“Causa Finita Est?”:

    “With the declaration of the doctrine of papal infallibility at the closing session of the First Vatican Council in 1870, a new condition of faith was to be imposed on all Catholics. As far as the ultramontanists were concerned, the question that stirred men’s hearts within the church for centuries past was now settled — in their favor. ‘The Pope had spoken’ indeed, but the cause was by no means ended. In fact, the real struggle was now taking shape.

    “There were able and learned members of the Roman Catholic Church to whom it was impossible to reconcile the new dogma with what they had always believed. The Catholic consciousness of early ages presented a theory out of which papal infallibility could never legitimately grow. The primitive theory, as the Councils of the Church made plain, placed final authority in the ecumenical council of all the bishops of the entire church and the transference of this authority from the entire body of the church to one individual was no true Catholic development at all, but a dislocation of the original constitution of the Church.

    “If most of the Bishops were coerced or threatened by official intimidation to accept the new belief, there were others that officialdom could not touch nor frighten. Several Bishops refused to publish the new dogma within their diocese. In America, Archbishop Kenrick of St. Louis, whose speech against the new dogma was suppressed in Council, expressed the unspoken feelings of many of the bishops in the following memorable sentences: ‘Notwithstanding my submission, I shall never teach the doctrine of Papal Infallibility so as to argue from Scripture or tradition in its support, and shall leave to others to explain its compatibility with the facts of ecclesiastical history to which I referred in my reply. As long as I may be permitted to remain in my present station I shall confine myself to administrative functions which I can do the more easily without attracting attention, as for some years past I have seldom preached.’

    “But once again if Bishops were to prove as ‘timorous as women’ in the face of official displeasure, then it remained for theologians and scholars to defend the faith. Such men as von Shulte, Reinkins, Lord Acton, von Dollinger and other distinguished scholars of northern Europe continued in outspoken and fearless opposition to the new Faith of the Roman curia. A revulsion to the new dogma arose like a swift tide amongst lay-folk and clergy throughout northern Europe where the Roman doctrine had to be enforced, if at all, with persecution where Episcopal persuasion proved fruitless.

    “In Bavaria public agitation rose high and priests refused to accept or publish the new Vatican decrees in their parishes. As early as three weeks after the close of the Council more than a thousand Rhenish Roman Catholics at Konigwinter, Germany, united in the declaration that ‘they did not accept the decrees in regard to the absolute power and personal infallibility of the pope, but rejected them as contradicting the traditional faith of the Church.’

    “Shortly before this, forty-three professors and teachers of the University of Munich, not members of the theological faculty, drew up a similar declaration, and this was followed in April 1871 by the ‘Munich Museum’ address with eighteen thousand signers, which went to the government, its purpose being ‘to prevent the adoption in church and school of the new dogma and to revise the relations of church and state.’

    “These lay-folk looked to brave men for leadership who now came to the front in the struggle for the restoration of the ancient faith. In Germany Professors Michelis, Reinkins and von Schulte, to whom were added, from Switzerland, Munsigner and Herzog, arose to champion the cause. The problem they faced was an enormous one. The Roman Church had not only cut itself in two but it had also cut one part off from tradition and the Scriptures.

    “The actual rebuilding of the church was far more difficult than the creation of thousand-voiced protests. How should it take shape? These men, pious Catholics, inflamed with the passion for truth, desired to remain where they were. For this very reason genuine Catholicism, not the ultra-montanist, but the ideal Catholicism of the Church as it had always, everywhere been known was the cherished hope of their souls and the pattern after which they wanted to build. Irrevocably outlawed by the Roman Church, it was not to take form without them, and its destiny lay in their hands.

    “In this sense, the Munich Congress, made up of three hundred delegates from Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, with numerous guests from all Christian lands of the earth, as early as September 1871 made out this distinct program: ‘We firmly hold to the old Catholic Faith as attested by tradition and the Scriptures as also to Catholic worship.’

    “They rejected the newly created dogmas of Pius IX, including that of the immaculate conception of Mary, and further declared, ‘We aim, with the cooperation of theological and canonical science, at a reform of the church which, conceived in the spirit of the ancient church, shall remove the existing defects and abuses, and in particular meet the just wishes of the Catholic people for constitutionally regulated participation in church affairs.’

    “In Cologne, Germany, the following year, another congress under the direction of Dr. von Dollinger went still further in a practical direction. Under the lead of Dr. von Schulte, the determinative features of the old Catholic church order were fixed. The Bishop was to have all rights common to his office, but the clergy and laity were given a voice in the direction of legislation and discipline. The Bishop was to be presiding officer of the Council but elected by it. No pastor was to be appointed who was not first acknowledged by the members of the local parish. No taxes for dispensation and appointments were to be raised. These formed the fundamental principles of the movement, apart from its allegiance to the traditional faith of the Church, which in opposition to ‘Roman’ or ‘Vatican’ Catholicism began to take form ecclesiatically under the name ‘Old Catholic.’

 

Growth of the Old Catholic Movement:

    “In Germany, Austria, and Switzerland reaction amongst faithful Catholics to the new Vatican decrees was swift. Entire parish communities refused to accept the new decrees and joined together in common councils to reaffirm their faith in the Scriptures and the authentic Catholic Tradition of the Church and to decide on their future course.

    “Under brilliant leadership, the movement rose to meet the challenge of persecution and intimidation which its larger erring sister church of Rome now leveled at it. Priests were cut off from their pensions unless they subscribed to the new dogma of Papal Infallibility, which soon became known amongst them as the ‘hunger dogma.’ Boycott and social ostracism and even the arm of the state were employed by the infuriated ultramontanists in their attempts to force the submission of the recalcitrant Catholic population to their wishes. Against all this the conscientious faith of thousands of earnest Christians stood firm.

    “Though these Catholics preserved the faith as they had always believed it, the question that was not fearfully evident to the bishopless flock was how to continue the succession of this faith for unborn generations. It was necessary with the establishment of the Old Catholic Church order and its independent government that a bishop be chosen. But how could a legitimate bishop be obtained, since according to Catholic conception, such a one could be consecrated only by another legitimate bishop?

    “Here the River of History, which now and again flows wide only to break off into different channels, now flowed together again. The Catholic Church of Holland came to the aid of the Old Catholic Movement. From the time when the pope and the Jesuits had first attempted to subjugate it, the Church of Holland had withstood her trials through the years, firm in its position and preserving its sacred badge of Apostleship in the legitimate Catholic succession of her bishops.

    “The Dutch Archbishop Loos, in 1872, had helped the German Old Catholics with confirmation and was willing to consecrate their bishop, but it was necessary first for the movement to have the recognition of the state. Dr. von Schulte applied to the Prussian Government and received Royal recognition, as a Catholic, for the bishop to be elected, as well as a grant of 48,000 marks for the expenses of the bishop and his administration. Old Catholicism, without this recognition of the state, would have been, in the eyes of many European peoples, a sect, and it would have meant a renunciation on the part of the Old Catholic movement of its legal standing and its right to the same support which the Roman Church enjoyed if it had not sought this recognition. With this accomplished, the delegates of the German congregations, both clerical and lay, in the manner of the ancient Church in the chapel of the City Hall of Cologne June 4th, 1873, unanimously elected Professor D. Reinkins, of Bonn, as their future Bishop. AsArchbishop Loos had just died, Bishop Heykamp of Deventer, consecrated the first Old Catholic Bishop for Germany.

    “In Switzerland in 1876, Bishop Herzog was consecrated Bishop of the Old Catholic Movement there. Thus the scattered fragments of Christ’s Church were gathered together. In time, the movement developed sufficiently in other parts of the world to warrant the necessity of Episcopal supervision, and gradually the jealously guarded Catholic Episcopate came to bless these faithful children of the Catholic Church of Christ in increasing numbers everywhere.

    “In Austria, Czechoslovakia, Italy, Switzerland, France, Yugoslavia, and Poland the movement grew and took root and Bishops were consecrated at Utrecht, Holland, for almost all these countries.

    “Out of the hard struggles of countless intrepid little bands of Catholic priests and laymen, all the elements within the Church that rebelled against the corruption of its faith and realized the original Christian Ideal of the one Flock of Christ, were drawn together and, if at first in the shape of a small model only, assumed the form of the ancient Church again.

    “But the greater works of this small church were only now to begin, even if its martyrs and saints, the progenitors in small numbers through the ages, lay in eternal sleep. A new spiritual impetus, an evangelical Catholic spirit was to be borne on the first winds of the twentieth century as they swept, first across Poland, then through England, France, the Balkans, and thence to America, to bring a new sense of spiritual freedom with the old and unchanging truths of Christianity — born to set the souls of all people free.