Western Liturgical Family, Part I: The Western Catholic Tradition

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2 Western Liturgical Family, Part I: The Western Catholic Tradition







Intrafaith Organizations

Roman Catholic Church

Independent and Old Catholic Churches


The fourth century c.e. proved to be a decisive turning point for the Christian movement. Before the reign of the emperor Constantine (r. 306–337), Christianity was an outlaw faith throughout the Roman Empire. During Constantine’s reign, Christianity would be decriminalized, then legalized, then elevated to a most-favored status. Certainly from the time of the Great Fire in 64 c.e., which destroyed much of Rome during the reign of the emperor Nero (r. 54–68 c.e.), Roman authorities had looked upon Christians as a disturbing force in the empire. Periodically the church’s members were targeted for persecution, some of the most violent occurring during the reigns of Decius (r. 249–251) and Diocletian (r. 284–305), whose reign ended shortly before Constantine’s rise to power.

Christianity had spread through the Roman Empire from Spain to Syria and beyond its borders to the east in the first century c.e. Given its far-flung existence and its status as a marginalized faith, it developed as a somewhat decentralized movement with local patriarchal leaders (the bishops) emerging as authorities in the larger cities and the territory surrounding them. The leading bishops in the largest cities tended to gain authority over nearby dioceses; the most prominent bishops could be found in such places as Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria, and Edessa in the East, and Lyon, Rome, and Arles in the West.

Research on the early Christian movement has been greatly affected by the discovery of caches of relevant documents in the mid-twentieth century—the Dead Sea scrolls and the library at Nag Hammadi, Egypt, being the most important. The Dead Sea scrolls have help clarify the existence of a variety of groups and intellectual currents flowing within the Jewish community in the first century b.c.e. Christianity originally emerged as an additional Jewish way in first-century Palestine. Like all of Judaism, it was significantly disturbed by the Jewish revolt in 66 c.e. and the subsequent destruction of Jerusalem and its temple four years later.

As the Christian movement grew, it accepted Gentiles into membership and then leadership, and it would outpace its Jewish origins and find itself in competition with a variety of religious movements that had been able to spread throughout the empire, such as Mithraism and the healing temples of Asclepius. In good time, Christianity was able to blend into its environment and thus escape the attention of potentially hostile rulers.

The Christian movement was also diverse. From the writings of Irenaeus, the second-century bishop of Lugdunum, Gaul (Lyons, France), we learn of a group of teachers who had gained a following within the larger Christian movement and whom Irenaeus condemned as heretics. We know less about how widely Irenaeus’s Against Heresies circulated during the several decades after he penned it, or how his fellow bishops reacted to his condemnations. We do know that he had little authority to enforce his views beyond his diocese and that the followings of some of the teachers he mentioned (such as Valentinus) were noticeable into the third and fourth centuries. Even within those elements of the movement that would find favor in the post-Constantinian world, a level of diversity existed around various traditions that dated to the founding of the church in distinct locations by what reputedly were different apostles or their close associates.

When one looks around the early church, certainly through the second and third centuries, one would be hard-pressed to find what might be called Bible-believing Christians. The Bible was yet to be assembled. The Jewish Bible was revered, and various books that were to be included in the New Testament were copied and recopied and circulated among the local congregations. Few congregations were able to reference all of those pieces of writing, and different books were assigned varying levels of authority. Some books that were not ultimately included in the Bible were popular, widely read, and freely circulated through the congregations. The letters of Paul were among the most widely honored, and the Apocalypse (book of Revelation) was possibly the most questioned. A book called the Didache, or the Teachings of the Twelve Apostles, is among the popular texts that did not finally make it into the canon.

The informal and marginalized existence of the church was to change dramatically in the 320s. Most symbolic of that change was the calling of the first of the great ecumenical councils that met at Nicea in 325 c.e., with the emperor’s support and approbation. While sometimes compared to the first-century gathering of church leaders at Jerusalem, described in Acts 15:4–22, the Council of Nicea was a gathering of official leaders of what had become a large international movement on the verge of attaining a level of power few could have imagined just a decade previously.

Western Liturgical Family Chronology
1492Christopher Columbus brings Catholicism to the Americas.
1494The Treaty of Tordesillas stated that Portugal was entitled to lands in the New World east of a line drawn 370 leagues west of the Azores and Cape Verde (i.e. Brazil). Spain was given hegemony over the lands west of that line. Pope Julius II confirmed the treaty in 1506.
16th centuryOrganizational unity of Christianity in Europe shattered by Protestant Reformation.
1634Maryland founded. Roman Catholic Church planted in British North America.
1776Charles Carroll become the only Roman Catholic who signs the Declaration of Independence.
1790John Carroll is consecrated as the first bishop for the United States.
1810John Carroll is named the first archbishop in the United States.
1844The Methodist Episcopal Church, the largest church in America, divides into two jurisdictions, allowing the Roman Catholic Church to assume its place.
1869Fr. Junipero Serra founds the first of a string of Franciscan missions along the coast of California.
1870Papal States annexed by Italy, a major step to formal unification the next year. First Vatican Council defines the doctrine of the infallibility of the Pope as dogma.
1871Opponents of the doctrinal “innovation” at Vatican I meet in Munich and launch Old Catholic Movement.
1875James Augustine Healy, an African American able to pass as white, becomes the Roman Catholic bishop of Maine. He is now recognized as the first African American recipient of a Ph.D. and the first African American president of a predominantly white university.
Abp. John McCloskey of New York is named the first American cardinal.
1881Catholic laborers form Knights of Columbus fraternal organization, which promotes catholic interests.
1886Augustus Tolton becomes the first African American recognized as such by his contemporaries ordained to the priesthood.
1897Polish National Catholic Church founded by Roman Catholics unappreciative of Irish and German bishops and priests.
1895Pope Leo XIII voices opposition to “Americanism,” a view championing Catholic co-existence with the separation of church and state and demands the resignation of Bps. Joseph J. Keane and Denis J. O’Connell.
1928Al Smith, governor of New York, is the first Roman Catholic to run for president on a major party ticket.
1946Mother Francis X. Cabrini becomes the first American to be canonized as a saint.
1951Msgr. Fulton J. Sheen begins successful prime-time national television show Life Is Worth Living.
1960John F. Kennedy becomes the first Roman Catholic in the White House.
1962Pope John XXIII calls Second Vatican Council (1962–1965), which creates new positive atmosphere within Catholicism for ecumenical and interfaith relationships.
1965Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras I of Constantinople rescind the excommunications of 1054.
1969Pope Paul VII condemns abortion in his encyclical Humanae Vitae.
Following the decrees of Vatican II, Pope Paul Vi promulgates the new mass which replaces the Tridentine Latin mass and quickly goes into vernacular languages.
1970A traditionalist movement forms to oppose the replacement of the Latin Mass.
1975Elizabeth Ann Seton becomes the first person born in what is now the United States to be canonized as a Roman Catholic saint.
1977Supporters of women in the priesthood organize the Women’s Ordination Conference.
1979Pope John Paul II become the first pope to visit the United States.
1984Card. Joseph Ratzinger issues critique of the liberation theology and disciplines several of its leading exponents.
1985Vatican removes Fr. Charles Curran’s license to teach catholic theology due to his advocacy of artificial birth control.
1988Conservative French archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, the leading voice of the traditionalist movement, is excommunicated after consecrating four priests to the episcopacy. Abp. Eugene A. Marino is the first African American named as an archbishop.
Pope John Paul II beautifies Fr. Junipero Serra.
1994Pope John Paul II ends post–Vatican II debate over admitting women to the priesthood in the encyclical Ordinatio Sacerdotalis.
2000Pope John Paul II canonizes Mother Katherine Mary Drexel, founder of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament.
2002Conviction of Fr. James F. Geoghan of child molestation brings issue of pedophilia among American catholic priests to the forefront leading to numerous court cases, prompting a major study of the problem by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and forcing the resignation of Cardinal Bernard Law, Archbishop of Boston.
Catholic dioceses begin paying settlements that amount to a billion dollars or more by 2007.
Seven women on a boat on the Danube River become the first modern women publicly ordained to the Roman Catholic priesthood. Bp. Romulo Braschi of Argentina performed the ordinations.
Card. Joseph Ratziner becomes Pope Benedict XVI.
2006South African bishop Patricia Fresen brings new female ordination movement to the United States.

The calling of the council was a sign of the church’s new status, but also manifested the theological diversity that had been part of the developing thought-world of the decentralized church. For the first time, the church’s leaders from around the Mediterranean Basin had the opportunity to gather and the power to make decisions that could be enforced throughout the movement. The council’s first decision would be reached over the conflicting opinions of two bishops—Arius (c. 250–336) and Athanasius (c. 293–373). The issue was important, and both approached the council with substantial support. In the end, Athanasius’s opinion prevailed and became the orthodox position. The Nicene Creed that was promulgated after the meeting contains specific anti-Arian language. Certainly, had Arius’s position won, Christian theology would have taken a significantly different direction.

Arius’s widespread following did not, of course, disappear, and the broad acceptance of the Nicene Creed came with the use of the state’s power. The controversy periodically reemerged over the next century, and Arianism attained some power at the fringes of the empire, the very places to which leaders supportive of Arius’s views were often exiled. Arianism was particularly favored by the Goths and Vandals of central Europe, the Visigoths having been initially converted to Christianity by Arians in 376. It would be Arian Christians who would sack Rome in 410 c.e., and for several centuries Arian kingdoms in western Europe would play an important role in Western Christianity.


In the several centuries following the reign of Constantine, Christianity would be shaped and reshaped as it adjusted to its new status as the privileged religion of the Roman Empire. Its worship life would continue to evolve, its organization would assume responsibility for the empire’s entire population, and its doctrinal conflicts would find a means of resolution in successive church councils. Given the church’s alignment with government authorities, a loss in a church conflict now carried significant consequences. Outspoken bishops and their followers would immediately lose favor. Bishops could lose their position, be exiled, arrested, or even executed. At the same time, the Christian movement had spread beyond the borders of the Roman Empire, especially eastward into what is now Armenia and Iraq. In these lands, neither Greek nor Latin were the primary languages for liturgy or daily life, and the church leaders were beyond the reach of Roman authorities.


As the church evolved from the fourth century forward, a strong liturgical life became one of its most distinguishing features, and this rich liturgical tradition would retain center stage in the older Christian churches that maintain an organizational continuity to the present day. Although these churches have other distinguishing characteristics—creeds, orders, sacraments, language, culture—liturgy is the realm where these characteristics find their expression, so it is appropriate to group these churches that trace their origins into the pre-Constantinian era together as the liturgical family. In this family are to be found the many church bodies of the four major traditions: the Eastern Orthodox churches, the non-Chalcedonian Orthodox traditions, the Western Roman Catholic tradition, and the Anglican tradition.

Most of the liturgical churches celebrate seven sacraments: baptism, the Eucharist, holy orders, unction, marriage, confirmation, and penance. Among contemporary Christians in North America and western Europe, few topics exist about which there is such a variety of thinking as the number and nature of the sacraments. Sacramental life came to the fore in the debates surrounding the origin of Protestantism in the sixteenth century. Most Protestant groups, such as the Lutherans and Presbyterians, celebrate only two sacraments—baptism and holy communion—while many free churches, from the Mennonites to the Baptists, have no sacraments. Free churches practice baptism and holy communion, but as ordinances not sacraments. Some add a third ordinance, foot washing. A fully developed sacramental system, however, characterizes the members of the liturgical family. The exception is the Anglican tradition. Formed in the crucible between Catholics and Protestants, it developed a liturgical life with a slightly Protestantized cast. The via media allowed for the central role of the Sunday liturgy and an almost Catholic understanding of the sacraments, but limited the number of sacraments to two.


The churches of the liturgical family are generally led by bishops who believe that they exercise their authority from a lineage of bishops that can be traced back to Christ’s original twelve apostles. Though that lineage is slightly different in each jurisdiction, each church professes that it inherits an unbroken line of authority from the apostles who founded the Christian church at Pentecost.

Speaking of this unbroken line, for example, Bishop Sion Manoogian (1906–1991) says of the Armenian Church: “The Armenian Church was founded by two of the Apostles of Our Lord, St. Thaddeus and St. Bartholomew, in the first century. This is the reason for its sometimes being called the Armenian Apostolic Church” (The Armenian Church and Her Teachings, 1951 (?), pp. 2, 15). Dean Timothy Andrews (1914–2007) says of the Greek Orthodox Church: “It is the church founded by Christ, received its mission on Pentecost, propagated throughout the world by the Holy Apostles” (What Is the Orthodox Church? 1964, p. 7). The Church of the East traces its conversion, establishment, and apostolic succession to the 70 disciples (Luke 10:1) and the 12 apostles, but more particularly to Mar Shimun Koopa (St. Simon Peter), Mar Tooma (St. Thomas), Mar Addai (St. Thaddeus), Mar Mari (St. Mari, one of the 70 disciples), and Mar Bar Thulmay (St. Bartholomew). The Roman Catholic Church traces its origins to St. Peter, the first bishop of Rome.


Beginning in the fourth century, the church was frequently able to call church councils to settle controversies. Most councils were local or regional affairs, but controversies that affected the entire church could be referred to an international council that included the majority of bishops from around the Mediterranean Basin and to some extent from beyond the Roman Empire. During what is termed the conciliar era, a time of debate and discussion from 325 c.e. to 787 c.e., seven councils of the entire church, called ecumenical councils, were held.

What is considered the First Ecumenical Council was called almost immediately after the church attained its new status, in 325 c.e. at Nicea, near Constantinople (Istanbul), in present-day Turkey, to deal with the issues raised by Bishop Arius. The council turned its attention to the relationship of God the Father and God the Son in Christian thinking. Arius argued that the Son is not of the same “substance” as the Father, thus denying the essential full divinity of Jesus Christ. Rather, Arius contended, the Son was created by the Father as an agent for creating the world. In the end, the council condemned Arius and declared his teaching heretical.

Arius and his supporters, however, did not go away. The promulgation of the Nicene Creed, for example, caused an immediate defection in the church in Egypt, where Arius resided. In various places around the edge of the Roman Empire, Arian Christians remained in some force for several centuries, especially in lands north and west of the Italian Peninsula. Since the sixth century, a beautiful Arian baptistery has stood near the Orthodox baptistery in Ravenna, Italy, a symbol of the town’s location on the boundary between the Orthodox and Arian communities.

The council at Nicea promulgated the creedal statement that embodied a summary of the basic affirmations of what would now become “orthodox” Christianity. The creed affirmed a transcendent deity who related to humanity as a parental creator, salvation through the atoning work of Jesus Christ, the sustaining work of the Holy Spirit, the church as the organizational expression of the faith, and continued existence after death for Christians in a heavenly state. The Nicene Creed would set the basic perspective of the faith accepted by almost all Christians since the fourth century, and laid a foundation for the next stage of theological discussion, focused on questions left open by the new creedal statement. The Nicene statement, more than any other document, defines orthodox Christianity, and its basic position would provide the consensus that was never questioned when the various schisms occurred over the centuries. Even most of the modern “noncreedal” churches basically accept the decisions of the Council of Nicea in their definition of Christian belief.

The Second Council met at Constantinople in 381 c.e. and continued the development of the doctrine of the Trinity. Christianity affirms the existence of one God who is manifest as a Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Those who gathered at Constantinople affirmed that the three— Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—are coeternal and consubstantial.

The Third Council met at Ephesus in 431 c.e. This council met to discuss the opinions of Nestorius (d. c. 451), who had been made patriarch of Constantinople three years earlier, concerning the relationship of the divine and human in Jesus Christ. Nestorius argued that Christ was not the Son of God, but that God was living in Christ. The two natures, said Nestorius, were separable. The debate centered upon the use of the word Theotokos (Greek for “Mother of God”). The Nestorians rejected the term, saying that Mary bore Christ, not God.

Though the youngest of the five patriarchal sees, Constantinople had gained power because of its proximity to the emperor’s court. When the council ruled against Nestorius and deposed him as patriarch, he did not go down immediately. A few days after the Ephesian Council adjourned, Nestorius’s followers organized another council and deposed the opposition. Subsequently, the secular authorities supported the majority, and Nestorius was imprisoned and eventually banished to Egypt. His followers still did not go away, but formed a strong church in Syria and Persia, to the east of Constantinople’s reach. Later missionary activity carried the Nestorians even further east, into India and China. They are represented today by the Church of the East, one of the churches of the non-Chalcedonian Orthodox tradition (meaning they did not participate or accept the rulings of the next council).

The Fourth Council met at Chalcedon in 451 c.e. It drafted what came to be known as the Chalcedonian Creed, which stated:

Therefore, following the holy Fathers we all with one accord teach men to acknowledge one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, at once complete in Godhead and complete in manhood, truly God and truly man, consisting also of a reasonable soul and body; of one substance with the Father as regards his Godhead, and at the same time of one substance with us as regards his manhood; like us in all respects, apart from sin; as regards his Godhead, begotten of the Father before the ages, but yet as regards his manhood begotten, for us men and for our salvation, of Mary the Virgin, the God-bearer; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, recognized in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation [emphasis added]; the distinction of natures being in no way annulled by the union, but rather the characteristics of each nature being preserved and coming together to form one person and subsistence, not as parted or separated into two persons, but one and the same Son and Only-begotten God the Word, Lord Jesus Christ; even as the prophets from earliest times spoke of him, and our Lord Jesus Christ himself taught us, and the creed of the Fathers has handed down to us.

This creed, an expanded statement of the position embodied in the Nicene Creed, is considered the “orthodox” solution to the various theological (primarily Christological) problems considered by the early church and now agreed upon by the Roman Catholic, Anglican, and Eastern Orthodox churches, as well as most Protestant churches. While representing the consensus of the majority, the Nicene Creed continued to be the favored creed for use in the liturgy.

Most important for the development of Christianity, some Christian communities rejected the creed’s emphasis on the two natures of Christ. The non-Chalcedonian Orthodox tradition, so named for its rejection of the Chalcedonian Creed, emerged over the next century as one of the four main traditions of the liturgical family. These churches continue to use the creedal statement promulgated by the Council of Nicea in 325 c.e., but not the Chalcedonian statement. Many non-Chalcedonians were called Monophysites because they felt the human and divine in Christ constituted only one nature. Today, the Armenian Church and the Coptic Church represent part of the non-Chalcedonian Orthodox tradition.

The first four councils—at Nicea, Constantinople, Ephesus, and Chalcedon—served to separate and isolate the non-Chalcedonian Orthodox tradition from the Eastern Orthodox and Western Roman traditions. The Eastern Orthodox tradition developed centers of authority in Antioch, Alexandria, and Constantinople. The Western branch’s center of authority was in Rome. This East-West division was originally more a cultural than a doctrinal separation, but over time, culture and politics would lead them toward an eventual break in fellowship. When the official division came in 1054 with mutual excommunications, the churches were declaring to the world what had already been a reality for some time. This explanation is not to say that there are no important differences of doctrine, rites, or ecclesiastical practices between the two churches, or to deny that these differences have grown stronger since 1054. It is merely to show how even these pale into insignificance when set against the glaring differences caused by rival cultures, conflicting empires, and several centuries of miscommunication.

Of the three oldest traditions of the liturgical family—the Eastern Orthodox tradition, the non-Chalcedonian Orthodox tradition, and the Western Roman tradition—only the third failed to remain fairly stable from the end of the conciliar era to the nineteenth century. The Eastern Orthodox Church split jurisdictions along national and cultural lines and was able to preserve unity by granting local autonomy to the various national groups. Like the Eastern Orthodox centers at Jerusalem, Antioch, and Alexandria, the churches of the non-Chalcedonian Orthodox tradition in the Middle East— the Coptic Church and the Nestorian Church of the East—fell under the rule of rising Islam after the sixth century. The force of an overpowering enemy served to keep them both relatively small and united. In the Western Roman tradition, however, the Roman Catholic Church attempted to provide a religious blanket covering all of Western culture. Consequently, it was to suffer when secular power deserted it. Not only did the various Protestant and post-Protestant groups break off from it in the sixteenth century, but the fourth major liturgical tradition, Anglicanism, emerged from it.

The Church in England had been at odds with the see of Rome as early as Thomas à Becket (c. 1120–1170), the twelfth-century archbishop of Canterbury. In the sixteenth century, the financial and marital marriage problems of King Henry VIII (r. 1509–1547) led to the break with Rome. With few immediate changes in the church beyond confiscation of church property by Henry, the Church of England had to wait for the radical Protestantizing of Edward VI’s (r. 1547–1553) reign and the subsequent mediating position articulated by Queen Elizabeth I (r. 1558–1603) for a genuinely new orientation. The development and spread of the Elizabethan prayer book alone is reason to look upon the Anglicans, discussed more fully in chapter three, as a separate liturgical tradition.

Each of the four major liturgical traditions was brought to the United States by immigration of its Old World disciples. The traditions came as structures to preserve the Old World customs and cultures in the secular environment of the United States. Churches were founded wherever a significant group of immigrants or their descendants resided. These churches remained under the supervision of ancient sees and kept much closer contact with the sees than with neighboring American churches. There was little attempt to evangelize beyond the boundaries of the immigrants’ particular ethnic group. Schism would wait until the twentieth century for most groups, when Americanization and the desire for bishops born and raised in America would become major issues.


In the postconciliar era, the Roman Catholic Church emerged as the single ecclesiastical body dominating the life of Western Europe from Italy and Spain to Ireland and Scandinavia. As such, it came to have a special and unique role in shaping Western European history. It held sway, with only minor competition from relatively small dissenting groups, until the sixteenth century. Taking an inclusive view of its role in society, it was able to absorb and provide space for a variety of religious enthusiasts and divergences through the development and sponsoring of religious orders, and the allowances for a wide variety of local practices peculiar to a particular region. It also had considerable room for those who broke its rules to reconcile themselves and come back into the good graces of the ecclesiastical authorities.

While many of the peculiarities of Roman Catholicism will be discussed below, it is fruitful at this point to note some aspects of the medieval church that characterized it in its relationship to Western society. For example, in the chaos that followed the collapse of the Roman Empire, as the ancient world made the transition to the medieval period, the Roman Catholic Church emerged as an integrating element in Western Europe, and came to provide a variety of services that allowed some semblance of order to return as the transition to the synthesis of the Middle Ages developed.

Most importantly for later theological development, the Church developed through its sacramental system a theological worldview that encompassed all of the stages of human life. Across Europe, the land was laid out in parishes, and a church building was placed in each parish for the gathering of the community. Ideally, church membership and community membership overlapped completely, and the church frequently kept the vital records of the surrounding territory. Thus the operation of the sacramental world of the church would begin even before someone was born, because the individual’s parents would live in the community and participate in the church. A short time after birth, the baby would be presented for baptism, a ritual that welcomed the child into membership in the church. As the child grew, it would be taught Christian doctrine and practice, and at some point intensively so, through the memorizing of the catechism. The catechism presented the Church’s doctrine in the form of an ordered series of questions and answers. When the child was deemed of age, he or she would be passed through the sacrament of confirmation, and immediately afterward, for the first time, receive the sacrament of the Eucharist, the ritually offered body and blood of Christ. The Eucharist is the most holy of Christian sacraments.

From the time of confirmation, the individual was considered an adult by the church. Regularly, usually once a week, but minimally once a year, the individual went through the sacrament of penance in which sins were verbally confessed to a priest who, as a representative of the church and of God, pronounced forgiveness and set some actions that were to be done by the individual as recompense for the wrong. After the priest pronounced forgiveness of sin and the individual participated in the rite of penance, he or she was ready to receive the Eucharist. In general, the Eucharist was only to be received after a period of hours during which food had not been consumed and, as such, the Eucharistic service was usually held the first thing in the morning, after which a meal breaking the fast (i.e., breakfast) would be eaten.

The Eucharist provided a week-by-week and even day-by-day means of both building a moral society and continually reintegrating individuals as they deviated, broke the moral rules, and sought to right themselves in the eyes of the community and the divine order. It became the means of reconciling neighborly quarrels and restoring those guilty of gross crimes. One’s eternal destiny depended upon being in fellowship with God and the church. The right to receive the Eucharist was a primal sign of the existence of that fellowship. To break fellowship, by unrepentant sin or heresy (espousing incorrect belief on an essential issue of doctrine), was a serious matter, and could lead to a formal act of a denial of the sacraments, that is, excommunication. Excommunication was not a denial of membership in the church so much as a public statement that someone was out of communion with God and the church and hence not fit to receive its primary sacrament.

After one became an adult (and in the Middle Ages one was recognized as an adult at a much younger age than at present), a set of special sacraments would become available. One could, for example, choose a mate and find the church’s sanction through the sacrament of marriage. For most, that was a one-time occurrence (unless of course a spouse died, at which time one was free to marry a second time or to pursue other options). One could also choose to enter the priest-hood or a monastic life, and thus become one of the people set aside to keep the sacramental system and perform the sacramental acts. In the priesthood, one would pass through the sacrament of ordination to holy orders. Within the Roman Catholic Church, there were multiple levels to holy orders, but three became important—deacon, priest, and bishop. By the Middle Ages, the priesthood was celibate and, hence, holy orders and marriage did not mix (a characteristic that would come to distinguish Roman Catholicism from Eastern Orthodoxy). Those who entered holy orders were, in effect, married to the church. Females who entered a convent were seen as married to Christ.

The church was also present to oversee the last hours of life and to ease the movement into the afterlife. The goal of the Christian was heaven, the place where God resided. Those who died outside of the state of grace, with a serious sin that had not been repented and forgiven, were destined for eternal separation from God, that is, hell. Hell became the object of numerous speculations, and many employed their imaginations vividly to describe the horrors of separation from God, often in the most excruciating language.

Average Christians who died in a state of grace were destined for heaven, but usually had yet to make amends for all of the sins they had committed; to enter heaven one had not only to be forgiven but holy. Thus purgatory was posited as a place where one could finish the process of paying back (in suffering) for one’s sins and thus reach a state of holiness to enter heaven.

A few persons were seen to have become so holy in this life as to be ready to enter heaven directly at the moment of their death. They were also possessed of an abundance of sanctity that could be supernaturally applied to assist the average sinful Christian. It was an act of piety to pray for the abundance of the saints to be applied to lessen the suffering of someone, possibly a beloved parent or family member, in purgatory.

It might be obvious how the teachings on purgatory, designed to account for the need to satisfy justice, could become corrupted. In general, one affected one’s stay or another’s stay in purgatory by acts of prayer and piety. Among the acts of piety would be the giving of one’s income or possessions to aid the poor or to assist the church in its mission. It did not take long for some church authorities to see the financial possibilities of manipulating the fear of purgatory to raise money. In fact, it was the charge of the reformers of the sixteenth century that the Roman Catholic Church was selling guarantees of freedom from purgatory to people who contributed to the building of Saint Peter’s, the headquarters church now located in Vatican City.

To insure that one was in a state of grace at the moment of death, as it approached, ideally, a priest would be present to anoint the body with oil and pronounce forgiveness, the sacrament of extreme unction. The church then oversaw the funeral services and the burying of the body in ground especially consecrated for that purpose.

The church had by the Middle Ages developed a holistic theology and practice that was totally integrated into the secular order. In practical use, that powerful system was prone to significant corruption at all levels, and through the fourteenth and fifteenth century, many people agreed that a reformation was necessary. However, the church proved difficult to reform, the developing tradition proving a powerful barrier to the needed systemic changes. For many, cleaning up the corruption became identified with questioning doctrines, even questioning the very basis of the church’s authority, which emanated from Rome, and the close relationship of that authority with the coercive powers of the state.

The questioning of the authority of the Roman Catholic Church would, in the sixteenth century, lead to the splitting of the Roman church and the emergence of the Anglican (chapter 3), Lutheran (chapter 5), and the Reformed-Presbyterian (chapter 6) churches, each establishing itself in a territory over which it had hegemony. Also emerging were the European free church bodies (chapter 10), which renounced any tie to the state governmental system. The sixteenth-century churches would then, century by century, become the parents of subsequent new traditions. Most important for North America, a second reforming tradition, Puritanism (which attempted various programs to “purify” the Anglican Church in Great Britain) gave birth to the Baptists (chapter 11) and the Congregationalists (chapter 6). Later calls for reformation and renewal would bring forth the Methodist (chapter 7), Holiness (chapter 8), Pentecostal (chapter 9), Fundamentalist (chapter 12), and Adventist (chapter 13) churches.

Emerging within the Western liturgical tradition and retaining the basic liturgical life that dominated the medieval church were the Church of England, the parent church of the worldwide Anglican Communion (the subject of chapter 3), and the Old Catholic Church. Both have major representative bodies in North America, and both have, since the mid-twentieth century, given birth to numerous smaller schismatic bodies.


The loss of territory in the sixteenth century, and the secularization of European society in the nineteenth century (punctuated by the separation of church and state in many countries) placed the Roman Catholic Church in a somewhat defensive position. As one might expect, the church opposed the loss of its position and power, and various popes railed against the unchristian direction they saw culture taking. The history of the Roman Catholic Church in the twentieth century, however, has been marked by the gradual reversal of its defensive stance toward the emerging democratic culture in western Europe and North America. That process led to and was accelerated by the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965), two long pontifical careers by Pope Pius XII (r. 1939–1958) and John Paul II (r. 1978–2005), and notable global expansion that has seen the Roman Catholic Church emerge as the single largest religious organization in the world.

The nineteenth century was marked by a significant loss of temporal power, with the Roman Catholic Church being disenfranchised in France and its territory in Italy being reduced by the unification of the country under secular rule. The embattled stance adopted by the Vatican was most evident in the United States by the church’s rejection of Americanism, the program articulated by American church leaders looking toward a positive adjustment of the American church to the realities of life in a democratic society. The initial turn in Vatican politics is usually dated from the encyclical Rerum novarum (1891), issued by Pope Leo XIII (1878–1903), which tackled questions of Christian relations toward capital and labor and encouraged the development of Christian Democratic political parties. The effects of this positive stance toward labor was somewhat blunted in North America following the pope’s denunciation of Americanism in 1898. The American church consequently stopped much of its dialogue with American culture and noticeably turned inward until World War II (1937–1945).

The growing willingness of the Vatican to deal with the now recognizable and irreversible wave of democracy that was sweeping away the previous monarchical governments of Europe became evident in its policies with post–World War I (1914–1918) Europe and finally with the approval given to the formation of a United Nations after World War II. The changes in the church culminated in the Second Vatican Council’s widespread and forward-looking policies that reformed the church in many ways unpredictable even at midcentury. The Catholic Church opened dialogue with both Jews and Protestants and developed a new stance toward the striving of the world’s people for liberation and expression.

The long pontificate of Pope Pius XII (1876–1958) was marked by the church’s attempt (now widely criticized) to deal with Adolf Hitler (1889–1945), and the massive effort to rebuild Europe after World War II. Disagreement over who was to succeed the popular Pius XII led to the election of the virtually unknown John XXIII (r. 1958–1963). Many saw him as someone to hold the papal chair briefly until a more consensus candidate could emerge. John XXIII, now described in the most glowing terms by Catholics and non-Catholics alike, surprised everyone both for his outgoing demeanor and his calling of a church council to review church policy and teachings on the widest variety of subjects. The changes were left to his successor, Pope Paul VI (r. 1963–1978), to consolidate and implement. His significant career was followed by the short pontificate of Pope John Paul I (1912–1978), who died a month after his election in August 1978.

Pope John Paul II (1920–2005), whose pontificate extended more than three decades, enjoyed a popularity approaching that of John XXIII. The first Polish pope, he spoke eight languages, a skill he put to use in his globetrotting travels. While Pius XII was the first pope to visit the United States, John Paul II visited on several occasions and frequently spoke directly to the American situation. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, he set a new tone for Catholicism as he publicly confronted the history of the church’s questionable actions toward many indigenous people and the tensions that existed between Catholicism, an evangelizing faith, and the other world religions. His talks on these issues regularly culminated in public apologies and the request for forgiveness. While forward-looking on some issues, John Paul II was a traditionalist in most areas. He survived an assassination attempt in 1981, and he attributed his survival to the intervention of the Blessed Virgin Mary. During his many years in office, he had appointed the majority of the cardinals holding office at the time of his death. They selected the very conservative Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (b. 1927), prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, as John Paul’s successor. He took office as Pope Benedict XVI in 2005.

Pope Benedict XVI oversees the largest religious body in the world. The Roman Catholic Church now claims more than one billion members worldwide, approximately 17.5 percent of the world’s population and slightly more than half of all the world’s Christians. There are almost as many Catholics as Muslims, and the Catholic community is larger than the world’s Buddhist and Hindu communities. It is strongest in South America (more than 80 percent of the population) and Europe (almost 40 percent). Catholicism claims 22 percent of the population in North America. It is weakest in Asia, with only 3 percent.


Following the disruption of the sixteenth century, the Roman Catholic Church responded with what was termed the Counter Reformation, which included important elements such as reforms instituted by the Council of Trent (1545–1563) and efforts of revitalization by several orders, such as the Carmelites in Spain. As a result, the church recovered some lands that could have been lost to the Protestants, including Poland, some German states, and some Swiss cantons. For several centuries, no new schisms occurred, even though calls for additional reforms continued to be heard. The major voices calling for reform were conservative, asking for resistance to the secularism arising from the Enlightenment of the eighteenth century. The calls for consideration of new action would lead to a church council, the first since Trent, to meet at the Vatican in 1870.

Some dissidents in Holland had been hoping for a council as a means of redress for their grievances that Rome seem to be ignoring. Others, exponents of a new wave of devotion directed toward the Blessed Virgin Mary, saw a chance for support, and the council did open on the anniversary of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, a belief recently declared as dogma. The Immaculate Conception refers to the belief that the Virgin Mary was born free of sin and thus was a fit vessel to bear the sinless messiah. Still others clamored for a new assertion of papal authority, and they were the group most rewarded when the council issued a declaration on the infallibility of the pope. This precisely defined position affirmed that “the Roman Pontiff, when he speaks ex cathedra—that is, when in discharge of the office of pastor and teacher of all Christians, by virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine regarding the faith or morals to be held by the universal church, by the divine assistance promised to him in Blessed Peter, is possessed of that infallibility with which the divine redeemer willed that his Church should be endowed in defining doctrine regarding faith and morals; and therefore such definitions are irreformable of their own nature and not in virtue of the Church’s consent”

This new dogma proclaimed by the council would become the occasion of a significant schism, and would prepare the way for a set of schisms that would afflict the church into the twenty-first century. The first of the schisms was the Old Catholic movement that immediately opposed the dogma of papal infallibility. It began in Germany, quickly gained adherents in Switzerland, Austria, and Holland, and then, decade by decade, spread through most of the countries of Europe and North America.


The Old Catholic movement dates from the 1870s but has its roots in a disturbance in the seventeenth century in Port Royal, France. At Port Royal, Jansenists—members of a mystical movement that carried on the work of Dutch theologian Cornelius Jansen (1585–1638)—found themselves in opposition to the Jesuits, priests of a religious order obedient to the pope. Jansenists believed that the human will was not free and that redemption was limited to only some of humankind. Thus Jansenists were condemned by the pope and opposed by the Jesuits. The Jesuits accused the Jansenists of being Protestants, hence heretics; the Jansenists accused the Jesuits of despotism and laxity in doctrine and discipline. In alliance with the French monarchy, the Jesuits began a persecution that eventually broke the power of the Jansenists, many of whom fled to Holland, where Catholics were a minority, in the territory of the see of Utrecht.

As the Jansenists moved into Holland from Port Royal, Utrecht’s newly consecrated bishop, Peter Codde (r. 1689– 1710), entered into relations with them. When the pope demanded that Codde subscribe to the condemnation of the Jansenists, he refused and was himself accused of Jansenism. Rival parties developed—one behind Codde and another behind Theodore de Cock, whom the pope favored to replace Codde. For various reasons, the Dutch government stepped in and banished de Cock from Holland. The Vatican subsequently deposed Codde, and he ceased exercising his functions.

Without episcopal functionaries, the see soon began to wither, as no ordinations or confirmations could occur. This problem was somewhat alleviated by the unexpected stop in Amsterdam of Dominique Marie Varlet (1678–1742), newly consecrated bishop of Babylon, on his way to Persia in 1719. In Amsterdam, he confirmed more than 600 children, the first confirmed in 17 years. For this act he was suspended from office. He returned to Europe and settled in Amsterdam. In 1724 Varlet consented to consecrate a new archbishop of Utrecht, Cornelius van Steenoven (r. 1723– 1725). When van Steenoven died shortly thereafter, Varlet consecrated Cornelius Wuytiers (r. 1725–1733). Several other consecrations for the neighboring dioceses of Harlem and Deventer followed, insuring that the apostolic succession would not be lost. For approximately 150 years the Church of Utrecht, commonly called the Old Catholic Church, continued in a local contested situation, with only the matter of approved episcopal supervision, not an unimportant issue, as the dividing line between it and Rome.


Though the Old Catholic movement traces its history back to the see of Utrecht in Holland in 1702, it dates officially from the 1870s and the reaction to the declaration of papal infallibility at the First Vatican Council. In 1870 the First Vatican Council declared the pope infallible when speaking on matters of faith and morals. A number of Roman Catholics saw this position as a new doctrine, a deviation from the tradition, and many Roman Catholics left their church and sought communion with the Church of Utrecht. Even before the council, opposition in anticipation of the declaration arose, particularly in Germany. In 1871 in Munich, a congress of opponents, led by Johann Friedrich von Schulte (1827–1914), a professor of canon law, was held. Three hundred delegates, including representatives from the Church of England, attended. Even the church in Utrecht, now having lost hope that the larger Roman Catholic Church would ever review and resolve its situation, sent representatives. The attendees organized the Old Catholic Church, dividing jurisdictions along national lines. In 1873 Joseph Hubert Reinkens (1821–1896), a professor of church history at Breslau, was elected bishop and was consecrated by the bishop of the church at Deventer. The episcopal authority that continued in the Dutch dioceses now provided the apostolic succession for the new Old Catholic Church. A constitution was adopted the next year that recognized national autonomy and established an international Synod of Bishops. The archbishop of Utrecht now presides over the episcopal conference.

The Old Catholic Church retained most of the doctrines of Rome but rejected ecclesiastical unity under the pope. In 1874 the Old Catholic Church dropped the compulsory fasting and auricular confession of the Roman Catholic Church, and feast days were reduced. By 1880 vernacular Mass began to replace the Latin. The seven sacraments were continued, but baptism and the Eucharist were elevated to prime importance. The Roman Catholic Church has recognized the validity of Old Catholic (Utrecht) orders, though it considers the exercise of the episcopal powers illegal.

In the United States, the primary ally the Old Catholics acquired was the Polish National Catholic Church, a new jurisdiction organized in 1904 by several independent parishes that wished to keep their Polish heritage alive. Their bishop, Francis Hodur (1866–1953), was consecrated in Holland by the Old Catholic bishops. The Polish National Catholic Church was the only American body recognized by the Old Catholics before their coming into communion with the Anglicans.


Because the Church of England (the Anglican Church) was so similar to the Old Catholic Church on the European continent, no attempt was made to introduce the latter church into England. However, through the nineteenth century, men emerged who wished to function as bishops outside of either the Roman or Anglican communions. In some cases, these were former priests who had left one of the older communions. A few represented ethnic communities that expressed desires to maintain nationalistic particularities.

At the same time, the independent movement developed an antiauthoritarian character. Most of its bishops were self-appointed and maintained relatively miniscule followings. They have pressed for recognition of orders while demanding an independence of jurisdiction from those who granted orders. As an attempt at legitimization, they have sought recognition or reconsecration by bishops of one of the Eastern Orthodox or non-Chalcedonian churches (often after being rebuffed by the archbishop of Utrecht, the head of the Old Catholic Church). Thus, what began as a specific protest against the pope’s authority turned into a drive by independent bishops to set up schismatic dioceses. With the growth of independent dioceses and recognition by various Eastern and Western churches, the variation in ritual and doctrine within the liturgical tradition has increased tremendously.

As the Old Catholic movement developed in America, a chaotic episcopal scene emerged. Many bishops claim dioceses that exist only on paper and ordinations by bishops whose existence cannot be verified. A few churches were created specifically to serve the homosexual community. A small number have been confidence schemes.

In the United States, most of the independent Catholic and Old Catholic churches derive their orders through two lines of succession, that of Arnold Harris Mathew (1852– 1919) or Joseph René Vilatte (1854–1929). A third faction traces its lineage to miscellaneous Eastern and Western orders through Hugh George de Willmott Newman (1905– 1979). Neither Vilatte’s nor Mathew’s churches remained in communion with the European Old Catholic churches, which entered into full communion with the Church of England in 1932 and with most of the churches of the Anglican Communion by 1936.


The Old Catholic Church came to England through the person of Arnold Harris Mathew, a former Roman Catholic priest. After serving several parishes, Mathew became a Unitarian. He flirted with the Church of England for a while, changed his name, and married. Eventually, he made peace with Rome and settled down as a layman and author. He penned a number of items, including a collaboration in editing the third edition of H. C. Lea’s (1825–1909) History of Sacerdotal Celibacy in the Christian Church (1907). Then, in September 1907, he began corresponding with Bishop Eduard Herzog (1841–1924), an Old Catholic bishop in Switzerland. In these letters, and later ones to Bishop J. J. Van Thiel of Harlem, he made a case for expanding the Old Catholic Church to England.

Mathew had in the years previous to his correspondence become associated with a group of disgruntled ex-Catholics, led by Father Richard O’Halloran. Under O’Halloran’s urging, Mathew was selected as the bishop for these former Catholics, who now saw themselves as the Old Catholic Church in England. The problem was how to get valid orders. The church at Utrecht, the central see of the Old Catholic Church, was initially very hesitant, but finally on April 22, 1908, Mathew was consecrated in Utrecht by the archbishop, under protest from the Anglicans.

Mathew returned to England to find that O’Halloran had lied to him and that the community that had selected him as their bishop was virtually nonexistent. To Mathew’s credit, he immediately wrote the archbishop of Utrecht informing him of the deceit and offered his resignation. When his resignation was refused, Mathew accepted his new office as the head of a mission diocese. He found initial support from Reverend W. Noel Lambert (d. 1954), who turned over the independent chapel in his possession. It became Mathew’s headquarters, renamed St. Willibrord’s Procathedral.

In 1910 Mathew broke his agreement with Utrecht and secretly consecrated two ex-Roman Catholic priests as bishops. He did not inform Utrecht of his actions, and performed the ceremony without the assistance of other validly consecrated bishops (the usual number seen as necessary for a valid consecration being three). Mathew subsequently declared himself and his work independent of Utrecht. Over the next years, he succeeded in building a small jurisdiction, but in the end died in lonely poverty. Just before his death, Mathew set the stage for Old Catholicism in America.

Among Bishop Mathew’s significant consecrations were those of Prince de Landas Berghes et de Rache, Duc de St. Winock (1873–1920), who brought Mathew’s lineage to the United States, and Frederick Samuel Willoughby, who would found the Liberal Catholic Church. Mathew’s consecrations also included that of John Kowalski of the Polish Mariavite Church.

The Duc de Landas Berghes was an Austrian nobleman consecrated by Bishop Mathew of the Old Catholic Church on June 28, 1913, probably with the idea of setting up an independent church in Austria. De Landas Berghes was prevented from returning to Austria from England because of World War I, however, and fled to the United States to escape arrest as an enemy alien. During his short career, before his submission to Rome in 1919, he consecrated as bishops W. H. Francis Brothers (1887–1979) and Henry Carfora (1895– 1958), the direct sources of most Old Catholic bodies in America to date because of the many men that they consecrated as bishops.


The man who first brought the Old Catholic Church to America was Joseph René Vilatte. French-born, Vilatte appeared in Wisconsin in the 1880s preaching Old Roman Catholic doctrines among French and Belgian immigrants. He had a checkered religious education under an ex-Roman Catholic priest, Father Charles Chiniquy (1809–1899), and had come to believe both Roman Catholic and Protestant positions invalid. After marked success in Wisconsin, Vilatte went to Berne and obtained ordination from Bishop Herzog, but a protest from the Anglicans prevented his obtaining consecration from Utrecht, the central see of the Old Catholic Church. After a long search, though keeping his old Catholic stance, he accepted consecration as archbishop of the archdiocese of America on May 29, 1892, from Archbishop Alvarez of Ceylon, who had received his orders from the non-Chalcedonian Syro-Jacobite Church of Malabar.

Vilatte briefly returned to Roman Catholicism in 1899 to 1900, but soon became frustrated, resumed his independent work, and for the next 20 years operated as an archbishop for the American Catholic Church. Given his Roman background and his Orthodox orders, it is not surprising that both Old Catholic and independent Eastern Orthodox jurisdictions sprang from his activity. Also, because the Syro-Jacobite Church of Malabar refused to recognize the various consecrations he performed, even for leaders in his own church, he became further removed from the mainstream of American church life. Finally, in 1925, he again returned to the Roman Catholic Church and, renouncing his separatist and independent course of action, died in the arms of Mater Ecclesia. His own American Catholic Church, after the death of Archbishop Frederick E. J. Lloyd (1859–1933), Vilatte’s successor, was taken over by bishops with Theosophical leanings and moved totally into the Liberal Catholic Church community.


Among the most colorful bishops in the independent Catholic community, Hugh George de Willmott Newman can be credited with introducing an increasingly common practice among the autonomous bishops, that of seeking numerous reconsecrations in order to legitimize an otherwise minuscule ecclesiastical jurisdiction by having its bishop embody a wide variety of lines of apostolic succession, both East and West. Such jurisdictions would symbolize the ecumenical church.

Newman was originally consecrated in 1944 by Dr. William Bernard Crow (1895–1976), whose orders derived from Luis Mariano Soares (Mar Basilius) of the small Syro-Chaldean Church in India, Ceylon, Socotra, and Messina. However, within the next decade Newman received no less than nine additional consecrations, usually in ceremonies in which he in turn reconsecrated the other bishop (thus passing along the apostolic lineages he had already received). Of the several consecrations swapped by Newman, that with W. D. de Ortega Maxey (1902–1992) of the Apostolic Episcopal Church was most important for the American scene, as Maxey not only established an American branch of Newman’s Catholicate of the West, but became the prime source for American bishops to receive Newman’s lineages.

Episcopally led churches have traditionally based their legitimacy on their ability to trace their line of succession from the original 12 apostles. That is, for a bishop to be validly consecrated, and thus able to validly ordain priests, that bishop must himself be consecrated by a validly consecrated bishop. Thus, the story of the independent Old Catholic jurisdictions in America is the story of the search for legitimacy through ever more valid consecrations. In the 1980s, it became common for independent bishops to receive multiple consecrations, especially after changing allegiance to a different jurisdiction.

By the 1990s, the several lines of apostolic succession had become well established in the person of a large number of the independent bishops; thus the need for reconsecration services of newer bishops, so notable in the 1980s, became unnecessary. The different lineages were passed simultaneously, and the practice of multiple consecrations has largely disappeared.

The importing of Eastern orders for a Western church, and the intermingling of Eastern and Western lineages in bishops such as Newman, also initiated a complex mixing of liturgies. The independent jurisdictions have felt free to

adopt, regardless of the practices of the body from which they received their apostolic succession, any number of liturgies— Roman, Anglican, Eastern, or even Theosophical—while some have written their own. Since many of the American jurisdictions are quite small, with an unpaid clergy and property owned by the local congregations, one of the few real decisions the bishop can make is in regard to the liturgies that the congregations may use.

Adopting the practice introduced by Bishop Mathew of having an unpaid clergy, the Old Catholic (and independent Orthodox) Church has splintered into more than 100 jurisdictions. Priests and bishops, since they have no financial tie to any given jurisdiction, can leave at will, and frequently do. The constant flux within the jurisdictions has made the problem of straightening out the line of succession extremely complex; however, the work begun in this area by H. R. T. Brandweth, Peter Anson, and Arthur C. Piepkorn was later expanded by bishops Karl Prüter, Bertil Persson, and Alan Bain.


Possibly the most substantial schism experienced by the Roman Catholic Church since the sixteenth century occurred in Brazil. In the 1930s, Carlos Duarte Costa (1888–1961), the Roman Catholic bishop of Botucatu, emerged as a prominent advocate of the poor. He complained loudly about the neglect of the poor by both the state and his own church, and his analysis of the situation led to his blaming the problem on the inequality of the distribution of wealth in the country. He also began to speak out about the collaboration of the church with Adolf Hitler. In 1937 Duarte Costa was forced out of office. At the end of the war, he protested the church’s role in helping Nazis, many accused of war crimes, escape to Brazil.

In 1945 Duarte Costa also left the Roman Catholic Church and founded the Brazilian Catholic Apostolic Church. The new jurisdiction did not have an easy road. Toward the end of the decade, a hostile Brazilian government moved in and forced it to abandon public worship. Authorities claimed that because of the similarity of the Mass, people would be confused and possibly think that they were attending a Roman Catholic Church instead of the Brazilian church. The action proved a catalyst for change. Alterations were made to the Mass, and the priests adopted a new gray clerical attire.

In the wake of the reopening of the parishes for worship, the church also abolished the requirement for celibacy among its clergy, translated the liturgy into Portuguese, and instituted a system of worker-priests as a means of further

identifying with the poor. The church grew steadily decade by decade. By 1995, the church had some three million adherents and had been exported to North America and Europe, though the attempts of Americans to duplicate the success in Brazil have been blunted by the instability of the larger independent Catholic Church scene.


In the 1960s, the Second Vatican Council made a number of sweeping changes in the life of the Roman Catholic Church; changes that were implemented over the next decades. Many of the more conservative leaders opposed the changes, especially the dropping of the Latin liturgy in favor of the spoken languages of individual worshipping communities. Two archbishops, Ngo Dinh Thuc (1897–1984) of Vietnam and Marcel LeFebvre (1905–1991) of Switzerland, became vocal critics. Both sought a conservative alternative within the post–Vatican II church, and eventually both, without papal approval, consecrated bishops to lead the communities that had been excommunicated by the Roman Catholic Church. The Thuc bishops have in turn consecrated other bishops, and reconsecrated bishops who had previously received Old Catholic orders; from their hands, several independent jurisdictions have flowed.

Archbishop LeFebvre resisted consecrating any new bishops, and through the 1980s made repeated attempts to negotiate a means by which traditionalists could remain and function openly within the present church authority, but he was rebuffed by the highest church authorities in the Vatican. In 1987, in the realization that he was growing old and reaching the end of his life, he asked that a commission for traditionalist Catholics be established and that he be allowed to consecrate three bishops to carry on his work. These negotiations fell through in the spring of 1988. On June 30, 1988, assisted by Brazilian bishop Antonio de Castro Mayer (1904–1991) of the Duarte Costa lineage, LeFebvre consecrated four bishops. As a result, all participants were excommunicated; the Roman Catholic Church branded them as schismatics.

Traditionalists associated with the Society of St. Pius X, the organization founded by LeFebvre, consider themselves good Roman Catholics, as do members of some of the other traditionalist groups, even though they have their own bishops and worship in separate local congregations headed by priests assigned by these bishops. They pray for the pope by name at every Mass, as well as the Roman Catholic bishop in whose diocese the services of the society are held. They adhere to all the Roman Catholic dogma and maintain a celibate priesthood. The society’s seminaries adhere to all of the provisions for seminaries as found in the documents of the Second Vatican Council. They have refused to associate with the Old Catholics, who deny papal authority, or with the Mass of independent jurisdictions (many of which they consider heterodox) now found in Europe and North America.


While both the Old Catholics and traditionalist Catholics represented conservative schisms from Roman Catholicism, the most recent efforts to reform the church came from liberal Catholics who accepted all the changes wrought by Vatican II, but also advocated an important further (and seemingly logical) change, the admission of females into the priesthood. In 2002 seven Roman Catholic women accepted ordination from Rûmulo Antonio Braschi, an independent Catholic bishop. Braschi, an Argentinean, is the founder of what is now known as the Catholic Apostolic Charismatic Church of “Christ the King.” He had in turn been consecrated by bishops Roberto Garrido Padin, of the Brazilian Catholic Apostolic Church, and Hilarios Karl-Heinz Ungerer, of the Free Catholic Church.

The seven women ordained in 2002, known as the Danube Seven because they were ordained while on a boat on the Danube River, were Christine Mayr-Lumetzberger, Adelinde Theresia Roitinger, Gisela Forster, Iris Muller, Ida Raming, Pia Brunner, and Angela White. For their action, they were excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church.

In 2004 Christine Mayr-Lumetzberger and Gisela Forster were consecrated as bishops and began to ordain additional women. They would be joined in the episcopal office by Patricia Fresen (2005), Ida Raming (2006), and Dana Roberts (2008). The source of the episcopal orders of the women has not been publicly announced, though the women claim that they come directly from Roman Catholic bishops.

The women work through Roman Catholic Womenpriests, an organization dedicated to the training and ordination of Catholic women as priests and working for the day when they will be fully accepted into an inclusive Roman Catholic Church. They have rejected the excommunication placed upon them by the Vatican and cite various authorities to indicate that they are merely refusing to obey an unjust law.


The study of Roman Catholicism in America is focused by the American Catholic Historical Association, c/o Mullen Library, Catholic University of America (CUA), Washington, D.C. 20064. It publishes the Catholic Historical Review. In addition to CUA, significant archives of Roman Catholic materials can also be found at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary (Philadelphia), Notre Dame University (Notre Dame, Indiana), St. Mary’s Seminary and University (Roland Park, Maryland), Georgetown University (Washington, D.C.), and St. Louis University (St. Louis, Missouri). On Canadian Roman Catholic history, contact the Research Center in Religious History in Canada, c/o St. Paul University, 223 Main Street, Ottawa, Ontario K1S 1C4.

The Western Liturgical Tradition

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Thompson, Baird. Liturgies of the Western Church. Cleveland, OH: Meridian, 1961. 434 pp.

Roman Catholicism

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The Roman Catholic Church in North America

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Carey, Patrick W. The Roman Catholics. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1993. 375 pp.

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Maynard, Theodore. The Story of American Catholicism. New York: Macmillan, 1941. 694 pp.

Morris, Charles. American Catholic: The Saints and Sinners Who Built America’s Most Powerful Church. New York: Vintage, 1998. 528 pp.

Walch, Timothy. Catholicism in America: A Social History. Melbourne, FL: Krieger, 1989. 239 pp.

Roman Catholic Thought

Abbott, Walter, ed. The Documents of Vatican II. New York: Guild Press, 1966. 793 pp.

Abell, Aaron I. American Catholic Thought on Social Questions. Indianapolis, IN: Bobbs-Merrill, 1968. 571 pp.

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Bokenkotter, Thomas. Essential Catholicism. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1985. 437 pp.

Burghardt, Walter J., and William F. Lynch. The Idea of Catholicism. New York: Meridian, 1960. 479 pp.

A Catholic Catechism. New York: Herder and Herder, 1958. 448 pp.

Fremantle, Anne. The Papal Encyclicals. New York: New American Library, 1956. 317 pp.

O’Brien, John A. Understanding the Catholic Faith. Notre Dame, IN: Ave Maria Press, 1955. 281 pp.

O’Carroll, Michael. Corpus Christi: A Theological Encyclopedia of the Eucharist. Wilmington, DE: Glazier.

———. Theotokos: A Theological Encyclopedia of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Wilmington, DE: Glazier, 1986.

Trese, Leo J. The Creed: Summary of the Faith. Notre Dame, IN: Fides, 1963. 155 pp.

Roman Catholic Liturgy

Dalmais, Iréné Henri. Principles of the Liturgy. Trans. Matthew J. O’Connell. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1987. 301 pp.

Lefebvre, Gaspar. The Spirit of Worship. Trans. Lance Sheppard. New York: Hawthorn, 1959. 127 pp.

Martimort, Aimé Georges. The Church at Prayer: An Introduction to the Liturgy. Trans. Matthew J. O’Connell. 4 vols. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1986–1988.

Segundo, Juan Luis. The Sacraments Today. Trans. John Drury. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1974. 154 pp.

The Treasures of the Mass. Clyde, MO: Benedictine Convent of Perpetual Adoration, 1957. 128 pp.

Roman Catholic Polity

McKnight, John P. The Papacy: A New Appraisal. London: McGraw-Hill, 1953. 400 pp.

Reese, Thomas. Inside the Vatican: The Politics and Organization of the Catholic Church. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996.

Scharp, Heinrich. How the Catholic Church Is Governed. Trans. Annelise Derrick. New York: Herder, 1960. 128 pp.

Tillard, J. M. R. The Bishop of Rome. Trans. John de Satgé. Wilmington, DE: Glazier, 1983. 242 pp.

Eastern Rite Roman Catholicism

Andrews, Timothy. What Is the Orthodox Church? Pamphlet. 1964.

Attwater, Donald. Eastern Catholic Worship. New York: Devin-Adair, 1945. 224 pp.

———. The Christian Churches of the East. Milwaukee: Bruce, 1948. 232 pp.

Liesel, Nikolaus. The Eastern Catholic Liturgies: A Study in Words and Pictures. Westminster, MD: Newman Press, 1960. 168 pp.

Manoogian, Sion. The Armenian Church and Her Teachings. Detroit, MI: Armenian Church, 1951 (?).

National Conference of Catholic Bishops, Committee on the Relationship of the Eastern and Latin Catholic Churches. Eastern Catholics in the United States of America. Washington, DC: Author, 1999. 38 pp.

Roberson, Ronald G. The Eastern Christian Churches: A Brief Survey. 6th ed. Rome: Edizioni Orientalia Christiana, Pontificio Istituto Orientale, 1999.


Billington, Ray Allen. The Protestant Crusade. New York: Macmillan, 1938. 514 pp.

Chiniquy, Charles. Fifty Years in the Church of Rome (1885). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1958. 597 pp.

de la Bedoyere, Michael. Objections to Roman Catholicism. Philadelphia: Lippencott, 1965. 185 pp.

Massa, Mark A. Anti-Catholicism in America: The Last Acceptable Prejudice. 2nd ed. New York: Crossroad, 2005. 288 pp.

McLoughlin, Emmett. Famous Ex-Priests. New York: Stuart, 1968. 224 pp.

Independent Catholicism

Anson, Peter F. Bishops at Large. London: Faber and Faber, 1964. 593 pp.

Bain, Alan. Bishops Irregular: An International Directory of Independent Bishops. Bristol, U.K.: Author, 1985. 256 pp.

Brandreth, Henry R. T. Episcopi Vagantes and the Anglican Church. 2nd ed. London: S.P.C.K., 1961. 140 pp.

Clarke, Boden. Lords Temporal & Lords Spiritual: A Chronological Checklist of the Popes, Patriarchs, Katholikoi, and Independent Archbishops and Metropolitans of the Monarchical Autocephalous Churches of the Christian East and West. San Bernardino, CA: Borgo Press, 1985. 136 pp.

Conger, Yves. Challenge to the Church: The Case of Archbishop Lefèbvre. Trans. Paul Inwood. Huntington, IN: Our Sunday Visitor. 1976. 96 pp.

Davies, Michael. Pope Paul’s New Mass. Dickinson, TX: Angelus Press, 1980. 673 pp.

Ford, James Ismael. Episcopi Vagantes and the Challenge to Catholic Ministry. M.A. thesis. Berkeley, CA: Pacific School of Religion, 1992.

Groman, E. Owen, and Jonathan E. Trela. Three Studies in Old Catholicism. Scranton, PA: Savonarola Theological Seminary Alumni Association, 1978. 37 pp.

Huelin, Gordon, ed. Old Catholics and Anglicans, 1931–1981. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983. 177 pp.

Moss, C. B. The Old Catholic Movement: Its Origins and History. 2nd ed. London, S.P.C.K., 1964. 362 pp.

Plummer, John L. The Many Paths of the Independent Sacramental Movement: A National Study of Its Liturgy, Doctrine, and Leadership. Berkeley, CA: Apocryphile Press, 2006. 236 pp.

———, and John R. Mabry. Who Are the Independent Catholics? Berkeley, CA: Apocryphile Press, 2006. 100 pp.

Prüter, Karl, ed. A Directory of Autocephalous Bishops of the Apostolic Succession. 15th ed. San Bernardino, CA: Borgo Press, 2007. 100 pp.

Prüter, Karl, and J. Gordon Melton. The Old Catholic Sourcebook. New York: Garland, 1983. 254 pp.

Ward, Gary L., Bertil Persson, and Alan Bain, eds. Independent Bishops: An International Directory. Detroit, MI: Apogee, 1990. 524 pp.

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Western Liturgical Family, Part I: The Western Catholic Tradition

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Western Liturgical Family, Part I: The Western Catholic Tradition