“Id teneamus, quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est; hoc est etenim vere proprieque catholicum.” (We hold that which has been believed everywhere, always, and of all people: for that is truly and properly Catholic.)The Rule of Faith as given by St Vincent of Lerins
People sometimes wonder how we can call ourselves Catholics. Here is a very brief answer:
The Ecumenical Catholic Communion (ECC) is rooted in an ancient way of being Catholic and is authentically Catholic. In other words, down through the ages from the beginning, we were there, and we are here today. As a people rooted in what is today called the “Old Catholic” tradition we believe we are a continuation of the Catholic Church of the west, and a continuation of the early Church. From our point of view the Roman Catholics are new Catholics. Their way has deviated from what was there in the beginning.
The Ecumenical Catholic Communion is not part of the Old Catholics of Utrecht but trace our apostolic succession through them. With the Old Catholics we too appeal to the early Church and this is one of our primary principles for interpreting what it means to be Catholic. Even before the split after the Council of Vatican I in 1889 when the Old Catholic Churches of the Union of Utrecht were formed, the term “Old Catholic” was being used to describe those who appealed to the early Church before the schism of 1054. This appeal emphasizes the unity of Christianity. We use the early Church to interpret and solve contemporary problems. This is summed up in the sentence: “We were there in the beginning and we are here now.” This is the consistency of apostolicity.
Every local Diocese or Church (bishop, priests, deacons, and laity) is the whole church. Each Diocese represents the whole in one place. In other words, we do not consider the ECC a new denomination. We are an association or communion of Catholic Churches. All our bishops are equal and maintain unity by being in contact with one another. Each bishop is autonomous in their own diocese. This is the very picture of the early Church.
In other words, we do not believe in “super bishops” having jurisdiction over other bishops and over their Churches. Nevertheless part of being Catholic is to seek union. The idea of an independent Catholic Church is therefore an oxymoron. You will hear the word “independent” about us but what that means is independence from the jurisdiction of the Roman Catholic Pope, not independence from one another. We are interdependent and ecumenism is a primary value for us. The unity we seek is unity with diversity or, in other words, without uniformity.
We believe that all Churches need to return to the common ground of the early Church. This is in the areas of scripture, creed, sacraments, episcopal ministry, and synodality. This is where we find communion with one another and healing from divisions.
Each bishop incarnates the apostolicity of the Church, and is the guardian and sign
of that apostolicity and Catholicity. A bishop is the guardian of oneness, holiness,
catholicity, and apostolicity. Apostolicity is the continuity and identity of the message handed down in every local church from generation to generation and it needs to be repeated in every time and place, and interpreted and made active for today. We continue the faith of the early Church. We are Catholic.
The reason we have any Church is for the sake of salvation: Salvation is the restoration of the unity between God and humanity, and between humans themselves. There is no such thing as individual salvation. And salvation is not just heaven after death. It is the restoration of relationships in the here and now. It is bringing about the Beloved Community of God on earth as it is in heaven. The existence of a real community is proof to the world of the reality of salvation. We strive to be real communities of peace, justice, and love.
My beloved ones in Christ, may every faith tradition work for the restoration of unity between God and humanity, and humans with one another. In this way we will save the world.