There are many different kinds of Catholics; Roman, Old, Anglican, Orthodox. We’d first like to make it clear that we welcome all people, Catholic or not. The statements below are made only to explain our differences, without suggesting that one particular part of the church is better than another. Our motivation is not to divide Christ’s church, but to celebrate its diversity. With that said, please read our responses to many of the questions that have been asked of us. The Diocese of St. Benedict Old Catholic Missionaries is part of the Old Catholic Church here in the United States although we have churches as far off as Bangalore India.
Love in Christ,
Bishop Ed Jansen
What is the purpose of having a different Catholic Church?
The Diocese of St. Benedict Old Catholic Missionaries exists to serve the poor and needy.
What is the difference between you, an Old Catholic Church and the Roman Catholic Church?
Both churches share the same history from the Day of Pentecost until the First Vatican Council when the Church in Rome declared the new doctrine of Papal Infallibility. The churches who remained with the old teachings of the Church, became known as “Old Catholics.”
Are priests allowed to marry in your church?
Are people able to remarry after divorce in your church?
Do you believe the practice of artificial birth control affords parents the opportunity to be more responsible and more prepared when raising their families?
Do you believe this practice is a sin?
What is your stand on abortion?
We believe the taking of any life is wrong, including the unborn. We also believe that God can and does forgive anyone who seeks forgiveness for past mistakes.
Can a Roman Catholic receive Communion at a church in the Diocese of St. Benedict?
Yes. We practice what is called an “Open Table;” i.e., all Baptized Christians are invited to partake in this Sacrament. Scripture is clear that there is only one baptism. If you were baptized in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, with water, then you are baptized and are welcome to receive.
What is your position on the Holy Scriptures?
We believe the Holy Scriptures are the inspired word of God.
What do you believe happens during the Eucharistic prayers?
We believe that through the prayers of the Church, we experience the Real Presence of Christ in the bread and wine, which becomes for us, his Body and Blood.
The question of transubstantiation or consubstantiation is, like some others, not one that we take a strong or universally expected position on. Personally, and even more so as I celebrate the Mass, transubstantiation is personally real for me, I cannot explain it any more than most people can in terms of experience but my experience is that the elements are truly the body and blood of Jesus. Some who sense more the dual presence in the Eucharist, consubstantiation, are just as much a part of the Old Catholic tradition. It is the more Anglican experience. For both or either, I believe God honors each one. What is essential is that we intimately take into our own body, the body and blood of Christ. We do not see it as a Memorial Service, or as a Community sharing only as other Protestant denominations do, it is the real presence of Christ. Neither is heretical, and I would not choose to argue anyone about it.. If you experience the reverence and presence of Christ himself as you take in the Eucharist, if you are strengthened and humbled at once, if you are moved to tears at times with the intimacy… I don’t care whether you call it trans or consubstantiation. There are many things in relationship with God that I consider a matter of personal piety and experience, rather than a dogmatic requirement.
How do you view Mary, the mother of Jesus?
No other human holds a greater place of honor in our church or within our hearts. She is the Mother of the Church and honor her as the Mother of God. We also believe that she listens to our prayers and intercedes on our behalf.
What is your position on homosexuality, especially as it relates to those verses in Leviticus?
Leviticus 18:6 reads: “You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female. It is an abomination.” A similar verse occurs two chapters later, in Leviticus 20:13: “A man who sleeps with another man is an abomination and should be executed.”
First, In Hebrew, “abominations” (TO’EBAH) are behaviors that people in a certain time and place consider tasteless or offensive. To the Jews an abomination was not a law, not something evil like rape or murder forbidden by the Ten Commandments. It was a common behavior by non-Jews that Jews thought was displeasing to God.
Second is that this section of Leviticus is a :holiness code”, a cultural expression of acceptable behavior, not one of the 247 laws in the chapter. It is not a commandment. The abomination was likely referring to the “wasting of seed” – one way of understanding. A relationship that could not produce children in a time when the Jewish people were a minority trying to expand their numbers. Therefore displeasing to God that his chosen people would choose not to procreate. The same could be said of this passage:
“He spilled his seed on the ground… And the thing which Onan did displeased the Lord: wherefore he slew him also” (Genesis 38:9-10).
That has been used to condemn masturbation. The reality was that in the time it was believed that the the entirely of ingredients for a child came in the man’s semen, the mother was an incubator, if you will. So that would mean that Onan was committing murder, and that… Would be quite displeasing to God. An abomination.
The holiness code includes many of the outdated sexual laws (such as the law against stopping coitus before the sperm has entered the woman’s womb which was also an abomination for a culture trying to increase its numbers) and a lot more. It also includes prohibitions against round haircuts, tattoos, working on the Sabbath, wearing garments of mixed fabrics, eating pork or shellfish, getting your fortune told, and even playing with the skin of a pig. (There goes football) and more.
We are a somewhat adolescent culture obsessed with sexuality, unfortunately often with sexuality other than our own which is not our business. For that reason we have pulled out of scripture ONE aspect of holiness code to focus in on, sexuality and used it to condemn.
Third, none of the biblical references to homosexuality are in any way referring to the kind of love relationship we mean today by that word. Sodom was about power, gang rape by men of men in war. For the most part, this is the context of the prohibitions if it is not along the abomination track. Sodom was destroyed because its people didn’t take God seriously about caring for the poor, the hungry, the homeless, or the outcast.
But what does the story of Sodom say about homosexual orientation as we understand it today? Nothing.
As for the role of the priests and elders, it was their job to set the moral standards for the people from a God pleasing direction. Unfortunately, so I think, their condemnation of any sexual contact that prevented conception, was an abomination.
Scripture is silent about same sex relationships as we experience them today, as love relationships. What God wants of us in love relationships is so much more important than the gender of partners.
Do you require the faithful to make a confession before they can receive Communion?
The faithful and all Christians can reconcile themselves with God personally, in fact that is the only kind of true reconciliation that is made with God. It is God’s forgiveness we are seeking.
However, that acknowledged, all Sacraments serve the purpose of “making the invisible visible”‘. Making the presence of God something we can experience with our senses, in our physical incarnation. Baptism it is chrism and water. Ordination is laying on of hands. Eucharist it is the Body and Blood. Reconciliation it is hearing the absolution given to you. The Sacraments of the Church make the presence of God into a sense experience.
The presence of the priest as confessor is important as a witness to God’s forgiveness, as one who “stands in” (in Persona Christi) for God in the flesh as that witness. Confession in the early church was public, before the faith community as a whole, and the nature of disclosure in the presence of others manifests the presence of Relationship. So when we say the priest stands in, we do not mean she or he IS God’s judgment or thinks they are (I hope not… If so, run) but more that the priest is able from calling and training and experience to offer suggestions for dealing with the sins brought by the one confessing. S/he stands in for the experience of personal relationship in the flesh. And s/he offers the words of absolution as the voice that God does not have on earth today, in the witness of their calling and ordination. Confessor, is a humble and humbling role.
As for requiring confession, many of our folks are not Catholic by Baptism or training. We catechize those seeking Baptism, We emphasize often the making amends with your brother or sister before coming to the altar and walking toward God as the essential for entering the Kingdom no matter from how far off you start. We have someone who come regularly but does not receive communion. We asked her about it, she is Roman Catholic. She said that she did not feel worthy to receive until she went to confession, and did we offer that. We told her yes, and one day she will ask. We wish she would simply come to the table but that is not her personal piety.
Do you recognize the Roman Catholic Church?
Yes. She is a dearly beloved sister.
What is your view of women in church leadership?
No one has spoken more clearly about women in the church than Sr. Joan Chittister:
Excerpts from A Dangerous Discipleship
by Joan D. Chittister, OSB
In diocese after diocese, (Roman) Catholic parishes are being merged, closed, or served by retired priests or married male deacons designed to keep the church male, whether it is ministering or not. The number of priests is declining, the number of Catholics is increasing, and the number of lay ministers being certified is rising in every academic system despite the fact that their services are being rejected.
Clearly, the (Roman) Catholic Church is changing even while it reasserts its changelessness. But static resistance is a far cry from the dynamism of the early church. Prisca, Lydia, Thecla, Phoebe, and hundreds of women like them opened house churches, walked as disciples of Paul, “constrained him,” the scripture says, to serve a given region, instructed people in the faith, and ministered to the fledgling Christian communities with no apology, no argument, and no tricky theological shell games about whether they were ministering in persona Christi or in nomini Christi.
…The church must not only preach the gospel; it must be what it says. It must demonstrate what it teaches. It must be judged by its own standards. The church that preaches the equality of women but does nothing to demonstrate it within its own structures is dangerously close to repeating the theological errors that upheld centuries of church-sanctioned slavery.
THE PAUPERIZATION OF women in the name of the sanctity of motherhood flies in the face of the Jesus who overturned tables in the temple, contended with Pilate in the palace, and chastised Peter to put away his sword. Jesus, despite the teaching of that day, cured the woman with the issue of blood and refused to silence the Samaritan women on whose account, scripture tells us, “thousands believed that day.” Indeed, as the life of Jesus shows us, the invisibility of women in the church threatens the very nature of the church itself.
…As John XXIII says in “Pacem in Terris,” “Whenever people discover that they have rights, they have the responsibility to claim them.” And Proverbs teaches clearly, “If the people will lead, the leaders will eventually follow.” Therefore, what must we do now as priestly people? We must take responsibility. We must take back the church. We must lead leaders to the fullness of Christian life!
Joan D. Chittister, OSB, was executive director of Benetvision, a ministry of the Benedictine Sisters of Erie, Pennsylvania, when this article appeared. It was excerpted from a June 2001 speech at the Women’s Ordination Worldwide First International Conference in Dublin, Ireland.
Rev. Dr. Trish Gaffney
Vicar General – Diocese of St. Benedict