Sunday, November 21, 2021

Today on the Almanac, we tell the story of the creation of the “Old Catholic Church.”

*** This is a rough transcript of today’s show ***

It is the 21st of November 2021. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at, I’m Dan van Voorhis.

Jesus wants his followers to be united (John 17). Not on the basis of unity for unity’s sake- but rather unity in Jesus. What does that mean?

And how much can one differ from another and still claim to be in communion?

Welcome to a central story in the history of the Church!

I was baptized in a Presbyterian Church in the 1990s- I assumed there were other Presbyterians, some Baptists, and maybe a few exotic Lutherans around. And I had heard of some others, but in SoCal, it seemed that everyone was starting their own church so I didn’t think too much about institutional history.

And then I discovered Presbyterians could get angry and separate into a myriad of groups. And the Lutherans did, too! And I was once talking to an Anglican guy and he was like, “Nah, I’m not that kind of Anglican, I’m the special kind” and I could start to understand why I had some friends say “I’ll go Catholic, at least they don’t have 20,000 splinter groups”. Well, my Protestant friends, take heart with today’s show because it isn’t just us that can play denominational alphabet soup and schism.

And in the Roman Catholic Church, it was, of all things, two councils that lead to the modern schisms. Councils! The very things that had been used since 325 to unite the church.

On yesterday’s show, we briefly mentioned Vatican II- that 1960s Catholic Council that mirrored the debates in the Protestant church between the Fundamentalists and Modernists.

And today we take a glance at the Vatican I- the original! And the first Roman Catholic Council since the Council of Trent in the 16th century.

Vatican I (in the 1860s) was convened by Pius IX. He is the longest-reigning Pope in history and he saw the moderately liberal church that he inherited become the conservative body it would be until (arguably) Vatican II (in the 1960s).

The Council was called in 1869 in the midst of a growing Nationalism and Rationalism. Pius IX used the council to cement Papal authority in light of these movements.

A nationally fractured Catholic Church was called back to emphasize the primacy of the Bishop of Rome over all other jurisdictions. Rome reiterated its jurisdiction as universal. Also, the church affirmed both the infallibility of the Pope (when speaking “Ex Cathedra” or officially) and the Immaculate Conception of Mary (that is, she was born without sin).

And it was with this that the Catholic Church began to splinter. How would Pius respond to those who rejected or challenged his teachings?

Dutch Jansenists had always given the Pope a hard time- you can go back to these philosophical Catholics who celebrated Blaise Pascal who was in opposition to the Jesuits. And the Dutch had a curious history with the Pope- the diocese of Utrecht had been electing its own Bishop for over 100 years.

A new movement that called itself “The Old Catholic Church” opposed Papal Supremacy, Infallibility, and the Immaculate Conception. In August of 1873, Joseph Reinkens was made a Bishop of this new movement and this led to a swift reaction from Pope Pius IX.

It was on this, the 21st of November in 1873 that Pope Pius IX excommunicated Reinkens and condemned the new church as “miserable sons of perdition”. But it was not the end of what would become part of the Independent Catholic Church. In 1889 the Union of Utrecht solidified this movement as Catholic, but not Roman. Orthodox, but not Eastern. And they upheld the 7 Sacraments of the Roman Church and the first 7 ecumenical councils.

The “Old Catholics” still exist today as part of the Independent Catholic tradition in the West. They look to center the sacraments in their worship and piety and to create unity with other churches that have broken off from Rome. The movement can trace a few of the roots of its rebellion to being called “sons of perdition” by Pope Pius IX on this, the 21st of November in 1873.

The last word for today comes from John 14:

27 “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give you. I give to you not as the world gives. Don’t be troubled or afraid. 28 You have heard me tell you, ‘I’m going away and returning to you.’ If you loved me, you would be happy that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than me. 29 I have told you before it happens so that when it happens you will believe.

This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 21st of November 2021 brought to you by 1517 at

The show is produced by the Archbishop of Random Lake, Wisconsin, and no son of perdition, he is Christoper Gillespie.

The show is written and read by a man thankful the Rams won’t lose today, it’s our bye week. I am Dan van Voorhis.

You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.

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