THE CANONS OF THE OLD CATHOLIC CHURCH IN THE UNITED KINGDOM

GENERAL CANONS

In the history of Christianity, the first seven General Ecumenical Councils, from the First Council of Nicaea (325) to the Second Council of Nicaea (787), represented the efforts of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church to reach orthodox consensus of faith, and to continue and develop a unified Christendom. The East/West Schism formally dated to 1054, was still almost three centuries off from the last of these Councils.

These Councils are:

First Council of Nicaea (325)

First Council of Constantinople (381)

Council of Ephesus (431)

Council of Chalcedon (451)

Second Council of Constantinople (553)

Third Council of Constantinople (680)

Second Council of Nicaea (787)

The Old Catholic Church in the United Kingdom accepts all seven of these Councils and, therefore, all of the Canons which were promulgated by them.

The Old Catholic Church in the United Kingdom utilises the words ‘Old Catholic’ in It’s title as a direct reference to It’s fidelity to Catholic dogma and doctrine of this period of time in the life of the Catholic Church. 

PARTICULAR CANONS

PREAMBLE

1.1 The Province of the United Kingdom and Ireland provides the jurisdiction within which The Old Catholic Church in the United Kingdom was founded.

1. 2 These Canons may be added-to or amended as seen fit by the Sacred College of Bishops.

1.3 The Sacred College seeks to be as open and transparent as is reasonable and practical in its day-to-day governance of the Church.

2.1 The Old Catholic Church in the United Kingdom (hereinafter ‘the Church’) proclaims the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ and seeks to provide a home for Old Catholics.

2.2 For avoidance of any doubt, the Church is an Orthodox Christian denomination and part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Members of the Church accept the Doctrines, Creeds, Canons and Sacred Tradition of the early Church and uphold Catholic Practice.

STRUCTURE AND FUNCTIONS

3.1 The Province and the Church are governed by the Sacred College of Bishops, advised by the Synod of Senior Clergy, namely the Vicar General, the Chancellor, and such clergy as they may appoint, together with the Bishops making up the Provincial Council.

3.2 The Provincial Council will meet or be in contact regularly.

3.3 The Presiding Bishop is the Primate of the Church. He is a Bishop elected from among the Bishops to provide a focus of unity for the Province as a whole, and for the Episcopate in particular, and to act as a spokesperson for the Church. He is regarded as Primus inter pares.

3.4 In the event of a dispute involving a tied vote as to the resolution of any such dispute the Primate shall have the casting vote.

3.5 Save for that referred to in 3. 1 above, the Primate is given power among his fellow Bishops to hold Primatial authority to ensure that all govern collegially, effectively and rightly. In effect the Primate is the ‘Chief Executive’ of the Church.

3.6 The Primate shall remain in post for a period of five years unless he becomes physically or mentally incapacitated and unable, in the view of the College, to carry out his duties; or for good and serious reason he is deposed by agreement of the College of Bishops.

3.7 The Primate will call and chair the Provincial Council and the Bishop’s Conference. He is also a member of all diocesan bodies.

3.8 The Bishop’s Conference is the assembly of all the Bishops of the Province. It will meet regularly, and the meetings will normally be open to all members of the Church, who may speak but will not have voting rights.

3.9 The Province may organise religious organisations to enhance and further the work of the Church and this may include Religious Orders under the Patronage of the Primate.

3.10 The Province is divided into Dioceses.

3.11 Diocese are determined by the College of Bishops in association with the Synods of the Church.

3.12 The Church’ spiritual home is the Pro-Cathedral and Priory Church of St Thomas, Rugeley, Staffordshire and is to be supported by Clergy and lay members financially (free will offering) and practically without question and is deemed a duty and part of one’s own development and spirituality. 

CHARITABLE CONTRIBUTIONS TO OCCUK 

Church tithes and offerings come under the legal rubric of “charitable contributions.” All charitable contributions are gifts; and by definition, a gift is an “irrevocable transfer of the donor’s entire interest in the donated cash or property.” Simply stated: once a person gives money for church use, either through the Offertory Plate or other means, it is no longer their money or property. 

Designated and Undesignated:

This is particularly true in the case of what are called “undesignated gifts.” Undesignated gifts are your regular tithes and/or freewill offerings that you place in the offering plate or occasionally give or send to the Church Treasurer

All such giving is unconditional and therefore the church is under no legal obligation whatsoever to refund any undesignated contributions.

"Designated Gifts” are slightly different. For example, if you decide to give, say, £1000 towards your church for a specific project, the church is obligated to use the money for specifically that purpose. 

The implied understanding is that the church holds the gift in trust for that designated purpose. As long as the church uses the money for the designated purpose, there is no obligation on its part to refund such moneys. 

However, church plans and programs sometimes do change. When they do, the church is under obligation to notify the giver or donor of the change. It is up to the giver/donor to then instruct the church on what to do with the funds. He or she may request a refund. Or they may just transfer that amount into the church’s general-purpose fund. The latter is in fact how most serious and faithful Christians treat such situations.

CLERGY AND ORDINANDS

4.1 At any time, as the Church needs, any person may submit the name of a cleric to be considered for the Episcopate to the College of Bishops. Such persons should normally be over 35 years of age. Candidates for Ordination to the Diaconate should normally be 21 years of age or over. Candidates for Ordination to the Priesthood should normally be 25 years of age or over.

4.2 All who are to be Ordinands must hold to the Sacred Orders of Bishop, Priest and Deacon, and believe, according to the Holy Bible and the Sacred Tradition of the One, Holy, Catholic Apostolic Church, that all who hold these orders must be men of demonstrable high moral character.

4.3 All Rites used in Diaconal and Priestly Ordination, or the Consecration to the Episcopate, must be those accepted by the Church which has a proven Apostolic Tradition.

4.4 Clerics who have been already ordained according to Apostolic Tradition in any valid Catholic Church, may be incardinated into the Church and licensed for ministry. These will need to provide the documentation required by the Church authorities at that time. These documents will normally include the Church application process, letters of Ordination and an Enhanced Disclosure/Police Check to ensure that there have been no offences against minors or any other serious offences. If there is doubt as to the validity of their Orders, ordination sub- conditione may be advised.

4.5 Only a baptised man can validly receive ordination to the Diaconate and Priesthood, and consecration to the Episcopate.

4.6 Candidates for ordination must submit documentation of their baptism and confirmation, accompanied by the Church’s application documents.

4.7 A priest should: daily offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for the Church, for the world and the Church Suffering, but he is obliged on all Sundays to offer Mass pro populo (for the people); he is to administer the holy Sacraments (except for Confirmation and Ordination), and recite daily the three Offices of Lauds, Vespers and Compline. The priest will keep proper and full registers of baptisms, marriages, funerals and any other services conducted. He is to ensure that all entries are accurately made. Certificates should be issued to the recipients if requested.

At all times, and in all places, a Bishop, Priest, Deacon and Sub-Deacon are to demonstrate a countenance and demeanour worthy of the Gospel ethic and an ambassador of OCCUK. Any behaviour which is considered to be unacceptable by the College of Bishops will be dealt with by the College and appropriate sanctions given. Any behaviour which is criminal, or considered to be of a serious nature, will be immediately reported to the relevant authorities. If a Cleric or Religious acts in such a way that brings the Church into disrepute, or acts in a manner not befitting Holy Orders or otherwise, termination may be authorised by the College of Bishop’s. Clerics who are guilty of a criminal offence will not be supported financially in their defence, and may also face suspension, or even ex-communication, from the Old Catholic Church UK as determined by the College.

4.8 The Bishop, Priest, Deacon and Sub-Deacon are at all times and in all places to speak, preach and teach the Gospel in both word and action. They are to always pay due respect and veneration to the presence of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. Married clergy are to be faithful to their spouse. They will endeavour to continue their training and learning of the Church, of Sacred Tradition and of Holy Scripture, so as to be always ready to give answer to any questions regarding the beliefs of the Church. They are to endeavour to enrich their spirituality by prayer, devotions and self-discipline.

4.9 Priests, Deacons and Sub-Deacons will submit themselves to the authority of the Primate and their own Diocesan Bishop.

4.10 Deacons may proclaim the Gospel, preach, baptize, conduct funerals, assist the celebrant during Mass and any other service authorized by the Ordinary.

4.11 Sub-Deacons may serve at the Altar, read the Lessons, and serve the Deacon, the Priest and the Bishop in whatever is necessary for them to do.

4.11 The Clergy of the Church may work in full-time ministry or may have secular employment. They will receive no stipend. They may charge for clerical work outside of the Sacraments, but the Sacraments are to be a free gift from God. They may, however, accept offerings for their work, as this is regarded as a gift from the recipient to aid the ministerial expenses which help others. The cleric must keep proper accounts and submit as required to the taxation laws.

4.12 Those Priests who are also Companions of Jesus are to endeavour to offer Mass daily, pray the daily prayers of the Companions of Jesus, daily to read a portion of Scripture (not counting the readings at Mass and the Offices) and a portion of the Rule of St. Benedict. Those Companions of Jesus who are Sub-Deacons, Deacons or Religious, are to endeavour to attend daily Mass, are obliged to attend Mass on Sundays, should recite daily the prayers of the Companions of Jesus, and daily to read a portion of Scripture (not counting the readings at Mass and the Offices) and a portion of the Rule of St. Benedict/St. Francis.

4 13 All Priests, Deacons and Sub-Deacons are to receive an annual appraisal from their superior. The Bishops will receive their annual appraisal within the College forum.

4.14 Celibacy is not required of any person in the Church but may be adopted as a personal choice by an Ordinand, Cleric or Religious; as also continence after Ordination is a personal choice agreed between husband and wife.

4.15 Priestly vocation is a life-long commitment. Resignation within the Old Catholic Church in the United Kingdom is explored by counsel and support with the Ordinary or his delegate; failing this, a period of sabbatical would be recommended, then finally in the submitting a letter of resignation.

THE SACRED LITURGY AND SACRAMENTS

5. The authorised Rites of Sacred Liturgy:

The Mathew Rite: the Tridentine Rite of Ages of the authorised Archbishop Mathew English translation of 1909.

The OCCUK Common Rite 2017: the adapted translation of the Mathew Rite.

Other Catholic Rites, only as and when approved and authorised by the Sacred College.

5.2 Any other Rites (eg. Marriage, Funerals, Absolution, Ordinations, Exorcisms, etc.) must be those authorised by the College of Bishops.

5.3 The Rites of Holy Mother Church are to be refused to no-one who is dying. Similarly, a Catholic/Christian burial is to be refused to no-one who requests it.

5.4:  Regulations Respecting Holy Matrimony: Concerning Preservation of Marriage, Dissolution of Marriage, and Remarriage of Clergy, Religious and Minor Clergy.  

[i] When marital unity is imperilled by dissension, it shall be the duty, if possible, of either or both parties, before taking any legal action, to lay the matter before their particular Diocesan Bishop or Guardian of the Order of the Companions of Jesus; it shall then be his duty to act first to protect and promote the physical and emotional safety of those involved and only then, if it be possible, to labour that the parties may be reconciled.  

[ii] Any member of this Church whose marriage has been annulled or dissolved by a civil court may apply to the College of Bishops of the Province of the United Kingdom, under which such person is legally or canonically bound, for a judgment as to his or her marital status in the eyes of the Church. Such judgment may be a recognition of the annulment, or of the termination of the said marriage; Provided, that no such judgment shall be construed as affecting in any way the legitimacy of children or the civil validity of the former relationship.  

[iii] Every judgment rendered under this Section shall be made in writing and shall form a permanent record in the Archives of the Chancery Office.  

[iv] A second marriage, if granted, is an extension of the Church’s mercy due to human failings and frailty and may only be permitted under certain circumstances. If one (or both) of the parties has been once married and then divorced (rather than widowed), permission from the College of Bishops must be sought and received in order for a second marriage to take place. Such petitions apply equally to Religious, Bishops, Priests, Deacons, to those in Minor Orders as well as Lay Officers of the Church holding an Episcopal License.   

[v] The Catholic Church forbids no one to marry. No one is required to take a vow of celibacy; those who do, do so voluntarily. They "renounce marriage" (Matt. 19:12); no one forbids it to them. Any Catholic who doesn’t wish to take such a vow doesn’t have to; and is almost always free to marry with the Church’s blessing. Some parts of the Catholic Church simply elects candidates for the priesthood (or, in the Eastern rites, for the episcopacy) from among those who voluntarily renounce marriage.   

However, we believe that in practise, celibacy is not possible for the majority of people in active ministry. Every man, it is claimed, must obey the biblical injunction to "Be fruitful and multiply" (Gen. 1:28); and Paul commands that "each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband" (1 Cor. 7:2). It is even argued that celibacy somehow "causes," or at least correlates with higher incidence of, illicit sexual behaviour or perversion, which we believe should be avoided at all costs. For this reason, the Old Catholic Church in the United Kingdom seeks always to promote and defend the sanctity of Christian Marriage for all.

[Christian marriage is a state instituted and ordained by God for the lifelong relationship between one man as husband and one woman as wife. The Apostle Paul gave a similar directive when he wrote, "Let marriage be held in honour among all".Heb: 13:4].

Recognizing the reality that some marital bonds may dissolve and cannot be reconciled, the Church does not believe that the Sacramental Grace can remain present in a marital relationship in which there is emotional or physical violence, permanent abandonment, or the proven inability to maintain marital fidelity. The Grace of the Sacrament is not present in such relationships of pain and misery. Thus, the Church must allow persons the freedom to leave such relationships and to permit such persons the opportunity to invite Christ into a spirit-filled Marriage. Therefore, a person may petition the Church to declare a Marriage non-binding and nullified for the following conditions: 

           i Physical violence. 
           ii Psychological violence. 
           iii Permanent abandonment. 
           iv Proven inability to maintain marital fidelity. 
           v Realization of true sexual orientation incompatible with the form of the Marriage.

 

 

 

 

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