Polish National Catholic Church

During the latter part of the 19th century, there were a number of conflicts between the Polish immigrants and the Roman Catholic clergy and hierarchy in the United States. These had primarily to do with church governance issues, the control of church property, the assignment of pastors, and the pastoral accessibility to the people. These conflicts generally arose in the areas where there was a large Polish immigrant population. In 1896, a group of people from Sacred Heart Roman Catholic parish in Scranton, Pennsylvania, had a disagreement with their pastor, and when they found no help from the clergy or the bishop they vowed to build their own church. In 1897, these determined people found property for a parish and called upon a priest they knew and trusted to be their pastor. When the people, together with the priest, got no results from the local hierarchy, and even found themselves excommunicated, they attempted to turn to the Vatican. When their plea was also rejected there, they broke decisively with the Roman Catholic Church, and the Polish National Catholic Church was officially established. By this time, several other parishes in northeastern Pennsylvania had joined the movement. At the first general synod of the Polish National Catholic Church held in 1904, Fr Francis Hodur was elected bishop. He was consecrated by the Old-Catholic Bishop of Utrecht, Netherlands, in 1907.

Similar situations occurred among Poles in Chicago and New York, and after the bishops they had elected died, most of the parishes concerned became eventually part of the Polish National Catholic Church led from Scranton. In 1921 the PNCC began a mission to the nation of Poland. This led to the creation of the Polish Catholic Church in Poland, which is in full communion with the PNCC in the USA. Besides the Poles, other nationalities with the same needs also came to the PNCC, and Lithuanian, Czech, Slovak and Italian parishes came into being. Although the need for these ethnic parishes is less evident than it once was, today a number of Hispanic and American congregations have joined the PNCC for many of the same reasons as those for which it was originally organized.

The Polish National Catholic Church is a church which maintains the traditional elements of Catholicism, but for the most part has a democratic governance. In matters of faith, morals and ecclesiastical discipline, the church is governed by the prime bishop, with the bishops and clergy united with him. In all other matters, the highest governing body of the church is the general synod, which meets every four years, and has both lay and clerical representation. These synod meetings are also charged with choosing the candidates for the office of bishop. On the local level the parishes are owned and governed by the parishioners, under the leadership of a pastor and an elected parish committee.

The faith of the Polish National Catholic Church is to be found in holy scripture, as set forth in the Councils and the Tradition of the undivided church of the first thousand years. The pastors are trained at the theological seminary of the church in Scranton. At the present time the PNCC is in dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church and the Episcopal Church.