Good Christian people, I bid your prayers for the Polish National Catholic Church, which is currently having its 22nd General Synod, at which it will elect four bishops. Theologically, the PNCC (as envisioned by Bp. Franciszek Hodur) was intended to present a non-Roman catholicism. Founded near the turn of the 20th century, the new denomination rejected the idea of "original guilt," expunged the Filioque
from the Nicene Creed, prayed in a language "understanded of the people," and allowed priests to marry. The PNCC also retained the traditional Roman Mass and another liturgy of Bp. Hodur's editing, which I'm told
reflected the old Mass.* (Other changes were not so in keeping with tradition: many believed in universal salvation; general confession largely replaced private confession among adults; once-vernacular "Polish became the new Holy Latin"; they early replaced the altar with a table; and bishops were allowed to marry.) However, having read Bp. Hodur's vision, his view of the Roman church, if at times reactive and harsh, often tended toward Orthodoxy.
Not so many years ago, the PNCC (then the only genuine "Old Catholic" body in North America**) became a partner to the Orthodox-Old Catholic theological dialogue. From these discussions, a remarkably hopeful document would be crafted: The Road to Unity
(still available from the PNCC, at last I knew, for $5). The rapprochement envisioned by Dr. J.J. Overbeck a century earlier seemed imminent. Discussions also began between the PNCC and the Western Rite
, which in time fizzled. The PNCC adopted a number of reservations to the Orthodox-Old Catholic dialogue, though none appeared insurmountable.
However, the PNCC also remained in dialogue with the Papacy
, ascribing to those talks a higher priority. A well-placed PNCC priest once told me Pope John Paul II initiated the talks with a letter, then denied writing it; whatever the truth, the PNCC has ultimately reunited with neither church and indeed, because of the European churches' growing modernism, broke communion with the Union of Utrecht.
Under Bp. Hodur's most recent successors, former Romans almost to a man, the church increasingly reflects the Roman take on everything, including the development and increasing use of its "Contemporary Mass,"
modeled closely on the Novus Ordo
. Independent observers say the PNCC's tenor has changed dramatically within the last two decades. And I'm told in terms of numbers, it is dying from attrition: former members no longer sensing any difference between itself and the PNCC (and expressly invited by the front of the RCC missalette) simply go Roman; if they move, they often go with their pastor's approval, though Rome seems not to reciprocate.***
The recent reception of a former Roman priest in Toledo, Ohio, has apparently strained relations with the U.S. Roman Catholic church. Perhaps personal fallouts will snap the PNCC from its deathspin. Perhaps they will hasten it. However, it seems tragic for a church that once blazed a courageous path toward becoming a Western expression of the Orthodox faith to end with a whimper of bewilderment, isolation, and indifference.
May God so bless these good Christian people with bishops who will gently lead them to the fulness of the Truth so ardently sought after by Bp. Hodur and embrace the unity of the Orthodox faith.* -
If anyone has a copy of this text, I would be most interested in getting a copy. I understand these went through more than one printing, each slightly changed.** -
That is, the only church recognized and in communion with the Union of Utrecht.*** -
The Anglican Church in America also enjoys a cozy relationship with (and part of its "line of apostolic succession" from) the PNCC; that one, however, results in mutual referrals.