At this point in our history, we leave the articles by our Benedictine brother and
examine the growth of the Independent Catholic Movement since 1941. Already we have been
introduced to some key figures in the history of the United Catholic Church. Notable among
them are Bishops Gul, Mathew, De Landas, Francis, and Vilatte all of whom are in
the Apostolic succession of our Organizing Bishop, Bishop Bowman.
To bring us up to the 1970s, we will on occasion refer to the book "The Wandering
Bishops" by Lewis S. Keizer, originally published in 1976 as "Academy of Arts
and Humanities Monograph Series: Number Two."
According to Keizer, during and after the Second World War, Mar Georgius I, Patriarch
of Glastonbury and Catholicos of the West began unifying the various strands of Old
Catholics and independent Catholics. By 1956, through sub conditione consecrations,
he had accumulated all sixteen lines of Apostolic succession know to exist:
Syrian-Antiochene, Syrian-Malabar, Syrian-Gallican, Syro-Chaldean, Chaldean-Uniat, Coptic
Orthodox, Armenian-Uniat, Order of Corporate Reunion, Old Catholic, Mariavite, Nonjuring,
Anglican, Russian Orthodox, Russo-Syrian Orthodox, Greek-Melkite, and Liberal Catholic.
Sub Conditione consecration is a procedure in which two already consecrated
bishops consecrate each other, thereby sharing their Apostolic lines. In that way, each of
their churches recognizes without question the Apostolic successsion of the other. This
has been used, for example, to remove doubts about the validity of Anglican and
Episcopalian successions by adding the universally recognized Old Catholic line.
Keizer tells a fascinating story about how the Russian Orthodox line of succession
became available to the American Catholic Church. Henry Joseph Kleefisch, an American, was
fleeing Russia during the Bolshevik Revolution in 1918, and found himself in the company
of Archbishop Sergius (later Patriarch of Russia) and two other Orthodox bishops, Raban
Ortinski and Theophilus. The four men were stopped by revolutionaries and imprisoned for
summary execution. Since Kleefisch was an American, however, they were told that he could
Realizing that their execution would literally end the Russian Orthodox Apostolic
Succession, Archbishop Sergius asked to be given half an hour of prayer with his bishops
and Mr. Kleefisch (who was soon to be released). When they were alone, the Archbishop
explained the situation and begged Kleefisch to accept the burden of the episcopacy, with
the trust that he would later transmit it to a properly constituted Archbishop for the
Russian Orthodox Christians.
Stunned by the gravity of the trust, Kleefisch accepted and was consecrated under the
Canon of Necessity at Harbin, Siberia. Shortly thereafter he was released and returned to
Europe. Meanwhile, however, the Bolsheviks had decided to release the Archbishop and his
companions, and the Russian Church was saved.
When Kleefisch later came to understand the importance of his commission, he willingly
shared the line for the sake of future unity among the churches. In 1945, Archbishop
Lowell Wadle of the American Catholic Church obtained the Russian Orthodox succession from
Bishop Kleefisch. By that time, Archbishop Wadle had already obtained the Vilatte lines
(Malankara Orthodox, Syrian Malabar, and Jacobite Antiochean) from Bishops Boyle and
Clarkson, and the Syrian/Melchite Uniate and Byzantine Uniat lines from Archbishop Aneed,
who was in Communion with Rome. He also obtained the Old Catholic line of Bishops Mathew,
De Landas, and Francis from Bishops Verostek and Cooper. Finally, in 1957 he travelled to
England and obtained the sixteen lines of Mar Georgius I.
Two of the bishops who consecrated Bishop Bowman in 1996 were in the direct line of
Archbishops Wadle and Aneed. One of them, William Donovan, was at that time the Primate of
the American Catholic Church. Two other consecrators, Bishops Lima and McCormick, are in
the Old Catholic line of Vilatte, Mathew, De Landas, and Carfora. Bishop Bowmans
fifth consecrator, Bishop John Reeves, is in the Vilatte line and also has a succession
from Bishop Costa of Brazil, a Roman Catholic bishop who broke with Rome in 1960.
It sometimes seems that bishops in the independent Catholic movement are obsessed with
their "pedigree." But there is good reason for that. For one thing, our validity
is often challenged by clerics who have never heard of the Old Catholic Church and assume
that we are self-appointed. Secondly, many of us in the Independent Catholic Movement are
attempting to bring a measure of unity to the Body of Christ. Mutual recognition of the
validity of Orders and sacraments is critical to that unity.
Continue with final section of History:
The Search for Responsible Inclusivity