We are connected to the Roman Catholic Church through the episcopacy and our common Faith as professed in the Nicene Creed. The following compares the practice of the Faith embraced by Good Shepherd American Catholic Church with the current practices of the Roman Catholic Church.
Like the Roman Catholic Church, we believe in the infallible teaching authority of the Universal Church which necessarily involves the ministry of the Pope. Unlike the Roman Catholic Church, we believe that the Pope cannot teach infallibly in the area of faith and morals independent of any collaboration with the college of bishops, with theologians, or without due consideration of the sensus fidelium. In other words, we believe infallible teaching is possible only when the Pope, patriarchs, bishops of Apostolic Churches, and a representation of the faithful make it a truly collegial process.
Like the Roman Catholic Church, we celebrate as holy traditions the Immaculate Conception and Assumption of Mary, but we do not hold these as dogmas which must be absolutely accepted by all. This is because they were proclaimed ex cathedra by Popes outside of any collegial process. For more information, see “On the Papacy”
Like the Roman Catholic Church, bishops, priests, and deacons serving in American Catholic ministries have been ordained by bishops who can trace their origins back to the Roman Church and to the Apostles. This means we celebrate the seven sacraments considered valid by the Roman Catholic Church. For information on lineage, see “Apostolic Succession”. For information on the bishops and priests of Good Shepherd,see “Our Clergy”
Like the Roman Catholic Church, we recognize Christian celibacy as a beautiful gift which enhances the ministry of those who freely choose it and which bears a powerful witness to the glorious reign of God. In contrast to the Roman Catholic discipline, however, our priests and bishops may also enhance their ministry by choosing to marry. The grace and experience of the Sacrament of Marriage can greatly increase the efficacy of priestly ministry by transforming it into a mutual ministry of both husband and wife, and endowing it with added empathy and understanding.
Like the Roman Catholic Church, we deplore the tragedy of divorce, but in light of the Gospels, we do not see the exclusion of remarried Catholics from the sacraments as consistent with the spirit of Christ’s ministry. In our church, divorced Catholics can celebrate marriage before a priest more than once and live out their marriage in full communion with the Church. For more information, see “New Hope for Divorced and Remarried Catholics”
Like the Roman Catholic Church, we see Baptism as the sacrament of initiation which makes all of the other sacraments available to us. Unlike the Roman Catholic Church, we welcome all baptized Christians to join us in the reception of the sacraments of Eucharist and Penance.
Like the Roman Catholic Church, couples in our parishes are taught that having children is an important purpose of marriage, and that they must be responsible in limiting the size of their families according to their ability to provide for them. Unlike the Roman Catholic Church, we do not condemn the use of artificial contraception as a means to achieve this responsible parenthood.
Like the Roman Catholic Church, we respect the Pope whose ministry is one of preserving truth and unity. Unlike the Roman Catholic Church, we see him as the first Bishop among equal bishops. We are careful to respect, as well, the teaching of St Thomas Aquinas which states that we must follow our own certain conscience, even if in so doing, we might be considered mistaken by Church authority.
We love the Catholic Church and are among those churches who identify themselves as Catholic. In the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church of the Second Vatican Council, we read,”The Church knows that she is joined in many ways to the baptized who are honored by the name of Christian, but who … have not preserved unity or communion under the successor of Peter. For there are many who hold sacred scripture in honor as a rule of faith and of life, who have a sincere religious zeal, who lovingly believe in God, the Father Almighty, and in Christ, the Son of God and the Savior, who are sealed by baptism which unites them to Christ, and who indeed recognize and receive other sacraments in their Churches or ecclesiastical communities. Many of them possess the episcopate, celebrate the Holy Eucharist and cultivate devotion of the Virgin Mother of God. There is furthermore a sharing in prayer and spiritual benefits; these Christians are indeed in some real way joined to us in the Holy Spirit for, by his gifts and graces, his sanctifying power is also active in them”. For more information, see “Who Is Catholic”.
We hope, not that this article has answered all of your questions, but on the contrary, that it has created many more new questions in your mind. We would value an exchange of ideas with you. Just give us a call. A priest would be more than happy to sit down and spend some time with you. Of course, you are always welcome to celebrate Mass with us.