Apostolic Succession

Our Bishops, Priests and Deacons Are Validly Ordained!

Our Apostolic Succession Comes Through the Utrecht Old Catholic Line of Succession

The Diocese of Utrecht, Holland , was founded in AD 722 by St. Willibrord. the right of the Chapter of Utrecht to elect the bishop of the Diocese was recognized in AD 1145. In AD 1520 the Bishop of Utrecht was given the right to adjudicate matters in his diocese without appeal or recourse to Rome . In AD 1559, when the war with France had ended, Philip II of Spain , the hereditary ruler of the Netherlands , persuaded the Pope to elevate the See of Utrecht to an archbishopric, with five new dioceses under it ( Haarlem, Deventer, Groningen, Leeuwarden and Middelburg).

Having survived the Calvinist Reformation in Holland as an underground Church, the Dutch Roman Catholic faithful were suddenly subjected to the political ambitions and maneuverings of the Jesuits, who fought to have Rome declare the See of Utrecht a missionary district under their control. At first failing in this battle to gain control of the Church in Holland, the Jesuits adopted a new tactic in AD 1691 by accusing +Peter Codde, the Archbishop of Utrecht, of espousing the so-called heresy of Jansenism. Although the Archbishop was eventually proved innocent of heresy. Pope Innocent XII tried to appease the Jesuits by suspending and deposing him in AD 1705. No mention was made of any reason for the deposition. Even a Papal canonist, Hyacinth de Archangelis, issued a formal opinion that a Vicar-Apostolic with the rights of an Ordinary (as + Codde undoubtedly was) could not be arbitrarily deposed. Two Dutch Catholic Chapters ( Utrecht and Haarlem ) naturally decided not to recognize this irregular, if not illegal, act. The battle was over local autonomy in a collegial Church versus Papal supremacy.

When the Papacy appointed +Theodore de Cock as Pro-Vicar-Apostolic of The United Provinces, in the place of Archbishop Peter Codde (deposed), the Chapters of Utrecht and Haarlem further decided not to recognize his authority on the ground that The Patriarch of Rome had no canonical authority to deprive even a Vicar-Apostolic, much less an Archbishop, without trial and condemnation. At the same time the Calvinist government decided that it would prefer a Catholic Church controlled by Dutch Catholics to a Catholic Church controlled by Rome. The government, therefore, issued a decree forbidding +de Cock to exercise any jurisdiction over Roman Catholics in Holland. Later, after accusing the Dutch government of being bribed by the secular clergy loyal to The Archbishop (+Codde), +de Cock was banished from Holland and fled to Rome. Rome countered by placing the Dutch Church under an Inhibition, prohibiting all Bishops from performing any episcopal acts in Holland.

At this point the battle between Utrecht and Rome was not doctrinal, but the results of Jesuit intrigue and their desire to firmly establish the Papacy as an absolute monarchy.

Had Archbishop Codde continued to exercise his authority as The Archbishop of Utrecht, while appealing his uneconomical suspension as Vicar-Apostolic (as Vicar-Apostolic he had diocesan jurisdiction wherever there was no Bishop or Chapter; metropolitan jurisdiction in the other dioceses), the course of Church history may well have seen the defeat of the Jesuit sponsored Ultramontane movement. Unfortunately, +Codde not only protested his suspension but also retired from the exercise of his office. His jurisdiction thus reverted to the Chapters and his people were left without episcopal protection and governance.

It was the position of the Chapter of Utrecht that:

+Both the Province and Diocese of Utrecht, with all their ancient and canonical rights and privileges, still existed. (The Chapter of Utrecht was formally recognized on many occasions by Papal Nuncios even after this date.)

+The Vicariate instituted by Archbishop Philip Rovenius on 9 June 1633 was the canonical reconstitution of the ancient Chapter of Utrecht and possessed all the rights of the Chapter, including the right to elect the Archbishop of Utrecht. (All nominations made hereafter by this Chapter were, in fact, accepted by Rome , including that of Archbishop Codde.)

+ Later archbishops, from +Vosmeer to +Codde, were not only Vicars-Apostolic of the Roman See, but also Archbishops of Utrecht, the true canonical successors of St. Willibrord.

On 25 May 1717, five doctors of the theological faculty of the University of Louvain publicly sided with the Archiepiscopal See of Utrecht by stating that the Church of Utrecht had not been reduced to the status of a mere mission, that the Chapter of Utrecht had survived, and that the Vicariate established by +Rovenius was the ancient Chapter of Utrecht. Later, 102 doctors of theology at the University of Paris , together with the whole law faculty, publicly agreed with the doctors of Louvain . As a result of the support of the theology faculties of two French universities, three French Bishops (Soanen of Senez, Lorraine of Bayeux , and Caumartin of Blois) declared that they were ready to ordain priests for the Chapter of Utrecht, and actually did so.

Upon the death, in AD 1710, of +Peter Codde, the deposed Archbishop of Utrecht, the parish Chapter (exercising its historically recognized right) elected a successor. No Bishop, however, could be found who would ignore the Pope’s Inhibition by consecrating the Archbishop-elect. The Church of Holland continued to send her candidates for the priesthood out of the country for ordination by foreign Bishops; her children, without a diocesan Ordinary, were left unconfirmed. At this point the Jesuits and Rome sought and anxiously anticipated the total capitulation of the autocephalous Dutch Church.

A turning point in the Dutch Church’s struggle with Rome came in AD 1719 when +Dominique Maria Varlet, former missionary priest in The Louisiana Territory in North America, stopped in Amsterdam for a few days on his way to his new post in Persia. A local Dutch priest, Father Jacob Krys, begged the new Bishop to confirm 604 orphans and other poor children as an act of charity, which he did. He then continued his journey to Persia , arriving at his residence at Schamake (now Shemakh near Baku in the Republic of Azerbaijan ) on 9 October 1719. On 26 March 1720, the Bishop of Babylon was presented with a formal Notice of Suspension from his office, sent by the Bishop of Ispahan by order of the Congregation de Propaganda Fide, and delivered by a Jesuit priest (Fr. Bachou) because of the confirmations in Amsterdam . Like the late Archbishop Codde, Bishop Varlet elected not to remain in office while fighting the Papal action. After careful consideration and prayer, the good Bishop immediately left Persia and returned to Amsterdam, where he settled permanently.

The Chapter of Utrecht had meanwhile repeatedly attempted to get the Pope to allow the election and consecration of an archbishop; Pope Innocent XIII ignored their petitions. The Chapter next turned to the leading canon lawyers of the day. They were told that the Chapter had the canonical right to elect their archbishop and get him consecrated without the consent of the Pope (recent precedents in both France and Portugal supported this position). Nineteen doctors of the theological faculty of the Sorbonne ( University of Paris ), and others from Nantes, Rheims, Padua, and Louvain, gave their agreement to this position, as well as assuring the Chapter that in the case of necessity one bishop alone might preside at the consecration.

With the approval of the government, the Chapter met at The Hague on 27 April 1723 and, after a Mass of the Holy Spirit, elected, with all the canonical forms, Cornelius Steenoven to be Archbishop of Utrecht. Although Fr. Steenoven was elected as the candidate likely to be the least objectionable to Rome, the Pope refused to answer the Chapter’s request to permit his consecration. The Chapter finally begged the Bishop of Babylon to consecrate their candidate. He consented. The government also consented to this the first consecration of an Archbishop of Utrecht since the Reformation. Thus at 6:00am on Pentecost XX, 15 October 1724, Cornelius van Steenoven was consecrated in the presence of the whole Chapter by the Bishop of Babylon in Amsterdam to be the seventh Archbishop of Utrecht and canonical successor of St. Willibrord.

The Bishop of Babylon was called upon by The Chapter to consecrate four archbishops for the See of Utrecht before his death on 14 May 1742 at The Hague.

Old Catholic Line of Succession through the Old Roman Catholic Church – English Rite

Antonio Cardinal Barberini, as Archbishop of Rheims, 1657. He consecrated in the Church of the Sorbonne, Paris, the son of the Grand Chancellor of France,

Charles Maurice Latellier, succeeding as Archbishop of Rheims, November 12, 1668. He, in turn, consecrated in the church of the Cordeliers, Pontois,

James Benigne Bossuet, as Bishop of Condom, September 21, 1670. He was transferred to the See of Meaux by Pope Clement X, 1671. He, in turn, consecrated in the church of Chartreuse, Paris,

James Goydon de Matignon, Bishop of Condom, 1693, son of Count De Thoringy. He was Doyen of Lisieux and Abbey Commendantaire De St. Victor, Paris. By order of Pope Clement XI, he consecrated at Paris,

Dominic M. Varlet, as Bishop of Ascalon in partibus, and coadjutor to the Bishop of Babylon, Persia, February 12, 1719. Retiring later to Holland , he died 23 years after in the Cistercian Abbey of Rhijnwick. In response to the appeals of the Chapter of the Old Catholic Church of Utrecht, he consecrated,

Peter John Meindaerts, as Archbishop of Utrecht, October 17, 1739. He had been one of several priests ordained in Ireland by Luke Fagan, Bishop of Meath, afterwards Archbishop of Dublin, with the view of sustaining independence of the ancient Church of the Netherlands , founded by St. Willibrord in the 7th century. By his consecration to the Episcopate, the succession of the Old Catholic Church in Holland has been perpetuated. Archbishop Meindaerts consecrated,

John van Stiphout, as Bishop of Haarlem, July 11, 1745. He, in turn, consecrated,

Wwalter Michael van Nieuwenhuizen, as Archbishop of Utrecht , February 7, 1768. He consecrated,

Adrian Broekman, as Bishop of Haarlem, June 21, 1778. He consecrated,

John James van Rhijin, as Archbishop of Utrecht, November 7, 1805. He consecrated,

Gilbert De Jong, as Bishop of Deventer, November 2, 1805. He consecrated,

Willibrod van Os, as Archbishop of Utrecht, April 24, 1814. He consecrated,

John Bon, as Bishop Haarlem, April 22, 1819. He consecrated,

John van Santen, as Archbishop of Utrecht, June 14, 1825. He consecrated,

Herman Heykamp, as Bishop of Deventer, July 17, 1854. He consecrated,

Gaspard John Rinkel, as Bishop of Haarlem, August 11, 1873. He consecrated,

Gerard Gul, as Archbishop of Utrecht, May 11, 1892. He consecrated,

Arnold Harris Mathew, as Regional Old Catholic Bishop for Great Britain , April 28, 1908, at St. Gertrude’s Church, Utrecht . He was elected Archbishop in 1911. He had been ordained to the Priesthood by Archbishop Eyre, at St. Andrew’s Roman Catholic parish, Glasgow June 24, 1877. He consecrated,

Landas Berghes, on June 29, 1913. He consecrated,

Henry Carmel Carfora, on October 4, 1916. Carfora was elected Archbishop of the United States for all Old Catholics. He consecrated,

Robert Alfred Burns in 1956. He consecrated,

Macario Lopez Y Valdez (1926) Mexican National Catholic Church. He consecrated,

Alberto Rodriguez Y Duran (1930) Mexican National Catholic Church. He consecrated,

Emile F. Rodriguez-Fairfield (1955) Mexican National Catholic Church. He consecrated,

Patrick Joseph Callahan (1983), The Ecumenical Catholic Diocese of California.He consecrated,

R. Augustin Sicard (1985) The Ecumenical Catholic Diocese of the Americas.He consecrated,

C. Daniel Gincig (1995)The American Old Catholic Church of Colorado. He consecrated,

Peter Elder Hickman (1996), Ecumenical Catholic Communion. He consecrated,

Armando Leyva (2011), Ecumenical Catholic Communion.