One of the great frustrations of Catholic life in the the post-conciliar era has been the difficulty of unambiguous identification–identifying one’s religion or the religion of another with no more than a name. At one time the word “Catholic” identified a person as having a well fixed set of moral and doctrinal beliefs–two people who called themselves “Catholics” were, within the limits of their education, likely to hold very similar beliefs. Today the belief of “Catholics” ranges from those who have little fixed belief apart from liberal causes like same sex marriage and the ordination of women–to those who rigorously propound the (extra-doctrinal) teachings of the Church in an era that knew only feudal monarchy, and placed the Earth at the center of the Universe. The organizational unity of a Church closely united around the Pope is gone, with any number of free agents calling themselves “Catholics.” The same is true of those called “Old Roman Catholics.” While there are those of us who are simply trying to preserve the essentials of pre-Vatican II morality, doctrine, and worship, there are others equally as liberal as those at the far left of any who might call themselves “Catholics.” And there are any number of organizations using our name.
On the Internet it is easy to enter a name on a search engine, and with a few clicks of the mouse come away with an idea of just who is associated with whom, and what each one believes. That idea may be incorrect though, for accidentally or on purpose, one group may become confused with another. This paper will attempt to distinguish the Old Roman Catholic Church from those using the same or similar names. Rather than trying to enumerate those with whom we are, or are not, affiliated, we will point out the main areas of our belief which we feel are part of the essentials of being true Catholics.
With regard to the Pope, the following was written by Archbishop Humphreys in his July 24th, 1994, Our Lady of Good Hope (OLGH) Parish Bulletin:
PRAYERS FOR THE POPE: Someone recently showed Father a letter received from a (well meaning) winter visitor who had several items of criticism “for the bishop,” and some of the practices at OLGH. The one that stood out most was something like “the bishop orders the insertion of the name of John Paul II in the Canon of the Mass.” Indeed “he” does! “The bishop” — along with all those who are members of this church and who hold any official capacity in the Old Roman Catholic Church — unquestionably consider John Paul II to be the Pope, the Sovereign Pontiff, the Vicar of Christ on Earth, the Servant of the Servants of God (and all other titles traditionally belonging to the Holy Father). Nor are our prayers offered for the Holy Father out of an attitude of condescension — because “he needs them.” No, our prayers are offered for him precisely because he is the Holy Father. Unfortunately, there is a small number of Catholics “out there” who have been improperly influenced by some clerics of varying ranks who are self- appointed theologians canonists/biblical exegetes (is there no end to their “credentials”?), going so far as to consider the See of Peter to be “sede-vacante”– that is, a “vacant seat/see” because they have determined him to be an impostor for all kinds of reasons. Now, let us say at the outset that we are not required to personally like the occupant of that seat, Pope John Paul II; and we are fully justified in criticizing the many questionable policies/actions of the present Pope. However, no one has succeeded in convincing us that the present Pope is not the validly elected successor to Saint Peter. Insofar as we have been able to ascertain , the present Pontiff and his immediate predecessors have been elected in the manners prescribed by the immediately foregoing predecessor of each, the historic manner of electing the Vicar of Christ — and that makes their elections valid! Nor are we able to ascribe any heresies to the present occupant of the See of Peter — however “close” he really does seem to come some times; nor would that remove him from the papacy per se. Frankly, this is a matter beyond the purview of the present Archbishop/Primate of the Old Roman Catholic Church — and the head of every other body we know of. We accept the papacy of Pope John Paul II. Pity there are those “out there” who give truth to the line, “a little learning is a dangerous thing.”
With regard to the belief and morality taught by the Old Roman Catholic Church:
This Old Roman Catholic Communion is one in matters of Faith and Morals, de fide, with the Church established by Jesus Christ. It embraces all such doctrine of the Apostolic See of Rome, and it condemns all heresies and other errors condemned by that same See. It accepts as Catholics those who share this doctrine and conduct their affairs accordingly.[*]
This article, of course refers to authentic doctrinal and moral teachings given by the Holy See by virtue of Its magisterial teaching authority, and not to the vague or ambiguous statements made apart from that authority.
With specific regard to Jansenism, it should be evident from what is written above that the Old Roman Catholic Church agrees that the theoretical propositions of Jansenism condemned by Pope Innocent X are indeed erroneous. In practice, Jansenism refers to a system of penitential rigorism including long periods of abstinence from the Sacraments. Apart from a few locations in France it was never widely influential, and if it exists today at all, it is found only among those excessively rigorist traditionalist Catholics, who feel that “there just aren’t enough rules.”.
With regard to the Moral Law, it should again be evident that we consider the Church’s age old teaching on sins against the sixth and ninth Commandments to be fully in force today. No Church authority can condone extramarital sex, artificial contraception, or homosexual behavior.
With regard to our worship:
RITES AND CEREMONIES
SECTION 1. TEXTS; COLLECTIONS; EXTRACTS. — The texts used in the Mass, Liturgy, and administration of the Sacraments (Missale Romanum, Pontificale, Rituale, Brevarium) shall conform to the Typical Editions issued by the Holy See prior to 1964. Ritual collections and extracts may be used insofar as these agree with the appropriate typical edition.
SECTION 2. LANGUAGE. — The Mass, Sacraments, Office and other ceremonies may be conducted either in the Latin language or in the vernacular, as pastoral requirements dictate and according to local custom, but in all cases such linguistic renderings shall be uttered with precision. The use of the Latin Canon in Masses offered in the vernacular, as well as the use of Latin for the essential form of the administration of the Sacrament, may be determined as appropriate by local authority.[*]
This clearly excludes the use of the new Mass or any of the other new sacramental rites.
With regard to celebrations of Mass at meetings with clergy foreign to this organization:
SECTION 1. PRIESTS OF THIS COMMUNION. — No priest of this Communion may function in any church or other ecclesiastical establishment which in his judgment deviates from the principles of Catholic belief outlined in Article II of this Constitution.
SECTION 2. CLERICS NOT INCARDINATED, — No priest or cleric of any rank who is not incardinated within this Communion shall function in any church, chapel, or other ecclesiastical establishment of this Communion without the Ordinary’s approval.
SECTION 3. INTERCOMMUNION. — Members of this Communion may receive the Sacraments of Penance and the Holy Eucharist from priests whom they perceive to be Catholic as outlined in Article II of this Constitution.[*]
In practice we generally permit foreign clergy in valid orders to assist in choir, in choir dress, during sacred functions in our churches, and conduct ourselves in like manner in their churches.
The Saint Thomas Aquinas Seminary in Saint Petersburg is wholly owned by Our Lady of Good Hope Church, and operated by the See of Cær-Glow, the titular See of Archbishop Humphreys as head of the Old Roman Catholic Church. It is not affiliated with, financed, or governed by any other ecclesiastical organization. The program of instruction is based on Thomistic philosophy and theology. We observe the divine precept, going back to Abel the Just, that only men may be admitted to the priesthood, while by no means denying the dignity of women or their ability to lead holy lives.
No cleric is a member of this Communion unless he has been incardinated by our Archbishop or a bishop subject to him:
SECTION 1. GENERAL NORM.– All persons in Holy Orders desirous of being received into this Communion under the provisions of this Article shall be received consistent with the provisions of Article XI of this Constitution.
SECTION 2. PRIESTS; LESSER CLERICS. –Ordinaries alone have the right to incardinate priests and lesser clerics into their own jurisdictions, but not without prior scrutiny, as provided elsewhere in this Constitution. Each such priest and lesser cleric shall publicly proclaim theProfession of Faith and the Oath Against Modernism as a condition of incardination.[*]
NOTE: [*] Constitution of the Old Roman Catholic Church promulgated 8 September, 1976 and amended on 17 May, 1986.