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Old Catholics


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A group of small national Churches, consisting of Christians who have separated from the RC Church.(1) The Old Catholic Church in the Netherlands, sometimes called the Church of Utrecht. This owes its origin to the Papal handling of the Jansenist controversy and particularly to the deposition in 1702 of Petrus Codde, the Vicar Apostolic of the area. The Chapter of Utrecht, acting independently of Rome, in 1723 elected Cornelius Steenoven Abp. of Utrecht; he was consecrated by D. M. Varlet, Bp. of Babylon, who had fallen foul of the Roman authorities but whose consecration had been regular. On Steenoven's death, Varlet consecrated his successor in 1725.(2) The German, Austrian, and Swiss Old Catholic Churches. This group of Churches was created from those who refused to accept the dogmas of the infallibility and universal ordinary jurisdiction of the Pope as defined by the Vatican Council of 1870, and seceded from the RC Church soon afterwards. They received their episcopal succession from the Church of Utrecht.(3) Small groups of Slav origin. National Church movements among the Poles in the USA (1897) and the Croats (1924) resulted in the establishment of separate Churches.The doctrinal basis of the Old Catholic Churches is the ‘Declaration of Utrecht', agreed upon in 1889. Old Catholic bishops have several times taken part in the consecration of Anglican bishops.

(1) The Old Catholic Church in the Netherlands, sometimes called the Church of Utrecht. This owes its origin to the Papal handling of the Jansenist controversy and particularly to the deposition in 1702 of Petrus Codde, the Vicar Apostolic of the area. The Chapter of Utrecht, acting independently of Rome, in 1723 elected Cornelius Steenoven Abp. of Utrecht; he was consecrated by D. M. Varlet, Bp. of Babylon, who had fallen foul of the Roman authorities but whose consecration had been regular. On Steenoven's death, Varlet consecrated his successor in 1725.

(2) The German, Austrian, and Swiss Old Catholic Churches. This group of Churches was created from those who refused to accept the dogmas of the infallibility and universal ordinary jurisdiction of the Pope as defined by the Vatican Council of 1870, and seceded from the RC Church soon afterwards. They received their episcopal succession from the Church of Utrecht.

(3) Small groups of Slav origin. National Church movements among the Poles in the USA (1897) and the Croats (1924) resulted in the establishment of separate Churches.

The term ‘Old Catholic’ is also used of RCs in England of older (especially recusant) background in contrast to converts and immigrants.

Subjects: Christianity.


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