TERM I: Independent Catholics – An Introduction

THE INDEPENDENT CATHOLICS

Almost all Independent Catholics are historically so because they belong in Churches which were founded in the primary life of Christianity, some as little as 60 or 70 years after the Ascension of Jesus Christ to the skies. Some even earlier, well in the lifetime of the original 12 Apostles, when during their travels, they founded new ecclesial communities. Other independent Catholics owe their existence as ecclesial communities following separation from the original churches they came from, and among these we find many today scattered across several churches, many are several hundreds of years old.

Others still, migrated to other parts of the West and most became recognised generally as the Western Catholicate, although the term not always applies correctly to some. Similarly, other communities to the East, Middle East, Far East and Asia, became independent through a similar process, or were always independent, in which case we may call them autocephalous, because they do not owe allegiance to any external regulatory Power, thus elect their own Patriarch, or Leader.

Bartholomew, 270th. Archbishop and Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople (1991 – …)

This is the case with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and the Patriarchate of All Russia, but there are several others, smaller in demographic representation or territorial coverage, but none the less influential and ancient.

To account for all the independent churches is no easy task. Indeed, of all three Abrahami Religions, Christianity is by far the most diverse and the largest, spanning across the World, represented by virtually thousands of Churches, due to a process of exponential growth and expansion, reminiscent of genealogical splitting across many generations.

Map illustrates some of the journeys undertaken by (St.) Paul of Tarsus.
In this example, the Map illustrates some of the journeys undertaken by (St.) Paul of Tarsus.

Over the last 2020 years, these many processes of separation and expansion resulted in a very diverse and uniquely dynamic global ecclesial community, where the Founder is the same – Jesus Christ – and therefore there is in practice One Church of Christ (whereby there is only one Head – Christ), but many diversely made up member churches, their diversity being not that different from the diverse role many organs perform in a Human Body, as these churches indeed form part of the One Mystical Body of Christ Jesus, meaning literally, His Church on Planet Earth.

Exploring Further…

Books

The Independent Catholics… The One Church of Christ is very diverse, well beyond the Roman Catholic Church.
A comprehensive list of titles regarding the Old Catholics and the Liberal Catholics
The Old Catholic Church offers an insight into historical shared ancestry of Old & Liberal Catholics.
The Old Catholic Church – A Viable Alternative discusses Catholicism, independent from Rome.

What is the relevance for the O.C.A.C.?

It simply would not be possible to understand the O.C.A.C. – OLD CATHOLIC APOSTOLIC CHURCH, without recognising the institutional framework within which it was borne, nurtured and encouraged to grow and progress to what it is today. Historically and in practice, it shares a rich Legacy, inherited from the Old Catholic and Liberal Catholic traditions. This is how the O.C.A.C. is seen as a Church, “Ancient in Tradition and Modern in Vision”.

The COUNCIL OF NICEA  (now called Iznik in modern day Turkey),  in the Year 325 of the Christian Era.
The COUNCIL OF NICEA (now called Iznik in modern day Turkey), in the Year 325 AD.

It is ancient, because it is an Apostolic Church, tracing back its Apostolic Succession to nine distinct lines of Succession, going back to the Early Church of the Apostles. It is also ancient because it professes the same fundamental tenets of the Christian and Catholic Faith, it prays the same Creed (the Credo) adopted by the 318 Church Fathers at the Council of Nicea in the year 325 AD and amended to the format it still keeps now in the 21st Century, at the Council of Constantinople in the year 381 AD. It shares and professes the same united tenet as integral part of the Creed:

“Et unam, sanctam, cathólicam et apostólicam Ecclésiam”
[And {we believe} in one, holy, catholic & apostolic Church]

Indeed, this is the same statement as professed during the Creed prayer, in the Roman Catholic Church, the Church of England, the Oriental Orthodox and Assyrian Churches, the Eastern Orthodox and Catholic Churches and a great many more Churches, including Protestant Churches. As stated by Pope St. John Paull II, in his 1995 Encyclical “UT UNUM SINT” (Op. Cit. Encyclical “Ut Unum Sint, 25th May 1995):

“The {Roman} Catholic Church (…) acknowledges that many elements of sanctification and of truth can be found outside Her visible structure. These elements however, as gifts properly belonging to the Church of Christ, possess an inner dynamism towards Catholic Unity. It follows that these separated Churches and Communities, have by no means been deprived of significance and value in the mystery of Salvation. For the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as a means of Salvation, which derive their efficacy from the very fullness of Grace and Truth entrusted to the Catholic Church {as a whole, the One Church of Christ}”

The Old Catholic Apostolic Church (O.C.A.C.) is perpetually nourished by this shared Legacy, a Living Legacy received from the Holy Spirit. It is ancient, Trinitarian and Sacramental. It participates fully in the Mystery of Salvation, and has not been deprived of significance – in the words of Pope John Paul II – because it derives its efficacy from the fullness of Grace and Truth of the Holy Spirit, entrusted to the Apostles convened in the Cenacle, on Pentecost Day, two thousand years ago.

Modern in Vision

But at the same time, the O.C.A.C. embraces a modern vision towards the future, because historically, it has been independent from Rome for centuries (in its various forms through time, as we have seen, as inherited from the Old and Liberal Catholics), and thus it falls outside Holy See Jurisdiction, giving the Old Catholic Apostolic Church (O.C.A.C.) wider scope. It is much less constrained by complex rules and enjoys a simpler Code of Canon Law, giving the O.C.A.C. ample manoeuvring space for more inclusiveness, to welcome and fraternally embrace Christians who found themselves orphaned – as it were – because their personal circumstances fall outwith Roman Catholic rules and excessive Legalism.

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