It’s a highly accessible book and one that has been described as a “well-researched and passionately argued presentation of the Old Catholic understanding of the dynamic nature of what the Nicene Creed describes as the ‘one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.’”
I have to say that the more of the Old Catholic Church that I experience, the more I recognize it (ironically enough) as a truer embodiment of Vatican II’s understanding of church than that offered by the current expression of Roman Catholicism – mired as it is in a sad and sorry state of retrenchment and reaction. (More about this in Part 3.)
Oh, and don’t let the “Old” part fool you. The Old Catholic Church is a very dynamic and progressive expression of Catholicism - one that is accepting and welcoming of women and gay people. How welcoming? Well, here’s what Fr. Caruso (who’s a partnered gay man) had to say about this matter when I interviewed him for The Wild Reed in September 2007:
The Old Catholic Church welcomes all to the full participation in the life, mission, and worship of the local church. This means that gays and lesbians are not just welcome to the table at Eucharist, but are welcome to fully participate in the gospel ministry of Christ’s church sharing his or her diverse gifts with the local eucharistic fellowship.
The Church (in general) must be reminded of its eschatological nature that it has forgotten about in its preoccupation of idolizing heterosexual marriage (specifically marital procreation) as the foundational model of God, Christ, and the pilgrim Church on earth. Same-sex couples show all Christians just how truly queer Christianity is. “In Christ there is no male or female (Galations 3:23)…In heaven there is no marriage (Matthew 22:30; Luke 20:35).” Gay and lesbian couples may help the Church recover its vision of heaven, through our mutual covenant bond in baptism and the celebration of Eucharist together. This quintessentially speaks to the eucharistic ecclesiological Old Catholic nature of unity in diversity.
Robert Caruso is pastor of Cornerstone Old Catholic Community in St. Paul, and after this community’s weekly Mass on Saturday, September 19, Robert presented a short but fascinating lecture on Old Catholicism. The images that accompany this post were taken at this event – one that was held at St. Paul on the Hill Episcopal Church.
The Old Catholic Church is a path that enriches the complex history of the universal church through the ages. The historical complexity of Old Catholicism involves the three different movements that compose the current unified European Old Catholic churches known as the “Union of Utrecht.” Each national church belonging to the Union of Utrecht is rooted in its own historical situation and epoch, which testifies to the diversity and independence Old Catholics generally value.
The Old Catholic churches throughout the world are independent national churches that disagreed with the absolute power of the papacy and the claims of papal infallibility after the Council of Trent (1545-63). This opposition occurred in three separate and distinct historical movements. First, the Old Catholic church of Holland (1724); second, the churches of Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and Czech-Slovakia at the first Vatican Council (1869-70); and lastly, church groups located in North America, Great Britain, Philippines, and the Slavic nations in the twentieth-century leading to the present day. The novelty about these revolutionary movements against the Roman papacy is that they occurred from within the Roman rite (the principal ancient liturgical and canonical) tradition of the Latin rite Western Church. This implies that the genesis of Old Catholicism occurred as a Roman Catholic revolt against papal supremacy in all its forms. It must be clearly understood that Old Catholics never sought to create another church. The difference between Old Catholics and the churches born out of the Reformation is one of local church rights (Old Catholic) verses theological doctrinal differences (Reformation). This stated, Old Catholics still to this day “. . . do not wish to deny the historical primacy which several Ecumenical Councils and Fathers of the ancient church have attributed to the Bishop of Rome by recognizing him in title as Primus inter pares (first among equals).”*
The Old Catholic churches are distinctly different from the Protestant, Orthodox, and Anglican churches because the genesis of the Old Catholic movement occurred after the late fifteenth to early sixteenth-centuries’ Counter-Reformation and Council of Trent (1545-63). These events uniquely established and defined the Roman-rite (i.e., liturgical, canonical, monasticism) of the Catholic church for close to four centuries thereafter (ca., 1563-1869). This stated, Old Catholicism maintained much of its distinctive Roman-rite characteristics in its liturgies and customs (e.g., the centrality of the seven sacraments and the celebration of Eucharist as the summit of the Christian life); and today, Old Catholic communicants, especially those who convert from the Roman church, are content being Old Catholic because of its liturgical similarities with the Roman-rite. It is very much a pietistic affection that is experienced in the heart of every Catholic, which in turn effects how one lives his or her life in the Eucharistic community of the local-universal church (the Body of Christ).
* The Declaration of Utrecht, 1889, para. 2. parenthesis added (English text).
NEXT: Part 2
See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
• The Old Catholic Church: Catholicism Beyond Rome - An interview with Robert Caruso.
• Robert Caruso’s Scholarly Introduction to Old Catholicism
• The Declaration of Utrecht
• Robert Caruso on the Pentecost Rainbow Sash Presence at the Cathedral