The Old Catholic churches reject the doctrine of papal infallibility; thus they reject the dogmatic status of the teachings promulgated in the Roman Catholic Church by such means, namely the Immaculate Conception and Assumption of Mary. While Old Catholics affirm the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, they do not emphasize transubstantiation as the sole dogmatic explanation for this presence. Old Catholics generally refrain from using the filioque and deum de deo clauses in the Nicene Creed and also reject a dogmatic understanding of Purgatory; however, they generally do recognize a purification by Christ's grace after death and include prayers for the dead in their liturgy and devotions. They maintain some basic Roman Catholic practices such as baptism by infusion (pouring of water) or the use of unleavened bread in the Eucharist. Additionally, they have many aspects in common with the Orthodox and Anglican churches and Eastern-rite Catholicism, such as optional clerical celibacy.
The Old Catholic churches tend to maintain a more liberal theological anthropology than the Roman Catholic Church. Thus, many churches of the union ordain women to the priesthood. Angela Berlis was the first woman priest in the union, ordained in 1996. In addition, the churches of the Netherlands, Germany, Austria and Switzerland offer the blessing of same-sex unions. The individual's primacy of conscience in ethical matters is stressed. Private confession is not mandatory, though it is practiced, and decisions regarding the use of artificial contraception are individual and discretionary.
The Polish National Catholic Church in North America resigned from the union in 2004 over the ordination of women and the blessing of same-sex unions. The Anglican (Episcopalian) Churches in North America, however, are in full communion with the Union as part of the Anglican Communion.
On June 21, 2011, the bishop of the Old Catholic Church of Switzerland, in agreement with the International Old Catholic Bishops' Conference, decided that the Union of Utrecht would end its mission in Italy "due to the problematic internal situation". The parishes were "offered a model that guarantees their continued pastoral care."