"Independent Catholicism"

What Old Roman Catholicism is expressly NOT is any form of “Independent Catholicism”. (The educated reader will no doubt be aware that the phrase “Independent Catholicism” is an “oxymoron”!) Yet this is a phrase used by many as a cover all for those who claim to be Catholics supposedly independent of any historic See.
It is true that many denominations calling themselves “Old Catholic” and not members or having recognition from the Utrecht Union of Old Catholic Churches, have no connection to any historic See – either in the derivation of their Orders or indeed, in the history of their foundation. However, Old Roman Catholicism understands itself to be a continuation of Western i.e. Roman Catholicism as maintained by the historic and original See of Utrecht, prior to the First Vatican Council. When Pope Pius IX instituted a new heirarchy in Holland and withdrew recognition by the Holy See of the already existing bishops, the original See of Utrecht became to be regarded and later known as the “Old Roman Catholic Church of the Netherlands”.
When other disaffected Roman Catholics on the continent formed a Conference and called themselves “Old Catholics” shortly after the First Vatican Council, they asked for episcopal oversight from the original See of Utrecht. Later this Conference formed itself into a Union, the “Utrecht Union of Old Catholic Churches” with representative national churches as members but giving the See of Utrecht primacy, acknowledging the seniority of her bishops. Over time however, this Union began in its Conferences to adopt un-Catholic theologies and practices. When Arnold Harris Mathew accepted consecration from the See of Utrecht in 1908, that See had yet to adopt the various changes both liturgical and doctrinal, that the Old Catholics were advocating.
By 1910 however, the See of Utrecht capitulated and adopted the new culture and thinking of the Union, thus ceasing to be a continuation of Old Roman Catholicism as it had originally maintained it, even adopting the nomenclature “Old Catholic”. It was at this point that Monsignor Mathew declared the independence from Utrecht of the regional missionary territory of Great Britain that had been his charge from the See of Utrecht to found and administer. Archbishop Mathew then proceeded to continue the faith and praxis of Western Catholicism as it had originally been maintained and continued by the Old Roman Catholic Church of Utrecht up to this point. Thus the churches who maintain this same faith and praxis as originally maintained by the See of Utrecht are known as “Old Roman Catholics.”
Arguably, and if there had been a movement within the Dutch Church to continue this orthodox faith and praxis in Holland, there might have been another claim to be a “continuation” of the See of Utrecht. As it was, the adherents of Old Roman Catholicism recognised that more important than a claim to be the continuation of any historic See, was the necessity of maintaining the true Catholic faith as it had been practised prior to the declaration of Papal Infallibility. As Archbishop Mathew had been mandated to uphold, defend and preserve this faith at his consecration, and having been duly appointed and given jurisdictional authority by the See of Utrecht, to found, serve and administer a church in Great Britain to this end, no further authority was required for him to pursue his charge. As providence would have it and despite the efforts of many detractors during his lifetime, Msgr Mathew was able to preserve the historic (Old) Roman Catholic faith as it had been received in the Western Catholicate, and through the efforts of successive Old Roman Catholic bishops carefully consecrated in and preserving his Apostolic Succession and teaching, the Old Roman Catholic faith has continued to this present day.
Old Roman Catholicism is no more “independent” than any Eastern Orthodox Church or Patriarchate maintaining that deposit of “the faith once delivered to the saints” [Jude 1:3]. As for the charge of being unrelated to an historic See, Old Roman Catholics are in exactly the same position as are English Roman Catholics seperated from the originally Catholic metropolitan See of Canterbury. We are seperated only by virtue of history and our adherence to the original practice of the Catholic Faith from either the See of Utrecht or indeed, the Holy See. In both cases, it was not “us” who changed, but the historic Sees from whom we are descended who altered their practice of the Catholic Faith from what they in turn had received; the Holy See by promulgating Papal Infallibility and the See of Utrecht by adopting Protestant beliefs and practices.

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