Revised: 18 January, A.D. 2002
By the middle of this century, during the reign of the saintly Pope Pius XII, the intellectual climate had changed and there was no longer any any demand by the Holy See for unreasoned condemnations of third parties. Jansenism had long been reduced to a footnote in the history texts,1 and post-war Rome seemed to have lost interest in perpetuating the theoretical conflict that caused it to originate the separation in the 17th century. Seemingly having lost its reason for existence, the Old Roman Catholic hierarchy determined that no new priests would be ordained and no bishops would be consecrated -- on the assumption that Roman priests and bishops would provide for the spiritual needs of all the Faithful. At their beginnings, the pontificate of Pope John XXIII and the Second Vatican Council were viewed as favorable signs.2
Regrettably, however, Vatican II and its postconciliar developments were a serious disappointment to all those Catholics concerned with preserving the Deposit of Faith and Morals given to Peter and the Apostles by our Lord.3 The greatest tragedy was the disruption of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the other Sacraments. Radically corrupted by "ecumenism," and poorly translated into modern languages, the liturgical books no longer guarantee the Catholic Faith. The "law of prayer being the law of belief," many modern Catholics are unaware of (or positively disbelieve) the sacrificial nature of the Mass and the Real Presence of our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament -- the Sunday morning service has been reduced to a communal gathering. And, thirty-odd years later there is no sign that any of the errors of the Council are to be corrected. From the highest to the lowest levels of the hierarchy, the only prescription for the few evils that are admitted to be plaguing the Mystical Body is another infusion of what afflicted It to begin with -- all that anything needs is a little bit more of "the correct interpretation of the principles of Vatican II"!
Among the Vatican II era bishops there were only a handful who resisted the movement away from Catholicism. In the early days of the resistance there were a fair number of priests who remained orthodox, a number of Catholic men hoping to study for the priesthood, and even a bishop or two who promised to ordain them. But no conciliar bishop was willing to provide for the Church's future by consecrating truly Catholic bishops. One European bishop tried to arrange for an Old Catholic bishop to ordain the future priests of his Society (an idea quickly rejected by his membership). An Asian bishop found a mad man or two upon whom to lay hands; quickly retreating back to the New Order as one of his creations claimed then to be pope!4
Some rethinking of the decision to leave everything in the hands of Rome was obviously in order. Modernism had clearly replaced Jansenism as the topic of the discussion -- and if there is a "left" and a "right" to such things, Rome was clearly leaning toward the left. If nothing else, provision had to be made to secure the Mass and the Sacraments, along with the principles of faith and morals, for future generations of the Catholic people.
To this end, Archbishop Gerard G. Shelley, head of the Old Roman Catholic Church, together with his priests and bishops, approved a new Constitution to renew the Old Roman Catholic Church and allow it to cope with its contemporary mission. This Constitution, ratified in 1976, and subsequently amended, reaffirms our acceptance of traditional Catholic doctrine, morals, and worship. Through it, we acknowledge the primacy and infallibility of the Holy Father, while providing for the Faithful who wish to maintain the traditions of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.
Archbishop Shelley's intentions are clearly seen in the mandate that he issued for the consecration of his successor, the current titular Archbishop of Caer Glow and Bishop of Florida:
† In the name of the Father, and of the
Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
The doctrinal position of the Old Roman Catholic Church has often been unknown, misunderstood, or misrepresented by many who are not of this Communion. There have even been those who have deliberately distorted our theological and canonical position -- for reasons known only to themselves. To correct any misinterpretation of what we Old Roman Catholics believe, our bishops and priests, meeting as the Twelfth General Council of the Old Roman Catholic Church, held at the Benedictine Abbey of Saint Paul (Roman Catholic) in Newton, New Jersey, on April 27-28, 1973, made the following unanimous declaration:
This General Council reaffirms that it holds and teaches all that is held and taught by the Roman Catholic Church on matters of Faith and morals.
Clearly, then, lest there be further misunderstanding, we hold and teach the Catholic Faith without any reservations, condemning all heresies condemned by Rome, and teaching even those doctrines which have been declared by Roman Pontiffs since this Communion has been cut off from the spiritual ministrations of our Holy Father the Pope: The Immaculate Conception of our Lady, and Papal Infallibility, and the Assumption of our Lady.