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A WARNING ON THE OLD CATHOLICS: FALSE BISHOPS, FALSE CHURCHES

by Rev. Anthony Cekada

Originally published in The Roman Catholic magazine, 1980


Fr. Cekada was one of the "nine" who decided to follow his own will rather than his promise of fidelity taken at his ordination. He left the Society in 1983. Fr. Cekada is doubtlessly doing less good for souls right now than he would have done had he remained in the SSPX. The devil is so cunning! As far as I am aware, Fr. Cekada is a sedevacantist and the last I heard is that he is at the CRMI's Mount St. Michael (June, 1999).


Let us say that you are a traditional Roman Catholic, and that you come across an advertisement in the paper for a group which claims that they offer the traditional Latin Mass. You notice at the bottom of the ad that the group calls itself "Old Catholic" or "Old Roman Catholic." You are naturally quite puzzled by these terms, but you think that anyone who claims to be "Old" or "Roman" or "Catholic" can't really be too much different from the traditional Catholic priests you know. But, you ask, are they really legitimate Roman Catholics, and can one go to their Masses?

The response a traditional Catholic priest is obliged to give to your question is "No, on both counts." But why, you ask, since they say they stand for all that we do?

Your priest will respond by saying that they are and always have been considered heretics and schismatics by the Catholic Church, and that they pose a grave danger to your soul if you have anything to do with them.

More and more in these times of confusion, a traditional Catholic priest finds himself confronted with such questions from the laity about Old Catholics. We feel that it is time that we publish an article which deals with these groups, and which will explain why you are obliged to avoid any dealings with them.

What are these "Old Catholic Churches?" They are schismatic and heretical sects which broke away from the Catholic Church, beginning with the Jansenist revolt in Holland in the 17th century, and continuing with another group that broke away from the Catholic Church in the 19th century over the dogma of papal infallibility. In this country, the term "Old Catholic" refers to the numerous tiny sects with self-appointed bishops and minuscule congregations, who call themselves "Old Catholics" or "Old Roman Catholics," even though they have, for the most part, been disavowed by their European forebears.

The purposes of our discussion here will be rather limited: First, we will give, a brief history of the origins of the Old Catholics. Second. we will examine a modern-day Old Catholic sect, the "Ultrajectine" Old Roman Catholic Church, now centered in Necedah, Wisconsin, which claims its origins in the historical Old Catholic movement. Third, we will make some general observations on these sects.

The reasons we have selected the Ultrajectines of Necedah are twofold: First, Necedah enjoys a considerable following due to the claims made that the Blessed Mother appeared there, claims which were rejected by the hierarchy even before the Second Vatican Council. Second, the assertions made by their Bishop, Edward M. Stehlik of the American National Catholic Church. Roman Catholic Ultrajectine typify the assertions of similar Old Catholic and Old Roman Catholic sects. A discussion of their claims and assertions should provide a clear warning to traditional Catholics who might be inclined to get involved with similar groups.

The last time an article appeared on the Old Catholics, a number of their priests and bishops wrote in to accuse us of what they invariably termed a "lack of charity." In the last century. Cardinal Manning responded most eloquently to those in error who accuse the Church of a "lack of charity." He said that the teaching of the Church "is the way of salvation, and the Church is bound to its inflexible maintenance, not only by the obligation of truth, but also by the obligation of charity for the salvation of mankind... The inflexible and exclusive dogmatic teaching of the Church, intolerant of all compromise, of all contact with error, is the voice of charity."

With this in mind, we now turn to history. In our research, we have come across a number of facts which the Old Catholics rarely mention in the pamphlets they use to promote their cause. It makes interesting reading, and it proves the old adage that truth is often stranger than fiction.

The Jansenist Heresy: Old Catholicism is Born

Some Old Catholic groups refer to themselves as "Ultrajectine," a term which seems mystifying, but which, in fact, simply comes from the Latin name for the city of Utrecht in Holland. Utrecht was the birthplace of the Old Catholic schism which resulted from the Jansenist heresy. To understand the Old Catholics, one has to under-stand Jansenism.

The Jansenist heresy itself takes its name from Bishop Jansenius of Ypres. This prelate rejected the theological method of most medieval theologians, having a "fashionable dislike of schoolmen," as M.L. Cozens states.1 Because of this, he wrote a treatise on St. Augustine (published in 1640) entitled Augustinus, in an effort to return to what he termed a more pure doctrine. "He openly professed therein to go behind the commonly received teaching (of the Church), and to find in St. Augustine the true doctrine on grace," 2 One can see the spirit of heresy in this bishop's motives.

Bishop Jansenius became friends with the Abbot of St. Cyran. Cozens states that it was this friend who sparked the cancerous growth of the doctrine of Jansenius on grace which we find in Augustinus. 3 The spread of this doctrine continued in spite of Pope Urban VIII's condemnation of Augustinus in 1642. 4 Pope Innocent X, in his bull Cum Occasione, 5 (May 1653) went even further, and condemned five propositions contained in the book Augustinus, as heretical and false. (Our source is the Enchiridion of Denziger, the standard reference used to cite the teaching of the Catholic Church.) The condemned propositions follow:

1.) There are some of God's commandments that just men cannot observe with the powers they have in their present state, even if they wish and strive to observe them; nor do men have the grace which would make their observance possible. (HERESY) (DB 1092)

2.) In the state of fallen nature internal grace is never resisted. (HERESY) (DH 1093)

3.) To merit or demerit in the state of fallen nature it is not necessary for a man to have freedom from necessity but only freedom from constraint. (HERESY) (DB 1094)

4.) The Semi-Pelagians admitted the necessity of internal preparatory grace for individual acts even for the beginning of faith; they were heretics for this reason that they wished this grace to be such that the human will could resist it or obey it. (HERESY) (DB 1095)

5.) It is Semi-Pelagian to say that Christ died or shed His blood for all men without exception. (FALSE) (DB 1096)

A certain Frenchman, Dr. Antoine Arnauld, became an advocate of the teachings of Jansenius, and he composed a book on "Frequent Communion" which was saturated with these heretical doctrines. When he was later faced with the demand to subscribe to the Pope's condemnation, he evaded the issue by "agreeing with the condemnations" but denying they were "contained in the Augustinus. 6 He maintained that "...while the Pope can define a doctrine and condemn a heresy opposing it, he cannot infallibly declare such a heresy.. .(to be)...in any particular book." 7

Thus, in the Jansenists, we find precursors of the modernist heretics, who try to twist Catholic teaching to their own ends. Pope St. Pius X accurately describes their tactics when he says that: "With an affectation of great submission and respect, they proceeded to twist the words of the Pontiff to their own sense, while they described his action as directed against others than themselves." 8

In an effort to stem the tide of this pernicious heresy, Pope Alexander VII in his formulary Regiminis Apostolici of February 1665, commanded all the clergy in France to sign an oath against the five condemned propositions in the Augustinus (DB 1099). Catholic theologians point out that the Jansenist reaction was to flee France and take refuge in Utrecht, Holland.9

The Vicar-Apostolic of the Diocese of Utrecht, Peter Codde, was sympathetic to the Jansenists, and when this became known, he was deposed by Pope Clement XI for his Jansenist views. 10 The Holy See attempted to replace Codde, but the Jansenists had gained enough power in Holland to prevent this. 11

The schism of the Jansenists in Utrecht which began in 1702, Awas complete by 1713, when the majority of the Dutch bishops refused to accept the Pope's bull Unigenitus condemning Jansenism. 12

In 1723 the Jansenists attempted to set up a Jansenist Diocese of Utrecht through Bishop Dominic Varlet, a Roman Catholic bishop who was relieved of his duties as titular bishop of Babylon by the Pope because of his Jansenist views. 13 Varlet consecrated Cornelius Steenoven a bishop to rule the schismatic diocese. 14 Steenoven soon died and Varlet consecrated two more bishops who also died. Finally Varlet consecrated Peter John Meindaerts in 1739, who, in turn consecrated two Jansenist bishops for the Dutch cities of Haarlem and Devemer.15 Thus the continuation of the schism was guaranteed along with the heresy which caused it.

Old Catholics, New Schisms: Denying Papal Infallibility

In the 1870s the effects of the schism of Utrecht resulted in yet another schism. It was at this time that the schismatics of Utrecht and a group of German-speaking heretics popularly came to be called the "Old Catholic" movement. We offer a resume of its actions and teachings relying on the Catholic Encyclopedia 16

In September of 1870, 1400 Germans and Swiss signed a document which repudiated the dogma of infallibility "as an innovation contrary to the traditional faith of the Church." This act resulted in the excommunication of their leader, Ignaz Dollinger, in April of 1871.

Undaunted they met again in September of 1871. Some of their new demands included democratization of the Church, repudiation of all dogmas not considered to be in harmony with the contemporary consciousness of the Church, ecumenism adherence to the secular government against the authority of Rome, and the insistence that the laity had the ultimate control over the property of the Church.

As you can readily see, their doctrinal and disciplinary positions are neither "Old" nor "Catholic." If anything they prove that the Old Catholic movement was a liberal and modernist movement. Indeed most contemporary modernists would have little difficulty accepting most of their tenets.

They decided in principle to form their own parishes at the same meeting, a move which was, however, repudiated by Dollinger who, nevertheless, remained firm in his heretical teachings until his death. In 1872, assisted by Jansenist and Anglican bishops, and, by Russian Orthodox and Protestant clergy, they took the practical steps to organize their parishes, and, in June of 1873 they elected a certain Professor Reinkens as their bishop. Reinkens was consecrated by the schismatic Jansenist Bishop of Rotterdam on August 11, 1873. Pius IX excommunicated Reinkens in November of the same year.

By 1875, they had abolished confession, clerical celibacy, and, the use of Latin. In the same year Reinkens consecrated Dr. Herzog bishop for the "Christian Catholic National Church" of Switzerland. Dr. Herzog will appear again in our narrative as the person who allegedly raised Joseph Rene Vilatte to the priesthood, thus beginning Vilatte's career as one of the key figures in the development of Old Catholic sects in the United States.

Such then is our brief history of the "Old Roman Catholics" of Utrecht and the "Old Catholics" of Germany and Switzerland. We now pass on to an account of the activities of Arnold Harris Mathew and Rene Vilatte the two persons responsible (if one may use the word in such a context) for the establishment of these sects in the United States.

Arnold Harris Mathew: Prelate in Wonderland

When you read an account of the career of Arnold Harris Mathew, you step into a wonderland where things become "curiouser and curiouser." What follows is a brief synopsis of his activities taken from a standard reference work on the Old Catholics. 17

In reading the life story of this eccentric Englishman one is simply amazed by his fickle and unstable nature. He lost his faith and changed religions many times. He even changed his name a number of times and continuously claimed more and more exotic titles, both noble and religious, calling himself Count, Earl, Primate, Metropolitan, etc. He changed the name of the sect he founded no less than seven times and is responsible either directly or indirectly for the foundation of at least thirty contemporary Old Catholic sects.

He was born in 1852 baptized a Catholic and later re-baptized an Anglican at the request or his mother. He was raised as an Anglican but became a Catholic again in 1875. He was rushed through a course of seminary studies and was ordained a priest in 1877. In 1879 he took vows as a Dominican only to return to the secular priesthood a year later. He then went from one assignment to another, and managed to change dioceses no less than three times. In 1889, he converted to Unitarianism, and publicly renounced the fundamental doctrines of Christianity. After a year, he left the Unitarians and joined the Anglicans again. He married in 1892, violating his priestly vows, and became an Anglican curate. He soon left the Anglicans once again in 1899. In spite of his attempted marriage, he attempted to rejoin the Catholic Church again in 1903. Rome refused to dispense him from his vow of celibacy, and he turned to writing to support his wife and children.

He soon became involved with the notorious Modernist, George Tyrrell, an excommunicated priest. Tyrrell took advantage of Mathew's predicament, urging him on in the destruction of sacerdotalism. Mathew adopted an anti-papal position in 1907 as a result of Tyrrell's influence, saying, "...the papacy is the origin...of discord..., the fomenter of schisms, and the seat of ecclesiastical despotism and tyranny."18

Mathew then decided that it was time to found an Old Catholic sect in England. He found a small group of sympathizers who elected him as their bishop. The schismatic Jansenist bishops of Utrecht, under the impression that he had a large following in England, raised him to the episcopacy in Utrecht in 1908. He then returned to England and eventually raised a number of men to the episcopacy himself, including two former Catholic priests, Howarth and Beale, who had been excommunicated by the Bishop of Nottingham for embezzling. Mathew then sent documents to Pope St. Pius X attesting to the consecrations.

Pius X, a saint not exactly known for pulling punches, published the Bull Cravi Iamdiu Scandalo.19 He not only excommunicated Mathew, but called him a "pseudo-bishop" and declared him vitandus, a term in church law which meant that Catholics were subject to censure if they had anything to do with Mathew (See the Appendix). Pius X also extended his sentence of excommunication to include those who had been consecrated by Mathew.

By this time, however, Mathew had already even severed his communion with the schismatic bishops of Utrecht, who proceeded to denounce him roundly for his deceptions and for acting contrary to the Declaration Of Utrecht. Unfazed by the fact that he was both excommunicated by Rome and repudiated by even his schismatic consecrators, he, nevertheless, continued consecrating bishops, one of whom was an Austrian Prince Rudolph de Landas-Berghes, who planted the Mathew version of Old Catholicism in the U. S. during World War I (See below).

Mathew went on to ordain and consecrate a number of shady characters. Some were believers in Theosophy (a pseudo-Oriental religion), while others were less than sterling examples of Christian morality.

In January of 1916, he announced that he would be reconciled to the Holy See, but changed his mind two months later. He then sought union with the Anglicans once again. The Archbishop of Canterbury was, understandably, quite skeptical, and refused to give Mathew any position as an Anglican clergyman. Mathew retired to a village in the countryside and contented himself with assisting at services in an Anglican parish church as a layman.

By this time, he had been deserted by his wife and abandoned by virtually all the priests and bishops he had made. He died suddenly in December of 1919 without having been reconciled to the Catholic Church and was buried with Anglican rites as a layman. His episcopal seal and other documents disappeared after his death, so any document with his seal would not in itself be proof of ordination or consecration.

At this point, we should note briefly the connection between Mathew and Old Catholics in the United States. Mathew, you will recall, consecrated Prince Rudolph de Landas-Berghes a bishop in 1913. De Landas-Berghes performed a number of consecrations in the U.S., and, in 1916, he conditionally re-consecrated Bishop Carmel Henry Carfora, another schismatic, who had already been consecrated through Rene Vilatte. 20 (For more on Vilatte, see below.) Carfora founded the North American Old Roman Catholic Church.

Carfora was a fairly exotic character in his own right, independent of his association with the Mathew succession. He claimed infallibility not only in faith and morals ex cathedra, but in everything.

Carfora performed an incredible number of episcopal consecrations in the United States. Among those he consecrated was Richard Marchenna, a name one seems to come across frequently in Old Catholic circles. Marchenna was consecrated by Carfora in 1941. 21

Another which occurs quite frequently is that of a certain Bishop Daniel Q. Brown. He seems to have been consecrated by Marchenna at some point, and consequently performed a number of consecrations himself, including that of Francis Schuckardt. 22

Beyond this, it becomes impossible to trace the consecrations which have been performed by the different successors of Mathew. It is sufficient to note that none of the Old Catholic sects which may be traced to him ever achieved any significant following in this country or elsewhere.

Joseph René Vilatte: Schismatic in Wisconsin

The wild career of Arnold Harris Mathew is only rivaled by that of Joseph Rene Vilatte. He was born in France in 1854 and raised as a member of the schismatic Petit Eglise. He found his way into the Catholic Church and in and out of several seminaries, the last of which he left denying most of the doctrines of the Church. He became a Presbyterian lay preacher in northern Wisconsin, and managed to charm the Episcopalian bishop of Fon Du Lac, Dr. J.H. Hobart Brown, into recommending him to the Swiss Old Catholics for priestly ordination.

Vilatte was ordained to the priesthood in a schismatic ceremony in Switzerland by the old Catholic Bishop Herzog on June 6, 1885.23 That year, Vilatte came to Wisconsin to establish an Old Catholic settlement under the jurisdiction of the Episcopalians, and managed to cause a considerable amount of trouble for both the Catholics and the Episcopalians. "Old Catholic I am - Old Catholic I will be," Vilatte proclaimed on his return.24 He published a "Sketch of The Belief of The Old Catholic" in 1889.25 In his book he explains: "Old Catholics are as far removed from Protestantism on the one hand as they are from Romanism on the other; in a word, that they are Catholics without any other qualification." He stressed: "...The Government of The Church ought to be democratic, unlike that of the Roman Church. " 26

He soon became dissatisfied with the Episcopalians, and attempted to align himself with the Russian Orthodox. After yet another change of heart, he decided to try his luck with the schismatic Old Catholics of Utrecht once again. In 1890, he appealed to them and asked that he be consecrated a bishop. Quite wisely, they refused. He then sought out and obtained his consecration from the schismatic Mar Julius I, Metropolitan of The Independent Catholic Church of Ceylon, Goa, and India, on July 15, 1891.27 In Mar Julius's own words: "We...thank God that He has mercifully shown us the way out of the slavery of Rome," referring to the hope of joining Vilatte and his followers in America to his heretical sect.28 Out of allegiance to the Ceylonese schismatics, Vilatte, chose a new name for himself, Mar Timotheos.

On his return to Wisconsin, it became apparent that these goings-on were too much for the new Episcopal Bishop of Fond du Lac, Charles Chapman Grafton, who felt obliged to warn his faithful that Vilatte had nothing to do with the Protestant Episcopal Church. 29

In 1894, Vilatte had only a few followers to support him in Wisconsin, so he sought reconciliation with the Holy See in desperation. 30 This failed since the terms were for him to return as a layman. 31 He then consecrated a number of other bishops for some schismatic Polish congregations in the United States. 32

He passed some time in England where he sought to obtain some sort of financial support for his work. Bishop Grafton learned of this and wrote a letter of warning to The Church Times.

Grafton pointed out that the associates of Vilatte in Wisconsin were rather shady characters, citing the fact that one of Vilatte's associates was in prison, another was in an insane asylum, and that yet another was wanted by the police. Of Vilatte he said, "I know of no clergyman or layman in my Diocese who has any other opinion of Vilatte but that his proper place is in the penitentiary."

Vilatte then left England and attempted a reconciliation with the Holy See for the second time, and almost simultaneously consecrated Paolo Miraglia-Gulotti, in secret, as Old Catholic Bishop for Italy.33 He then went to France and caused a considerable amount of trouble in Paris for Cardinal Richard. On June 13, 1900, Rome issued a decree of major excommunication against Vilatte and Miraglia-Gulotti.

Vilatte left France for Canada, but soon returned in 1907 where he ordained Louis-Marie-Francois Giraud to the priesthood. Giraud had been a Trappist who had left his monastery and made a name for himself as a magician and an occultist.

Vilatte then returned to America after his failures in Europe and began to operate as a free-lance Archbishop in Chicago.34 Some time after 1910, he consecrated Carmel Henry Carfora a bishop, among others. After failing as Old Catholic Archbishop of North America, he formed his own sect: "The American Catholic Church," in 1915.35

Once again desperate for funds, he returned to France, in 1925. He sought the help of a certain Mgr. Bricaud, alias "Johnny Bricaud," a Gnostic writer on black and white magic.36

In 1925, for a third and final time, he sought reconciliation with the Church.37 He was sent to the Cistercian monastery of Pont Colbert in Versailles to do penance. He was not permitted to perform any liturgical functions, even though he did manage to consecrate one of the novices a bishop in secret. He died in 1929 and was buried as a layman. 38

Between 1898 and 1929 Vilatte consecrated at least seven bishops in Europe and North America. There is no way of determining exactly how many priests he ordained. In Anson's book on the Old Catholics we learn that Cardinal Merry del Val had decided that Vilatte's ordinations and consecrations had been commercialized. The Cardinal personally believed, therefore, that they could not be regarded as valid.

Some Old Catholics Today: The Ultrajectines Of Necedah

If what we have presented on the history of the Old Catholic sects is not enough to convince traditional Roman Catholics to avoid them, a more current example should settle the question.

We have chosen, for the sake of our discussion, the American National Church, Roman Catholic Ultrajectine, now centered in Necedah, Wisconsin, a sect headed by a certain Archbishop Edward M. Stehlik.

We will begin by paging through an official publication of this sect called "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life." 39 It bears the "Imprimatur" of Archbishop Stehlik. We will limit ourselves to making a few comments on some of the statements contained therein.

In his introduction, we find Stehlik expressing the desire that the booklet will clarify questions about the position which he holds. Indeed it does, since we discover that the booklet is "In Loving Memory of: "Arnold Harris Mathew, Rudolph de Landas-Berghes and Joseph Rene Vilatte.

On page 1, Stehlik claims that the "American National Catholic Church, also known as the Old Roman Catholic Church, was established in Wisconsin by the French Archbishop Joseph Rene Vilatte (1887)."

Having established the origins of his sect with Vilatte, he goes on to say on page 2 that the Old Roman Catholic Church "...is actually the historical Roman Catholic Church, in principle, doctrine, sacraments and rules, according to all of the ecclesiastical laws." Pius X, who excommunicated one of Stehlik's predecessors in the episcopate, Mathew, would no doubt be greatly surprised.

We are then treated to a dishonest account of the history of Jansenism. We are given the impression that the condemnation of Jansenism as heresy by the popes was nothing more than a political ploy.

Somewhat more honestly, on page 3, we are told how Bishop Varlet "consented to consecrate a bishop for the Dutch, and thus began the Old Roman Catholic Church," an assertion which apparently contradicts Stehlik's earlier claim that his sect is "actually the historical Roman Catholic Church."

Almost understandably, the booklet gives no account of she escapades of Arnold Harris Mathew and Joseph Rene Vilatte, although they apparently claim to trace the origin of their sect to these two colorful gentlemen.

On pages 11 and 12, we find that they claim that the collective body of the episcopacy in union with the pope is the center of Catholic unity. Further, they claim that the pope always owes obedience to the collective body of the Catholic episcopacy. The fact that this statement is heretical is obvious.

Further, we learn that this sect does not recognize the authority of any Council after that of Nicea, a claim which they share with other schismatic and heretical bodies.

When we turn to page 16, we are amazed to discover the claim that "The Old Roman Catholic Church was never excommunicated by Rome." The fact of the matter is that, whenever the Old Catholics of Utrecht consecrated a new bishop in Holland, they would send a notice to the pope, who would send them a fresh decree of excommunication. Further, there is the matter of the excommunication of Mathew by Pope St. Pius X.

On pages 17 and 18, we find further denials of the dogma of infallibility. "...The Pope, as 'first among equals' acts publicly as the 'voice of his equals' for the Roman Catholic Church." Again, the fact that this is heresy is self-evident.

On page 19, we find that celibacy is optional for the members or the clergy in the American National Catholic Church, Roman Catholic Ultrajectine.

On page 18, we find that the true history of Old Catholicism is conveniently ignored once again. We are led to believe that the Jansenists of Utrecht consecrated bishops and sent them to the United States to evangelize. The facts we have cited above regarding Mathew and Vilatte put this contention to rest, however. Utrecht refused to consecrate Vilatte to the episcopacy, and cut off all ties with Mathew after he performed consecrations without their permission. In this country, the sect to which Stehlik belongs was founded by the successors of these two "Bishops at Large."

On pages 22 and 23, we learn that this sect permits divorce and remarriage.

One could go on for quite a while quoting page after page of the bizarre claims and assertion made by Archbishop Stehlik in his pamphlet. The point is, it's simply not worth the time. It should be evident to any Catholic that the American National Catholic Church, Roman Catholic Ultrajectine is heretical in its teaching in faith and morals. As well, it should be evident that the true origins of this sect are with Vilatte and Mathews, both of whom were, throughout most of their lives, insistent on the fact that they were outside the Roman Catholic Church.

The Ultrajectines: Certain Reservations

As we mentioned in the beginning of the article, Stehlik's sect has recently given its approval to the activities of a Mrs. Mary Ann Van Hoof in Necedah, Wisconsin. Mrs. Van Hoof claims to have had visions from the Blessed Mother, beginning in 1950. The Catholic Bishop of LaCrosse, well before the Second Vatican Council, investigated her claims and refused to give any credence to them.

In recent years, however, Archbishop Stehlik appeared on the scene. He decided that his sect could approve Mrs. Van Hoof's alleged visions.

On Good Friday, April 13, 1979, Stehlik was present during one of the alleged apparitions. The message which Our Lady was supposed to have given appeared in a paper published by the shrine. We cite part of it: "Some of you present are wondering about the Bishop present. This Bishop has his heart with God, his heart with the Holy Mother. He can become your Bishop. It is entirely up to you. But there has to be a thorough understanding with him and your flock... That would be an answer to all your prayers. The Old Catholics are honorable and respectable Catholics, you need not fear them..." 40

If Mrs. Van Hoof is to be believed, Our Lady says that Catholics have nothing to fear from heretics who deny papal infallibility, permit divorce and distort history. If Mrs. Van Hoof is to be believed, apparently Our Lady must have had strong words of reproach for Pope St. Pius X, who did not share such a high opinion of the Old Catholics.

Such statements from Mrs. Van Hoof make it rather clear that the person responsible for the visions at Necedah is not Our Lady, but Mrs. Van Hoof. How could the Mother of God approve heresy, sacrilege and schism?

Additionally, one is inclined to have certain reservations about both the Ultrajectines and the apparitions which supposedly bestowed a heavenly blessing upon their work after reading some of the allegations which came to light last year (1979) when a television station examined some of the claims of Archbishop Stehlik. The series was broadcast on WISN-TV in Milwaukee, and we quote an account printed in one of the newspapers there: "Leaders of the religious sect associated with the shrine at Necedah that is headed by Mary Ann Van Hoof have been accused in a series now being broadcast by WISN-TV (Channel 12) of misrepresenting themselves.

The series...challenges the religious credentials of Archbishop Edward Michael Stehlik, Father David Javore, and Brother Glen Goergen of the American National Catholic Church...

According to the programs... Stehlik of Milwaukee lied in his claim to have been in a monastery from 1962 to 1968. He was married in 1966, the series states...

The series states that Stehlik claimed to have been at the Carmelite Monastery at Holy Hill for four years, but the monastery said that there was no record of the stay. He also claimed to have a degree in chemistry from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, but the school said that his last recorded status there listed him as a sophomore.

On film, Stehlik asked to end the interview during a discussion about his attempts to become an Episcopal priest and his claim to be affiliated with an Episcopal church in Watertown.

The series also states that Stehlik was excommunicated from the Old Catholic Church... after he reportedly went to a service dressed in what was described as witchlike garb and babbled unintelligibly. The excommunication also cited two marriages and devil worship, the programs says.

Goergen, whose radio program, 'The Hour of Truth,' was broadcast over WBCS until two weeks ago, was married and divorced twice, according to the Channel 12 series. His program has been broadcast over seven radio stations nationally.

The series stated that he spent time in jail for non-support of his family, lost a paternity suit, was once charged with disorderly conduct, was arrested for delivering a controlled substance and lost a civil judgment involving the beating of a 16-year old boy.

On camera, he admitted that he had ...(taken obscene photographs)... while he was using drugs.

Javore is the pastor of St. Joseph the Worker Hall, the worship center adjacent to the Necedah shrine . . .

He apparently claims to have been ordained by the Church of Gospel Ministry. Reporter McLauchlan noted that he, too, was ordained by the church after sending in $15. He was also informed that for another $25 he could become a bishop..."41

Please bear in mind that what we have cited thus far should serve as a warning to traditional Catholics who might be led astray by the claims of the many similar Old Catholic sects one comes across in this country. Put simply, our point is that one never knows what to expect when one is dealing with Old Catholics.

Realize as well that the many inconsistencies one may discover in present-day Old Catholic doctrines and practices most probably may be traced to the inconsistent doctrines and practices of their predecessors, Mathew and Vilatte.

Old Catholic Sects: General Observations

We will now make a few observations of a more general nature, drawn from our research for this article, and from our own contacts with the representatives of various Old Catholic sects over the past few years.

1. The first thing one notices when one begins to study these sects is that there are indeed a large number of sects calling themselves Old Catholic. It seems that there are about as many as there are Old Catholic bishops. Professor Parkinson might observe that "The number of Old Catholic Churches is directly proportional to the number of Old Catholic bishops available."

2. This phenomenon is joined to the fact that the Old Catholics foment what seems to be a never ending series of schisms among themselves. This is explained by the fact that they began in schism. It is understandable, therefore, that they should have so many schisms among themselves.

3. Old Catholic clergy are inclined to excommunicate each other at the slightest provocation. (At the drop of a miter?) This is borne out by Peter Anson's book on their forebears, and by studying some of their more recent activities.

4. A typical fiction which an Old Catholic will try to promote is a denial that his group is schismatic or heretical. Invariably, such a person will point to another group, supposedly distinct from his own, and say that it is schismatic or heretical. For instance, an Old Catholic may tell you AWe are not Old Catholics, but Old Roman Catholics. There is a difference. The other group is schismatic and heretical. We are legitimate." Such talk is nonsense. There are no real differences among all these groups, no matter what name they go by. They all originate, in some tenuous way or another, in the Jansenist heresy and schism. Common sense tells us that if something was hatched from a duck's egg, if it looks like a duck, if it walks like a duck, and if it quacks like a duck, it is probably a duck.

5. Most of these groups distort history in an attempt to prove their claims. A quick reading of some of the literature they publish demonstrates this. They distort the Jansenist controversy and avoid giving an honest account of the outrageous activities of Mathew and Vilatte.

6. Virtually all members of the Old Catholic groups are apostates, that is, they were formerly members of the Catholic Church, who joined the Old Catholics later in life. Almost no one in this country is born an Old Catholic, and one would be hard put indeed to find an Old Catholic clergyman who had not formerly been a Catholic.

7. For the most part, these sects are presided over by clergymen who are ignorant in matters of religion. Some are trained for a short period of time by ignorant superiors, others "study on their own for a while, others grant themselves degrees from non-existent universities, while still others are simply ordained without any pretense of an education at all.

8. As well, old Catholics promote the false notion that valid ordination renders their work legitimate. We know, however, that the heresy and schism which they have promoted in the past and which they continue to promote in the present can never be rendered legitimate by "valid ordination." St. Thomas is very specific on this point: "I answer that, as was said above, heretical, schismatical, excommunicate, or even sinful priests, although they have the power to consecrate the Eucharist, yet they do not make a proper use of it; on the contrary, they sin by using it." 42

9. In most cases, it is impossible to prove that an ordination or consecration performed by an Old Catholic bishop in this country is unquestionably valid. In Europe, the question is less complicated, since the Jansenist sects enjoy a certain amount of stability. In this country, however, there exists a multitude of different Old Catholic sects. Consequently, no one has a centralized and comprehensive body of certified documentation which keeps track of the lines of the ordinations and consecrations performed in all these splinter groups. This casts some doubt upon the validity of the orders they claim to possess. Since the Catholic Church teaches that one cannot act if there is a positive doubt regarding the validity of a sacrament, one is obliged to treat their clergymen as though they were invalidly ordained.

Finally, what are the consequences if you assist at the services performed by members of these sects or receive the sacraments from them?

1. You commit sin. St. Thomas is very clear on this point: "Heretics, schismatics and excommunicates have been forbidden by the Church's sentence to perform the Eucharistic rite. And therefore, whoever hears their Mass, or receives the sacraments from them, commits sin." 43

2. You violate Church Law. "The faithful are not allowed to assist actively in any way, or to take active part in the religious services of non-Catholics." 44

3. You deny the Faith. Active participation in non-Catholic worship "is simply a denial of the Catholic faith, and a recognition of an unorthodox form of worship." 45

4. You worship God falsely, since you "mingle errors and deception with the worship of the true God." 46

5. You are suspected of heresy. "Whoever acts contrary to the prescriptions of canon 1258 and takes part in non-Catholic services (even if the service is one that heretics have in common with us... is suspected of heresy. (c. 2316)" 47 (old code of canon law)

It is clear, then, from what we have said in this article that no Roman Catholic should have anything to do with "Old Catholicism," no matter what name it goes by. History proves this, a study of modern-day Old Catholic sects proves this, and Catholic theology proves this.

Our Lord exhorts us in the Holy Gospel to judge a tree by its fruit. Our study has shown that the fruit borne by the old Catholic movement, from Jansenius to Dollinger to Vilatte to Mathew to the present day, has been heresy in doctrine, chaos in discipline, ignorance in preaching, doubt and schism in the conferral of the sacraments and ultimately the loss of many souls who have been led outside of the fold of Christ.

Let us pray that faithful Catholics are not deceived by these sects, and let us pray those in error may by the grace of God be led back to the unity and truth which the one true Church alone can give

I am indebted to one of the seminarians of the Society of St. Pius X at Ridgefield, Connecticut whose research made this article possible. A.C.

FOOTNOTES

1. M.L. Cozens, Handbook of Heresies, (London: Sheed and Ward, 1928; reprinted by Canterbury Books, 1979), p 76

2. Ibid.., p 77.

3. Ibid.., loc. cit.

4. John F. Clarkson, S. J., el al., The Church Teaches, (New York: B. Herder, 1955; reprinted Rockford, Il.: TAN, 1973), p 249. In his Bull In Eminenti Ecclesiae Milantis of 1642 prox., Pope Urban VIII condemned Augustinus.

5. Ibid.., p 249 ff.

6. Cozens, op. cit., p 78.

7. Ibid.., loc. cit.

8. pamphlet, "Encyclical Letter of Pope St. Pius X, Pascendi Dominici Gregis and Lamentabili Sane," July 3, 1907, (Boston, Mass.: St. Paul Editions), p 57

9. The Rev Sidney A Raemers, Church History,, (London: B. Herder Book Co., 1941), p. 425

10. Ibid.., loc. cit.

11. Ibid.., loc. cit.

12. Peter Anson, Bishops At Large, (London: Faber and Faber, 1964), p 29 (This book is considered the definitive work on the history of Old Catholic sects)

13. Raemers, op. cit., p 426.

14. Ibid.,. loc. cit.

15. Anson, op. cit., p 172.

16. Paul Maria Baumgarten, "Old Catholics," The Catholic Encyclopedia, (New York, Robert Appleton Co,: 1912), vol. XI

17. Anson, op. cit., (Anson devotes a chapter of this remarkable book to Mathew, and another chapter to the sects which derive from him)

18. Ibid.., p l65.

19. Acta Apostolicae Sedis, year III, vol. III, no. 2, Feb. 15, 1911, (Translated by Father William Jenkins, SSPX)

20. Anson, op. cit., p 418. By way of explanation, please note that such conditional re consecrations are a common characteristic among these sects. This is largely due to the doubts many of their clergy secretly harbor about the validity of their apostolic succession.

21. Ibid.., p. 435 ff.

22. Bob Cubbage, pamphlet "Tridentine Latin Rite Church," (Spokane: Inland Register, 1980), p 34. The consecration look place in October, 1971. Schuckardt formed his own sect and later repudiated Brown. Schuckardt appears to claim that his episcopal orders may be traced back to Arnold Harris Mathew. Mathew was, as we mentioned above, excommunicated by Pope St. Pius X.

23. Anson, op. cit., p. 95.

24. Ibid.., p. 97.

25. Ibid.., p. 98-99

26. Ibid.., p. 99.

27. Ibid.., p. 107.

28. Ibid.., p. 106.

29. Ibid.., p. 109.

30. Ibid.., p.111.

31. Ibid.., p. 112.

32. Ibid.., p. 113.

33. Ibid.., p. 120.

34. Ibid.., p. 123.

35. Ibid.., p. 124.

36. Ibid.., p. 126.

37. Ibid.., p. 126.

38. Ibid.., p. 128

39. pamphlet, "I Am the Way the Truth and the Life=@ (Milwaukee: American National Church, Roman Catholic Ultrajectine; May, 1979). The pamphlet adds the initials "S. T. L." after Stehlik's name. The initials generally signify that someone holds a Licentiate in Sacred Theology, a type of graduate degree granted by Pontifical Universities. Stehlik, however, does not provide any evidence to substantiate his claim.

40. leaflet "God Willed It," {Necedah, Wis.: Queen of the Holy Rosary, Mediatrix of Peace Shrine; pub. after May, 1979), p. 1

41. article "Shrine leadership under fire," Milwaukee Journal, (December 1, 1979; page 5). It was with some hesitation that we included the foregoing quote from the Journal. In the interest of propriety we have, in one case, omitted the descriptive language used by the paper.

41 Saint Thomas Aquinas Summa Theologiae, Part III, Q 82, a. 9.

48. Ibid, op. cit.

44 Code of Canon Law, canon 1258.

45. Dominic M. Pruemmer, O. P., Handbook of Moral Theology (New York: P. J. Kenedy and Sons, 1957), p. 90 46. H. Jone, Moral Theology, (Westminster, Md.: Newman Press 1962), p 97

47. Falher Slater, A Manual of Moral Theology, (London: Burnes, Oates and Washbourne, 1928) p 70.


APPENDIX

The Excommunication of Arnold Harris Mathew

Unto his beloved Catholic Sons dwelling in England

Pius X, Supreme Pontiff

Beloved Sons, Greeting and Apostolic Benediction.

In the pale of a grave and enduring scandal, it is with the most profound grief of soul that We have learned that priests of your country, namely Herbert Ignatius Beale and Arthur William Howarth, of the clergy of Nottingham, seeking their own glory rather than that of Jesus Christ, and being carried away by the fire of ambition, having attempted on various occasions to be elevated to the episcopal dignity by non-Catholics, have recently proceeded with such temerity that, having obtained their wish, they have arrogantly announced unto Us that they have procured episcopal consecration. Nor does their announcement lack authentic testimony; for he who was the principal author of this sacrilegious crime, the pseudo-bishop Arnold Harris Mathew, has not feared openly to confirm this deed, having transmitted to Us letters swollen with pride. And, moreover, he has not hesitated to arrogate unto himself the title of "Anglo-Catholic Archbishop of London."

Turning Our thoughts and Our solicitude first of all to you, Beloved Sons, of whose constant and devoted good will we have ever received such illustrious testimony, We vigorously exhort you to guard zealously against their frauds and snares.

Furthermore, lest We should appear to betray Our office, being faithful to the examples of Our Predecessors, We hereby proclaim the aforesaid consecration to have been illegitimate and sacrilegious, and to have been performed in a manner wholly contrary to the mandates of this Holy See and the sanction of the Sacred Canons.

The above-named priests, therefore, namely Arnold Harris Mathew, Herbert Ignatius Beale, and Arthur William Howarth, and all others who lent aid, counsel or consent to this nefarious crime, by the authority of Almighty God, we hereby excommunicate, anathematize, and solemnly command and declare to be separated from the communion of the Church and to be held for schismatics, and to be avoided by all Catholics and especially by yourselves.

Having administered this indeed bitter but most necessary medicine, We exhort you also, Beloved Sons, to join your fervent prayers to Ours, beseeching God that He deign mercifully to lead back to the sheepfold of Christ and the port of salvation these unhappily errant men.

That with the aid of God you may the more readily obtain this desire, We impart unto you with all Our heart the Apostolic Benediction.

Given at Rome, at Saint Peter's, under the Ring of the Fisherman, the eleventh day of February, 1911, in the eighth year of Our Pontificate.

PIUS X, SUPREME PONTIFF


Commentary

The foregoing was translated by Father William Jenkins (SSPX) from the official Latin edition of Acta Apostolicae Sedis, year III, vol. III, no. 2, February 15, 1911.

In Father Stanislaus Woywod's A practical Commentary on the Code of Canon Law, (London: B. Herder, 1939), we read on page 439 that there are several requirements for a person to considered excommunicated as a "vitandus" ("one who is to be avoided").

The requirements are that (1) one must be excommunicated by name by the Apostolic See, (2) the excommunication must be publicly proclaimed, and (3) the decree or sentence must expressly state that the person named must be avoided. It is clear that the requirements are met in the foregoing decree.

This decree should be a sufficient indication of how the Church regards those who get involved with Old Catholic sects.

 

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