Ministry of Abbess Mary Francis at Cusworth, and of the Old Holy Roman Catholic Church

Clergy of the OHCC at Cusworth Hall in the 1950s. Back row: unknown; Most Revd. Sister Mary Francis, O.S.H. (with mitre and crozier); unknown; Archbishop Charles Brearley. Front row: unknown; Revd. Sister Mary Philips (with white veil); Rt. Revd. Abbess Dorcas (Jessie Dove, with biretta); Rt. Revd. George Boyer; Rt. Revd. William H. Turner.

The ministry of Abbess Mary Francis of Bethany at Cusworth, near Doncaster, forms an interesting chapter in parenthesis of the history of the Ancient Catholic Church. The future Abbess Mary Francis was born Barbara Isabella Georgiana Battie-Wrightson (1890-1989). She was the last of the Battie-Wrightson family and was the daughter of Lady Isabella Cecil, eldest daughter of the third Marquess of Exeter. Her second marriage was to (Walter) Leslie Pearse (1877-1960), a dentist, and she was usually known as Mrs Pearse thereafter, also adopting the forenames Maureen Leslie. Both she and her husband were active Theosophists and members of the Ancient Catholic Church at its Cathedral in Lower Sloane Street, Chelsea.

Although trained as a nurse (in which capacity she worked for a time in Camden Town), Mrs Pearse was a talented musician and had once appeared pseudonymously as a member of a music-hall “turn”. Her independent means enabled her to become active in providing practical help for the London homeless as well as supporting the causes that were close to her heart, which were chiefly animal welfare and vegetarianism.

A provision of Lady Isabella’s will was that her daughter should not become a Roman Catholic on pain of disinheritance. In 1952, Mrs Pearse inherited Cusworth Hall, the family estate, on the death of her brother, but death duties forced her to sell the majority of the contents. She continued to live firstly in London, and subsequently in Hastings, and never occupied the Hall.

Mrs Pearse had been admitted as a Deaconess before 30 August 1951 by Mar Joannes I (Nicholson) of the Ancient Catholic Church and formed part of the General Chapter of the Order of S. Teresa – The Little Flower at its foundation on that date. Mar Joannes went on to bless her as Abbess of Bethany. On 22 July 1954 she was ordained deacon and priest by Archbishop (Mattheus) Viktor Schoonbroodt (1919-96) who had been consecrated by Mar Joannes I and led the Church and Order of the Good Shepherd, of which Mrs Pearse was further appointed as Lady-Abbess of the Sisterhood (however, Schoonbroodt later absolutely denied that he had ordained her, according to the late Alan Bain, and maintained that he had only elevated her to the position of Lady Abbess). The Church and Order would in 1958 be passed to the late Bishop Francis Glenn, who renamed it the Order of the Servants of Christ.

The International League of St Hubert was established in 1934 and under Mrs Pearse’s leadership became a crusading force for vegetarianism, anti-vivisection, anti-fur, anti-blood sports and what today would be called Animal Rights, in association with another organization called the United Humanitarian League. Its assertion that Our Lord was vegetarian must be accounted controversial indeed. The animal chapel at the Ancient Catholic Church’s Cathedral Church of the Good Shepherd in Chelsea was dedicated to Saints Francis and Hubert under her aegis, and a Service for Animals took place there on the first Sunday of each month. A Religious Order of St Francis and St Hubert was also formed within the Ancient Catholic Church in 1953.

On 14 November 1954, an episcopal consecration occurred for a new church, the New Catholic and Free Church, with Mr and Mrs Pearse present at the private chapel in Muswell Hill, North London, where it took place. Its bishop, Philip Charles Stuart Singer (1910-71), was a former bishop of the Ancient Catholic Church who had seceded and was at that time associating with those such as the Pearses who tended towards more esoteric modes of belief. In secular life, he was a solicitor. He on this occasion exchanged consecrations with Charles Brearley (1894-1978), who was to be of great significance in the ministry of Mrs Pearse.

Brearley was in many ways typical of the sort of man who was drawn into English Old Catholicism during the 1950s and 1960s. Of the working class, and apparently having felt a call to ministry from childhood, he had worked in various manual jobs, including as a car mechanic, before joining the Church Army for a time. He married and had a family. His prior record was not unblemished. During the late 1940s, he was in the business of organizing trips to the war graves at Arnhem for widows of those buried there. In the case of one of these trips, he took the money but no trip materialized. Instead it was Brearley who made one – to gaol for six months.

Brearley was not consecrated bishop until his sixtieth year, and in his long years of secular retirement he devoted himself wholeheartedly to church and educational work both in Britain and (unusually for that time) involving a good deal of foreign travel.

Without overestimating his importance, in certain respects Brearley was in character not unlike some of the early Celtic saints that descendants of his movement would later recall. He was almost wholly self-educated, and had no time for social niceties. What he did have, however, was a rock-solid Christian faith and a passionate, fiery manner of proclaiming it that made him an unforgettably charismatic minister. Many were attracted to his evangelistic fervour; fewer of his clergy stayed long because of the difficulty of dealing with one of his mercurial temperament. Nevertheless, the reminiscences of him today from those who knew him are of a kindly man, ready to help others and to act with generosity and Christian goodwill.

An independent Protestant mission chapel dedicated to St Peter had been established at Heeley, a suburb of Sheffield, and Brearley had been adopted as the minister there, establishing an associated Ministerial Training College which developed into a worldwide degree-awarding body. Brearley, who had little concept of academic standards, ran this entity in a rather naïve manner and in 1956 was caught in a tabloid “sting” in which he conferred degrees on a reporter and photographer.

Over time, Brearley’s religious convictions began to develop in a more Catholic direction. On 31 January 1954, Brearley received episcopal consecration from John Matthew Cooper. Cooper was founder of the Old Catholic Evangelical Church of God at Gloucester Circus, Greenwich, where he was a dealer in second-hand furniture; he also administered a Community of St Willibrord on the Isle of Wight for training men for the priesthood. He had been consecrated on 22 June 1924 by James Bartholomew Banks (1894-1975), Lord Patriarch of the Old Catholic Orthodox Church, but the two men later fell out and this led Banks to deny the consecration. Brearley was appointed as Cooper’s bishop for the Northern Province (Yorkshire) but shortly afterwards Brearley and Cooper’s Archdeacon, Rupert Pitt-Kethley (1907-75) (who would later become a leading ecumenical bishop in the smaller churches) broke with Cooper because they sought a more democratic form of church government. Although Cooper retired shortly afterwards, appointing Francis Gill as his successor, Gill did not make a success of the work, and it was Brearley’s Old Holy Catholic Church that would inherit its impetus from 1955 onwards.

In December 1955, following some hostile attention from the local press, Brearley resigned as minister of the Heeley mission chapel and took up the post of resident chaplain at the magnificent Baroque chapel at Cusworth Hall, dating from 1753, which remained under Mrs Pearse’s charge. The chapel had been consecrated as the Church of the Good Shepherd on 12 April 1953 by Mar Joannes I of the Ancient Catholic Church, and was until 1955 served by a priest of the Liberal Catholic Church. Under Brearley it returned to a more orthodox theology. However, in June 1956 publicity given to Brearley in a national tabloid newspaper, including that he was offering to solemnize marriages, led to his resignation, and he again took secular employment as a timekeeper in a steelworks.  Once the fuss had died down, Brearley returned to Cusworth. A further tabloid article appeared in 1958 in the course of which Mrs Pearse defended him against not only the press but some of those in Cusworth village who were opposed to him. She was quoted as saying, “I believe he is a sincere penitent. He has paid his debt to society and put his evil ways behind. And he is the best I could get for the job. Decent priests are hard to find these days. Anyway, all the people who visit the chapel want Dr Brearley back.”

In the following years, Mrs Pearse continued to be listed by the OHCC as head of its women’s work throughout the world; certainly the Cusworth chapel served for some years as headquarters for the Ministerial Training College and for the Subsidiary Orders of the OHCC, of which one was the Most Sacred Order of St. Hubert, under Mrs Pearse’s direction, which committed itself to fighting against cruelty to animals.

In 1959 Mrs Pearse received consecration to the episcopate from Brearley. She was known in religion as Sister Mary Francis and held the degrees of Doctor of Divinity and Doctor of Philosophy.

Cusworth was also home to an interdenominational Bible Study Circle. The Cusworth Courier and St Hubert Chronicle was the official organ of the OHCC, and Mrs Pearse also published the Liturgy of St Hubert and the Church of the One Life. This latter work reflected an esotericism that Brearley strongly opposed, and he forbade its use; this prohibition, however, was ignored by Mrs Pearse. The chapel was eventually closed to public worship in 1961 when Mrs Pearse sold Cusworth Hall to Doncaster Rural District Council. Mrs Pearse then established a new church dedicated to St Hubert and the One Life in a former stable on the Cusworth lands, and after its opening in 1965 this was placed under Jessie Dove, who had been consecrated Abbess of Jerusalem, probably by Brearley.

Brearley continued to be a controversial figure for the remainder of his life. The press, doubtless encouraged by Anglican and Roman elements, seized on the obvious cognitive dissonance between his high ecclesiastical office and titles – from 1956 onwards he used the designation Archbishop of Danum (Doncaster) and the name in religion of Ignatius Carolus, though he preferred to be known simply as Father Charles – and his humble origins in the working-class. He transformed the Ministerial Training College into a thriving degree-awarding body, adding to it the Old Catholic University of Sheffield, which he asserted had been founded by Archbishop Arnold Harris Mathew in 1916, and these institutions (also known by their Latin designations Collegium Academicum Ministeriale and Magnificus Universitates Sheffieldensis) were seen as a deliberate provocation by the educational establishment, particularly given Brearley’s lack of formal education and the similarity of the name of the latter to that of the University of Sheffield, which had received its Royal Charter in 1905. Brearley’s previous criminal conviction, and his involvement in the tabloid “sting” of 1956, were also to cost him heavily in terms of public reputation. Beyond this, there was a fierce rivalry with certain other Old Catholic groups and with clergy of the Liberal Catholic Church; some of these sought to cast doubt as to whether Brearley had been ordained deacon and priest prior to receiving the Episcopate from Cooper, and thereby to cause some of his clergy to secede from his jurisdiction.

Nevertheless, Brearley set to codifying the doctrine of the Old Holy Catholic Church, publishing a history and statement of beliefs in 1957 that placed it in a New Age (using that term in its then-contemporary context rather than in its more modern meaning) setting. This document recounted the place of the OHCC as the direct successor of St Willibrord and Archbishop Mathew, and its object “to bring the people of all nations into a dynamic touch with the Lord Jesus Christ, whom to know is Life Eternal.” Further information was given on the intentions of the church, “Now for its scope: we are anxious to extend this Scope outside our present boundaries, and in the past twelve months we have been able to penetrate into Prisons, Poor Houses and Hospitals with a message of Cheer and Blessing. There is NO LIMIT to our Scope, and it must be pointed out that the Church consists of MEMBERS – men and women, boys and girls, filled with a love of God and willing to spend and be spent for His Service.” The OHCC was explicitly ecumenical, stating that its intent was “the promotion of THE TRUE CATHOLIC DOCTRINE and to unite the Christian Churches into One Body wherever this is possible.” The liturgy of the OHCC was Mathew’s “Old Catholic Missal and Ritual” supplemented by the Book of Common Prayer and the Roman Missal. An Order of Compline and Benediction was based on that of the Ancient Catholic Church.

In 1957, Brearley travelled to Milan, where on 15 June he exchanged consecrations with Prince Alessandro Licastro de la Chastre Grimaldi-Laskaris Comnenos Ventimiglia of Nicaea and Bithynia**, who had been recognized by the Italian courts as dynastic head of the House of Deols and pretender to the throne of the Eastern Roman Empire (Prefecture of Rome, sentence of 3/8/1954, P.G. 8188/54, viz. P.M. 15/10/1954). The Prince had been consecrated bishop by Clemente Alfio Sgroi Marchese, a Mariavite Old Catholic bishop for Italy, on 18 November 1956 and from that date formed part of the hierarchy of the Old Holy Catholic Church. He bestowed upon Brearley the title of Prince of Villiers and upon Mrs Pearse that of Marquise de Saulney.

Among the bishops of Brearley’s hierarchy in the British Isles was George William Boyer (1921-2008) who was consecrated as Bishop of Holland with Boston on 15 December 1955. On 20 May 1956, Brearley again consecrated Boyer sub conditione, as well as (Frederick) Henry Angold, who was known as Francis. Both bishops did not remain long with the OHCC. Boyer would leave Brearley in 1958 to join the leading esotericist Ronald Powell (1919-78) (who had been elevated as Richard, Duc de Palatine, by the Prince of Deols in 1955), and would in due course become his successor. On 1 April 1993 Boyer was appointed Archbishop of Great Britain in the Apostolic Episcopal Church, also subsequently receiving office in the Order of Corporate Reunion. The present Prince-Abbot of San Luigi and Primate of the AEC succeeded him in these offices on his death in 2008.

William Handsworth Turner (1914-90) had been a priest of the Ancient Catholic Church under Mar Joannes (Nicholson) and was consecrated by Brearley on the same occasion as Boyer with the title of Mar Gulielmus, and assigned as Bishop of London and the South of England. He left the OHCC within a short time and founded the Church and Order of Christian Unity within the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, an ecumenical ministry. A schoolmaster and organist, he was a familiar guest at ecumenical gatherings during the 1960s, usually arriving on his bicycle or sometimes a motorcycle.

Roger Regnier at Colombes and Henry Engel Plantagenet in Paris were the OHCC’s affiliated bishops in France, representing the Sainte Eglise Apostolique which Regnier had founded and led with Plantagenet as his suffragan. Both were consecrated by Brearley on 20 June 1957. They were of the Gallican tradition and led esoteric ministries with emphasis on faith-healing.

In the United States, the OHCC had three lay representatives, Drs Meeks, Voultsos and Parker. Count Dr. Pericles (Perry) Voultsos-Vourtzis, a music teacher by profession, was active in similar chivalric circles as Brearley, heading the Order of St Denis of Zante, as well as being decorated by King Peter II of Yugoslavia as a Grand Cross of the Order of St Sava and Grand Officer of the Star of Karageorge. In Cuba, the OHCC was represented by Fernandez Jane, who was at one point associated with the Mariavites, but of whom nothing else is known. The German representative was the former Lutheran minister Bishop Willibrord (Hans Heuer (1908-75)), who from 1957 onwards would be formally associated with the Old Roman Catholic Church of Great Britain under Archbishop Gerard George Shelley.

Brearley was much involved with chivalric activities, and was a member of many orders, including at least one Templar body. One unusual office that Brearley held was that of Paladin of the Athenian Order, which order was said to have been founded in 1580 by Francis Bacon (1561-1626), first Viscount St Alban, a noted figure in Rosicrucianism and Freemasonry, and the man who Archbishop Mathew believed had authored the plays attributed to Shakespeare. The Athenian Order as of the 1960s was an “élite of Literati and Illuminati” with a Rosicrucian ethos composed of three Triads of thirty-three persons, all of whom were required to be British subjects loyal to the Sovereign. The Grand Matre [sic] was Dr Mabel Atkinson, who controlled the Order from her Sanctum at Wesley House, Dufton, Cumbria, and a number of other persons who were involved in the same chivalric orders as Brearley also held rank in this organisation, which seems to have disappeared with the passing of Dr Atkinson.

Brearley was head of the Order of the Holy Cross of Jerusalem, a body of legendary origin which built up an international membership. Brearley appointed as its Chancellor the Very Revd. Dr George Pullin of Barry, Glamorganshire (consecrated by Brearley in (probably on 19) February 1963 as his bishop in Wales), and other officers included Miss Lilian Parsons (Master of the Keys) and Dr Louis Jean Stanislaus Canivet (1916-?) (General Director and Chancellor of Honour). Dr Mabel Atkinson was a Grand Commander. In 2013, the Prince-Abbot of San Luigi responded to a petition from the two remaining members of the Order in the United Kingdom to create a Protectorate in their favour; this was dissolved in 2015.

Ronald Marwood Watson had been associated with the Anglican Society of St Francis at Cerne Abbas. On 3 July 1960 he was consecrated by Brearley as Mar Gregorius Ebor, Bishop of Yorkshire. However, in 1962 he left the OHCC and was reconsecrated by an unknown prelate.

On 5 November 1962, Brearley assisted Archbishop Julien Erni of the international Ecumenical League for the Unity of Christendom (for which Rupert Pitt-Kethley was representative in Britain), along with Archbishops (St.) Tugdual I (Danyel) and André Maurice Alexandre Enos in consecrating Canivet as Aloysius Basilius III, Patriarch of the Patriarchate Orthodoxe de l’Europe Latine. Canivet entered into intercommunion with the Apostolic Episcopal Church during the 1970s and was also in concordat relations with Patriarch Peter Zhurawetsky. He would serve in his Patriarchal office until 10 December 1979, at which point he joined the (Old Calendarist) True Orthodox Church of Greece as a hieromonk. André Enos (1913-?), meanwhile, was originally a Roman Catholic priest. He had been consecrated on 4 November 1962 by Erni assisted by Brearley and Marcel Laemmer, and later in that decade was appointed bishop in Europe for the OHCC.

Until 1962, the OHCC accepted the ordained ministry of women in the major orders without restriction, and Brearley had ordained his own wife to the diaconate. From 1962, there had been the proviso that women clergy (now designated Deaconess, Prioress and Abbess) should never take precedence over male clergy of the same rank, although they held equal authority and were ordained with the same rite. Eventually in 1969, Brearley revised the tenets of the OHCC so that it now ordained women to the diaconate only, although those who had previously received higher orders continued to be recognized.

R. Dominic Bruce (1887-?) had been a priest of the Old Roman Catholic Church (English Rite) under Archbishop Wilfrid Barrington-Evans, and had established the first Scottish parish of that church with a mission at Auchterarder, Perthshire. In secular life he ran a firm called “Universal Churchcraft” which supplied vestments and other items to the clergy and churches. In August 1962 he seceded to the OHCC, and was consecrated as Bishop of Scotia by Brearley on 19 February 1963, who also conferred the degree of Doctor of Divinity on him. He wrote in “Diocesan Notes: Perth and Kinross” of March 1963, “Bishops are anathema to the Scots. Mention such a person to any Scot, and at once he ceases to operate. This is where we have a great deal to overcome in this new Province. The people must be trained in the acceptance of Bishops as quite ordinary workers in the good cause of religion.” Bruce felt that the neglect of youth by the Church of Scotland would make that ministry fertile ground for evangelism of the OHCC, though his age seems to have prevented that work from taking a firm hold. Bruce was also Vicar General of the Fraternity of St Willibrord, which was founded in 1945 “with the object of campaigning against the evils of this wicked world and all the sinful lusts of the flesh”. If it was not entirely Old Catholic in its basis, this society was certainly Jansenist in its orientation. He was also Superior of the Order of St Dominic, which operated a correspondence course for intending ordinands.

William Charles Cato-Symonds (1901-90) was ordained a priest in the Church of England by the Bishop of Sodor and Man in 1929 or 1930. After several curacies, he was Vicar of St Andrew, Whittlesey, between 1940 and 1947, serving as a padre in the Army during the Second World War. In 1948, he resigned from the Church of England to pursue a teaching career and joined the Evangelical Church of England, also called the English Episcopal Church, under Mar Leofric (Charles Leslie Saul) (1906-91), who had until October 1947 been a bishop and Evangelist in the Presidium of the Catholicate of the West under Mar Georgius of Glastonbury. Saul reordained Cato-Symonds priest in 1948 and in 1949 appointed him Canon of Aslecton, Notts. In 1952, Cato-Symonds left Saul, with whose extreme Protestantism he had come to disagree, and joined Mar Georgius, who reordained him priest in the same year. In 1955 he was transferred by Mar Georgius to his Diocese of Selsey under Mar Marcus Valerius (Bazille-Corbin) and was blessed as an Archpriest. Cato-Symonds then joined the Free Protestant Episcopal Church under Primus Charles Boltwood in 1962. Boltwood consecrated him as Bishop of Elmham on 15 April 1962, but in July of that year, he seceded to the OHCC.

Cato-Symonds was registrar of the Society for Proclaiming Britain in Israel. From the late eighteenth-century onwards there had been increasing interest in the tenets of British Israelism, that is to say the belief that the British peoples are directly connected to the Biblical Israelites as one of the Lost Tribes, and that the British Royal Family is descended by blood from King David. Many have asserted this belief or variants of it as manifest in a genealogical descent; for others the primary descent is mystic and spiritual rather than resting on merely scientific factors. To a nineteenth-century thinker, such a distinction would have been moot given the progress of genetics at that time, but that is not to suggest that even today there are not those who continue to propound a scientific interpretation of such beliefs. It was the British Israelites who brought out a new edition of the first part of “The British Kymrig” in 1922 by Richard Williams Morgan, a bishop consecrated by Mar Julius of Iona (Ferrette) and who became the first British Patriarch as Mar Pelagius.

Brearley was among the speakers at meetings promoting the theories of British Israelism during the early 1960s. Cato-Symonds also taught correspondence courses on these and related matters, such as Celtic and Anglo-Saxon studies, and anthropology and eugenics. In later years, Cato-Symonds joined the Anglican Orthodox Church under James Parker Dees (1915-90), who also consecrated him as that communion’s Assistant Bishop for the United Kingdom. He maintained a chapel at Staines.

Brearley’s son Harold also took Holy Orders, being ordained by his father, and was for a time a priest of the Old Roman Catholic Church (English Rite) under Archbishop Wilfrid Barrington-Evans. Unfortunately he amassed a long series of criminal convictions; while Barrington-Evans was known for his willingness to allow ex-gaolbirds a fresh start, Harold Brearley did not justify his trust and before long had lapsed into reoffending.

Walter John Williams (1899-1990) was originally a Spiritualist, and that was to remain an important current in his religious practice. He established the Church of St Joan of Arc at Gosport, Hampshire, and was received into the Old Roman Catholic Church of Great Britain (English Rite) under Barrington-Evans in 1964, taking the name in religion of Anthony. On 26 March 1967, having previously separated from the ORCCGB, he was consecrated by Brearley as his Bishop for Hampshire and Dorset. Williams had separated from Brearley by 22 December 1968, when he ordained his wife Muriel Kathleen (Sister Anne), to the priesthood. At around this time, Williams established the Holy Celtic Church which he led until his retirement in 1982. The London branch of this body adopted the name Celtic Catholic Church in 1983 and entered into intercommunion with the Apostolic Episcopal Church on 6 January 1984. This link would end in 2007 when its then-Primate, Illtyd Thomas, was excommunicated.

Donald Garner (1914-81) was a clerk in secular life. On 30 July 1967 he was consecrated by Brearley assisted by Anthony Walter John Williams as Brearley’s Bishop of Camden. In 1968, along with John Nicholas (Patrick) Collins (d.1972) (formerly head of the English Catholic Church and before that a priest under Barrington-Evans; he had been consecrated by (St.) Tugdual I in 1966) and (Terence Coghlan) Aelred Peter Distin (1938-2007), he formed the Old Catholic Church of Great Britain, based on the constitutions of Archbishop Joseph-René Vilatte. Garner was conditionally consecrated on 15 December 1968 by Collins assisted by Distin. The OCCGB ceased corporate activity after Collins’ death in 1972, although Distin would continue to operate under its aegis. In 1973, Garner along with Mar Rupertus (Pitt-Kethley, q.v.) and Mar Dominic-Benignus ((Richard) Kenneth Hurgon (1902-94), formerly of the Catholicate of the West and Evangelical Catholic Communion) formed the English branch of the Reformed Catholic Church (Utrecht Confession), which had been established in the United States by William W. Flynn (1897-1978). Garner served as Primate of this body after Flynn’s death and was succeeded by Hurgon. In 1985, the Reformed Catholic Church entered into intercommunion with the Apostolic Episcopal Church.

On 11 May 1969, Brearley consecrated Thomas R. Outteridge as Bishop of East Anglia. On 18 May 1969, Brearley consecrated Anthony Kockelbergh as his Bishop for Belgium, who would serve as Grand Chancellor of the Order of the Holy Cross from that year until some point in the 1970s.

Brearley’s attempts at ecumenical reunion among the smaller churches had some success, but they also came up against the fact that, by then, those English bodies with few exceptions were opposed to ecumenism and instead took an exclusivist view that they alone were the true successors of Archbishop Mathew and his contemporaries, and everyone else – particularly those with whom they had had some form of disagreement – was at best uncanonical or often worse. The mood of the 1940s, which had been characterised by a general ecumenical goodwill (perhaps born of post-war euphoria), had given way to a series of increasingly entrenched positions and prejudices that in many cases reflected years of bad feeling. This often resulted in the repeated conditional re-ordination of incardinating clergy since the orders of no other body were accepted; in truth more on political than on religious grounds. The other difficulty was Brearley himself, who was a true “rough diamond”. He may have departed from Cooper wishing for a “more democratic form of governance”, but in his own jurisdiction he ruled as a hierarch and, although in no short supply of grand visions for the future, had limited ability to create the necessary canonical structures to bring them about in practice, as well as nurturing the necessary communal life to sustain a geographically widespread and loosely constituted church. Nevertheless, he did achieve intercommunion with the Gallicans under Regnier and the Celtic Church in France under (St.) Tugdual I, and absorbed within his jurisdiction the Old Catholic Church in Poland and the Mariavite Church of East Germany and Poland. He also entered into intercommunion relations with a body calling itself the Greek Orthodox Church of America, and with autocephalous churches in continental Europe, Canada, the United States and Malaya. OHCC missionaries were reported as being present in Hong Kong, Korea and Vietnam. This was more than most of his contemporaries had accomplished, and it was all being done by a man long-retired and of limited means and abilities.

The extension of the OHCC to Canada in the late 1960s was to have significant consequences, not least because the Canadian church was much more strongly doctrinal than its parent denomination, and in its Romanism was closer to a Traditional Catholic viewpoint. The founder of this extension, called the Charismatic Catholic Church of Canada, was André Leon Zotique Barbeau (1912-94). He was ordained a Roman Catholic priest on 21 November 1940 and served the Archdiocese of Montréal. Around 1957 he had begun some measure of independent work, although never with the intention of leaving the Roman Catholic Church. Amid the modernism of Vatican II, Barbeau interpreted a number of statements as inviting the creation of new rites and patriarchies within the Catholic Church. Thus he founded the CCCC “to assist the Roman Catholic Church in its mission as a supplemental Rite”.

Barbeau was consecrated by Brearley as OHCC Bishop of Québec at the Pro-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Mirabel, Québec, Canada, on 14 May 1968 and elevated as Patriarch André I. On 23 May 1968 he consecrated his co-adjutor, André (of the Sacred Heart of Jesus) Letellier de St. Just, who succeeded him in 1994 as Patriarch André II and died in 2012. Letellier became one of a small number of bishops in Old Catholic orders to have the validity of those orders specifically confirmed by authority of the Roman Catholic Church. In his case, this confirmation was by Edouard, Cardinal Gagnon (1918-2007) who investigated the matter in 2002 and wrote as follows,

“To whom it may concern:

After having studied the documentation about Mgr André Letellier and his predecessors in episcopal succession, I am convinced that he has been validly consecrated a bishop.

It is not my intention to rule on the reports of the organization, incorporated under the name of Catholic Charismatic Church of Canada with the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Canada and of Québec.

But nothing allows me to doubt the validity of episcopal ordination of Mgr André Letellier by Archbishop André Barbeau and that of Archbishop Barbeau by Archbishop Ignatius Charles Brearley, Primate of the Church of the “Old Catholics” having its seat in England. The ordinations of the “Old Catholics ” are generally considered to be the same as those of Orthodox bishops.

I have known Archbishop Barbeau for more than 60 years since our time at the Grand Seminary of Montreal. I have had little contact with him thereafter, having exercised my ministry far from here. But he has always been known to me as a man of prayer, a mystic. And I think that his disciples are also, above all, men of prayer.

+ Edouard Cardinal Gagnon, p.s.s.

Montreal, 6 May 2002”***

The line from Barbeau and Letellier has since passed into the succession of other bishops in England, the United States and elsewhere (including to the AEC). It is ironic that few if any of those prelates who had publically questioned the validity of the Brearley succession would go on to obtain, as Brearley’s successors did, confirmation of the validity of their succession from a Roman Cardinal. Indeed, the work of the CCC earned the praise of Pope John Paul II. In 1976, Barbeau joined with Robert S. Zeiger (1929-99) as Patriarch of Canada (the photograph at right shows his enthronement in this office) and a Vice-President of the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of all the Americas (Apostolic Catholic Church of the Americas).

A further member of this body was Archbishop Rainer Laufers, consecrated by Brearley on 18 November 1975 (and also by Barbeau and Zeiger) who succeeded Brearley as Grand Master of the Order of the Holy Cross upon Brearley’s retirement on the grounds of ill-health in 1976. Laufers published new statutes for the Order and appointed the late Gérard Shanks, a distinguished politician and member of many chivalric and charitable bodies, as its Grand Chancellor. In 1985, an autonomous international Bailiwick of St Louis was erected by Laufers under the direction of the late Prince William Maszer in New Jersey.

The OHCC hierarchy and their remaining lay following were very substantially depleted by the time of Brearley’s death on 19 August 1978, by which time the Cusworth church was the only remaining place of public worship in Britain. Brearley’s successor, (Clarence) George Saunders (1915-91) maintained what was left of the jurisdiction for a few years, but after this made successive moves to unite his ministry with several of the smaller churches, including for a while the Reformed Catholic Church (q.v.) Eventually in August 1988, another jurisdiction made an agreement with the Trustees to take over the Cusworth church, and Saunders served under them as an assistant priest there during his last years. One congregant made the move with him. Mrs Pearse died on 15 February 1989 at the age of 98, having left the remaining Cusworth estate property in trust to maintain the church and the walled gardens as a lasting memorial to her family.

Saunders’ new jurisdiction had had few good words to say concerning Brearley over the years, and its style of worship had nothing in common with Mrs Pearse’s esoteric beliefs, but it did succeed in restoring the church to a sustainable position. As for Brearley’s former home and the headquarters of his church for many years, 49, Ravencarr Road, Sheffield, it has been demolished and no trace of it remains today.

Although the OHCC itself was not to survive, there is still evidence of an enduring legacy from Brearley’s work in the Canadian Charismatic Church, in his French Gallican church, and in the extant church links established through the Ecumenical League for Christian Unity. In England, his episcopal succession has been widely perpetuated. One of the most fertile branches of the Brearley succession lies within the black Pentecostal churches, stemming from the Most Revd. Malachi Ramsay (photo left) of the Shiloh Church of Christ, Brixton, who was consecrated by Brearley, and the bishops who stand in his descent both in Britain and abroad.

*By an interesting coincidence, Bishop Schoonbroodt was appointed a Chaplain of the Melkite Patriarchal Order of the Holy Cross by that church’s Patriarch on 8 February 1987. He vigorously denied that he had ordained Mrs Pearse deacon and priest, and no documentation confirming that he did so has apparently survived.

**Some sources confuse the Prince of Deols with another Byzantine descendant and prince, Marciano Lavarello. This is incorrect; the two were different people.

***Translation by the present author from a copy of the original letter in French.