If you are a member of the Roman Catholic Church, here is what you need to know about attending one of our missions. Firstly, we do not proselytize. We have no desire for Roman Catholics to cease attending their own churches and we will not advise them to do so. However, in some cases, a person may be prevented from a full submission to the Holy See for a variety of spiritual or doctrinal reasons. Where this is the case, our missions are capable of ministering to your spiritual needs and can offer, usually in a relatively small and intimate group, the means to rediscover the Catholic Faith.
All clergy of the Apostolic Episcopal Church derive their Holy Orders in unbroken succession from the Holy See via the Chaldean Catholic Church, an Uniate Eastern Catholic Church in full communion with Rome. While the consecration of Mar Antoine Lefberne, the source of our Orders, was approved by the Chaldean Catholic Church (and is still recognized by them) it was undertaken by the Chaldean Patriarch without a Papal mandate. As a result, our Holy Orders are considered valid but illicit according to the traditional understanding of the Canon Law of the Roman Catholic Church.
If you are prevented from a full submission to the Holy See and wish simply to attend Mass, make your confession or receive the anointing of the sick at one of our missions, you can do so without contravening the Canons of the Roman Catholic Church. Canon 844(2) of the current Roman Catholic Code of Canon Law states, “Whenever necessity requires it or true spiritual advantage suggests it, and provided that danger of error or of indifferentism is avoided, the Christian faithful for whom it is physically or morally impossible to approach a Catholic minister are permitted to receive the sacraments of penance, Eucharist, and anointing of the sick from non-Catholic ministers in whose Churches these sacraments are valid.”
It is only usually necessary to undertake a formal act of defection from the Roman Catholic Church if you are a Roman Catholic who is seeking Holy Orders outside that Church.
Our clergy are not schismatic, and our teaching is exactly that which the Catholic Church has practiced through the majority of her history. Great emphasis is placed upon ensuring that the correct matter, form and intent (in the understanding of those terms by the Church) are preserved when the Sacraments are confected.
What are our main points of difference with the Roman Catholic Church?
The document that defines our position to its fullest extent is the 1889 Declaration of Utrecht, which can be read here.
- We reject both the First and the Second Vatican Councils, and differ on such other doctrinal points as are detailed in the Declaration of Utrecht. Regarding the pronouncements of the Holy See after 1870, we accept them only insofar as they are in conformity with the faith and practice of the undivided church of the first thousand years after Christ.
- We celebrate the Mass according to traditional and established Catholic and Orthodox rites, as well as using the Book of Common Prayer (which is approved by the Holy See as the Book of Divine Worship). Although the Mass is usually offered in the vernacular it can be offered in Latin where this is deemed pastorally appropriate. We are liturgical traditionalists, and reject modern innovation in these matters.
- We permit our clergy to marry, either before or after their ordination, because this was the practice of the undivided Church.
- Our Bishops hold the supreme jurisdictional authority for that portion of Christ’s flock entrusted to their care, rather than conceding that authority to the Pope as has been the practice of the Roman Catholic Church since the First Vatican Council. “The bishop is in the Church and the Church in the bishop, and if someone is not with the bishop, he is not in the Church” (St. Cyprian, Letter 66 (69), 8 to Florentius Pupianus, c. AD 254)
- Our approach to the social and moral teaching of the Church is in conformity with its traditional interpretation, but nevertheless aims for a more compassionate and inclusive ethos by comparison with the present viewpoint of the Holy See.
- We are an integral and historic part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. We do not originate in schism, and have at no point sought deliberately to separate ourselves from the Holy See. Our Faith is that of the undivided Church – that which is truly Catholic – without modern errors or additions.
- We regard the primacy of the Pope to be one of honour rather than one of jurisdiction, in line with the Orthodox position prior to 1054. We continue to hold the Pope in respect and prayer, and to pray that the Holy See will repent of its errors and return to an orthodox Catholic faith and practice, thus permitting our eventual reunion.