Declaration of Utrecht and 14 Theses

Ancient History and Validations:

Utrecht receives Rights of Autonomy from Blessed Pope Eugene III in 1145.


This Right is confirmed by Pope Leo in 1215 and becomes known universally as the Leonine Privilege.


Privilege subsequently reconfirmed in two Church Councils in 1520 and 1717.


More Recent Validations


Dominus Iesus issued by the Roman Catholic Magisterium in the year 2000, signed by John Paul II on June 16, and Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI) on August 6, states:

“The churches which, while not existing in perfect communion with the (Roman) Catholic Church, remain united to her by means of the closest bonds, that is, by Apostolic Succession and a valid Eucharist, are true particular churches.”


A Concordat was signed between the Holy Father, Pope Paul VI, and Archbishop Glazmaker of Utrecht in 1976, recognizing the Catholic status of one another and the validity of one another’s Sacraments.


“The Roman Church recognizes the validity of Old Catholic Orders and Sacraments.” 1974, Catholic Almanac, Our Sunday Visitor


“The Old Catholics, like the Orthodox, possess a valid priesthood.” Separated Brethren, William J. Whalen


“…Catholics may receive the Eucharist, penance or anointing from sacred ministers of non-Catholic denominations whose Orders are considered valid by the Catholic Church. This includes all Eastern Orthodox priests, priests of the Old Catholic and the Polish National Church.” A Catholic Guide to the New Code of Canon Law, Thomas P. Doyle, OP


“…Ordinations performed by the bishops of the Old Catholic Church are considered valid.” A Practical Commentary on the Code of Canon Law, Rev. Stanislaw Woywood, OFM, LLB


Declaration of Utrecht

Declaration of the Bishops of the Old Catholic Church

Utrecht, September 24, 1889


1. We adhere faithfully to the Rule of Faith laid down by St. Vincent of Lerins in these terms: Id teneamus, quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est; hoc est etenim vere proprieque catholicum. For this reason we preserve in professing the faith of the primitive Church, as formulated in the Ecumenical symbols and specified precisely by the unanimously accepted decisions of the Ecumenical Councils held in the undivided Church of the first thousand years.


2. We therefore reject the decrees of the so-called Council of the Vatican, which were promulgated July 18th, 1870, concerning the infallibility and the universal Episcopate of the Bishop of Rome, decrees which are in contradiction with the faith of the ancient Church, and which destroy its ancient canonical constitution by attributing to the Pope the plenitude of ecclesiastical powers over all Dioceses and over all the faithful. By denial of this primatial jurisdiction we do not wish to deny the historical primacy which several Ecumenical Councils and Fathers of the ancient Church have attributed to the Bishop of Rome by recognizing him as the Primus inter pares.


3. We also reject the dogma of the Immaculate Conception promulgated by Pius IX in 1854 in defiance of the Holy Scriptures and in contradiction to the tradition of the centuries.


4. As for other Encyclicals published by the Bishops of Rome in recent times for example, the Bulls Unigenitus and Auctorem fidei , and the Syllabus of 1864, we reject them on all such points as are in contradiction with the doctrine of the primitive Church, and we do not recognize them as binding on the consciences of the faithful. We also renew the ancient protests of the Catholic Church of Holland against the errors of the Roman Curia, and against its attacks upon the rights of national Churches.


5. We refuse to accept the decrees of the Council of Trent in matters of discipline, and as for the dogmatic decisions of that Council we accept them only so far as they are in harmony with the teaching of the primitive Church.


6. Considering that the Holy Eucharist has always been the true central point of Catholic worship, we consider it our right to declare that we maintain with perfect fidelity the ancient Catholic doctrine concerning the Sacrament of the Altar, by believing that we receive the Body and Blood of our Saviour Jesus Christ under the species of bread and wine. The Eucharistic celebration in the Church is neither a continual repetition nor a renewal of the expiatory sacrifice which Jesus offered once for all upon the Cross: but it is a sacrifice because it is the perpetual commemoration of the sacrifice offered upon the Cross, and it is the act by which we represent upon earth and appropriate to ourselves the one offering which Jesus Christ makes in Heaven, according to the Epistle to the Hebrews 9:11-12, for the salvation of redeemed humanity, by appearing for us in the presence of God (Heb. 9:24). The character of the Holy Eucharist being thus understood, it is, at the same time, a sacrificial feast, by means of which the faithful in receiving the Body and Blood of our Saviour, enter into communion with one another (I Cor. 10:17).


7. We hope that Catholic theologians, in maintaining the faith of the undivided Church, will succeed in establishing an agreement upon questions which have been controverted ever since the divisions which arose between the Churches. We exhort the priests under our jurisdiction to teach, both by preaching and by the instruction of the young, especially the essential Christian truths professed by all the Christian confessions, to avoid, in discussing controverted doctrines, any violation of truth or charity, and in word and deed to set an example to the members.


8. By maintaining and professing faithfully the doctrine of Jesus Christ, by refusing to admit those errors which by the fault of men have crept into the Catholic Church, by laying aside the abuses in ecclesiastical matters, together with the worldly tendencies of the hierarchy, we believe that we shall be able to combat efficaciously the great evils of our day, which are unbelief and indifference in matters of religion.


The Fourteen Theses of the Old Catholic Union Conference at Bonn 1874

Article I The Canon and Apocrypha.

We agree that the apocryphal or deutero-canonical books of the Old Testament are not of the same canonicity as the books of the Hebrew Canon.


Article II The Original Text and Translations of the Bible.

We agree that no translation of Holy Scripture can claim an authority superior to that of the original text.


Article III Use of the Bible in the Vernacular Tongues.

We agree that the reading of the Holy Scripture in the vulgar tongue can not be lawfully forbidden.


Article IV Liturgy in the Vernacular Tongues.

We agree that, in general, it is more fitting, and in accordance with the spirit of the Church, that the Liturgy should be in the tongue understood by the people.


Article V Justification by Faith working by Love.

We agree that Faith working by Love, not Faith without Love, is the means and condition of man’s justification before God.


Article VI Salvation not by Merit.

Salvation can not be merited by merit of condignity, because there is no proportion between the infinite worth of the salvation promised by God and the finite worth of man’s works.


Article VII Works of Supererogation.

We agree that the doctrine of opera supererogationis* and thesaurus meritorum sanctorum*, i.e., that the overflowing merits of the Saints can be transferred to others, either by the Church, or by the authors of the good works themselves, is untenable.


Article VIII Number of Sacraments.

1. We acknowledge that the number of sacraments was fixed at seven, first in the twelfth century, and then was received into the general teaching of the Church, not as a tradition coming down from the Apostles or from the earliest times, but as a result of theological speculation.


2. Catholic theologians (e.g. Belarmin) acknowledge, and we acknowledge with them, that Baptism and the Eucharist are principalia, praecipus, eximia salutis nostrae sacramenta.*


Article IX Scripture and Tradition.

1. The Holy Scriptures being recognized as the primary rule of Faith, we agree that the genuine tradition, i.e. the unbroken transmission, partly oral, partly in writing, of the doctrine delivered by Christ and the Apostles, is an authoritative source of teaching for all successive generations of Christians. This tradition is partly to be found in historical continuity with the primitive Church, partly to be gathered by scientific method from the written documents of all centuries.

2. We acknowledge that the Church of England, and the Churches derived from her, have maintained unbroken the Episcopal succession.


Article X The Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary.

We reject the new Roman doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, as being contrary to the tradition of the first thirteen centuries, according to which Christ alone is conceived without sin.


Article XI Public and Private Confession.

We agree that the practice of confession of sins before the congregation or a Priest, together with the exercise of the power the keys, has come down to us from the primitive Church, and that, purged from abuses and free from constraint, is should be preserved in the Church.


Article XII Indulgences.

We agree that indulgences can only refer to penalties actually imposed by the Church herself.


Article XIII Commemoration of the Departed.

We acknowledge that the practice of the commemoration of the faithful departed, i.e. the calling down of a richer outpouring of Christ’s grace upon them, has come down to us from the primitive Church, and is to be preserved in the Church.


Article XIV The Mass.

1. The eucharistic celebration in the Church is not a continuous repetition or renewal of the propitiatory sacrifice offered once for ever by Christ on the Cross; but its sacrificial character consists in this, that it is the permanent memorial of it, and a representation and presentation on earth of that one oblation of Christ for the salvation of redeemed mankind, which, according to the Hebrews (9:11,12), is continuously presented in heaven by Christ, who now appears in the presence of God for us (9:24).


2. While this is the character of the Eucharist in reference to the sacrifice of Christ, it is also a sacred feast, wherein the faithful, receiving the Body and Blood of our Lord, have communion one with another (I Cor. 10:17).


* opera supererogationis and thesaurus meritorum sanctorum: these refer to the Roman doctrine that God expects so much merit from each human being, and that some saints lived exemplary lives filled with more merit than was required of God (opera supererogationis or works above those required). This extra merit was then kept in escrow by the Church (thesaurus meritorum sanctorum: treasury of the merits of the saints), who has the authority to portion it out to her children.


* principalia, praecipus, eximia salutis nostrae sacramenta: original, distinguished, extraordinary sacraments for our welfare.

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