Book Eight: Appendix


Appendix C

ECC+USA Commentary of Understanding
regarding the Declaration of Utrecht
and the Fourteen Theses of the Old Catholic Church

The 2007 Synod of the Ecumenical Catholic Church+USA declared that this Church is an Old Catholic Church in name, spirit, and polity. The Synod also formally accepted the Declaration of Utrecht and the Fourteen Theses of the Old Catholic Church. Presented below are the Union of Utrecht foundational documents with comments as needed for clarifying the ECC+USA operational understanding of declarations. Our commentary is in paragraphs printed in bold italic red font.  The source of UU documents is:  (


The Declaration of Utrecht (September 24, 1889)

In nominee ss. Trinitatis
Johannes Heykamp, Archbishop of Utrecht.
Casparus Johannes Rinkel, Bishop of Haarlem,
Cornelius Diependaal, Bishop of Deventer,
Joseph Hubert Reinkens, Bishop of the Old Catholic Church of Germany,
Eduard Herzog, Bishop of the Christian-Catholic Church of Switzerland,
assembled in the Archiepiscopal residence at Utrecht on the four and twentieth
day of September, 1889, after invocation of the Holy Spirit, address the following
Declaration to the Catholic Church.

Being assembled for a conference in response to an invitation from the undersigned Archbishop of Utrecht, we have resolved henceforth to meet from time to time for consultations on subjects of common interest, in conjunction with our assistants, councilors, and theologians.

We deem it appropriate at this our first meeting to summarize in a common declaration the ecclesiastical principles on which we have hitherto exercised and will continue to exercise our episcopal ministry, and which we have repeatedly had occasion to state in individual declarations.

(1) We adhere to the principle of the ancient Church laid down by St Vincent of Lérins in these terms: ‘Id teneamus, quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est; hoc est etenim vere proprieque catholicum’. Therefore we abide by the faith of the ancient Church as it is formulated in the ecumenical symbols and in the universally accepted dogmatic decisions of the ecumenical synods held in the undivided Church of the first millennium.

(2) We therefore reject as contradicting the faith of the ancient Church and destroying her constitution, the Vatican decrees, promulgated July 18, 1870, concerning the infallibility and the universal episcopate or ecclesiastical plenitude of power of the Roman Pope. This, however, does not prevent us from acknowledging the historic primacy which several ecumenical councils and the Fathers of the ancient Church with the assent of the whole Church have attributed to the Bishop of Rome by recognizing him as the primus inter pares.

(3) We also reject the dogma of the Immaculate Conception promulgated by Pope Pius IX in 1854 as being without foundation in Holy Scriptures and the tradition of the first centuries.

The ECC+USA considers the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of Mary as an optional belief for its clergy and laity. This belief was not part of the defined teachings of the first Seven Ecumenical Councils of the undivided Catholic Church.  The rejection of this dogma flows from a Vatican decree, promulgated December 8, 1854, which, of course, was not a proclamation of the Undivided Catholic Faith. Hence the proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of Mary is rejected on this basis. This pious belief however was from very early on a part of the Ancient tradition and the Sensus Fidelium, though not established as doctrine. Our clergy may explain the Immaculate Conception to their congregations as a pious belief, but they may neither outright accept nor reject the doctrine and they may not impose their opinion on the faithful.

(4) As for the other dogmatic decrees issued by the Bishops of Rome in the last centuries, the bulls Unigenitus and Auctorem fidei, the Syllabus of 1864 etc., we reject them on all such points as are in contradiction with the doctrine of the ancient Church, and do not recognize them as binding. Moreover we renew all those protests which the ancient Catholic Church of Holland has made against Rome in the past.

(5) We refuse to accept the decisions of the Council of Trent in matters of discipline, and we accept its dogmatic decisions only insofar as they agree with the teaching of the ancient Church.

The ECC+USA takes no position on the “filioque” addition to the Nicene Creed. The phrase represents a great mystery of faith and was not a defined doctrine of the first Seven Ecumenical Councils of the Undivided Catholic Church. The phrase may be included or omitted as determined by local custom and once included in the liturgical books of a ministry or congregation, the local custom must be consistently followed by all clergy offering the Eucharist with these congregations or ministries.

We wish to note on this matter that the Orthodox theologian St. Gregory Palamas (1296-1359) adds insight into this question and perhaps an ecumenical reconciliation. Palamas presents the third person of the Holy Trinity as the boundless and timeless love of the Father for the Son and of the Son towards the Father. It is unnecessary to point out that the use of this image is by no means inconsistent with Palamas’ anti-Latin teaching on the procession of the Holy Spirit; for although he presents the third person of the Trinity as the mutual love of the Father and the Son, (which concurs with the Latin west) he makes it clear that “mutuality” or “relatio” refers to His function and possession and not to His existential projection:   The eternal joy of the Father and the Son is the Holy Spirit, since He is common to both with respect to His use ( He is sent by both to the saints); But his existence derives solely from the Father, and hence where His existence is concerned He proceeds from the Father.

(6) Considering that the Holy Eucharist has always been the true focal point of worship in the Catholic Church, we consider it our duty to declare that we maintain in all faithfulness and without deviation the ancient Catholic doctrine concerning the Holy Sacrament of the Altar, by believing that we receive the Body and the Blood of our Saviour Jesus Christ Himself under the species of bread and wine.

The Eucharistic celebration in the Church is neither a continual repetition nor a renewal of the expiatory sacrifice which Christ offered once and for all on the Cross; the sacrificial character of the Eucharist, however, consists in its being the perpetual commemoration of that sacrifice and a real representation, being enacted on earth, of the one offering which Christ according to Heb. 9:11-12 continuously makes in heaven for the salvation of redeemed humanity, by appearing now for us in the presence of God (Heb. 9:24).

This being the character of the Eucharist in relation to Christ’s sacrifice, it is at the same time a sacrificial meal, by means of which the faithful, in receiving the Body and Blood of the Lord, have communion with one another (1 Cor. 10:17).

(7) We hope that the theologians, while maintaining the faith of the undivided Church, will succeed in their efforts to establish an agreement on the differences that have arisen since the divisions of the Church. We urge the priests under our jurisdiction in the first place to stress, both by preaching and by religious instruction, the essential Christian truths professed in common by all the divided confessions, carefully to avoid, in discussing still existing differences, any violation of truth or charity, and, in word and deed, to set an example to the members of our parishes of how to act towards people of a different belief in a way that is in accordance with the spirit of Jesus Christ, who is the Saviour of us all.

The ECC+USA proposes to be in fact ecumenical and so to work toward Christian unity especially within Churches of the Catholic Faith Tradition while being faithful to the tenets of the Old Catholic Church as presented in these foundational documents.

(8) We believe that it is in faithfully maintaining the teaching of Jesus Christ, while rejecting all the errors that have been added to it through human sin, as well as rejecting all the abuses in ecclesiastical matters and hierarchical tendencies, that we shall best counteract unbelief and that religious indifference which is the worst evil of our day.

Given at Utrecht, the 24th September, 1889.
Johannes Heykamp. Casparus Johannes Rinkel. Cornelis Diependaal.
Joseph Hubert Reinkens. Eduard Herzog.

Note. – This is a fresh translation made from the German original (cf. IKZ 84, 1994, p. 40-42). The first English translation of the Declaration of Utrecht was published in The Foreign Church Chronicle and Review 13 (1889) pp. 225-227. The most widely circulated translation is to be found in C.B. Moss, The Old Catholic Movement, London, 21964, 281f. Moss claims his somewhat paraphrasing translation to have been accepted by the Old Catholic bishops as correct. It was already published in the Report of the Lambeth Conference of 1930, p. 142 (with minor orthographical and other variations). It should be noted that his quasi-official English version reproduces an abbreviated text without the introductory section, as it was in use in Old Catholic circles around 1930.


AT BONN - SEPTEMBER 14-16,1874

I. We agree that the apocryphal or deutero-canonical books of the Old Testament are not of the same canonicity as the books contained in the Hebrew Canon.

The ECC+USA accepts the distinction implied by calling certain books of the Old Testament apocryphal or deutero-canonical, however, we accept as canonical scripture the books which have come to be recognized as the Catholic Canon and specifically those books presented in the New American Bible (Catholic Book Publishing Company).

II. We agree that no translation of Holy Scripture can claim an authority superior to that of the original text.

III. We agree that the reading of Holy Scripture in the vulgar tongue cannot be lawfully forbidden.

IV. We agree that, in general, it is more fitting, and in accordance with the spirit of the Church, that the Liturgy should be in the tongue understood by the people.

V. We agree that Faith working by Love, not Faith without Love, is the means and condition of Man's justification before God.

VI. Salvation cannot be merited by "merit of condignity," because there is no proportion between the infinite worth of salvation promised by God and the finite worth of man's works.

VII. We agree that the doctrine of "opera supererogationis" and of a "thesaurus meritorium sanctorum," i.e., that the overflowing merits of the Saints can be transferred to others, either by the rulers of the Church, or by the authors of the good works themselves, is untenable.

VIII. 1) We acknowledge that the number of sacraments was fixed at seven, first in the twelfth century, and then was received into the general teaching of the Church, not as a tradition coming down from the Apostles or from the earliest of times, but as the result of theological speculation.

2) Catholic theologians acknowledge, and we acknowledge with them, that Baptism and the Eucharist are "principalia, praecipus, eximia salutis nostrae sacramenta."

The ECC+USA accepts the Seven Sacraments of the Catholic Faith Tradition and administers these Sacraments in accord to the traditional matter and form. See details on our understanding and practice of administering the Sacraments above in Chapter One of this Church Law document.

IX. (1) The Holy Scriptures being recognized as the primary rule of Faith, we agree that the genuine tradition, i.e. the unbroken transmission partly oral, partly in writing of the doctrine delivered by Christ and the Apostles is an authoritative source of teaching for all successive generations of Christians. This tradition is partly to be found in the consensus of the great ecclesiastical bodies standing in historical continuity with the primitive Church, partly to be gathered by scientific method from the written documents of all centuries.

2) We acknowledge that the Church of England; and the Churches derived through her, have maintained unbroken the Episcopal succession.

The ECC+USA accepts the Episcopal (Apostolic) succession of the Church of England as well as other major Churches and bishops in the Catholic Faith Tradition who show evidence of their unbroken lineage and are carrying out their ministry in the service of Christ and his people. The ECC+USA professes to hold and particularly cherish these lines of Apostolic Succession: the Old Catholic, Vilatte, and the Duarté Costa lines (See Appendix B of this Church Law document.)

X. We reject the new Roman doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, as being contrary to the tradition of the first thirteen centuries, according to which Christ alone is conceived without sin.

The ECC+USA considers the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of Mary as an optional belief for its clergy and laity. This belief was not part of the defined teachings of the first Seven Ecumenical Councils of the undivided Catholic Church. Our clergy may explain the Immaculate Conception to their congregations as a pious belief, but they may neither outright accept nor reject the doctrine and they may not impose their opinion on the faithful.

XI. We agree that the practice of confession of sins before the congregation or a Priest, together with the exercise of the power of the keys, has come down to us from the primitive Church, and that, purged from abuses and free from constraint, it should be preserved in the Church.

The ECC+USA as stated in Chapter One, Section 6 of this Church Law document holds that the Sacrament of Penance (Confession, Sacrament of Reconciliation) may be celebrated privately in a one to one setting with individual absolution, or publicly as part of a Penance Service or in the Celebration of the Eucharist with General Absolution. The preferred celebration of this sacrament is by the bishop or priest after sufficient catechesis giving General Absolution at Mass or a Penance Service. Private confession or individual absolution afterwards is not required.

XII. We agree that "indulgences" can only refer to penalties actually imposed by the Church herself.

The ECC+USA agrees and does not practice the awarding of indulgences.

XIII. We acknowledge that the practice of the commemoration of the faithful departed, i.e. the calling down of a richer outpouring of Christ's grace upon them, has come down to us from the primitive Church, and is to be preserved in the Church.

XIV. 1) The Eucharistic celebration in the Church is not a continuous repetition or renewal of the propitiatory sacrifice offered once forever by Christ upon the cross; but its sacrificial character consists in this, that it is the permanent memorial of it, and a representation and presentation on earth of that one oblation of Christ for the salvation of redeemed mankind, which according to the Epistle to the Hebrews (9:11,12), is continuously presented in heaven by Christ, who now appears in the presence of God for us (9:24).

2) While this is the character of the Eucharist in reference to the sacrifice of Christ, it is also a sacred feast, wherein the faithful, receiving the Body and Blood of our Lord, have communion one with another (I Cor. 10:17).