My friend Bob, who is a priest in the Old Catholic tradition, is currently in Europe visiting a number of Old Catholic communities.
When he was recently in Prague, I helped arrange a meeting between him and fellow gay Catholic blogger (and Prague resident) Jayden Cameron, of Gay Mystic. Jayden, in turn, recently wrote about his experience of the Easter Vigil at Prague’s Old Catholic Cathedral of St. Lawrence.
Following, with his permission, is Jayden’s post about his experience of Old Catholicism.
He is Risen – Within the Old Catholic Church
By Jayden Cameron
April 4, 2010
By Jayden Cameron
April 4, 2010
I attended the Easter Vigil last night at the 'Old Catholic' Cathedral of St. Lawrence high atop Petrin Hill in Prague. Father Robert Caruso of the US is here in Prague for the week and invited me to the service.
The “Old” Catholic Church is so named because this community believes it represents the true Catholic tradition before Vatican I and the imposed dogma of Papal Infallibility. The community did not willingly split from the Roman branch, it was excommunicated when a number of Bishops in good conscience decided they could not accept the decision of Vatican I to declare the Pope infallible. In fact the majority of Bishops walked out of the Council in protest before the vote could be taken. The reigning pontiff, Pius IX, a deeply disturbed human being whom a number of psychiatric authorities have diagnosed as a classic sociopath, threatened excommunication and interdict to any bishop and diocese who did not agree with the decision. Most of the dissenting bishops gave in at great cost to their consciences. But a significant and prophetic remnant stood fast These bishops together with their dioceses then banded together to form the Old Catholic Church and they have been living their marginal, Spirit filled witness-in-exile, ever since.
Outside of the control of the Vatican, the worldwide community of the Old Catholic Church then evolved in a (not surprisingly) healthy manner and we now have a Church which images the Catholic Church as she should be - inclusive, tolerant, fair = with women priests and married priests, gay marriages and ethical decisions regarding contraception (among others) left to the individual consciences of the married couple. No scandals regarding child abuse have surfaced within the Old Catholic Church. Does that surprise anyone?
Father Robert Caruso is the tall priest in the center of the photo (taken with my cell phone). For those who are more interested in this community, you can read a review of Father Robert's book, The Old Catholic Church: Understanding the Origin, Essence, and Theology of a Church that is Unknown and Misunderstood by Many in North America, and a series of interviews with him at Michael Bayly's blogsite, The Wild Reed.
I was deeply moved by the service (despite the terminally long readings, following the Roman ritual exactly) and I have to say it ‘felt’ exactly like a Roman Catholic Liturgy – with one important distinction. At communion, all of the priests, the presiding Bishop and the ministers, received communion last – after all of the ‘laity’ had themselves partaken. Wow! What a stunning example of a ministry of service that does not privilege the ordained. As Father Robert remarked, “It isn’t just ‘like’ the Catholic Mass – ala the Anglican service – it is the Catholic Mass.” I have to agree. Seven new catechumens and one charmingly distraught baby girl received baptism this evening, and the adults went on to receive Confirmation and First Communion as well. It was a very deeply moving sight to see, and the entire evening was Spirit-filled in an atmosphere of peace and joy. It was a delightfully eclectic community and I was on the receiving end of some wonderful and warmly humorous comments about gays within the community. I have never felt so graciously accepted as a gay man at any other form of Catholic service. I will be celebrating with this community again.
This morning I watched Pope Benedict’s Urbi et Orbi homily on Eurotelevision and I felt that the role of the ‘Supreme Pontiff’ in all of his pomp and regalia was in no way more charismatic or significant than the very impressive, deeply spiritual Bishop Dusan Hejbal of the Old Catholic Church of Prague.
For more about Old Catholicism, see the previous Wild Reed posts:
• Understanding the Old Catholic Church (Part 1)
• Understanding the Old Catholic Church (Part 2)
• Understanding the Old Catholic Church (Part 3)
• Robert Caruso’s Scholarly Introduction to Old Catholicism
• The Old Catholic Church: Catholicism Beyond Rome – An interview with Robert Caruso.
• The Declaration of Utrecht
Images: Jayden Cameron.