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Our History… Our Future... Who We Are…
The Catholic Apostolic National Church is an international, autocephalous community of Christians committed to Jesus Christ. We accept and believe the testimony of His Apostles, eyewitnesses of His life, death and resurrection from among the dead. They passed on, to succeeding generations, their own testimony about Jesus Christ and His life. By the proclaiming of His Gospel, and the giving of their own testimony (called the Apostolic Tradition), the Church, which the Lord instituted, was built up. The Catholic Apostolic National Church is a historic part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. We strive to faithfully echo forward the Faith, transmitted to us in both Holy Tradition and Sacred Scripture.
The Ancient Catholic Church of the Netherlands… The area of Europe known as the Low Countries was missionized by St. Willibrord in the Seventh Century firmly establishing the Catholic Faith and Tradition in the Netherlands and other countries in that region. Early on, three principal dioceses were established in the cities of Utrecht, Deventer and Haarlem to administer the affairs of the Church in the territory. Utrecht eventually became the archiepiscopal see with supervision over Deventer and Haarlem. Assenting to a petition made by the Holy Roman Emperor Conrad III and Bishop Heribert of Utrecht, Blessed Pope Eugene III, in 1145 A.D. granted the Cathedral Chapter of Utrecht the right to elect successors to the See in times of vacancy. This privilege was confirmed by the fourth Council of the Laterian in 1215. The autonomous character of the Ancient Catholic Church in the Netherlands was further demonstrated when a second grant by Pope Leo X, Debitum Pastoralis, conceded to Philip of Burgundy, 57th Bishop of Utrecht, that neither he nor his successors, nor any of their clergy or laity, should ever, in the first instance, have his cause evoked to any external tribunal, not even under pretense of any apostolic letters whatever; and that all such proceedings should be, ipso facto, null and void. This papal concession, in 1520, was of the greatest importance in defense of the rights of the Church.
The Church in the Netherlands and the Reformation… Armed with the protection of the papal concessions, the Church in the Netherlands continued to minister even through the Reformation. During this period of strife, the Church in the Netherlands, as in many other countries, was forced to "go underground" in order to survive. But survive and remain extant, it did. Eventually, the Archbishop of Utrecht and other Church leaders reached an informal agreement with the civil government, whereby it could again function openly without interference from the Reformers. The Archbishop of Utrecht and the Dutch Catholic Church, being used to a more austere form of worship and being Catholics at peril, sympathized with members of the European Jansenist Catholic movement, and incurred the wrath of the Jesuits as a result. "Jansenism" was a movement within the Roman Catholic Church that preferred a rigorous piety on Catholic expression, acceptance of predestination, and an emphasis on the sinfulness of man. The underlying theology that Jansenism was based upon, was the work "Augustinus", written by Bishop of Ypres, Cornelius Jansen. Jansen wrote his work based upon an intense study of the theology of St. Augustine of Hippo and entrusted his writings to trusted friends to be published after his death. The extreme expression of his work was termed "Jansenism". "Jansenism" was condemned as heresy ("Cum occasione" (31 May, 1653)), and members of the Church were required to sign an affirmation of a formulary containing heretical points, called the five propositions, that were claimed to have been in the work "Augustinus", but in fact were not. This caused a rejection of the formulary by "Jansenists", based upon the inconsistency of the facts, and by others who had not read the work in question. Pope Clement XI issued the bull Unigenitus condemning 101 propositions in a treatise by another French Jansenist, Pasquier Quesnel (1634 - 1719). The Old Roman Catholic Diocese of Utrecht, along with Haarlem and Deventer, became separated from the Roman Catholic communion as a result of giving sanctuary to the Jansenists, and for refusing to give up the right to freely elect Episcopal successors and functioned as a separate Catholic communion.
The Move from Isolation… Following the First Vatican Council in 1870 (at which the hierarchy of the Church of Holland were refused admittance), a considerable dissent among Catholics, especially in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, arose over the dogma of papal infallibility. The dissenters, while holding the Church in General Council to be infallible, could not accept the proposition that the Pope, acting alone, in matters of faith and morals is infallible. Many formed independent communities that came to be known as Old Catholic. They are called Old Catholics because they sought to adhere to the beliefs and practices of the Catholic Church of the post-Apostolic era. The Old Catholic communities appealed to the Archbishop of Utrecht who consecrated the first bishops for these communities. Eventually, under the leadership of the Church of Holland, these Old Catholic communities joined together to form the Utrecht Union of Churches. The Utrecht Union of Churches approbated, in 1908, the establishment of a mission in Great Britain. Archbishop Gerardus Gul of Utrecht consecrated Father Arnold Harris Matthew, a resigned Roman Catholic priest, Regionary Bishop for England. It was Bishop Mathew's charge to minister among Anglo-Catholics and Roman Catholics impeded from full participation in the life and sacraments of the Church. Toward this end, Bishop Mathew consecrated Austrian nobleman, Prince Rudolph Edward de Landes Berghes, in 1913 for work in Scotland. Prince Rudolph (1873-1920) left England for the United States at the onset of World War I.
In the United States… Bishop de Landes Berghes, in spite of great difficulty and isolation from the Utrecht Union of Churches, due to Bishop Mathew withdrawing from the Union, was able to plant the roots of an independent expression of Catholicism in America. He elevated to the episcopacy two priests, Carmel Henry Carfora and William Francis Brothers. Each of these bishops, in his own manner, continued the mission begun by Bishop de Landes Berghes. With the passing of these original organizers from the ecclesiastical scene, the Old Catholic Church in the United States has evolved from a fairly centralized administration with structured oversight of ministry to a local and regional model of administration with self-governing dioceses and provinces more closely following St. Ignatius of Antioch's concepts of the Church as a communion of communities each laboring together to proclaim the message of the Gospel.
Another Old Catholic priest, Fr. Joseph Renee Vilatte, began his ministry in Wisconsin, which led to the establishment of Old Catholic familial lines making us brothers and sisters to the Oriental Orthodox Churches in Middle East. Fr. Vilatte ultimately became Bishop Vilatte, consecrated bishop under the authority of Mar Ignatius Peter III, Patriarch of Antioch, of the Syrian Orthodox Church. He was consecrated a bishop by Mar Julius, Metropolitan of the Independent Catholic Church of Ceylon, Goa and India, who was assisted by Mar Paul Athanasius, Bishop of Kottayam and Mar Gregorius Geevargheese, Bishop of Niranam (who was later canonized as a Saint by the Malankaran Orthodox Syrian Church of India). He then returned to the United States, where his Episcopal lines would stand alongside those of Bishop Mathew, in securing valid lines of Apostolic Succession, both of which the Catholic Apostolic National Church share.
What The Catholic Apostolic National Church Believes… The faith of the Catholic Apostolic National Church is simply that of the Catholic Church as taught by the Church from apostolic times to the present day. The ecumenical Councils clearly express what the Catholic Apostolic National Church believes without the need for apology or excuse. In 1823, Archbishop Willibrord van Os of Utrecht reiterated adherence to the unchanging doctrine of Catholicism in the following words: "We accept without any exception whatever, all the Articles of the Holy Catholic Faith. We will never hold nor teach, now or afterwards, any other opinions than those that have been decreed, determined and published by our Mother, Holy Church..." Thus, the Catholic Apostolic National Church, tracing our Apostolic Succession through the Roman Catholic Church to the Apostles, participated in the full sacramental ministry of the Church. The Statement of Faith of the Catholic Apostolic National Church is faithful adherence to Sacred Scripture and the Apostolic Tradition.
How Do We Differ? In matters of discipline, administration and procedure, the Catholic Apostolic National Church differs from the Roman Catholic Church. For example, clerical celibacy (which is a matter of discipline) is optional among us. Married men may be ordained and in many of our dioceses clergy may, with prior Episcopal consent, enter into Holy Matrimony after ordination. Liturgical expression is also a matter of discipline determined by the local bishop. Consequently, many CANC communities have adopted the liturgical renewal promulgated following the Second Vatican Council while still maintaining Tridentine liturgy, in Latin or direct translation into classical or modern English, in those parishes that desire it. Eastern rite parishes exist as well, which follow the ancient liturgies of that rich tradition. Because our communities are small, they are able to success fully implement the Ignatian model of the Church referred to earlier. This concept views the faithful with their clergy and bishop as a community or family in loving concern for each other and each working together to live the Scriptural commands in their daily lives as Christians bringing the love of Christ to others. Our communities utilize their size and lack of highly detailed structure to the very best advantage organizationally by their ability to expedite decisions affecting the sacramental and community life of the faithful, within the revelation and authority of Holy Scripture and Apostolic Tradition.
The Birth of the Catholic Apostolic National Church of Brazil… Bishop Carlos Duarte Costa was consecrated as the Roman Catholic Diocesan Bishop of Botucatu, Brazil, on December 8, 1924, functioning as such uneventfully, until certain concerns he expressed about collaboration with Nazi War criminal in World War II, the inequitable distribution of wealth in the country, and the terrible treatment of the Brazil's poor, by both the civil government and the Roman Catholic Church in Brazil, caused his removal from the Diocese of Botucatu. In the 1930s Bishop Costa was the most outspoken Brazilian bishop in defending the poor. In 1937, at the insistence of the dictatorial Getúlio Vargas régime in Brazil, the Vatican forced Bishop Costa to retire as Bishop of Botucatu, and he was appointed as Titular Bishop of Maura. Nonetheless, he continued in speaking out on behalf of the poor and, in 1944, was even imprisoned for several months, but his resolve did not falter. He was branded a communist, which of course he was not, and he did not quit. Finally, in 1945, after protesting the Vatican's having assisted several Nazis and Nazi sympathizers find refuge in Brazil, Bishop Costa broke with Rome.
Bishop Carlos Duarte Costa went on to found the “Igreja Catolica Apostolica Brasileira” (ICAB), a church which spawned a movement of Catholic Apostolic National Churches around the world. Bishop Carlos Duarte Costa fell asleep in the Lord, on March 26, 1967, after service to the people for over forty-two years as bishop. He is revered by the Brazilian Church and her daughter churches around the world, including this church, as “St. Carlos of Brazil”.
The Brazilian Church suffered much persecution at the hands of hostile governments, tyrants and, unfortunately, even fellow Christians. Many of the early deacons, priests and bishops were persecuted for many, many years, and many are alive today, giving their accounts of arrest, imprisonment and even torture. The grey cassocks and soutanes worn by clergy, a result of that early persecution, are now worn as a symbol of honor, in faithfulness and steadfastness, as modern-day confessors of the faith. The dedication, courage and love of service to Christ, through service to His people, of “St. Carlos of Brazil” are part of the Catholic Apostolic National Church, as are his lines of Apostolic Succession.
What The Catholic Apostolic National Church Professes…
The faith of the Catholic Apostolic National Church is simply that as taught by the Church from Apostolic times to the present day. The Oecumenical Councils clearly express what we believe without the need for apology or excuse. We affirm the ancient creeds of faith, the “Athanasian Creed”, the “Apostles’ Creed” and the “Nicene Creed”. Thus, we, tracing our Apostolic Succession through the ancient churches back to the Apostles, participate in the full sacramental ministry. The Rule of Faith of the Catholic Apostolic National Church is faithful adherence to Sacred Scripture and Apostolic Tradition, as protected by the teaching Magisterium of the Church.
How Do We, As Catholics, Differ From Roman Catholics?
In matters of discipline, administration and procedure, we differ from the Roman Catholic Church. For example, clerical celibacy (which is a matter of discipline) is optional in the Catholic Apostolic National Church. Married men may be ordained, as in the Eastern Orthodox Churches, and in many of our dioceses clergy may, with prior Episcopal consent, enter into Holy Matrimony after ordination. Liturgical expression is also a matter of discipline determined by the local bishop. Consequently, many communities have adopted the liturgical renewal promulgated following the Second Vatican Council while still maintaining Tridentine liturgy, in Latin or direct translation into classical or modern English, in those parishes that desire it. Eastern Rite parishes exist as well, which follow the ancient liturgies of that rich tradition. Because communities are small, they are able to success fully implement the Ignatian model of the Church referred to earlier. This concept views the faithful with their clergy and bishop as a community or family in loving concern for each other and each working together to live the Scriptural commands in their daily lives as Christians bringing the love of Christ to others. The communities utilize their size and lack of highly detailed structure to the very best advantage organizationally by their ability to expedite decisions affecting the sacramental and community life of the faithful, within the revelation and authority of Holy Scripture and Apostolic Tradition.
There are other differences by which Catholic Apostolic National Church communities are differentiated from Roman Catholic parishes. The matter of papal infallibility defined by Vatican Council I is a non-issue for us, since we are not under papal jurisdiction. All Catholic Apostolic National Church communities accord the Holy Father that respect due him as Successor of St. Peter, Prince of the Apostles and Patriarch of the West. We likewise respect the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, and the Patriarch of the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch. We adhere to the teaching from apostolic times that the Church in General Council is infallible. Our theology recognizes that the Church's teaching magisterium has no less than two objects: the formation of conscience, in which case authority has an instructive quality; and the nurturing of a properly formed conscience to full maturity, in which case authority is guiding and directive.
The Catholic Apostolic National Church…
Originally founded in 1982 as the “Apostolic Catholic Church” under Archbishop Shelby Smith, in Nashua, New Hampshire, the church began her mission ministering mainly to those in hospitals and hospice care. As word of the church’s compassionate care to all in need grew, so did the church. Archbishop Smith carefully grew the church, choosing only tested and trusted men for ordination, and dutifully training them for their mission. In 1995, while engaged in establishing new parishes in the Midwest, Archbishop Smith fell asleep in the Lord.
Elected by the church to succeed him, Rev. Fr. Robert M. Gubala was chosen from among the clergy to succeed Archbishop Smith, and was consecrated to the Holy Episcopate on October 19, 1997 in O’Fallon, in St. Louis County, Missouri. Seeking to ensure that the Church remained faithful to its Old Catholic theology and identity, in December 1999, the Church was re-organized as the “Old Catholic Church of the United States”. The CANC went on to establish a province called at that time, the English Catholic Church (ECC), and consecrating the Most Reverend Robert McBride as her first Archbishop. The ECC would continue on, to become the Catholic Apostolic Church of Europe (UK), the European Province of the CANC.
The CANC became acquainted with the Brazilian Church (ICAB), due to the common apostolic succession, and began a dialogue. As a result of that dialogue, the Old Catholic Church of the United States was invited by ICAB to synod. Archbishop Gubala sent, as an emissary of the church, Bishop Andre Queen. As a result of ongoing communication and the discussions at synod, a strong relationship was developed between the two churches, under the auspices of Dom Luis Fernando Castillo-Mendez. During this same period, there was an increase in small groups, all claiming to be Old Catholic, yet espousing theologies that contradict fundamental Catholic theology. In addition, the Utrecht Union had been steadily moving towards a theological expression that also was not compatible with the original theology of the “Old Roman Catholic Diocese of Utrecht”, circa 1724 A.D., and also alienated its Roman Catholic counterparts. The church found itself concerned about the identity and meaning of “Old Catholic”, as it changed dramatically, and seemed less and less to accurately identify the theological position of the church. In recognition of this Church’s strict adherence to the faith and familial lines of succession with the “Igreja Catolica Apostolica Brasileira” (ICAB), the church decided to change the name of the church to better reflect our traditional, conservative Old Catholic faith and values. In August of 2005 the church changed its name, from the “Old Catholic Church of the United States”, to the “Catholic Apostolic National Church”. Although the name of the church changed, our faith remained the same, and stayed true to Sacred Scripture and Apostolic Tradition.
Throughout our journey forward, we have grown, with provinces in Africa and Asia as well. In addition, we have made many friends in our walk of faith, and established communion with like-minded churches. We also seek to work towards fruitful dialogue, and are in early stages of dialogue with our brethren in the Roman Catholic Church. The Catholic Apostolic National Church today, is an international, self-governing church that is growing worldwide.
The church welcomes those individuals who have broken ties over the years, back into our family of faith. Our church’s official catechism, “Credo”, offers a solid, understandable explanation of our faith and practices. Our history is rooted in solid practice and orthodox doctrine.
By developing new methods and ideas with an emphasis on community, and traditional, genuine Catholicism, which expresses a warmth and interest in the total person, our communities are able to address the needs of today's society in the beginning years of the Twenty-First Century. The Catholic Apostolic National Church is an understanding of the Western and Eastern traditions in one complete tradition. For the contemporary Catholic searching to maintain his/her Faith but desiring to do so without excessive institutionalism that often loses contact with the individual; for those with a Catholic background who feel impeded from full participation in the life and Sacraments of the Church; for the many unchurched who desire the joy and peace of Our Lord's Word and His Holy Sacraments, our communities provide a viable alternative and allow a person to be a part of Christ's Church, and be at peace with his/her conscience. Our communities, because of their size, can give individual attention to the individual spiritual needs of the faithful and, where necessary, develop unique ministries to meet those needs. Come to the Catholic Apostolic National Church this Sunday and worship with us!