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What is Old Catholic?


Rev. M.I. Moise

By Rev. Mother Meredith Moise, SPSA

The Old Catholic Church is a collection of Catholic churches centered in northern Europe as well as German speaking areas of the European Union. Many of these churches broke away from the Church of Rome (the Roman Catholic Church) during the First Vatican Council 1869-1870 over the dogma of papal infallibility. In 1853, the phrase "Old Catholic" was used to describe the churches within the See of Utrecht (Netherlands). Many of the Old Catholic churches of Europe are part of the See of Utrecht, while the independent Old Catholic churches of the US derive their apostolic succession from the same See.

Old Catholicism arrived in the US with the immigration of Joseph Rene Villatte. Villatte was ordained to the diaconate and priesthood by Bishop Eduard Herzog of the Old Catholic Church of Switzerland in 1885. In 1892, Fr. Villatte went to India where he was consecrated a bishop by the Patriarch of Antioch.

Other Independent Old Catholic bodies in the US trace their roots to Arnold H. Mathew in 1908. He was consecrated in the city of Utrecht by Archbishop Gerhardus Gul. The See of Utretch sent Bishop Mathew to the US to propagate the teachings of the Old Catholic Church.

In Baltimore, MD, there are Old Catholic parish communities and ministries under the jurisdiction of the North American Old Catholic Church.  These parishes and ministries serve people of all walks of life from a variety of ethnic and racial groups. The message of Old Catholicism has gone beyond its original ethnic enclaves to embrace people from every conceivable life circumstance. There are parish communities in Morrell Park (St. Michael the Archangel), Dundalk (Sacred Heart of Jesus) and West Baltimore (St. Angela Merici). There is also a media ministry headquartered in Baltimore as well (Immaculate Heart of Mary). As Old Catholics celebrate the 140 anniversary of their Church, Baltimore will be center of activity within the Church in the upcoming months.

In late February 2010, there will be 2 ordinations and 1 consecration in the Baltimore area. On Saturday, February 20, Deacon Bill Christ will be ordained to the priesthood. Dr. Ubaldo Leli will be ordained to the diaconate during the same mass. On Sunday, February 21, Fr. Joseph Steward will be consecrated a bishop. He will be the first bishop of the Diocese of Delmarva, a fairly new diocese within the North American Old Catholic Church. For more information on these ordination, consecrations and ministries, visit .


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