A CONTRADICTION IN TERMS
The "Independent Catholic"

July-August 1999By Steve Dundas

The Rev. Canon Steve Dundas is a priest in the International Communion of the Charismatic Episcopal Church and a lieutenant in the Navy Chaplain Corps with the Second Marine Division in Jacksonville, North Carolina.

I think it was Samuel Johnson who, when asked for his opinion of a new book he had just read, replied that he had found the work to be both good and original. However, he continued, the parts that were good were not original, and the parts that were original were not good.

I couldn’t help but feel the same as I browsed the Internet through dozens upon dozens of references to groups that call themselves both “Independent” and “Catholic.” I suspect that the parts that are Catholic are not independent, and the parts that are independent are — well, you get the point.

The oxymoronic appellation “Independent Catholic” would amaze a Roman Catholic or even a German Lutheran. But here in the land that invented “Grape Nuts” — a breakfast cereal that contains neither grapes nor nuts — and “Fresh Frozen” fish — well, is it fresh or is it frozen? — we are not shy about exercising our right to label things in any eclectic or contradictory way we choose. Our ecclesiastical self-naming practices may be yet another curious flowering of the Puritan-cum-Enlightenment roots of our religious culture.

Now, there are some schismatic groups and denominations that exist apart from the Roman Church but that acknowledge their dependence on the greater Catholic Church for dogma, for Holy Orders, and for the validity of their sacraments. Almost all of these schismatic groups, even when condemning Rome for what they see as errors, still acknowledge their dependence on Rome or the Orthodox Churches in some way. Some have kept the dogmas that existed in the Church at the time of their separation relatively intact. Most of these have also tried to ensure that they have some sort of traceable Apostolic Succession linking them back to Rome or one of the historic Eastern Sees. Schismatic churches such as the Polish National Catholic Church, the Catholic Apostolic Church of Brazil, and various Old Catholic Churches are in this group. Even in their separation these groups tacitly admit their dependence on Rome or the East.


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