Our denomination conforms to that of the undivided Catholic Church of the first millennium of its existence. It is expressed in the ancient Symbol of Faith of the Nicene Creed, promulgated by the Council of Nicaea in AD.325 and enlarged by the Council of Constantinople in AD.381.
The source of the Catholic Faith expressed in the Nicene Creed is Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. The Old Catholic Church believes that Sacred Scripture (the Bible), which comprises the Old Testament (including the deuterocanonical/apocryphal books) and the New Testament, contains God’s revelation to us, particularly that concerning His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and that in matters essential to our salvation it is inerrant.
The Old Catholic Church does not consider the Bible to be a source of information concerning science or any other human discipline. Its purpose is to teach us about God and about His Son Jesus Christ. It does that within the cultural environment of its time and place, hence the need for careful study to understand its message correctly.
Sacred Scripture itself is part of Sacred Tradition, that process by which God’s revelation is passed on to us from the Apostles, and unto the Church Fathers and to the unbroken succession of Bishops through the centuries.
This handing on occurs through the prayers and liturgy of the Church, through preaching, teaching, catechesis, devotions, doctrines, and the Bible itself. Church Tradition is a collection of orthodox practices and beliefs, from the earliest of days, which makes Sacred Tradition an inerrant source of God’s revelation in matters essential to our faith and our Christian life. A very important part of Sacred Tradition is the teaching of the Ecumenical Councils. The Old Catholic Church believes that the doctrinal definitions of the first seven Ecumenical Councils, that is those which took place within the undivided Catholic Church, were guided by the Holy Spirit and it accepts them as part of its faith. Those seven Ecumenical Councils are the Councils of Nicaea in 325AD, Constantinople in 381AD, Ephesus in 431AD, Chalcedon in 451AD, Constantinople II in 533AD, Constantinople III in 680AD, and Nicaea II in 787AD.
These Councils were concerned essentially with defining the true Catholic faith, in the Holy Trinity and in Jesus Christ the Son of God made man: God is triune, a single God in three Persons, Whom the Saviour Himself named as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ is the Son of God, uniting in His single Person both the divine and the human natures.
Equally important in Sacred Tradition are the seven Sacraments. The Old Catholic Church believes that these Sacraments, which are Baptism and Eucharist, both of which are particularly attested to in Sacred Scripture; and Confirmation (or Chrismation), Penance (or Reconciliation), Matrimony, Holy Orders and Unction (or Anointing of the Sick and dying), are effective signs of the Lord’s continuing presence and action within His Church and efficacious channels of his Grace. Among the Sacraments, the Holy Eucharist holds prominence of place. The Old Catholic Church believes that the Lord Jesus Christ is really and truly present, in His humanity and in His Divinity, in the species of bread and wine that have been consecrated in the Eucharistic Liturgy of the Holy Mass, and that in Holy Communion we receive Him into ourselves to nourish the very life of the soul: ‘Those who eat My Flesh and drink My Blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day’ , (John 6:54).
In the Lord Jesus’ plan for his Church, the Apostles and the Bishops hold a special place. The Old Catholic Church believes that the Bishops, duly consecrated in the unbroken line of Apostolic Succession, which the Old Catholic Church possesses, are the successors of the Apostles and that they are responsible, as were the Apostles, for the ministry of service to the Church, consisting of preaching and teaching, of sanctifying and of governing, but most of all, for the safeguarding and the handing-on intact, of the Deposit of Faith and Sacred Tradition of the Church under the divine command. Under the leadership and direction of the College Bishops headed by the Archbishop Primate, Priests and Deacons, empowered by the Sacrament of Holy Orders, and with the assistance and prayers of the Religious Congregations, minister to all those who approach The Old Catholic Church for Sacramental ministry.
THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY AND THE SAINTS
Mary, the Mother of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Mother of God, the Mother of the Church and the Queen of Heaven and earth, holds a special place in the faith, the lives and the liturgy of The Old Catholic Church . The doctrines (teachings) of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption of Our Blessed Lady into Heaven, are held by The Old Catholic Church in accord with Sacred Tradition, the Church Fathers and the Sacred Liturgy from the earliest of times; and in oneness with the Orthodox Church of the East and the Latin Church in the West. The Saints also are honored in a special way within the Liturgy and in the Church’s Calendar. Both of these beliefs and devotions form part of the reason for the historical split with the Union of Utrecht and our specific denomination of Old Catholic Churches.
The Old Catholic Church believes in the Communion of Saints, and the fellowship of the whole Church in Glory, the Church Militant and the Church Suffering. It holds to the honoring of Saints, and the prayers for their intercession for both the Church Militant and Suffering.
The Old Catholic Church believes the doctrine of the purgation of certain souls after death prior to entry into the Heavenly Kingdom; and the doctrine of the souls of the blessed receiving the Beatific Vision immediately after death.
THE POSITION OF THE POPE AND THE INFALLIBILITY OF THE CHURCH
Another historical reason for the Old Catholic Church declaring independence from the Union of Utrecht in 1910, was the continued acknowledgement of the Old Catholic Church that the Pope, the Bishop of Rome, remains the Patriarch of the West, and is considered, and honored as, Primus inter Pares; as such he always continued (and continues) to be remembered, and prayed for, within the Canon of the Mass.
Regarding the doctrines and dogmas of Infallibility, The Old Catholic Church holds that inerrancy of dogma and doctrine rests with:
1. Sacred Scripture (actual historical texts, and/or faithful and accurate translations)
2. Sacred Tradition (in the spirit of the teachings of St. John Chrysostom’s wisdom: ‘Is it Tradition? Ask no more’)
3. The declarations/dogmas of a validly held General Ecumenical Council of the whole Catholic Church.
4. To a substantial degree, with the ancient Augustine doctrine of Lex Orandi Lex Credendi with regard to the most Ancient of Sacred Liturgies which form part of the above mentioned Sacred Tradition.
5. The Patriarchs of the West (Rome) and East (Constantinople): should they declare Ex Cathedra upon faith and morals, speaking as the mouthpiece and arbiter of the whole Catholic Church, having consulted fully with the Bishops of the whole Church, and when what is declared upon is already firmly established (explicitly or implicitly) within Sacred Scripture and/or Sacred Tradition, and does not contradict, or is confirmed (either explicitly or implicitly) by, Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition.
6. The Filioque position: The Old Catholic Church maintains, as does the whole Eastern Orthodox Catholic Church, the solid and unquestioning beliefs as set out in the Creed of Nicaea/Constantinople of 381. We maintain that, whilst theological debate may continue regarding the Filioque clause, no Church and no Bishop or Bishops, nor successive Synods or Councils may change, alter, add to, or take away from, a Creed once it is proclaimed by a legitimate General Ecumenical Council, and that such Sacred Tradition is held as absolute by The Old Catholic Church.
THE SEVEN SACRAMENTS OF THE CHURCH AND DIVINE LITURGY
The authorized Eucharistic liturgies used in TOCC are:
In the administration of the Sacraments The Old Catholic Church uses exclusively the rites authorized, and of universal acceptance, as The Old Catholic Missal also known as the Mathew Rite, that is, Archbishop Arnold Mathew’s 1909 English translation of the Tridentine Rite; a Rite which goes as far back as the early 4th Century, and which traces its history to the ancient Eastern Rites of Ss. Basil, Gregory the Great and John Chrysostom; and which is rightly termed The Immemorial Mass of Ages, and the Liturgy used by the Latin Church, contained in the liturgical works known, and the Rituale Romanum, the Missale Romanum and the Pontificale Romanum. TOCC permits the use of accurate translations of these works, where the vernacular is preferred and held to be desirable.
The Seven Sacraments:
TOCC recognizes and affirms the seven Mysteries or Sacraments of the Church: Baptism, Chrismation (Confirmation), Communion (the Holy Eucharist), Holy Orders, Penance, Anointing of the sick (Holy Unction of the sick and Extreme Unction of the dying) and Marriage.
This central mystery of the Church, Holy Mass, is seen as being performed by the Prayer of the Church, and through: the Offering, the Invocation of the Holy Spirit (epiclesis) and the Words of Consecration. An ultimate mystery and miracle occurs in the bread and wine which produces sacramental change, thus leaving upon the altar, the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, verily and indeed. This mystery, this miracle, is accepted without the necessity to produce explanations or terms, rather, we follow the wisdom of St. John Damascene (c. 675 - 749): ‘It is truly that Body, united with the Godhead, which had its origin from the Holy Virgin; not as though that Body which Ascended came down from Heaven, but because the bread and wine themselves are changed into the Body and Blood of God. But if thou seekest after the manner how this is, let it suffice thee to be told that it is by the Holy Spirit; in like manner as, by the same Holy Spirit, the Lord formed flesh to Himself, and in Himself, from the Mother of God; nor know I aught more than this, that the Word of God is true, powerful, and almighty, but its manner of operation unsearchable’.
TOCC recognizes three sacred major Orders: the Diaconate, the Priesthood, and the Episcopate (Bishop), as well as the minor orders of the Lectorate and the Subdiaconate. All ordinations are performed by a Bishop and always during the Eucharistic liturgy. The consecration of a Bishop requires the participation of at least two or three other Bishops.
The Sacrament of Penance in the early Church was a solemn and public act of reconciliation, through which an excommunicated sinner was readmitted into Church membership. It has evolved into a private act of confession and absolution through which every Christian's membership in the Church is periodically renewed. This Sacrament may also be performed as General Absolution to a group following a General Confession (eg. the Confiteor), as within the Mathew Rite of Holy Mass.
Anointing of the Sick:
Anointing of the Sick is a biblical form of healing by prayer and anointing with Holy Oil, and traces its history back to the earliest days of the Church.
Marriage is celebrated through a rite performed (usually within the Mass) with great solemnity, and signifies an eternal, sacramental union between a man and a woman. TOCC theology of marriage insists on its sacramental eternity rather than its legal indissolubility. Thus, second marriages, in certain cases, are celebrated through a more subdued and penitential rite. Remarriage after divorce is tolerated on the basis of the possibility that the Sacrament of Marriage was not originally received with the consciousness and responsibility that would have made it fully effective; accordingly, re-marriage can be a second chance and is granted as part of the Church’s mercy. In all cases of second marriage, there is a specific recognition of, and lamentation for, the ending of the first marriage. The Order of the Second or Third Marriage is somewhat different than that celebrated as a first marriage and it bears a penitential character. Second or third marriages are performed by economy, that is, out of concern for the spiritual wellbeing of the parties involved and as an exception to the rule rather than the norm. Divorced and re-married men may still be considered for Holy Orders at the discretion of the Sacred College of Bishops.
THE SACRED COLLEGE OF BISHOPS AND GOVERNANCE
TOCC is governed by Its Synod College of Bishops presided by the Archbishop Primate, and, with the assistance of their various advisors, maintain an open and transparent means of governing the Church.
DISCIPLINES WITHIN THE PRIESTHOOD
TOCC does not impose the discipline of Priestly Celibacy upon Its clergy, and both Priests and Bishops are at liberty to marry before Ordination or remain celibate if they choose to do so. However, the already-married may voluntarily choose to practice continence after Ordination. All Deacons, Priests and Bishops, and Religious are bound by a strict Code of Conduct which is set within the Church’s Cannons.
THE ROLE OF WOMEN IN THE CHURCH
TOCC maintains the ancient beliefs and Sacred Tradition of the Church for an all-male clergy. In the Celebration of Holy Mass Christ is the real Priest and Sacrifice, but He makes His Sacrifice through the visible, that is, the Ordained human Priest. In his Priesthood, the human Priest embodies no other Priesthood than the Priesthood of Christ Himself; he executes Christ's invisible Priesthood in a visible manner, being completely and fully dependent on the High Priest, whose instrument and surrogate he is. The priesthood is not viewed by TOCC as ‘right’ or a ‘privilege’; it does not see the clergy as a caste apart from the People of God. It does not understand Ordination to the Priesthood as a matter of justice, equality, political correctness, or human rights. No one, not even males, have the ‘right’ to Ordination, and no one ‘chooses’ Ordination; we believe that it is God Who does the choosing, even if His Will in this instance seems completely contrary with the understanding of the world, the culture or the era. The clergy do not stand above the People of God, rather, they stand in their midst, just as Christ stands in the midst of His People. Those who carry out essential ministries without being ordained, either as Religious or as lay-folk, also stand in the midst of God’s People, for the ministries they pursue in the Name of Our Lord also share in His work.
Submitted by Archbishop Arnold Harris Mathew
1. The Way of Salvation. Eternal Salvation is promised to mankind only through the merits of our Savior Jesus Christ, and upon condition of obedience to the teaching of the Gospel, which requires Faith, Hope, and Charity, and the due observance of the ordinances of the Orthodox and Catholic religion.
2. Faith, Hope and Charity. Faith is a virtue infused by God, whereby man accepts, and believes without doubting, whatever God has revealed in the Church concerning true religion. Hope is a virtue infused by God, and following upon Faith; by it man puts his entire trust and confidence in the goodness and mercy of God, through Jesus Christ, and looks for the fulfillment of the Divine promises made to those who obey the Gospel. Charity is a virtue infused by God, and likewise consequent upon Faith, whereby man, loving God above all things for His own sake, and his neighbor as himself for God's sake, yields up his will to a joyful obedience to the revealed will of God in the Church.
3. The Church. God has established the Holy Catholic Church upon earth to be the pillar and ground of the revealed Truth; and has committed to her the guardianship of the Holy Scriptures and of Holy Tradition, and the power of binding and loosing.
4. The Creed. The Catholic Church has set forth the principle doctrines of the Christian Faith in 12 articles of the Creed, as follows:
I believe in One God, the Father, The Almighty, Maker of the heaven and earth, and all that is seen and unseen. I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten not made, of one substance with the Father. Through Him all things were made. For us and for our salvation He came down from heaven, by the power of the Holy Spirit He was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man. For our sake He was crucified under Pontius Pilate, He suffered died and was buried. On the third day He rose again in the fulfillment of scriptures, He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and His Kingdom will have no end. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father, who together with the Father and the Son the Spirit is worshipped and glorified, and has spoken through the prophets. I believe in one Holy Catholic and Apostolic church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins, I look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen.
This sacred Creed is sufficient for the establishment of the Truth, inasmuch as it explicitly teaches the perfect doctrine of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.
5. The Sacraments. The fundamental ordinances of the Gospel, instituted by Jesus Christ as a special means of conveying Divine Grace and influence to the souls of men, which are commonly called Mysteries or Sacraments, are seven in number, namely, Baptism, Confirmation (Chrismation), the Holy Eucharist, Holy Orders, Matrimony, Penance, and Unction.
Baptism is the first Sacrament of the Gospel, administered by three-fold immersion in or affusion with water, with the words, "I baptize thee in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." It admits the recipient into the Church, bestows upon him the forgiveness of sins, original and actual, through the Blood of Christ, and causes in him a spiritual change called Regeneration. Without valid Baptism no other Sacrament can be validly received.
Confirmation, or Chrismation, is a Sacrament in which the baptized person, on being anointed with Sacred Chrism consecrated by the Bishops of the Church, with the imposition of hands, receives the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Ghost to strengthen him in the grace which he received at Baptism, making him a strong and perfect Christian and a good soldier of Christ.
The Holy Eucharist is a Sacrament in which, under the appearances of bread and wine, the real and actual Body and Blood of Christ are given and received for the remission of sins, the increase of Divine grace, and the reward of everlasting life. After the prayer of Invocation of the Holy Ghost in the Liturgy, the bread and wine are entirely converted into the living Body and Blood of Christ by an actual change of being, to which the philosophical terms of Transubstantiation and Transmutation are rightly applied. The celebration of this Mystery or Sacrament, commonly called the Mass, constitutes the chief act of Christian worship, being a sacrificial Memorial or re-Presentation of our Lord's death. It is not a repetition of the Sacrifice offered once for all upon Calvary, but is a perpetuation of that Sacrifice by the Church on earth, as our Lord also perpetually offers it in heaven. It is a true and propitiatory Sacrifice, which is offered alike for the living and for the dead.
Holy Orders is a Sacrament in which the Holy Ghost, through the laying-on of hands of the Bishops, consecrates and ordains the pastors and ministers of the Church, and imparts to them special grace to administer the Sacraments, to forgive sins, and to feed the flock of Christ.
Matrimony is a Sacrament in which the voluntary union of husband and wife is sanctified to become an image of the union of Christ and His Church; and grace is imparted to them to fulfill the duties of their estate and its great responsibilities, both to each other and to their children.
Penance is a Sacrament in which the Holy Ghost bestows the forgiveness of sins, by the ministry of the Priest, upon those who, having sinned after Baptism, confess their sins with true repentance; and grace is given to amend their lives thereafter.
Unction is a Sacrament in which the Priests of the Church anoint the sick with oil, for the healing of the infirmities of their souls, and if it should please God those of their bodies also.
The efficacy of the Sacraments depends upon the promise and appointment of God; howbeit they benefit only those who receive them worthily with faith, and with due preparation and disposition of mind.
6. Holy Scripture. The Scriptures are writings inspired by God, and given to the Church for her instruction and edification. The Church is therefore the custodian and the only Divinely appointed interpreter of Holy Scripture.
7. Tradition. The Apostolic and Ecclesiastical Traditions received from the seven General Councils and the early Fathers of the Church may not be rejected, but are to be received and obeyed as being both agreeable to Holy Scripture and to that Authority with which Christ endowed His Church. Matters of discipline and ceremonial do not rank on the same level with matters of Faith or Morals, but may be altered from time to time and from place to place by the Authority of the Church, according as the welfare and greater devotion of the faithful may be furthered thereby.
8. The Communion of Saints. There is a Communion of Saints in the Providence of God, wherein the souls of the righteous of all ages are united with Christ in the bond of faith and love. Wherefore it is pleasing to God, and profitable to humanity, to honour the Saints and to invoke them in prayer; and also to pray for the faithful departed.
9. Religious Symbols. The Relics and representations of Saints are worthy of honour, as are also all other religious emblems; that our minds may be encouraged to devotion and to imitation of the deeds of the just. Honour shown to such objects is purely relative, and in no way implies a confusion of the symbol with the thing signified.
10. Rites and Ceremonies. It is the duty of all Christians to join in the worship of the Church, especially in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, in accordance with our Lord's express command; and to conform to the ceremonies prescribed by Holy Tradition for the greater dignity of that Sacrifice and for the edification of the faithful.
11. The Moral Law. All Christians are bound to observe the Moral Law contained in the Ten Commandments of the Old Testament, developed with greater strictness in the New, founded upon the law of nature and charity, and defining our duty to God and to man. The laws of the Church are also to be obeyed, as proceeding from that Authority which Christ has committed to her for the instruction and salvation of His people.
12. The Monastic Estate. The monastic life, duly regulated according to the laws of the Church, is a salutary institution in strict accord with the Holy Scriptures; and is fully of profit to them who, after being carefully tried and examined, make full proof of their calling thereto.
1. Head of the Church. The Foundation, Head and Supreme Pastor and Bishop of the Church is our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, from Whom all Bishops and Pastors derive their spiritual powers and jurisdiction.
2. Obedience. By the law and institution of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Gospel, all Christians owe obedience and submission in spiritual things to them who have rule and authority within the Church.
3. Ministerial Authority. Our Lord Jesus Christ did not commit rule and authority within the Church to all the faithful indiscriminately, but only to the Apostles and to their lawful successors in due order.
4. Apostolic Succession. The only lawful successors of the Apostles are the Orthodox and Catholic Bishops, united by profession of the self-same belief, participation in the same Sacraments, and mutual recognition and intercommunion. The Bishops of the Church, being true successors of the Apostles, are by Divine right and appointment the rulers of the Church.
In virtue of this appointment, each individual Bishop is supreme and independent in that part of the Church which has been committed to his care, so long as he remains in Faith and Communion with the united company of Catholic Bishops, who cannot exclude any from the Church save only them who stray from the path of virtue or err in Faith.
By virtue of this same Divine appointment, the supreme Authority over the whole Church on earth belongs to the collective Orthodox and Catholic Episcopate. They alone form the highest tribunal in spiritual matters, from whose united judgment there can be no appeal; so that it is unlawful for any single Bishop, or any smaller group of Bishops apart from them, or for any secular power or state, to usurp this Authority, or for any individual Christian to substitute his own private judgment for that interpretation of Scripture or Authority which is approved by the Church.
5. Church Authority. The collective body of the Orthodox Catholic Episcopate, united by profession of the Faith, by the Sacraments, and by mutual recognition and actual intercommunion, is the source and depository of all order, authority and jurisdiction in the Church, and is the center of visible Catholic unity; so that no Pope, Patriarch or Bishop, or any number of Bishops separated from this united body can possess any authority or jurisdiction whatsoever. The authority of this collective body is equally binding, however it may be expressed: whether by a General Council or by the regular and ordinary consultation and agreement of the Bishops them-selves. It is an act of schism to appeal from the known judgment of the Orthodox and Catholic Episcopate, however it may have been ascertained; or to appeal from any dogmatic decree of any General Council even though such appeal be to a future Council. For the Episcopate, being a continuation of the Apostolate, is clearly a Divine institution, and its authority is founded in Divine right. But General councils are not of themselves of direct Divine appointment; and so the Episcopate having clearly the Scriptural promise of Divine guidance into all Truth, cannot be hampered in the exercise of its authority by the necessity of assembling a General Council, which may obviously be rendered impossible through natural circumstances.
There have been seven General Councils only, which are recognized by the whole of Catholic Christendom, held respectively in Nicea (A.D. 325), Constantinople (381), Ephesus (431), Chalcedon (451), Constantinople (553), Constantinople (680), and Nicea (787).
At no other Councils was the entire body of the Orthodox and Catholic Episcopate representatively assembled; and the decrees and pronouncements of no others must of themselves be accepted as binding upon the consciences of the faithful.
The Authority of the Church can never be in abeyance, even though a General Council cannot be assembled. It is equally to be submitted to and obeyed in whatever way it may be exercised, and although it may be exercised only through the ordinary administration of their respective jurisdictions by individual Bishops.
6. Hierarchy. All Patriarchs, Archbishops and Metropolitans (that is to say, all Bishops exercising authority over other Bishops) owe that authority solely to the appointment or general consent of the Orthodox and Catholic Episcopate; nor can they ever cease from owing obedience to the collective body of the Episcopate in all matters concerning Faith and Morals.
7. The Five Patriarchates. There are five Patriarchates, which ought to be united and form the supreme authority in the administration of the Holy Catholic Church. These are Jerusalem, Antioch, Rome, Alexandria, and Constantinople. Unfortunately, owing to disputes and differences on the one hand and to the lust for power on the other, the Patriarchs are not at present in Communion; and the welfare of Christendom is jeopardized by their disedifying quarrels, which we pray may soon have an end.