Basic Tenets of the Old Catholic Church (OCC)

The Eucharist is the Core of the Church

Also known as the Blood (wine) and Body (bread) of Christ, the word Eucharist means thanksgiving. Some call it Holy Communion. In the early house churches of the first century it seems this may have also involved sharing of a communal meal.

The Church is a Community of Believers

The Greek word is ekklesia. An assembly or gathering of persons. Usually it is translated from Greek into English as “church.” But in this sense I believe we are to see the ekklesia as a body of persons more as a family, related in one’s care and concern for the other members of the ekklesia.

As a group unified by the two above ideas, we find that the ekklesia/church is comprised of persons who find a sense of community with one another, and who are united by their desire to worship God primarily through their observance of the Eucharist celebration. In the Old Catholic Church (OCC), the “celebration” of the Eucharist is understood as “thanks-giving” for the sacrifice made by Jesus Christ on our behalf, and is viewed as the most profound expression of God’s love.

Two Understandings of Sin (Missing the Mark)

For most Christians, the idea of “sin” is directly connected to that of Original Sin. This understanding reaches back to the story of Adam and Eve eating of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and the Knowledge of Evil. The result of which was a permanent separation between humankind and God, and making all human beings fundamentally flawed, fallen beings (some may go so far as to say “evil” by our human nature), who are all doomed for eternity.

However, the original meaning of “sin” simply means “missing the mark” or to err. This is still the typical Jewish understanding of “sin.” God created the world and declared that it is good. *All* creation is good. We are part of God’s creation. Therefore, we are fundamentally good. And we are clearly *not* fundamentally evil. We do make mistakes and err. But this does *not* transform our essential character from good to evil beings. And it is not something we pass down through our DNA to our children.

(There are a couple of additional points I will surely address at a later time. One is the above misapprehension misjudges the Truth contained within a mythos, as if it were a Fact – these are quite different things! Additionally, this is an example of a Christian interpretation of the Hebrew bible making a fundamental error of understanding in the original text. If one is going to adopt another culture’s mythos, it is important to allow oneself to be informed by their traditional interpretations of their mythos. Context is meaningful.)

Seeing “sin” in this light, we find there is no “original sin.” There is no reason to assume we are all totally corrupt at birth. Quite to the contrary. At the same time, we do still need to learn to grow closer to God; seeking greater unity with the Divine; developing that Divine Spark we each carry within our spirit.

Redemption & Reconciliation

We (Old Catholics) experience the celebration of the Eucharist as Christ’s triumph over sin as a redemptive act, and as a process whereby that which is is divided, is brought together. As such, participation in the Eucharist celebration reconciles people, both with one another and with God. “That which was scattered is brought together.” Seen through this lens, we find the “Church” exists to heal broken relations: between ourselves and God; and between individuals.

Apostolic Succession

The Old Catholic Church (OCC) does subscribe to apostolic succession, exactly as does the Roman Catholic Church (RCC). Apostolic succession is conveyed in both the physical (uninterrupted chain) of laying on of hands by bishops, reaching back to the time of Jesus, as well as experienced and expressed through the written scriptures and the sacraments.

Liturgy (Form of Ritual Worship)

The Old Catholic liturgy is itself not significantly divergent from the Roman Catholic Tridentine Mass, and it is generally given in the common tongue. The Old Catholic Church also shares some of the liturgy with the other “high church” forms of worship, including: Roman Catholic Church, Orthodox, Anglicans, and high church Protestants.

Note: “High church” worship is a highly structured, ritualistic form of worship. There is little emphasis on preaching as is typically found in “low church” styles of worship. Low church forms of worship also tend to be much more free-flowing and more loosely structured. Another common difference is that high church liturgy centers around the Eucharist, which is in fact the primary point of the worship service. In contrast, low church liturgy may observe the Eucharist (Holy Communion/Communion) infrequently, instead emphasizing teaching/preaching the ekklesia the meanings found in the written Word of God (Holy Bible). So when you hear the terms High Church and Low Church, think in terms of the degree of structure and organized ritual (High or Low).


This is one of the major differences between the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) and the Old Catholic Church (OCC), and is similar to Orthodox and Methodist understandings of the Eucharist. The Roman Catholic dogma of transubstantiation and consubstantiation have been rejected as being too literal of interpretations of the experience of the Eucharist. Rather, the Eucharist is viewed as a “divine mystery of communion” beyond explanation of literal concepts, and as *not* being subject to the study of the scientific method. Essentially the nature of the divine mystery is ineffable – as is the Divine itself. Holding this sense of Divine Mystery is preferred to developing a theory of the sacrament.

Some Major Areas of Difference Between OCC and RCC:

  • Old Catholics generally are open-minded when considering most social issues. Such views specifically include:
  • The role of women in the Church: not only allowing them, but welcoming them, to serve as clergy.
  • Married persons may serve as ordained members of the clergy (deacons, priests and bishops).
  • Same-sex relationships are considered moral.
  • One may use contraception or not, following one’s own conscience in this matter.
  • Communion is given openly, to Christians of all traditions. It is felt that no human being may presume to exclude any other Christian from the celebration of the Eucharist.

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