Validity of Holy Orders
“As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called— one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.” -Ephesians 4:1-7
for those who question the validity of my Holy Orders as priest and bishop, the debate on the validity of autocephalous sacramental or Free Catholic or Independent Old Catholic holy orders is long standing and often offers nothing but confusion and suspicion. It is a belief of Progressive Celtic Church, and the CNY Nondenominational Marriage Ministry that validity is most assuredly found through ministry within the community one is called to serve. So that, it is the very act of service that assures us of God’s grace, blessing, and authority to answer the call to ministry. It is through the natural connection of that kind of relationship, shepherd to sheep, that validity and authority are realized and made real to the world in which we live.
I do participate in and uphold the doctrine of Apostolic Succession and all of its clergy have been validly ordained by the laying on of hands of bishops within that historic succession, which we hold dearly as well the practice of the ancient sacramental rites of the Holy Church of God that goes back to the Apostles and Christ himself.
Realizing that the traditions of the Church Universal and the doctrine of Apostolic Succession, as they relate to the validity of Free Catholic or Independent Old Catholic orders, can weigh heavy on the seeker’s spirit, we offer these references from various reputable Roman Catholic sources:
From the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith Declaration: Dominus Jesus
Therefore, 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.
How do we view our Catholicity?
As a bishop and priest in my own jurisdictions , of course, I am catholic, liturgical, and sacramental. These same ordinary jurisdictions are "Catholic" in the same sense as the word is used by Saint Irenaeus of Lyons: is
"The Catholic Church possesses one and the same faith throughout the whole world" [St. Irenaeus, Chapter X of against Heresies, circa 180 Anno Domini] and by Saint Vincent of Lerins: of which we maintain standard
I do hold to this standard which states this " that which has been believed everywhere, always and by all. That is truly and properly 'Catholic,' as is shown by the very force and meaning of the word, which comprehends everything almost universally. We shall hold to this rule if we follow universality antiquity, and consent. We shall follow universality if we acknowledge that one Faith to be true which the whole Church throughout the world confesses; antiquity if we in no wise depart from those interpretations which it is clear that our ancestors and fathers proclaimed; consent, if in antiquity itself we keep following the definitions and opinions of all, or certainly nearly all, bishops and doctors alike. "" [The "Vincentian Canon", 434 Anno Domini, St. Vincent of Lerins, Chapter IV of the Commonitorium.]
And we within this society exercises this exacted statement within our society which states this "In cases where the thing disregarded is not the faith, and is no falling away from any general and catholic decree, different rites and customs being observed among different people, a man who knows how to judge rightly would decide that neither do those who observe them act wrongly, nor do those who have not received them break the law. ( Photius of Constantinople (Epist. iii, sec. 6, circa 800 A.D.),
While we do have the free of thought within our tradition as well as freedom of conscience as well, we being within the historical apostolic succession for all our bishops also agree with this statement about local bishops in there own geographical areas which states this "See that you all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery as you would the apostles; and reverence the deacons, as being the institution of God. Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is administered either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude of the people also be; even as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church."— (Letter to the Smyrnaeans, Ch 8 by Ignatius of Antioch)
A reference on the Old Catholic Movement from: Catholic Visitor 1978
“Old Catholic – several groups, including:
(1) the Church of Utrecht, which severed relations with Rome in 1724;
(2) The National Polish Church in the U.S., which has its origin near the end of the 19th century; (3) German, Austrian and Swiss Old Catholics, who broke away from union with Rome following the First Vatican Council in 1870 because they objected to the dogma of papal infallibility.
The formation of the Old Catholic communion of Germans, Austrians and Swiss began in 1870 at a public meeting held in Nuremberg under the leadership of A. Dolinger. Four years later Episcopal succession was established with ordination of an Old Catholic German bishop by a prelate of the Church of Utrecht. In line with the “Declaration of Utrecht” of 1889, they accept the first seven ecumenical councils and doctrine formulated before 1054, but reject communion with the pope and a number of other Roman Catholic doctrines and practices. They have a valid priesthood and valid sacraments. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church notes that they have recognized Anglican ordinations since 1925, that they have full communion with the Church of England since 1932, and have taken part in ordination of Anglican Bishops.”
Other Quoted Reputable Sources
When these criteria are met, a bishop is within the historic apostolic succession: (Augustine of Hippo from On Baptism and On The Correction of the Donatists)
Form: The consecration must be done using the Rites of the Church and in the context of the Eucharistic liturgy to be valid. This is to emphasize the connection of the ordaining bishop within the Church as a Eucharistic Community.
Matter: There must be an actual laying on of hands by a Bishop during the liturgy. A Prayer is not sufficient in and of itself.
Minister: The one who performs the consecration must be a validly consecrated Bishop within the Historic Apostolic Succession.
Intention: The intent of the laying on of hands and the prayer within the liturgy must be to ordain the person as a Bishop of the Church.
"... where an appropriate Sacramental minister performs the sacramental ritual using the correct matter and form, with no appearance of jest or simulation, he is presumed with moral certainty to have acted validly." (Apostolicae Curae papal bull, Pope Leo XIII (1896)
On the 12th March 1931, to the question put to them by an RC priest, “An Ecclesia Libero-Catholicae validi sunt titus et ordines?” – are the sacraments of the Liberal Catholic Church valid? - the Roman Congregation of Rites replied in the affirmative. It further recommended that “members of the so-called Liberal Catholic body should be treated according to the special instructions of Pope Leo XIII to Cardinal Lavigerie, regarding the Eastern schismatics.”
These instructions were sent by order of the Pope in 1882 to Cardinal Lavigerie, Archbishop of Carthago, by the Special Congregation of the Propaganda for the Oriental Rites. They read as follows, “With regard to the Eastern Schismatic Christians. Your Eminence should impress upon his clergy the fact that their foremost two feelings must be: love for the individuals and respect for their rites. For the Schismatic Christians are our brethren, baptized with us in the Blood of Jesus Christ. We therefore must ever have for them “Bowels of compassion”, as the Blessed Apostle Paul puts it, and always be willing to show them our loving-kindness…Let your Clergy therefore never despise or slight their ways and uses, their language, or their Liturgy, which Holy Church approves of as being quite just and rightful.” [Mgr. Bernard Cardinal Lavigerie, Paris, 1896, vol. 1, p 86; vol 2, p 98.]
"These Churches, although separated from us, yet possess true sacraments and above all, by apostolic succession, the priesthood and the Eucharist, whereby they are linked with us in closest intimacy. Therefore some worship in common (communicatio in sacris), given suitable circumstances and the approval of Church authority, is not only possible but to be encouraged."UNITATIS REDINTEGRATIO, DECREE ON ECUMENISM, POPE JOHN - PAUL II NOV 21, 1964
When members of the Roman Catholic Church encounter Independent/Old Catholic Churches for the first time, they are often surprised to learn that there are Catholic denominations exist apart from Rome. Understandably, questions are raised about the validity of Orders and Sacraments administered by Independent Catholics.
"The Roman Church recognizes the validity of Old Catholic Orders and other Sacraments." -Felician A. Roy, OFM, Catholic Almanac - 1974; p. 368
“Dominus Iesus” At the Vatican on 16 June 2000, Pope John Paul II ratified and ordered the publication of "Dominus Iesus."
This Declaration of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was signed and published by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) in August of the same year.
In this Declaration, the Roman Catholic Church recognizes the validity of Orders and Sacraments of Independent Catholic Church/ denominations:
"The Churches which, while not existing in perfect communion with the Roman 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, these separated Churches and communities as such have by no means been deprived of significance and importance in the mystery of salvation. For the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as means of salvation which derive their efficacy from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Catholic Church." - IV. Uticity and Unity of the Church, 17
Catholic Almanac - 1974
"The Roman Church recognizes the validity of Old Catholic Orders and other Sacraments." (Felician A. Roy, OFM, p. 368)
The Pastoral Companion – A Canon Law Handbook for Catholic Ministry – Third Edition by John M. Huels, J.C.D. page 335
“The principal condition is that these sacraments can be received only from validly ordained ministers. These are ministers who belong to “churches that have preserved the substance of the Eucharistic teaching, the sacraments of orders, and apostolic succession” This would include all Eastern non - Catholic churches, the Polish National Church, Old Catholic, and Old Roman Catholic.
"We have no reason to doubt that the Old Catholic Orders are valid. The Apostolic Succession does not depend on obedience to the See of Peter, but rather on the objective line of succession from Apostolic sources, the proper matter and form, and the proper intention, likewise Old Catholic bishops are bishops in Apostolic Succession. The Old Catholics, like the Orthodox, possess a valid priesthood." - William J. Whalan, pp. 204,248
Rights and Responsibilities: A Catholic's Guide to the New Code of Canon Law
When a Catholic (member of the Roman Catholic Church) sacred minister is unavailable and there is urgent spiritual necessity, Catholics may receive the Eucharist, penance, or anointing from sacred ministers of non-Catholic denominations whose Holy Orders are considered valid by the Catholic Church. This includes all Eastern Orthodox priests, as well as priests of the Old Catholic or Polish National Church." (Thomas P. Doyle, O.P., p. 44)
On the Canons of the Church of Rome
According to provisions of Roman Catholic Church Canon laws 844 of the code of Canon Law are applicable to ministers of the Society of the Inner Circle and Light. To wit:
"Canon 844 §1. Catholic ministers administer the sacraments licitly to Catholic members of the Christian faithful alone, who likewise receive them licitly from Catholic ministers alone, without prejudice to the prescripts of §§2, 3, and 4 of this canon, and canon 861, §2.
"§2. Whenever necessity requires it or true spiritual advantage suggests it, and provided that danger of error or of indifferentism is avoided, the Christian faithful for whom it is physically or morally impossible to approach a Catholic minister are permitted to receive the sacraments of penance, Eucharist, and anointing of the sick from non-Catholic ministers in whose Churches these sacraments are valid.
"§3. Catholic ministers administer the sacraments of penance, Eucharist, and anointing of the sick licitly to members of Eastern Churches which do not have full communion with the Catholic Church if they seek such on their own accord and are properly disposed. This is also valid for members of other Churches which in the judgment of the Apostolic See are in the same condition in regard to the sacraments as these Eastern Churches.
"§4. If the danger of death is present or if, in the judgment of the diocesan bishop or conference of bishops, some other grave necessity urges it, Catholic ministers administer these same sacraments licitly also to other Christians not having full communion with the Catholic Church, who cannot approach a minister of their own community and who seek such on their own accord, provided that they manifest Catholic faith in respect to these sacraments and are properly disposed.
"§5. For the cases mentioned in §§2, 3, and 4, the diocesan bishop or conference of bishops is not to issue general norms except after consultation at least with the local competent authority of the interested non-Catholic Church or community."
Of course I do not accept that the Eastern Churches - or we are ourselves - are schismatic, but believe rather that Rome broke away from Orthodoxy at the Great Schism, however, with respect to the RC Church we are in much the same position as members of the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox churches.
Additionally the ordinal we use is proven to be essentially ecumenical and progressive and while our intention in ordaining is to do as the church as always done from time immemorial, "quod ubique, quod semper, quod ad omnibus".
Also myself being duly ordained not only has priest and bishop in valid apostolic succession prior to me entering the Independent Sacramental/Catholic and beginning my seminary training in Nyack New York, I was credentialed as a Minister with the Universal Life Church. And this is what they did to fight for my right to marry you also.
What is the exact source of the religious legitimacy under the law as a church entity in the cases of Universal Life Church v The United States of America (1974)?
In a 1974 case, the ULC sued the government of the United States after the church’s tax-exempt designation was challenged. In addition to ruling on the main questions posed by the lawsuit, the judge also weighed in on the topics of the status of independent church entities and mail-order ordination. The ULC is in no way a Christian ministry, but it greatly furthered the interests of non-traditional religious organizations by litigating and ultimately winning this case.
The decision in the case included several key findings. The court noted that an Honorary Doctor of Divinity degree represents a religious title only and does not connote a specific level of academic achievement. Therefore, the opinion continued, the title can rightly be conferred by churches and religious entities like the plaintiff, the Universal Life Church. This remains true as long as the issuance of such titles is made pursuant to some form of education on the denomination or organization’s overriding principles. According to the opinion, the statute at issue did not speak to honorary titles bestowed for the purpose of recognizing merit or for some other purpose.
The court proceeded to tackle the question of whether ordination, the act of establishing church charters or the granting of honorary Doctor of Divinity titles constitute significant acts not in furtherance of religious purposes. The court’s opinion contained several pertinent findings.
The court found that ordination of individuals and the granting of church charters are clearly acts typically carried out by religious entities. Further, the opinion stated that the ULC’s distribution of ministerial credentials and honorary Doctor of Divinity documentation was not determination of its status. The court found that those actions “may be analogized to mass conversions at a typical revival or religious crusade.” This statement effectively showed that the court believed the actions performed by the ULC were equivalent to those performed by conventional churches, and thus it should be viewed as legally no differently than them. Perhaps the most important part of the decision is the portion that provides assurance to those who get ordained remotely that their credentials enjoy full legitimacy under the law.
The court stated that neither it nor any other arm of government would “consider the merits or fallacies of a religion” or engage in a comparison between newer religions and older ones. This meant that no government body or agent has the right to say what constitutes a religion and what does not. The court also declined to “praise or condemn a religion, however excellent or fanatical or preposterous it may seem.” The opinion went on to state that for the court to engage in such activities would to “impinge upon the guarantees of the First Amendment.”
For we all must remember under the US Constitution states this that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." and under the Free Exercise Clause stated by the Supreme Court Congress cannot pass a law for the government of the Territory which shall prohibit the free exercise of religion. The first amendment to the Constitution expressly forbids such legislation." Of federal territorial laws, the Court said: "Laws are made for the government of actions, and while they cannot interfere with mere religious beliefs and opinions, they may with practice