The Old Catholics, a movement of European churches that retained many Roman Catholic practices and teachings while opposing papal authority, appear to be moving toward Protestantism, particularly the Anglican church.
The current issue of the conservative journal Touchstone (January/February) reports that the issue of women’s ordination is moving the various Old Catholic (OC) churches away from their Catholic heritage and into the Anglican orbit. Most Old Catholic churches, which broke away from Rome after Vatican I’s pronouncement of the doctrine of papal infallibility, are part of the Union of Utrecht, a 400,000-member communion of OC churches in Germany, Poland, Austria, Switzerland, the Netherlands and the Polish National Catholic Church in the U.S. and Canada.
OC churches in Germany, Switzerland, Austria and the Netherlands have recently voted to allow women into all levels of leadership. Only the Polish OC church and the 250,000-member Polish National Catholic Church (PNCC) have opposed the measure. Writer William Tighe concludes that the Old Catholic support of women’s ordination will likely lead Rome to end its traditional recognition of OC orders, while moving the former church into closer relations with the Anglicans.
The PNCC has been distancing itself from OC churches since the decisions to ordain women and has been drawing closer to Rome. The next issue likely to be much more divisive for the Old Catholics is gay rights in the church. The Austrian church voted to bless same sex unions in 1997 — although no such ceremonies have yet taken place.
(Touchstone, P.O. Box 410788, Chicago, IL 60641)