Monseñor +Omar Rojas G. Arquidiócesis de Bogotá Colombia y Suramerica
Old Roman Catholicism is not a sect or schism as some of its self-constituted enemies may claim; it is an honored and historic part of the Catholic and Apostolic Church founded by Jesus Christ. This Church emerged into public work on the first Pentecost in Jerusalem and is built upon the apostolic labors and sufferings of the glorious Apostles and Martyrs. Despite formidable opposition, the Church spread rapidly in the first century and functioned under His Holiness the Pope and four autonomous Patriarchates; in the East at Jerusalem, Antioch and Alexandria, and in the West at Rome whence it reached out to the far-flung confines of the whole Empire.
Second century Old Roman Catholicism united and rightly organized, on a conciliar basis of ecumenical unity, the primitive and struggling churches of the post-Apostolic era. The Church successfully repelled the intrusions of schismatic irregulars and laid the conciliar and other foundations for that world structure of ecclesiastical order and organization on which grew and unfolded the Great Church of the Patristic age.
In 312A.D. When the Emperor Constantine became a Christian and persecution ceased, the Church was able to work openly and freely, and because of the prominence of Rome at the time as the great city of the West, the Bishop of Rome acquired great prestige and became leader of the Western Church. The union of Church and State which followed Constantine’s conversion led to many changes within the Church. Bishops were not always elected by the faithful over whom they were to exercise jurisdiction, and the Archiepiscopal and Patriarchal Sees were too often filled by favorites of ruling secular Princes, by valid choice of area councils of the Church. This basic conciliar order and function, starting in the fourth century, still continues in the world. Conflict over ecclesiastical order and regularity was later to have far-reaching effects in the Church in the Netherlands.
In the ecumenical era, the five Patriarchal Sees of Rome, Antioch, Constantinople, Alexandria and Jerusalem were regarded as co-ordinate, and of equal status in the Church, but the Roman Patriarch, because of the historic position of that city, in the development of Christianity, was accorded the further title of ‘first among equals’ and a precedence of dignity. Gradually, however, the Roman Curia began encroachments upon the rights and privileges of the Eastern and other national and autonomous Churches. There was accepted this by those who adhered to the Old Roman Catholic position of a conciliar basis of Christian unity. These defenders of the Apostolic order and regularity asserted their right to continue to choose their own bishops and to rule their local affairs under universally accepted Canons which could be changed only by decision of a General Council of the whole Church. The Council of Constance (1414-1418 A.D.) like other Councils, defended the rights of autonomous national Churches and affirmed that it had ? its authority immediately from Christ; and that all men, of every rank and condition, including the Pope himself, (was) bound to obey it in matters concerning the Faith, the abolition of the schism, and the reformation of the Church of God in its head and it’s members?
The Old Roman Catholic Church Latin Rite, while affirming its historic continuity with the Apostolic Church of the first century, and while possessing a line of Holy Orders held in common with the Undivided Church of earlier centuries, traces its Apostolic Succession in more recent years through the ancient See of Utrecht in Holland. St. Willibrord, the Apostle of the Netherlands, was consecrated to the Episcopate by Pope Sergius I, in 696 A.D. at Rome. Upon his return to the Netherlands, he founded his See at Utrecht. One of his successors in that See was the great St. Boniface, the Apostle of Germany. The Church of Utrecht also provided a worthy occupant for the Papal See in 1552 in the person of Pope Hadrian VI, while two of the most able exponents of the religious life, Geert Groote who founded the Brothers of Common Life, and Thomas a Kempis who is credited with writing the Imitation of Christ, were from the Dutch Church.
For reasons which were for the most part political, the Jesuits began to invade the jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Utrecht in 1592, and although they were more than once rebuked therefore by the Pope and ordered to submit themselves to the authority of the Archbishop, .
We retaining in every detail her worship and Catholic doctrine as,the OLD Roman Catholic Church of Holland. The name is significant as witnessing her fidelity to that “Old” Catholicism universally accepted of the “New” Catholicism which involved innovations of doctrine and discipline so same from the Apostolic practise and tradition. Old Roman Catholicism is simply the the same Mystical Body of Christ as in the first Christian centuries. There have been no essential changes.We are a monument of orthodoxy and respect for the Holy See. In a declaration made by Archbishop Van Os, and his two suffragans, to the Papal Nuncio who visited Holland in 1823, they said: “We accept without any exception whatever, all the Articles of the Holy Catholic Faith, We will never hold nor teach, now or afterwards, any other opinions than those that have been decreed, determined and published by our Mother, Holy Church… We reject and condemn everything opposed to them, especially all heresies, without any exception, which the Church has rejected and condemned… We have never made common cause with those who have broken the bond of unity.”
Thus the Old Roman Catholic Church received and still preserves not only the true Apostolic succession, but the doctrines and rites of the Church of Christ and the Apostles as well. This Church is called OLD because while adhering faithfully to the doctrine and discipline of the Church of Apostolic times. She is called ROMAN because the line of her Apostolic succession St. Willibrord (Clemens) 695 -739 was held in common with the Roman Catholic Church and also because she uses the Roman Rite without addition or change, employing the Pontificale, Missale and Rituale Romanum with great care and exactness as to matter, form and intention in the administration of the seven Sacraments. The Church is CATHOLIC because she is not confined to any one nation or place or time, but ministers to all men, in all places, for all time, teaching the same Faith once delivered by her Founder, Jesus Christ, to the Apostles. The honest inquirer must be cautioned not to confuse the Old Roman Catholic Church Latin Rite Uniate with those groups calling themselves “Old Catholic.” Much which, in this age, calls itself “Old Catholic” represents full compromise with Roman Catholic Church.Old Roman Catholicism has no affiliation with such groups as the Polish National Catholic Church, or the Utrecht Union of Churches, the Liberal Catholic Church, the Old Catholic Churches of the Continent or any of the various independent groups which abound in the United States and elsewhere. The heterodoxy of these groups makes union with them impossible.
We accepted the dogma of Papal Infallibility. The Old Roman Catholic Church Latin Rite was prevailed upon to provide these “Old Catholics” with a bishop in 1889, an amalgamation took place between the Church of Roman Church and the “Old Catholics”. Though Utrecht was eventually to abandon Traditional Roman Catholicism, the Church was not to perish. our Church, nor had she yet departed in any way from Catholic traditions and practise. By the beginning , however, the heterodox influence of the “Old Catholics Latin Rite” had proved too much for Roman Catholic Church of Utrecht, and had overwhelmed her, and so great and far-reaching were the changes which she was prevailed upon to make in her formularies and doctrinal position, we in order to preserve its orthodoxy intact. Utrecht is no longer Old Roman Catholic but simply Roman“ Catholic.” Thus it comes about that the ancient and glorious Church of St. Willibrord and St. Boniface has its continuation and perpetuation through the present day Old Roman Catholic Church Latin Rite Uniate which is compelled, in defence of its orthodoxy, to refuse to hold union with either Utrecht or the Continental “Old Catholics.”
We still considered the of safeguarding the succession. We still in the retention of ancient doctrines, formularies and praxis, yet from Roman Catholicism by that same retention of the Catholic Faith as it had “always been believed, everywhere and by all” (St Vincent Lerins) without the additional dogmas decreed by Rome. The Old Roman Catholicism Uniate was as a continuation of the true Catholic Faith that had always existed in the mutual recognition and maintenance of the ancient Faith of the Church.
Renewed the acceptance of the canons and decrees of the Council of Trent, all with the aim of creating a pro-Uniate Rite with Rome.
Realising the liberalising trend in Roman Catholicism that the reign of John XXIII seemed to encourage, some Old Roman Catholics, despite their professed acceptance of the Roman dogmas particularly concerning Infallibility, give us hope of our vision of a Uniate Rite in communion with Rome. Thus it is that some Old Roman Catholics Latin Rite Uniate believe in the Papal dogmas and some hold them as doctrine. What is important? That in either case, that which is recognisably Catholic Tradition is held firm and this is most often demonstrated by the adherence to the Tridentine Rite, and Latin that all Canonical Old Roman Catholics Uniate maintain.
The Roman Catholic Church has repeatedly affirmed its recognition of the validity of the Orders and Sacraments of the Old Roman Catholic Church Latin Rite Uniate throughout the world. See Addis and Arnold’s Roman Catholic Dictionary, which says of this Church: “They have retained valid Orders… We have been unable to discover any trace of heresy in these books,” (i.e. Those officially ordered for use in the Old Roman Catholic Church Latin Rite Uniate). A Catholic Dictionary, by Donald Attwater, bearing the imprimatur of Cardinal Hayes of New York, states of the Old Roman Catholic Church Latin Rite Uniate: “Their orders and sacraments are valid.” A more recent statement concerning the Old Roman Catholic Church Uniate, appears in the work by Father Konrad Algermissen, Christian Denominations, published in 1948 and bearing the imprimatur of John Cardinal Glennon of St. Louis: “The Old Roman Catholic Church Latin Rite Uniate (has) received valid episcopal consecration…”(p. 363). In 1928, The Far East magazine, published by the St. Columban Fathers of St. Columban’s, Nebraska, answered an enquiry concerning the validity of orders conferred in the Old Roman Catholic Church Latin Rite.
Old Roman Catholic Church Latin Rite Canonical has no affiliation with such groups as the Polish National Catholic Church, Anglican Church, or the Utrecht Union of Churches, the Liberal Catholic Church, the Old Catholic Churches of the Continent or any of the various independent groups which abound in the United States and elsewhere. The heterodoxy of these groups makes union with them impossible.
Old Roman Catholicism is simply the continuation of the doctrines of the Catholic Faith as they had been received from Apostolic times without addition or subraction and without developed dogma unproven by Scripture or Tradition.
It is important perhaps, in order to fully appreciate the Old Roman Catholic Latin Rite Uniate position to consider the difference between:
“Doctrine and Dogma”
A “dogma” is something which one must believe in order to be a “real” Catholic. A “doctrine”, on the other hand, is simply a teaching, an explanation, an explication. One of the purposes of a doctrine is to make a dogma comprehensible, more readily understood. Though a Catholic must believe a dogma, he may believe any given doctrine to be a good teaching tool, a clear way of relating to dogma. Then again, he may not. His rejection of a given doctrine does not abrogate his Catholicity, so long as he remains dogmatically sound.
The credal affirmation that Jesus Christ is the “only begotten Son of the Father”, coupled with the evangelical affirmation of the mystery of the “virgin birth”, constitute dogmatic belief. To some, this dogma implied the “Immaculate Conception” of Mary. A
Ultimately, one Pope of Rome, Blessed Pius IX took it upon himself to make this doctrine a dogma i.e. from a teaching to something necessary of belief, the dogma of the “Immaculate Conception” followed almost a hundred years later similarly by the “Assumption of Our Lady”, dogmatised in 1950 by Pius XII. Thus we come to that other example of dogmatisation, Papal Infallibility declared by Pius IX in 1870 and the First Vatican Council. Here it is important to note, that rather than having been a Dogma and doctrine, i.e. a common teaching of the Church prior to it’s dogmatization, the concept of Papal Infallibilty had been more a matter of attitude towards discipline regarding government in the Church, rather than a matter of pious belief.
It is of course, the definition of Petrine Ministry contained in the Vatican I document “Pastor Aeternus” that justifies the existence of the Old Roman Catholic tradition.
Convinced long before the Vatican Council  that the doctrines of papal infallibility and the universality of the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Rome over the Church were absolutely accepted by us and is the thrut, Old Roman Catholics did allow that the simple fact of the dogmatization of these two dogma by the Pope and the majority of the Council was sufficient to transform them into truths – still less, divine truths; and after, as before, the 18th of July 1870, we accepted these two dogmas. It is necessary to recall the proofs established by Old Roman Catholics of these dogmas – a clearly shown up by the Scriptures, by universal tradition, by the history of the Ecumenical Councils, and by several other undoubted facts. Roman Catholic theologians have seriously recognized of these proofs.
Old Roman Catholics Latin Rite Canonical, therefore, by accepted this dogmas, remained faithful to the Catholicism of the time before the Vatican Council and Second Vatican Council. We leave the Catholic Church to form a new Church, we remained in the Catholic Church of which we had always formed a part; and we continue to set the ‘universal’ unvarying, and unanimous testimony of the Church in accordance to Roman doctrines and dogmas.
This attitude and the theological works, which we had had to produce to prove the truth of our cause, have led us to discover a number of truth made by Roman theologians and transformed into dogmas in the course of the ages.
This discovery of the truth of the Roman papacy from the 9th century to the present day, and in all the individual Churches under the jurisdiction of Rome, has given fresh impetus and considerable importance to the Old Roman Catholic Uniate movement. It is a complete history of Roman Theology, remade in accordance with authentic sources and according to the thousands of Roman foundations pointed out recently by the most eminent theologians of the Churches, by even Roman theologians.
We may say that these new publications – this veritable resurrection of ancient documents believed to be show to the world – have created a new situation and started a thorough reformation of so-called Catholic theology.
After 1870, a truly General Council was no longer considered a remote possibility. The Old Roman Catholic Church Uniate [as it was now known] then resolved to bring about many desired reforms within its own organization. Until then it had kept together to the traditional laws and liturgical customs of the Roman Church.
The Old Roman Catholic Church Latin Rite Uniate may be reduced to three:
1] theological acceptance;
2] ecclesiastical acceptence;
3] union of the Christian Churches.
This acceptence was undertaken by us; is it conducted by each theologian according to Roman Catholic Theologic opinions on each of the research and serious questions. A strict method governs all their actions, a method, which results especially in distinguishing dogma from theology. Dogma, which is the word of Christ as it is recorded in the Gospels, from theology, which is the explanation given by the apostles and scholars to secure the acceptance and practice of the precepts of Jesus Christ.
Christ, being ‘the way, the truth, and the life’, is the only Scholar, the only Master; He has declared it Himself to His disciples. It is therefore, He alone who, as the only Mediator and Saviour, possesses the words of eternal life, it is He alone who is the light of the world, and it is He alone who has the right to impose His doctrines, decrees, and dogmas on His disciples.
On the other hand, every disciple is entitled and even duty bound to try to understand the dogmas of Christ, to see their depth and beauty, and to derive profit from them for the sanctification of his soul. Dogma is the divine truth which is taught by Christ; theology is the explanation given by man – an explanation more or less luminous, which each one may judge according to the light of his reason, conscience, and knowledge: “Prove all things, hold fast that which is good” [1 Th. 5:21].
This distinction between dogma and theology is made by the application of the Catholic test to every disputed point. The test is the one so well epitomized by Vincent of Lerins: “What has been believed everywhere, always, and by all the Christian Churches is Catholic” [Commonitory, ii..6]. The Catholic faith is the universal, unvarying, and unanimous faith, because, even humanly speaking, all the Christian Churches cannot be making a mistake when they attest, as a fact, they have always believed or not believed, from their very foundation, in the doctrine which the apostle-founders of the universal Church has taught them.
It is not a question of settling an important discussion, but of making a simple statement of fact. As to the theological explanations, which may be given of the established doctrine, they depend, like all the explanations in this world, on reason, science, history, and the knowledge which humanity has at its disposal.
Thus faith and liberty are reconciled. The faith which depends not on any caprice or any school, but solely on the historical and objective testimony of the Churches; and liberty of criticism or of reason, which conscientiously speaking, belongs to the religious truths transmitted to all the Churches, to the best of the religious interests of each Church. Thus the faith is a depository. A depository of all the precepts confided by Jesus Christ to His disciples, a depository which does not belong exclusively to any one person, but to everybody, to the preservation of which all faithful Churches carefully attend, so that none of it may be suppressed, and also that no foreign doctrine may be surreptitiously introduced into it [depositum custodi]. And theology is a science which, like other sciences, belong to reason, to history, to criticism, and which also obeys fixed rules.
It is therefore neither a ishop nor a priest nor a scholar that is entrusted with the preservation of dogma, but all bishops, all priests, all scholars – in a word, all the faithful members of the Church. Christ being the only Master of His Church, there is no other rule than His; it is sufficient to guard His doctrine and precepts. The Church was not instituted to found a religion other than that of Christ, but merely to preserve it and spread it throughout the world [“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations”]. The Church is therefore a guardian of the teachings and precepts of Jesus Christ; its title, the ‘teaching Church’, means not that it has the right to teach any doctrines that it pleases, but that it is its duty to preach openly what Christ taught His disciples in secret.
Real theological reform should consist in communicating to all men the teachings of Jesus Christ, as they are collected in the Scriptures and recorded in the universal tradition of the Church – a tradition, which also belongs to all the members of the Church. It is the duty of pastors and scholars to explain them, and it is the duty of each member to study the explanation, which appear to them wisest and most useful. The good sense and the Christian spirit that prevail in the Church are sufficient to ensure the final triumph of truth over error; “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them”.
Since the Church is not a chair to which might be addressed all questions that arise in the minds of the inquisitive and the imaginative, it is not obliged to solve them or to prevent men from discussing among themselves matters which neither God nor Christ has thought fit to make clear. It is the work of scholars to elucidate the mysteries of science; the apostles have simply to preach the truths, which Christ thought sufficient for the edification and sanctification of humanity.
The fruitfulness of the faith does not consist in discovering new dogmas or in transforming the Church into a revealer, charged with completing the revelation made by Christ. The faith is fruitful, it increases, it grows by the closeness of its adherence to the word of Christ, and not by the proclamation of unknown dogmas. It is Christ alone who is the religious light and the religious life of the world – the Church must only be His humble servant.
This reform should consist in reminding the Church what Christ wished it to be. Christ established a hierarchy for the service of the faithful. That hierarchy, therefore, ought to serve, and not to rule. Its offices are a ministry, and not an authority. There is no imperium in the Church of Christ; “neither as lording it over the charge allotted to you”; and the obedience of the disciples must be reasonable, and not servile.
If any member wanted to be first, he had to be the first to serve his brothers, and to give them orders – to feed the flock, i.e. to lead it into good pastures. The main duties of pastors are to arouse the conscience of the faithful, to enlighten it, to act as if each of them were Christ. Christ took a firm stand against the Pharisees of His day, but He did not charge any of His disciples to rebuke his brothers, still less to excommunicate them or curse them.
The mission of the Church also is essentially religious and spiritual. Christ did give it any worldly and temporal authority; He chose apostles and disciples only to lay the most strict duties on them, and thus to make examples of them for the flock. The early bishops or superintendents were only the overseers, and not master: “for one is your Master” [Matthew 23.8].
The primitive Church, then, was simply a gathering or reunion in which the first and only Chief was, in the eyes of the faithful, Christ himself. Pastors and people simply formed a school, a body and soul. This was the parish, and, if a dispute arose between any of the members, it was ‘the Church’ that restored peace: “Die Ecclesiae”.
Gradually bonds of brotherhood and charity were formed between the various local churches, and in this way synods came into being – special and very limited synods, before the idea of general councils were heard of. It is not only the idea of the true bishops, therefore, that has to be restored, but also that of the synod and the council.
Because the so-called ecumenical council was believed to be the representation of the whole Church, and rights were assigned to it, which the Church itself hardly possessed. Under the pretext that the council was, as it were, the supreme jurisdiction of the Church, this jurisdiction was made a universal and absolute jurisdiction to which was soon joined the privilege of infallibility. The practical consequences resulting from this union and the numerous dialogues arising from them to the progress of the Church are well known.
Old Roman Catholics Uniate are engaged in restoring the true conceptions of our Pastor the Pope of Rome, bishop, synod, council, ecclesiastical authority, and even infallibility according to ancient traditions. The constitution of the Church is monarchical only because the Pope is its only monarch. But, in as much as it is a society composed of men, the Church has been called from its very beginning a simple ‘church’ and it has been regarded in its universality, since the time when the question of universality arose, as a Christian ‘family’. It would give a idea of the early bishops to represent their actions as an aristocratic government; the words of St. Peter himself are accepted to that.
The Episcopal See of Rome was long in attaining a certain priority. Rome being the capital of the empire; but it was merely a priority of honour, and of jurisdiction. Christ did appoint a master among His disciples. When He told Peter especially to feed His lambs and sheep, it was to restore to him the function of which he had proved unworthy, and of which he had been deprived in denying Christ. As Peter repented, he deserved to be reinstated, and he was, but it is a mistake to transform this reinstatement as a the first Pope into exaltation above all the other apostles. Rome accomplished the alteration of the constitution of the Church by means of correct interpretations of texts; the policy and the leadership of the bishops of Rome did the rest.
Such is the spirit in which Old Roman Catholics have set about restoring the true conception of the Church and realizing the ecclesiastical reform claimed for such a long time ‘in capite et in membris’.
Union of the Christian Churches
This reform of the Church would have been very perfect if it had from the very beginning implied the re-establishment of union among the separate Churches. It has been rightly said that ‘it is as difficult to see Christ behind the Church as to see the sun behind the darkness of night’. From the very start of our work we have made it one of our aims to study means of reviving this union. Our efforts during our international congresses, and our writings on this question in Revue internationale de theologie [1893 – 1910], are well known; great reconcilations have been effected among all the Churches that have taken part in these, and, if the union has not yet been sanctioned, it is because there are still administrative obstacles to be overcome, and especially prejudices of a hierarchical kind to be put down – a matter of time, which more favourable social circumstances will undoubtedly help to bring to a successful issue.
It is already apparent to all eyes that the ‘union’ aimed at is on the ‘unity’ which many had at first imaged. That the latter is not necessary; and that, moreover, it is impossible, considering the needs of various kinds which are prevalent among the nations and which form part of human nature itself. Matter-of-fact men will return to the real nature of spiritual union and the ‘bond of peace’ [Eph. 4:3], which will be sufficient to form real Christian brotherhood throughout the world.
A better understanding has already been reached as to the respects in which the Christian Churches ought to be one, and those in which they ought to remain distinct and all. When all are one in loving one another, in working together for the social well-being, in banishing from their theology every trace of anthropomorphism and politics, in becoming more spiritually-minded after the pattern of Christ, and in establishing the reign of God in every individual conscience, then the union in question will be very near being declared.