“We accept with the greatest willingness, and without any exception whatever, all the articles of the Holy Catholic Faith; we will neither hold nor teach, now or afterwards, any other opinions than those which have been decreed, determined and published by our Mother, the Holy Church, conformably to Holy Scripture, tradition, the acts of the Ecumenical Councils, and those of the Council of Trent.
We reject and condemn everything opposed to them, especially all heresies, without any single exception, which the Church has rejected and condemned; we also detest every schism which may separate us from the communion of the Catholic, Apostolic and Roman Church and of its visible head on earth; in particular we reject and condemn the Five Propositions condemned by the Holy See, which are stated to be found in the book of Jansenius called The Augustinus.
We promise as well for the future as for the present, fidelity, obedience and submission, in all things to His Holiness the present Pope Leo XII, and to his successors, according to the canons of the Church; and also to maintain respectfully, to teach and to maintain in accordance with the same canons, the decrees and Constitutions of the Apostolic See.”Formulary of Utrecht 1823
Long before Archbishop Lefevbre and the Society of St Pius X and all the subsequent traditionalist congregations of clergy founded after the Second Vatican Council, there existed a cabal of Traditionalist clergy and faithful preserving primitive orthodox Catholicism since 1853.
An historical overview
Annexed by Bl. Pius IX in 1853 to avoid settling a long standing canonical dispute over rights and privileges granted by previous Popes “in perpetuity” to the See of Utrecht (Netherlands); Old Roman clergy have continued to preserve intact the doctrine and liturgy extant at the time of their disavowal by Rome. It is for this they are known as “Old” and for their fidelity to the Latin Rite tradition as, “Roman”.
In 1870, Dr. Ignaz von Dollinger brought the “Old Catholics” into being to offer resistance to the dogma of Papal Infallibility. In 1873, the Old Roman See of Utrecht was prevailed upon to provide these “Old Catholics” with a bishop, in 1889 an amalgamation took place between the Church of Utrecht and the “Old Catholics”. Though Utrecht was eventually to abandon authentic Catholicism, the Old Roman legacy was not to perish.
✠Arnold Harris Mathew of England was consecrated to the Episcopate in 1908 by ✠Gerard Gul of Utrecht at a time when Utrecht was still truly orthodox. At the time of ✠Mathew’s consecration at Utrecht, no serious inroads had been made upon the Catholic Faith by the Church of Utrecht, nor had she yet departed in any way from Catholic traditions and practice. By the end of 1910, however, the heterodox influence of the “Old Catholics” had proved too much for Utrecht, overwhelmed her, and so great and far-reaching were the changes which she was prevailed upon to make in her formularies and doctrinal position, that on December 29, 1910, ✠Mathew was forced to break ties with Utrecht in order to preserve the Old Roman legacy.
Though customarily excommunicated by Rome after notification of his episcopal consecration (without Papal mandate) had been received, nonetheless ✠Matthew tried through various means to continue and perpetuate the precious gift of the primitive Traditional Catholic Faith and its liturgy. At one point even receiving recognition from the Orthodox East without compromising the primitive Catholic Faith received by the Latin West; for this Old Romans are often identified with the early history of Western Rite Orthodoxy. At the end of his life however, he submitted to Rome, but not before fortuitously transmitting the precious gift of the episcopate to men who would build upon and continue his work. Following the disastrous manipulations by the 20C Popes of the liturgy and subsequently the doctrine of the Church, by divine providence ✠Matthew’s legacy of orthodox Old Romans, has preserved to the present day.
Maligned for over a century and half, condemned and confused with the Old Catholic schismatics due to their shared origins from the ancient See of Utrecht, remnant Old Romans have been faithfully preserving the Traditional Latin Mass and Traditional Catholic Faith for over 170 years! Perpetuating an Apostolic Succession preceding both Vatican Councils, with bishops, priests and clerics ordained only by the Tridentine Pontificale Romanum, without any alteration in ceremonial nor intention; Old Romans have maintained a Catholic life of Grace through the Sacraments celebrated only with the Traditional formulae.
Attempts to reconcile with the Holy See were finally aborted after the promulgation of the decrees of the Second Vatican Council and the Novus Ordo Missae that followed it. Before ✠Marcel Lefebvre founded the Society of St Pius X, it was Old Roman missions and Mass centres that made available the Traditional Latin Mass for Catholics faithful to Tradition immediately following the aftermath of the Second Vatican Council. Traditional Catholics familiar with the history of resistance to the Novus Ordo are familiar and appreciative of this Old Roman legacy in the days before the SSPX and other Traditionalist congregations were founded, some of whom owe their existence to Old Roman interventions and foundations.
Today Old Romans may be found on every continent around the world, serving faithful Catholics desirous to live a Catholic life according to the perennial rites and customs of authentic Traditional Catholicism in a legacy predating all the liturgical and doctrinal reforms of the 20C.
Relations with contemporary Roman authorities vary from place to place depending on the attitude of the local hierarchy, generally cordial courtesy is extended reciprocally. Old Romans pray for the Pope and desire an end to the present estrangement, collaborate with other Traditional Catholics and hope for the day when full communion may be restored to the Church once more; but only through the common and primary profession of the one holy Catholic and Apostolic Faith as revealed by the perennial magisterium of the Church in continuity with the witness and praxis of the ages, central to which is the Traditional Latin Mass. Lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivendi