Letter to the parishes
In response to the letter that the Archbishop of Seattle sent to the parishes in Lacey and Olympia WA, we make the following statement:
There is more than
one way to be Catholic:
The Roman Catholic Archbishop Peter Sartain sent a letter to
parishes in Olympia and Lacey, claiming that only faith communities in union with the Pope can
properly call themselves “Catholic.” He
mentions our Emmaus Ecumenical Catholic Community by name so we believe it is
important to clarify who we are.
We make no claim to being Roman Catholic. Rather, we are a
parish in the international Ecumenical Catholic Communion. We share theological
and liturgical tradition with them as part of a wider or “universal” Catholic
Church. We consider our clergy successors of the apostles, as do the Roman
Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Churches,
the Old Catholic Church, and others.
We follow the Old Catholic tradition of refusing to accept
the infallibility of the Pope as proclaimed in 1870 by the First Vatican
Council. We honor the Pope as the first
among bishops, but not as having final authority in matters of faith and morals. Because of this decision all Ecumenical
Catholics participate in selecting our bishops and in making decisions for our
We are an inclusive, welcoming, equalitarian faith
community. We welcome anyone to worship
with us, particularly those who have left the Roman Catholic Church and are
seeking a spiritual home. We are here to stay!
Response of our Presiding Bishop
Although the RomanChurch can be properly called a Catholic Church it is one among many.
Historically, there have been many Christian churches that have identified
themselves as “Catholic” for nearly two millennia that are not in union with Rome. The various Eastern
Orthodox Christians, the Coptic Christians of Egypt, the Syriac and Armenian
Christians of the East, as well as the Old Catholics to name but a few. The
original use of the term “catholic” by ancient churches meant that a so
designated faith community was trinitarian, apostolic, creedal, and
sacramental. It would be more precise to say that “only those faith communities
that are in union with the Roman Pope can properly be called “Roman Catholic.”
Catholic is too general a term to be applied to only one church exclusively
especially since many Christians use that term in reference to themselves.
Therefore, it is incumbent upon all church leaders who use the term catholic in
their name to employ a modifier such as Roman, Syrian, Old, or Ecumenical to
avoid confusion among the faithful.
Bishop Peter Elder