Apr 4, 2010

HE IS RISEN - within the Old Catholic Church

I attended the Easter Vigil last night at the 'Old Catholic' Cathedral of St. Lawrence high atop Petrin Hill in Prague. Father Robert Caruso of the US Minnesota OCC is here in Prague for the week and invited me to the service. The "OLD" Catholic Church is so named because this community believes it represents the true Catholic tradition before Vatican I and the imposed dogma of Papal Infallibility.  The community did not willingly split from the Roman branch, it was excommunicated when a number of Bishops in good conscience decided they could not accept the decision of Vatican I to declare the Pope infallible.  In fact the majority of Bishops walked out of the Council in protest before the vote could be taken.  The reigning pontiff, Pius IX, a deeply disturbed human being whom a number of psychiatric authorities have diagnosed as a classic  sociopath, threatened excommunication and interdict to any bishop and diocese who did not agree with the decision. Most  of the dissenting bishops gave in at great cost to their consciences. But a significant and prophetic remnant stood fast These bishops together with their dioceses then banded together to form the Old Catholic Church and they have been living their marginal, Spirit filled witness-in-exile, ever since. Outside of the control of the Vatican, the worldwide community of the Old Catholic Church then evolved  in a (not surprisingly) healthy manner and we now have a Church which images the Catholic Church as she should be - inclusive, tolerant, fair = with women priests and married priests, gay marriages and ethical decisions regarding contraception (among others) left to the individual consciences of the married couple. No scandals regarding child abuse have surfaced within the Old Catholic Church. Does that surprise anyone?
Father Robert Caruso is the tall priest in the center of the photo (taken with my cell phone). For those who are more interested in this community, you can read a review of Father Robert's book,  The Old Catholic Church: Understanding the Origin, Essence, and Theology of a Church that is Unknown and Misunderstood by Many in North America, and a series of interviews with him at Michael Bayly's blogsite, Wild Reed.

I was deeply moved by the service (despite the terminally long readings, following  the Roman ritual exactly) and I have to say it "felt' exactly like a Roman Catholic Liturgy -with one important distinction. At communion, all of the priests, the presiding Bishop and the ministers, received communion last - after all of the 'laity' had themselves partaken. Wow! What a stunning example of a ministry of service that does not privilege the ordained. As Father Robert remarked, "It isn't just 'like' the Catholic Mass - ala the Anglican service - it is the Catholic Mass." I have to agree. Seven new catechumens and one charmingly distraught baby girl received baptism this evening, and the adults went on to receive Confirmation and First Communion as well. It was a very deeply moving sight to see and the entire evening was Spirit filled in an atmosphere of peace and joy.  It was a delightfully eclectic community and I was on the receiving end of some wonderful and warmly humorous comments about gays within the community. I have never felt so graciously accepted as a gay man at any other form of Catholic service. I will be celebrating with this community again.

This morning I watched Pope Benedict's Urbi et Orbi homily on Eurotelevision and I felt that the  role of the 'Supreme Pontiff" in all of his pomp and regalia was in no way more charismatic or significant than the very impressive, deeply spiritual Bishop Dusan Hejbal of the Old Catholic Church of Prague.


Michael J. Bayly said...

Great post, Jayden! I'm so glad you and Bob were able to connect during his stay in Prague! May I have your permission to republish this post (including the photos) at The Wild Reed?

Peace and Happy Easter to you my friend!


Jayden Cameron said...

Yes, sure go ahead. I'm not quite finished with it. I tend to go back next day and edit!

FDeF said...

Thank you for the post. I knew very little about the Old Catholic Church or its origins. I find the many splits and schisms over the course of history disturbing for some reason. The search for Truth with a capital T. I am a schism of one, I guess, without a priest or a bishop, without a sacrament or a chapel. I sometimes find that disturbing as well.

Jayden Cameron said...

Loved your punch line, FD, a schism of one!