A number of churches are called “Catholic.” Scholars group them based on a number of factors. These churches see the Pope as, at least, the first among equal bishops. They preserve apostolic succession, validly celebrate the seven sacraments and adopt the longer Old Testament Canon consisting of 46 books. Besides the Roman Catholic churches which function in union with Rome, this grouping includes Eastern Orthodox churches, Anglo Catholics, some high Episcopalians, and various other small ecclesiastical communities which have separated from the Roman Catholic or Orthodox churches.
Even though Catholic scholars believe that the Roman church is the only definitively Catholic Church, Richard P. McBrien, in his college-level catechism, “Catholicism,” states that the above churches are characteristically Catholic in that they celebrate a Catholic Christianity, but lack formal union with Rome. In addition, it should be noted that they are not part of the Protestant Reformation and do not share a distinctively Protestant theology.
The table below is designed to present a clear comparison between the Roman Catholic position and our American Catholic position on several key issues. We do not necessarily speak for other Independent Catholic juridictions which are also called American Catholic.
|Roman Catholic Position||American Catholic Position|
|A||The Church is infallible.||The Church is infallible.|
|D||The Pope can teach infallibly in the areas of faith and morals when he speaks from the chair (ex cathedra).||The Pope can teach infallibly in the areas of faith and morals only when in union with the Bishops and Patriarchs of the East and West in an Ecumenical Council.|
|A||Non-Roman Churches whose bishops are ordained by bishops who can trace their succession back through the Catholic Church to the Apostles validly celebrate the sacraments.||These Churches, like our own American Catholic Church, do validly celebrate the sacraments by virtue of Apostolic succession. Our bishop traces his succession through his consecrator to a Roman Catholic bishop, Duarte Costa, who formed an independent Catholic church in Brazil on July 6, 1945.|
|A||The Sacrament of Matrimony is validly celebrated in the American Catholic Church.||The Sacrament of Matrimony is validly celebrated in the American Catholic Church.|
|D||Roman Catholics (those baptized in the Roman Catholic Church) bear an impediment to marriage in any church other than a Roman Catholic Church. Such marriages are legal according to civil law, but illegal and invalid according to Roman Catholic Canon Law.Note: A dispensation can be granted by the Roman Church to allow such weddings.||Roman Catholics are welcome to celebrate their weddings before a priest of the American Catholic Church, which considers such marriages valid. The American Catholic Church considers all marriages, whether entered into civilly or according to a religious rite, as valid for all people regardless of their denomination. We think it best to have civil ceremonies “blessed” to affirm the sacredness of marriage and its importance to the Christian community.|
|D||The Roman Catholic Church disapproves of and discourages divorce, believing that marriage ends only with the death of a spouse.||The American Catholic Church disapproves of and discourages divorce but believes that marriage ends either with the death of the marriage, or of the spouse.|
|D||Divorced people whose ex-spouses are still living may not remarry without a dissolution or annulment from the Roman Catholic Church.||Divorced people may remarry in the American Catholic Church after a civil divorce.|
|D||Divorced Roman Catholics who are remarried without a Church dissolution or annulment may not receive the sacraments on a regular basis.||Divorced Catholics who are remarried are welcome to receive the sacraments on a regular basis in the American Catholic Church.|
|D||Roman Catholics disobey Roman Catholic Church Canon law when they receive the sacraments in the American Catholic Church, except in danger of death.||All Christians, including Roman Catholics, who are baptized and have faith in the grace and meaning of the sacraments may receive them in the American Catholic Church.|
|D||Roman Catholics are joined in receiving Communion only by members of the Orthodox Churches, the Assyrian Church of the East, and the Polish National Catholic Church.||All baptized Christians who believe in the real presence may receive Communion in the American Catholic Church.|
|D||Bishops and priests may not be married. Deacons may not marry except before ordination. If a Deacon’s wife dies, he may not remarry. Some exceptions to the rule regarding the remarriage of widowed deacons have been reported.||Bishops and priests may marry.|
|A||Women are not ordained in the Roman Catholic Church but are encouraged to take part in liturgical and pastoral ministries.||Women are not ordained in the American Catholic Church but are encouraged to take part in liturgical and pastoral ministries. Open to furure change, the American Catholic Church looks hopefully to reforms within the Roman Catholic Church in this regard.|
|A||The Roman Catholic Church does not consider abortion a moral alternative for Catholics.||The American Catholic Church does not consider abortion a moral alternative for Catholics.|
|A||The Roman Catholic Church believes that the ultimate determinant of a moral action is a “certain conscience.”||The American Catholic Church believes that the ultimate determinant of a moral action is a “certain conscience.”|