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Union of Utrecht (Old Catholic)

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The Union of Utrecht is a federation of Old Catholic Churches, not in communion with Rome, that seceded from the Roman Catholic Church over the issue of Papal infallibility. The Declaration of Utrecht solidified this movement in 1889. The Union of Utrecht is in full communion with the Anglican Communion, as per the Bonn Agreement of 1931, and with the Philippine Independent Church.


Theology and practices

The Old Catholic Churches reject the doctrine of papal infallibility; thus they reject the dogmatic status of the teachings promulgated in the Roman Catholic Church by such means, namely the Immaculate Conception and Assumption of Mary. While Old Catholics affirm the Real Presence of Christ in the eucharist, they do not emphasize transubstantiation as the sole dogmatic explanation for this presence. Old Catholics generally refrain from using filioque and deum de deo clauses in the Nicene Creed and also reject a dogmatic understanding of Purgatory; however, they generally do recognize a purification by Christ's grace after death and include prayers for the dead in their liturgy and devotions. They maintain some basic Roman Catholic practices such as baptism by infusion (pouring of water) or the use of unleavened bread in the Eucharist. Additionally, they have many aspects in common with the Orthodox and Anglican Churches and Roman Catholic Eastern-rites, such as optional clerical celibacy.

The Old Catholic Churches tend to maintain a more liberal theological anthropology than the Roman Catholic Church. Thus, many churches of the Union ordain women to the priesthood. Dr. Angela Berlis was the first woman priest in the Union, ordained in 1996. In addition, the churches of the Netherlands, Germany, Austria and Switzerland offer the blessing of same-sex unions. The individual's primacy of conscience in ethical matters is stressed. Private confession is not mandatory, though it is practiced, and decisions regarding the use of artificial contraception are individual and discretionary.


History

The mother church, the Old Catholic Church of the Netherlands, was established in the 18th century as a result of tensions between the local Catholic hierarchy and the Roman Curia. The other churches, such as the Catholic Diocese of the Old Catholics in Germany, and the Christian Catholic Church of Switzerland, followed suit after the First Vatican Council, which defined the dogma of papal infallibility. The Polish National Catholic Church in North America and the Old Catholic Church in Slovakia seceded from the Union in 2004 over the ordination of women and the blessing of same-sex unions.</div>

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