The Canonical Old Roman Catholic Church
One can learn about the history and
the beliefs of
Old Roman Catholics on their
This article will address the ideas which motivate current day Old Roman
Catholics and how they developed since the beginning of the twentieth century.
The Canonical Old Roman Catholic Church is often referred to simply as the See
of Cær Glow, as will be explained below.
In the earliest days, the mission of the Church was
toward the High Church Anglicans—people who perceived themselves as Catholics,
but subject to the King of England and not the Pope of Rome. Subject to the
King but not oblivious to the teaching authority of the Pope. To
such people, the
of Pope Leo XIII that Anglican Holy Orders were invalid struck like a bombshell.
Pope Leo wrote not just with papal authority, but also with unshakable logic.
His words said that the Anglican clergy were not really priests and bishops, but
merely laymen. For those who held Catholic beliefs, Leo's words were a portent
of life without the Sacraments (other than Baptism and Matrimony, which the
laity can confer). Among those Anglicans who were concerned, there grew a
movement to obtain certainly valid Holy Orders for those whom they had
considered to be priests and bishops. Within the Church of England, assisted by
a few Roman bishops, there arose an
Order of Corporate Reunion,
which in its early days (founded 1877) was rather secretive for fear of Low
of their efforts. Ordinations were conducted in secret, leaving the faithful
unsure of just who was and who wasn't an actual priest or bishop.
A Roman priest, Arnold Harris Mathew, had been born of a mixed Catholic-Anglican
marriage, studied and was ordained a Catholic priest. Mathew resolved to
provide for the Sacramental needs of the Anglican faithful by receiving
consecration (1908) as a bishop from the Archbishop of Utrecht in Holland, and
establishing a visible church structure for like-minded people in England. The
theology and morality of this Church were to be strictly Catholic, while
allowing for the vernacular worship and optionally married clergy to which the
High Church party had grown accustomed since the time of Henry VIII. In 1910,
Archbishop Mathew felt compelled to sever relations
with the Archbishop of Utrecht, who had fallen in with the “Old Catholics” in
denying the infallibility of the Pope and a number of other significant
matters. Mathew adopted the name used by the Church of Utrecht before its fall
from orthodoxy, “Old Roman Catholic.” Mathew's understanding of what it meant
to be an Old Roman Catholic is, perhaps, best expressed in a prayer that
he composed, and which is still recited after the Leonine prayers in Old Roman
Archbishop Mathew's efforts met with only moderate success in England and North
America. Some of the American congregations held a mixture of Catholic and Old
Catholic ideas. Organizational unity was not a “long suit” of the Church, but
it continued wherever it could be useful.
death of Archbishop Mathew on December 20th, 1919 left the bishops of the Old
Roman Catholic Church to reexamine the way in which they had been hoping to
facilitate the return of High Church Anglicans to the Catholic Church. Notably,
Bishops Francis Bacon and W.N. Lambert felt that they would be more successful
re-establishing the Order of Corporate Reunion within the Church of England.
The two served as curate and vicar, respectively, at Saint Gabriel's Anglican
church in South Bromley, and were available for the ordination of Anglican
ministers with doubts about the validity of their Anglican Orders.
other hand, Archbishop Bernard M. Williams (Mathew’s coadjutor with right of
succession), who remained at the head of the Old Roman Catholic Church, held
that any hope of returning Anglo-Catholics to the Faith could not come to
fruition in a church that was becoming more and more polarized into doctrinal
factions, some of which were positively Protestant in character. In Advent
1920, Archbishop Williams issued a pastoral letter suspending the late
Archbishop Mathew's policy of validating the Orders of ministers who wished to
remain in the Anglican Church.
further confirm that the Old Roman Catholic Church existed as a
uniate rite, not desiring to be separated from
the Holy See, at Easter of 1925 Archbishop Williams again repudiated the errors
of the Old Catholics, and committed his followers to accepting the decrees of
the Council of Trent, the infallible pronouncement of the Immaculate Conception,
as well as the decrees of the First Vatican Council.
1939, Williams would further declare “We disclaim all pretensions to being in
any sense ‘a Church.’ We are simply a Rite within the Catholic Church.... the
lineal descendant of the ancient Church of Britain.” The Catholic Church that
sent missionaries like Saint Willibrord from the British Isles to the
Netherlands and the low countries—from whence the Faith would return after more
than a millennium.” It was Williams who associated the titular
See of Caer-Glow with himself and his successors,
the primate bishops of the Old Roman Catholic Church. Before his death on June
9th, 1952, Archbishop Williams, on several, occasions repeated the protestations
of his forebears in the Netherlands, professing loyalty to the Catholic Faith
and the Holy See, as did his successor, Archbishop Gerard G. Shelley, OSJ.
As a priest and later
a bishop, Archbishop Shelley had spent some time in America, where the Old
Catholic influence was much stronger, for the missionary activities in the
States had gone largely without the supervision of Archbishops Mathew and
Williams. Shelley was careful to distance himself from many of the myriad
denominations that had sprung from the mission begun in America around 1915.
The Church in America
Archbishop Mathew consecrated Rudolph de Landas Berghes as Regionary Bishop of
Scotland in June of 1913. Since he was an Austo-Hungarian, the British
government considered him an enemy alien because of World War I. Emigrating to
New York in 1914, de Landas Berghes at first continued the work of validating
Anglican Orders, and then took up the work of evangelizing groups on the margin
of the Roman Church.
Illinois, Carmel Henry Carfora, de Landas Berghes’ Auxiliary and successor had
been active with various Catholic national groups (e.g. Polish, Lithuanian,
Portuguese, Ukrainian, Mexican, West Indians, and even Italians.) which had been
marginalized by the Irish clergy in favor with Rome.
The Polish National Church outlives Carfora by many years. The Chicago area was
Henry Carfora 1919 – 1958
Bishop Sigismund Vipartas 1958 – 1961
Archbishop John E. Schweikert 1961 – 1988
Archbishop Theodore J. Rematt 1988 - 2006
Archbishop Rematt was ordained priest by Archbishop John E. Schweikert on May
28, 1982, and elevated by him to the Episcopate on June 22, 1987, with Rematt
succeeding Schweikert as Bishop of the Old Roman Catholic Diocese of Chicago
from 1988 through 2006. He returned to his native Pennsylvania and together
with Archbishop John J. Humphreys, founded Saints Lazarus, Martha and Mary in
the former Novus Ordo church of Saint Lawrence in Patton. Rematt died on
January 27, 2016 a few weeks after surgery to remove a brain tumor.
He had been associated with the See of Cær Glow since the early1990s.
Archbishop Carfora also consecrated Richard Arthur Marchenna (April 16, 1941) as
his suffragan bishop for the Eastern coastal states. Marchenna was first based
in Newark, later moving to St. Dominic's Church in Brooklyn. At
Carfora’s death, Marchenna was one of several bishops claiming to head the
Church in North America.
More about Marchenna will follow
the end of World War II, during the pontificate of the saintly Pope Pius XII,
and until the time of Vatican II, Shelley and his associates were of the mind
that the Old Roman Catholic Church had ceased to have a purpose separate from
Rome and ought to fade away gracefully. The decision was made that no new
priests would be ordained, no new parishes would be founded, and no bishops
would be consecrated—the Church would gradually vanish through attrition—the
assumption being that Roman priests and bishops would provide for the spiritual
needs of all the faithful.
The Days of Vatican II were hoped to bring a renewal or
a reinvigoration to the Catholic Church. Instead they brought a resurgence of
the Modernism condemned earlier in the century by Pope
Saint Pius X.
For the Modernists, the monolith of truth and morality, the Rock of Peter,
unshakable for centuries, had to be made over into a progressive, pluralistic,
existentialist society, with little firm foundation. Virtually everything had
even the Rosary,
of the Cross,
and the Vulgate
was no longer based on God's unchanging truth, but upon an Hegelian
"dialogue"—morality has given way to convenience, with actions that would, at an
earlier time in Church history, have drawn imprisonment or death now being
praiseworthy or at least overlooked. A profound sense
gripped a once conservative institution.
The Old Roman Catholic Church once again became of value to those who wanted to
continue in the practice of the immemorial Catholic Faith, to those who wanted
to be sure that they were attending the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, receiving
the true Sacraments, and hearing the Gospel preached without error. To be sure,
there were other conservative or traditionalist groups. Some of them still
exist and do good work. But others overreacted, pronouncing the See of Peter to
be vacant, claiming the Pope to have deposed himself through heretical
behavior. Still others were deceived by the Modernist notion that all of the
problems could be made to go away through “dialogue.” The Old Roman Catholic
Church strives to remain faithful to the Catholicism that came down through Rome
from our Lord and His Apostles.
Yet, this sense of Catholicism was not universal. Archbishop Shelly’s attention
was drawn to the United States in 1974, when one of his bishops, Richard Arthur
Marchenna consecrated an homosexual to the episcopate for something called the
“Eucharistic Catholic Church.”
On 4 October 1974 in theMetropolitan-Duane
United Methodist Church, New York City, Fr. Robert Clement, of the
Eucharistic Catholic Church was consecrated by Abp. Richard A.
Marchenna of the North American Old Roman Catholic Church assisted by
Bp. Martin L. Williams.
Clearly, Marchena could no longer head the Church in America. On May 24, 1975
Archbishop Shelley, together with Bishop Emile Rodriguez Fairfield, consecrated
the Most Reverend John J. Humphreys as bishop to serve the needs of the “ever
increasing needs of the Faithful who ardently desire to maintain the fullness of
the Catholic Faith and practice…. In the ecclesiastical Province of Florida, and
in any other part of North America, should existing circumstances require….”
The ceremony of episcopal consecration according to the traditional Catholic
rite took place at Our Lady of Good Hope Old Roman Catholic Church in Pinellas
Park, Florida, where Humphreys is pastor. Humphreys had been ordained priest by
The Most Reverend John Swartout, on August 7, 1966
little over a year later, Archbishop Shelley returned to Pinellas Park to
promulgate a new Constitution of the Historic and Canonical Old Roman
Catholic Church on the feast of Our Lady’s nativity, September 8, 1976.
(The Constitution was revised once, only slightly, in May of 1986 under
Archbishop Humphreys, the second successor to Archbishop Shelley) It is
significant in that The Constitution makes a written commitment to
maintaining the traditions of the Catholic Church:
This ecclesiastical Communion constitutes the historic,
canonical and unbroken Apostolic Succession emanating from the ancient
Archdiocesan See of Utrecht, translated to other parts of the world and
is known by the historic name first used in Utrecht, Old Roman Catholic.
This Old Roman Catholic Communion is one in matters of
Faith and Morals,
de fide, with the Church
established by Jesus Christ. It embraces all such doctrine of the
Apostolic See of Rome, and it condemns all heresies and other errors
condemned by that same See. [It accepts
as Catholics those who share this doctrine and conduct their affairs
Archbishop Shelley died on August 24th, 1980, living almost long enough
to see something of Archbishop Mathew's dream fulfilled, albeit under
circumstances he deplored. It was roughly ninety years from the time of
Archbishop Mathew that Pope Benedict XVI accepted and acted upon the principle
of a “uniate rite,” (in the Apostolic Constitution
Anglicanorum coetibus) receiving married
Anglican ministers and their congregations into the Catholic Church, ordaining
the ministers, and allowing them the use of a quasi-Anglican liturgy “wrapped”
around the core of Pope Paul VI's Novus
Ordo. Ironic indeed, in that these poor converts from Anglicanism now have
a new set of questionable validities with which to deal.
With Shelly’s death, the Most Reverend Michael J. Farrell, pastor of Saint Peter
Damien Old Roman Catholic Church in San Jose, California, was elected to replace
him. Farrell received episcopal consecration from Archbishop Humphreys, and
Bishop Fairfield on June 13, 1981. For personal reasons, Farrell resigned the
After a relatively long period, Archbishop Humphreys was elected to the See of
Cær Glow on April 23, 1984.
The Most Reverend John Joseph Greed was consecrated Bishop of Massachusetts June
and served there until taking up residence in Tampa, Florida and founding
Immaculate Conception parish in the Brooksville area on June 13, 1989.
Immaculate Conception met first in private homes and then in rented quarters at
the Shady Hills Community Center, the Community Center at Kenlake, and finally
in October of 1992, the Seapines Community Center. In 1992, Bishop Greed and
his assistant, Father Bert Shaw, took up residence in the Seapines area to
better serve the parish. In 1994, after a novena to our Blessed Lady the
congregation learned that a church occupied by All Saints Lutheran Church in
Hudson, Florida was to be sold. The property was purchased by the Immaculate
Conception Old Roman Catholic Church. The first Mass was celebrated on the
third Sunday after Easter, the church was solemnly dedicated on Saturday, May
20, 1995 by Archbishop Humphreys.
Bishop Greed died on June 1, 2002 after a long illness following a stroke.
Father Maurice Manton followed Bishop Greed as pastor of Immaculate Conception,
and, in turn, was followed by Father Robert Dodd and most recently by
Fr. D. Edward Meikle.
Father Richard John Euler was consecrated Bishop on February 17, 2007 and was
designated as the Primatial Auxiliary to Archbishop Humphreys.
Bishop Euler is the Priest in Charge of Saint Pio's Summer Mission, Thendara -
Old Forge, New York.
The mission is named for the beloved Saint (Padre) Pio of Pietrelcina.
It is imperative to understand that just as the mere claim to be
“Catholic” or “Roman Catholic” guarantees nothing about someone's
doctrinal orthodoxy, moral rectitude, or authentic worship; neither does the
claim to be an “Old Roman Catholic.” Titles, names, and labels do not insure
reality. In today's world, one has to ask questions and receive reasonable
answers. The Old Roman Catholic Church, See of Cær-Glow is not
those who would bend the moral law, compromise with falsehood, or offer false
and distorted worship to Almighty God. Under God's law there can be no “gay
marriage,” no ordination of women, no “clown Masses,” no Marxism, no Modernism,
or anything else that has not come down to us from “the Father of lights,
with whom there is no change, nor shadow of alteration.”
“It embraces all such doctrine of the Apostolic See of Rome, and it
condemns all heresies and other errors condemned by that same See. It
accepts as Catholics those who share this doctrine and conduct their
affairs accordingly.” (Constitution of the Old Roman Catholic Church,