From the Early Church through the Great Schism
"The Old Catholic Church is unique in that it holds to the Catholic faith, is in union with the Eastern Orthodox Church, represents the Catholic Church in the western world, but disavows the administrative peculiarities of the Latin (Roman) Church.
"Truth, unlike words, remains unchanging. What was true in the Apostolic Church is true today. All Christians should readily admit that the test of any principle of the Christian faith is to present it to the mind of the early Christian Church. It is certain that for the first nine hundred years at least, the Christian world was united in a common bond of faith. We know that the Church was one, that its faith was Catholic in the sense best described by St. Vincent of Lerinz, ‘Such teaching is truly Catholic as has been believed in all places, at all times, and by all the faithful.’ By this test of universality, antiquity, and consent, all controversial points in belief must be tried.
"Until the year 1054 AD when the first unhappy division took place, the Church was as it should be, ‘One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic.’ What happened after the division of course appears differently to the mind of every individual and the truth becomes hard to discern. It is safe to say then, that the only way of proving the truth of any contemporary interpretation of Christianity, is to submit it to the examination of the common mind of the Christian Church before its division took place. Was it believed by all Christians everywhere, at all times before the year 1054 A.D.? -- is the test every question of faith should meet.
"The Old Catholic Movement maintains that the obvious basis of reuniting the several divisions of the Christian Church is the common acceptance of the Faith of the entire Church prior to the first division in the year 1054 A.D. from whence all the familiar divisions of today ultimately stem. This theory admits that the 16th century Reformation is not principally responsible for the ‘unhappy divisions’ that beset the Christian religion in the western world. What caused the first division was not a point of faith so much as it was a matter of jurisdiction and administration. History reveals that the early Church was governed by the Apostolic authority vested in all the bishops. Matters of faith and morals affecting the whole Church were brought before an Ecumenical Council (of which there were seven universally accepted) over which the five great bishops of Christendom presided. These bishops, whose Sees represented the important cities of Jerusalem, Antioch, Constantinople, Alexandria, and Rome, were known as patriarchs in whom the Church of the ancients recognized its sovereignty.
"If we are to single out the primary cause of the first division of this Church, it would be the deeply rooted objection of the Patriarch of Rome to this particular theory of Church government. Rome maintained that they and their successors held supreme authority over all Christendom as spiritual heirs of St. Peter, whom, they held, was the first Bishop of Rome and to whom, they contended, the ‘keys to the kingdom of heaven’ were alone divinely entrusted. The four patriarchs of the Church in the East maintained the traditional belief in the administration of Christ's Church, offering for the sake of unity the title ‘primus inter pares’ (first amongst equals) to the Roman bishop.
"But with the Church of the West developing a strong belief that a kind of primacy resided in the Roman bishop by divine enactment, the breach widened into an open division and henceforth the Christian Church in the East and in the West was to be distinct and divided. In the East, to this day, the patriarchal theory of the Church's government is held, while in the West the emphasis on the personal supremacy of the Pope over all Christendom was gradually increased from the year 1054 until the final definition of Papal infallibility was decreed in the Vatican Council of A.D. 1870 as a dogma which all Christians were bound to accept as an article of faith.
"A school of thought regarding the Church's administration developed within the Roman Church, flourishing time and again in such celebrated and glorious figures as Savanarola, Paulo Sarpl, the Scholars of Port-Royal, the so-called ‘Jansenists’, the Church of Holland and others, to develop finally in the twilight of the nineteenth century into what came to be known as ‘primitive’ or ‘old’ Catholicism.
"We are left free now in the following sections to touch upon the stirring and romantic history of the Port-Royalists of France, the rise of the movement within the Church of Rome, and finally the dramatic Vatican Council which culminated in the definite formation of the present Old Catholic movement whose purpose is not a new reformation from without, but a quiet restoration of the Christian Church to its original state from within.