Are We Schismatic or Just Faithful Catholics
What does it mean to be “Catholic?” According to Roman Catholics, they insist that being Catholic necessitates being part of their Church, and under the authority of the pope.
However, neither scripture, nor church history does not make that claim!
As a particular Catholic Jurisdiction, we believe that must be able to clearly enunciate why we believe, or why we affiliate with our jurisdiction. As a particular Church Jurisdiction, we are fully Catholic in that we hold to the “Four Marks” of the Ancient Church outlined in the creed: “One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic. Additionally, we hold to the same founding Rule of Faith found in the Declaration of Utrecht, laid down by St. Vincent of Lerins in these terms: “Id teneamus, quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est; hoc est etenim vere proprieque catholicum.” [Let us hold to what has been believed everywhere, always, by all; for this is truly and properly catholic.]
We all have our individual stories of how we landed in this particular Church Jurisdiction. Learning to share your journey may help others to understand our differences and similarities.
Before I began my conversion journey to Catholicism, I had no idea there was more than one way to be authentically Catholic. Through God’s providence, I ended up where I am.
Thirty-two years ago I was an Evangelical Christian, divorced single parent, with an eight-year-old daughter. I had all the baggage and misconceptions you might expect regarding the Catholic Church. From Mary and the Saints to Sacraments, I had little use or interest in Catholicism. That is until I fell in love with and married a Cradle Catholic.
Without a church annulment, it was impossible to get married in the Church of Rome, which did nothing to enhance my opinion of that church. The Monsignor at the parish of my then fiancé’s church assured us that we would not go grey before a (three-year process) church sanctioned annulment would remove the impediment.
Without appreciating the requirements, we located an independent, Old Catholic priest who agreed to be the celebrant at our marriage. That was great, impediment 1 dealt with. We were married and subsequently began the RC annulment. And, yes more than three years later my previous marriage was annulled.
It was not long before our differences in faith practices began to cause issues. My wife insisted on having our children baptized in her church. After quite a bit of drama and overcoming some more roadblocks, that was accomplished. But we were still not “equally yoked,” we were still a house divided. Until one day, that is, one of my relatives found an article about a Church in our area that was perfect for families with mixed-faith (Protestant/Catholic) marriages like ours — it was billed as sort of being “Catholic-lite.”
Well, after some discussion and haggling back and forth we decided to give it a try. The very first thing that threw my protestant preconceptions for a loop was that the pastor was a former Baptist minister. Well, that caused me to sit up and take notice. I had to find out how this man with a similar background to my own could possibly turn Catholic? Well, to make a very long story short, I discovered that much of my protestant indoctrination was (in my mind at that time) little more than misunderstanding and semantics. I fell in love with the sacraments and liturgy. Before too long we were fully inculcated in the Church. I took their version of RCIA classes and learned more about the traditions and teachings that are central to the Catholic faith. Impediment 2 resolved.
A few years later they opened an in-house seminary and I was one of the first to sign up. As of this writing, I’ve been an Old Catholic priest for about twenty years and a bishop since December of 2016.
After my conversion to the Old Catholic flavor of Catholicism, I developed a respect for the Church of Rome. I appreciated their history of maintaining orthopraxy. Early on in my priesthood, I heard that the doors were opening to married Anglican and Lutheran priests and pastors to incardinate within the Roman Catholic Church. So I began a journey of inquiry with the local diocese and received no encouragement, so I continued on in ministry.
About ten years later I repeated the process in another state with a totally different diocese with the same results. So, to the multitudes of faithful Roman Catholics over the years who’ve insisted that I return to Rome, I’ve never left, but I did make the attempt to join.
Now after nearly two decades of priestly ministry, I am the presiding bishop of a growing group of Churches in the United States as well as a larger number of Catholic Jurisdictions in around the world. I began my episcopate reluctantly (so-to-speak) due to the fact that my Archbishop and longtime friend, at the time had cancer and was in need of assistance, I was consecrated and made his coadjutor and successor. After his passing in May of 2017, I assumed the role of Presiding Bishop.
What brings this conversation up now? I recently made a simple inquiry on a conservative Catholic facebook page to have the moderator contact me, nothing more. Something as simple as that began a barrage of comments and imprecatory insults about my being a schismatic and all sorts of unkind uncharitable remarks. To top it off the person suggested that I return to Rome, or join the Anglican Ordinate.
Well, considering all the turmoil, scandal, and controversy these days within the Roman Catholic Church, and my outspoken stance for orthodoxy, I’m pretty sure that the door would still be closed. The best I’ve ever been told on that account is to join a local Catholic Church, take RCIA classes and become a lay parishioner.
Those of you who are familiar with Sacramental Theology should understand the impossibility of that proposition. The Sacraments impart a permanent mark and charisma to a person. Joining the Roman Catholic Church under those conditions would necessitate virtually renouncing both my holy orders and consecration to the episcopate.
So, there really is no choice to be made. I am happy with the vocation God has provided and I’m doing my best to minister where I am, and where I am called to serve. I currently am serving churches and jurisdictions in several nations around the world, encouraging them to maintain full faith and allegiance to the historic teachings of the early Church. God appears to be blessing our ministry, and I give Him the Glory for all things.
I believe that God has given me a special chrism to be akin to John the Baptist, preaching a call to repentance, for the return of our Lord is at hand. I am here to share my ministry with others who are like-minded and in need of apostolic coverage, spiritual guidance, and mentorship, in the context of the conservative “Old Catholic” tradition.
Many, if not most lay Catholics don’t realize that there has always been more than one, authentic, catholic jurisdiction. Very early in Church history, five major patriarchies were established as regional ecclesiastical governing bodies. Rome was one of them, not over them as an emperor, but as a respected, older brother, or first among equals. Much later on, when Rome instigated the “Great Schism” by making changes to the Nicene Creed and otherwise overstepping her authority, the other four patriarchies never ceased being an authentic part of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. Likewise, the Church of Utrecht Holland (from where I derive my Apostolic Succession) never ceased embracing Catholic principles when through falsehoods and political machinations by the Jesuits, and the Roman Pontiff yanked their historic autonomy unceremoniously, and another schism ensued.
The question I usually ask of those throwing around accusations us of being schismatic is: “Who is the schismatic, the group making changes, or the one seeking to remain faithful to the traditional teachings of the Church?”
Pax Vobiscum ++Michael