The Right Rev. Arnold Harris Mathew

The Right Rev. Arnold Harris Mathew, de jure Earl of Landaff of Thomastown,[b] (7 August 1852 – 19 December 1919) was the founder and first bishop of the Old Catholic Church in the United Kingdom and a noted author on ecclesiastical subjects.

Mathew had been both a Roman Catholic and an Anglican before becoming a bishop in the Union of Utrecht (UU). His early life is the subject of some interest from researchers as a result of his aristocratic connections and his father’s connection with colonial India.


Mathew was a relative of Theobald Mathew the noted “Apostle of Temperance”.[4] Born in France in 1852 and baptised in the Roman Catholic Church (RCC); due to his mother’s scruples he was rebaptised in the Church of England (CoE). He studied for the ministry in the Scottish Episcopal Church, but sought reconciliation and confirmation in the Church of Rome.[3]

As a Roman Catholic, Mathew was ordained a priest in 1877 in the Pro-Cathedral in Glasgow by the Most Revd Charles Eyre, Archbishop of Anazarba, in partibus infidelium Vicar-General of the Western District of Scotland, who became the first Roman Catholic Archbishop of Glasgow after the restoration of the hierarchy to Scotland. Mathew was granted a Doctor of Divinity degree by Pope Pius IX. He became a Dominican in 1878 but only persevered a year, moving around a number of dioceses: Newcastle, Plymouth, Nottingham and Clifton. He remained a Roman Catholic priest until, in 1889, various personal doubts and issues caused him to retire from the Roman obedience. Later in 1891 he was persuaded to “trial” the Anglican ministry and went to assist the rector of Holy Trinity, Sloane Street, London. He was never officially received into the Church of England, neither did he formally leave the Roman Catholic Church.

Mathew married Margaret Florence Duncan at St Marylebone Parish Church, London, using the name Arnoldo Girolamo Povoleri, “a clerk in holy orders”, on 22 February 1892.[1]

In 1897, Mathew had met the Revd Richard O’Halloran[5] and became curious about the suggestion of an Old Catholic Church in Great Britain. O’Halloran had been corresponding with the Old Catholic bishops in Holland and Germany and believed that such a movement would interest a large number of disaffected Roman Catholics and Anglo-Catholics. In June 1906 the Royal Commission appointed in 1904 to inquire into “ecclesiastical disorders”, afterwards known as the Ritual Commission,[6] The king issued Letters of Business after the report. It was expected that the Catholic-minded Anglican clergy, with their congregations, might, by Act of Parliament, be forced out of the Anglican Communion.[7] Persuaded by O’Halloran, Mathew decided to join the movement and was elected the first Regionary Old Catholic Bishop for Great Britain and in 1908 the Old Catholic Church of the Netherlands (OKKN) was petitioned to consecrate him to this charge.


On 28 April 1908, Mathew was consecrated Regionary Old Catholic Bishop for Great Britain and Ireland in St Gertrude’s Cathedral, Utrecht, by the OKKN‘s archbishop of Utrecht, Gerardus Gul, assisted by two OKKN bishops, Jacobus Johannes van Thiel of Haarlem and Nicolaus Bartholomeus Petrus Spit of Deventer, and one Catholic Diocese of the Old Catholics in Germany () bishop, Josef Demmel of Bonn.

Mathew’s election was to some extent a precautionary endeavour by those[who?] anticipating a precipitous action by the Government regarding the Ritual Commission’s findings, there were only a small number of Old Catholics in England. However, 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 was that those who had taken part in Mathew’s election were able to remain within the Anglican Communion.[clarification needed] Added to the natural differences with their former brethren in the Roman Church was a campaign of persecution directed by certain elements of the CoE, described by Willibald Beyschleg, as “those who emphatically desire to be ‘catholic’ but are at the same time wholly out of sympathy with Old Catholics.”[8][page needed] They was a small group of ritualistic clergy in the established English Church “on the way to Rome” while the Old Catholics were “on the way from Rome”.[8] Unprepared for the position in which he then found himself,[clarification needed] Mathew disclosed the matter fully to the Dutch bishops who, with the Old Catholic bishops, held an inquiry into the circumstances. Mathew was subsequently publicly exonerated from all suggestion of misrepresentation in a letter to The Manchester Guardian of 3 June 1908, the bishops also refused his request to retire and insisted he continue with the original mission[9] (though they were later to try and retract this affirmation in 1920).[c]


Arnold Harris Mathew being consecrated a bishop by Gerardus Gul, the OKKN‘s Archbishop of Utrecht


Mission in England 1908-1919


Mathew published The Old Catholic Missal & Ritual in 1909, for the use of English-speaking Old Catholics with the imprimatur of Gul.[11] In September 1909, Mathew attended the Old Catholic Congress in Vienna, where he expressed his sympathy with the conservative position of the Dutch Old Catholics opposing the innovations being introduced among the German and Swiss Old Catholics to accept the decrees of the Holy Synod of Jerusalem (1672) and to renounce the Sacrament of Penance (auricular confession), the intercession of saints and alterations to the liturgy, including the omission of the Pope’s name from the Canon of the Mass. Mathew expressed fears that the trend of Continental Old Catholicism was towards Modernism, perhaps because of the growing association with Anglicans and Lutherans, and hoped for a return to the traditional principles of the Church of Utrecht. In Utrecht, in October 1910, he assisted at the consecration of Jan Maria Michał Kowalski as archbishop of the Polish Mariavite Church.


Autonomy and Independence


Eventually, with the support of his clergy, on 29 December 1910, Mathew issued a pastoral letter entitled A Declaration Of Autonomy And Independence from the UU.[12] This necessitated[weasel words] then the continuation of the apostolic succession for the survival of the “old” Roman Catholic faith and so, on 7 January 1911, Mathew consecrated Archdeacon Francis Herbert Bacon, Canon Cuthbert Francis Hinton, Fr William Edmond Scott-Hall and Fr Frederick Clement Christie Egerton to the episcopate. An episcopal synod then followed and Mathew was unanimously elected Old Roman Catholic Archbishop of Great Britain and Ireland. Mathew consecrated two former Roman Catholic priests, Herbert Ignatius Beale and Arthur William Howarth, who were excommunicated by the Roman Catholic Bishop of Nottingham for embezzling. Mathew then sent documents to Pope Pius X attesting to the episcopal consecrations. On 11 February 1911, in response and arguably in recognition of the validity of the consecrations, Pope Pius X formally excommunicated Beale, Howarth, and Mathew in the motu proprio type apostolic letter Gravi Iamdiu Scandalo for having consecrated bishops without permission of the Holy See (which permission the Dutch Church was granted freedom from by previous papal bulls).[13][d]


A noted author and historian, Mathew had an excellent knowledge of the Eastern Orthodox Church and established cordial relations between the English Old Catholics and the Patriarchal See of Antioch. Now an archbishop, Mathew had been in contact with people[who?] interested in extending the presence of the Eastern Orthodox Church to Western Europe. On 5 August 1911, at a conference in Bredon’s Norton, Worcestershire attended by Archbishop Gerassimos Messarra, Archbishop of Beirut, Legate of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, Mathew and others.[who?] After a long and full discussion the faith of the Old Roman Catholic Church under Archbishop Mathew was considered in full accord with that of the Eastern Orthodox Church.[citation needed] Mathew was then solemnly received by Mgr Messarra on behalf of Gregory IV (Haddad) and the Old Roman Catholic Church into union with the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch as an autocephalous jurisdiction of the Holy Synod[citation needed] and on 26 February 1912, Photius, Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria, also accepted this union.[citation needed][14][better source needed] As this status has never been formally withdrawn or repudiated,[citation needed] it may be reasonably argued[according to whom?] that Old Roman Catholic bishops are not in fact episcopi vagantes (an oft used term of disparagement by critics) but bishops of a canonically autocephalous church in communion with two historical patriarchal sees[citation needed] of the ancient undivided church.


What distinguished the scholarly Mathew and the episcopate he established in Scotland and America from that of the continental Old Catholics was his insistence on the inviolable episcopal authority of each national body of Old Catholics. This had been in the minds of the original Old Catholic congresses, but the German episcopate, because of its preponderance of numbers and wealth attempted to create a small hierarchical system patterned on the Roman administration with the Archbishop of Utrecht in the position of ranking prelate or “little pope”. The English Old Catholics, seeing in this the possibilities of the former mistake of the Western Church with a Germanic, instead of an Italian, spiritual protectorate over the whole Christian world, restated the original Old Catholic principles of autonomy and had received the support of their Orthodox friends in this respect.


In 1914, the previous bishops having left the church for various reasons, Mathew elected[clarification needed] Bishop Rudolph Francis Edward Hamilton de Lorraine-Brabant, Prince de Landas Berges, to continue the succession and initially to establish the ministry of the Old Roman Catholic Church in Scotland and then later in the United States. Shortly thereafter, Father Carmel Henry Carfora, an Italian Franciscan friar who had left the Roman Catholic Church, was elected[by whom?] to succeed Bishop de Landes Berghes as Archbishop of the Old Roman Catholic Diocese of America. Because of the move to America of Bishop de Landas Berghes, to safeguard the succession once more, Canon Bernard Mary Williams was consecrated by Mathew on 14 April 1916. On 25 March 1917, Mathew appointed Bishop Williams as his successor and, on 20 December 1919, died at South Mimms, Hertfordshire where he had retired.




On 19 December 1915, Mathew made a submission to the Vatican, confirmed by announcements in letters in The Times of 31 December 1915. Mathew wrote to The Tablet within a month:


Although the Orders of the Dutch schismatical clergy were, down to 1910, undisputed in Rome, I make no claim to be recognized as a bishop, or to exercise episcopal functions, or to use any episcopal insignia. I desire to conform in everything to whatever may be the commands or wishes of the Holy See. Neither do I intend or claim even to exercise priestly functions, unless and until, as I earnestly hope, this privilege may be permitted to me. It is my firm resolve, which nothing will ever alter, to obey the commands of the Holy Father, whose word I am perfectly willing to await, and I shall do nothing whatever, whether publicly or privately, in any ecclesiastical matters without the permission of Superiors.[15]


But because the Holy See insisted that he would only be reconciled as a layman and would be obliged to accept the doctrine of papal infallibility and primacy of the Roman Pontiff, Mathew then sought union with the CoE but the Archbishop of Canterbury refused to give him any position in the CoE. Mathew retired to South Mimms, a village in the English countryside in Hertfordshire, and contented himself with assisting at services in a CoE parish church. He died suddenly on 20 December 1919. He was buried in the Parish of Saint Giles in South Mimms.


Contemporary significance


There are many independent churches, “rites” and ecclesiastic bodies in the English speaking world, particularly in North America and some in Continental Europe which trace their holy orders to Mathew’s apostolic succession. This makes Mathew a significant figure in the Independent Sacramental Movement. However, genuine Old Roman Catholic jurisdictions directly descended from the missionary endeavours of the first generation of Mathew’s bishops are very few.


Mathew’s activities as a bishop gave birth to the Liberal Catholic Church and the more conservative Old Roman Catholic churches, which are autocephalous churches holding to a traditional Roman Catholic worship style, most rejecting the dogmas of the First Vatican Council (1869-1870) but some offering nominal acceptance.


Old Roman Catholic Church


In Europe the maintenance of traditional Old Roman Catholicism (i.e. maintaining the original aims of Mathew and arguably the original mission of the Ultrajectines) is maintained by the Old Roman Catholic Church in Europe (ORCCE) [part of the Old Roman Catholic Church Latin Rite (ORCC/LR),[according to whom?] the only global Old Roman Catholic jurisdiction with provinces in North America, South America, Asia and Africa] and the Old Roman Catholic Church in Great Britain (ORCC/GB) headed by Archbishop Douglas Lewins, the lineal descendant of Mathew’s original church.


In the United States, as well as the Old Roman Catholic Church Latin Rite (ORCC/LR), the following are [according to whom?] the only churches descended directly from the Old Roman Catholic Church of North America founded by Landas Berghes succeeded by Carfora, namely the Old Roman Catholic Church: See of Caer-Glow (ORCC/SoG) headed by Archbishop John Humphreys; the Old Roman Catholic Church in North America (ORCCNA) headed by Archbishop Francis P. Facione; the North American Old Roman Catholic Church (NAORCC) headed by Archbishop Edward J. Ford. There are other churches using the name “Old Roman Catholic” that have no direct connection to the above jurisdictions and are not directly descended from the original Old Roman Catholic missions. Such churches’ claims to being Old Roman Catholic are usually by virtue of having attained Mathew’s succession from various episcopi vagantes or by adopting the polity of Old Roman Catholicism.


Liberal Catholic Church


Mathew was a traditional Ultrajectine and Roman Catholic in his religious beliefs and believed the bishops he consecrated were orthodox in their theology as well, preaching doctrines common to the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches. However, some transpired to have strong leanings toward Theosophy, occultism and Spiritualism and what may now be called “New Thought” ideas, much to Mathew’s own shock and chagrin. In 1918, a couple of Theosophical-minded bishops of Mathew’s Old Roman Catholic Church set up their own “Liberal Catholic Church“, a Church with a “High Church” Catholic liturgy and an eclectic theology that is permissive of varying theological opinions and requires no dogma.


The Liberal Catholic Church was initially the creation largely of the Right Revd James Ingall Wedgwood (born 1883), a zealous Theosophist, Freemason and Rosicrucian who was also ordained as an Old Roman Catholic Church bishop by Mathew, who later disowned him, and in 1918 became the first Presiding Bishop of the Liberal Catholic Church with several thousand members in England, Europe, North America, Australia and Asia.




Concerning the validity of the Holy Orders conferred by Mathew in the period following his departure from the UU.


Utrecht denial


On 29 April 1920, the UU‘s International Old Catholic Bishops’ Conference (IBC) declared Mathew’s consecration had been in mala fides (“in bad faith”). The suggestion was that the petition for his consecration and its 150 signatories collated by O’Halloran was false in its premise for the consecration and thus the consecration was invalid.[16](p97) However, Mathew had disclosed the matter fully to the Dutch bishops days after the consecration when it transpired that the Anglicans who had participated in his election withdrew from the petition due to the changed situation regarding the Ritual Commission (see above). Certain unprincipled elements of this Anglo-Catholic group exerted pressure on the Dutch Church to disavow the English Old Catholics, but without result. At one time they intended to besmirch the Mathew’s character by elaborating on a statement made by a Roman Catholic editor that Mathew’s credentials to the Dutch Church contained false statements, but the bishops of Holland, after a thorough investigation themselves, vindicated Mathew. The Roman priest himself recalled the original statement, saying that since he made it he had satisfied himself by a personal investigation that it was groundless. The Old Catholic bishops then held an inquiry into the circumstances and Mathew was publicly exonerated from all suggestion of misrepresentation in a letter to The Manchester Guardian of 3 June 1908, the bishops also refused Mathew’s request to retire. Also, on 5 October 1909, Mathew assisted Gul together with Thiel, Demmel, and Spit at Kowalski’s consecration, so clearly there was no suggestion of mala fides or “invalidity” then by the Old Catholic bishops.


With reference to Mathew’s “Declaration of Autonomy” of 29 December 1910, the court session of the IBC on 11 September 1913 simply stated that the matter was “solved”[clarification needed] and did no reference Mathew’s deceit or invalidity. Though the IBC did also state that consecrated persons and communities connected with Mathew would not be welcome by the UU.[10] (though recently an invitation was extended to such see Conference of North American Old Catholic Bishops[according to whom?]).


The new determination by Utrecht may have been influenced by a desire to have closer relations with the Anglican Communion.[according to whom?] In 1908, Lambeth had expressed regret over the consecration of Mathew. Lambeth also indicated a desire for a closer relationship with Utrecht. This may have been due to Pope Leo XIII‘s 1896 pronouncement, in Apostolicae Curae, that Anglican orders were “null and void”.[according to whom?] Leo XIII’s pronouncement was the impetus for some Anglican clergy to seek Mathew for clandestine reordination.[according to whom?] Leo XIII’s pronouncement may almost have been the basis upon which some had supported the petition for his consecration by Utrecht.[according to whom?] Randall Davidson, Archbishop of Canterbury, and William Maclagan, Archbishop of York, replied to the Holy See in Saepius Officio[17] giving a defence of Anglican orders. Discussions about union with Utrecht had been taking place since the end of the 19th century, such as the conferences of reunion in Bonn in 1874 and 1875 convoked by Johann von Döllinger. Though the Dutch bishops in a report of 1894 still could not decide on the recognition of Anglican orders.[16](p109) It would appear that a desire for closer cooperation on the part of Utrecht with an Anglican desire for the recognition of their orders, conspired to impugn the reputation of Mathew.[18][page needed] By June 1925, Davidson stated that the Dutch Old Catholic Church had “after lengthy investigations and serious discussions” arrived “without any reservation (to recognise) that the apostolic succession was not interrupted in the Church of England”[10] and in 1931 the Bonn Agreement was signed and intercommunion agreed between the UU and the Anglican Communion.


The new Utrecht position however, cannot and does not alter the sacramental validity of Mathew’s consecration[according to whom?] which relies solely on the ceremony and intentions of the consecrating bishops rather than on any external circumstances.[clarification needed]


As the ceremony took place and no-one questioned the intentions of the bishops involved, according to sacramental theology and canonical principles,[e] Mathew’s consecration can only be considered valid.[according to whom?] “…an act, especially one as solemn as an ordination, must be re­garded as valid, as long as invalidity would not be clearly demon­strated.”[22][f]




Old Roman Catholic jurisdictions have consistently employed the Tridentine Ordinal and Pontificale for the conferral of ordinations and the consecration of bishops. This was the case with the See of Utrecht right up to and some years beyond the consecration of Mathew himself, without any alterations to the ceremonies. Mathew’s Old Catholic Missal & Ritual contains an English translation of the Pontificale Romanum;[11](p289–326) and, either this or the original Latin is used in all Old Roman Catholic ceremonies still to this day, even by those jurisdictions who permit modern liturgies for the Mass.


“A priest or bishop who confers a sacrament doesn’t have to ‘prove’ that he intends to do what the Church does. He is automatically presumed to intend what the rite means. This is certain theological doctrine, taught by the Church. And to deny it is ‘theologically rash’,” according to Cekada.[19][g]


“Schismatic” or “excommunicate” ordinations


According to Cekada, Traditionalist Catholics sometimes assert that “without a papal dispensation, an episcopal consecration performed without two priest-assistants is doubtful”.[19] Using the 1917 Code of Canon Law but not the current 1983 Code of Canon Law which replaced it, he argued against this assertion and stated that “no law or canonist supports this” and reasoned that “teachings of the canonists directly contradict it too”.[19] He quoted Marie Dominique Bouix, who wrote: “Even if there should be a consecration without any assistants and without obtaining a pontifical dispensation, it would still be valid.”[19][h] He wrote that Eduardo Regatillo writing “goes even further. He [Regatillo] says that a consecration performed without a dispensation would be valid even if the bishop ‘is the only one who is present at the consecration'”;[19][i] and that, “Pope Alexander VII, Pope Clement XI and Pope Benedict XIV declared that consecrations performed without such a dispensation are valid.”[19][j][k]


Sometimes, it is asserted that, because Mathew was excommunicated by Pius X, anyone ordained or consecrated by him thereafter incurs the same penalty.


“Penalties aren’t ‘contagious’,” according to Cekada, even if a bishop “had personally incurred excommunication, it would not be incurred by clergy who derive their orders from him”; he wrote that the CIC1917 states: “It is not permitted to extend penalties from person to person or from case to case, even though the reason is the same or even stronger.”[26](can.2219.3)[22] “Receiving orders from an excommunicate incurs only suspension,” wrote Cekada, which prohibits “licitly exercising orders”.[22][l]


Thus, based on the CIC1917, Mathew’s excommunication is not “contagious” and wouldn’t pass along to clergy deriving their orders from him.


Furthermore, the CIC1917 states that “Except as provided in §3, the faithful can for any just cause ask for sacraments or sacramentals of one who is excommunicated, especially if there is no one else to give them; and in such cases the excommunicated person so asked may administer them, and is not obliged to ask the reason for the request.”[26](can.2261)[22]


No Old Roman Catholic bishops have been declared excommunicate since Mathew.[m][clarification needed] Thus as his excommunication is not contagious, this scenario does not apply.[clarification needed]


Licit or illicit


It is also suggested that such orders are “illicit”, i.e. non canonical.


The canonical dispute between the Holy See and the See of Utrecht about whether the Ultrajectine See could elect its own bishops was never canonically, i.e. legally, concluded. Pius IX ignoring “due process” and erecting an uncanonical hierarchy in Holland in 1853. Thus, it is arguably only just according to canonical principles to assume that the inalienable right granted by Papal Bull of Pope Eugene III is still extant and in effect.[d]


Gul consecrated and commissioned Mathew as a bishop in accordance with the norms of universal ecclesiastical law, nominating and electing him to a title. When the See of Utrecht fell into “apostasy” in 1910,[according to whom?] Mathew declared autonomy from the Ultrajectine See on 29 December 1910[12] and perpetuated its assertion of canonical rights and prerogatives for the continuation and perpetuation of the Old Roman Catholic Church from Utrecht.


On 5 August 1911, Mathew was received by Archbishop Gearrasimos Messara of Beirut, Syria into the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and the East[citation needed] and intercommunion was established between the second most ancient See of Christendom and first “cathedra” of the Apostle Peter and the Old Roman Catholic Church recognised as an “autocephalous” i.e. self-governing, jurisdiction.[citation needed] This occurred similarly with the Patriarchate of Alexandria in 1912.[citation needed] Thus making the Old Roman Catholic Church a canonical entity in both the Western and Eastern catholicates.[citation needed]


The term episcopi vagantes ought not be applied to the Old Roman Catholic Church,[according to whom?] in all its duly constituted and canonically governed ecclesial communities around the world, nor particularly its bishops.


Affirmations of validity


There are various incidences where Old Roman Catholic orders have been affirmed by theologians, canonists and even representatives of the Holy See.


According to supporters, the consecration of Hiram Hulse indicates that the Protestant Episcopal Church in the USA regarded the Mathew line as being not only valid but even desirable. On 12 January 1915, in New York City, Hulse was consecrated as a bishop in Cuba for the Protestant Episcopal Church assisted by de Landes. This indicates that there were no apparent perceived problems in relation to valid holy orders in the early 20th century. The orders of de Landes, consecrated after Mathew left the UU, were apparently viewed by his contemporaries as valid despite any adverse comments from Utrecht.


Archbishop Frederick Linale of the Old Roman Catholic Church Great Britain,[27] sought and obtained a declaration from Rome confirming the validity of his Orders, firstly in 1962.[28][better source needed] Then on 9 January 1982, Archbishop Romolo Carboni, Apostolic Nuncio to Italy, wrote to the Cardinal Prefect of the Council for the Public Affairs of the Church, [document 1490/82], asking him to look into the apostolic succession of Linale. This task was given to Monsignor Annibale Ilari, who had access to the Vatican Archives. In his written report to the Cardinal Prefect, dated 8/2/83, Ilari ended with the conclusion:


I have attached a brief scheme of succession which ties Mgr Linale to the Supreme Pontiffs Benedict XIII, Benedict XIV and Pius IX, with the aim of assuring him that his lineage truly links him to the See of Peter.[this quote needs a citation]


The Old Catholic Church of British Columbia (OCCBC) was, c. 2006 – c. 2007, a probationary member of the UU;[29]( [letter] ) the OCCBC‘s orders are derived from Mathew, the union accepted the validity of their orders.[citation needed][n]


An investigation by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Quebec, in a public apology made for having maligned Fr. Claude Lacroix, asserted the validity of the OCCBC‘s holy orders, “Father Lacroix is actually a validly ordained priest” and “Similarly, certificates of baptism given out by the Old Catholic Church of B.C. may be accepted for the inscription of children to First Communion and Confirmation program”.[30]


In 2002, Cardinal Édouard Gagnon investigated the documentation of Bishop André Letellier’s episcopal orders and consecration.[third-party source needed]


Letellier was consecrated on 23 May 1968 by Archbishop André Leon Zotique Barbeau of the Catholic Charismatic Church of Canada.[o] Gagnon commented,


…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.[third-party source needed][p]


Despite critics,[who?] there is incontrovertible evidence that the apostolic succession of Mathew originating from the OKKN, has been consistently considered “valid” by Vatican officials and Roman Catholic canon lawyers and theologians,[q] irrespective of the excommunication of Mathew by Pius X. But in all such cases it has been assumed that orthodox praxis and intention has been concurrent with each ordination/consecration and the cases of particular affirmation have only been of individuals known to be conservative in Catholic doctrine.[according to whom?] In all above cases too, only the Pontificale Romanum has been used for the Rite of Consecration, other liturgies are not therefore affirmed. It certainly cannot be assumed that the arguments and affirmations detailed here are in any way applicable across the board to other groups outside the Old Roman Catholic tradition, most especially those whose teachings are not consistent with orthodox and conservative Catholic doctrine. Similarly, though the canonical principles above may be applied to other scenarios, the conclusions rely inherently on orthodox Catholic praxis and would not apply to those demonstrably apostate or heretical by comparison to traditional Catholic doctrine.


It is generally suggested[according to whom?] that Roman Catholics may fulfill their Holy Day of Obligation by attending Mass celebrated by an Old Roman Catholic priest if unable to attend a Roman Catholic Mass.[r] The RCC teaches in Dominus Iesus that,


[…] there exists a single Church of Christ, which subsists in the Catholic Church, governed by the Successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him. The Churches which, while not existing in perfect communion with the Catholic Church, remain united to her by means of the closest bonds, that is, by apostolic succession and a valid Eucharist, are true particular Churches. Therefore, the Church of Christ is present and operative also in these Churches, even though they lack full communion with the Catholic Church, since they do not accept the Catholic doctrine of the Primacy, which, according to the will of God, the Bishop of Rome objectively has and exercises over the entire Church.

On the other hand, the ecclesial communities which have not preserved the valid Episcopate and the genuine and integral substance of the Eucharistic mystery, are not Churches in the proper sense; however, those who are baptized in these communities are, by Baptism, incorporated in Christ and thus are in a certain communion, albeit imperfect, with the Church. Baptism in fact tends per se toward the full development of life in Christ, through the integral profession of faith, the Eucharist, and full communion in the Church.[41]


The RCC further teaches that,


The Eastern Churches, as the same Vatican Council states, have maintained the sacrament of Orders and the same eucharistic faith as we have. On the other hand, the separated Churches in the West have not preserved the proper and integral nature of the eucharistic mystery, since they lack above all the sacrament of Order, […][42]


The “separated Churches in the West” is understood to be a reference to Old Catholics.[according to whom?]





Further reading


  • Urs Küry: Die altkatholische Kirche, ihre Geschichte, ihre Lehre, ihr Anliegen. Evangelisches Verlagswerk, Stuttgart 1978 ISBN 3-7715-0190-3
  • Henry RT Brandreth: Episcopi vagantes and the Anglican Church. Borgo Press, San Bernardino, 1987, ISBN 0893705586
  • Karl Pruter: The Old Catholic Church, a history and chronology. St. Willibrord’s Press, San Bernardino, 1996, ISBN 0912134194
  • Christoph Schuler: The Mathew Affair. The failure to Establish an Old Catholic Church in England in the context of Anglican Old Catholic relations between 1902 and 1925. Stichting Centraal oud Katholiek Boekhuis, Amersfoort 1997, ISBN 90-70596-64-4
  • Andre J. Queen: Old Catholic, History, Ministry, Faith & Mission. Universe, Lincoln, 2003, ISBN 0595749364
  • Kurt J. Bruk: War Bischof Arnold Harris Mathew ein Vaganten-Bischof? Arcturus Publishing, Schäffern 2005, ISBN 3-901489-40-1