Are Old Catholic Orders Valid?

Are Old Catholic Orders Valid?
Abbot Bishop Brian Ernest Brown, CWC

“As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called— one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.” -Ephesians 4:1-7

The debate on the validity of autocephalous sacramental or Free Catholic or Independent Old Catholic holy orders is long standing and often offers nothing but confusion and suspicion. It is a belief of the Sacramental Community of the Coworkers of Christ that validity is most assuredly found through ministry within the community one is called to serve. So that, it is the very act of service that assures us of God’s grace, blessing, and authority to answer the call to ministry. It is through the natural connection of that kind of relationship, shepherd to sheep, that validity and authority are realized and made real to the world in which we live.

The Sacramental Community of the Coworkers of Christ does participate in and uphold the doctrine of Apostolic Succession and all of its clergy have been validly ordained by the laying on of hands of bishops within that historic succession, which we hold dearly.

Realizing that the traditions of the Church Universal and the doctrine of Apostolic Succession, as they relate to the validity of Independent Sacramental orders, can weigh heavy on the seeker’s spirit, we offer these references from various reputable Roman Catholic sources, not as definitive proof but rather common spiritual understanding:

From the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith Declaration: Dominus Jesus

Therefore, there exists a single Church of Christ, which subsists in the Catholic Church, governed by the Successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him. The Churches which, while not existing in perfect communion with the Catholic Church, remain united to her by means of the closest bonds, that is, by apostolic succession and a valid Eucharist, are true particular Churches. Therefore, the Church of Christ is present and operative also in these Churches, even though they lack full communion with the Catholic Church, since they do not accept the Catholic doctrine of the Primacy, which, according to the will of God, the Bishop of Rome objectively has and exercises over the entire Church.

A reference on the Old Catholic Movement from: Catholic Visitor 1978

“Old Catholic – several groups, including: (1) the Church of Utrecht, which severed relations with Rome in 1724; (2) The National Polish Church in the U.S., which has its origin near the end of the 19th century; (3) German, Austrian and Swiss Old Catholics, who broke away from union with Rome following the First Vatican Council in 1870 because they objected to the dogma of papal infallibility.

The formation of the Old Catholic communion of Germans, Austrians and Swiss began in 1870 at a public meeting held in Nuremberg under the leadership of A. Dolinger. Four years later Episcopal succession was established with ordination of an Old Catholic German bishop by a prelate of the Church of Utrecht. In line with the “Declaration of Utrecht” of 1889, they accept the first seven ecumenical councils and doctrine formulated before 1054, but reject communion with the pope and a number of other Roman Catholic doctrines and practices. They have a valid priesthood and valid sacraments. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church notes that they have recognized Anglican ordinations since 1925, that they have full communion with the Church of England since 1932, and have taken part in ordination of Anglican Bishops.”

Other Quoted Reputable Sources

“A validly consecrated bishop can validly confer all orders from the minor orders to the episcopate inclusively … For this reason the ordinations performed by the bishops of the Old Catholics are consider valid.” A Practical Commentary on the Code of Canon Law, revised and enlarged edition, by Rev. Stanislaw Woywod, OFM, LLB. Vol. 1, Sec. 881 P. 558.

“Every validly consecrated bishop, including heretical, schismatic, simonistic or excommunicated bishops, can validly dispense the Sacrament of Order, provided that he has the requisite intention, and follows the essential external rite (set. Certa). Cf. D 855, 860; CIC 2372.” 1952 Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma by Dr. Ludwig Ott, pp. 456.

“The Old Catholic Church has received valid episcopal consecration”, Christian Denominations, by Rev. Konrad Algemissen.

“We have no reason to doubt that the Old Catholic Orders are valid. The Apostolic Succession does not depend on obedience to the See of Peter but rather on the objective line of succession from Apostolic sources, the proper matter and form, and the proper intention … likewise Old Catholic bishops are bishops in Apostolic Succession … The Old Catholics, like the Orthodox, posses a valid priesthood.” Separated Brethren, William J. Whalen, pp. 204, 248.

“The Roman Church recognizes the validity of Old Catholic Orders and other Sacraments.” 1974 Catholic Almanac, by Felician A. Roy, OFM, page 368. “Our Sunday Visitor.”

“Their [Old Catholic] Orders and Sacraments are valid.” A Catholic Dictionary, by Donald Attwater.

“When a Catholic sacred minister is unavailable and there is urgent spiritual necessity, Catholics may receive the Eucharist, penance, or anointing from sacred ministers of non-Catholic denomination whose holy orders are considered valid by the Catholic Church. This includes all Eastern Orthodox priests, as well as priests of the Old Catholic or Polish National Church.” Rights and Responsibilities, A Catholics’ Guide to the New Code of Canon Law, Thomas P. Doyle, O.P., page 44.

“They [Old Catholics] have received valid orders.” Roman Catholic Dictionary, by Addison Arnold.

“The Far East Magazine of June, 1928, published by the Saint Columban Fathers of St. Columbans, Nebraska, in reply to any inquiry about the Old Catholic Church, published the reply that: “These [Old Catholics] Orders are valid.”

“Whenever there is no appearance of simulation on the part of the minister, the validity of the sacrament is sufficiently certain.” Apostolicae Curae