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History of the Jurisdiction

"Old Catholics" are those Catholic Churches that trace their Apostolic Succession back to the original Apostles through the autonomous churches brought together in the Union of Utrecht (1889) after their break from the Roman Catholic Church because of innovations introduced by that Church, such as the false doctrine of Papal Infallibility. In 1908 the Most Reverend Arnold Harris Mathew (1852 to 1919) was consecrated by the Old Catholic Union of Utrecht bishops as the diocesan Old Catholic bishop for Great Britain and Ireland. In 1911 the British Church became independent of the Union of Utrecht Old Catholic Churches, and Bishop Mathew became its first Archbishop. Archbishop Mathew consecrated Rudolphe F.E. de Landas Berghes in 1913 as Missionary Bishop for Scotland. In 1914 Bishop de Landas Berghes moved to the USA, where in October of 1916 he founded the North American Old Roman Catholic Church (NAORCC), serving as its first Archbishop from 1916 to 1919. Succeeding archbishops have been: Most Rev. Carmel Henry Carfora (1919 to 1958), Most Rev. Cyrus Augustine Starkey (1958; and 1962 to 1965), Most Rev. Richard Arthur Marchenna (1958 to 1962), Most Rev. John Emil Schweikert (1965 to 1988), and Most Rev. Theodore Joseph Rematt (since 1988). Since 1919 the See of the NAORCC has been in Chicago, Illinois, USA. It is important to note that after the death of Archbishop Carfora in January of 1958, his bishops began to quarrel resulting in five different jurisdictions being established in the USA all claiming to be the true NAORCC. The Canadian Old Catholics choose to follow the episcopal line stated above as representing, to them, the true successors of the Carfora Church.

It is interesting to note that the Protestant Episcopal Church of the USA (Anglican Communion) recognised Bishop de Landas Berghes as possessing a valid episcopate. He was one of the consecrators of the Right Rev. Hiram Richard Hulse on 12 January 1915 in New York City. Dr. Hulse was the PECUSA Bishop of Cuba from 1915 to 1938.

From 1916 to 1950 Canadian Old Catholic parishes were under the direct administration of the Archdiocese of NAORCC, with, from time to time local bishops overseeing some Canadian parishes. On the 22nd April 1950 the Old Catholic Diocese of Hamilton, with its Pro-Cathedral located at St. Francis of Assisi Old Roman Catholic Church, 420 Aberdeen Avenue, Hamilton, Ontario, joined the NAORCC. On that date, the Rt. Rev. George Frank Davis, who had Old Catholic episcopal succession via the Mathew-Bacon line of Old Catholic bishops, was sub conditione consecrated into the de Landas Berghes-Carfora line by the Rt. Rev. Francis Michael Donahue. (Bishop Donahue had been consecrated by Archbishop Carfora on 3 November 1946.) The Old Catholic Diocese of Hamilton, due to its growth and stability, quickly became the main centre of the NAORCC in Canada.

At a synod of the NAORCC held in Hamilton, Ontario, 3 to 5 September 1960, the Diocese of Hamilton and other Canadian dioceses was declared an autonomous branch of the NAORCC. Present at this synod, held in St. Michael's Priory were the following: Archbishop Richard Arthur Marchenna, Bishop Archibald Patrick Mahoney, Bishop George John Koerner, Very Rev. Dr. Joseph Daniel Girard (Vicar-General of the Diocese of Hamilton), Rev. Fr. Robert Ritchie (Chancellor of the Diocese of Hamilton), and the Rev. Fr. Nelson Dudley Hillyer. Absent was Bishop John Emil Schweikert (Chancellor to the Archbishop). Bishop Mahoney resigned as the Diocesan Bishop of Hamilton at this synod and Archbishop Marchenna took his place as acting Ordinary. It was decided at this meeting that the units of the Church in Canada should unite as an independent national church body to be known as the OLD CATHOLIC CHURCH OF CANADA. The following national officers were then elected: Episcopal Visitor and Acting Presiding Bishop - Most Rev. Richard A. Marchenna; National Vicar-General - Very Rev. Dr. Joseph D. Girard; National Chancellor - Rev. Robert Ritchie; and National Secretary - Rev. Nelson D. Hillyer. The new Old Catholic Church of Canada not only entered into communion with the rival lines of the NAORCC, but also entered into communion with the Old Roman Catholic Church in England under its then Archbishop of Caer Glow, the Most Rev. Gerard George Shelley (tenure 1952 to 1980). Archbishop Shelley was the legal head of the original British Old Catholic jurisdiction, being third in succession as head of the Church from Archbishop Mathew himself. With the consecration of the Rev. Fr. Robert Ritchie (1907 to 1999) on 5 March 1962 as the first Presiding Bishop and ex-officio Diocesan of Hamilton, the organisation of the OLD CATHOLIC CHURCH OF CANADA was complete. Presiding Bishop Ritchie served until 9 October 1988 when on that date he was one of the consecrators of his successor, the Most Rev. David Charles Thomson (born 1937). Since then, the See of the Old Catholic Church of Canada has been at Midland, Ontario.

From the period 1953 to 1993 the church slowly lost members due to schisms and deflections to other Old Catholic bodies. The low point of the Old Catholic Church of Canada was in the year 1993 when it had only two clerics (the Presiding Bishop Emeritus and his predecessor) and ten lay members! Since then the jurisdiction has recovered from its decline with the addition and founding of various ministries. On 24 January 1997, Dr. Arthur Keating, D.Phil., Ph.D., became Vicar General of the Church and he revised the Canon Law of the jurisdiction, which Presiding Bishop Emeritus Thomson approved and issued on 1 June 1997 (Feast of St. Justin Martyr). Under this Church's Canon Law, neither marital status, gender, nor sexual orientation are factors listed in the requirements for ordination to Holy Orders.

On Sunday, 2 August 1998, the Rev. Sr. Patricia Davies became the first woman ordained in the Old Catholic Church of Canada. Then Lay Minister-in-charge of St. Anne's Parish in Mississauga, Ontario, she was ordered to the diaconate by Bishop Thomson at a well attended Mass in the Unity Church, Port Credit, Ontario. On 29 May 1999 she was ordained to the priesthood at the same location by Bishop Thomson assisted by Bishop Keating. At this occassion Mrs. Davies was awarded her diploma in sacred theology by the Very Rev'd Del Baier, rector of St. Mary's Seminary of Christ Catholic Church International of Niagara Falls, Ontario.

On 20 March 1999, Presiding Bishop Thomson appointed Fr. Brian Burch, rector of St. Thomas Parish, Toronto, the chancellor of both the National Church and of the Diocese of Hamilton and Corporation General Manager. This will be the first time since 1988 that this office has been filled; its last occupant was Bishop Thomson himself before he was consecrated. Also on this same date, Bishop Keating was appointed the Secretary-Treasurer of the Corporation.

In June 2001, Most Rev. David Charles Thomson retired and was appointed Presiding Bishop Emeritus. The Most Reverend Dr. Arthur Keating, D.Phil, Ph.D was elected as the third Presiding Bishop of the Old Catholic Church of Canada.

Doctrines, Parishes, Bio Sketches, and Addresses

This Church recognises the traditional seven sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation, the Holy Eucharist, Holy Absolution, Holy Orders, Holy Matrimony, and Holy Unction. The Old Catholic Church of Canada recognises and accepts the decisions of the Ecumenical Councils of the undivided Church of the first thousand years of the Christian Era, and therefore, not the doctrines of Papal Infallibility or the Immaculate Conception. The Liturgy of the Old Catholic Church of Canada is based on the Tridentine Roman Ritual. However, the Service Books of the Eastern Church and the traditional Anglican Book of Common Prayer may also be used in congregations as they choose. Clerical celibacy is optional.

The Old Catholic Church of Canada supports the ecumenical ideal, co-operates with all Christian denominations, and allows any of its units (e.g. diocesan, parish, mission, etc.) to belong to organisations with ecumenical or peace aims.

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