Differences – Old Catholic/Roman Catholic

Don’t let the sign in the picture confuse you.  The Old Catholic Church and the Roman Catholic Church have many things in common,… most notably that the Eucharist is the true Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of our Lord and Savior, Christ Jesus.

The sign in the picture below is just intended to point out that there are some differences, not that we are total opposite of one another.

OCCH - OCC-RCC Differences page pic

OPEN / UNRESTRICTED COMMUNION – The Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus (aka Communion) is offered to all Baptized Christians, regardless of Church or denominational affiliation, and regardless of marital status (married, single, divorced, or remarried).   To deny someone this loving Sacrament often creates division between the individual and the church and often inflicts additional pain and suffering.   Come receive Jesus,… he wants to commune with you and you with Him.

CONFESSION / GENERAL ABSOLUTION – Some people need to “hear” that they are forgiven.   As such, our priests are always available for private confession,… but this is optional and never required.   We encourage people to confess their sins “directly to God” the moment they become aware of personal sin.   If you truly repent of your sins and have a firm purpose of amendment, God will remember your sins no more.   You can also confess your sins at Mass,… during the Penitential Rite (general confession prayer),… when a moment is taken to confess sins silently and personally to God, after which the Priest pronounces God’s Absolution.

SACRAMENTS – We have the same 7 Sacraments as the Roman Catholic Church.   People are encouraged to “fully” participate in the Sacramental life of the Church (God’s love and grace),… not deny themselves from them.   Sacraments may also be administered outside the confines of a church.

ORDINATIONS Holy Orders are open to Single or Married men (male only clergy in the Old Catholic Communion of North America).

MARRIAGE – Holy Matrimony is offered to those who have been previously married, without pre-condition.

CONTRACEPTION – Birth control is a personal decision between a husband and wife,… with the exception of abortion which is never justified.


Roman Catholics have great love and reverence for Mary,… and for sure, so do Old Catholics.

There are 4 Marian Dogmas in the Roman Catholic Church which are “required” belief (under the penalty/pain of sin/anathema):

1.  Mary is the Mother of God.

2.  The Perpetual Virginity of Mary (she remained a virgin before, during, and after the birth of Jesus).

3.  The Immaculate Conception (Mary was preserved from all sin, including Original Sin). 1854

4.  The Bodily Assumption of Mary (Mary was assumed body and soul into heaven by Jesus). 1950


How does the Old Catholic Church compare to the Roman Catholic Church regarding our Blessed Mother?

1.  Mary as the Mother of God:  We agree with Rome and this is a required belief within the Old Catholic Church.   Mary is indeed the Mother of God (Jesus).   This is her first and primary privilege.   In the Old Catholic Church, Mary is lovingly referred to as the “Theotokos, the God Bearer.”  

2.  The Perpetual Virginity of Mary:   The “perpetual” virginity of Mary is not a “required” belief in the Old Catholic Church.   However, as a logical conclusion to the life of Mary, people are free to believe,… and many do,… in her perpetual virginity (that she remained ever-virgin).   As Old Catholics, we do not object to this as a personal belief, we just don’t make it a “required” belief under the penalty/pain of sin and anathema.    NOTE:  Whether Mary remained a virgin during and after the birth of Jesus has absolutely no impact on our love and reverence for her,… she will always be very dear to us as the “Theotokos”… the God Bearer.   Similarly, any claim of her perpetual virginity (or lack thereof) has absolutely no impact on our love of/dependence on her Son, Christ Jesus, our Lord and Savior.

3.  The Immaculate Conception:    This Roman Catholic Dogma/Doctrine,… which claims that Mary was sinless from the moment of her conception in her mother’s womb,… came late in Roman Church history (1854).   It is not a “required” belief in the Old Catholic Church.   We find it difficult to substantiate implicitly or explicitly from Sacred Scripture,… although a case could be made for it, conceptually, using the early Biblical interpretive tool of typology (OT Ark of the Covenant).   Some noted theologians have concluded that this Dogma/Doctrine actually contradicts Sacred Scripture.   Seven (7) popes actually opposed this teaching.    That said, people are free to believe in the Immaculate Conception of Mary as a personal belief,… that’s okay,… we just don’t make it a “required” Church belief under the penalty/pain of sin and anathema (mortal/deadly sin if you intentionally miss a Holy Day of Obligation associated with this required belief).   NOTE:  Whether Mary was Immaculately Conceived or not has absolutely no bearing on our love and reverence for her.  She is the Mother of Jesus and always in our hearts.  We love and revere her deeply.  Similarly, any claimed Immaculate Conception of Mary (or lack thereof) has absolutely no effect on our love relationship with her Son, Christ Jesus, whom alone we adore, worship, and rely entirely on for our salvation.

4.  The Bodily Assumption of Mary into heaven.  The event of the Assumption of Mary is another very late (recent) Dogma/Doctrine in Roman Church History (1950) that is nowhere recorded implicitly or explicitly in Sacred Scripture,… although it could be argued, conceptually, using the early Biblical interpretive tool of typology (Enoch and Elijah in the OT).   That said, we’re not too far from Rome on this belief.   Instead of the Bodily Assumption of Mary,” the Old Catholic Church has as a required belief “The Dormition of Mary”  which was decreed at the Council of Ephesus AD 431.   The Dormition of Mary is celebrated on August 15,… the same calendar day as the Roman Catholic Feast of the Assumption of Mary.   The Dormition and the Assumption are different names for essentially the same event,… Mary’s departure from the earth,… although the beliefs are not exactly identical.   Recommend reading:  On the Dormition of Mary by Brian E. Daley


Clarification regarding the Old Catholic Church position on our Blessed Mother

The Old Catholic Church gives the absolute highest “honor” to Mary, the Mother of God,… we love her dearly.   We “honor” Mary and “Worship” God (two very different things) through special devotions such as the Rosary, the Magnificat, and other beautiful/appropriate prayers.   We do not,… in any way,… “worship” Mary.   Any hint of worshipping Mary, no matter how slight, is prohibited.  Worship is reserved for God alone.   

This is why in an Old Catholic Church you will almost never see an icon or statue of Mary alone,… such as a dispenser of grace with rays of coming out of her hands.   Instead, Mary will usually be seen with Jesus,… holding Him in her arms, for example:


Mary 2

instead of this

 Mary OLG

Mary may also be depicted in art or statues as a member of the Holy Family (Jesus, Mary, and Joseph). 

Related image

The emphasis is that Mary must always point us to Jesus and not become a object of worship herself.  The focus of our worship must always be on Christ our Savior

Old Catholics love Mary too much to let her become a distraction that takes the focus off of her Son, Jesus.   Our blessed mother simply would not want that.   So, in that same sense, we honor her desire to stay focused on Jesus, her Son our Lord.  

  • We call Mary “blessed” because Sacred Scripture is very clear on that point. 
  • We acknowledge Mary as the Mother of God (Jesus) because that’s who she is (the Theotokos). 
  • We love Mary because we feel that is very pleasing to Jesus and it’s in our hearts. 

Mary is a great inspiration and tool for us to continually draw closer to God.   We think you will benefit from knowing and honoring her as well.   Yet for our salvation, we keep our worship and focus on Christ Jesusalone


THE AUTHORITY AND INFALLIBILITY OF THE POPE Papal Infallibility is a Roman Catholic Dei Fide Dogma (absolute required belief) that means the pope is without error when speaking from his chair,… as the Vicar of Christ on earth,… regarding faith and morals.  

While Old Catholics greatly respect and acknowledge the Pope as the Bishop of Rome (regional authority), we do not acknowledge any worldwide authority over all Christians or any claimed papal infallibility.  

The Roman Catholic Dogma/Doctrine regarding Papal Infallibility in 1870 was actually the basis for many Catholics breaking away from Rome and forming the Old Catholic Church,… which holds that there is only one who is ever infallible and without error,… our Redeemer, Lord, and Savior, Christ Jesus.

PURGATORY AND INDULGENCES  Old Catholics do not believe in the Roman Doctrine of Purgatory or any notion of “indulgences”… plenary or partial,… for ourselves or for others.   If required at the time of death, our purification is entirely dependent on Jesus,… not on anyone else or anything else.  We leave everything up to Him.


SNAPSHOT of some Old Catholic/Roman Catholic differences

Papal Infallibility

Roman Catholic:  The Pope is infallible on matters of faith and morals (Doctrine & Dogma).

Old Catholic:   The Pope is not infallible (infallibility is attributed to Christ alone


Authority of the Pope

Roman Catholic:   The Pope is the ruling official of the Church, worldwide.

Old Catholic:   The Pope is the respected Bishop of Rome with recognized “regional” authority.   “Worldwide” authority is rejected.


Authority of Bishops

Roman Catholic:   All Bishops are under the authority of the Pope.

Old Catholic:   All Bishops are equally apostolic.


Celibacy of Clergy

Roman Catholic:   Required as a Church imposed discipline.

Old Catholic:   Not Required/Optional.


Ordination of Women to the Priesthood

Roman Catholic:   No.

Old Catholic:   No (not within the OCCNA).  


Use of Contraception/Birth Control

Roman Catholic:   Not allowed / recognized as a serious sin.

Old Catholic:   Allowed as a personal choice (with the exception of abortion which is never allowed).



Roman Catholic:   Two Types of Sin (Venial and Mortal).

Old Catholic:   All unrighteousness is sin and potentially deadly/grave,… but there is some sin that does not lead to death. 


When is Sin Forgiven

Roman Catholic:   For serious (mortal) sin:  After confessing to a priest, given absolution, and doing the prescribed penance issued by the priest.

Old Catholic:   When personally asking God for forgiveness with a repentant heart and a firm purpose of amendment.


Does the Priest act “in persona Christi” (in the person of Christ)?

Roman Catholic:   Yes, during Confession and also during the Elevation of the consecrated bread and wine at the altar.

Old Catholic:   No/never,… the priest is not another Christ,… only an instrument of His love.


Personal Confession to a Priest

Roman Catholic:    Required for serious (mortal) sin to be forgiven.

Old Catholic:    Always available but never required.   It is encouraged for spiritual growth and humility.



Roman Catholic:    Not allowed.

Old Catholic:    It’s unfortunate but for various reasons, it happens.  It’s a reality.


Remarriage after Divorce (Sacramental Marriage)

Roman Catholic:    Not allowed unless the previous marriage is first annulled by the Church.

Old Catholic:    Yes, allowed.


Who May Partake of the Eucharist

Roman Catholic:   Only Roman Catholics (restrictive/exclusive).

Old Catholic:   Any Baptized Christian (open/inclusive).


Number of Sacraments

Roman Catholic:    Seven.

Old Catholic:    Seven (same).


Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist

Roman Catholic:    Yes (transubstantiation).

Old Catholic:    Yes (undefined).


Historic Catholic Doctrines

Roman Catholic:    Yes, but as part of Church “development,” Rome has also added new doctrines that are binding (required belief) on the faithful under the penalty/pain of sin.

Old Catholic:    Yes, upholding the doctrines/beliefs of the first 7 Ecumenical Church Councils.  No added/new doctrines.


Belief in Purgatory and Indulgences

Roman Catholic:    Yes, mandated as a required Church belief (Dei Fide Dogma).

Old Catholic:    No, not a required belief.


Belief in Mary as the Mother of God

Roman Catholic:   Yes

Old Catholic:   Yes  (Theotokos – The God Bearer)


Belief in the Bodily Assumption of Mary

Roman Catholic:    Yes, mandated as a required Church belief (Dei Fide Dogma).

Old Catholic:    “Assumption” of Mary – No; Dormition of Mary – Yes  (as a required belief).


Belief in the Immaculate Conception of Mary

Roman Catholic:    Yes, mandated as a required Church belief (Dei Fide Dogma).

Old Catholic:    Not mandated as a required Church belief.    However, individuals are free to accept this as a personal belief.


Belief in the “Perpetual” Virginity of Mary

Roman Catholic:   Yes, mandated as a required Church belief (Dei Fide Dogma – that Mary remained ever-virgin before, during, and after the birth of Jesus).

Old Catholic:   Not mandated as a required Church belief.   However, individuals are free to accept this as a personal belief


Praying the Rosary

Roman Catholic:   Yes.

Old Catholic:   Yes, with one change,… in the Glorious mysteries we substitute the “Assumption” of Mary with the “Dormition” of Mary.


Catholic Liturgy

Roman Catholic:   Yes.

Old Catholic:   Yes.


Holy Orders Open to Homosexuals

Roman Catholic:    No.

Old Catholic:    No (OCCNA).


Performs Same-Sex Marriage

Roman Catholic:    No.

Old Catholic:    No (OCCNA).


Open and Affirming of LGBTQ

Roman Catholic:    No.

Old Catholic:    No (OCCNA).


Note:   The Old Catholic Church of North America is a very traditional, Orthodox Old Catholic jurisdiction which may differ in beliefs/theology from other more liberal OC jurisdictions.   Other than the notable differences above, Roman Catholics and Old Catholics are essentially the same.

This page remains under construction.


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