WHAT IS A NATIONAL CATHOLIC PARISH?

The first question people ask about Saint Patrick Catholic Church is usually this one: What is the difference between this parish and a Roman Catholic parish?

To answer this question properly requires some brief historical background.  For the first 1000 years of Christianity, there was, for the most part, one unified Church, though there were numerous individuals promoting division.  In 1054, a major break in communion involving a major portion of the Church occurred.  The Eastern part of the Church, (the Eastern Orthodox) and the Western part (the Roman Catholics), severed communion with each other through mutual excommunications.

Division within the Western Church continued during the 16th century as various Reformers protested what were seen as Roman Catholic abuses, and established several Protestant denominations on the European continent and the Anglican Church in England (known as the Episcopal Church in the USA).  These churches all left the communion of the Catholic Church, which from then on was commonly called the Roman Catholic Church.

By rejecting the concept of a priesthood that offers sacrifice (the Mass) and by changing their ordination rites to institutionalize this rejection of a sacrificial priesthood, these denominations lost the historic episcopate, and, in so doing, lost the Real Presence of Christ in their Eucharist, which comes about through the ministry of that same priesthood they had rejected.

This is how the Roman Catholic and National Catholic Churches view the history of Christianity’s sad divisions.  There are many factors which brought about these divisions; theological, political and even personal (Henry VIII’s serial marriages, for instance), but because all of them involved the rejection of the authority of the Bishop of Rome, the Pope, independence from Papal authority is something all these denominations have in common.

Into this general picture of independence from Papal authority comes the National Catholic movement, though with very important differences as we shall see very shortly; and while “National Catholicism” is not widely known today, it nonetheless plays an important role in the history of modern Catholicism.

The National Catholic movement differs from the various Protestant divisions in that National Catholicism kept its belief in the Mass and in the priesthood necessary to have the Mass.  To insure this, National Catholicism did not create new Ordination Rites, but simply translated the official Latin Roman Catholic rites.  Thus it has never lost the historic episcopate, has maintained a validly ordained clergy and possesses an authentic Eucharist in which Christ is truly present.  For this reason, in the eyes of the Roman Catholic Church, National Catholic parishes are seen as “separated” from Rome, (the official theological term for this is schismatic), but maintaining valid sacraments, rather than separated and theologically defective like Protestant denominations (the official theological term for this is heretical).

National Catholic churches originate from one of two historical sources.  The first source, and older movement, began in Europe at the conclusion of the First Vatican Council in 1869.  The chief concern of this Vatican Council was the promulgation of Papal Infallibility, a concept and doctrine which was strongly objected to by some bishops who saw it as over-reaching the traditional concept of the Pope as head of the College of Bishops and separating himself too independently from consultation with them.  In reaction, some German theologians left the Roman Catholic Church and established a Catholic Church apart from Rome, with valid orders obtained through the schismatic Catholic Church in Utrecht, Holland.  They differentiated themselves by keeping their doctrine to the “old practices” before the Vatican Council, hence they are known as Old Catholics.  Today, in the United States, the largest successor to this movement is found in the Polish National Catholic Church, founded in 1898 as a federation of Polish parishes independent of the Roman Catholic Church, obtaining its valid Orders also through the schismatic Old Catholic Church of Utrecht.  This church has recently reached an accord with the Roman Catholic Church allowing for an open Communion between the two churches.

The second source for National Catholicism comes from the Roman Catholic Church in Brazil. At the conclusion of the Second World War, Bishop Carlos Duarte Costa (a Roman Catholic Bishop) came into disagreement with many practices of the Roman Catholic Church in Brazil and this led to his leaving and severing ties with the Roman Catholic Church, and to the establishment of the Brazilian National Catholic Church. This church movement has spread to many countries, including the United States, and is the National Catholic authority upon which Saint Patrick Catholic Church exists.

Realizing that the casual reader of this information has limited knowledge of the Brazilian National Catholic Church, a church whose validity the Roman Catholic Church has never debated, we provide this additional information.

Bishop Carlos Duarte Costa was the founder of the Brazilian National Catholic Church, and consecrator of two early bishops, without papal mandate (as required) for service in his new National Catholic Church.

Bishop Salomao Barbosa Ferraz, a former Roman Catholic Priest, was consecrated a bishop by Bishop Carlos Duarte Costa for the Brazilian National Catholic Church in 1945. He eventually reconciled with the Roman Catholic Church in 1958, during the pontificate of Pope Pius XII. Bishop Ferraz was named by Rome to be Titular Bishop of Eleuterna on May 12, 1963. Although still married, Bishop Ferraz was later appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Rio de Janeiro by Pope John XXIII. Bishop Ferraz was later called by Pope Paul VI to serve on a working commission of the Second Vatican Council and addressed the Council Fathers in session.

Bishop Ferraz was never re-consecrated by the Roman Catholic Church, not even conditionally, and later was buried with the full honors accorded Bishops of the Roman Catholic Church. The Roman Catholic Church by accepting Bishop Ferraz in this manner without any re-consecration, affirm the sacramental validity of the lines of apostolic succession of the bishops consecrated by Bishop Carlos Duarte Costa, which is the apostolic succession within the Brazilian National Catholic Church.

Bishop Orlando Arce-Moya was the fourth bishop consecrated by Bishop Carlos Duarte Costa on November 30, 1956, with the title of Bishop of Santiago, Chile, for the Chilean National Catholic Church. Bishop Moya left the Chilean National Catholic Church many years later, and was received by Pope John XXIII into the Roman Catholic Church. Bishop Moya was not re-consecrated, and he was accepted as having valid lines of apostolic succession. He was appointed by the Pope as Auxiliary Bishop to the Cardinal Archbishop of Madrid, Spain. Bishop Moya died some years later, with the full honors accorded a bishop of the Roman Catholic Church.

Today, from coast to coast, the National Catholic movement continues to grow and spread, bringing Christ to many who had given up the hope of Catholic reforms or even their Catholicism altogether.

This parish differs from Roman Catholic parishes in matters of discipline only, maintaining all authentic Catholic theology and doctrine as it existed prior to the First Vatican Council.

Differences of discipline are seen in the ability of all ranks of the clergy to marry (if they desire), the practice of General Absolution of Sin, admittance of all the baptized to Holy Communion, and allowance for both remarriage and for the admittance of the remarried to all of the Sacraments of the Church, to name just a few.

One of Bishop Duarte Costa’s first reforms was the translation of the Mass from the Latin into the native language of the people.  The Roman Catholic Church codified the same change, nearly 30 years later.  Perhaps, over time, Bishop Duarte Costa’s other disciplinary changes may be adopted by Rome as well.  In the mean time, this parish remains a glowing torch of hope for Catholics in need of acceptance and understanding.

Within the United States today, there are only two authentic national denominations with unquestionable validity: The Polish National Catholic Church (with Old Catholic European lines of Succession) and the International Communion of the Charismatic Episcopal Church (Brazilian National Catholic Church lines of succession). Our parish is in Communion with the International Communion of the Charismatic Episcopal Church. Both of these churches have approximately the same representation in the United States of approximately 200 parishes. You may receive the sacraments in either church with full confidence.

To sum up: Saint Patrick Catholic Church celebrates the same sacraments as any Roman Catholic Church and with identical validity.  This parish was erected in the year 2000, is self-sustaining and constantly growing both in parishioners and in the spiritual zeal necessary to bring the “Good News” to all people.

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