Monday, 23 May 2011

The Day I Met a Priest of the Old Catholic Church

How strange! I was on my bike on my way back from seeing a friend today when I rode past a man dressed in black and white religious garments. He looked like a Dominican, so I rode back up hill and stopped him and asked if he was of the said religious Order. He replied that he wasn't and that he was a priest of the Oratory of St Jean Vianney. The webpage suggests that the Sacred Ministers can be actually laymen. I'm confused.

Anyway, I'd never heard of this Order so I asked if it was Catholic. He said he was an 'Old Catholic'. He looked relatively young to me, but suffice to say images of Mel Gibson and his father crossed my mind, even though I don't know what Mel Gibson's father actually looks like.

A little taken aback, I responded, "Oh, the schismatic sect?!" He chuckled and replied that it depends on how you look at things. Being the kind of chap who tries to look at things the way the Holy Father looks at things, I entered into a dialogue with him. He was a nice chap. It turns out that he had been just celebrating the Traditional Latin Mass at the Young People's Hall of the Salvation Army. I must say that while biking home, I thought that to be an awfully sad situation, given that Catholic Priests can now celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass in Catholic Churches without the need of permission from even those Bishops who oppose its celebration.

We had a good chat. He gave an interesting account of what the Old Catholic Church believes concerning Papal Infallibility, which appears to be the main crux of their dispute with the Holy See. Rather an important dispute, that, I guess! He also gave an account of one disputed Papal decree on dogma concerning the definition of the Assumption of Our Lady. He said they didn't have a problem with the belief, but that the Pope should have convened a Council of Bishops with the full support of the Magisterium in order to declare it. There was no need, he asserted, for the dogma to be made from the Throne of St Peter. Apparently, the Holy Father should have done it with all the Bishops of the World. I wondered quite openly to him whether Pope Pius XII in 1950 or whatever year it was knew this had to be declared on the Chair because Bishops were about to go awry, stop believing in the Real Presence, Hell, Purgatory or, indeed, the necessity of telling young people about Salvation and Confession.

Personally, I don't have a problem with the Successor of St Peter, who said, infallibly, to Our Lord, "Thou art the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the Living God, the Saviour of the World" without so much as a hint of help from the rest of the first Bishops of the Church, defining dogma on our behalf, though I am sure this is an oversimplification of the actions of Pope Pius XII. I said, jokingly, "What is the point of being Pope if you can't speak infallibly every now and then?" It's still pretty rare, I hear. Like it happens every 500 - 1000 years or something!

Apparently, similarly to the SSPX, a dispute arose with the Supreme Pontiff at the time, but this was not about liturgy but privileges that the previous Popes had granted to the Order in terms of securing their own Bishop were removed for some reason and then it all kicked off. You can read more about the schismatic church here.

I have to say, having read that, I still don't understand the full arguments with the Old Catholic Church, but I found it sad that a priest celebrating the Latin Mass is walking around Brighton looking like a Priest of an Order and he is not in communion with the Holy See. He told me that the orders are valid and so therefore are the Sacraments of the Order, Baptism, Confession, Eucharist, the lot.  I told him how wonderful it would be if groups like the SSPX and the Old Catholic Church came back, in terms of devout Catholic families who have loads of children and dedicated Priests and possibly one day Bishops who love Sacred Tradition as well as Lumen Gentium.

It turns out that the said priest used to be in the SSPX. I must say, after I heard that I started to wonder whether he just enjoyed priestly orders in ecclesial communions not in full communion with Peter for the fun of it! Rebel! Anyway, I'm still none the wiser as to whether his orders are valid or whether the Old Catholic Church and their successors incurred latae sententiae excommunication, but told him how awful it would be to meet St Peter at the Gates of Heaven only to have a big sign on one's head saying excommunicated. Salvation, for all of us who believe, can be something of a tightrope walk and here is a video of the priest in question doing it for real.

Anyway, so like I say, I'm still a little confused as to the condition of these orders with regard to relationship with the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, the visible head of which is Pope Benedict XVI. However, though we did not discuss various issues, it does appear to me that both the doctrine of Papal Infallibility and most of all the Authority of the Church built upon Peter are essential to a right understanding of the Church itself.

While the SSPX has remained true to its tradition and pre-Vatican II liturgy, it has held onto doctrine as well. Unfortunately, reading about the Old Catholic Church, the church's rejection of both Papal Infallibility and the Authority of Her dogma has led to some interesting views on 'reconciliation' of divorce, homosexual relationships and other, dare I say it, liberalising trends.

I told him that I sometimes think that the SSPX and other groups believe that their Churches and liturgies are ideal, but only in Heaven is the Church perfect and that while the liturgy of 90% or more of Catholic Churches in the UK is probably absolutely appalling, the Church on Earth will never be perfect until Christ is 'all in all' and that it was better to be inside that rather than outside of that. Anyway, I could quite easily have spent another hour or two chatting with him. He looked so splendid and I liked his Rosary very much.

You can read the priest's blog here. His name is Fr Jerome. He's already got quite a few 'New' Catholic bloggers in his sidebar and he puts his latest Latin Mass on his blog every day, apparently. I wonder if he will add me to his blog listings!

To be honest, while I'm a bit of a simpleton regarding these ecumenical matters, one thing I will say is this. A few weeks ago, I met a guy on the soup run whose wife was devastated when the Latin Mass went in the 1960s. She searched for a Latin Mass because she missed it so much. She found one, whether it was the SSPX or an Old Catholic Church or not, I know not, but it was a 'house church'. It didn't take long for the once devout Catholic lady to shack up with another guy and divorce her husband. 'Nuff said!

I can't, for the life of me, understand why a priest celebrating the Latin Mass wouldn't rather celebrate it in full communion with the One True Church, in a Catholic Church, in a building fit for the worship of God, but there we go. Different strokes for different folks! The chap likes dressing up as an old lady and singing in fundraising concerts. Obviously, no English Bishop would tolerate that kind of behaviour outside of the Divine Liturgy. I sincerely hope to God that he is not just 'dressing up' as a Priest. He certainly says the Orders are valid but I'd like to know what the Holy See says if someone could help me out?  Anyway, I told him that I go to the Latin Mass on Friday's at St Mary Magdalen Church and am going to Our Lady of Consolation to serve on Saturday. Apparently he read Fr Ray's blog and Fr Z's blogs and enjoys them. To me he appeared very sincere, humble and charitable, yes even towards our beloved Sovereign Pontiff. Just a little 'hurdle' or two. Wouldn't it be wonderful if all the separated traddies (and liberals indeed!) came home good and proper, once and for all and became Catholic?! Oh how happy Our Blessed Lord would be!


Anonymous said...

Interesting post. Aren't the "Old Catholics" who the Anglicans have at their 'ordinations' to try and make them valid. The 'Dutch Touch'!

Anonymous said...

And this:

The Raven (C. Corax) said...

Loz, these dudes are members of the Old Roman Catholic Church, theyre not "Old Catholics" (viz. members of the Union of Uttrecht), who are the guys that your Wiki links talk about.

Richard Collins said...

This "Canon" has written in a very unchristian and disrespectful manner regarding Fr Ray.
I have no truck with the man.

Anne said...

Laurence and Raven
I didn't realise there were so many different groups calling themselves Catholic!

Within Protestantism there are hundreds of denominations as we know but it would be interesting to research how many claim to be in the Catholic tradition, use the name, but have interpreted this in various ways.

I have been watching the re-run of Professor Diarmaid McCulloch's BBC series A History of Christianity which throws some light on the subject.

. said...

The Old Catholic Church split off at Vatican I because, if I remember rightly, they were ultramontanists. They do have valid orders. Raven says Fr Jerome et al are another group, though.

Honestly, there are a lot of these groups. I'm actually surprised you found a mere priest - most of these types are episcopi vagantes, who will give you down the banks about their valid orders at the slightest hint that you might consider a provocation.

On the SSPX, I would point out that their stance on liturgical matters in the early days was more than a little iffy, wandering between 1962 and 1965 without too much certainty.

Also, the SSPX uses the 1962 Missal. A lot of these "True Old Authentic McCoy's Chocolate Roman Catholic Church" type groups decide to go with the 1570 Missal (see also: SSPV), or with a Gallican missal, or the Sarum Use, or something they've fabricated from the Gelasian Sacramentary, or...

georgem said...

Mmmmmm. That's all I'll say.

Ttony said...

This is the badger who got Patricius to "play Mass" during the Sacred Triduum instead of going to Church, isn't it? If I'm right, and you knew what he was thought of Fr Blake, you might have thought of a rather more robust way of saluting him.

Pastor in Monte said...

Pope Pius XII did involve and consult the world's bishops concerning our Lady's assumption. All their names are on the wall in the narthex of St Peter's, Rome.

Martin said...

I have followed up the post on the priest you met and read his blog.
I would be very grateful if you would delete my comment which was pure speculation and unjustified.

The problems that arise in a Theology of Prieshood in relation to human biology are confusing but it is of no relevance here.
An interesting post nevertheless.
Thank you.

nath99 said...

Did anyone listen to this very intriguing Open Message to Pope Benedict? It talks about some hidden truths.

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