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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
Bishop of the Church on September 22, 2012 in San Diego, by
The Most Reverend Charles