Our Lady of the Angels Catholic Community is a parish member of Reconciliation Old Catholic Church
Some questions about the Independent Catholic (Old Catholic) Movement
There’s more than one Catholic Church?
No. There is only one Catholic Church, but there are many Catholic denominations. The Roman Catholic Church is one of those denominations, and is the largest. Another example is the Eastern Rite churches and Reconciliation Old Catholic Church, of which we are a part. While genuinely Catholic, these and many other Catholic Denominations are not under the governance of the Rome. As a group, most of these denominations are referred to as the Independent Catholic Movement within greater Catholicism.
But I thought a Denomination was a separate religion...
A denomination is an organization that is a group of fallible human beings who gather in worship, pool funds, construct church buildings, file for nonprofit status, operate ministries, hold rummage sales, and do all the other things people associate with the word “church”. Catholic denominations believe the same tenets of faith, but each denomination is separately organized and managed. So there is unity in faith, but diversity in practice and governance. It is important to not confuse matters of faith with matters of church practice and governance.
The Pope runs the Roman Church. Who runs the Independent Catholic Church?
Each denomination is run by its own bishops. The Pope is a bishop who has been elected by his fellow bishops to be, in effect, a kind of C.E.O. for the Roman church. There are variations among other Catholic denominations, but each generally has a governing council of bishops, and that council elects that denomination’s presiding bishop.
Don’t bishops have to be specially anointed somehow? I thought the Pope had to do it.
In the Roman Church, yes. However, every bishop, once consecrated, is invested with the fullness of the priesthood, which includes consecrating new bishops. The process involves a laying on of hands in an unbroken sequence that extends back to the original twelve apostles, Christianity’s first bishops. This is referred to as Apostolic Succession. Reconciliation Old Catholic Church can demonstrate this unbroken sequence. (A religion is considered apostolic when it can trace the consecrations of its bishops back to the original Church established by the Christ himself, according to Scripture.) Reconciliation O.C.C. can demonstrate this unbroken sequence and thus we rightly consider ourselves to be an example of true apostolic churches.
So somewhere in the past those lines of succession broke from the original Catholic Church?
Catholic history is much more complicated than most people realize. The greater Catholic Church has split a fair number of times, generally over matters of faith and governance. The two largest splits are those with the Eastern Orthodox in 1054 and with the Anglican Communion in 1534.
And there have been a few instances in Church history where Rome has given a diocese permission to elect its own bishops, for reasons that today sound quaint or obscure. Bishops independent of Rome have come about through both of these mechanisms described above.
Some More Information:
Right to Life
Each denomination establishes its own code of canon law, and virtually everyone has ruled that contraception is a matter of conscience; a decision that a couple makes, ideally after prayer and discernment. There is no prohibition against contraception in Reconciliation O.C.C..
The Roman Catholic Church is the only major religious group in all Christendom with a celibate clergy. The historical reasons for that might surprise you, though they are too complex to cover here. Mandatory celibacy has been a requirement of the Roman Church since around 1100 or so. For the first thousand years of Catholic history, priests, bishops, and even popes were married. There is nothing inherently wrong with celibacy for those who feel called to it, but requiring celibacy of all ordained deacons and priests prevents many worthy individuals from responding to their vocational call. Within the Independent Catholic movement, celibacy has always been regarded as a special calling, not as a requirement.
Divorce is never an easy matter. Most of the Independent Catholic denominations understand that and recognize that Christ’s message is of love and forgiveness. The majority of Independent Catholic denominations believe that divorce should not be an unassailable wall standing between two unhappy human beings and the sacraments that can begin to comfort and heal them. Reconciliation O.C.C. welcomes divorced and/or remarried men and women into full participation in the life of the Church.
Ordination of Women
Although there is no consensus yet in the independent Catholic movement about women’s ordination, more and more independent denominations are ordaining women as deacons, priests and bishops. Women share equally in the life, ministry and governance of Reconciliation O.C.C.
The Independent Catholic movement is still rather small compared to other Catholic denominations. Between World War II and 1990 or so, it had lost many members and seemed in danger of extinction. Since then, the internet has brought new life and energy to the Movement, and provides new ways of letting people know that we exist. Most denominations of the Independent Catholic Movement have their own websites, and many conduct list server lists and chat rooms. As yet, the independent Catholic Movement has not gotten a lot of national publicity, but it is steadily growing...