AD. 50 – Council of Jerusalem
1 – 96: Clement of Rome (Church Father)
35 – 110: Ignatius of Antioch (Church father)
69 -155: Polycarp of Smyrna (Church Father)
100 – The Didache
103 – 165 Justin Martyr (Church Father)
100 – 200: Irenaeus (Church Father)
140 – The Apostles Creed (Roman)
160 – 255 Tertullian (Church Father)
150 – 216: Clement of Alexandria (Church Father)
170 – 235: Hippolytus of Rome (Church Father)
180 - Old Roman Creed
185 – 254: Origen of Alexandria (Church Father)
200 – 258: Cyprian of Carthage
263 – 339 Eucebius of Caesarea (Church Father)
268 – Synod of Antioch
293 – 373 Athanasius of Alexandria (Church Father)
316 – Synod of Arles
312 – Constantine’s conversion: ‘In this sign conquer’.
313 – 386: Cyril of Jerusalem (Church Father)
313 – Edict of Milan
325 – Council of Nicaea – the Symbol of Nicaea
338 – 397: Ambrose of Milan (Church Father)
347 – 407: John Chrysostom (Church Father)
354 – 430: St. Augustine of Hippo (Church Father)
378 – 444 Cyril of Alexandria (Church Father)
380 – Emperor Theodosius makes Christianity the authorised religion
381 – Council of Constantinople – Niceo-constantinopolitan Symbol (Creed)
391 – 461: Pope Leo the Great
431 – Council of Ephesus
450 – St Vincent of Lerin dies
451 – Council of Chalcedon
476 – Western Empire falls
480 – St. Benedict is born in Nursia
540 – 604: Gregory the Great (Church Father)
676 – 749: John of Damascus
553 – Council of Constantinople II
680 – Council of Constantinople III
710 – Apostles Creed
730 (circa) St. Willibrord of Ripon est. Diocese of Utrecht
787 – Council of Nicaea II
1054 – The Great East/West Schism
1145 – Pope Eugene III decrees Dutch Church's (See of Utrecht) independence
1215 – Fourth Lateran Council confirms Dutch Church's independent status
1414 – Council of Constance decrees that only a Council has supreme authority
1453 – The Fall of Constantinople
1476 – Pope Sixtus IV est. feast of The Imm. Conception as minor, optional feast
1517 – Luther begins the Reformation movement
1579 – Union of Utrecht – treaty uniting Northern provinces of the Netherlands away from Spanish rule
1854 – Pope declares Immaculate Conception as dogma
1870 – Vatican I defines infallibility of Pope as article of faith. Bishops defect.
1874 – First Bonn agreement of acceptance of 14 theses between C of E and OCC
1889 – Utrecht declaration
1908 – Archbishop Mathew est. English Mission
1911 – OCCUK received into full communion with Orthodox
1931 – Second Bonn agreement unites Utrecht, OCC and C of E
1970's – C of E ordains women priests
2003 – OCC of Poland leaves Utrecht Union over ordination of women and its position on homosexuality
2014 – C of E general Synod approves female Bishops
2014 – OCCUK declares its position on human sexuality and male priesthood/episcopate.
The Story of the Old Catholic Church
Around AD.695 St. Willibrord, a Benedictine monk, was sent from Ripon Cathedral to take the Gospel to the Frisians, those areas of Northern Europe known as the ‘Low Countries’, now known as the Netherlands. He settled in the town of Utrecht and established there the See of Utrecht, becoming the first Bishop in the area. The Netherlands at that time were incredibly difficult to travel to, and since the Church was growing rapidly, and being in need of more Bishops, Pope Eugene III (Pope from 15 February 1145 to his death in 1153), himself a Benedictine, granted the See of Utrecht autonomy from Rome. This singular favour was ratified by the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215. The See of Utrecht has been autonomous and independent ever since. It is this same See of Utrecht which became known in later times as The Old Catholic Church.
St. Willibrord, was succeeded in the See of Utrecht by his friend St. Boniface. The Church of Utrecht also provided a worthy occupant of the Throne of Peter, in 1552, in the person of Pope Adrian VI, and two of the most eloquent exponents of the Religious life: Groote, known as Gerard the Great, who founded the Brothers of the Common Life, for the purpose of teaching the young, sending out preachers, and recommending the study of Holy Scripture; and Thomas a' Kempis , author of ‘The Imitation of Christ’.
Assenting to a petition made by the Holy Roman Emperor, Conrad III, and Bishop Herbert of Utrecht, Pope Eugene III, in the year 1145, granted the See of Utrecht the right to elect its own Bishops. This singular privilege was confirmed by the fourth Council of the Lateran in 1215. The autonomous position of the ancient Catholic Church in the Netherlands was further demonstrated by a second privilege granted by Pope Leo X, ‘Debitum Pastoralis’ to Philip of Burgundy, (57th Bishop of Utrecht), in 1520 which gave them further independence by removing all external control of the Church of Utrecht. In the sixteenth century, the Netherlands, like the rest of Germany, England and indeed nearly all of Northern Europe, had a dearth of Bishops and diocese. Philip II of Spain, on succeeding to the hereditary possessions of his father Charles V, decided to reorganize the Church throughout the Netherlands and in 1559 when the war with France was over, he persuaded the Pope to set up a number of new provinces and dioceses. Utrecht became an Archbishopric, with the five new sees of Haarlem, Deventer, Groningen, Leeuwarded and Middelburg under its jurisdiction.
Following the Reformation in Europe, a semblance of peace existed between the Church in the Netherlands and the civil government, a growing state of tension was emerging within the Church Itself. The cause of this uneasiness was the motivation of the Roman Counter-reformation, most notably by the Jesuits, who attempted to establish a mission within the existing, and already autonomous, Dutch Church.
For reasons which were for the most part political, the Jesuits began to invade the jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Utrecht in 1592. The next one hundred years saw no less than twelve Popes succeed to the See of Rome. The Jesuits were rebuked by them a number of times and ordered to submit themselves to the authority of the Archbishop of Utrecht, but their machinations against the Church of Utrecht continued unabated. In 1691 the Jesuits falsely accused Archbishop Petrus Codde of Utrecht of believing the so-called Jansenist heresy; ‘so-called’ because, although the condemned propositions which are said to constitute 'Jansenism' are unquestionably heretical and had been many times condemned as such by the Church of Utrecht, in common with the rest of the Catholic Church, no one ever succeeded in finding them, either in substance or form, in the Augustinus of Cornelius Jansenius, where the Jesuits pretended to have discovered in them. Pope Innocent XII (1691-1700) appointed a congregation of Cardinals, under his own presidency, to try the charge of Jansenism which the Jesuits had brought against the Archbishop of Utrecht. The result was a unanimous and unconditional acquittal of the Archbishop. Despite this, the Jesuits persisted in their attacks upon Archbishop Codde and, through him, the whole of the Church of Utrecht. In 1700, Archbishop Codde was invited to Rome to take part in the Jubilee, and he received a most cordial welcome at the hands of Pope Clement XI (1700-1721) and the Cardinals, however, soon after his arrival another congregation of Cardinals, assisted by theological consultors, carefully selected on account of their favourable disposition towards the Jesuits, was instituted to try the charges of Jansenism which, notwithstanding his former acquittal, the Jesuits had continued to bring against the Archbishop, yet not even this tribunal was able to find him guilty. Despite the Archbishop's proved innocence and Orthodoxy, the influence of the Jesuits was such as to be able to force the Pope to issue a secret brief suspending and deposing the Archbishop of Utrecht and appointing a Pro-Vicar Apostolic in his place.
Archbishop Codde, who was still in Rome, was not informed of his suspension and deposition and first learned it from letters he received from his friends in the Netherlands. Neither the names of his accusers, nor the charges made against him were ever made known to him; he had not been allowed to offer any defence and even the Ultramontane canonist, Hyacinth de Archangelis, issued a formal opinion that a Vicar-Apostolic with the rights of an ordinary, as Codde undoubtedly was, could not be arbitrarily deposed. The Chapters of Utrecht and Haarlem unanimously decided not to recognize the authority of De Cock, the Pro-Vicar Apostolic, on the grounds that the Pope had no canonical right to deprive even a Vicar-Apostolic, still less an Archbishop, without trial and condemnation. From this point AD.1700, begins the break between the two parties in the Dutch Catholic Church: the already canonically established and independent Catholic Church of the Netherlands, and the Roman Catholic Church.
Meanwhile the Archbishop found himself in a difficult position at Rome. The Jesuits announced in the Netherlands that he was in the hands of the Inquisition and would be imprisoned for life, beheaded or burned. In reality, he was not interfered with, but the Italian clergy could not understand his lack of personal ambition or his refusal to sign what he called ‘equivocal documents’, even to further his own cause, however, the Dutch Government, urged on by his three nephews, who were Burgomasters of Amsterdam, commanded him to return within three months and warned the Court of Rome that if he were prevented from returning to Utrecht, the Jesuits would be banished from the country and De Cock confined to his own house. De Cock accordingly begged the Pope to allow Codde to return and, in 1703, the Archbishop left Rome and returned to the Netherlands as Archbishop.
In the absence of an Archbishop the government of the See of Utrecht reverted to its Chapter. The Chapter of Utrecht maintained that the Province and Diocese of Utrecht, with all their ancient and canonical rights and privileges, were still in existence; that the Vicariate instituted by Archbishop Rovenius (1614-1651) was the ancient Chapter of Utrecht, and possessed all the rights of the Chapter, including the right to elect the Archbishop of Utrecht; and that the later Archbishops from Vosmeer to Codde, were not only Vicars-Apostolic of the Roman See, but also Archbishops of Utrecht, the canonical successors of St. Willibrord. The Jesuits, who were now in control of Papal policy, and their party held, as Rome holds to this day, that the Province of Utrecht had ceased to exist at the time of the Reformation and that the Roman Catholic Church in the Dutch Republic was a mere mission, governed by a Vicar Apostolic, who was appointed by the Pope at his discretion, and subject to the Congregation de Propaganda Fide, where the Jesuits were then all-powerful.
Differences of political philosophy, ecclesiastical authority, devotional and ethical issues also divided the two parties in the Dutch Roman Catholic Church. After the failure of such negotiations as were found possible, the Ancient Church of Utrecht could only refuse to acquiesce in so unprecedented an injustice which she well knew to be a step towards her own predetermined destruction by the Jesuits rather than an unwarrantable personal attack upon her Archbishop. So, without fault of any kind of her own and against her will, in spite of everything which she could do to prevent it, and not withstanding her frequent reasoned protests and appeals, she was forced out of communion with the Apostolic See of Rome in 1711.
Public indignation was unbounded and the just cause of the Church of Utrecht was espoused by many of the Cardinals, the Empress Maria Theresa, the Ecclesiastical Council and the Court of Spain, the Court of Naples, the Tuscan Church, nearly all the Religious Orders, the See of Salzburg, the Universities of Louvain and Siena, one hundred Doctors of the Sorbonne, and a very large number of Bishops and ecclesiastics in all parts of the world. Canonists everywhere - even those of the Ultramontane Party, as detailed above, condemned the suspension and deposition of the Archbishop of Utrecht and declared it ‘unjust, irregular and invalid’; but all this availed the Church of Utrecht nothing against her powerful enemy bent upon her destruction. Pope Clement XIV was favourably disposed towards the grievously wronged Church but his sudden and suspicious death, which took place before he could take action in her cause, was believed at the time to have been not wholly unconnected with his benevolent attitude towards the Church of Utrecht.
It is now understood, that the irregular proceedings against the Church of Utrecht, based mostly, as they most assuredly were, upon charges which were proved at the time to have been groundless, were null and void, and that the resulting Old Catholic Church, has always remained, and is still, in actual and indisputable fact, part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. The decrees of the Second Council of Utrecht, held under Archbishop Meindaerts in 1763, are a monument of orthodoxy and loyalty to the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic faith.
Archbishop Codde performed no Episcopal act after his suspension in 1702; at his death in 1710 the Church of Utrecht was without a Bishop and, therefore, except for the intervention of God, unable to escape extinction. One Irish and a few French Bishops expressed their willingness to ordain Priests for her and some few were so ordained, allowing the Mass and the sacraments to be more available to the faithful, but, without a Bishop and without hope of recovering the Episcopate, continued existence for any length of time was impossible.
In 1719, Bishop Dominique Marie Varlet, had occasion to pass through Holland on his way via Paris to his distant diocese. The ship upon which he was to embark was delayed at Amsterdam by bad weather. The Sacrament of Confirmation had not been administered in Holland for nearly twenty years and, moved to compassion by the pitiable state of the Church of Utrecht, he was prevailed upon to administer Confirmation to six hundred and four persons who, for the most part, were too poor to go to another country in order to receive that Sacrament. For this act of charity the Bishop of Babylon was suspended and removed from his charge. He returned to Holland and remained there until his death in 1742. In 1724 he restored the Episcopate to the Church of Utrecht by consecrating Cornelius Steenoven to the Archiepiscopal See.
In 1827, an effort was made to restore the Church of Utrecht to communion with the Holy See. The negotiations were rendered extremely difficult by the awkward fact that the Church of Utrecht had always remained absolutely orthodox and, therefore, had no error to retract and no dogma to accept. There had never been any question with regard to matters of Faith and Morals between the Holy See and the Church of Utrecht, but there had been this vexing question with regard to the accusations of Jansenism; were the condemned ‘propositions’ the false notions of Jansenius, which had been promulgated after his death by the publication of the Augustinus, or were they the fictitious inventions of power-hungry Jesuits?
The establishment of a ‘rival Hierarchy’ in the Netherlands by Pope Pius IX in 1853, after a struggle which had continued for two hundred and sixty years, caused great public disturbances. The Archbishop of Utrecht and the Bishop of Haarlem, as the canonical occupants of those Sees, issued a formal protest against the new Hierarchy. They pointed out that it was contrary to the rights of the Churches of Utrecht and Haarlem to install rival Bishops for sees that were already occupied.
During the greater part of the nineteenth century the struggle between authority and liberty was going on all over Europe. The principles of the French Revolution were matched in Roman Catholic countries against the principles of the ‘hammer’ of the Counter Reformation. The Papacy, which had maintained for centuries absolute authority in its most extreme form, not to be resisted, criticized or even questioned, was naturally the rallying point for those who feared and hated ‘liberalism’, whether in Religion or politics.
The struggle against the new ideas, by which the whole of Europe was being so profoundly changed, came to a head in the pontificate of Pope Pius IX, whose attempt to strengthen and centralize his authority was carried out in three stages: the definition of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady, in 1854; the promulgation of the Syllabus of Errors in 1864; the summoning of the Vatican Council (Vatican I) in 1869.
In 1848, Mazzini and Garibaldi set up a republic at Rome and the Pope had to take refuge at Gaeta, in the Kingdom of Naples. The Roman Republic was soon overthrown by the French and Pius IX was restored to the Vatican. During his exile, Pius IX had promised the Blessed Virgin Mary that, if she would by her prayers restore him to his throne, then he would make her Immaculate Conception no longer a doctrine of the Church (which was a doctrine already taught and held by both East and West) into a dogma, that is: all Roman Catholics must accept as necessary to their salvation.
On December 8th 1854 (the already existing feast of the Conception of the Blessed Virgin), Pius IX, by his own authority and without support from any Council, issued the Bull ‘Ineffabilis Deus’, in which he decreed that ‘the doctrine which teaches that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first moment of her conception, by a special gift of Almighty God, in consideration of the merits of Jesus Christ the Saviour of mankind, was preserved pure from all taint of original sin, is revealed by God, wherefore it shall also be the object of sure and certain faith on the part of all believers’.
The proclamation of the Immaculate Conception as a dogma necessary to salvation was followed by the usual anathema against all those who should fail to believe it sincerely and deny the dogma. The new dogma was received with tremendous enthusiasm wherever the teaching of the Jesuits prevailed, and the only formal protest was made by the three Bishops of the Church of Utrecht. They addressed a letter to the Pope protesting against a new dogma on three grounds: it was, they explained:
Contrary to Tradition to proclaim a dogma outside of an
The Bishops of the whole Church had never been consulted about it.
It was a new dogma and, therefore, according to Tertullian and St. Vincent of Lerins, one which could not be upheld. As a matter of order, the Bull ‘Ineffabilis Deus’ was an entirely new departure and was universally recognised as being so. Never before had any Pope added a new dogma to the Faith without a Council.
The second stage in Pius IX's programme of reaction was the Encyclical ‘Quantra Curia’ against the errors of modern times, to which was attached a list or Syllabus of Errors and, therefore, became known as the ‘Syllabus of Errors’. Eighty errors of various kinds were condemned, divided into ten groups. Within these groups there were propositions condemned that any Christian Church would, at that period, certainly also have condemned. The chief problems raised by the ‘Syllabus of Errors’ were concerned with the relations of Church and State; it was a final protest against the challenge to the apparently invincible progress of the liberal conception of the secular state represented by Cavour's slogan: ‘A free Church in a free State’.
The third and final part of Pius IX's programme was the Vatican Council. Since the Council of Trent had been closed, in 1563, no General Council had been held. The work of Vatican Council I, opened by the Pope in 1869 resulted in two constitutions. One, ‘De Fide Catholica’, was made up of chapters and canons on the primary truths of natural religion, on revelation, on faith and the connection between faith and reason. The other, ‘De Ecclesia Christi’, was chiefly concerned with the primacy of the Roman See and defining the Popes immediate authority and jurisdiction over all Christians.
In May 1870, the second dogmatic constitution on the Church, in four chapters, was introduced. The first defined the institution of the Apostolic primacy of the See of St. Peter, a primacy of true and proper jurisdiction, not merely of honour; the second, the perpetuity of this primacy of jurisdiction in the Roman Pontiffs; the third, the universal ordinary jurisdiction of the Pope over all Churches, together and separately, and all and each of the pastors and the faithful; the fourth, that the Pope, when he speaks ex cathedra, is infallible and his decisions are not changeable.
From the historical point of view every one of the four chapters if false. That St. Peter had a primacy of jurisdiction, and not merely of honour, over the other Apostles is contrary to the evidence of the New Testament. This denial of primatial jurisdiction is not a denial of the historic primacy of honour which several Ecumenical Councils and Fathers of the ancient Church have attributed to the Pope as ‘first among equals’. That ‘it is necessary that every Church should agree with the Roman Church’ is a false interpretation of St. Irenaeus. That the Pope has always been held to have immediate ordinary jurisdiction over each and all of the faithful, and to be infallible when he speaks ex cathedra on faith and morals, is contrary to the plainest facts of history. But to all this every Roman Catholic since Vatican Council I is irrevocably committed, for these decrees were agreed by the Council in July 1870.
The effect of Vatican Council I was to create another defection of Bishops from Rome. This time it was one of greater magnitude when Catholics in Central Europe, under the leadership of Dr. Johann Josef Ignatius von Dollinger, a Theological Professor of the University of Munich, rejected the definition of the dogmas of the infallibility and of the universal jurisdiction of the Pope. This group of Bishops and Churches came to be termed ‘Old Catholics’ because of their rejection of the ‘new Catholicism’ of the papal dogmas, and their appeal in matters of faith was to the Church of the first seven Councils, and to sacred Tradition. Throughout Europe, those who could not accept the decisions of the First Vatican Council were excommunicated by the Pope and became, therefore, separated. In 1873 the Church of Utrecht was prevailed upon to provide these, now ‘Old Catholics’, with a home.
Two conferences were held at Bonn, to which the Anglicans and Orthodox were invited to attend, and the faith, belief and practice of the Old Catholic Churches was formulated with the significant decision made in the conference of 1875 to depart from Western tradition and adopt the Orthodox view of the dogmatic side of the Filioque question - that the Holy Spirit proceeds, or issues, out of the Father only, and not both the Father and the Son. The agreed declaration was as follows:
1. The Holy Ghost issues out of the Father as the beginning, the cause, the source of the Godhead.
2. The Holy Ghost does not issue out of the Son, because in the Godhead there is but one beginning, one cause, through which all that is in the Godhead is produced.
3. The Holy Ghost issues out of the Father through the Son.
4. The Holy Ghost is the image of the Son, Who is the image of the Father; issuing out of the Father and resting in the Son as the power radiating from Him.
5. The Holy Ghost is the personal production out of the Father, belonging to the Son, but not out of the Son, because He is the Spirit of the mouth of the Deity, and utters the Word.
6. The Holy Ghost forms the mediation between the Father and the Son, and is united to the Father through the Son.
Dr. Dollinger delivered a long, historical address at the same conference in which he defended the validity of Anglican ordinations on the ground that the English Church, in addition to possessing the historic succession, clearly taught that a grace of the Holy Spirit was conveyed by ordination, and rejected the entire system of Papal indulgences. The seed that was sown at this conference ripened some fifty years later when, in 1925, the Archbishop of Utrecht, Mgr. Kenninck, representing the Utrecht Union of Old Catholic Churches was able to write to the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury announcing that his Church formally accepted Anglican ordinations as valid. The Papal Bull Apostolicae Curiae, issued by Pope Leo XII in 1896, had declared Anglican orders to be ‘absolutely null and utterly void’ and this view of Anglican orders by the Roman Catholic Church remains unaltered. The arguments used in this Encyclical document were totally contrary to the visible facts, meaning that the person who wrote this Encyclical for Leo to sign, had either not read the Anglican Ordinal or Book of Common Prayer, or, having duly read them, decided to totally ignore the evidence before his eyes.
In June 1906 the Royal Commission appointed in 1904 to enquire into Ecclesiastical Disorders, afterwards known as the ‘Ritual Commission’, presented its report and this was followed by the issue of ‘Letters of Business’. At the time it was confidently expected that the more Anglo-Catholic part of the Anglican Church, together with their clergy and congregations, would be cut adrift from the Anglican Communion and isolated by Act of Parliament. This led to negotiations with the Old Catholic Church at Utrecht and, finally, to the election to the Episcopate of Arnold Harris Mathew.
Arnold Harris Mathew was born on 7 August 1852. Recognizing a vocation to the Priesthood, he went to study theology at St. Peters Theological College, Glasgow with a view to taking orders in the Scottish Episcopal Church. In 1875, however, he changed allegiance, entered a Roman Catholic Seminary and later became a novice at the Dominican Priory, Woodchester, Gloucestershire, but did not proceed to final vows. He was ordained priest in 1877 in Glasgow Roman Catholic Pro-Cathedral by the Most Revd. Charles Eyre, Archbishop of Anazarba in partibus infidelium, Vicar-General of the Western District of Scotland, who, upon the restoration of the Hierarchy to Scotland, became the first Roman Catholic Archbishop of Glasgow. Fr Mathew was granted a degree of Doctor of Divinity by Pope Pius IX. He continued to exercise his Priesthood in the Roman Church until 1889, when various doubts and problems caused him to retire, and he never again resumed it in the Roman obedience.
In 1891, he was persuaded to ‘make a trial’ of the Anglican Ministry and went to assist the Rector of Holy Trinity, Sloane St, London. He was never officially received into the Church of England, neither did he formally leave the Roman Catholic Church. This produced the rather peculiar situation of a Roman Catholic Priest officiating in Anglican Churches. In 1892, the Archbishop of Canterbury gave instructions that all ex-Roman Catholic clergy serving in the Church of England were to sign a document called ‘A form of Renunciation of Roman Errors’. To this Fr. Mathew could not conscientiously subscribe and, upon his refusal, was compelled to sever links with the Anglican Church.
In 1897 Fr Mathew came into contact with Fr Richard O'Halloran and developed an interest in the proposal for the establishment of an Old Catholic Church in Great Britain under its own Bishop. O'Halloran informed Mathew that he was in touch with the Old Catholic Bishop in Holland and the Old Catholic Bishop in Germany, and stated that if such a movement could be established large numbers of Roman Catholic and Anglo-Catholic Clergy and laity would immediately adhere to it. He appears to have made similar statements to the Dutch Bishops. Upon the strength of the representations made by O'Halloran, Fr Mathew decided to support the movement and, in 1908, he was elected first Regionary Old Catholic Bishop for Great Britain and the Archbishop of Utrecht was petitioned to consecrate him to this charge.
On April 28 1908, in St Gertrude’s Cathedral, Utrecht, Arnold Harris Mathew was consecrated Regionary Old Catholic Bishop for Great Britain and Ireland at the hands of Dr. Gerardus Gul, Archbishop of Utrecht, assisted by Mgr. James John van Thiel, Bishop of Haarlem, Mgr. Nicholas Bartholomew Peter Spit, Bishop of Deventer, and Mgr. Joseph Demmel, Bishop of Bonn.
Although there were at this time a small number of Old Catholics in England, Bishop Mathew was to some extent elected by those who expected soon to become clergy as a result of the anticipated action of the Government, however, other important issues, including questions of Tariff reform, having arisen to claim the immediate attention of the Government, the King’s Letters of Business dealing with the Report of the Ritual Commission received no further attention and no action was taken. The result of this was that those who had taken part in Bishop Mathews' election, and in so doing had helped to secure his consecration as something in the nature of a precautionary measure in their own interests, were able to remain undisturbed within the Anglican Communion, thereby leaving Bishop Mathew without any considerable number of adherents. Bishop Mathew was quite unprepared for the position in which he then found himself and laid the matter fully before the Dutch Bishops who, together with the Old Catholic Bishops, held a full inquiry into all the circumstances. The Bishops unanimously and publicly exonerated Bishop Mathew from all blame in a joint letter to the Guardian of June 3rd 1908, but refused his request to be permitted to retire, insisting upon his continued activity in this country as circumstances might demand.
Bishop Mathew, therefore, continued to take forward the work of the ‘English Mission’ as best he could and, in 1909, issued The Old Catholic Missal and Ritual, prepared for the use of English-speaking congregations of Old Catholics, and which continues to be used by The Old Catholic Church in the United Kingdom.
In September 1909, Bishop Mathew attended the Old Catholic Congress in Vienna, where he made a somewhat outspoken speech supporting the conservative stand point of the Dutch Old Catholics in opposition to the innovations then being introduced among the German and Swiss Old Catholics in regard to acceptance of the decrees of the Holy Synod of Jerusalem (1672), the Sacrament of Penance, Invocation of the Saints and alterations in the Liturgy, including the omission of the Pope's name from the Canon of the Mass. He expressed fears that the trend of Continental Old Catholicism was towards Modernism and Protestantism, due largely to their associations with Anglicans and Lutherans, and hoped that there would be a return to the traditional principles of the Church of Utrecht.
For some time the Continental Old Catholics had been drawing closer to Anglicanism and Protestantism. Utrecht too began to depart from her former rigidity to traditional principles. Bishop Mathew was much disturbed at the situation and consulted his clergy as to whether the time had come for the British Old Catholics to take an independent stand. Most of the clergy supported Bishop Mathew and, on the 29th December 1910, he issued a Pastoral Letter entitled
‘A Declaration Of Autonomy And Independence’. Briefly summarised, the points of difference between the Old Catholics on the Continent and the Old Catholics in Great Britain and Ireland were:
1. Certain sections of the Continental Old Catholics had rejected the doctrine of the Seven Sacraments as defined by the Council of Trent (1545) and the Synod of Jerusalem(1672).
2. Auricular Confession having been made optional, many Continental Old Catholics had ceases to practice it at all.
3. All Old Catholics, other than the Church of Utrecht, had abolished the Invocation of the Saints.
4. The new liturgies introduced were considered to be unusable and inadvisable.
5. The name of the reigning Pope had been omitted from the new liturgies.
6. Daily Mass had ceased to be the practice among Continental Old Catholics.
7. Statues and pictures of Our Lord and the Saints had been abolished.
8. Persons were admitted to Holy Communion in respect of whose baptism and orthodoxy there was considerable doubt.
9. The practice of fasting before Mass had been abolished.
Thus Bishop Mathew was forced to withdraw the Old Catholic Church in Great Britain and Ireland from Communion with the See of Utrecht in order to preserve its orthodoxy. Up to this time the Movement had been known as The Old Catholic Church: the English Mission, but, in consequence of its autonomy, it now described itself as The Old Catholic Church in the United Kingdom, in order to distinguish itself from the European Old Catholics.
When it became clear that the Church here in England would have to withdraw from communion with the See of Utrecht, the question of the preservation and continuation of the Old Catholic Church in the UK became the paramount consideration. It appeared certain that, in the event of the death of Bishop Mathew, the Archbishop of Utrecht would not provide another Bishop for the English Church, not only on account of its small size, but also because of the increasing divergence in matters of Faith which were taking place between it and the See of Utrecht. It would also have been undesirable, if not impossible, to be placed in the position of having to seek the Episcopate from a source which had now become tainted with heresy. It thus became imperative that Bishop Mathew should consecrate one or more Bishops in order to secure possession of the Episcopate and the Apostolic Succession, without which the English Church could not continue to exist. On the 7th January 1911, Mgr. Mathew consecrated Archdeacon Francis Herbert Bacon, Canon Cuthbert Francis Hinton, Fr William Edmond Scott-Hall and Fr Frederick Clement Christie Egerton to the Episcopate. After the consecrations an Episcopal Synod was held at which Bishop Mathew was unanimously elected Old Catholic Archbishop of Great Britain and Ireland, taking the title of the Archbishop of London.
For some time, Archbishop Mathew had been in contact with a group of prominent people who were interested in extending the influence of the Eastern Orthodox Church to Western Europe. On the 5th August 1911, a conference took place at Bredon's Norton, Worcestershire attended by amongst others, Mgr. Gerassimos Messarra, Prince-Archbishop of Beirut, Legate of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, and Archbishop Mathew. After a very long and full discussion, it was agreed that the faith of the Old Roman Catholic body under Archbishop Mathew was in full accord with that of the Eastern Orthodox Church. That being so, the Prince-Archbishop solemnly received Abp. Mathew and his Rite into union with the Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and Dr. Mathew took an oath of Fidelity to the Patriarch. Later, on 26th February 1912, His Holiness Photos, Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria, also accepted this union. These Acts of Union have never been repudiated either by the Eastern Orthodox Churches or ourselves.
The story continues with the Old Catholic Church in the United Kingdom.
+ Semper Fidelis +