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The Old Catholic Movement--Our Attitude Toward It
By William Chauncey Emhardt

American Church Quarterly volume 30, 1931
pp 134-139

THE interest of the Episcopal Church in the Old Catholic movement has been intimate since the inception of the movement. At the General Convention of 1871 a report of the movement was submitted by the Joint Committee on the Italian Reform movement, of which the Right Rev. Arthur Cleveland Coxe was Chairman.

In the Journal of the Convention we find the following records:

The Bishop of Albany moved that the following minute be entered on the Journals of this House:

"We, the Bishops of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, having our attention called to the published report of the proceedings of the Alt-Catholic Congress, recently assembled in Munich, put on record the expression of our earnest sympathy with the heroic struggle for religious liberty now making by the members of that Congress; and of our anxious hope and fervent prayers that God may give them counsel and might to maintain and carry out the determination to 'reject all dogmas set up under any Pope, in contradiction to the teaching of the primitive Church, and to hold fast to the Old Catholic faith,' as it was by the Apostles delivered to the Saints."

The Bishop of Pennsylvania offered the following resolution:

"Resolved, That in the judgment of this house it is highly desirable that the Rt. Rev. Bishop of Maryland should visit Europe for the purpose of ascertaining the state and condition of the various reformatory Church measures recently inaugurated there, in Germany and Italy, and that he present the results of his observations to the House of Bishops, at his own convenience."

The Joint Committee presented to the General Convention 1874 through the Bishop of Maryland the following preamble and resolutions, viz:

Whereas, This House has, with great satisfaction, learned by the report of several of its members, the steady progress of the movement in Germany and elsewhere, toward the recovery of purity in doctrine and discipline, and the earnest desire and effort developing in connection with that movement for the reconciliation of portions of the Church now more or less dissociated; therefore

Resolved, that this House, with renewed confidence, reiterates the expression of its sympathy with the Bishop and Synod of the Old Catholic communion in Germany, and the promise of its prayers for the Divine Blessing and direction on their work.

Resolved, that three Bishops be appointed a Commission of this House, to keep up fraternal correspondence with the Bishop and Synod, for exchange of information and consideration of overtures for reconciliation and intercommunion between sundered Churches.

Which were adopted.

The Presiding Bishop appointed as such Committee, the Bishops of Maryland, Pittsburgh, and Albany.

The Convention of 1880 was marked by the attendance of Bishop Herzog of the Church of Switzerland who was received by and addressed both houses. The report of the Joint Commission contains "a translation of the Order for the Holy Communion, from the Gebetbuch of the Christian Catholic Church of Switzerland."

In the Journal of the Convention of 1883 we find the following interesting items:

Three years ago, Bishop Herzog, of the Christian Catholic Church of Switzerland, was an honored guest among us. Soon after his return home, he issued a pastoral letter, on Intercommunion with the Anglo-American Church, which is one of the best apologies for the Anglican Church in existence. A pamphlet printed in Berne, giving together with this pastoral, a report of a lecture delivered by the Bishop in several of his Churches, and a reprint of letters written by him to Der Katholik, of Berne, during his stay with us, is an admirable tract to circulate amongst those understanding German who desire to know what the American Church really is. The editor of the Deutscher Merkur, in reviewing this pamphlet, says, "We might be tempted to look upon the flourishing Episcopal Church of America, which is apostolic as to its constitution, scriptural in its teaching, and primitive in its liturgy, withal humane, national, tolerant, and patriotic--we might be tempted to look upon this Church with envy, could we not rather rejoice heartily at being in communion with it, in the bonds of faith and love." In the latter part of October, 1881, Bishops Reinkens and Herzog visited England, by invitation, and were there the guests of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Bishops of Winchester and Lincoln, attending service in several Churches, and taking part in public meetings at Cambridge and at Lincoln. Soon after his return to his own land, Bishop Reinkens, in his turn, issued a pastoral letter, showing not only how closely he had observed what he had seen, but how carefully he had studied the principles and the history of the English Church.

On the accession of the present Archbishop of Canterbury to the Primacy, Bishop Reinkens and Bishop Herzog wrote to assure him of their congratulations and prayers. The Archbishop's response evinced the same hearty sympathy with the Old Catholics which had ever been shown by his predecessor.

The Journal of the Convention of 1889 contains two important items. It has been hoped that Bishop Reinkens, and Dr. von Schulte would be the guests of the Convention, but he was forced to decline. The reply of Bishop Reinkens to the letter of the Bishops inviting him, is as follows:


Your brotherly invitation to the House of Bishops, triennially assembled in council, and about to meet in October of this year, has deeply touched me, and caused me to rejoice with cordial sympathy and approval. So much the greater is my regret that I cannot at this time respond to your friendly invitation. When your esteemed favor reached me, I had already agreed upon, and made arrangements for, a Conference with the Old Catholic Bishops of Holland--the Archbishop of Utrecht, the Bishop of Haarlem, and the Bishop of Deventer--who with Bishop Eduard Herzog of the Swiss Church, will meet at Utrecht, September 24. Important matters are to be considered.

If God spares my life and strength so long I should be glad, three years hence, to respond to an invitation to the next General Convention, preferably in company with my friend, Bishop Herzog (who still recalls with pleasure his presence with you in 1880), and with Privy Councillor Von Schulte.

The assurance that you might expect from my visit great advantage to your Church, and also for the German fellow citizens of your country, confuses me; though with all my powers I always have a good will everywhere, as God leads me, to bring into just estimation the profit to us all of Jesus Christ. With you, I am most assuredly convinced that a brotherly intercourse between us would be a gratification to the Old Catholic Churches, and would promote our religious life. For the religion of Jesus Christ is, in itself, the peace of nations; the more we experience its verity in ourselves, the more closely it brings us toward one another, the more cordially it unites us, in spite of all diversity of languages, because it speaks a language that is intelligible to every human heart--that of Love.

I remain, Right Reverend Brethren in Christ, with esteem and affection, Most faithfully yours,

DR. JOSEPH HUBERT REINKENS, Catholic Bishop of the Old Catholics of the German Empire.

Dr. Von Schulte's letter was of like tenor. The impression made in Germany by the invitation to Bishop Reinkens is testified to in a letter from the Church Board of the Old Catholic Church at Carlsruhe to the Bishops sending the same. They say in it:

We have read with heartfelt joy your letter to our beloved Bishop, Dr. Reinkens, containing an invitation, in itself an honor to our whole community, to be present at the triennial Synod of your Church; and we regret very much that a multitude of pressing engagements prevents him from accepting your hospitality. We trust he may be able to attend your next Synod. We, however, wish to place on record our appreciation of your kindness. We feel honored in the eyes of the world that the venerable Episcopal Church of America, called "a bulwark for the defense of Christianity" by our well known theologian, Dr. Von Döllinger, of whom we are justly proud, should take an interest in the Old Catholic Church. The fierce attacks of her enemies make such sympathy all the more valuable, and it will be impossible for our opponents to hide from themselves the importance of this approach toward a closer intercommunion. We also are convinced that such intercommunion would be of unspeakable benefit to our fellow-countrymen in America, as well as to the Old Catholic cause in general.

The second item of importance was the receipt at the close of the Convention of a letter from Bishop Herzog of an ac-- count of the Council of Utrecht, including the Declaration of Utrecht quoted in our last article. The letter further states:

At this Conference it was also stated that the Churches represented and administered by the five Bishops were in full communion.

The five Bishops also expressed their intention of being present at an International Old Catholic Congress, to be held next year (probably at Cologne). In a Pastoral Letter, published in De Oud-Katholick of Rotterdam, the Archbishop of Utrecht, announcing to his people the results of this Conference, says:

"The five Bishops of the Churches in communion under their charge, have hitherto been content with mutual acknowledgment of the presence in each of that 'one and the selfsame Spirit who worketh all in all.' But in token thereof, and for its further confirmation, it has now seemed good to us to meet together in a common Episcopal Conference."

Since the close of the nineteenth century there has existed in America a strong Old Catholic movement largely confined to the Poles who had broken with the Church of Rome. This group had chosen as their bishop the Reverend Anthony Kozlowski, who had come to America as an assistant at St. Hedwig's Polish Roman Catholic Church of Chicago. He was later consecrated by Archbishop Gul of Utrecht, Bishop Herzog of Berne and Bishop Weber of Bonn, November 13, 1896, at Berne. It is important to note that this was immediately after the Bonn Conference held the same year.

Bishop Kozlowski was a Polish Baron, educated in Bulgaria. In early life he was greatly influenced by Bishop Strossmeyer of Croatia, who secured the right to use a vernacular liturgy, and who never published the Vatican Decree of 1870 in his own diocese. For many years he was a close acquaintance of Bishop Grafton of Fond du Lac. As a result of this he was invited to join in the consecration of Bishop Weller as co-adjutor of that diocese Nov. 8, 1900, thus automatically bringing about reunion.

Fearing possible discord in a church not prepared for reunion, Bishop Grafton withdrew his invitation. Undismayed, Bishop Kozlowski addressed to the General Convention 1901, meeting in San Francisco, a plea for recognition based upon the Lambeth Quadrilateral. The Memorial embodying the plea was presented by Bishop Potter of New York.

In this Memorial Bishop Kozlowski quotes the Lambeth Encyclical of 1878:

We gladly welcome every effort for reform upon the model of the Primitive Church. We do not demand a rigid uniformity; we deprecate needless divisions; but to those who are drawn to us in the endeavour to free themselves from the yoke of error and superstition, we are ready to offer all help and such privileges as may be acceptable to them, and are consistent with the maintenance of our own principles.

This memorandum was referred to a committee of three bishops to report to the next meeting of the Bishops in Council. The House of Bishops met April 21, 1902, after the Bishops had arisen from Council the Bishop of Vermont offered the following resolution:

Resolved, that in reply to a communication addressed to the Bishops by Bishop Kozlowski, that the House would communicate to him in reply, with the friendly greeting of the Bishops, that a Committee has been appointed, with the Bishop of Chicago as Chairman, to consider the whole question of inter-communion between the Polish Old Catholic and Protestant Episcopal Church.

At the same meeting of the House of Bishops,

Resolved, that the Bishop of New York and other of the Bishops of this Church who may attend the Synod of the Old Catholics at Bonn in August next, be requested to communicate to that Synod the warm and brotherly greetings of the Bishops of this Church.

At a special meeting of the House of Bishops in Philadelphia, October 2, 1902, this resolution was adopted:

Whereas, the Right Reverend Anthony Kozlowski. a Polish Catholic Bishop, consecrated by the Old Catholic Bishops of Europe presiding over congregations of their own nationality in this country, has accepted the terms of the Chicago-Lambeth proposals for unity, and has further assured us of his refutation of Roman errors, and has applied to us on these grounds for recognition and intercommunion; therefore

Resolved, That the Bishops, not assuming to recognize the organization of the Church of which he is Bishop, extend to him their Christian salutations and assurances of affectionate sympathy and interest in his work,

Resolved, That a Committee of five Bishops be appointed to consider and propose the terms of inter-communion and jurisdiction, and report to the next meeting of the House of Bishops.

Bishop Kozlowski died before the Committee could meet.

Future developments leading to the ill advised consecration of Bishop Mathew as head of an Old Catholic movement in Great Britain and the unfortunate creation of the Mariavite Church justify the caution at the time. It is also doubtful whether at that time the attitude of the Church as a whole towards Christian unity had advanced sufficiently to seek unity in a Catholic as well as a Protestant direction. It is interesting however, to quote from an address of Bishop Potter before the Church Club of New York:

Bishop Kozlowski's consecration is unimpeachable. The movement of which he is head, the Old Catholic Movement, is one of great interest and importance. I think it would be a wise move for this Church to recognize Bishop Kozlowski. I have great hope in our relation to the Old Catholic Movement It is of wider importance than any other which has so far appeared on the horizon.

REV. DR. WILLIAM R HUNTINGDON stated: The present advance is sincere, and I do not see how the Church can do other than meet it cordially. I can say that there is no constitutional difficulty in the way of recognition of this Polish Movement.

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