R. Joseph Owles
A Sheep Among Wolves
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After the bishops who walked out of the First Vatican Council went to the Catholic Church in the Netherlands and asked to join, they came up with fourteen points where they could all agree. These have become one of the important historical documents of the Old Catholic Church. The text of the theses is in black, and any commentary that I add will be written in blue.


(SEPTEMBER 14-16,1874)

I.      We agree that the apocryphal or deutero-canonical books of the Old Testament are not of the same canonicity as the books contained in the Hebrew Canon. (Those seven additional books that we Catholics use are historically part of the Bible, but we agree that even though they are good for inspiration and personal edification, they may not be reliable for establishing doctrine.)

II.     We agree that no translation of Holy Scripture can claim an authority superior to that of the original text. (There is no perfect translation of the Bible to be used. The Original Hebrew or Greek is superior to any translation.)

III.    We agree that the reading of Holy Scripture in the vulgar tongue cannot be lawfully forbidden. (There's no reason not to read the Bible in the language everyone understands, i. e. English in England, French in France, German in Germany, etc. This was back in the days when only Latin was used in church and the Bible was said to only be able to be read in Latin.)

IV.     We agree that, in general, it is more fitting, and in accordance with the spirit of the Church, that the Liturgy should be in the tongue understood by the people. (No more Latin Mass, but English Mass in England and so on. These two points [III and IV] proposed the radical idea that people should be able to understand what's going on in church and be able to understand the Bible.)

V.      We agree that Faith working by Love, not Faith without Love, is the means and condition of Man's justification before God. (Faith isn't just a warm fuzzy feeling in your heart, but it is expressed in deeds, as is love. You do what you believe; if you don't do it, you don't believe it.)

VI.     Salvation cannot be merited by "merit of condignity," because there is no proportion between the infinite worth of salvation promised by God and the finite worth of man's works. (This is a fancy way of saying that our salvation is not a reward for the good deeds we do. We don't earn salvation because we can never earn it--our deeds are but simple drops in the ocean of God's grace and love.)

VII.    We agree that the doctrine of "opera supererogationis" and of a "thesaurus meritorium sanctorum," i.e., that the overflowing merits of the Saints can be transferred to others, either by the rulers of the Church, or by the authors of the good works themselves, is untenable. (This says that even if our good deeds could save us, those who were really good like the saints cannot transfer the extra-salvation they may have earned by their good deeds. I know it sounds crazy but there was an idea that the saints, through their good works, had an overabundance of the effect of those good works, and since they didn't need it, they could transfer it to others. This thesis says that there is nothing to support that idea.)

VIII.   1) We acknowledge that the number of sacraments was fixed at seven, first in the twelfth century, and then was received into the general teaching of the Church, not as a tradition coming down from the Apostles or from the earliest of times, but as the result of theological speculation. (There are seven Sacraments, but that number was determined by the church by theologians and not because St. Peter or any other Apostle said that there are seven Sacraments.)

         2) Catholic theologians acknowledge, and we acknowledge with them, that Baptism and the Eucharist are "principalia, praecipus, eximia salutis nostrae sacramenta." (Out of the seven Sacraments, the primary Sacraments are Baptism and the Eucharist. Most Protestants claim they are the only Sacraments, and we agree that they are the most important, but we will stick with the tradition of the church until there is a valid reason not to.)

IX.     (1) The Holy Scriptures being recognized as the primary rule of Faith, we agree that the genuine tradition, i.e. the unbroken transmission partly oral, partly in writing of the doctrine delivered by Christ and the Apostles is an authoritative source of teaching for all successive generations of Christians. This tradition is partly to be found in the consensus of the great ecclesiastical bodies standing in historical continuity with the primitive Church, partly to be gathered by scientific method from the written documents of all centuries. (Yes, we agree that the Bible is the primary source for understanding our faith, but we also agree that our understanding of the Bible comes out of our tradition. The tradition we use is the long traditon of the Catholic Church that has been left for us in documents and church councils.The Catholic Church existed before the Bible was written, so the Bible itself is part of the tradition of the church. So we use the tradition to understand the Bible.)

         2) We acknowledge that the Church of England; and the Churches derived through her, have maintained unbroken the Episcopal succession.  

X.      We reject the new Roman doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, as being contrary to the tradition of the first thirteen centuries, according to which Christ alone is conceived without sin. 

XI.     We agree that the practice of confession of sins before the congregation or a Priest, together with the exercise of the power of the keys, has come down to us from the primitive Church, and that, purged from abuses and free from constraint, it should be preserved in the Church. (Confession is good for you. Do it! Besides, the absolution you receive is valid for all your sins, even if you are only confessing or aware of a few of them.)

XII.    We agree that "indulgences" can only refer to penalties actually imposed by the Church herself. (Indulgences are situations where the church shortens or ends the time one spends in purgatory. The church got a little careless with them and they were sold as "get out of hell free cards" that robbed the poor of their money and made a lot of money for the church. This is saying that the church can only grant a remission of temporal punishment on those things that the church itself decided is bad. I think an example would be eating meat on Friday for those who are old enough to remember when that was considered a sin. There's nothing in the Bible or the doctrine to make that a sin. It was a means of generating business for fish merchants during the Middle Ages. So the church can only limit the punishment someone receieves for violating a rule that the church made up.

XIII.   We acknowledge that the practice of the commemoration of the faithful departed, i.e. the calling down of a richer outpouring of Christ's grace upon them, has come down to us from the primitive Church, and is to be preserved in the Church. 

XIV.   1) The Eucharistic celebration in the Church is not a continuous repetition or renewal of the propitiatory sacrifice offered once forever by Christ upon the cross; but its sacrificial character consists in this, that it is the permanent memorial of it, and a representation and presentation on earth of that one oblation of Christ for the salvation of redeemed mankind, which according to the Epistle to the Hebrews (9:11,12), is continuously presented in heaven by Christ, who now appears in the presence of God for us (9:24). 

         2) While this is the character of the Eucharist in reference to the sacrifice of Christ, it is also a sacred feast, wherein the faithful, receiving the Body and Blood of our Lord, have communion one with another (I Cor. 10:17). (This thesis will be repeated in the Eight Utrecht Declarations.)





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