Carissime in Christo
“Deus est fidelis qui est fidelis ad eum”[i] may as a motto serve as a summation of that which the Mass lections in Lent strive to teach us i.e. how best to appreciate and serve our God for as long as He wills us to serve Him in this mortal life. As we enter the New Year 2018, we commend this motto to you together with this prayer, “… omnia in nobis vitiorum mala mortifica; ut fidem tua, quam lingua nostra loquitor, etiam moribus vita fateatur.”[ii] that we may enter into this new year with a refreshed resolve and commitment, emboldened by the example of the Comites Christi whose Octaves with that of the Nativity we are currently celebrating.
Scripture foretells of an “age of apostasy”[iii] that will precede the Second Coming of Our Lord Jesus Christ. It is becoming apparent to many that such an age has crept upon us, though only a few voices in recent years have prophetically admonished us. If we regard the Papal voices of the past two hundred years we can perceive how this gradual realisation of apostasy has been noted but not averted. We recall firstly Leo XII’s first encyclical[iv] of 1824 admonishing us against “indifferentism” and misperceived “tolerance” which have developed in our day to “relativism” and “subjectivism”. Or his successor, Pius VIII, who lamented the spread of godless philosophy and the privileging of natural reason in Traditi Humilitati[v] in 1829, which today has become “neo-atheism” and “naturalism”. We recall the first encyclical of Gregory XVI Mirari vos[vi] in which his words for the defence of holy matrimony and against an erroneous understanding of freedom of conscience are at once recognisable to our own contemporary complaint, but have been so miserably corrupted in our own day.
We recall the last Bishop of Rome of the 19C, Leo XIII to whom it was granted to overhear a heavenly discourse[vii] which prompted him to urge the whole Church to seek the intercession of St Michael the Archangel[viii]. We remember also, Pius X who admonished the faithful to guard against that pernicious ideology called “modernism”[ix] and who prescribed an oath against the same to bind the clergy[x] to orthodoxy. But we note however that their predecessor Pius IX had already succumbed in reactionary manner to these insidious influences and lost sight of the righteous cause by overstating rather than guarding the deposit of faith, conflating custom with doctrine, culture with ideology and perverting, no doubt unintentionally, the purpose of his office to “confirm the brethren”[xi]; similarly the majority of their successors enjoyed the same fault, so that for the better part of these past two hundred years, the barque of Peter has been without the benefit of a firm grasp upon its rudder. Resulting, regrettably, in the sorrowful state we behold today, the destruction of the liturgy, the desolation of the sacred spaces and the papalotry that is the ruin of the contemporary exercise of the Petrine Office.
It is in this regrettable milieu of apostasy and corruption of the sacred that we Old Roman Catholics have, though not without injury, sustained and remained the faithful remnant of Western Catholicism. It cannot and should not be denied that even within our own movement, there have been many more “hirelings”[xii] than shepherds and many who have fallen prey to the same insidious idolatries of man that have wrought today’s chaos and confusion in the Church. There are those given to the same reactionary exaggerations as so-called “Traditional” Catholics, so infected with papalotry they have lost sight of that “single deposit of the faith”[xiii] that once sacred office was meant to guard; and there are those who have completely capitulated to the modernism forewarned, that though they retain all the exterior raiment of Tradition, they espouse heresies and false doctrines without cognisance nor appreciation for the tragic results of their, perhaps unintended apostasy and derogation of the Faith. Both present a misrepresentation of Old Roman Catholicism that has caused great damage to our movement and obscured our purpose. Some even claiming to be “guardians” of the legacy they spite by their false doctrine and praxis.
There are few today who can recognisably be said to safeguard the legacy of Archbishop Mathew (memory eternal). Recognising in 1910[xiv] the failure of our later Ultrajectine brethren to remain steadfast to the faith and praxis of the Apostles, +Mathew was forced to concede that despite the frailty of his own humanity, it was incumbent upon himself to preserve intacto that same “single deposit of the faith once delivered to the saints”[xv] that both Ultramontane and papalotrous Rome and then apostatising Utrecht were failing to maintain, infected with the pernicious influences of the contemporary zeitgeist and both responding in erring reactionary fashion. His Grace, in true spiritual and intentional form turned to the East for assistance in this endeavour and found there that “right-belief” pertaining to that consistent canon of faith holding fast to “quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est”[xvi] and recognising the necessity regarding Rome’s erring and Utrecht’s folly, determined and achieved a communion with an Apostolic See, that of St Peter at Antioch[xvii]. This much overlooked achievement of reconciling the faithful remnant of the Latin West with the Greek East is where our present energies concerning ecclesiology have turned focus in recent Synods and is truthfully what may be regarded as the most important element of +Mathew’s legacy. For all the divergent appreciations of +Mathew and of those who have truly preserved his legacy for the Church, what distinguishes them from others is generally this lesson, “He that feareth God will do good”[xviii] and as +Mathew’s motto stated “Quod Deus vult, vult erit”[xix].
Primarily at fault in today’s vestiges of Christendom, is the over reliance on humanity, indeed one is tempted to suggest that the heresy of Arius, far from being extinguished, is still infecting large swathes of the Church. The appreciation of the Incarnation has focused too much on the human aspect to the detriment of the Divine, so that emphasis in understanding the Summary of the Law[xx] has shifted to the second part “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” ignoring the “greatest and first” command “Love the Lord thy God”[xxi] upon which it is contingent. It is only in loving God first that one can truly begin to love one’s neighbour as one should. If we consider the ideologies that have manifested themselves today, “relativism”, “subjectivism”, “neo-atheism” and “naturalism” we see how this emphasis on “the creation” rather than the Creator is the root cause of the apostasy the Church is suffering. The pre-occupation of self, i.e. “me, myself and I” that is the world’s mantra, has infected the psyche of Christians such that they are unable to see with the eyes of faith, hope without self-reliance and love without consideration of themselves first. It is in this wise that we see that the Devil, the great adversary of the Church, has enjoyed success in this past century particularly, as perhaps Leo XIII’s prophecy and Our Lady of Fatima[xxii] warned us. For though God did indeed become one of us, He did so that we might become one in Him i.e. perfected, holy, without the falleness and brokenness of our human condition, but as wholly reconciled created beings with our Creator as He had originally conceived of and intended us.
This is why the mission of the Old Roman Catholic Church to maintain the Catholic Faith as it was ever revealed and held fast to in the West for over 1800 years before the manifestation of apostasy began, is so vital and integral to the mission of the Church today. The developments in doctrine[xxiii] and liturgy that have taken hold since the nineteenth century demonstrate the struggle and the resistance necessary to preserve the Apostolic Faith and Tradition whole, without the aid of apparitions[xxiv] and visions to reveal new dogmas[xxv] and without the reactionary attempts to revitalise the liturgy and prayer of the Church. It is necessary only to maintain that “which has been believed everywhere and by all” preserving that “single deposit of the faith once delivered to the saints” by God Himself in “the Word made flesh”[xxvi] in the fullness of His Incarnation replete in the Divine Revelation of Our Lord Jesus Christ. It is not insignificant, not mere coincidence surely, that the Faith espoused by Archbishop Mathew and the Old Roman Catholic Church was at once recognisable to and in harmony with that of the Orthodox East, expressly without the later and reactionary developments of Pius IX of infelicitous memory i.e. without the exaggeration and hyperbole of pious doctrine and conflagration of temporal power. We have “the pearl of great price”[xxvii] in the Old Roman Catholic Church for the kingdom of God is within us[xxviii] who are faithful to God.
Thus it was indeed an honour and a privilege last November to attend the holy Synod in Chicago of those jurisdictions committed to the true and orthodox continuance of +Mathew’s legacy and to ordain new clerics into minor and major Orders. In 2018 we will celebrate not only the centenary of the Diocese of Chicago, but the ordinations of two new priests to serve it! These young and committed men are our hope for the future of Old Roman Catholicism and their nascent ministry in Chicago the prospect of a revival in that city which was at one time, the foundation and core of Old Roman Catholicism in North America. It was humbling to stand at the grave of Archbishop Carfora who founded the diocese and to see some of the churches and buildings that were lost due to a downturn in past fortunes and faith. That there are still, despite the ravages of time, clergy and faithful in that place hopeful for a resurgence of the Faith’s orthodox Western expression, is testimony indeed to their forbears who, though much materially has been lost along the way, planted such seeds of faith that an additional late blooming now looks possible. We look forward to returning to celebrate the diocese’s centenary and ordinations later in 2018. Holy Synod has entrusted the administration of the diocese to Fr Nioclás Ó Ceallaigh OFM confident in his vision for a revival in that place and we ask your prayers for this great work and endeavour so many are already tirelessly and sacrificially committed to.
On the first Sunday of the holy season of Advent we were reminded by the Apostle that “our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed”[xxix] and certainly this must be true, not just chronologically but also prophetically. Though Our Lord admonishes us not to pay heed to doomsayers[xxx], with every day that passes the Lord’s Second Coming inevitably draws nearer. So then should our desire for Him grow stronger every day, our lives toward holiness advance and our manifestation of charity grow ever deeper and broader in its expression in our lives. On the feast of the holy confessor bishop, S. Sylvester I of Rome, we were reminded in the Gospel[xxxi] of our stewardship of God’s providence and how we are charged to sacrificially serve Him and each other. We should be ever mindful of the example of the early Church described in Acts, where “… all they that believed, were together, and had all things common. Their possessions and goods they sold, and divided them to all, according as everyone had need.”[xxxii] Remember it was the deacons[xxxiii] who had charge of the stewardship of such things and we would do well to recall, especially in times of trial, the example of blessed S. Stephen the Protomartyr who whilst suffering “…being full of the Holy Ghost, looking up steadfastly to heaven, saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God. And he said: Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.”[xxxiv] The blessed deacon was given a vision to inspire him and embolden him to continue to bear witness to the truth of the Gospel, which ultimately he did as he expired[xxxv] asking forgiveness of his murderers as Our Lord had forgiven His upon the Cross[xxxvi]. Finally, let us conclude with this account from S. Jerome’s Commentary on Galations 6:10[xxxvii] remembering that after God, we love each other…
“The blessed John the Evangelist lived in Ephesus until extreme old age. His disciples could barely carry him to church and he could not muster the voice to speak many words. During individual gatherings he usually said nothing but, “Little children, love one another.” The disciples and brothers in attendance, annoyed because they always heard the same words, finally said, “Teacher, why do you always say this?” He replied with a line worthy of John: “Because it is the Lord’s commandment and if it alone is kept, it is sufficient.”
In this wise may we grow in our mission and purpose as Old Roman Catholics, faithful to God, trusting in His faithfulness to us and bearing witness to the kingdom of God within us, “…quoniam ex ipso et per ipsum et in ipso omnia ipsi gloria in saecula. Amen.”[xxxviii]
With full assurance of prayers
In Circumcisione Domini 2018AD
[i] “God is faithful to those who are faithful to Him” Homilies, Jerome Lloyd 2010
[ii] “…do to death in us all the malice of sinfulness, that our lives may also proclaim Thy faith, which our tongues profess.” Cf Collect of the feast of the Holy Innocents
[iii] Matthew 24:10; 1 Timothy 4:1; 2 Timothy 4:3; 2 Thessalonians 2:3
[iv] Encyclical Ubi Primum May 5, 1824
[v] Encyclical Traditi humilati May 24, 1829
[vi] Encyclical Mirari vos August 15, 1832
[vii] Tremblay, Joe (1 February 2013). “The 100 year test”. Catholic News Agency.
[viii] Decree Iam inde ab anno 6 January 1884 of the Sacred Congregation of Rites.
[ix] Encyclical Pascendi Dominici Gregis September 8, 1907
[x] Motu proprio Sacrorum antistitum September 1, 1910
[xi] Luke 22:32
[xii] John 10:13
[xiii] Jude 1:3
[xiv] Declaration of Independence from Utrecht, December 29, 1910
[xv] Jude 1:3
[xvi] “that which has been believed always, everywhere and by all” St Vincent of Lérins, Commonitorium
[xvii] August 5th, 1911, at Bredon’s Norton, Worcestershire with Metropolitan Gerassimos Messarra of Beirut as Patriarchal Legate
[xviii] Sirach 15:1
[xix] “What God wills, will be.”
[xx] Matthew 22:34-40; Deuteronomy 6:1-19; Mark 12:28-34
[xxi] Matthew 22:37
[xxiii] 2 Timothy 4:3 “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears…”
[xxiv] Galatians 1:8-9 “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.”
[xxv] 1 Timothy 4:1-3 “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils…”
[xxvi] John 1:14
[xxvii] Matthew 13:46
[xxviii] Luke 17:21
[xxix] Romans 13:11
[xxx] Matthew 24:4-13
[xxxi] Matthew 24:42-47
[xxxii] Acts 2:44-45
[xxxiii] Acts 6:2-3
[xxxiv] Acts 7:55
[xxxv] Acts 7:58-59
[xxxvi] Luke 23:34
[xxxvii] “Therefore, whilst we have time, let us work good to all men, but especially to those who are of the household of the faith.”
[xxxviii] Romans 11:36 “For of him, and by him, and in him, are all things: to him be glory for ever. Amen”