Define Us By Who We Are,
Not By Who We Are Not
A Pastoral Letter
Bishop James Alan Wilkowski
“Master,” said John, “we saw
someone driving out demons
in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us.”
“Do not stop him,” Jesus said,
“for whoever is not against you is for you.”
One of my first goals after being
consecrated bishop in 1997 was to endeavor to educate the general
public of the existence and reality of the Catholic faith being
celebrated beyond the pastoral administration of the Roman See.
After all of these years I must confess that I have failed to make
any significant gains in achieving this goal. For me, it seems
almost insurmountable to counter centuries of Roman and cultural
indoctrinations incorrectly reinforcing the belief that the
celebration of the spiritual, sacramental and liturgical life of
Catholicism can only be validly celebrated within the confines of
the jurisdiction of the Roman See.
For your personal and professional
references, an Autocephalous Church refers to a church body whose
leadership or patriarch is chosen from within the body and is not
inferior to any other church body or jurisdiction.
Catholic history has been extremely
complicated – much more so than people have been permitted to
learn. The greater or unified Catholic Church has split or
separated a number of times. The causes for these splits or
separations have historically involved matters of discipline and
governance rather than other matters of core issues of faith. The
two most profound historic splits, technically referred to as
schisms, occurred in 1054 and 1534.
Eastern Orthodox Catholics and Roman
Catholics are the result of what is known as the East-West Schism
(or Great Schism) of 1054, when medieval Christianity split into two
The Byzantine split with Roman
Catholicism came about when Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne, King
of the Franks, as Holy Roman Emperor in 800. From the Byzantine
viewpoint, this was a slap to the Eastern Emperor and the Byzantine
Empire itself — an empire that had withstood barbarian invasions and
upheld the faith for centuries. After Rome fell in 476, Byzantium
was the only vestige of the Holy Roman Empire.
Charlemagne’s coronation made the
Byzantine Emperor redundant, and relations between the East and the
West deteriorated until a formal split occurred in 1054. The Eastern
Church became the Greek Orthodox Church by severing all ties with
Rome and the Roman Catholic Church — from the pope to the Holy Roman
Emperor on down.
The English Reformation began in 1534
when King Henry VIII (1509-1547) despaired of obtaining a male heir
to succeed him on the throne from his existing wife, Catherine of
Aragon. Therefore, he requested Pope Clement VII to annul his
marriage to Catherine. Since Catherine objected and she was,
moreover, the aunt of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, the Pope
hesitated. Impatient with the delay, Henry acted by repudiating
papal authority and setting up the Anglican Church as the State
Church of England with the King as "Protector and Only Supreme Head
of the Church and Clergy of England". At the time, Henry did not
intend to create a Protestant church along the lines evolving on the
continent under the influence of the moderate German, Martin Luther,
or more radical reformers such as the Frenchman, John Calvin. He
only wanted to be the supreme head of an English Catholic Church.
It remains true and proper for the
Orthodox and Anglicans to be called Catholics and recognized as
members of the greater body of Catholicism.
On July 18, 1870 another schism took
place within the Church of Rome. On that day the First Vatican
Council declared by an overwhelming majority that "the Roman
Pontiff, when he speaks ex cathedra, that is, when in
discharge of the office of pastor and teacher of all Christian, by
virtue of his supreme apostolic authority he defines a doctrine
regarding faith or morals to be held by the universal Church is
possessed of that infallibility with which the divine Redeemer
willed that his church should be endowed."
In other words, the pope is
"infallible" under certain conditions. The decision was sent to the
faithful in a letter titled Pastor Aeternus.
The vote may have made sense to the
Vatican Council, but to others it was not so obvious. Protestants
world-wide denied its claim. So did a percentage of Catholics. To
political analysts, the doctrine seemed politically motivated. The
ideas of the Roman Church were under attack. Italy had confiscated
lands long controlled by the popes. The pope had even fled from the
Vatican for a time. To some analysts it seemed that because the
church could not assert its supremacy in political matters, it was
throwing down a gauntlet in the spiritual realm.
One of the Roman Church's great
historians, Johann Joseph Ignaz von Dollinger wrote a long letter in
which he said that he could not accept the pope's infallibility "as
a Christian, a theologian, a historical student and a citizen."
His strong opposition was echoed by a significant number of bishops
and laity, despite the extreme pressure placed upon them to yield.
Other scholars and about 60,000
Catholic lay people did not yield. They withdrew from the Roman
Church, and began referring to themselves as ‘Old Catholics’. To
them it was a matter of truth. They documented instances when popes,
speaking authoritatively, had made mistakes; a couple of popes had
even been condemned by church councils as heretics.
And as with the Orthodox and the
Anglicans, it remains true and proper for Old Catholics to be called
Catholics and recognized as members of the greater body of
In many ways these historical events
have often been gently suppressed within the ongoing conversation of
the Roman community OR they have been used as propaganda to
reinforce discipline and membership within the Roman ranks and also
to damn, mock or belittle those who have continued their journeys in
faith independent of the Roman See.
The historical record, despite many
attempts of suppression, clearly states that the Catholic faith has
authentically and successfully existed independently of Roman
authority for many centuries, and continues to do so today.
Autocephalous Catholicism in the Modern World
From 1870 to this time in history,
the existence of the Autocephalous Catholic world can best be
described as grains of sand scattered through out the world. Within
the Americas, the most significant expression of growth and maturity
occurring within the movement took place in Brazil and it involved a
Roman Catholic Bishop named Carlos Duarte Costa.
Carlos Duarte Costa (1888-1961) was consecrated as the Roman
Catholic Diocesan Bishop of Botucatu, Brazil, on December 8, 1924,
until certain views he expressed about treatment of Brazil's poor by
both the civil government and the Roman Catholic Church in Brazil,
caused his removal from the Diocese of Botucatu. Bishop Duarte Costa
was subsequently named Titular Bishop of Maura by the late Pope Pius
XII (Eugenio Cardinal Pacelli, formerly Vatican Secretary of State
until 1939, under Pope Pius XI). Bishop Duarte Costa had been a
strong advocate in the 1930s for reform of the Roman Church; he
challenged many of the key issues that the Second Vatican Council
would thirty five years take action upon.
Bishop Duarte Costa's criticisms of the Holy See, particularly about
Vatican foreign policy during World War II toward Nazi Germany, were
not well received at the Vatican, and he was eventually separated
from the Roman Church by Pope Pius XII. This action was taken only
after Duarte Costa's strong and repeated public denunciations over
the fact that the Vatican Secretariat of State was engaged in the
issuance of Vatican Passports to some very high ranking German
ex-Nazis, a practice referred to as the "Ratline."
The Brazilian Government came under the criticism of Bishop Duarte
Costa for collaboration with the Roman Church over these passports.
Costa espoused more pastoral church positions on divorce, challenged
mandatory celibacy for the clergy, and publicly stated his contempt
regarding abuses of papal power, including the concept of Papal
Infallibility, which the bishop considered a misguided and false
Carlos Duarte Costa was taken by his uncle Dom Eduardo Duarte Silva,
now a Bishop, to Rome to study at the American College Boarding
School Pius-Latin, where he completed courses in the minor seminary.
In 1905, he returned to Brazil and entered
the largest seminary in Uberaba, for the Congregation of Augustinian
Priests. There he finished his Philosophical and Theological studies
in the Major Seminary. In 1911, Carlos Durate Costa was
ordained priest and returned to Rome to further his education,
and earned a Doctorate in Theology from the Gregorian Pontifical
University of Rome.
July 4 1924, Pope Pius XI nominated Dom Carlos as the Bishop of Botucatu. His Episcopal consecration took place on December 8, 1924
in the Metropolitan Cathedral of Rio de Janeiro.
the 1930s, he was one of the great articulators of the Catholic
Electoral Union where Catholics also defended the Catholic vote
against politicians. In this, Costa intended to form and to preserve
the Christian principle in the Laws and Acts of Politicians, as for
example, with the enactment of a law to allow for divorce which,
though denied to members of the Roman Catholic Church, is
nevertheless provided for in the Bible. In 1932, on the occasion of
the Constitutionalist Revolution, Dom Carlos Duarte Costa formed a
“Diocesan Battalion of the Hunters", generally known as the
"Battalion of the Bishop" to fight on the side of the
Constitutionalist Troops. For this endeavor, he withdrew deeply from
the fiduciary offices, sold his pectoral gold cross with amethyst
and precious gems, and sold a farm belonging to the Diocese,
demonstrating his deep love of the cause of freedom and to the
democratic institutions. Such acts caused great national
repercussions; there were those who supported it, among then being
Dom Carioca Carlos, who raised the Sao Paulo flag and made many more
compatriots; but there were also those who disapproved and were
envious of his popularity when he was
striving and searching for all the methods and ways of achieving
freedom for the Brazilian people.
In 1936, Dom Carlos Duarte Costa made his second "ad-limina" visit
to Rome to visit Pope Pius XI in the Vatican. He presented him with
various requests for the clergy of his diocese and, consequently,
for the clergy of Brazil. He requested permission for the
maintenance of the largest seminary in his diocese, the celebration
of the Holy Mass and administration of the sacraments in the
vernacular language, namely Portuguese, the permission for clergy to
marry, and the abolition of auricular confession, replacing it with
general or communitarian confession, distribution of Holy Communion
to the laity under both species of the consecrated Bread and Wine,
the institution of the Permanent Diaconate for married laypeople,
the celebration of the Holy Mass "Versus Populi", i.e. facing the
people, with the tabernacle behind the altar, the organization of a
Council of Advice, constituted of Bishops to govern the Church,
together with the Pope, the participation of laypersons in the
administration of the Word, of the Eucharist and in Evangelization.
These requests made by Bishop Duarte Costa were not accepted by the
Pope at that time. However, years later, Pope John XXIII put some of
those suggestions into practice through the reforms of Vatican
President Getulio Vargas, infuriated with Dom Carlos Duarte Costa
for his having convinced a battalion of soldiers from the
Constitutional Troops to join him in his struggle against the
corruption of the government, asked the Holy See for the removal of
Dom Carlos Duarte Costa from the Diocese of Botucatu.
The Vatican could not do it directly, so the Apostolic Nuncio in
Brazil entered into an agreement with the Secretary of the Diocese
of Botucatu to obtain the resignation of Dom Carlos Duarte Costa as
Diocesan Bishop of Botucatu. This secretary, in
the daily documents and reports that Dom Carlos Duarte Costa always
had to sign, placed the resignation letter within a series of
documents, which Dom Carlos Duarte Costa signed as a result of the
The Secretary of the Diocese of Botucatu informed the Holy See that
Dom Carlos Duarte Costa had signed the document mistakenly without
reading it. This occurred in early 1937. The Holy See renounced
claims that it was a forgery, based on the statements of the
Secretary of the Diocese, and the resignation was accepted by Pope
Pius XI on October 6, 1937. After the acceptance of the resignation,
Dom Carlos was appointed Titular Bishop of Maura, an extinct
After his "forced resignation", Dom Carlos Duarte
Costa, definitively abandoned the life of rich capitalism imposed by
the Vatican, and went to live humbly in the city of Rio de Janeiro
as Bishop Emeritus of Botucatu, with title of titular Bishop of
Maura, where he obtained the determined support of his protector,
Cardinal Dom Sebastiao Leme da Silveira Cintra. Dom Sebastiao
granted him permission to keep a private chapel with the Blessed
Sacrament in its residence, along with permission to preside over
the sacrament of marriage, the celebration of festive and solemn
masses, and granted permission to administer the Sacrament of
Confirmation in the parishes where he was invited by the respective
What Dom Carlos had carried through in Botucatu, he was to start
alone. Speaking against the domination that oppressed the poor
Brazilian people and in support of the sacrifices of the working
class, he renounced the luxury and material products obtained
through their oppressed labor. Dom Carlos Duarte Costa intensified
his political work and was critical of the efforts of the Roman
Dom Carlos Duarte Costa had formed a variety of attitudes against
the politics of the Roman Catholic Church. In 1944, he wrote the
preface of the book "the Soviet Power", written by Rev. Hewlett
Johnson, the dean of Canterbury, of the Anglican Church. Such an act
had very major repercussions throughout the country: How could a
Catholic Bishop defend a Protestant Bishop? He criticized the
periodicals and the Encyclicals from the Pope, specifically, Rerum
Novarum of Pope Leo XIII and Quadragesimo Ano and
Divina Redemptoris of Pope Pius XI. He denounced the Roman
Catholic priests of German and Italian nationality residing in
Brazil as agents in the service of German Nazism and Italian Fascism
and as guilty of the destruction of the Brazilian warships in search
of German submarines.
Dom Carlos Duarte Costa continued to live very well in Rio de
Janeiro under the protection of Archbishop Cardinal Dom Sebastiao
Leme da Silveira Cintra, and with the death of his protector and
friend, he was nominated as Archbishop of Rio de Janeiro.
Unfortunately, however, this would change when Archbishop Cardinal
Dom Jayme de Barros Camara began to persecute him, pursuing it to
the extreme and cutting all the Episcopal exemptions that had been
granted to him by his predecessor in the Archdiocese of Rio de
On July 10 1944, Dom Carlos Duarte Costa was forbidden to preach the
Gospel or to hear the confessions of the faithful, the result of a
decision pronounced by the Ecclesiastical Chamber in retaliation for
the pronouncements of the Bishop of Maura against the dogmas and
doctrines of subjugation taught by the Roman Catholic Church.
On June 6 1944, Dom Carlos Duarte Costa, by the order of the
government, facilitated by the Apostolic Nuncio joining the
Brazilian Fascists, was imprisoned and taken to Belo Horizonte in
the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, where he was accused of being a
communist sympathizer and where he remained imprisoned until
September 6, 1944. When the order against the Brazilian Association
of the Press was lifted, the government of Mexico and the United
Nations together intervened with the Brazilian government through
its intermediaries from their embassies in favor of Dom Carlos
Duarte Costa, and he was released from imprisonment.
Several warnings had been given to Dom Carlos Duarte Costa from the
Roman Apostolic administration. But the more he was warned, the more
he defended the Christian faith, the laborers, and his native land
against the Fascists and Nazis in the Church and its hierarchy.
Without any hope of the submission of Dom Carlos Duarte Costa, the
Vatican, enraged, laid against Dom Carlos Duarte Costa, Bishop of
Maura, the penalty of excommunication on July 2, 1945.
When he learned of the excommunication, Dom Carlos Duarte Costa,
responded by establishing the Brazilian Catholic Apostolic National
Church (ICAB) on July 6, 1945. The extract of the statutes of the
new Church was published in Federal official gazette, page 12, 637,
July 25, 1945. The Brazilian Catholic Apostolic Church was
registered in book No 2 of the Civil Societies, under Number 107.966
of Book A, Number 04.
On August 18 1945, Dom Carlos Duarte Costa published in the press of
the world, his "Manifesto
to the Nation", where he criticizes the Roman Catholic
Church and he spoke of his established Brazilian Catholic Apostolic
Although he had already left the Roman Catholic Church and was no
longer a member acting as a bishop of that church in any way, Dom
Carlos Duarte Costa, was declared, "excommunicado vitando" on July
24, 1946, i.e. excommunicated to the severest degree that exists, in
order to prevent Roman Catholics from having anything to do with him
whatsoever. This excommunication for his “schismatic audacity” was
intended to make him “return to the unity of the true Church.”
When Dom Carlos Duarte Costa established ICAB, he continued to use
the same vestments, insignia and the same rites of the Roman
Catholic Church. Thereupon, the cardinals of Sao Paulo and Rio de
Janeiro appealed to the Minister of Justice and to the President of
the Brazilian Republic. On September 27 1948, the Brazilian Catholic
Apostolic Church was closed by virtue of legal action by the Courts
of the Republic. Dr. Haroldo Teixeira Valladao, on July 7 1948,
published the decision in the official Federal gazette on September
25 of that same year.
On November 30 1948, Dom Carlos Duarte Costa turned to the Federal
Court of Appeals and with a Writ of Mandamus, petitioned Judges
Carpenter Luiz and Benjamin for the reopening of ICAB.
The Brazilian Government, through an intermediary, the Minister of
Justice, Dr. Agamenon Magalhaes, on September 22 1948 said, "it is
not the intention of the Government to submit the heads, or
fiduciary offices of the Brazilian Catholic Apostolic Church to any
constraint in its freedom of worship while it uses vestments,
insignia, badges, and different rites than that of the Roman
Reopening the Churches, Dom Carlos Duarte Costa instituted within
ICAB, rites, vestments, proper insignia, and gray cassocks for the
priests. He instituted gray soutanes with cinctures for the bishops,
grey soutanes with red cinctures, red bands and stockings, in
conformity with the order of the Minister of Justice, Dr. Agamenon
Magalhaes, so as not to be confused with the Roman Church.
Carlos Duarte Costa sent missionaries to other countries to
establish National Catholic Apostolic Churches abroad. Some of these
early missionaries were able to establish missions, while others
were pursued, hunted, and even tortured and imprisoned. In spite of
persecution by governments, at the behest of other Churches, the
concept of the Catholic Apostolic National Church took root.
life of Dom Carlos Duarte Costa was irrepressibly evangelical, and
he was distinguished for his absolute chastity, devotion to the Holy
Virgin Mary and to the Eucharist, where he passed several hours
daily, in worship of the most august Sacrament of the Altar.
Therefore, all who have made appeal to the Triune God through his
intercession have been blessed with favors and miracles. Due to
everything he had done, he was granted the honor of the altars
erected by the national episcopate on July 4 – 6, 1970 on Couto
Street, n 54, Penha Quarter in Rio De Janeiro, with the title of
“Saint Carlos of Brazil”.
this point I wish to inject a term and concept that will help us as
we continue with this Letter. I am referring to Apostolic
Apostolic Succession is the doctrine in some of the more ancient
succession of bishops,
in uninterrupted lines, is historically traceable back to the
Apostles. Within Catholic
Christianity it "is one of four marks which define the
true Church of Jesus Christ" and legitimizes the existing
sacramental offices, as it is considered necessary for a bishop to
perform legitimate or "valid" ordinations of priests, deacons,
and other bishops. Apostolic succession is transmitted during
Episcopal consecration (the ordination of
bishops) by the laying
on of hands of bishops previously consecrated within the
unbroken line of apostolic succession. This lineage of ordination is
traceable, according to the Catholic Church, to the original Twelve
Apostles, thus making the Church the continuation of the
early Apostolic Christian community.
Church, as well as the Eastern
Orthodox churches, Oriental
Orthodox churches, the Assyrian
Church of the East, the churches of the Anglican
Communion and Autocephalous Catholic churches all claim
apostolic succession, as do some Lutheran
churches in some Scandinavian countries, the Mar
Toma, Christians in India, and the Polish
National Catholic Church in North America. While the
Anglican claim of apostolic succession is recognized by some Eastern
Orthodox churches, it is not officially recognized by the
Roman See, based on Pope
Leo XIII's papal
bull Apostolicae Curae. However, since the
promulgation of Apostolicae Curae, Anglican bishops have
Catholic lines of apostolic succession recognized by
Due to the sacramental theology of these churches, only bishops and
priests ordained by bishops in apostolic succession can validly
celebrate or "confect" the sacraments, including the Eucharist,
Reconciliation of Penitents, Confirmation and the Anointing of the
As a traditional ecclesiastical
doctrine, apostolic succession provides an historical basis for the
spiritual authority of the bishops of a Church. Apostolic succession
is usually described as the official authority that has been passed
down through unbroken lines of successive bishops beginning with the
original Apostles selected by Jesus, or on a similar basis. Put
another way, bishops (in churches subscribing to the doctrine) are
only created bishops by other bishops; thus, every bishop today is
the end of an unbroken line of bishops, extending all the way back
to one (or more) of the Apostles, through which authority descends.
Churches that claim the historic episcopate include the Roman
Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Assyrian,
Independent/Autocephalous Catholic, the Anglican Communion, and
several Lutheran Churches. The former churches teach that apostolic
succession is maintained through the consecration of their bishops
in unbroken personal succession back to the apostles or at least to
leaders from the apostolic era. The Anglican and some Lutheran
Churches do not specifically teach this but exclusively practice
generally hold that Jesus Christ founded a community of believers
and selected the apostles to serve, as a group, in the leadership of
A study of my lines of Apostolic Succession takes me directly to the
hands of Carlos Duarte Costa, therefore negating any doubts or
questions regarding the validity of my Orders or those of the
Evangelical Catholic Church. The Orders of the majority of serious
minded Autocephalous Catholic jurisdictions in the United States are
also rooted in the Costa lineage. To date there has been limited
scholarly research in the lineages of Autocephalous Catholic Bishops
– particularly those in the United States. One of the better works
of ongoing scholarly research is found in the Independent
Sacramental Movement Database
by the Rev. William Meyers. The focus of Rev. Meyers’ work is to
record the names of Autocephalous Catholic Bishops and their claims
of valid apostolic succession.
Sticks, Stones and Damnation
During and after the three schisms in
which bishops and laity continued their sacramental and vocational
journeys beyond the Roman See, Rome articulated what one would today
call a “One Church” policy of authenticity. To those who departed
from the Roman See, Rome excommunicated and condemned to eternal
damnation, for it was stated that only through the Catholic Church
can salvation be found. This attitude and belief was reconfirmed at
“For it is through Christ’s
Catholic Church alone, which is the universal help toward salvation,
that the fullness of the means of salvation can be obtained. It was
to the apostolic college alone, of which Peter is the head, that we
believe that our Lord entrusted all the blessings of the New
Covenant, in order to establish on earth the one Body of Christ into
which all those should be fully incorporated who belong in any way
to the People of God” (3)
Except for the Orthodox Churches, all
other churches not recognized by the Roman See are schismatic and
heretical and all therein will obtain salvation. In contemporary
times, the official commendations of such churches and the loss of
their collective salvation by Rome are only stated in more muted
tones. The exception being the Autocephalous Catholic Jurisdictions.
Institutional Worst Enemy
The post Vatican II period saw an
increase in the number of Autocephalous Catholic jurisdictions
within the United States. In all honesty I have to admit the fact
that nearly all of these new-born jurisdictions were nothing more
than file cabinet jurisdictions with people running around in
collars and/or cassocks and who would be seriously challenged to
differentiate between a corporal and a doorknob.
With the advent of the internet and
social media the number of new independent catholic jurisdictions
grows daily. Should one do a cursory review of most of the websites
of these independent jurisdictions, one can easily deduce the
1. A severe deficiency or
complete illiteracy of the sacramental, theological, dogmatic,
liturgical, ecclesial and spiritual foundations of Catholicism.
A “church” focused on
one or two secular concerns.
and academic formation programs.
Clerical church jumping
from one jurisdiction to another.
power and dominance within jurisdictions.
The scandalous lives of
bishops and priests spilling into the public forum.
A haven for convicted
Bishops and clergy
functioning without valid proof or ordinations or consecrations.
Based on nearly twenty years of
witnessing and experiences, I must sadly concede that 75% of these
self-described independent catholic jurisdictions are scandalous and
self-indulgent enterprises. The Kardashian clan has a better
understanding of marriage than most of these enterprises have of
theology and Catholicism. The actions and activities of these
individuals and enterprises, disguised as Churches and clergy, gift
wraps the ammunition used against the entire Autocephalous Catholic
movement by our detractors.
Just like the European Renaissance
which took place during the 14th through 17th
centuries, a renaissance has begun within the Autocephalous Catholic
movement in the United States. The genesis for this renaissance
is found in the migration of good and
authentic priests from Rome to those autocephalous jurisdiction
which are serious, professional and grounded in faith and
spirituality and the antithesis of the freak show enterprises
polluting the Autocephalous Catholic Movement in the United States.
Other factors empowering our
Catholics looking for a community to continue their spiritual
2. Catholics disenchanted
resulting from continuing clerical sex-abuse scandals and seeking
jurisdictions with an absolute zero-tolerance policy.
Women and others
seeking a Catholic home that is welcoming and inclusive.
The divorced seeking an
opportunity to re-enter the Sacrament of Marriage.
unconditional necessity for the professional spiritual and academic
formation of the clergy.
The necessity of the
laity to assume meaningful roles of leadership with Churches.
Fidelity to Apostolic
Fidelity to the
sacramental, liturgical, ecclesial and spiritual life of the
Trust in the guidance
of the Holy Spirit.
These and other factors have become
the driving factors of our Renaissance and spearheading the
delineations between the serious minded and spiritually grounded
jurisdiction and the freak show enterprises.
Step-Children we are not
Just as Bishop Costa did as he
continued with his vocation after his excommunication from Rome,
authentic Autocephalous Catholic jurisdictions offer themselves to
serve the needs of the People of God with humility and dignity.
Though critical of the actions of the Roman power structure and
their decisions, Bishop Costa embraced his new opportunities to
serve the needs of others and declined to dwell on his
past experiences with the Roman See – despite numerous attempts to
prevent him from fulfilling his vocational obligations.
It is always easy for a powerful
bully to target those whom they themselves have marginalized. The
lives of Autocephalous Catholics and their jurisdictions are targets
of predatory bullies.
Those who prey against us are bullies
who ignore decency, compassion, kindness, cooperation and
compromise. Their methods are disrespect, disregard and disdain
towards our jurisdictions manifested in actions attacking our
dignity and our rights.
What is it about grinding a fellow
human being’s spirit into the gravel that is so satisfying? How can
a bully, for no apparent reason but the perception of vulnerability
and opportunity, inflict such suffering and humiliation that the
victim might rather be dead than continue to endure it? How can a
bully get satisfaction from crushing the spirit of innocents? How
can a bully justify their dispensation from the sacred to embrace
that which is evil?
Those who attack our jurisdictions
might make a “Darwinian” argument for
their behavior and agenda: To
target, pursue and destroy weaker individuals in the herd, culling
from the ecclesial gene pool the weaker specimens, making their
species stronger. Prior to
China articulating its “One China Policy,” regarding the issue of
Taiwan independence, the Roman See had articulated their “One Church
Policy” centuries earlier. Just as the government of China declines
to recognize the independence of Taiwan, the Roman See will not
tolerate or accept any expression of Catholicism that is not under
In its historic campaign to suppress and denigrate Catholics
not under obedience to the Roman See, it has been necessary for
others to act as enablers and proxies for the Roman See. In ancient
times, the military was often sent out to quell and suppress those
who were not in full compliance with the Holy See. In its days,
Inquisitions against perceived heretics were as common as Debby
Boone commercials for a “LifeStyle Lift.”
In contemporary times the Roman agenda for suppressing
serious and viable Autocephalous Catholic jurisdictions have been
enabled – either consciously or otherwise – by the media
institutions. In the United States the media has been and remains a
powerful tool for educating the general public. When a free press
declines to provide reasonable equal time and opportunities to
Autocephalous Catholic jurisdictions - the Roman agenda of
suppression is enabled.
Recently here in Chicago I found it necessary for myself as
Bishop for the Evangelical Catholic Diocese of the Northwest to
offer an observation in response to a newspaper interview with
Francis Cardinal George, OMI, Cardinal-Archbishop for the Roman
Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago. In this interview, His Eminence
was speaking out on the matter of marriage equality in the State of
Illinois. The views expressed by His Eminence were not the cause of
my concern. Rather it was his statement that he was speaking on
behalf of “all Catholics” – the One Catholic Church policy. I
released a statement in which I affirmed my respect and support for
the obligation of His Eminence to preach teach and uphold the
teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. I took issue with His
Eminence’s proclamation that he was speaking on behalf of all
Catholics and called upon His Eminence to preface his remarks by
saying that he was speaking on behalf of his jurisdiction and his
jurisdiction only. The Chicago media declined to incorporate my
statement in their coverage. This form of enabling is unfair in a
society grounded in the principles of free speech and equal
We of the Autocephalous Catholic movement, holding valid
apostolic succession and joyfully celebrating the gifts of our
vocations are not the bastard step-children of the Roman See or any
other historic church body. We are a branch on the greater tree of
Catholicism and we are grounded in the same roots as any other
Catholic body. Like the children of Sally Hemmings, we claim our
sacramental birth right, and demand to also be respected as part of
the greater Catholic family.
Respect, Dignity, and Inclusion
Regardless of the fact that Autocephalous Catholic
jurisdictions in the United States are small in numbers and modest
in their size, we are part of the religious landscape of American
society. What we lack in political clout or financial strength we
make up for an authentic celebration of faith. We do not deserve
any forms of special treatment by society, but we do deserve the
professional respect and courtesy afforded to any other religious
On July 7th, 1997, I was
consecrated Bishop, and the Evangelical Catholic Church was formally
created. Much to my surprise, the Chicago media was interested in
the occasion and a significant representation of the media was
present. The next morning, the Chicago Tribune ran a quarter page
size picture of my consecrator, Bishop Robert Martin, laying hands
on my head. The caption said, “New Church Comes to Chicago.” Most
of the accompanying story referred to us as schismatic and Roman
dissenters, with many quotes by a spokesperson from the Roman
Archdiocese speaking to the many reasons why my Orders where invalid
and that our newly established jurisdiction was illegitimate. For
many years whenever the Evangelical Catholic Church or the
Evangelical Catholic Diocese of the Northwest was noted in the
media, it was done so with the statement “not part of the Roman
Catholic Church.” I could never understand why such a statement was
never used by the media when they covered the Episcopal, Lutheran or
Orthodox Churches, nor could I understand why when I made any public
statements to the media, they would often ask the Archdiocese of
Chicago for a reaction or counter statement. I once asked a
reporter, now retired, why it was so difficult for the Evangelical
Catholic Church to be provided a level playing field with the media
establishment and the answer was “we can’t afford to piss off the
Archdiocese by giving you too much press.”
The reality of our existence necessitates that media outlets
grow and change their ways of thinking. It is no longer acceptable
for the media to use generic terms such as “The Catholic Church” or
“Catholic Teaching” or “the Catholic Faith.” Nor is it acceptable
for the media, when reporting on the pastoral work of an
Autocephalous Catholic jurisdiction, to use tag lines such as “not
part of the Roman Catholic Church.” An educated person with any
degree of common sense knows that when they hear the name of a
Autocephalous Catholic Jurisdiction they understand that it is not
part of the Roman Catholic jurisdiction.
With all this said, I am
encouraged from experiences with the media which have engaged
engaged us with the utmost of professionalism. The Huffington
Post Online, the National Catholic Reporter and the Lake County (WI)
Reporter have set the professional standards for fair and dignified
coverage of Autocephalous Catholic jurisdictions.
If these publications can
witness such professionalism, surely others can.
upon a time there was a young person who graduated from the most
prestigious law school in the country with the highest of academic
honors and recognition. This person was sought after by the most
famous law firms in the legal community and eventually accepted a
position with the number one mega law firm in the United States.
After many years of successful practice of law, this
attorney one day learns of a small town that has no lawyers. As the
attorney learns more about the plight of this small town he decides
to visit the town to see the situation firsthand. After returning
home and to his mega law firm, this attorney begins to discern a
call to move to this town and provide legal services for this town.
After a profound period of discernment, this attorney decides to
resign from his prestigious law firm (and prestigious income) and
move to this town to set up a small law firm. The decision of this
attorney is met with overwhelming ridicule and mockery. The general
consensus of his former colleagues is: “why would such a brilliant
attorney want to give up law to work in a small town?”
The question is “Did he give up the practice of law?”
Every member of the Bar, regardless whether or not they are
part of a mega law firm or practicing law in a modest community are
entitled to every form of professional respect and dignity.
So too are the Autocephalous Catholic jurisdictions and
If not now, when?
Let us Pray.
Father, you have given all peoples one common origin.
It is your will that they be gathered together
as one family in yourself.
Fill the hearts of all with the fire of your love
and with the desire to ensure justice for all.
By sharing the good things you give us,
may we secure equality, respect and dignity for all
our brothers and sisters throughout the world.
May there be an end to division, strife and persecution.
May there be a dawning of a truly human society
built on love and peace.
We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord,
who lives and reigns with You in the
Unity of the Holy Spirit
One God forever and ever.
Respectfully Yours in Christ,
Evangelical Catholic Bishop for the
Diocese of the Northwest
September 14th, 2013
Feast of the Triumph of the Cross