Diocese of California 
with clergy and ministries in Oregon and Nevada


 

What is the ACC- FAQ's

Mission Statement

Main Page

Requests for all Other Sacraments

Statement Regarding Sexual Misconduct Statement of Beliefs

Vocations

ACC, Apostolic Succession, Historical Notes

Statement of Principals

Clergy and Parishes

Canons

Contact Us       Message From The Bishop

Marriage Request - Weddings

  Unity Agreement

Photos

Notices and Recent Events

Apostolic Succession of the American Catholic Church
Diocese of California
 
The Apostolic Succession of our Bishops is of unquestioned validity from the successors of St. Peter in the See of Antioch, the original mission to Gentile Christendom.  The ACC was founded and originally headed by His Excellency, the Most Reverend Joseph Rene Vilatte in 1909 when he united his various independent Catholic churches and missions in Wisconsin, Illinios, New York, California, Arizona and Canada into one ecclesiastical family.
 
Although originally Antiochian in succession, as a result of multiple concordats of intercommunion and shared consecrations, the ACC is not dependent upon any single line of Apostolic Succession but can trace Antiochian, Old Catholic (Matthew Line), Roman (Duarte-Costa Line), Celtic, Gallican and Orthodox lines to name but a few. We acknowledge the primacy (not supremacy) of the Bishop of Rome and respect his position as an important voice of Catholic Christianity as well as his authority when he speaks in union with the Catholic Bishops and expresses the sensus fidelium of the Catholic Church.
 
Although Archbishop Vilatte was ordained to the priesthood under His Excellency Bishop Eduard Herzog, a Swiss Old Catholic bishop, the ACC has never been a member of the Union of Utrecht, nor does it subscribe to the Declaration of Utrecht.  
 
Archbishop Vilatte was consecrated in 1892 under a Bull of authority of Ignatius Peter III, Patriarch of Antioch and titled "Mar Timotheos, Metropolitan Archbishop for the Old Catholics of America adhering to the faith of the undivided church."  At the end of his life Archbishop Vilatte was reconciled with the Holy See of Rome, receiving a full Bishop’s pension from the Vatican until he died in a Cistercian Abbey in France on July 1, 1929. He was buried according to the simple rite, mitred, with all the episcopal dignity due him.   May he rest in peace.
 
The Church of Antioch & The Church of Malabar
 
The gospel was first preached in Antioch in Syria by Jewish converts returning there from Jerusalem after the days of Pentecost and afterwards by refugees who fled Jerusalem during the persecution at the time of the martyrdom of St. Stephen.  Later St. Barnabas brought St. Paul from Tarsus and they went to Antioch, being called to the Apostleship: “And the disciples were called 'Christians' first at Antioch” (Acts 11:26) then taking it to Rome and consecrated as his successor in Antioch, St. Evodius, who was in turn succeeded by St. Ignatius, called "Theophoros."  The 144th Patriarch of Antioch, counting from St. Peter, was Ignatius Peter III.
 
Likewise, Christianity was first preached in India by the Apostle, St. Thomas, and the indigenous Indian Church was called "The Christians of St. Thomas."  This church was never subject to a "See" but in 1665, being without a bishop, the St. Thomas Christians placed themselves under the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Antioch, from which See, they received a hierarchy and were thereafter called the Church of Malabar, being under the jurisdiction of those Patriarchs of Antioch.
 
The Validity of the Antiochian Succession
 
The churches of Antiochian Succession in the United States, including the American Catholic Church, traced apostolic succession through eastern sources, notably through Archbishop Joseph Renee Vilatte, who is often credited with bringing the Antiochian Succession to North America.
 
The validity of the Antiochian Succession has repeatedly been recognized and acknowledged by the Roman Catholic Church, which has admitted into its fold bishops of the Antiochian Succession without re-ordination or consecration; by the Old Catholic Church of Holland; by the Church of England, which in 1870, welcomed the visiting Patriarch of Antioch, Ignatius Peter III -- the same who ordered the consecration of Archbishop Vilatte -- and enthroned him in Canterbury Cathedral to bless the people; by the Armenian, Russian Orthodox, Greek and in fact, all branches of the Catholic Church, which have undoubted Orders themselves.
 
Especially significant and conclusive was the experience of His Grace Archbishop Lloyd, the first married Archbishop of the American Catholic Church, during his visit to the Holy Land in 1923, when the Patriarch of Jerusalem, the Antiochian Metropolitan of Jerusalem and the Archbishop of India, received and entertained him with all the honors due an Archbishop of the Holy Catholic Church.
 
The charge had erroneously been made by the Protestant Episcopal Church of America that the consecration of Archbishop Vilatte was null and void because the Church of Antioch, from which his Orders were derived, was "unorthodox." This charge, however, was disputed by the Church of England itself.  The Lambeth Conference of Pan-Anglican Bishops of 1920, in their Encyclical Letter To The Christian World (pp. 150-151), declared that the “accusations of heresy against the Western Syrian Churches are false.” It is also the same for the Christians of St. Thomas of Malabar.  American Episcopalian the Reverend Doctor Ritchie, acknowledged chief among Catholic-minded Episcopalian theologians and scholars in the United States of America, wrote a forceful editorial in the "Catholic Champion" in which he asserted: "Vilatte is as true a Bishop as ever wore a mitre." And a member of the House of Bishops, Bishop Coxe of Western New York, in a letter to Archbishop Vilatte declared  in  February 24, 1896 -- "Whatever the House of Bishops may say to the contrary, no Roman prelate in the United States has an Episcopate as valid as yours."
 
If further evidence of the canonical and valid Consecration of Archbishop Vilatte were required, it is found in the invitation he received to go to France and found a National Catholic Church for France. After the separation of the Church and State in France by the laws of July 1, 1901, the League of Catholics of France was formed to establish a French National Catholic Church, independent of Rome, the National Committee of which was under the presidency of Henri des Hou (Kt. of Legion of Honor and decorated with the Royal and Imperial Orders of Spain and Russia) and included such men of note as Senators Reveilland and Guiesse. These devout men of France, in their search for a valid non-papal bishop who would give them the Apostolic Succession, sent to Ceylon and to Malabar through the French Consulate to verify Bishop Vilatte's Consecration, and to obtain official copies of the Acts of Consecration, the Edict of the Patriarch of Antioch sanctioning it, and the attestation of the United States Consul Morey of Ceylon, who was present at the consecration and one of the witnesses to the event. Through the influence of M. Briand, Minister of Public Instruction and Worship, these indisputable documents were obtained. After the issues of his consecration was definitively settled, Archbishop Vilatte was most earnestly invited to come to France and help establish an independent non-Papal Catholic Church and so was born the Independent Gallican Apostolic Catholic Church.
 
 
The American Catholic Succession
 
The American Catholic Succession can be traced from Jerusalem where the Apostles, equally called, commissioned and inspired, and their sacred office perpetuated by the election and consecration of Matthias, went forth preaching, healing, baptizing, laying on of hands, consecrating and establishing churches, the first of which was the Church of Antioch, founded by St. Peter about A. D. 38 and over which he reigned as Bishop and Patriarch for six years before the time he became Bishop of Rome.  Antioch thus became the Mother Church of Gentile Christendom, and consequently if any primacy or supremacy were possessed by St. Peter, and continued through his successors and the Church founded by him, then Antioch has a right to claim that supremacy.
 
However priority and absolute equality (not supremacy) with all other valid branches of the Catholic Church, is the claim and glorious heritage of the American Catholic Church through the Antiochian Succession.  St. Peter's successor as Bishop and Patriarch of Antioch was Evodus, who in turn was succeeded by St. Ignatius The Martyr, and so on down the Christian centuries until the present day. Without giving the names of all the Patriarchs who, as successors of St. Peter, have presided over the Antiochian Church, and kept alive the Apostolic Succession in that Church, it is practical to begin with the one from whom the American Catholic Church derives Canonical commission and Episcopate, the one hundred and forty-fourth in direct line from St. Peter, Ignatius Peter III.
 
Ignatius Peter III, Patriarch of Antioch and the East, assisted by two Bishops, consecrated Paul Athanasius in 1877 and appointed him his Legate. Metropolitan-Archbishop and Legate of Ignatius Peter III, Paul Athanasius, assisted by Metropolitan Archbishops George Gregorius and Paul Evanius, consecrated Francis Xavier Alvarez, Archbishop of Ceylon in 1889. Archbishop Alvarez, in accordance with the edict issued by His Holiness, Ignatius Peter III and assisted by the Metropolitan Archbishops, Gregorius and Athanasius, in his cathedral at Colombo, Ceylon, on May 29, 1892, consecrated Joseph Rene Vilatte as “Metropolitan-Archbishop for the Old Catholics of America”, adhering to the Faith of the early undivided Church; thus antedating by twenty years all other Independent or Non-Papal Catholic movements in America.
 
Archbishop Vilatte, on December 29, 1915, consecrated Frederic E. J. Lloyd, D.D., first Bishop of the American Catholic Church.  In 1920, he was elected Archbishop and Primate of the ACC.  On July 1, 1923, Archbishop Lloyd consecrated Samuel Gregory Lines, who was made Archbishop of the Province of the Pacific on October 11, 1925, in the Armenian Church of Los Angeles, California, kindly loaned by the authority of the Armenian Bishop of America, and the kindness of the rector the Reverend Father Milikian.  Archbishop Lloyd also consecrated Archbishop Hinton, who later became the second Primate.
 
Archbishop Lines consecrated Bishop Boyle; and Archbishop Hinton consecrated Bishop Clarkson who became third Primate.  Bishop Boyle consecrated Bishop L. P. Wadle.  On the death of Archbishop Metropolitan Clarkson, Archbishop Wadle became Archbishop Metropolitan and fifth Primate for he was coadjutor and co-occupant of the See with the right of succession to Archbishop Clarkson. Herman Adrian Spruit, who was co-consecrated by Wadle and Boyle, later went on to become primate of the Catholic Apostolic Church of Antioch (in America), our cousin church.
 
Each Communion has its own philosophy of Orders.  What is canonical in one may be uncanonical in another.  It is doubtful if any church could claim validity if such claim would have to satisfy the Canons of every other church. For example, the ancient Canons of the Holy Catholic Apostolic Church of the East,  demands from those in higher ecclesiastical Orders abstinence from animal food (presumably a carryover from Jewish Kashruth).  The American Catholic Church looked upon Bishops consecrated in other Rites as "uncanonically consecrated," meaning their Orders may be "valid but not licit."  If they wished to be associated with the American Catholic Church as then constituted, "reimposition" of hands was necessary to confer regularity and to cover any contingency that might otherwise arise (Sub-conditione action).
 
By way of remedy, Archbishop Wadle initiated a series of Concordats of Intercommunion with other Bishops and Archbishops as the result of which the American Catholic Church is now not dependent upon a single line of Apostolic tradition. In 1998, (then) Presiding Archibishop Robert J. Allmen (of the reorganized American Catholic Church ) initiated Concordats of Intercommunion with The Catholic Apostolic Church In North America (CACINA) and The Celtic Christian Church and through mutual consecrations of bishops adding both Celtic and Roman Lines of Succession.  The American Catholic Church shares in the Episcopal Successions of: Rome through the Duarte-Costa Line and the Old Catholic Church of Holland; Greek through Cyrill VI and Herman A. Spruit (through H. Francis Marshall); and Orthodox through both Russian and Syrian sources.
 
Archbishop Vilatte, during his life time, headed four ecclesiastical organizations: The American Old Roman Catholic Church (the continuation of the Swiss Christian-Catholic movement in which Vilatte had been ordained Priest and to which was added the word "North" when this Church defected from Bishop Vilatte's Episcopal jurisdiction); The African Orthodox Church; The Order of the Crown of Thorns and the American Catholic Church.  The latter had its inception with the consecration of Frederic E.J. Lloyd in 1915.  The American Catholic Synod of April 10, 1920 named Archbishop Vilatte, Exarch, in respect to the American Catholic Church.  This office Archbishop Lloyd was himself to assume in the latter part of his life.
 
The American Catholic Church was reorganized in 1989 and in 1995 Bishop Robert J. Allmen was consecrated Presiding Archbishop.  The ACC was  nationally centered at Good Shepherd Cathedral in Hampton Bays, New York.  The reorganized ACC spread quickly and by 1996 had diocese / churches in many U.S. states.  In 1999, a number of factors led to resignations, annexing of a diocese and some bishops.  In the summer of 2000 after prayerful discussion of the Synod of Bishops of the American Catholic Church, Presiding Archibishop Robert J. Allmen resigned his position and retired from the American Catholic Church.  In November of 2000, the Synod of Bishops elected The Most Reverend Sharon DiSunno Presiding Archbishop of the American Catholic Church International (as it had been renamed), succeeding +Allmen.  On December 21, 2000, Bishop Patrick E. Trujillo, Co-Adjutor Bishop with Right of Succession, through the Board of Directors of the Archdiocese of Our Lady of Guadalupe of New Jersey, "severed ties" with the American Catholic Church International.  The extant Concordats of Intercommunion remained intact.
 
In January 2002, the Synod of Bishops of the American Catholic Church International: Most Reverend Sharon DiSunno, Presiding Bishop; Most Reverend Charles Grande; Most Reverend Osmel Valera d'Abela; Most Reverend Raymond Kelly; Most Reverend Anthony Hash began to experience differences of canonical leadership style.  The Most Reverend Charles Grande consecrated the Most Reverend Lou A. Bordisso as the Presiding Bishop of the American Catholic Church - Diocese of California on November 6, 2005. The current Presiding Bishop is Martin De Porres Griffin. Bishop Griffin was elected as Presiding Bishop of the Church  at the General Synod of the Church held in San Diego on July 22, 2012. Bishop Griffin was consecrated as Bishop and installed as fourth Presiding Bishop of the Church on September 22, 2012 in San Diego, by The Most Reverend Charles Grande.