Declaration of Autonomy 1
[from the Old Catholics]
Posted: 18 January, A.D. 2002
St. Peter's Chair at Rome
St. Prisca, Virgin & Martyr
We the undersigned Bishop, on behalf of our clergy and laity of the
Catholic Church of England, hereby proclaim and declare the autonomy and
independence of our portion of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic
Church. We are in no way whatever subject to or dependent upon any foreign
See, nor do we recognize the right of any members of the religious bodies
known as 'Old Catholics' on the Continent, to require submission from us
to their authority or jurisdiction, or the decrees, decisions, rules or
assemblies, in which we have neither taken part nor expressed agreement.
We had supposed and believed that the Faith, once delivered to the
Saints, and set forth in the decrees of the Councils accepted as
Ecumenical no less in the West than in the East, would have continued
unimpaired, whether by augmentation or by diminution, in the venerable
Church of the Dutch Nation.
We anticipated that the admirable fidelity with which the Bishops and
Clergy of that Church had adhered to the Faith and handed it down,
untarnished by heresy, notwithstanding grievous persecution during so many
centuries, would never have wavered.
Unfortunately, however, we discover with dismay, pain, and regret that
the standards of orthodoxy, laid down by old by the Fathers and Councils
of the East and West alike, having been departed from in various
particulars by certain sections of Old Catholicism, these departures,
instead of being checked and repressed, are, at least tacitly, tolerated
and acquiesced in without protest, by the Hierarchy of the Church of the
In order to avoid misapprehension, we here specify nine of the points
of difference between Continental Old Catholics and ourselves:
For these and other reasons, which it is unnecessary to
detail, we, the undersigned Bishop, desire, by these present, to declare
our autonomy and our independence of all foreign interference in our
doctrine, discipline and policy. In necessáriis únitas, in dubiis
libertas, in ómnibus caritas.
-  Although the Synod of Jerusalem, held under Dositheus in 1672,
was not an Ecumenical Council, its decrees are accepted by the Holy
Orthodox Church of the Orient as accurately expressing its belief, and
are in harmony with the decrees of the Council of Trent on the dogmas of
which they treat. We are in agreement with the Holy Orthodox Church,
regarding this Synod. Hence, we hold and declare that there are Seven
Holy Mysteries or Sacraments instituted by Our Divine Lord and Saviour
Jesus Christ, therefore all of them necessary for the salvation of
mankind, though all are not necessarily to be received by every
individual, e.g. Holy Orders and Matrimony. Certain sections, if not
all, of the Old Catholic bodies, reject this belief and refuse to assent
to the decrees of the Holy Synod of Jerusalem.
-  Moreover, some of them have abolished the Sacrament of Penance
by condemning and doing away with auricular confession; others actively
discourage this salutary practice; other, again, whilst tolerating its
use, declare the Sacrament of Penance to be merely optional, therefore
unnecessary, and of no obligation, even for those who have fallen into
mortal sin after Baptism.
-  In accordance with the belief and practice of the Universal
Church, we adhere to the doctrine of the Communion of Saints by invoking
and venerating the Blessed Virgin Mary, and those who have received the
crown of glory in heaven, as well as the Holy Angels of God. The Old
Catholics in the Netherlands have not yet altogether abandoned this
pious and helpful custom, but, in some other countries, invocation of
the Saints has been totally abolished by the Old Catholics.
-  Although it may be permissible and, indeed, very desirable, in
some countries, and under certain circumstances, to render the Liturgy
into the vernacular languages, we consider it to be neither expedient
nor tolerable that individuals should compose new liturgies, according
to their own particular views, or make alterations, omissions and
changes in venerable rites to suit their peculiar fancies, prejudices or
idiosyncrasies. We lament the mutilations of this kind which have
occurred among the Old Catholics in several countries and regret that no
two of the new liturgies composed and published by them are alike,
either in form or in ceremony. In all of them the ancient rubrics have
been set aside, and the ceremonies and symbolism with which the Sacred
Mysteries of the Altar have been reverently environed for many
centuries, have, either wholly or in part, been ruthlessly swept away.
The Rite of Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament has also been almost
universally abolished among the Old Catholics.
-  In accordance with the primitive teaching of the Church of the
Netherlands, which prevailed until a very recent date, we consider it a
duty of the part of Western Christians to remember His Holiness the Pope
as their Patriarch in their prayers and sacrifices. The name of His
Holiness should, therefore, retain its position in the Canon of the
Mass, where, as we observed at our consecration in Utrecht, it was
customary, and remained so until a recent date in the present year
, for the celebrant to recite the name of our Patriarch in the
usual manner in the Mass and in the Litany of the Saints. The
publication of a new vernacular Dutch Liturgy in the present year causes
us to regret that the clergy of Holland are now required to omit the
name of His Holiness in the Canon of the Mass. Happily, only a small
number of other alterations in the text of the Canon have, so far, been
introduced. These include the omission of the title, 'ever Virgin'
whenever it occurs in the Latin Missal. Such alterations pave the way
for others of an even more serious nature, which may be made in the
future, and, as we think, are to be deplored.
-  Following the example of our Catholic forefathers, we venerate
the adorable Sacrifice of the Mass as the supreme act of Christian
worship instituted by Christ Himself. We grieve that the Old Catholic
clergy, in most countries, have abandoned the daily celebration of Mass,
and now limit the offering the Christian Sacrifice to Sundays and a few
of the greater Feasts. The corresponding neglect of the Blessed
Sacrament, and infrequency of Holy Communion, on the part of the laity,
-  In accordance with Catholic custom and with the decrees of the
Ecumenical Councils, we hold that the honour and glory of God are
promoted and increased by the devout and religious use of holy pictures,
statues, symbols, relics, and the like, as aids to devotion, and that,
in relations to those they represent, they are to be held in veneration.
The Old Catholics have, generally speaking, preferred to dispense with
such helps to piety.
-  We consider that the Holy Sacraments should be administered only
to those who are members of the Holy Catholic Church, not only by
Baptism, but by the profession of the Catholic Faith in its integrity.
Unhappily, we find persons who are not Catholics are admitted to
receive Holy Communion in all Old Catholic places of worship on the
-  The Old Catholics have ceased to observe the prescribed days of
fasting and abstinence, and no longer observe the custom of receiving
Holy Communion fasting.
+ Arnold Harris Mathew
December 29, 1910
The Feast of St. Thomas of Canterbury
Arnold Harris Mathew, Archbishop of the Old Roman Catholic Rite in
Great Britain and Ireland, "An Episcopal Odyssey," November 1, 1915]