Old Catholic Church

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The Old Catholic Church is a religious denomination that split from the Roman Catholic church in 1870. The founders of the movement were mainly Germans who were deeply disturbed by the promulgation of the dogma of Papal Infallibility at the First Vatican Council of 1869-1870.

In the spring of 1871 a convention in Munich attracted several hundred attendees, including Church of England and other Protestant observers. The most notable leader of the movement, though quickly alienated from it, was the important church historian and priest Johan von Doellinger, who had already been excommunicated over the affair.

The convention decided to form a new church, to be called the "Old Catholic Church" to distinguish themselves from what they saw as novelty in the Catholic Church. At their second convention they elected the first Old Catholic bishop, who was ordained by a Jansenist bishop in the Netherlands. In 1874 they abandoned the requirement of priestly celibacy. The church received some support from the government of the new German Empire of Otto von Bismarck, whose policy was increasingly hostile towards the Catholic Church in the 1870s and 1880s, especially during the Kulturkampf period from 1871-1877.

The Old Catholic Church shares some doctrine and liturgy with the Roman Catholic Church. It has never grown as much as the founders thought it might.


The Old Catholic Church is a religious denomination that split from the Roman Catholic church.

The Old Catholic Church shares much doctrine and liturgy with the Roman Catholic Church, however it tends to be more liberal.

The Old Catholic Church traces its origins through the see of Utrecht in the Netherlands, to the founding of that see c. A.D. 696. However, the see itself did not split from the Roman Catholic Church until the Pope tried to sack Archbishop Peter Codde of Utrecht in 1701, urged on by the Jesuits. (The Archbishop resented the attempts by Jesuits to interfere with the affairs of his diocese, and they had multiple times accused him of being a Jansenist, a claim he denied.) The Dutch refused to accept the replacement the Pope had appointed, and Codde continued in his office; however he resigned in 1703. A replacement Archbishop was not elected until 1723.

The Pope later, in 1853, established his own Catholic hierarchy in the Netherlands, to rivial the hierarchy established by the see of Utrecht. Thereafter in the Netherlands the Utrecht hierarchy was refered to as the "Old Catholic Church", to distinguish it from the "new" Catholic Church established by the Pope.

After the First Vatican Council in 1870, many Austrian, German and Swiss Catholics rejected the teaching on papal infalliability, and left to form their own churches. These churches were supported by the Archbishop of Utrecht, who ordained their priests and bishops; later the Dutch were united more formally with many of these Austrian, German and Swiss Catholics under the name "Utrecht Union of Churches".

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