Diocese of California 
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  STATEMENT OF PRINCIPLES
 


WHO ARE WE?

The American Catholic Church is a community of Christians comprising an autocephalous (i.e. self-governing) Catholic Church. The ACC is one of more than 100 Autocephalous Catholic Churches worldwide.

 

AUTOCEPHALOUS CATHOLICISM
Originally, during the first generations of Christianity, all local churches were independent and there was no central governing organization. These local communities were ministered to by what we would, today, call bishops and deacons. The rank of priest only began to emerge and differentiate from that of bishop later, during the mid-second century, as the Church expanded from the cities to the rural areas.

Beginning in the second Century, with the spread of Christianity into the rural areas outside the cities, and particularly after the devolution of the presbyter (i.e. priest) from the Order of Bishop, local churches began to be grouped together to permit better organization and supervision of orthodoxy. Parishes began to be led by priests. Bishops became heads of regions called diocese and bishops of cities, called a Metropolitan, or an Archbishop, supervised, but did not rule over or govern, the nearby rural diocese. Diocesan Bishops were completely autonomous in their own diocese so long as they remained true to the Faith.

All were organized under the leadership of some principal bishop called a Patriarch who headed the most important diocese in the world. In ancient times the Patriarchs were the Bishops of Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria, Rome, and Constantinople. Each were equal in rank, prestige, and authority; though particular honor was given to the Patriarchs of Rome and Constantinople as their Sees were the seats of Imperial Roman Government. Today, the Patriarch of Rome, also know as the Patriarch of the West, is also called the Pope. The Patriarch of Constantinople, called the Ecumenical Patriarch, is the leader of all Eastern Orthodox Churches, a title of honor not of governance, except within his own Greek Orthodox Church.

The Eastern Orthodox Churches, perhaps, better known as the Greek Orthodox Church, the Russian Orthodox Church, etc., continue to follow the model of the Patriarch leader as a "first among equals'' today. Local Bishops and Metropolitan's have autonomy and are answerable to their "Synod of Bishops" rather than to the Patriarch in matters of orthodoxy and discipline. Though they employ a liturgy which is very different from that used in the West, they are none the less Catholic, and of ancient and Apostolic origin.

There are many Catholic Churches which, today, belong to the Orthodox family. Many have a national or ethnic character. All are completely self governing. Some, such as the Russian Orthodox Church, have their own Patriarch. Each shares a communion with the other Churches of Orthodoxy. Though formed at different times, all are said to have entered schism, i.e. severed relations, with Rome in 1054 in response to un-historical assertions of Papal Authority.

Western Catholic Christianity experienced an authoritarian approach to leadership under the control of the Patriarch/bishop of Rome, the Pope. Propelled by a vacuum of civil leadership after the fall of the Western Roman Empire and fueled by medieval political intrigues, the Popes soon asserted greater and greater authority. Through the years, assertions of Papal power and authority have frequently led to conflict and scandal. The Great Schism of 1054 in which Roman Catholicism split Christianity by breaking ties with Easter Orthodoxy, the scandalous conduct of the Renaissance Church, the Reformation of the sixteenth century, and numerous smaller schisms which have occurred since, can be traced to this authoritarian approach.

Western Independent Catholic Churches (i.e. those whose roots are through the Roman Catholic Church) include the Old Catholic Church, and the Catholic Apostolic Church to name but two.  These churches were formed in response to both the over centralization of the western church in Rome and a local need for a theology, spirituality and liturgy that spoke to and with the people.  Each has maintained a Catholic identity, Apostolic Succession, and continue Sacramental and liturgical worship, and follow the Traditions of the historic church.

Like the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches; The ACC is an autocephalous part of the "...one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church". Autocephalous literally means "having its own head" and is best defined as "self governing".

The Church is one because it is one with its founder, Jesus Christ and, in His Mystical Body, is one with all believers. The Church is holy because Christ is Holy and sanctifies the Church by His continuing Presence in the Sacraments and His Word. The Church is catholic both because, as a member of Christ's mystical body, it is universal; and because it consciously links itself to the Traditions and practices of the historic Church. The Church is Apostolic because it is linked to the faith, teachings, and authority of the Apostles, both Sacramentally and historically, through the Apostolic Succession of the Bishops and Clergy.

LITURGY

Liturgical worship, especially the Liturgy of the Holy Eucharist (i.e. the Holy Mass) is celebrated in several Rites depending on the needs and desires of the local community and with approval by the Diocesan Bishop. Generally, the Liturgy will be either the current Rite of the Roman Church ( Novus Ordo), the Rite of the Anglican/Episcopal Communion (either 1928 or current versions) or the liturgy of the Eastern Orthodox Churches.

The ACC believes that Christ calls each of us as a free gift of Grace to be equal members of His Mystical Body.
No individual, regardless of position in the Church, including the Bishop of Rome (the pope), receives an infallible personal insight into the Mind of God by virtue of their call or position in the Church. Rather, the Holy Spirit inspires each person, lay, religious, and clergy, with gifts for the building of God's Kingdom (cf. 1 Corinthians 12, et al.) according to the Spirit's Plan for God's People.

The clergy are ordained as leaders and teachers of the Gospel; not as princes, or infallible arbiters of theological opinion. It is the duty of each person, under the teaching guidance of the Church, to inform themselves through prayer and study and arrive at an understanding of the Truth revealed to our world by Jesus Christ and to apply their individual gifts to the building of God's Kingdom.

To be accepted as defined matters of the Faith and inerrant Truth, however, theological postulates require a moral consensus of all bishops and must also be received as inerrant Truth by the People of God. Thus they cannot be imposed on the People of God by the actions of any single person, regardless of their Office or stature in the Church, including the Bishop of Rome (the pope).

FREEDOM

The ACC leaves to the informed conscience of our people matters which are properly theirs to decide before God.

A WELCOMING CHURCH

The ACC welcomes all people, regardless of their marital status or sexual orientation, to participation in the life and Sacraments of the Church; asking only moral conduct which is appropriate for all Christians.  The call to be a Christian entails moral and ethical behavior which flows from a conscience informed by prayer and study. While it is not the function of the Church to be judgmental regarding the conduct of individual members, this lack should not be seen as affirming immoral conduct of any kind, but is a recognition that we are incompetent and unworthy to judge another.

It is, rather, the Church's function to offer instruction and guidance in a Christian way of life so that those whom He calls may lead lives in imitation of Christ out of Love for God and not from fear of damnation nor from censure by their sisters and brothers (cf. Matthew 7:1-5; John 8:7, et al.).

 MARRIAGE  

The ACC, therefore, will minister to those making commitments for life to each other in Matrimony (for heterosexual couples and homosexual ) A lesbian or gay couple might elect to have the rite of holy union.  The ACC believes that love between two persons is a gift from God. We believe that the commitment in love between two persons should also be blessed by God through the ministry of the Church irrespective of their orientation. It is good and proper for the Church to recognize this reality in public and witness the bond of love between two persons.  Divorce is not, generally, an impediment to remarriage in The ACC and does not bar one from the reception of the Sacraments.

ADMISSION TO HOLY ORDERS

For details on incardination of Clergy and admission of candidates for Holy Orders please contact our presiding bishop.

RELATIONS WITH OTHER CHURCHES

We welcome all who come to us in the Name of the Lord. We believe that all communities of faith honor and worship the one God. We extend to them the warmest of bonds of Love and Fellowship. They are our brothers and sisters in the our common God. (cf. Mark 9:40)

We welcome to the Lord's Table all baptized Christians who approach it reverently, regardless of their current ecclesiastical affiliation. Divorce and remarriage are not impediments to the reception of the Holy Eucharist (see Matthew 10:8).

PENANCE AND RECONCILIATION

All people sin. Sin is a sad but inherent part of a human nature which has yet to fully align itself with the Will of God. As sinners we recognize the need for conversion of heart and reordering of our lives; but also trust in the infinite love and forgiveness of our Lord. Reconciliation is the great Sacrament by which those who have wandered on paths which lead astray are reunited and reconciled to the Lord and God's People.

Though not required, Private Confession is available from any priest by request. General Sacramental Absolution may be granted to all present during the penitential rite.