Who are the Old Romans?
Old Romans are simply Catholics working and praying together for the restoration of the faith and traditions of the Church, through the preservation of the authentic Catholic liturgy, promotion of orthodox faith, devotion and witness through social action.
Old Romans believe all the truths of the Catholic Church as taught throughout her history, and are ready to submit to a truly orthodox Pope. Meanwhile, Old Romans aim to provide peaceful and harmonious communities of priests, religious, and lay faithful creating local oases of truth, fellowship and prayer for all who seek God and His Will.
Old Romans welcome to our chapels and missions all those of good will, and support all attempts by those who confess the same faith and reject Modernism to try to find answers to the often vexing questions posed by the current situation in the Church. We hope to help Catholics rediscover their traditional faith and values.
We remain Roman Catholic, with our allegiance to the everlasting Rome of truth and tradition, resigned in these unhappy times in which we live to submit ourselves entirely to the unseen Will of God. In the present crisis in the Church’s hierarchy, we count on God alone to bestow His blessings and approval on our enterprises, and we look to the powerful protection and guidance of Christ our King.
Truth between two extremes
In the aftermath of the passing of Pope Pius XII in 1958, and notably following the momentous conclusion of the Second Vatican Council in 1965, it has become increasingly evident to men of faith and goodwill that a profoundly significant event has transpired within the walls of the Vatican. The prophecies delivered by Our Blessed Lady at La Salette, which foretold the loss of faith in Rome and the rise of the Antichrist, now surge forth with an eerie relevance. Are we truly witnessing the unfolding of these prophetic visions? A substantial number of individuals ardently contend that we currently dwell amidst these turbulent times. Others may hold reservations, yet they cannot dismiss the disconcerting sensation that something inexplicably awry permeates our surroundings. Delving into the essence of an entity by scrutinizing its outcomes and repercussions provides us with a deeper comprehension of its true nature. Through the lens of this criterion, it becomes unequivocally apparent that the aftermath of Vatican II has bore fruit in the form of desolate and barren churches, an alarmingly pervasive abandonment of faith, and a disheartening scarcity of vocations. The once hallowed abodes of worship have undergone a tragic metamorphosis, transmogrifying into dreary and uninviting meeting places, where sacraments now bear the unsettling shadow of doubt and uncertainty. This gradual erosion of authenticity has left devout individuals with an insatiable hunger for the spiritual nourishment and unwavering guidance that have seemingly become scarce commodities in our present reality. Further modifications to the liturgy, adopting secular attitudes and approaches to contemporary issues. As we reflect upon the seventy years since the advent of Vatican II, we cannot help but harbor a profound disappointment in the outcomes thus far achieved.
With the experience of sixty years since the new Mass was introduced, Catholics are finally recognizing that there is a more effective way of reacting to the apostasy of Rome. The way forward lies in the acceptance of God’s will, foretold by the prophecies of his Blessed Mother at La Salette and Fatima, and the understanding that the very difficult times in which we live must be handled by the Catholic principles of two thousand years, based on the cardinal virtues of faith, hope and charity. We keep the Faith of our Fathers, we hope for the restoration of that Faith in the leaders of the post-conciliar Church, and above all we maintain our love for God and our fellow Catholics, whatever persuasion they may have been enticed to follow. This love is demonstrated chiefly by our commitment to serving the needs of these Catholics, particularly in what concerns the eternal salvation of their souls. The Old Roman apostolate is thus committed to preserving the treasures of the Church, her true apostolic Mass and sacrificial worship taught us by our Divine Saviour, her moral precepts and values, and even her cultural pearls of architecture, music, and fine art whose beauty raises the soul to God. Our work of preservation lies chiefly in the priestly works of providing the faithful with the sacraments, the source of these treasures, and to instruct and counsel the faithful according to the Church’s ancient faith and time-tested principles. It is now up to the faithful we serve to respond to the Old Roman apostolate by joining us in our prayers that the modernists may be driven out of Rome, and that all these treasures of the Church may be fully restored. Please help the Old Romans to help the Church! We are certain that the indefectibility of the Church relies not upon the character and actions of Popes but on the continuity of the apostolic faith and lived experience of the Church throughout the ages.
Since Vatican II, many groups calling themselves Traditionalists have sprung up all over the world. They all began with good intentions, and certainly, many souls have been led to a more godly life through their efforts. But unfortunately, these early traditionalist groups quickly realized that they no longer answered to a higher authority. This awareness of their new power proved too great a temptation for many, and the smoke of Satan drifted from the conciliar church into the traditionalist movement. Some priests became morally lax, others sought to fill their pews for financial gain. New ideas of what was authentically Catholic emerged, opinions which were elevated into dogmatic beliefs never sanctioned by the Church. Groups separated into sedevacantists, others who sought reintegration with the new Church, and yet more who claim to recognize the Pope while resisting his authority. To the extent they maintained and promoted the traditional Catholic Mass and the true Faith of our fathers, we must acknowledge the contribution of all these groups. However, it is regrettable that so many became fixated on their own agenda, seriously damaging the very cause they claimed to promote. Much too often, the faithful have been scandalized as division follows division and scandals abound. Good people who just want to be faithful Catholics instead find themselves repulsed and disillusioned. When they go to Mass they are criticized and humiliated by tyrannical or greedy clergy and “holier-than-thou” fellow parishioners. They are denied the sacraments on mere whims, and bullied into paying homage to priests more interested in their own opinions and bank accounts than in the glory of God or the zeal for souls. There are many good priests out there, but unfortunately their silent and prayerful apostolates are too often submerged in the swamp of scandal that the traditionalist world has come to represent
Are you a separate “Church”?
No! Historically the term “church” was used to denote a localised or distinctive community of faith, NOT a separate denomination from the Catholic Church. Dioceses are technically and often referred to as local “churches”. In the same way Eastern Catholic and Uniate Rite “churches” use the term to denote a specific community distinguished by ethnicity, culture, geographical region, discipline or liturgical rite.
When Pius IX erected a new See of Utrecht in 1853, the original local “church” in Holland became known as “Old Roman” and its members “Old Roman Catholics”. No declaration of schism nor separation was made by the bishops of this original local “church”. Today the Holy See even regards Eastern and Oriental Orthodox communities as “particular churches” though separated from full ecclesial communion.
✠Bernard Mary Williams in his Constitution of 1925 proposed the Old Roman Catholic Church as a “pro-uniate rite” i.e. a distinguishable community within the Catholic Church with a distinctive discipline, like those aforementioned Eastern Catholic or Uniate Rites, with a view to reconciliation with the Holy See. However, following the gradual changes to the liturgies of the Latin Rite throughout the 20C, Old Romans have arguably become even more distinguishable by their adherence to unchanged liturgical praxis and perennial Catholic doctrine.
Today, the term “Old Roman apostolate” is used to avoid the suggestion of a separate Church i.e. denomination from the Catholic Church; better signifying the motivation and aim of Old Romans to preserve what has always been Catholic for the restoration of, and eventual reconciliation with, the Holy See.
Why are you called “Old Roman” Catholics?
We are called Old Roman Catholics because…
a) we are descended from the Roman Catholic Church and the original historic See of Utrecht in the Netherlands, which despite having been forced underground during the Protestant Reformation, had yet persisted and persevered; and
b) because we maintain the Catholic Faith as it had always been believed by western Latin Rite Catholics. (The recent dogmas of the Immaculate Conception [Ineffabilis Deus 1854], Papal Infallibility [Pastor Aeternus 1870] and the Assumption of Mary [Munificentissimus Deus 1950] were regarded previously as “pious doctrine”.)
In 1145 Blessed Pope Eugene III granted the Cathedral Chapter of Utrecht the right to elect successors to the See in times of vacancy. This meant that, unlike most other Sees in the Roman Catholic Church, the Cathedral Chapter of Utrecht could elect bishops without permission or approval from the Pope. This had always been the practice in the early Church. In 1215, the Fourth Lateran Council (Canons 23 and 24) confirmed this privilege.
Another significant right granted the Church of the Netherlands was its immunity from prosecution by Roman Catholic courts of canon law constituted outside the See of Utrecht. In 1520, Pope Leo X decreed in his papal bull Debitum Pastoralis that the Bishop of Utrecht, his successors, his clergy, and his laity should never be tried by an external tribunal of canon law. If any such proceedings did take place they were null and void. This extraordinary right had been granted by Pope Leo X at the request of Philip of Burgundy, who was the reigning prince-bishop of Utrecht at the time
Then in 1691, the Jesuits falsely accused Archbishop Peter Codde, the occupant of the See of Utrecht, of favoring the so-called Jansenist heresy. (We say so-called Jansenist heresy because no one has ever yet succeeded in finding the repudiated heretical statements, either in substance or in form in the, “Augustinus” of Bishop Cornelius Jansenius, where the Jesuits pretended to have discovered them.) Despite the Archbishop’s subsequently proved innocence of heresy, the influence of the Jesuits was so great that they persuaded the Pope to issue a secret brief suspending and deposing Archbishop Codde. Neither the names of his accusers, nor the charges made against him were ever made known to him, nor was he permitted to offer any defence. All this happened despite the aforementioned special privileges granted the See of Utrecht. This created a breach which was never healed, though Pope Clement XIV was favorably disposed towards the grievously wronged Church of Utrecht.
“We accept with the greatest willingness, and without any exception whatever, all the articles of the Holy Catholic Faith; we will neither hold nor teach, now or afterwards, any other opinions than those which have been decreed, determined and published by our Mother, the Holy Church, conformably to Holy Scripture, tradition, the acts of the Ecumenical Councils, and those of the Council of Trent.
We reject and condemn everything opposed to them, especially all heresies, without any single exception, which the Church has rejected and condemned; we also detest every schism which may separate us from the communion of the Catholic, Apostolic and Roman Church and of its visible head on earth; in particular we reject and condemn the Five Propositions condemned by the Holy See, which are stated to be found in the book of Jansenius called The Augustinus.
We promise as well for the future as for the present, fidelity, obedience and submission, in all things to His Holiness the present Pope Leo XII, and to his successors, according to the canons of the Church; and also to maintain respectfully, to teach and to maintain in accordance with the same canons, the decrees and Constitutions of the Apostolic See.” Formulary of Utrecht 1823
Despite the repeated requests and affirmed desire of the See of Utrecht to reach a canonical solution of the breach, in 1853 Pope Pius IX established another Roman Catholic hierarchy in the Netherlands. This existed alongside that of the original Roman Catholic See of Utrecht. Thereafter in the Netherlands the Utrecht hierarchy was referred to as the Old Romans to distinguish them from those instituted by the Pope. In the mind of the Holy See, the Old Roman Catholic See of Utrecht had maintained Apostolic Succession and its clergy thus celebrated valid sacraments in every respect.
We are called OLD because we reject Modernism and every recent innovation of doctrine while adhering faithfully to the doctrine and discipline of the Church of Apostolic times. We are called ROMAN because the line of our Apostolic succession from the first century until 1739 was held in common with the rest of the Roman Catholic Church and also because we use the Roman Rite without addition or change, employing the Pontificale, Missale and Rituale Romanum with great care and exactitude as to matter, form and intention in the administration of the seven Sacraments. We are CATHOLIC because our ministry is not confined to any one nation or place or time, but ministers to all men, in all places, for all time, teaching the same Faith once delivered by Our Lord Jesus Christ, to the Apostles.
Are you “schismatic” Roman Catholics?
Old Roman Catholicism is not a sect nor schism as some of its self-constituted enemies may claim. Old Roman Catholics acknowledge the Bishop of Rome historically and spiritually as the Patriarch of the West and our priests pray for the Pope in the Canon of their Masses to express the desire for unity that should exist amongst Western Catholics. A thorough reading of history clearly indicates that Old Roman Catholics did nothing schismatically to warrant Pius IX’s institution of another hierarchy in the See of Utrecht in 1853, nor taught anything that was not always considered to be Catholic faith and practice.
In traditional papal encyclicals, a “schismatic community” is a Christian community adhering to valid sacraments but without recognizing the primacy of place of Rome or the importance of the papacy. This cannot be levelled at the Old Romans whose various attempts to reconcile with the Holy See clearly betray a recognition of the primacy of the Popes. But after the promulgation of the decrees of the Second Vatican Council and the Novus Ordo Missae that followed it, such attempts became frustrated. Immediately following the aftermath of the Second Vatican Council, it was Old Roman missions and Mass centres that made available the Traditional Latin Mass for Catholics faithful to Tradition. Traditional Catholics familiar with the history of resistance to the Novus Ordo are familiar and appreciative of this Old Roman legacy in the days before the SSPX and other Traditionalist congregations were founded, some of whom owe their existence to Old Roman interventions and foundations.
Old Romans believe and maintain, as we have always done since 1691, that these irregular proceedings against the original Church of Utrecht, based, as they were, upon charges which were proved at the time to have been groundless, were null and void and in direct contravention of the privileged rights of the See of Utrecht for immunity from prosecution outside her territory. Add the uncanonical actions of Pope Pius IX in 1853, again contravening a privilege granted the See of Utrecht in 1145 re the election and thus appointment of her own bishops and despite the majority opinion of academic canon law faculties being in our favour and natural justice. Thus it is that we have remained, and are still in actual technical fact, and not according to any fanciful or far-fetched theory, a continuation of the Roman Catholic Church though estranged from the contemporary hierarchy.
Are you connected in anyway with the Utrecht Union of Old Catholic Churches?
No! In 1870, Dr. Ignaz von Dollinger brought the “Old Catholics” into being to offer resistance to the dogma of Papal Infallibility. In 1873, the Old Roman Catholic Church of Utrecht was prevailed upon to provide these “Old Catholics” with a bishop in 1889, and a cooperation took place between the Church of Utrecht and the “Old Catholics”. Though Utrecht was eventually to abandon Old Roman Catholicism, the Church was not to perish.
✠Arnold Harris Mathew of England was consecrated to the Episcopate by Archbishop Gerard Gul of Utrecht at a time when Utrecht was still truly orthodox (1909). At the time of Archbishop Mathew’s consecration at Utrecht, no serious inroads had been made upon the Catholic Faith by the Church of Utrecht, nor had she yet departed in any way from Catholic traditions and practise. But by the end of 1910, the heterodox influence of the “Old Catholics” had proved too much for Utrecht and had overwhelmed her, and so great and far-reaching were the changes which she was prevailed upon to make in her formularies and doctrinal position, that on December 29, 1910, ✠Mathew was forced to withdraw the Old Roman Catholics in England from Communion with Utrecht in order to preserve orthodoxy intact.
Utrecht is no longer Old Roman Catholic but simply “Old Catholic.” Thus it comes about that the ancient and glorious Church of St. Willibrord and St. Boniface has its continuation and perpetuation through the present day Old Roman bishops who feel compelled, in defence of their orthodoxy, to refuse to hold union with either Utrecht or the Continental “Old Catholics.”
What is the difference between Old Roman Catholicism and Old Catholicism?
The honest inquirer must be cautioned not to confuse Old Roman Catholics with those groups calling themselves “Old Catholic.” Much which, in this age, calls itself “Old Catholic” represents some compromise with Protestantism, or in wider digression, with such non-Christian cults as theosophy. Old Romans have no affiliation with such groups as the Polish National Catholic Church, or the Utrecht Union of Churches, the Liberal Catholic Church, the Old Catholic Churches of the Continent or any of the various independent groups which abound in the United States and elsewhere. The heterodoxy of these groups makes union with them impossible.
- Old Roman Catholicism, as ✠Mathew (who preserved it after the apostasy of Utrecht) rightly understood it, was different from Modernist influenced Old Catholicism in the retention of ancient doctrines, formularies and praxis, and from Modernist influenced Roman Catholicism by that same retention of the Catholic Faith as it had “always been believed, everywhere and by all” (St Vincent Lerins)
- Old Romans continue the true Catholic Faith that had always existed in the West akin to that Faith which the Orthodox Catholics had also maintained since the divide between East and West in 1054. To this end, ✠Mathew successfully approached and achieved recognition from the ancient Patriarchal Sees of Antioch (1911) and Alexandria (1912) affecting the first attempted healing of schism between East and West based upon the mutual recognition and maintenance of the ancient Faith of the Church since the Council of Florence.
Are you “Episcopi Vagantes”?
An oft misused phrase and misapplied term regarding Old Roman Catholics is the term “Episcopi Vagantes” (lit. Latin “Wandering Bishops”). This term is often used derogatively and often by those who ought to know better! The answer is an emphatic “no”! An “Episcopus vagans” is a man consecrated validly but irregularly or illicitly (unlawfully) i.e. without ecclesial approbation. Old Roman Catholics claim “canonicity” (licitness/lawfulness) because:
- The canonical dispute between the Holy See and the See of Utrecht about whether the Ultrajectine See could elect its own bishops was never canonically i.e. legally, concluded (Bl. Pius IX ignoring due process and erecting an uncanonical hierarchy in Holland in 1853). Thus, it is only just according to canonical principles to assume that the inalienable right granted by Papal Bull of Bl. Eugene III is still extant and in effect.
- The rightful Archbishop of Utrecht (Gerardus Gul) in 1909 consecrated and commissioned Arnold Harris Mathew as a bishop in accordance with the norms of universal ecclesiastical law (publicly with co-consecrators, employing orthodox form, matter and intention).
- When the See of Utrecht fell into ‘apostasy’ in 1910, Bishop Mathew justifiably declared autonomy from the Ultrajectine See on December 29th 1910 and justifiably claimed her canonical rights and prerogatives for the continuation and perpetuation of the Old Roman Catholic Church from Utrecht.
- On August 5th 1911, [now] ✠Mathew was received by His Eminence the Most Reverend Archbishop Gerasimos Messara of Beirut, Syria and recognised by the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East and a mutual recognition was established between the second most ancient See of Christendom and first “cathedra” of the Apostle Peter and the Old Romans recognised as “orthodox Catholics”.
Thus the term “Episcopi Vagantes” ought not justifiably be applied to Old Roman bishops who, acting in bona fide seek only to preserve and perpetuate the orthodox Catholic Faith.
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