“And we know and have believed the love which God hath in us. God is love; and he that abideth in love abideth in God, and God abideth in him.” [1 John4:16] Today is the beginning of the “Year of Faith” proclaimed by His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVIi. Tomorrow is the feast of St Wilfridii, first bishop and heavenly patron of our Titular See of Selsey. We feel it appropriate then to write to you, our brethren, this our first pastoral letter since our consecration to the episcopate and the receipt of our charge to perpetuate and continue the apostolic ministry of this historic Seeiii.
The time and situation in which we serve has similarities to the age and situation in which our illustrious predecessor first sowed the seeds of Faith in the historical geography of our See. We, like S. Wilfrid who was in exile when he came to pagan Sussex operate “in partibus infidelium”iv, the seat of our ancient See long ago subsumed to the ravages of timev and her fold eventually to apostasy, our flock scattered and lost. We minister in a society that, to all intents and purposes is fast shedding the remnants of its historic Christian culture and fast returning to attitudes akin to our pagan ancestors, losing the light of the Gospel and returning to the spiritual ignorance of the dark ages; the young being sacrificed to Mammon and human intellect to base subjectivity. Added to which, unlike S. Wilfrid, we no longer have the confidence and security of a true shepherd in Rome upon whom we may rely for guidance and teaching. In many respects, the glorious achievements of our See’s past have been lost to our present. Indeed, as such we might justly claim to be that prophetic church described once by an aspiring theologian, “From today’s crisis, a Church will emerge tomorrow that will have lost a great deal.”vi.
Yet, we are here! Yet God has preserved our salvific inheritance that we exist to serve even nowvii! Yet does Our Lord still, by our consecrated hands in the continuation of the Levitical priesthoodviii, fulfill His promise to remain abiding with His peopleix, in the Sacrament of His Lovex, available to them through the ministry of His anointed servants, we His apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachersxi. Yet even directly in the descendency of our apostolic lineage, connected as we are to S. Wilfrid’s apostolic ministry through that of his pupil, S. Willibrordxii, has God’s fidelity not been proven to usxiii?
Today our former brethren celebrate the fiftieth anniversaryxiv of an occasion which solidified their distance in conciliarism from that Tradition preserved and inherited by us through the See of S. Willibrordxv and the resolute steadfastness of Archbishop Mathewxvi. For all the ignominy he endured and despite the lack of comfort that might have been his from those to whom he entrusted his legacy, yet have we inherited that same Apostolic Faith that he sought to preserve. By his efforts, not only did we receive that true inheritance of saving Faith, but also the unquestionably valid espicopate of the Apostles themselves, recognised and legitimised by his communion with two of the ancient Patriarchies, even that See which was first of Peter before Romexvii. Though we might be “poor and a Church of the little people”xviii even so we have all the benefits of Christ’s promises to His Apostles. Is there another Church as authentic as ours, more closely resembling the nascent Church of the Apostles themselves, drawn as our members are from all works of life, living on our wits and the providence of God rather than on the legacies of past benefactors?
Conciliarism did not begin fifty years ago! Rather it began a century or so beforexix and almost exactly one hundred years before its influence effected a radical alteration to the Faith in its timeless liturgical expressionxx. Haven’t we seen the evidence all around us, where salvific dogma and doctrine is decided by election and majority votingxxi? Whilst we thought prophetic voices in those intervening years made a stand for Sacred Traditionxxii, they did not realise that in effect the “Great Apostasy”xxiii had already long infected the Church, because they were in the midst of the conflict they could not see its damage. How over the years we have acclaimed such voices as heroes of Tradition, yet all the while they were fighting blindly! The battle had already been lost, long before a hapless successor of Peter put pen to paper and with one careless sweep both opened the door and heralded the “smoke of Satan”xxiv entering the Church… the forces of darkness had already been long at work and triumphant! Is it not reminiscent of wartime that we see friends and church families divided and parting ways, torn by the ravages of militant modernism and so-called progressivism all resulting from this spiritual debacle?
So what are we to do? What can we do? Small and poor, unprivileged in the eyes of the world and yet blessed by such an inheritance? For do we not “know and have believed the love which God hath in us”xxv? Is that not why, widely dispersed though we are, we have found each other as we have sought on our personal pilgrimages of faith to find that “pearl of great price”xxvi? We must not repeat the mistakes of those fallen heroes so tragically wasted in a lost battle, we must not give in to anger and conceit. We can only do that which Our Lord bids us to doxxvii. We must seek to represent Tradition with that same Divine Charity by which it was preserved for us to receive it. We must seek to proclaim and maintain it as our forefathers did, all of them, S. Wilfrid, his student S. Willibrord and his descendants the Ultrajectine fathers and our own Archbishop Mathewxxviii. We in our own turn must continue to suffer, to endure and to remain steadfast despite the persecution, defending the Truthxxix, despite the ridicule and emnity we receivexxx honouring the Saints, martyrs and confessors who went before us from whom we received the Faith. For if we face all with charity, if we bear all with humility and contriteness of heart, demonstrating our conversion both individually and collectively for love of Christ, for love of His Church for love of our Father in heaven; then we will succeed to preserve that “single deposit of the Faith, once delivered to the Saints” [Jude 1:3] and by that Faith, Christian hope and above all charity will prevail. We must seek to be the “salt” that does not lose its savour, be “lights to the world”xxxi.
Sometimes it is a wonder to us that Old Roman Catholicism has succeeded to the present age, yet here we are, 102 years after Archbishop Mathew made his stand to preserve this sacred inheritance! Though we have none of the material and social advantage of other churches, yet we possess a greater treasure, THE Catholic Faith, whole and entire! We have strived particularly these past few months to consolidate an apologetic arsenal for ourselves with which to defend our position and regard as a true Church, this evidence is available on the ORCCE/LR website, today relaunched as “oldromancatholiceurope.com”. We have a unique position as Old Roman Catholics and now we must begin to consolidate, defend and proclaim our position both intellectually and in praxis.
We have already been applying such apologetics, working particularly hard to grow and make manifest our European brief and already our labour has borne fruit, two auxillary bishops and a monasteryxxxii! We are establishing relationships with orthodox Catholic groups and individuals across Europe drawn to our apologetics and our efforts to rebuild and establish a united Old Roman Catholic presence in the continent of our nativity. Our enthusiasm for the priceless treasure we posses, is inspiring and drawing others. We continually receive appreciation for our efforts from other places in the world, particularly North America and not just from our brethren in our own wider ORCC/LR communion. Many are looking to us for a lead. We must emphasise here that all this is “OUR” effort, the enthusiasm and dedication of ALL of us and it will ever need to be such for our continued growth. We who have found and are rebuilding Old Roman Catholicism have turned personal grief to joy, loneliness to belonging, all because of the love of God! Now we in our turn must enable the same experience for others.
It is this need to reach out and enable others to find what we have that our Daily Mass Online apostolate was conceived and now needs to grow. We have been constructing a new website to facilitate this and have been developing a platform to enable a wider and more interactive participation for viewers and indeed for you all to cooperate with this apostolate. It is in fact through this particular outreach that many of you found us! Similarly the Congregation of the Divine Caritasxxxiii model is being developed as a tool for church planting and the forming of local communities to assist you in the mission of the Gospel, the salvation of souls, necessary for the growth of the Church. A pack is currently being put together based upon our own experience of developing the Cong.DC model through the establishment of the Brighton Oratory. This is an ongoing work, but there are aspects of our outreach and ecumenical cooperation that are transferable anywhere.
Dearest brethren, we have no need to be embarrassed of our inheritance! Archbishop Mathew, despite all the odds, managed to secure and pass onto us a legacy that is both grounded in historical fact, evidenced by repeated external affirmation and descended authentically from the Apostles themselvesxxxiv. It is clear from our growing experience and relationship with other Churches ecumenically, that our sincerity and dedication is being recognised. Inheriting our own efforts when Vicar General, we have maintained membership of internationally significant ecumenical bodiesxxxv which does help us in discussion with other Christian bodies and we hope to develop this further, using the weightier influence of such organisations to increase our own regard and open doors.
We have desired by this letter to convey to you something of our manifesto, i.e. what we understand Old Roman Catholicism to be and our vision for the future for that which we in turn receivedxxxvi and must pass on. Our charge to guard, maintain and perpetuate, TOGETHER for the sake of True Tradition, the Church and the salvation of souls. We beg your prayers and humbly invoke the intercession of Ss. Wilfrid and Willibrord, for our preservation and our success!
In quorum fidem hasce propria manu subsignavimus sigiloque munici jussimus. Datum Brichtelmestunensis (Sussex, Angliæ), anno Incarnationis DominicæMMXII ante diem V Idus Octobris mensis, episcopatus Nostri anno primo.
i Porta Fidei – Apostolic Letter “Motu Proprio data” of Benedict XVI – October 11, 2011AD
ii Wilfrid of York c. 633 – c. 709 founded See & Abbey of Selsey 683AD
iii Date of episcopal consecration Feast of S. Pius V, London, Ontario, Canada – May 5, 2012AD
iv Latin; “in the lands of unbelievers”
v The See was transferred to Chichester after the Council of London of 1075AD
vi Glaube und Zukunft, Joseph Ratzinger 1970
vii Dan 12:13“But go thou thy way till the end be: for thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of the days.”
viii Is.66:21-22“And I will take of them to be priests, and Levites, saith the Lord. For as the new heavens, and the new earth, which I will make to stand before me, saith the Lord: so shall your seed stand, and your name.”
ix Mtt. 28:20 “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”
x Jn 6:35 “And Jesus said to them: I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall not hunger: and he that believeth in me shall never thirst.”
xi Eph. 4:11 “And he gave some apostles, and some prophets, and other some evangelists, and other some pastors and doctors”
xii As a child oblate under Wilfrid at Ripon Abbey
xiii Mal 3:6 “For I am the Lord, and I change not: and you the sons of Jacob are not consumed.”
xiv 50th Anniversary of the beginning of the Second Vatican Council
xv The See of Utrecht
xvi Declaration of Autonomy and Independence December 29, 1910AD
xvii Of Antioch, granted autocephaly and membership of the Holy Synod August 5, 1911AD and Alexandria in 1912
xviii Glaube und Zukunft, Joseph Ratzinger 1970
xix First Vatican Council 1870
xx Missale Romanum – Apostolic Constitution of Paul VI – April 3, 1969AD
xxi 2 Tim. 4:3-4“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.”
xxii E.g. Msgrs’ Marcel Lefebvre, Antônio de Castro Mayer, Pierre Martin Ngô Đình Thục etc
xxiii Newcomb, Harvey (2003). Great Apostasy: Being an Account of the Origin, Rise and Progress of Corruption and Tryanny in the Church of Rome. Kessinger Publishing. pp. ix.
xxiv “from some fissure the smoke of Satan has entered the temple of God.” Paul VI, homily Feast of SS Peter & Paul – June 29, 1972
xxv 1 John 4:16 “And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.”
xxvi S. Matthew 13:45-46 “Again the kingdom of heaven is like to a merchant seeking good pearls. Who when he had found one pearl of great price, went his way, and sold all that he had, and bought it.”
xxvii S. John 13:34-35 “A new commandment I give unto you: That you love one another, as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another.”
xxviii 2 Tim. 4:1-2 “I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine.”
xxix 2 Tim. 4:5 “But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.”
xxx S. Matthew 5:11 “Blessed are ye when they shall revile you, and persecute you, and speak all that is evil against you, untruly, for my sake:”
xxxi S. Matthew 5:13-16 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt lose its savour, wherewith shall it be salted? It is good for nothing any more but to be cast out, and to be trodden on by men. You are the light of the world. A city seated on a mountain cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but upon a candlestick, that it may shine to all that are in the house. So let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
xxxii Msgrs’ Martin Charlesworth & Jonas Maria Roggla, and the Community of S. Joseph O.Cist. Croatia
xxxiv 2 Tim. 3:14 “You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them”
xxxv Since 2006 International Council of Community Churches, World Council of Churches, Churches Uniting in Christ
xxxvi 2 Timothy 2:2 “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also”