As Orthodox Old Catholics we are first Church. The Church is no less than the Mystical Body of Christ in the world, tasked with continuing his divine mission of proclaiming the Good News (Gospel) of salvation, hope and eternal life. The Church is the context of the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments outside of which the Bible cannot be truly understood and inevitably leads to heresy. Additionally the Church is charged with guarding, preserving and passing on the whole body of faith which includes in addition to Scripture, the accepted canons of the Seven Ecumenical Councils, the teachings of the Mothers and Fathers of the faith, the teaching and lives of the Saints and the rest of Sacred Tradition. Sacred Tradition is not to be understood as something strictly of the past, but rather as the expression of the presence of the Holy Spirit within the whole body of believers continuing, as was promised by our Lord, to lead the Church into all truth. The Church is also to carry on the works of corporal mercy: Feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless and healing the sick which our Lord began in his earthly ministry.
The primary reality, and the necessary foundation for all other aspects of the Church is: The People of God gathered for Eucharist with their Bishops in Sacramental (Mysterious) and doctrinal continuity with the Apostles. Simply put, an organization which is not grounded in Eucharistic worship and which does not have bishops ordained to the episcopate within a valid Apostolic Succession, and does not teach the whole of the faith as handed down to us from Christ, the Apostles and the Saints may be many things, but it is not the Church of Jesus Christ.
To be considered Catholic a Church must teach the full or whole faith, not a part.
This Holy Catholic Church is fully present in each Local Church, that is the Faithful gathered with their Bishop for Eucharist. No grouping of local Churches make up a greater Catholic reality. Nevertheless, from the earliest days, the various Local Expressions of the Catholic Church have understood the necessity of union with other Local Churches for mutual support, assurance of Orthodoxy in faith, and continuity of Apostolicity by the ordination of Bishops to serve in the Local Church.
The Church of the Culdees is Orthodox, meaning correct in doctrine and worship. It teaches nothing contrary to the faith of the undivided Church of the first Millennium. No belief may be required of the Faithful which is not expressed in Scripture or in the received Canons and Doctrinal Statements of the Seven Ecumenical Councils.
A central tenet of the Church of the Culdees is that behind the historical realities that brought about the formation of the Old Catholic Church in the Union of Utrecht was the will of God the Holy Spirit for the restoration of Orthodoxy in the Western Church.
We are Orthodox Old Catholic in that we faithfully adhere to the foundational principles and documents of the Union of Utrecht:
THE DECLARATION OF UTRECHT
A TRANSLATION OF THE PROFESSION OF FAITH, OR DECLARATION, FORMULATED BY THE OLD CATHOLIC BISHOPS ASSEMBLED AT UTRECHT, SEPTEMBER 24th, 1889
1. We adhere faithfully to the Rule of Faith laid down by St. Vincent of Lerins in these terms: "Id teneamus, quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est; hoc est etenim vere proprieque catholicum." (Hold fast that faith which has been believed everywhere [universally], always, and by all.) For this reason we persevere in professing the faith of the primitive Church, as formulated in the ecumenical synods and specified precisely by the unanimously accepted decisions of the Ecumenical Councils held in the undivided Church of the first thousand years.
2. We therefore reject the decrees of the so-called Council of the Vatican, which were promulgated July 18th, 1870, concerning the infallibility and the universal Episcopate of the Bishop of Rome, decrees which are in contradiction with the faith of the ancient Church, and which destroy its ancient canonical constitution by attributing to the Pope the plenitude of ecclesiastical powers over all Dioceses and over all the faithful. By denial of his primatial jurisdiction we do not wish to deny the historic primacy which several Ecumenical Councils and the Fathers of the ancient Church have attributed to the Bishop of Rome by recognizing him as the Primus inter pares (first among equals).
3. We also reject the dogma of the Immaculate Conception promulgated by Pius IX in 1854 in defiance of the Holy Scriptures and in contradiction to the tradition of the first centuries.
4. As for other Encyclicals published by the Bishops of Rome in recent times - for example, the Bulls Unigenitus and Auctorem Fidei, and the Syllabus of 1864 - we reject them on all such points as are in contradiction with the doctrine of the primitive Church, and we do not recognize them as binding on the consciences of the faithful. We also renew the ancient protests of the Catholic Church of Holland against the errors of the Roman Curia, and against its attacks upon the rights of national Churches.
5. We refuse to accept the decrees of the Council of Trent in matters of discipline, and as for the dogmatic decisions of that Council we accept them only so far as they are in harmony with the teaching of the primitive Church.
6. Considering that the Holy Eucharist has always been the true central point of Catholic worship, we consider it our duty to declare that we maintain with perfect fidelity the ancient Catholic doctrine concerning the Sacrament of the Altar, by believing that we receive the Body and the Blood of our Savior Jesus Christ under the species of bread and wine. The Eucharistic celebration in the Church is neither a continual repetition nor a renewal of the expiatory sacrifice which Jesus offered once for all upon the Cross; but it is a sacrifice because it is the perpetual commemoration of the sacrifice offered upon the Cross, and it is the act by which we represent upon earth and appropriate to ourselves the one offering which Jesus Christ makes in Heaven, according to the Epistle to the Hebrews ix. 11, 12, for the salvation of redeemed humanity, by appearing for us in the presence of God (Heb. ix. 24). The character of the Holy Eucharist being thus understood, it is, at the same time, a sacrificial feast, by means of which the faithful, in receiving the Body and Blood of our Savior, enter into communion with one another (1 Cor. X. 17).
7. We hope that Catholic theologians, in maintaining the faith of the undivided Church, will succeed in establishing an agreement upon questions which have been controverted [i.e. in controversy - Ed.] ever since the divisions which have arisen between the Churches. We exhort the priests under our jurisdiction to teach, both by preaching and by the instruction of the young, especially the essential Christian truths professed by all the Christian confessions, to avoid, in discussing controverted doctrines, any violation of truth or charity, and in word and deed to set an example to the members of our churches in accordance with the spirit of Jesus Christ our Savior.
8. By maintaining and professing faithfully the doctrine of Jesus Christ, by refusing to admit those errors which by the fault of men have crept into the Catholic Church, by laying aside the abuses in ecclesiastical matters, together with the worldly tendencies of the hierarchy, we believe that we shall be able to combat efficaciously the great evils of our day, which are unbelief and indifference in matters of religion.
THE FOURTEEN THESES OF THE OLD CATHOLIC UNION CONFERENCE AT BONN - SEPTEMBER 14-16, 1874
I. We agree that the apocryphal or deutero-canonical books of the Old Testament are not of the same canonicity as the books contained in the Hebrew Canon.
II. We agree that no translation of Holy Scripture can claim an authority superior to that of the original text.
III. We agree that the reading of Holy Scripture in the vulgar tongue cannot be lawfully forbidden.
IV. We agree that, in general, it is more fitting, and in accordance with the spirit of the Church, that the Liturgy should be in the tongue understood by the people.
V. We agree that Faith working by Love, not Faith without Love, is the means and condition of Man's justification before God.
VI. Salvation cannot be merited by "merit of condignity," because there is no proportion between the infinite worth of salvation promised by God and the finite worth of man's works.
VII. We agree that the doctrine of "opera supererogationis" and of a "thesaurus meritorium sanctorum," i.e., that the overflowing merits of the Saints can be transferred to others, either by the rulers of the Church, or by the authors of the good works themselves, is untenable.
VIII. 1) We acknowledge that the number of sacraments was fixed at seven, first in the twelfth century, and then was received into the general teaching of the Church, not as a tradition coming down from the Apostles or from the earliest of times, but as the result of theological speculation. 2) Catholic theologians acknowledge, and we acknowledge with them, that Baptism and the Eucharist are "principalia, praecipus, eximia salutis nostrae sacramenta." (“First, of special importance, exceptional, health giving of our Sacraments/Mysteries”)
IX. (1) The Holy Scriptures being recognized as the primary rule of Faith, we agree that the genuine tradition, i.e. the unbroken transmission partly oral, partly in writing of the doctrine delivered by Christ and the Apostles is an authoritative source of teaching for all successive generations of Christians. This tradition is partly to be found in the consensus of the great ecclesiastical bodies standing in historical continuity with the primitive Church, partly to be gathered by scientific method from the written documents of all centuries. 2) We acknowledge that the Church of England; and the Churches derived through her, have maintained unbroken the Episcopal succession.
X. We reject the new Roman doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, as being contrary to the tradition of the first thirteen centuries, according to which Christ alone is conceived without sin.
XI. We agree that the practice of confession of sins before the congregation or a Priest, together with the exercise of the power of the keys, has come down to us from the primitive Church, and that, purged from abuses and free from constraint, it should be preserved in the Church.
XII. We agree that "indulgences" can only refer to penalties actually imposed by the Church herself.
XIII. We acknowledge that the practice of the commemoration of the faithful departed, i.e. the calling down of a richer outpouring of Christ's grace upon them, has come down to us from the primitive Church, and is to be preserved in the Church.
XIV. 1) The Eucharistic celebration in the Church is not a continuous repetition or renewal of the propitiatory sacrifice offered once forever by Christ upon the cross; but its sacrificial character consists in this, that it is the permanent memorial of it, and a representation and presentation on earth of that one oblation of Christ for the salvation of redeemed mankind, which according to the Epistle to the Hebrews (9:11,12), is continuously presented in heaven by Christ, who now appears in the presence of God for us (9:24). 2) While this is the character of the Eucharist in reference to the sacrifice of Christ, it is also a sacred feast, wherein the faithful, receiving the Body and Blood of our Lord, have communion one with another (I Cor. 10:17).
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