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The Canonical Old Roman Catholic Church

    One can learn about the history and the beliefs of Old Roman Catholics on their websitesite.  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 pronouncement 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 Church Anglican criticism 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 Catholic churches.

    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.

    The 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.

    On the 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.

    To 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.

    In 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.

    In 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.[1]  The Polish National Church outlives Carfora by many years.  The Chicago area was served by:

Archbishop Carmel 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.[3]    He had been associated with the See of Cær Glow since the early1990s.[4]

    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.[5]  More about Marchenna will follow

    From 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 to change—the Mass and Sacraments, even the Rosary, the Stations of the Cross, and the Vulgate Bible—theology 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 of silliness 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.[6] 

    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….”[7]   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

    A 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 accordingly.][8]

    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 following month.[9]

    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 30, 1984,[10] 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.[11]  Bishop Greed died on June 1, 2002 after a long illness following a stroke.[12]  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.[13]

    Father Richard John Euler was consecrated Bishop on February 17, 2007 and was designated as the Primatial Auxiliary to Archbishop Humphreys.[14]  Bishop Euler is the Priest in Charge of Saint Pio's Summer Mission, Thendara - Old Forge, New York.[15]  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 affiliated with 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, Article II)


[4]   Cf. North American Catholic March 1991, Vol. 3, No. 2.

[8]   Constitution of the Historic and Canonical Old Roman Catholic Church, Articles I and II.  The sentence in brackets was added in the 1986 revision.

[9]   Letter of July 28, 1981.

[10]   Consecration booklet dated June 30, 1984, © Our Lady of Good Hope Church.

[14]   Consecration booklet dated February 17, 2007, © Our Lady of Good Hope Church.




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