Liberal Catholic Church

From Academic Kids

The Liberal Catholic Church is a form of Christianity open to theosophical ideas.

The church was founded in England by J.I. Wedgwood of the Wedgwood China family, a theosophist who was ordained as a priest in the Ancient Catholic Church on July 22, 1913 by Arnold Harris Mathew, a resigned Roman Catholic priest who had been consecrated by Archbishop Gerardus Gul of Utrecht on April 28th, 1908, and appointed as the first Old Catholic Bishop in England. Thus it claims apostolic succession going back to Rome. In the end Mathew came to cease all ties with the Utrecht Union of Churches, to vow allegiance once more to the Roman Catholic Church and to advise those of his flock who were theosophists to resign membership of the Theosophical Society Adyar. This advice was not taken by many members. Wedgwood was consecrated to the episcopate on February 13, 1916 by Bishop Frederick Samuel Willoughby (who had been consecrated by Mathew), and started the organisation that would later become the Liberal Catholic Church, of which Wedgwood became the first Presiding Bishop. Wedgwood published articles within the Theosophical Society on ceremonial work. These interested C.W. Leadbeater, a prominent clairvoyant and Anglican priest who was consecrated as a Liberal Catholic bishop in 1916. C. W. Leadbeater became the 2nd Presiding Bishop.

In 1941, there was a schism in the Liberal Catholic Church in the United States, surrounding a controversy involving Bishop Charles Hampton, who, while he was himself a theosophist, wished to keep adherence to theosophical tenets optional for the clergy. This was in keeping with what was taken to be the original intent of the church's founders, who, although they were theosophists, wanted the church to remain primarily Catholic and to be open to everyone. The church had never required membership in the Theosophical Society.

This led to a legal battle in America eventually producing two Synods both claiming to be the Liberal Catholic Church, since the church's 3rd Presiding Bishop in England, Frank W. Pigott, who had come to embrace a more theosophical ideal for the church, removed Hampton, ordered the confiscation of certain church property at the Regionary headquarters in California, and forced the resignation of those clergy under Hampton who refused to support his new episcopal replacement. At the time, the majority in America supported Hampton and saw his removal from the office of Regionary and the other subsequent proceedings as a breach of canon law and a violation of some of the laws of California under which the church had been incorporated in America. These clergy continued on their own and won the right in America to be called the Liberal Catholic Church (while being called the Liberal Catholic Church International in the rest of the world), while those who followed Bishop Pigott in England became known in America as the Liberal Catholic Church, Province of the United States of America.

Bishop Hampton died before the litigation was settled. The records of the Liberal Catholic Church, Province of the United States of America currently show that Hampton was in fact the legal Regionary. While some clergy wish for more cooperation between the two Synods, they still exist independently.

The Liberal Catholic Church, Province of the United States of America requires its clergy to believe in such theosophical tenets as reincarnation and the ascended masters, and encourages its priests (and requires its bishops) to have a vegetarian diet and refrain from smoking and the consumption of alcohol. This Synod also requires deacons, priests and bishops to be male.

The Liberal Catholic Church International maintains that these beliefs and lifestyle choices should be optional for clergy, and practices the ordination of women to all Holy Orders up to and including libéral nl:Vrij-Katholieke Kerk


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