Old-Catholic Church in the Netherlands
(Oud-Katholieke Kerk van Nederland)
From 1580 to 1853 the Roman Catholic Church in the Netherlands was without territorial bishops, being governed by apostolic vicars or papal legates. From 1583 to 1795 it was subjected by the government to severe penal restrictions. In 1697 Rome launched accusations of Jansenism against the Roman Catholics in the Netherlands, notably against the then vicar-general. He was censured in 1702 and a schism began. His followers upheld the continuity of their communion with the national Catholic Church of the past. The support of the French Jansenists, who refused to accept the bull "Unigenitus" (1713), secured for the Old-Catholics, as they came to be called, the maintenance of the apostolic succession, and the group still survives as a branch of the Old-Catholic Church. The church was liberated from its isolation when it set up the Utrecht Union with other non-Roman Catholic churches which emerged in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, refusing to accept the dogmas of infallibility and universal ordinary jurisdiction of the pope, as defined by the Vatican Council of 1870. Later the Polish National Church in Poland and in North America also joined the union. The Old-Catholics outside the Netherlands received episcopal succession from the Church of Utrecht. The first German bishop was consecrated in 1874, and the first Swiss bishop in 1876. The Old-Catholic communion formally recognized Anglican ordinations in 1925, and since 1932, Old-Catholics have been in full communion with the Church of England. A dialogue was started even earlier with the Orthodox churches.
The doctrinal basis of the church is the Declaration of Utrecht of 1889. Obligatory celibacy was abolished at the beginning of the 20th century. In 1998 the Old-Catholic Church in the Netherlands opened the priesthood to women. The organization of the church is episcopal and synodal, which allows for ample participation and input of the faithful. The laity and the clergy of the two dioceses are represented in the national synod, together with the two bishops. There is an advisory synod composed of representatives from the parishes and the clergy. Communion is frequently given in both kinds. The liturgy is celebrated in the Dutch language; the readers assist the clergy. The church has made valuable contributions to the study of ancient hymnology and sponsored the translation of Gregorian chant in Dutch. It still plays a role as a bridge between the Roman Catholic Church and Protestant churches.
Among current concerns are pastoral care of people in a de-Christianized society, the formulation of answers to various social and moral questions, a more intensive training of lay Christians, renewed reflection on the meaning of ecclesiastical offices, and greater commitment to interchurch aid at home and abroad.