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EXCERPT: A Pilgrim’s Guide (2nd ed.)

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This is from the first chapter of A Pilgrim’s Guide to the Old Catholic Church.

A Pilgrim's Guide to the Old Catholic Church (2nd ed.)Introduction

The Elevator Version

The “elevator version” of anything is a summary that you can get through in just the few seconds you spend in an elevator. Because we have the word “Catholic” in our name, most people want to know how we are different from the Roman Catholic Church. So here is the “elevator version” of that:

Old Catholic Roman Catholic
Openly gay priests yes no
Closeted gay priests no yes
Marriage after a divorce yes no
Same-gender weddings yes no
Trained/licensed priests yes yes
Criminal check on all clergy yes no
Tons of rules for believers no yes

In the Old Catholic Church sexual and gender orientation are not impediments to any sacrament, including Holy Orders and Matrimony.

Of course the Romans have gay priests. They just have to lie about it.

By church law, each lay member’s faith is sovereign (NAOCC).


Being Different

We are not to throw away those things that can benefit our neighbor. Goods are called good because they can be used for good: they are instruments for good, in the hands of those who use them properly.
Clement of Alexandria (150-215)

Unlike other modern branches of Christianity, the Old Catholic Church isn’t a “melting pot” with every ladle from the pot looks like every other ladle. The Old Catholic Church is more like a tossed salad, where every bit is going to be identifiable as a distinct item.

Every country has its own distinct Old Catholic Church. Germany has its Alt-Katholiken in Deutschland. In the Czech Republic, it is the Starokatolická církev v Ceské republice. The United States has the North American Old Catholic Church.

The Dutch church can’t impose dogma on anyone outside the Netherlands. Swiss bishops have no standing in the operation of the Austrian church. Each of the national churches has its own teachings, practices and traditions.

What’s more, each bishop in each national church has more “freedom” than a bishop in another denomination. An Old Catholic Bishop can authorize a liturgy or patron saint that applies only in the bishop’s jurisdiction.

On top of that, each lay member’s beliefs are sovereign. There is no church authority that can order any individual to believe or act a certain way.
It sounds like chaos, but it works nicely.

Here is something I hear from time to time: “if this church was able to make room for somebody like me, then I am responsible for making room for somebody like you.”

In fact, it is the way the Christian church started. Bishops were responsible for a jurisdiction, but each individual was responsible for himself or herself and for helping the next guy.

The arrangement is weird enough that we have to call it a mystery. A mystery is something we can partly understand, but nobody can grasp the entire meaning completely.

Somehow the church as a whole is the Mystical Body of Christ, and each national church stands as an incarnation of that Mystical Body, and every individual personifies (brings to life) the Mystical Body. The Church is Christ-ness, and you are what makes this Christ touchable. If a hungry person reaches out, you are there to be touched. If a prisoner cries for God, your ears are what hear the cry. If a sick person seeks help, you are the one who is there with comfort.

Taken as a whole, this isn’t like Christ. It is Christ, and you are as integral a part as anybody. What are you supposed to be doing? I have no idea: I barely know what I’m supposed to be doing, for crying out loud. I do know that God needs you. God needs all of us.

And I know one other thing: what you’re supposed to do is something you can do. Nobody is given a load that can’t be carried, and nobody is given a load that is useless or helpless. When Mother Theresa of Calcutta was working with the old and the sick, somebody snarled “You can’t help these people: you’re old and sick yourself.” Mother Theresa of Calcutta responded, “I wasn’t called to be successful. I was called to be faithful.”

And so it goes.


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