Polish Catholic Church

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This article is about the split-off church belonging to the Utrecht Union. For the mainstream Catholic Church in Poland, subordinate to the Pope, see Roman Catholicism in Poland.
Polish Catholic Church
Classification Catholic
Theology Ultrajectine
Governance Episcopal
Leader Victor Wysoczański
Associations International Old Catholic Bishops' Conference
Region Poland
Headquarters Warsaw
Branched from Roman Catholic Church
Congregations 78
Members 19,035 (2008[1])

The Polish Catholic Church (Polish: Kościół Polskokatolicki w Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej) is an Old Catholic church in Poland which is part of the Union of Utrecht. It is a member of the World Council of Churches and the Polish Ecumenical Council. It is not affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church. Bishop Wiktor Wysoczański was chosen as the church's superior in 1995.

History[edit]

Bishop Superior Wiktor Wysoczański
Santa Spirit (Central) Cathedral in Warsaw
Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God and Queen of the Apostles Cathedral in Czestochowa

The Polish Catholic Church, known within Poland as the Polish National Catholic Church (PNCC) until 1951, has its origins in the final decade of 19th century. During this time, Polish immigrants in the United States, referred to as Polonia, participated in the protests of lay people in Roman Catholic parishes against the domination of clergy from German and Irish origins. The parishers demanded insight into the financial matters of parishes, the use of vernacular in liturgy, and the appropriate care and treatment of clergy from their own ethnic group. After the unsuccessful presentation of their requests to the Vatican in 1898, the Polish National Catholic Church was formally founded in Scranton, Pennsylvania, out of a number of independent Polish parishes. After the consecration of the Reverend Franciszek Hodur as a bishop in 1907, the newly organized church community became a member of the Union of Utrecht of Old Catholic Churches.

After realizing the necessity of establishing and maintaining contact with Poland, Bishop Hodur worked to establish the PNCC in that country. According to the religious and social precepts of the PNCC, there was an obligation to serve their country of origin, Poland. They especially sought the independence of their native land. The church worked to maintain this tradition among Polish immigrants, along with defending Polish national interests. Independence in Poland was gained in 1918, although the missionary work of the church was impeded due to lack of legalization. The efforts of the church for legal recognition were unsuccessful until 1939. It was not until February 1946 that the church gained legal status on the basis of the decision of Polish Ministry of Public Administration.

After 1945, Polish Communist authorities were not supportive of legalising the Polish National Catholic Church because its leader, Bishop Hodur, was a United States citizen. In 1951, under pressure from the Communist regime, the Polish diocese of the original Polish National Catholic Church declared itself independent of its parent church in the United States. This was partially due to the arrests of Bishop Joseph Padewski and Father Edward Narbutt-Narbuttowicz. In the autumn of 1951, the church changed its name to the Polish Catholic Church. The new leader of the church was Father Józef Dobrochowski who, in close cooperation with Father Eugeniusz Krieglewicz, followed the orders of the Communist authorities. The Polish government now had complete control over the church in that state authorities appointed and removed bishops, managed church personnel and financed church operations.

The duties of the new church included organising Masses for the celebration of the anniversary of the 1952 Polish Constitution which occurred on July 22, a Communist holiday not supported by the Roman Catholic Church, and sending letters of congratulation to the authorities concerning other anniversaries.

Full regulation of the church’s legal status occurred after the Polish Parliament, on June 30, 1995, passed the Bill on Mutual Relations Between the State and Polish Catholic Church in the Republic of Poland (Dz. U. Nr 97, poz. 482). On May 26, 2000, the Polish Catholic Church and the Roman Catholic Church of Poland agreed upon mutual respect and cooperation.

Theology[edit]

According to the church law which is currently in force, the Polish Catholic Church professes Catholic faith, morality and principles as set forth in the Holy Bible, formulated in common symbols of faith and decisions of the First seven Ecumenical Councils. The Polish Catholic Church has many similarities to the Roman Catholic liturgy in that it expresses Trinitarian doctrine, Marian devotion and reverence for the saints. The church also employs the traditional Catholic liturgical calendar.

The central point of spiritual life within the church is the Eucharist, which is understood as the re-presentation of the redeeming sacrifice of Christ. The church also pays reverence to the angels, apostles, martyrs and saints, keeping among them a special place for the Virgin Mary.

According to the church, a sin is an intentional and voluntary breaking of God’s or the church’s commandments. The seven deadly sins are pride, envy, lust, anger, greed, sloth, and gluttony. Penitents gain the absolution of sins by participating in the sacrament confession, where sins are confessed in the presence of a priest in order to gain absolution. The conditions of a good confession are:

  1. Examination of conscience
  2. Repentance
  3. Firm purpose of amendment
  4. Sincere confession
  5. Compensation to God and neighbours.

There are two forms of confession exercised in Polish Catholic Church: individual and corporate. Individual confession takes place privately with a priest, while corporate confession is exercised as a separate public ceremony in front of the altar, or as a part of Mass during the Act of Penitence. Individual confession is obligatory for children and youth under the age of 18; it is also recommended for adults any time they feel the need to participate. It is believed that proper and frequent reception of the sacrament of confession will allow an individual to grow in the spiritual life.

Clergy[edit]

Polish Catholic Church Archdiocese administration maps

In 2009 the Polish Catholic Church consisted of 80 parishes with 111 priests. A priest must be male, a graduate of the Christian Academy of Theology in Warsaw specialising in Old-Catholic Theology, and a graduate of the Higher Clerical Seminary of the Polish Catholic Church in Warsaw. Candidates also need approval from Church authorities. Clergy of the Polish Catholic Church are not bound to celibacy.

All candidates for bishop must be episcopally consecrated by at least three bishops who are members of the International Conference of Old Catholic Bishops, known as the Utrecht Union. The presiding bishop of the church is selected by the national synod.

List of superiors[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]