland, the Old Catholic Church of Austria, the Polish Catholic Church in Poland and several other Old Catholic jurisdictions, all under the aegis of the Utrecht Union. The Polish National Catholic Church in the United States and Canada, while formerly holding a membership in the Utrecht Union, has since 1996, severed its connection with these church bodies due to the adoption of non-Catholic practices by the Utrecht Union. The Old Catholic Churches represent, to one degree or another, a departure from traditional Catholic teaching, worship, devotion, practice, and polity. While tracing their origins to the Archdiocese of Utrecht, they have willingly chosen to jettison much of traditional Catholic teaching and practice to adopt and adapt to a more generic Christian position found in the vast array of independent and Protestant church bodies in the world today, while still maintaining some essentials of Catholic ritual. These churches have in recent years espoused the ordination of women to the priesthood and the episcopate, the ordination and marrriage of homosexual persons, and are more inclined to follow the lead of the more liberal and contemporary theologians and liturgists of the day than to adhere to the ancient and enduring traditions and teachings of Catholic Theology, Liturgy and the ancient Fathers of the Church.
The term Old Roman Catholic is the shorter and by far the more simple and far less confusing English version of the official name of the ancient Catholic Church of the Netherlands which became estranged from Rome due to political issues and not theological or liturgical ones. That offical name was: "The Roman Catholic Church of the Old Episcopal Clergy". This designation indicates clearly that the members of this Church considered themselves to be Roman Catholic in every sense of the word, loyal and faithful to all of the teachings, worship, piety, devotions and canon laws of the Roman Catholic Church at the time of the estrangement between it and the See of Rome; and that when the See of Rome imposed an uncanonical and an illegal new hierarchy of bishops in Holland in direct opposition to the canonical bishops who had been elected, consecrated and enthroned validly according to Catholic practice, who had defended with their lives, safety and security the Catholic Faith in the face of virulent opposition and persecution from the Calvinist churches, ministers and government officials, and who were themselves the successors of Saint Willibrord and the early founders of the Catholic Church in Holland; these faithful and true Catholics remained loyal to those tried and true Shepherds of the Catholic Faith and rejected the ecclesiastical interlopers who were being imposed upon them by Rome without regard to Catholic Faith or Canon Law and contrary to the wishes of the Catholics of the country. This official name has been shortened and simplified in English to the words Old Roman Catholic Church. It refers to those church bodies and jurisdictions who to this day maintain and continue the same theological, liturgical, canonical, historical and devotional positions of the ancient Church of Utrecht. Old refers to the continuity of the ancient episcopate from the See of Utrecht. Roman refers to the theologial and liturgical tradition adhered to by these jurisdictions and church bodies. Catholic refers to these churches' and jurisdictions' adherance to the entire, traditional and unchanging Catholic Faith without addition or diminution, once delivered to the Saints and which the Bishops, clergy and laity of the ancient Ultrajectine tradition lived, suffered and died to preserve for themselves and for their canonical and theological posterity unto the end of time... i.e.: for us in this day and age, and which we, in our turn, faithfully and steadfastly adhere to, uphold, defend, preserve and teach with equal vigor and conviction, and which we seek to pass on to our posterity, pure and undefiled.
Another distinctive characteristic between the Roman Catholic, the Old Roman Catholic and the Old Catholic Churches is the style and philosophy of episcopal polity or government. The Roman Catholic Church represents an absolute monarchy style of government, where all power is centered in a single individual (the Pope), who has unfettered power and authority, though in regular practice he relies heavily upon his advisors and the members of the Roman Curia. In the Roman Catholic system, all power, authority and jurisdiction flows from the Holy Father down to his subordinates be they Cardinals, Archbishops, Bishops or lesser clergy. In the Old Catholic Churches we find a federalist system of government or polity, where each member church of the Utrecht Union retains its own power, authority and autonomy, while ceding a small portion of it to a central figure, (the Archbishop of Utrecht), who acts as a kind of coordinator, but not regulator, of the affairs of the various churches. The central authority thus ceded cannot be used to overrule or supercede the authority of any individual church or jurisdiction. The Old Roman Catholic Church represents a constitutional monarchy, where the Holy Father is seen as the center of Catholic unity, as the guardian and bulwark of spiritual strength and authority within the church, but who must recognize and support the rights of the individual national and particular churches, according to a constituion and the Code of Canon Law. In this system of government, the Sovereign Pontiff is seen as the conservator of ecclesiastical authority but without unregulated power to act unilaterally contrary to the interests, rights and authority of the various particular chuches and their Primates and Bishops.
When perusing the many and various sites on the internet in search of information about the North American Old Roman Catholic Church, about Archbishop Carfora, or about the Old Roman Catholic Church, one often encounters an oft repeated statement, which has even found its way into printed materials, and which is both misleading and false, as it is based upon a distortion of the facts and represents a case of revisionist history. A statement which has been put forth to bolster the claims of various clerics and jurisdictions to being, representing and/or continuing the historic Old Roman Catholic jurisdiction of the late Archbishop Carmel Henry Carfora, i. e.: The North American Old Roman Catholic Church. The claim is made that, upon the death of our late Archbishop and Primate, Carmel Henry Carfora, in January of 1958, that his jurisdiction split into four or five (depending on the particular site or publication being viewed) independent and competing jurisdictions and/or churches. Such is simply not the case, as the facts will show. The four or five most commonly listed jurisdictions cited are:
1.) The North American Old Roman Catholic Church [this jurisdiction]
2.) The North American Old Roman Catholic Church [Chicago]
3.) The North American Old Roman Catholic Church- Utrecht Succession
4.) The Old Roman Catholic Church in North America
5.) The Archdiocese of the Old Catholic Church in America
and occasionally one will also find reference to one of the following:
1.) The Old Roman Catholic Church, Archdiocese of Chicago
2.) The Old Roman Catholic Church (English Rite)
3.) The Canonical and Historical Old Roman Catholic Church
On the following page you will find the historical facts concerning each of these jurisdictions, together with the facts of their origins and detailing any connection they had to Archbishop Carfora and to the North American Old Roman Catholic Church as well as the date of their separation from his jurisdiction. Please click on this link to go to the next page.