Independent Catholicism

Independent Catholicism is a movement comprising clergy and laity who self-identify as Catholic and who form "micro-churches claiming apostolic succession and valid sacraments,"[1]:86 despite a lack of affiliation with the main Catholic Church itself. It is difficult to determine the number of jurisdictions, communities, clergy and members who make up independent Catholicism,[2], particularly since the movement "is growing and changing in every moment."[1]:5 Many choose independent Catholicism as an alternative means to live and express their catholic faith outside the Catholic Church. The structures, beliefs and practices of independent Catholicism often closely align with those of other Catholic and Christian churches.

Independent Catholicism is part of the larger independent sacramental movement, in which clergy and laity of various faith traditions – including the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Anglican Communion and various non-Catholic Christian churches – have separated themselves from the institutions with which they previously self-identified. Within the independent sacramental movement, various independent churches have sprung from the Eastern Orthodox Church, but the members of these independent Orthodox groups most often self-identify as independent Orthodox, and not as independent Catholic.


Early episcopal consecrations without papal approval

Dominique Marie Varlet
Dominique Marie Varlet, Catholic Bishop of Babylon (1678-1742)

Beginning in 1724, Dominique Marie Varlet (1678-1742), the Catholic Bishop of Babylon, consecrated four successive men as Archbishop of Utrecht without papal approval. The Cathedral Chapter of Utrecht, which elected these men, had previously obtained an opinion from Zeger Bernhard van Espen (1646-1728) and two other doctors (professors) of canon law at the University of Louvain, which noted that the chapter had the right, in special circumstances, to elect its own archbishop and have him consecrated without the consent of the pope, and that, in the case of necessity, one bishop alone might validly consecrate another. Nineteen doctors of the theological faculties at Paris, Nantes, Rheims and Padua approved of this opinion. This caused a theological controversy and schism within the Catholic Church, which now possessed bishops who were validly consecrated without the permission of the pope. This schism marked the birth of the movement that would later be known as the Old Catholic Church (a term coined in 1853 for the Catholics of Utrecht), and it marked the beginning of an era in the western Church, in which validly-consecrated bishops enjoyed apostolic succession but were not subject to the structures and strictures of the Catholic Church.

First departure from the Catholic Church

The sharing of apostolic succession in the west outside the Catholic Church was largely confined to the Church of Utrecht for over a century. After the (First) Vatican Council in 1870, many Austro-Hungarian, German and Swiss Catholics rejected the declaration of papal infallibility, and their bishops, inspired by earlier acts in Utrecht, decided to leave the Catholic Church to form their own churches, independent of the Catholic Church. Now independent of the pope, these bishops were sometimes referred to as autocephalous (or self-governing) bishops or episcopi vaganti (wandering bishops). These validly-consecrated bishops enjoyed apostolic succession, and they continued to share that apostolic succession with the priests and deacons they ordained. In 1889, they formally united as part of the Utrecht Union of Churches (UU).[3]

Episcopal consecrations by Arnold Harris Mathew

Arnold Mathew
Bishop Arnold Harris Mathew (1852-1919)

In 1908, the movement that would become independent Catholicism left continental Europe when Arnold Harris Mathew (1852-1919), a former Catholic priest, was consecrated in Great Britain by Archbishop Gerardus Gul (1847-1920) of the Old Catholic Church of the Netherlands. Mathew believed that Old Catholicism might provide a home for disaffected Anglican clergy who reacted to Pope Leo XIII's suggestion that Anglican orders were null and void, and Gul incorrectly believed that Mathew had a significant following in the United Kingdom. Two years later, in 1910, Mathew consecrated two priests to the episcopate, without clear reasons and without consulting the Archbishop of Utrecht, and, in response to the ensuing protest, declared his autonomy from the Old Catholic Church.[4] Mathew later consecrated several other bishops who spread through England and North America. Plummer writes: "Here we begin to see the small, endlessly multiplying groups, with a high percentage of the membership in holy orders, which came to characterize the independent movement."[1]:19-20 From a historical perspective, one of Mathew's most important consecrations was of Frederick Samuel Willoughby, who in turn consecrated James Wedgwood, the co-founder in 1918 of the Liberal Catholic Church, an esoteric community closely aligned with the Theosophical Society and allowing complete freedom of belief.

Episcopal consecrations by Joseph René Vilatte

Joseph René Vilatte (1854-1929),[3] an Old Catholic priest ordained by Bishop Eduard Herzog (1841-1924) of the Old Catholic Church in Switzerland,[5] is credited with being the first person to bring to North America the movement that would result in independent Catholicism. In 1892, Vilatte traveled to India, where he was consecrated Mar Timotheos by Mar Julius I (1836-1923) of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church. During the following 28 years, Vilatte consecrated "a number of men who are the episcopal ancestors of an enormous variety of descendants" in North America.[1]:29

Subsequent departures from the Catholic Church

The last century has seen a number of clergy and laity move into the independent Catholic movement, from the Catholic Church.

Czechoslovak Hussite Church

Perhaps the largest departure from the Catholic Church was the Czechoslovak Hussite Church (CHC), which organized on January 8, 1920, when several thousand priests and laypeople formed an independent church in response to their deep concerns over the Catholic Church's opposition to modernism.[6] The church's first patriarch was Karel Farský (1880-1927), a modernist and former Catholic priest. The first bishops of the CHC were consecrated by priests through the laying on of hands. In 1931, Louis-Charles Winnaert (1880-1937), who was consecrated by Liberal Catholic bishop James Wedgwood (1883-1951), consecrated two CHC bishops, Gustav Procházka (1872-1942) and Rostislav Stejskal (1894-1946), thus sharing apostolic succession with the CHC.[6] The CHC ordained its first woman priest in 1947, and it consecrated its first woman bishop in 1999. According to the 2011 Czech Republic census, 39,276 people at that time self-identified as members of the CHC.[7]

Episcopal consecrations by Carlos Duarte Costa

Mons. Carlos Duarte Costa y Mons. Luis Fernando Castillo Mendez durante la consagración episcopal en el canal de Panamá
Roman Catholic Bishop Carlos Duarte (left) at the episcopal consecration of Luis Fernando Castillo Mendez, at the Panama Canal

Carlos Duarte Costa (1888-1961) served as a Catholic bishop in Brazil for more than twenty years before withdrawing from the Catholic Church over his opposition to its position on clerical celibacy, divorce, vernacular liturgy, and his suspicions of the Catholic Church's fascist sympathies during World War II. In 1945, Duarte Costa founded the Brazilian Catholic Apostolic Church, and he shared valid lines of apostolic succession with several bishops and priests within the independent Catholic movement. He is now revered as "St. Charles of Brazil" in the Brazilian Catholic Apostolic Church, which had grown to 560,781 members by 2010.[8]

Episcopal consecrations by Pierre Martin Ngo Dinh Thuc

From 1975 until his death in 1984, exiled Catholic Archbishop Pierre Martin Ngô Đình Thục (1897-1984) of Huế, Vietnam, an older brother of Ngo Dinh Diem, the first president of South Vietnam, consecrated a number of bishops, first for the Palmarian Catholic Church, then for the sedevacantists of the Tridentine Latin Rite Catholic Church. In 1999, Pop star Sinead O'Connor (b. 1966) was ordained a priest by Bishop Michael Cox (b. 1945) of the Irish Orthodox Catholic and Apostolic Church, whose lines of apostolic succession came through Archbishop Thuc.

Episcopal consecrations by Emmanuel Milingo

Emmanuel Milingo (b. 1930) served as Catholic Archbishop of Lusaka, Zambia from 1969 to 1983. As such, he enjoyed valid lines of apostolic succession from the Catholic Church, and, after departing from the Catholic Church in 1983 over the issues of faith healing and clerical celibacy, he formed Married Priests Now! and consecrated four married priests as bishops: George Stallings of Imani Temple African-American Catholic Congregation, Peter Paul Brennan of the Old Catholic Confederation, Archbishop Patrick Trujillo of the Old Catholic Church in America, and Archbishop Joseph Gouthro of the Catholic Apostolic Church International. Since 2006, Milingo has performed at least four other consecrations. In 2013, Milingo, who still considers himself a Catholic, retired from active ministry in the Ecumenical Catholic Apostolic Church of Peace.

Appeal of independent Catholicism to Catholic and Christian tradition

Upon encountering independent Catholicism for the first time, the questions of many individuals "are often historical: 'Where did this come from? Who ordained you? Did you invent this?'"[1]:13 Many independent Catholics respond by emphasizing their tie to the larger Christian tradition of which they form part, the heritage they have received from larger, historic, mainstream churches, like the Catholic Church, and their continuity of faith and ministry with those churches.[1]:15 Like Christians of the early Church, many see their efforts as "the seeds of a new kind of ministry that can adapt itself to the time and place of its exercise, the needs of the moment, and the people who are actually present in that particular place at that particular time. And yet is it so new? Is it not perhaps the very way that St. Paul set about spreading the Gospel and building the Church?"[9]

Many independent Catholic communities look to the past, seeking to create communities according to models provided by the New Testament (e.g., home-based fellowships led by volunteer clergy[1]:77) and restoring various practices of the primitive Church,[10] including the creation of an inclusive community and the honoring of the place of women and other marginalized persons within those communities. Many also find benchmarks for their current work in the annals of Christian history (e.g., the living of religious life, the sharing of various spiritual traditions, or the celebration of the Tridentine liturgy).

Independent Catholic beliefs and practices

Virtually all members of the independent Catholic movement possess "a deep commitment to the catholic (in the broadest possible sense) sacramental tradition"[11] and worship according to a prescribed liturgy, usually derived from a mainstream Christian rite (like the Roman rite). Plummer suggests that "the most critical factor for independent sacramental identity is the single-minded focus on sacramental activity...[and that] very few independent communities offer coffee hour, Sunday School, and the array of other social programs which have come to characterize many mainstream churches."[1]:91

Like the liturgies of early Christian community, the liturgies of independent Catholic communities often vary widely, with each cleric or community making "its own choices of emphasis in terms of doctrine, liturgy, and other matters."[11] In practice, independent Catholic polity is often essentially congregational.[11]

For the most part, independent Catholic communities possess a sacramental and eucharistic spirituality, often mirroring the sacramental life and theology of the Catholic Church. Most possess a mediatory priesthood and an historic episcopate[1]:1, which are often the only constants amid diversity that ranges from extreme traditionalism to radical experimentation.[12] Julie Byrne comments: "Independents vary widely, ranging from right to left in the political spectrum. On the right traditionalist churches practice versions of Catholicism more conservative than Rome. These include the Society of St. Pius X, founded by Marcel Lefebvre, as well as the Mount St. Michael's community in Spokane, Washington, and actor Mel Gibson's church in Malibu, California, which made headlines when he directed the movie, The Passion of the Christ in 2004. On the left stand groups such as the Church of Antioch, the Ecumenical Catholic Communion, and the White-Robed Monks of St. Benedict."[13]

While the western Church and its theology have remained constant, despite changing clergy, independent Catholicism often possesses another model in which "the priesthood remains constant, while the church it serves and the theology it teaches are often in a state of flux. While some western Christians may see this state of affairs as a distortion, it is nonetheless the centerpiece of the independent sacramental inheritance from the west."[14]

Plummer aptly notes: "Independent sacramental Christians have given a unique primacy to the priesthood, carrying the 'priesthood of all believers' to an extent never before envisioned. In many such churches, most or all of the members are ordained, with ordination functioning more like [the sacrament of confirmation], rather than a professional credential. For better or worse, there is great freedom to create new church structures, new forms for the sacraments, and new theologies, or at least a new synthesis of inherited elements."[11]

Many independent Catholic communities are small, are led by an unpaid clergy, and lack a stable schedule or location.[1]:1 & 3 Larger independent Catholic communities have often resulted from schism within the Catholic Church or are often led by clergy who were formed by and formerly ministered to the Catholic Church; these communities often resemble mainstream churches with a larger population of laity and a small number of paid clergy.[1]:112 In independent Catholicism, freelance ministries meeting the needs of a small number of persons are far more common than large parishes.[1]:113

While many Independent Catholic clergy and communities affirm the Apostles' Creed and the Nicene Creed, with or without the filioque and with varying interpretations, they espouse a variety of doctrines and beliefs, ranging from neo-gnostic and theosophical beliefs allowing for "freedom in the interpretation of scriptures, creeds, and liturgies,"[15] or the belief in no creed at all,[1]:101 to extremely traditional orthodox Catholic positions. Plummer notes: "The nature of the movement makes it virtually impossible for there to ever be a unified theology" among Independent Catholics.[1]:102

Within the movement of independent Catholicism, views vary widely on such issues as the ordination of women, homosexuality, divorce, issues of conscience, and other issues that are also controversial in other mainstream Catholic and Christian churches. Drawing from the ecumenical Christian tradition and other religious traditions, a growing number of independent Catholic clergy and communities espouse a certain universalism, believing that God's loving embrace and forgiveness might be extended to all.[1]:70–71 Sometimes reaching beyond the bounds of the Christian tradition, some independent Catholic clergy and communities feel greater liberty to incorporate into their lives and their worship a wide ranges of elements from other spiritual and religious traditions.[1]:85 Independent Catholic communities, often being quite small, tend to be internally fairly homogeneous on these and other issues, which means that divisions more often exist between different independent Catholic communities, rather than within specific independent Catholic communities.

Plummer suggests the following categories for independent Catholic communities: clergy who primarily celebrate alone, traditionalists with conservative theological commitments, churches maintaining traditional liturgy but with a different social or theological vision (e.g., full inclusion), groups with a particular focus on women's issues (e.g., the ordination of women) or the recovery of the Divine Feminine in worship, groups seeking liberal, non-dogmatic approaches to being church with little, if any, standards of dogmatic beliefs, and fellowships with an esoteric spirituality.[1]:40

Hundreds of websites are devoted to independent Catholic jurisdictions and communities, many of which have little evident presence or ministry outside the internet. Additionally, many independent Catholic clergy have no web presence at all.[1]:4

Autocephalous nature of independent Catholicism

Independent Catholic clergy do not fall under the jurisdiction of the Catholic Church. Rather, the bishops of the independent Catholic movement are autocephalous or self-governing. At present, there is no single unifying structure for the many clergy and laity who make up independent Catholicism, and no reliable, centralized record-keeping.[1]:7 Independent Catholic communities are often small and extremely fluid.[16] Various directories of independent Catholic clergy have been attempted through the years, much of the information is provided by subjects, often with little verification,[1]:10 and most such directories contain hardly more than the quickly-outdated contact information of individual clerics, with little information on jurisdictions, communities, apostolic succession, and forms of worship.[1]:9

Importance of apostolic succession in independent Catholicism

The notion of apostolic succession (i.e., the ability of a bishop to trace spiritual ancestry through a purportedly unbroken line of bishops back to the original faith established by Jesus of Nazareth and his apostles) has played an important role in the history of the western Church since the Donatist controversy in the fourth and fifth centuries AD. The traditional Catholic position holds that a validly consecrated bishop shares apostolic succession with the bishops he consecrates and the priests and deacons he ordains regardless of any heresy or schism he may have committed.[14] Some theologians argue that this view is mechanical and reductionist, and that episcopal consecration is for service within a specific Christian community; in this view, consecration or ordination of an individual with no reference to a community is without effect. Independent Catholic clergy reject this view, arguing that bishops are consecrated and priests and deacons ordained for the service of others, whether of a defined community or jurisdiction, or of a more broadly defined group. Independent Catholics tend to share the view that, "whatever else we may disagree about, we all believe earnestly in apostolic succession!"[16]

Many in the independent Catholic movement who claim to possess valid lines of apostolic succession received them from lines derived from Catholic Bishop Carlos Duarte Costa, Catholic Archbishop Pierre Martin Ngo Dihn Thuc or Catholic Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, who are seen within the movement as having validly, even if illicitly, consecrated and ordained individuals outside the Catholic Church.

While making no explicit statement about the validity or invalidity of consecrations and ordinations carried out in the independent Catholic movement, the Catholic Church declares that it does not recognize them and will not recognize them, and that it considers those who have received them as remaining, for all juridical effects, in their previous state of laity or presbyters.[17]

Conditional consecrations and ordinations

Because the claim of apostolic succession has traditionally been viewed as a primary determinant of the validity of the Church's sacraments, some independent Catholic clergy, particularly in the early days of the movement, underwent more than one ordination or consecration, to ensure the possession of valid lines of apostolic succession. According to liturgical theology, these lines of apostolic succession are shared by bishops with the persons consecrated or ordained by them, and, due to the indelible nature of the sacrament of Holy Orders, once ordained or consecrated, a person can never be ordained or consecrated again (nor can the orders be taken away). Subsequent ordinations and consecrations are considered "conditional" and are without effect unless the recipient has previously received no valid ordination or consecration.

These conditional consecrations and ordinations complicate conversations on the historical origins of the independent Catholic movement and its communities. Plummer writes: "Many independent bishops have been consecrated multiple times, in an effort to ensure sacramental validity and consolidate claims to the historic episcopate. Such consecrations, in which literally dozens of 'lineages' can be transmitted from one bishop to another, only increase the difficulty of accurately describing the ancestry of any given group."[16] He notes that this "crossbreeding of ecclesiastical lineage" has reached such a point that most independent Catholic clergy share most or all of their heritage in common, even if this shared heritage has not contributed in any way toward jurisdictional unity.[1]:127

Independent Catholic clergy

Independent Catholicism comprises a wide variety of clergy, many of whom are "primarily ritually focused"[18] and possess "a particularly strong attachment to the liturgical aspect of being Christian."[18]

Many independent Catholic clergy and their communities are "those who have felt themselves excluded from the mainstream liturgical churches due to gender, sexuality, race, culture, style of worship...or theology."[1]:66 Plummer notes that within the independent sacramental movement, which includes independent Catholicism, "ordination is often open to a much larger percentage of the membership than in mainstream churches. Thus, those who want to become priests can generally do so. In the case of women and gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender persons, there is a redemptive reversal in which those who were denied a public role in the church's sacramental life have assumed the previously forbidden place at the altar. Persons from ethnic or cultural minority groups who have been denied leadership positions, or who feel that their culture has been stifled, can work to more fully integrate their cultural identity and their faith....Thus, we have those who have been excluded from the church's sacramental life, for whatever reasons, taking ownership of the liturgical traditions, and creatively innovating to form new communities."[1]:66–68.Many independent Catholics see this spirit of inclusiveness as being in line with St. Paul's vision of an inclusive community[19] and with Jesus' reconciliation of all on the cross, with the subsequent rending of the Temple veil,[20] thus granting access by all to the Holy of Holies. As a result, an increasing number of independent Catholics find it difficult to justify how a church following in the footsteps of Jesus might justify withholding the sacrament of Holy Orders from women and sexual minorities, and the sacrament of Marriage from same-sex spouses.

Outside of mainstream churches, Plummer says, such clergy "have often been accused of 'playing church.' Perhaps there is a grain of truth in that barb, as there is a touch of a playful attitude, when all these unlikely folks process into the church's sanctuary."[18]

Independent Catholic clergy have been described as "often very attached to their individual views of theology, liturgy, and other matters...and would rather belong to minuscule groups which more closely approximate their vision of Christianity."[1]:2–3 Plummer shares: "Many independent clergy, perhaps a majority, at least theoretically subscribe to fairly standard Catholic/Orthodox/Anglican theology, with few distinctive beyond, for instance, the rejection of papal infallibility. Most spent many years within those mainstream jurisdictions...[and now as independent Catholic clergy] they have often expended great energy in appearing 'real,' and 'just like' the larger liturgical churches, with only one or two adjustments."[21]

Many independent Catholic clergy are "essentially alone in their priestly practice"[1]:64 and exercise a primarily solitary vocation, with many of their family members and friends not even knowing of their clerical status.[1]:2 In line with Jesus' command to pray to God in secret[22] and with the monastic tradition of hermit priests (e.g., Catholic Carthusians) praying alone but in mystical union with the entire church and interceding for the entire world, much of their worship is performed in private.[1]:92 Plummer suggests: "A growing number of clergy are comfortable with private celebration, when a community is not available, or if they have discerned that their vocation is largely a hidden one....Private celebration is often grounded in a deep conviction of the objective reality and efficacy of the sacraments. From such a perspective, even a mass said in one's living room unknown to any other soul, is still a radiant gift to the world, and a powerful prayer for those held in mind and heart. On a less exalted level, private masses for those without a community enforce one's priestly identity, which may be outwardly expressed in less obvious ways."[1]:64–65 Practically speaking, Plummer says, "viable independent communities are not always easily created, and these clergy would deprive themselves of the benefits of communion, and of the joining of themselves to Christ in his sacrifice, if they waited for the presence of others in order to approach the altar."[1]:114–115 When engaged in ministry with others, independent Catholic priests often see themselves as missionaries, freely sharing the grace of the Church's sacraments with those who may not regularly participate in a church community.

Often volunteering their time in ministry, many independent Catholic bishops, priests and deacons are a "working clergy" who support themselves and their ministries with jobs outside their ministries. As such, many often struggle to integrate their secular jobs and "ordinary" lives with their vocations and ministries.[1]:119

While all religious traditions contain examples of unhealthy individuals and of clergy misconduct,[2] critics often draw attention to the personalities and idiosyncrasies of independent Catholic clergy.

Religious orders

Similar to the Catholic Church, which possesses a rich tradition of varied religious orders, independent Catholicism also consists of a diversity of religious communities. Most often, these communities and their jurisdictions resemble their Catholic counterparts.[1]:117 Some independent Catholic religious communities are founded by and are exclusively for the members of particular jurisdictions; others are open to all who wish to live and grow in the spirituality of the religious community. Many religious communities within the independent Catholic tradition are less structured than Catholic religious orders, with their members making certain vows (that may be interpreted differently than the traditional evangelical counsels), living a lifestyle in line with the spirituality of the tradition, and sharing the charism of their religious order with the world.

Formation of clergy

Apart from those members of the clergy who were formed within the seminary system of the Catholic Church or of a similar mainstream church, very few independent Catholic clergy have received a formal theological education.[21] Independent Catholic clergy "are not usually specialized professionals, but volunteers who hopefully know at least enough to celebrate the sacraments for themselves and those around them....Such radically different models of Christian priesthood raise questions of what sort of clergy training is needed, and offered within these communities."[23] Plummer shares interviewee feedback suggesting that "the challenge of clergy training...was cited as the most important challenge facing the movement."[24]

Resources for the formation and education of independent Catholic clergy and seminarians are sparse, many independent Catholic seminarians lack the financial and personal resources to be full-time seminarians,[24] and many are not "willing to go to such lengths, and incur such debt [for a graduate degree], with no prospect of paid ministry."[1]:122 Instead, many independent Catholic seminarians work full-time at secular jobs and do not have the leisure to pursue full-time studies. Independent Catholic clergy have established a number of seminaries, most featuring distance learning or mentoring programs that vary considerably in quality,[24] but very few of which grant legitimate degrees possess meaningful accreditation or could lead to a paycheck or a reasonably well-assured career path.[25] More common is the mentoring and training of candidates by bishops and priests who have few if any clear guidelines or expectations for ordinands and instead adjust training requirements to meet the needs of the ordinand's vocation. Plummer concludes: "Mentoring will likely continue to be the primary means of clergy training in the independent sacramental movement, due in part to the extremely flexible, anarchic nature of the movement, which works against the creation of formalized seminary programs."[1]:125

The grace of God in the sacrament of Holy Orders is often freely shared within independent Catholicism, thus leading to such characterizations as that of the young and ministerially-unprepared teenager whom poet Robert Kelly (b. 1935) says he once was: "A Unitarian I came into the world in Pride's Crossing, Massachusetts, and a Unitarian I shall leave it, notwithstanding my daily practice of certain Vedic sacrifices, my twenty-year long pursuit of ritual magic, the fact that I am technically a Muslim, and the more resplendent fact that I awoke from a teenage binge one day to find myself consecrated bishop of the Primitive Restored Old Catholic Church of North America."[26] Plummer concludes: "It is very difficult to know what to do about such untrained clergy. Some provide themselves the training they did not receive from their bishop, and serve admirably well, perhaps better than some of their formally educated peers. Others are walking disasters, spiraling into psychological distortions that injure themselves and others, or ignoring their ordained status altogether."[1]:106


Most writings and liturgical rites within the independent Catholic movement are self-published at best,[1]:3–4 and are often directed by independent Catholic clergy toward other independent Catholic clergy.[1]:10 Sustained theological reflection in the future might be expected from clergy and communities with greater theological formation or from larger, more stable communities that have survived into their second or third generation.[10] In the meantime, "as independent clergy are most often volunteers with secular jobs, and little formal theological training, they lack both the time and the tools helpful to the development of a fully imagined theology."[12]

Academic literature on independent Catholicism is relatively sparse and not generally sympathetic.[1]:6

See also


Official website of Communion of Evangelical Episcopal Churches

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al Plummer, John P. (2004). The Many Paths of the Independent Sacramental Movement. Berkeley, CA: The Apocryphile Press. ISBN 0-9771461-2-X.
  2. ^ a b Plummer, p. 3.
  3. ^ a b Kemp, Alan R. (ed.). "A brief history of Independent Catholicism in North America". Ascension Alliance. Archived from the original on 28 September 2013. Retrieved 15 June 2014.
  4. ^ Moss, pp. 301-304. Anson, pp. 180-181.
  5. ^ Old Catholic SourceBook - General info
  6. ^ a b Plummer, p. 23.
  7. ^ "Úvodní stránka | SLDB 2011" (PDF). 14 November 2014. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 November 2013. Retrieved 21 November 2015.
  8. ^ "Tabela 2103 - População residente, por situação do domicílio, sexo, grupos de idade e religião: Religião = Católica Apostólica Brasileira". Censo Demográfico 2010 (in Portuguese). Rio de Janeiro, BR: Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística. 2010. Retrieved 2015-10-09.
  9. ^ Bain, p. 16.
  10. ^ a b Plummer, p. 70.
  11. ^ a b c d Plummer, p. 37.
  12. ^ a b Plummer, p. 128.
  13. ^ Julie Byrne, The Other Catholics: Remaking America's Largest Religion (Columbia University Press 2016), p. 4
  14. ^ a b Plummer, p. 25.
  15. ^ The Liturgy of the Liberal Catholic Church, p. 196.
  16. ^ a b c Plummer, p. 14.
  17. ^ Sacra Congregatio pro doctrina Fidei (17 September 1976). "Decretum circa quasdam illegitimas ordinationes presbyterales et episcopales" (PDF). Acta Apostolicae Sedis (in Latin) (published 31 October 1976). 68 (10): 623. ISSN 0001-5199. English translation: Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, "Decree concerning certain unlawful priestly and episcopal ordinations", 17 September 1976. The statement was repeated in a Notification of 12 March 1983.
  18. ^ a b c Plummer, p. 67.
  19. ^ Galatians 3:28.
  20. ^ Mark 15:38; Matthew 27:51; Luke 23:45.
  21. ^ a b Plummer, p. 69.
  22. ^ Matthew 6:6.
  23. ^ Plummer, pp. 104-105.
  24. ^ a b c Plummer, p. 105.
  25. ^ Plummer, p. 120.
  26. ^, as cited in Plummer, p. 106.


  • Bain, Alan (1985). Bishops Irregular: An International Directory of Independent Bishops. Bristol: A.M. Bain. ISBN 0951029800.
  • Moss, Claude Beaufort (2005) [1964]. The Old Catholic Movement: Its Origins and History (2nd ed.). Berkeley, CA: The Apocryphile Press. ISBN 0-9764025-9-9.
  • Plummer, John P. (2004). The Many Paths of the Independent Sacramental Movement. Berkeley, CA: The Apocryphile Press. ISBN 0-9771461-2-X.

Further reading


Ali Illahism (Persian: علی‌اللّهی‎) is a syncretic religion which has been practiced in parts of Iranian Luristan which combines elements of Shia Islam with older religions. It centers on the belief that there have been successive incarnations of the Deity throughout history, and Ali Ilahees reserve particular reverence for Ali, the son-in-law of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, who is considered one such incarnation. Various rites have been attributed as Ali Ilahian, similarly to the Yezidis, Ansaris, and all sects whose doctrine is unknown to the surrounding Muslim and Christian population. Observers have described it as an agglomeration of the customs and rites of several earlier religions, including Zoroastrianism, historically because travelogues were "evident that there is no definite code which can be described as Ali Illahism".Sometimes Ali-Illahism is used as a general term for the several denominations that venerate or deify Ali, like the Kaysanites, the Alawis or the Ahl-e Haqq/Yarsanis, others to mean the Ahl-e Haqq.


Antireligion is opposition to religion of any kind. The term has been used to describe opposition to organized religion, religious practices or religious institutions. This term has also been used to describe opposition to specific forms of supernatural worship or practice, whether organized or not. Opposition to religion also goes beyond the misotheistic spectrum. As such, antireligion is distinct from deity-specific positions such as atheism (the lack of belief in deities) and antitheism (an opposition to belief in deities); although "antireligionists" may also be atheists or antitheists.

Carlos Duarte Costa

Carlos Duarte Costa (July 21, 1888 – March 26, 1961) was a Brazilian Roman Catholic bishop who became the founder of the Brazilian Catholic Apostolic Church, an independent Catholic church, and its international extension, which after his death became known as the Worldwide Communion of Catholic Apostolic National Churches.

The former Bishop of Botucatu, he was excommunicated by Pope Pius XII, ultimately for schism, but in culmination of several doctrinal and canonical issues (such as his views on clerical celibacy). Duarte Costa has been canonized as "St. Carlos of Brazil" by the Brazilian Catholic Apostolic Church.

Catholic (term)

The word catholic (with lowercase c; derived via Late Latin catholicus, from the Greek adjective καθολικός (katholikos), meaning "universal") comes from the Greek phrase καθόλου (katholou), meaning "on the whole", "according to the whole" or "in general", and is a combination of the Greek words κατά meaning "about" and ὅλος meaning "whole". The term Catholic (usually written with uppercase C in English) was first used in the early 2nd century to indicate Christendom as a whole. In the context of Christian ecclesiology, it has a rich history and several usages.

The word in English can mean either "of the Catholic faith" or "relating to the historic doctrine and practice of the Western Church". Many Christians use it to refer more broadly to the whole Christian Church or to all believers in Jesus Christ regardless of denominational affiliation; it can also more narrowly refer to Catholicity, which encompasses several historic churches sharing major beliefs. "Catholicos", the title used for the head of some churches in Eastern Christian traditions, is derived from the same linguistic origin.

In non-ecclesiastical use, it derives its English meaning directly from its root, and is currently used to mean the following:

including a wide variety of things; all-embracing

universal or of general interest;

liberal, having broad interests, or wide sympathies; or

inclusive, inviting and containing strong evangelism.The term has been incorporated into the name of the largest Christian communion, the Catholic Church (also called the Roman Catholic Church). All of the three main branches of Christianity in the East (Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodox Church and Church of the East) had always identified themselves as Catholic in accordance with Apostolic traditions and the Nicene Creed. Anglicans, Lutherans, and some Methodists also believe that their churches are "Catholic" in the sense that they too are in continuity with the original universal church founded by the Apostles. However, each church defines the scope of the "Catholic Church" differently. For instance, the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox churches, and Church of the East, each maintain that their own denomination is identical with the original universal church, from which all other denominations broke away.

Distinguishing beliefs of Catholicity, the beliefs of most Christians who call themselves "Catholic", include the episcopal polity, that bishops are considered the highest order of ministers within the Christian religion, as well as the Nicene Creed of AD 381. In particular, along with unity, sanctity, and apostolicity, catholicity is considered one of Four Marks of the Church, found the line of the Nicene Creed: "I believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church."

During the medieval and modern times, additional distinctions arose regarding the use of the terms Western Catholic and Eastern Catholic. Before the East–West Schism, those terms had just the basic geographical meanings, since only one undivided Catholicity existed, uniting the Latin speaking Christians of West and the Greek speaking Christians of the East. After the split of 1054 terminology became much more complicated, resulting in the creation of parallel and conflicting terminological systems.

Catholic Church (disambiguation)

The Catholic Church is one of the largest Christian Churches.

Catholic Church may also refer to:

One of the 24 particular churches sui iuris that form the larger Catholic Church:

The Latin Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church or Western Catholic Church

The Eastern Catholic Churches, several Eastern Churches in full communion with Catholic Church

Independent Catholicism, Churches that historically and culturally stem from Catholicism but broke away from the Catholic Church

The Old Catholic Church, part of Independent Catholicism

Other churches expressing apostolic origins and traditions of catholicity, such as:

The Eastern Orthodox Church

Oriental Orthodoxy

The Assyrian Church of the East

The Ancient Church of the East

Churches within Lutheranism

Churches within Anglicanism


Catholicity (from Greek καθολικότητα της εκκλησίας, "catholicity of the church") or catholicism (from Greek καθολικισμός, "universal doctrine") is a concept that encompasses the beliefs and practices of numerous Christian denominations, most notably those that describe themselves as Catholic in accordance with the Four Marks of the Church, as expressed in the Nicene Creed of the First Council of Constantinople in 381: "[I believe] in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church."

While Catholicism is most commonly associated with the faith and practices of the Catholic Church led by the Pope in Rome, the traits of catholicity, and thus the term catholic, are also claimed and possessed by other denominations such as the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Oriental Orthodox Church, the Assyrian Church of the East. It also occurs in Lutheranism, Anglicanism, as well as Independent Catholicism and other Christian denominations. While traits used to define catholicity, as well as recognition of these traits in other denominations, vary among these groups, such attributes include formal sacraments, an episcopal polity, apostolic succession, highly structured liturgical worship, and other shared Ecclesiology. The Catholic Church is also known as the Roman Catholic Church; the term Roman Catholic is used especially in ecumenical contexts and in countries where other churches use the term Catholic, to distinguish it from broader meanings of the term.Among Protestant and related traditions, catholic is used in the sense of indicating a self-understanding of continuity of faith and practice from Early Christianity as delineated in the Nicene Creed. Among Methodist, Lutheran, Moravian, and Reformed denominations the term "catholic" is used in the in claiming to be "heirs of the apostolic faith". These denominations consider themselves to be catholic, teaching that the term "designates the historic, orthodox mainstream of Christianity whose doctrine was defined by the ecumenical councils and creeds" and as such, most Reformers "appealed to this catholic tradition and believed they were in continuity with it."

Comparative religion

Comparative religion is the branch of the study of religions concerned with the systematic comparison of the doctrines and practices of the world's religions. In general the comparative study of religion yields a deeper understanding of the fundamental philosophical concerns of religion such as ethics, metaphysics, and the nature and forms of salvation. Studying such material is meant to give one a broadened and more sophisticated understanding of human beliefs and practices regarding the sacred, numinous, spiritual, and divine.In the field of comparative religion, a common geographical classification of the main world religions includes Middle Eastern religions (including Iranian religions), Indian religions, East Asian religions, African religions, American religions, Oceanic religions, and

classical Hellenistic religions.

Danube Seven

The Danube Seven — Christine Mayr-Lumetzberger, Adelinde Theresia Roitinger, Gisela Forster, Iris Muller, Ida Raming, Pia Brunner and Angela White (the last a pseudonym for Dagmar Braun Celeste, the Austrian born former first lady of Ohio in the United States) — are a group of seven women from Germany, Austria and the United States who were ordained as priests on a ship cruising the Danube river on 29 June 2002 by Rómulo Antonio Braschi, Ferdinand Regelsberger, and third unknown bishop.

Braschi, an Independent Catholic bishop whose own ordination is in the line of apostolic succession and thus considered valid by the Roman Catholic Church, was excommunicated. Regelsberger had been ordained by Braschi a few months prior to the ordinations on the Danube. The problematic ordination of Braschi thus makes Regelsberger's problematic as well, according to ideas on apostolic succession lineage, providing an opportunity for criticism by those who oppose women's ordination in the Roman Catholic Church.

The women's ordinations were not, however, recognized as valid by the Roman Catholic Church, although the women (and their successors) consider their own ordinations to be valid and even studied in a three year program, designed by Christine Mayr- Lumetzberger, prior to their ordinations.

Instituto María Rosa Mystica, Sacerdotes Carismáticos Misioneros

The Instituto María Rosa Mystica, Sacerdotes Misioneros Carismáticos (Institute of Mary Mystical Rose – Charismatic Missionary Priests) is a small independent Catholic association under the protection of the independent Catholic Brazilian Catholic Apostolic Church. Founded in 2004 by Bishop Gustavo Adrian Gabucci, it consists of independent Catholic priests and laypeople in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Latin Church

The Latin Church (also known as the Western Church or the Roman Catholic Church) is the largest particular church of the Catholic Church, employing the Latin liturgical rites. It is one of 24 sui iuris churches, the 23 other forming the Eastern Catholic Churches. It is headed by the Bishop of Rome - the pope, traditionally called the Patriarch of the West - with headquarters in the Vatican City, enclaved within Rome, Italy. The Latin Church traces its history to the earliest days of Christianity, according to Catholic tradition, through its direct leadership under the Holy See.

Substantial distinguishing theological emphases, liturgical traditions, features and identity can be traced back to the Latin church fathers, and most importantly the Latin Doctors of the Church, active during the first centuries A.D., including in the Early African church. After the East-West schism in 1054, in the Middle Ages its members became known as Latins in contrast with Eastern Christians. Following the Islamic conquests, the Crusades were launched in order to defend Christians in the Holy Land against persecution. The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem was established for their care, remaining until this day. Other Latin dioceses, such as the Archdiocese of Carthage where much of trinitarian theology, and Ecclesiastical Latin was developed, were vanquished and transformed into titular sees when Christians were forced to convert, flee, or die. A persecution that goes on until today, especially around the Islamic world.

The Latin Church was in full communion with the Eastern Orthodox Church until the East-West schism. It was spread to Latin America in the early modern period. The Protestant Reformation in the 16th century resulted in Protestantism breaking away. Since 19th century, also smaller groups of Independent Catholic denominations broke away.

With approximately 1.255 billion members (2015), it remains by far the largest particular church not only in the Catholic Church or Western Christianity, but in all Christianity.

Liberal Rite

The primary liturgical rite used by various denominations within the greater Liberal Catholic movement. Also known as the Mystical Mass and the Wedgwood/Leadbeater Mass, the Liberal Rite is the most widely used liturgical form found within the Liberal Catholic Movement. Like other liturgical rites, the Liberal Rite has grown and evolved over the past century.

List of Christian denominations

A Christian denomination is a distinct religious body within Christianity, identified by traits such as a name, organization, and doctrine. Individual bodies, however, may use alternative terms to describe themselves, such as church, convention, assembly, house, union, or sometimes fellowship. Divisions between one denomination and another are defined by authority and doctrine; issues including the nature of Jesus, Trinitarianism, Nontrinitarianism, the authority of apostolic succession, eschatology, conciliarity, and papal primacy among others may separate one denomination from another. Groups of denominations—often sharing broadly similar beliefs, practices, and historical ties—are sometimes known as "branches of Christianity" or "denominational families" (e.g. Eastern or Western Christianity and their sub-branches).

This is not a complete list, but aims to provide a comprehensible overview of the diversity among denominations of Christianity. Only those Christian denominations or organizations with Wikipedia articles will be listed in order to ensure that all entries on this list are notable and verifiable. The denominations or organizations listed are ordered from ancient to contemporary Christianity.

List of Christian denominations by number of members

This is a list of Christian denominations by number of members. It is inevitably partial and generally based on claims by the denominations themselves. The numbers should therefore be considered approximate and the article an ongoing work-in-progress.

The list includes the following Christian denominations: the Catholic Church including the Eastern Catholic Churches; all the Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox churches with some recognition and their offshoots; Protestant denominations with at least 0.2 million members; the provinces of the Anglican Communion with at least 0.2 million members; all the other Christian branches with distinct theologies, such as Restorationist and Nontrinitarianian denominations; the independent Catholic denominations; and the Church of the East. With about 2.42 billion adherents all over the world, Christianity is the largest religious group in the world.

Manoel Ceia Laranjeira

Manoel Ceia Laranjeira (1903–1994) was a Brazilian Bishop of the Independent Catholicism movement, particularly the Brazilian Catholic Apostolic Church.

Organized religion

Organized religion (or organised religion—see spelling differences), also known as institutional religion, is religion in which belief systems and rituals are systematically arranged and formally established. Organized religion is typically characterized by an official doctrine (or dogma), a hierarchical or bureaucratic leadership structure, and a codification of rules and practices.

Pope Francis

Pope Francis (Latin: Franciscus; Italian: Francesco; Spanish: Francisco; born Jorge Mario Bergoglio; 17 December 1936) is the head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City State. Francis is the first Jesuit pope, the first from the Americas, the first from the Southern Hemisphere, the first to visit the Arabian Peninsula, and the first pope from outside Europe since the Syrian Gregory III, who reigned in the 8th century.

Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Bergoglio was ordained a Catholic priest in 1969, and from 1973 to 1979 was Argentina's provincial superior of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits). He became the Archbishop of Buenos Aires in 1998 and was created a cardinal in 2001 by Pope John Paul II. He led the Argentine Church during the December 2001 riots in Argentina. The administrations of Néstor Kirchner and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner considered him a political rival. Following the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI on 28 February 2013, a papal conclave elected Bergoglio as his successor on 13 March. He chose Francis as his papal name in honor of Saint Francis of Assisi.

Throughout his public life, Pope Francis has been noted for his humility, emphasis on God's mercy, international visibility as Pope, concern for the poor and commitment to interfaith dialogue. He is credited with having a less formal approach to the papacy than his predecessors, for instance choosing to reside in the Domus Sanctae Marthae guesthouse rather than in the papal apartments of the Apostolic Palace used by previous popes. He maintains that the Church should be more open and welcoming. He does not support unbridled capitalism, Marxism, or Marxist versions of liberation theology. Francis maintains the traditional views of the Church regarding abortion, marriage, ordination of women, and clerical celibacy. He opposes consumerism and overdevelopment, and supports taking action on climate change, a focus of his papacy with the promulgation of Laudato si'. In international diplomacy, he helped to restore full diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba and supported the cause of refugees during the European migrant crisis. Since 2016, Francis has faced increasingly open criticism, particularly from theological conservatives, on the question of admitting civilly divorced and remarried Catholics to Communion with the publication of Amoris laetitia and on the question of the alleged cover-up of clergy sexual abuse.

Valid but illicit

Valid but illicit and valid but illegal are descriptions applied in Roman Catholicism to an unauthorized celebration of a sacrament that nevertheless has effect. Validity is presumed whenever an act is placed "by a qualified person and includes those things which essentially constitute the act itself as well as the formalities and requirements imposed by law for the validity of the act".Canon law also lays down rules for lawful placing of the act, beyond its validity.

Western Christianity

Western Christianity is a religious category composed of the Latin Church and Protestantism, together with their offshoots such as Independent Catholicism and Restorationism. The large majority of the world's 2.4 billion Christians are Western Christians (about 2 billion – 1.2 billion Latin Catholic and 800 million Protestant). The original and still major part, the Latin Church, developed under the bishop of Rome (the Patriarch of the West) in the former Western Roman Empire in Antiquity. Out of the Latin Church emerged a wide variety of independent Protestant denominations, including Lutheranism and Anglicanism, starting from the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century, as did Independent Catholicism in the 19th century. Thus, the term "Western Christianity" does not describe a single communion or religious denomination, but is applied to distinguish all these denominations collectively from Eastern Christianity.

The establishment of the distinct Latin Church, a particular church sui iuris of the Catholic Church (in contrast to the Eastern Catholic Churches, also in full communion with the Pope in Rome) coincided with the consolidation of the Holy See in Rome, where the bishop claimed a particular role since Antiquity. The terms "Western" and "Eastern" in this regard originated with geographical divisions mirroring the cultural divide between the Hellenistic east and Latin West, and the political divide between the Western and Eastern Roman empires. During the Middle Ages adherents of the Latin Church, irrespective of ethnicity, commonly referred to themselves as "Latins" to distinguish themselves from Eastern Christians.With the expansion of European colonialism from the Early Modern era, the Latin Church, in time along with its Protestant secessions, spread throughout the Americas, much of the Philippines, Southern Africa, pockets of West Africa, and throughout Australia, and New Zealand. Thus, when used for historical periods after the 16th century, the term "Western Christianity" does not refer to a particular geographical area, but is rather used as a collective term for the Latin Church, the Protestant denominations, and Independent Catholicism that trace their lineage to the original Latin Church in Western Europe.

Today, the geographical distinction between Western and Eastern Christianity is not nearly as absolute as in Antiquity or the Middle Ages, due to the spread of Christian missionaries, migrations, and globalisation. The adjectives "Western Christianity" and "Eastern Christianity" are typically used to refer to historical origins and differences in theology and liturgy, rather than present geographical locations.

While the Latin Church maintains the use of the Latin liturgical rites, Protestant denominations and Independent Catholicism use a wide variety of liturgical practices.

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