When members of the Roman Catholic Church encounter Old Catholic Churches for the first time, they are often surprised to learn that Catholic denominations exist apart from Rome. Understandably, questions are raised about the validity of Orders and Sacraments administered by Old Catholics.
We hope the following information will be helpful. If you have additional questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.
At the Vatican on 16 June 2000, Pope John Paul II ratified and ordered the publication of Dominus Iesus. This Declaration of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was signed and published by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) in August of the same year.
In this Declaration, the Roman Catholic Church recognizes the validity of Orders and Sacraments of Old Catholic denominations:
“The Churches which, while not existing in perfect communion with the [Roman] Catholic Church, remain united to her by means of the closest bonds, that is, by apostolic succession and a valid Eucharist, are true particular Churches.”
“Therefore, these separated Churches and communities as such … have by no means been deprived of significance and importance in the mystery of salvation. For the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as means of salvation which derive their efficacy from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Catholic Church.” IV. Unicity and Unity of the Church, 17
Catholic Almanac – 1974
“The Roman Church recognizes the validity of Old Catholic Orders and other Sacraments.” (Felician A. Roy, OFM, p. 368)
The Pastoral Companion “A Canon Law Handbook for Catholic Ministry” Third Edition by John M. Huels,J.C.D. page 335
The principal condition is that these sacraments can be received only from validly ordained ministers. These are ministers who belong to churches that have preserved the substance of the Eucharistic teaching, the sacraments of orders, and apostolic succession. This would include all Eastern non – Catholic churches, the Polish National Church, Old Catholic, and Old Roman Catholic.
“We have no reason to doubt that the Old Catholic Orders are valid. The Apostolic Succession does not depend on obedience to the See of Peter, but rather on the objective line of succession from Apostolic sources, the proper matter and form, and the proper intention … likewise Old Catholic bishops are bishops in Apostolic Succession … The Old Catholics, like the Orthodox, possess a valid priesthood.” (William J. Whalan, pp. 204,248)
Rights and Responsibilities: A Catholic’s Guide to the New Code of Canon Law
“When a Catholic sacred minister is unavailable and there is urgent spiritual necessity, Catholics may receive the Eucharist, penance, or anointing from sacred ministers of non-Catholic denominations whose Holy Orders are considered valid by the Catholic Church. This includes all Eastern Orthodox priests, as well as priests of the Old Catholic or Polish National Church.” (Thomas P. Doyle, O.P., p. 44)