Code of Canons – The United Catholic Church
Revised and Adopted by Consensus August 1, 2010
Canon 1. Nature and History of the Church
The United Catholic Church is a free association of individual Christians, independent churches, dioceses, denominations, religious orders, and interchurch fellowships. We are a post-denominational or extra-denominational fellowship.
The United Catholic Church was formed in 1996 by Bishop (later Presiding Archbishop and Primate) Robert M. Bowman at the request of bishops of several independent Catholic churches who were looking for a fellowship which was truly Catholic, with a solid set of core beliefs and valid Apostolic Succession, yet flexible enough to allow creative and innovative ministry and to bring together jurisdictions with differing styles, emphases, rules, practices, and liturgies.
The United Catholic Church is descended from the Old Catholic Church of Utrecht, which broke with Rome in 1870 over the dogmas of Vatican I, including that of the infallibility of the Pope. We have carefully guarded the Catholicity of our faith and the validity of our Apostolic Succession.
In making decisions about the Church, we look both backward and forward. We look backward to Jesus and the early church of the apostles. We strive to recapture the spirit of the ante-Nicene church, the church of the first three centuries, the pre-Constantinian church, the pre-Roman Catholic Church, the church of the martyrs and the catacombs.
At the same time, we look forward. We embrace advances in science and biblical scholarship. We strive to be a Catholic Church for the 21st century and beyond, the kind of church we always dreamed of. We attempt to live out the principles of inclusivity, collegiality, democracy, and generosity that Jesus lived and taught.
Canon 2. Mission
The mission of the United Catholic Church is to carry the gospel, the sacraments, and God’s love and fellowship to the unchurched, the alienated, and the excommunicated (the church’s homeless). We welcome all Christians who, for whatever reason, are separated from the sacraments and the church. In the spirit of Christ, to the outcast, we offer inclusion; to the rejected, acceptance; to the afflicted, comfort; to the sinner, forgiveness; to the despondent, hope; to the troubled, peace.
Canon 3. Founding Principles
“In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, diversity; in all things, charity”
3.1 In essentials, unity;
3.1.1 Our Core Beliefs
As Christians, we believe (1) that scripture, which is composed of the Old and New Testaments, is the primary, sufficient, and reliable source of our beliefs. (2) in the creeds produced by the early Councils of the undivided Church. (3) in one loving, personal God in three divine persons. (4) that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God. (5) that Christ died for us, rose from the dead, and will come again. (6) that we are saved by grace through faith and are made new by the Holy Spirit. (7) that if we trust in Jesus, our life will change. (8) in one holy, Catholic, and apostolic church made up of all Christian believers. (9) in working for the unity with diversity of the church, the Body of Christ. (10) in obeying the Great Commandments to love God and love our neighbor.
Further, we hold to these additional marks of the Catholic Christian: We believe (1) that through the Apostolic Succession, God empowers clergy for ministry. (2) that through the Holy Spirit, the sacraments impart the grace which they signify. (3) that Jesus is present in the Holy Eucharist. In addition, we require that our clergy be called, be highly educated, be trained to perform their ministerial functions, and be committed to living holy lives which spread God’s love far more effectively than any sermon.
3.1.2 Application of our Core Beliefs
We expect our clergy to hold to these core beliefs and to teach them. They may also choose to teach additional doctrines which do not conflict with these core beliefs. There are no belief tests for the laity, however. Any baptized Christian may be a member of the United Catholic Church. There shall be no such thing as excommunication from the Church.
3.2 In nonessentials, diversity
The unity we pray for, the unity God wants, the unity Jesus prayed for before he died, is not a mere institutional unity. It is a unity of the heart and mind. God wants a unity in which everybody submits to the love of Christ!
3.2.1 Diversity of Organization
The unity we must try to restore is one in which the churches share a common “Catholic” faith, preach a common gospel, share a common love, and revel in their diversity with respect to everything else.
3.2.2 Diversity of Belief
There are numerous beliefs not listed in 3.1 which are sources of controversy. None of them involve essentials of the Catholic faith. In nonessentials, diversity. That is where such things belong.
3.2.3 Diversity of Ministry
In order to accomplish our mission to reach the unchurched, outcast, and underserved, we encourage and support innovative ministries that take God’s love to where people are and present it in a manner in which it can be best received. For this reason, we grant our clergy wide latitude with regard to place, dress, and form of liturgy. Among the liturgies specifically approved are the German Old Catholic Liturgy, a variety of Celtic liturgies, the Roman Catholic Sacramentary, the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer, and the Tridentine Latin Mass. We also allow specialized or homemade liturgies to be used on a regular basis, following review by the bishop or archbishop.
The center of our Christian worship is the Eucharist. The words used by the Church since the first centuries are to be treasured and maintained. In the proper setting and circumstance, they should be used. But they are not straightjackets. Reviewing bishops are not to disapprove liturgies just because they are different — only if they conflict with the core beliefs in Section 3.1 or omit the words of institution or the invocation of the Holy Spirit. Liturgies can be spontaneous, joyful, interactive, and fun, but should also reflect the reverence due to God and the sacredness of the celebration. They should be appropriate to the occasion and the needs of the community.
In order to protect the right of clergy to minister in innovative ways, the Church will grant charters to individual ministries. A cleric wishing such a charter should write up the terms of the charter and submit it for review. This will enable the Church to meet the diverse needs and preferences of the people while also ensuring that the core essentials are maintained. Charters will also protect clergy from unreasonable interference from bishops in the future. The intent is to assure clergy that the innovative ministry approved now will not later be prohibited. Charters, once granted, cannot be revoked except by unanimous consent of the House of Bishops.
Dual memberships (membership and ministry in the United Catholic Church and simultaneously in another Catholic or Protestant denomination) are specifically allowed.
3.3 In all things, charity
The most important part of our guiding principles is that every thing we do, every rule we make (and we make rules only when we absolutely have to), every decision we take is guided by the words and example of Jesus to love God and our neighbor. Whenever we are tempted to get legalistic, arrogant, or judgmental, we must remember that we follow Jesus, not the Pharisees. We follow the one who stripped to the waist to wash the feet of His disciples. We worship the One who hung naked on the cross to show His love for us. For us who are clergy in the United Catholic Church, there is one preeminent guiding principle: we are the servants of the people … not the other way around.
Canon 4. Doctrine
There shall be no doctrinal requirements for membership in the UCC. Identifying oneself as a Christian and receiving the sacrament of baptism are sufficient.
Clergy should be willing to ascribe to and teach the fundamentals enumerated in paragraph 3.1.
Neither laity nor clergy are required to hold to doctrines unsupported in scripture. Belief in recent non-scriptural Catholic doctrines is optional. Clergy should be sensitive to the beliefs of those to whom they minister, and should not challenge any belief not in direct conflict with the core articles of the faith enumerated in paragraph 3.1 (“In all things, charity.”).
We expect our clergy to understand the theology and moral dictates of the Roman Catholic Church — even those parts we disaffirm or classify as optional. We derive from the Western Church and share much in common. Understanding the contents and history of Roman Catholic doctrinal theology is essential to the task of ministering to the faithful. Our clergy must be able to explain the arguments for and against controversial aspects of Roman Catholic dogma, teachings, and practice.
Canon 5. Membership and Structure
5.1 Overall Structure
The United Catholic Church is a free association of individual Christians, parishes, missions, ministries, religious orders, independent Churches, dioceses, denominations, and interchurch fellowships. The Church should be organized so as to provide as much democracy as possible, while carefully protecting minority views. Even in matters of faith and morals, the “sensus fidelium” cannot be ignored. The Church will be governed by the Holy Spirit acting through the people as a whole. The highest decision-making body of the Church is the Synod, to which all are invited and in which all are represented. Whenever possible, decisions will be made by consensus of the whole. Between Synods and when consensus is not possible, decisions will be referred to a House of Laity, a House of Clergy, and a House of Bishops, all involved in the decision-making process.
5.1.1 Associated Churches
Independent churches and other jurisdictions that choose to associate with the United Catholic Church in a covenant relationship while concurrently retaining their own particular identity are called Associated Churches. The specific relationship is to be worked out in each case. Each Associated Church is called to honor and respect the work and ministry of the others. Bishops of Associated Churches may be invited by the House of Bishops to join that body. The House of Bishops will develop procedures for handling this.
5.1.2 Communicating Churches
The UCC also enters into intercommunion agreements with other churches and jurisdictions that share our core beliefs. The intercommunion agreement means that each Church recognizes the other in a particular way as specified by the agreement. Churches with which the UCC maintains intercommunion agreements are called Communicating Churches. Bishops, clergy, and laity of Communicating Churches do not belong to the governing Houses of the UCC. The generic term for both Associated Churches and Communicating Churches is “Sister Churches.”
5.2 Local Churches
The basic unit of the life and organization of the United Catholic Church is the Local Church.
A Local Church is composed of persons who, believing in God as heavenly Father, and accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and depending on the guidance of the Holy Spirit, are organized for the sharing of the Sacraments and Christian worship, for the furtherance of Christian fellowship, and for the ongoing work of Christian witness.
A Local Church may be a parish, a mission, a religious order, or a ministry. A parish is a Local Church which has regular worship services, including Mass, at a fixed location (which may or may not be a church building). A parish is generally self-supporting. A mission is a Local Church which has regular worship services. A ministry is a Local Church, which does not fit the definition of either a parish or a mission.
5.2.1 Autonomy and Responsibility of Local Churches
Every Local Church is autonomous. Local Churches who freely choose to be a part of the United Catholic Church agree to follow the Founding Principles outlined in paragraph 3, to participate with other parts of the Church in pursuit of the Mission stated in paragraph 2, and to operate lawfully under the Canons and the founding documents of the Church. It is up to the UCC as a whole to decide if any financial or other requirements are to be placed on local churches. In any case, such requirements should not be onerous. Otherwise, each Local Church manages its own affairs and operates in its own ways. Neither the General Synod nor any bishop, nor any of the houses of governance may infringe on the autonomy of the Local Church, except as permitted by these Canons.
5.3 Individual Membership
Basic legal requirements for membership in the United Catholic Church are laid out in Article 6 of the Articles of Incorporation and Article II of the Bylaws. Basically, anyone who wishes to become a member may do so. The byword here is “inclusivity.”
The United Catholic Church is a post-denominational fellowship. Anyone attending a parish or ministry associated with the United Catholic Church may consider himself or herself a “member” of the UCC. Alternatively, they may be active in the UCC but consider themselves Old Catholic, Lutheran, Episcopalian, Roman Catholic, or whatever they will. Many of our parishes call themselves “Ecumenical Eucharistic Fellowships” and include members of many denominations. Most churches do not allow dual memberships. This divides Christians one from another. In the interest of Christian unity, we allow our members to also be members of local churches, dioceses, and jurisdictions with which they have a special affinity. Such members enjoy all the same rights and privileges as any other member. “Unity without uniformity” is one of our special marks.
Since there are no doctrinal requirements for membership other than being a baptized Christian, and no such thing as excommunication, no baptized Christian may be refused participation in the Church. Those who may cause scandal may, however, be excluded from teaching and other special ministries within the Local Church.
Local churches may set their own requirements for voting memberships. Such requirements may not be used to exclude anyone from the sacraments or the spiritual life of the Church.
5.4 Religious Orders
Laity or clergy can choose to belong to a Religious Order that may or may not be formally associated with the United Catholic Church, and Religious Orders associated with this Church may have a membership composition of persons who both are, and persons who are not, listed members of this Church. Religious Orders that choose to formally associate with the United Catholic Church will submit a Rule of the Order for comment along with a recognition request. Upon approval, a Charter will be given by the United Catholic Church. Chartered Religious Orders hold the status of a Local Church, and are bound by and enjoy the protection of the Canons of this Church.
Canon 6. Sacraments
We in the United Catholic Church believe that, following the example of Jesus, we should dispense the sacraments with great generosity, and should limit the impact of man-made rules in the lives of the faithful.
Sacraments should be administered carefully, with due reverence and attention to form. This is not for the sake of legalism, but to maximize the spiritual benefit to the recipient. The words specified in a recognized Sacramentary may be modified for good reason (such as to avoid sexist language or to be sensitive to the pastoral needs of those to receive the sacraments), but should not be ignored out of clerical laziness. The words of the Mass or of any of the sacraments should never be recited in an unthinking way. The words have meaning, and should be said accordingly.
The sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders cannot be repeated. They can, if it is unclear whether they were validly conferred, be conferred again conditionally. Using the principle “In all things, charity,” pastoral considerations may dictate that these sacraments be administered on request to those who have received them in another church, even when there is no reason to doubt the validity of the original sacrament.
There should never be a charge for a sacrament. It is appropriate to expect a reasonable offering from those wishing to have elaborate social events accompanying the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, Matrimony, or Holy Orders. An appropriate amount may be suggested in such cases. However, no one should be denied a sacrament because of his or her inability to make such an offering. And, of course, even the appearance of the buying or selling of sacraments or other spiritual favors must be carefully avoided. There must never be even the suggestion of an offering for the sacraments of Penance, Eucharist, or the Anointing of the Sick.
A deacon, priest, or bishop may administer the Sacrament of Baptism. Under unusual circumstances, any baptized Christian can administer it.
Since we have clear instructions from Jesus in the gospels, we use the words he commanded to use, baptizing “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Baptism may be by sprinkling, pouring, or immersion.
Clergy are encouraged (but not required) to practice infant baptism. The beliefs and wishes of the parents should be strongly considered.
A reasonable attempt should be made to see that adults requesting baptism understand the essentials of Christianity, the nature of the sacrament, and the demands of Christian living.
Persons being baptized (whether infant or adult) should have two sponsors or Godparents. Normally, at least one should be a practicing Catholic or a member in some Christian denomination which believes in the efficacy and importance of the sacraments. Where a proxy is used to stand in for the sponsor or Godparent, a letter from the person agreeing to be a sponsor or Godparent should be obtained.
Baptismal records are extremely important. Copies of baptismal certificates should be provided to the person being baptized or to the parents. Copies should also be maintained in the parish, in the diocesan office (if any), and at the international office of the United Catholic Church. Photocopies should be provided to the diocesan bishop, the presiding bishop, and the vicar general. (The same is true for certificates of marriage, First Holy Communion, Confirmation, and Holy Orders.) (The purpose of multiple records is to assure that those twenty or thirty years from now who need to show proof of the receipt of the sacrament will be able to find a repository with the necessary document.)
There is a wide range of practice in the church at large concerning the appropriate age for Confirmation. Some churches do it in infancy along with baptism. Some do it at the age of reason (about 7). Others wait for adulthood (somewhere between 11 and 21). Each parish, diocese, or jurisdiction in the United Catholic Church is free to make its own decision. The important thing is that it not represent some arbitrary chronological age, but rather an acceptance of Christ as Lord and Savior and openness to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
Bishops may extend the function of performing confirmation to priests in their jurisdiction.
The sacrament of Matrimony is unusual in that it is the only one in which the persons administering the sacrament are the same as those receiving it. The betrothed couple administer the sacrament to each other. The function of the priest or deacon is primarily to be the official witness of the church and the state.
Broken relationships are not the will of God. Broken commitments involve sin (usually on both sides). But divorce is not an unforgivable sin and it therefore should not be a permanent impediment to remarriage. In light of “in all things, charity,” the United Catholic Church will cooperate in the sacrament of Matrimony for couples in which one or both parties have been through divorce.
Clergy wishing to perform weddings (state law permitting) or commitment ceremonies for same-sex couples may do so. Same-sex commitment ceremonies and weddings will be registered with the international office of and recognized by the United Catholic Church.
6.4 Confession and Reconciliation
The sacrament of Reconciliation may be administered through individual private confession or through General Absolution following an examination of conscience in conjunction with a liturgy or another sacrament. A priest or bishop hears individual private confessions. In extenuating circumstances, any baptized Christian may lead another to confess their sins directly to God and to give the person the assurance that God has forgiven them.
6.5 Anointing of the Sick
A bishop or priest performs the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. In extenuating circumstances, a non-sacramental anointing can be performed by anyone (substituting assurance for absolution). The sacrament involves the anointing of the head and/or other part of the body and the recitation of the prescribed words. When urgency requires, the service can be shortened to include only the calling forth of the Holy Spirit and absolution. Depending on the circumstances, the person administering the anointing should pray for physical healing, for the forgiveness of sins, or for a happy death. If the patient recovers, then becomes ill again or markedly deteriorates, the sacrament may be repeated.
6.6 The Eucharist
If there is one thing that distinguishes a Catholic Christian, it is our belief in the real presence of Jesus in the sacrament of the Eucharist. We believe He is present in the Assembly (“Where two or three are gathered, there I am in the midst.”). We believe He is present in each other (indeed our mission as Christians is to be Jesus to each other). We believe He is present in the actions of the presider. And we believe He is present in the bread and wine (“Take and eat, this is My body. Take and drink, this is the cup of My blood.”). Our great blessing as Catholics is that we understand that just as we give ourselves to God, He gives Himself back to us. Yes, Jesus gave Himself, body and blood, for us at Calvary 2000 years ago. But He also gives Himself to us as spiritual food, every time we celebrate the Mass.
At the United Catholic Church, we invite all baptized Christians (of whatever denomination) who perceive the real presence to receive Communion with us at God’s altar. The real presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist is the essence of unity for all Catholics of whatever denomination.
One expression of this unity is concelebration. We encourage clergy to concelebrate with clergy of other churches and jurisdictions. “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.”
Consecration of the Eucharist may only be performed by a bishop or priest. A deacon may hold a Eucharistic service using previously consecrated elements.
6.7 Holy Orders
6.7.1 The Apostolic Succession
Ordained clergy serve as imperfect channels of God’s perfect grace. We believe that our ordained clergy have been set apart by God for special ministries. Jesus gave special powers to His apostles. He gave them the power to forgive sins in his name. And He commanded them to carry on the Eucharistic feast in remembrance of Him. For most of the history of the church, the people elected their bishop. But they always had to get other bishops to lay hands on him and pass on what we now call the Apostolic Succession. As Catholics, we believe that Apostolic Succession matters. It guarantees us that God grants to bishops ordained in the unbroken line from the apostles the same powers Jesus gave to them. It means that priests and deacons ordained by these bishops receive power from the Holy Spirit. Most importantly, it means that the sacraments given by our clergy are valid and are used by God to impart grace through the action of the Holy Spirit. We do not claim that God acts only through clergy in the Apostolic Succession; but we do claim that the Apostolic Succession guarantees us that our parishioners receive the Body and Blood of Christ when we celebrate the Eucharist.
What is distinctively Catholic about our belief in Holy Orders is that we believe that the sacrament not only sets those ordained apart for special ministries, but also conveys God’s grace to help them accomplish God’s purpose for those ministries. We believe that the successors of the apostles have inherited the special privileges given to them by Christ of conveying God’s grace to His people through the sacraments.
6.7.2 Ordination of Bishops
Bishops are called forth by the body of the United Catholic Church to stand in leadership roles for administration purposes, to stand at the cross-roads in communication with other church bodies, to protect the historical continuity of the teaching of the Church and ensure the soundness of this same doctrine in UCC churches and ministries, as outlined elsewhere in these canons, and, to ensure that both the historical line of succession and historical belief is passed-on through the ordination of others.
Episcopal leadership in the United Catholic Church is understood as a servant leadership that is exercised in terms of mutual agreement with the whole, and not as a kind of autocratic or monarchial authority investment. In keeping with this same view, bishops serving in the House of Bishops are viewed as peers who function together as a team, not as a hierarchy. All bishops are elected by the church as a whole to serve in the House of Bishops as Suffragan Bishops. The Presiding Bishop is the bishop elected to that office for a stated term; upon relinquishing that office that bishop reverts again to being a Suffragan Bishop. The Presiding and Suffragan Bishops allocate the exercise of the various servant leadership functions needed by the church at any given time, among themselves as part of their normal functioning. Individual clerics or communities who are not satisfied with assignments that affect them, may petition the House of Bishops for a re-assignment.
The recommendation for the creation of a new bishop may be initiated by any person or group in the United Catholic Church, but affirmation of the need to an addition to this office, and the calling forth of the individual new bishop is always done by the church as whole, for each and every bishop serves the whole church. Both the proposed addition and individual appointment must be approved by the Presiding Bishop, with the advice and consent of the House of Bishops, and must also receive a 2/3 confidence vote from the members of the House of Bishops, the House of Clergy, and the House of Laity.
The Director of Episcopal Formation (or Vicar General or other appropriate person) will determine what preparation of the candidate is required. The Presiding Bishop will schedule the ordination ceremony for the laying on of hands.
Newly ordained bishops within the UCC, ordained by UCC bishops after being approved by the Church, generally become members of the House of Bishops.
Bishops seeking incardination directly into the UCC from other jurisdictions or bishops of associated churches seeking bishop status within the UCC must meet the requirements outlined in the ordination requirements document prior to being credentialed as an active bishop or being invited to have a seat on the House of Bishops. They must also receive the same 2/3 confidence vote from the members of the House of Bishops, House of Clergy, and House of Laity required of new UCC bishops. Incardinating bishops not meeting UCC standards or failing to receive the confidence votes required or not wishing to take on a leadership position may join the UCC and function as a priest or a lay person. They will still be a bishop, but will not be active in that capacity and will not be a member of the House of Bishops or known as a Suffragan Bishop of this church. If their situation changes at some future date, they may petition to become an active bishop.
6.7.3 Ordination of Deacons
All our bishops and priests were once deacons … and they are deacons still. This ministry of service is one of the most important in the church. It is so important and so fulfilling that many deacons do not desire to take on the additional administrative duties of the presbyterate or the episcopate. Instead, they continue to serve the needs of people as lifelong deacons. When we ordain to the diaconate, we make no distinction between transitional deacons and permanent deacons. Any deacon may decide at some time after their ordination to pursue further Orders.
Candidates for the diaconate must meet all ordination requirements for that office as outlined in the ordination requirements document. Incardinated deacons from other jurisdictions must meet these requirements before being credentialed as an active practicing deacon in this Church.
6.7.4 Ordination of Priests
Candidates for the priesthood must meet all ordination requirements for that office as outlined in the ordination requirements document. Priests seeking incardination from other jurisdictions must meet these requirements before being credentialed as an active practicing priest in this Church.
6.7.5 Ordination Eligibility
The United Catholic Church allows ordination of individuals to all levels of ministry without regard to their marital status, gender, or sexual orientation.
6.7.6 General Rules on Ordination
Ordinations to all levels are reserved to validly consecrated bishops in the Apostolic Succession. Ordinations to the episcopacy are, whenever possible, to be witnessed by at least two co-consecrators who are also bishops in the apostolic line.
Ordinations within the UCC are not to be conducted without the approval of the Church as a whole. Such approval will be granted by the Presiding Bishop after appropriate consultation. (See sections 6.7.2, 6.7.3, and 6.7.4.)
Specific requirements for ordination within the UCC are contained in the document “Requirements for Ordination and Incardination in the United Catholic Church.” This document is updated as needed by the Presiding Bishop after consultation with the House of Bishops and the entire Church.
Once ordained or incardinated into the UCC, the individual cleric, their local community, and the UCC community as a whole all have responsibilities to each other. The rights of exercised autonomy by the cleric must remain in balance with the equally valid rights of others in their local community and with those in the larger UCC-wide community.
Should complaints be received that balance appears to have been compromised; the first step to attempt to achieve resolution, and restore harmony and balance, will be to hold an exploratory conference between the individual and a bishop of this church. If a mutually agreeable resolution cannot be reached, the problem will be raised to the House of Bishops for investigation and handling. If raised to this level, the House of Bishops holds the right to vote to render a correcting decision, which shall stand, unless the cleric opts to appeal the decision within thirty days and also provides a signed hold harmless release allowing for the dissemination of materials and an open discussion of the events. Should such an appeal be made, all information pertinent to the situation will be released to the full church body for review by the HOB, together with vote proposal. The proposal will be deemed to be binding when a majority approval vote is received from the House of Clergy, the House of Laity and the House of Bishops. Should non-appealed or appealed-and-approved sanctions or scope of authority limitations then not be followed, the House of Bishops may remove a cleric from the authorized ministry rolls of the United Catholic Church. The House of Bishops also holds the right to immediately suspend any cleric from public ministry until the resolution process has been completed if imminent danger for harm is perceived to exist to an individual or the Church.
Bishops may choose to ordain to subdeacon or to the minor orders of lector and acolyte. They may also name an ordained priest as a monsignor. This is a title of honor and recognizes the accomplishments of an experienced pastor. All such appointments will be approved by the House of Bishops before taking effect.
6.7.7 Ordination and Morality
We will not tolerate clergy who exploit their position to abuse those in their care. Pedophilia, predatory sex, and promiscuity will not be tolerated in our clergy, regardless of gender or sexual orientation. Clergy associated with this church are required to either be celibate or in a committed relationship.
Exploitative or violent criminal behavior will disbar existing clergy and be an impediment preventing ordination. (This does NOT include “crimes” like peace demonstrations, civil disobedience, and the like. Let’s not forget that Jesus was a convicted criminal too.) Since excommunication does not exist in the United Catholic Church, clergy who abuse their position for personal or financial gain will not be expelled from the Church, but they will be relieved of all clerical duties and stripped of any charter, license, certification, or credential. Furthermore, they will be reported to the authorities so that they cannot continue their exploitation in another Church. We will not tolerate non-disclosure of any kind of exploitative or criminal behavior. We will not knowingly take abusive clergy from other jurisdictions, nor will we pass ours on to them without revealing what we know.
Canon 7. Credentialing
The Church uses credentialing as a means of certifying that a member of the clergy has all the education, training, clinical experience, and other requirements needed to fulfill specific functions. Not every member of the clergy in the United Catholic Church is qualified to be a military chaplain, a prison chaplain, a hospital chaplain, a pastoral formation mentor, etc. The Church evaluates the qualifications of clergy wishing to enter such positions, recommends additional education and training as required, and certifies those ready to assume such responsibilities by issuing them a credential in their chosen field. We will work in conjunction with the relevant agencies to see that our clergy meet their requirements before being credentialed.
Canon 8. Ministry Charters
The House of Bishops may ask for, or an individual church or ministry may apply for and be granted, a charter which specifies the terms and functioning parameters of the ministry. After proper review and upon consultation with the House of Bishops, the Presiding Bishop will sign the charter. The charter may specify a requirement for periodic ministry reports to be submitted to a designated mentor. Clergy holding charters may submit proposed revisions to their charter when their vision of ministry changes or develops in a new direction
Canon 9. Incardination
Members of the clergy from other churches may apply for incardination into the United Catholic Church, being received at the appropriate level of ordination. If the candidate comes from a church lacking Apostolic Succession, the sacrament of Holy Orders can be administered once it is determined that the candidate meets the UCC requirements for the Order sought. As a sign of respect, Holy Orders will be supplied in a way that does not demean the dignity of the previous community. Incardinating deacons and priests may apply to any bishop. (All paperwork will be forwarded to the Presiding Bishop and the Vicar General.) Incardinating bishops will apply to the Presiding Bishop who will consult with the House of Bishops.
Canon 10. Decision-making Structure
Decisions within the Church may be made in two ways. The first (and preferred) method is by consensus of the Committee of the Whole (everybody who shows up at the Synod or who calls in to express their desires). The second is by getting the approval of the House of Laity, the House of Clergy, and the House of Bishops, each of which will itself operate whenever possible by consensus. Each House will develop policies and procedures for its operations, including approval of candidates for ordination and ratification of the election of a presiding bishop. Members of religious orders will be represented in these Houses in the same manner as parishes and other ministries.
10.1 House of Laity
Each UCC parish, mission, ministry, or religious order will be represented by one or more lay persons, with the number dependent on the size of the congregation. Initially, the HOL will include one representative for every 30 congregants, with a minimum of two and a maximum of six per congregation. Each congregation will develop its own method for selecting representatives.
10.2 House of Clergy
Initially, all UCC active clergy in good standing (except for bishops) are members of the HOC. If this becomes unwieldy, a new formula for clergy representation may have to be developed by the HOC.
10.3. House of Bishops
The House of Bishops is made up of invited bishops of the United Catholic Church and Associated Churches who are active and in good standing. The House of Bishops will adopt procedures and criteria for inviting new members. The Presiding Bishop will maintain the list of such bishops. The House of Bishops, together with the entire Church, is responsible for assuring that the shared vision of the Church as outlined in these Canons and in our founding documents is carried out in practice.
An inactive retired bishop is one who has been placed in that category due to ill health, advanced age, or some such circumstance which prevents him from participating fully in the House. A bishop may also be placed in inactive status and prohibited from functioning as a bishop for criminal behavior or a serious violation of the Canons.
Canon 11. The Office of the Presiding Bishop
All bishops in the United Catholic Church hold peer status. The office of Presiding Bishop is elected for a four year term in the same years as presidential elections in the United States of America or upon the vacancy of the position. The duly elected Presiding Bishop shall serve as spokesperson for the international Church and shall exercise appropriate administrative responsibilities. The Presiding Bishop will oversee communication between clergy and bishops and shall preside at meetings of the House of Bishops.
The Presiding Bishop will appoint a Vicar General who shall assume the duties of Presiding Bishop on a provisional basis should the office of Presiding Bishop become vacant between elections. The Vicar General will call and arrange for the election of a new Presiding Bishop within 90 days of the Presiding Bishop’s office becoming vacant.
The House of Bishops will nominate a candidate for Presiding Bishop. This nomination must be ratified by the House of Laity and the House of Clergy. If the nomination is turned down by either House, the House of Bishops must select another nominee. Either the HOL or HOC may suggest a nominee to the HOB. The Presiding Bishop must receive the backing of all three Houses to take office. His or her term of office lasts until the next scheduled election (normally four years). If the elected person is not already a bishop, he or she will be ordained to the episcopacy as soon as practicable.
In the event that no candidate receives the approval of all Houses, the Primate, Presiding Bishop, Vicar General, or ranking bishop (in that order) will designate an interim Presiding Bishop to hold office until a successful election can be concluded
Canon 12. The Office of Primate
The Primate is the spiritual head of the United Catholic Church. This position may be held for life. A Primate who chooses to retire will be given the honorary title Primate Emeritus. A Primate may choose to appoint a successor. If a Primate dies or is incapacitated without designating a successor, the House of Bishops may elect a new Primate. The Primate has no administrative authority, but exercises spiritual guidance.
The Primate is responsible for exercising guidance to maintain and expand the shared vision of the Church reflected in this Code of Canons and in the Church’s founding documents.
Canon 13. Amendments to the Code of Canons
Amendments to the Code of Canons should be worked on until they are adopted by consensus. If consensus is not possible, they must receive a 2/3 vote of the House of Laity, a 2/3 vote of the House of Clergy, and a 2/3 vote of the House of Bishops for approval. Amendments may be vetoed by the Presiding Bishop or the Primate, but their veto can be overridden by a unanimous vote of the remaining members of the House of Bishops. An amendment failing in the House of Bishops may still be adopted if supported by unanimous votes in the House of Laity and House of Clergy, while receiving a majority vote in the House of Bishops.
August 1, 2010
6.3 Matrimony, word change for gender neutral language6.7.5 Ordination Eligibility, removal of ecumenical provision
Index of Revisions Amending the Code of Canons: November 10, 2007
5.2.1 Autonomy and Responsibility of Local Churches
5.4 Religious Orders
6.7.2 Ordination of Bishops
6.7.6 General Rules on Ordination
8.0 Ministry Charters
10.3 House of Bishops
11.0 The Office of the Presiding Bishop