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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.”

Luke 9:49-50

 

 

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 branches.

 

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 Catholicism.

 

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 dogma.

In 1897, 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. 

On 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.

In 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 Council II.

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 deception. 

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 Diocese.  

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 vicars.  

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 Catholic Church. 

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 Janeiro. 

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 Church.   

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 Catholic Church”.  

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. 

Dom 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.     

The 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”.

 

 

At 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 Succession.

 

Apostolic Succession is the doctrine in some of the more ancient Christian communions that the succession of bishops, in uninterrupted lines, is historically traceable back to the original twelve 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 priestsdeacons, 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. 

 

The Catholic 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 acquired Old Catholic lines of apostolic succession recognized by Rome.

 

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 Sick.

 

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 Episcopal ordination.

These churches generally hold that Jesus Christ founded a community of believers and selected the apostles to serve, as a group, in the leadership of that community.

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 (2) 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 Vatican II:

 

“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.

 

Our Own 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 following:

 

1.     A severe deficiency or complete illiteracy of the sacramental, theological, dogmatic, liturgical, ecclesial and spiritual foundations of Catholicism.

2.        A “church” focused on one or two secular concerns.

3.        Non-existence spiritual and academic formation programs.

4.        Clerical church jumping from one jurisdiction to another.

5.        Bitch-fighting for power and dominance within jurisdictions.

6.        The scandalous lives of bishops and priests spilling into the public forum.

7.        A haven for convicted sex offenders.

8.        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.

 

Our Renaissance

 

 

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 Renaissance include:

 

1.          Pastorally orphaned Catholics looking for a community to continue their spiritual journeys.

2.         Catholics disenchanted resulting from continuing clerical sex-abuse scandals and seeking jurisdictions with an absolute zero-tolerance policy.

3.          Women and others seeking a Catholic home that is welcoming and inclusive.

4.          The divorced seeking an opportunity to re-enter the Sacrament of Marriage.

5.          Embracing the unconditional necessity for the professional spiritual and academic formation of the clergy.

6.         The necessity of the laity to assume meaningful roles of leadership with Churches.

7.          Fidelity to Apostolic Succession.

8.          Fidelity to the sacramental, liturgical, ecclesial and spiritual life of the Catholic faith.

9.          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.

 

 

Illegitimate 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 their obedience.

 

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 opportunity.

 

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 institution.

 

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.

 

 

Once 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 their clergy.

 

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.

Amen.

 

 

Respectfully Yours in Christ,

Evangelical Catholic Bishop for the Diocese of the Northwest

Chicago Illinois
September 14th, 2013

Feast of the Triumph of the Cross

 

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