American National Catholic Church

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American National Catholic Church
Classification Independent Catholic
Governance Mixture of episcopal and congregational polity
Head Bishop George R. Lucey, FCM
Founder Bishop George R. Lucey, FCM
Origin 2009
Glen Ridge, New Jersey, United States
Separated from Catholic Church
Congregations 12
Clergy 1 bishop
19 priests

The American National Catholic Church (ANCC) is an independent Catholic church established in 2009[1] as a self-governing entity. It is not in communion with the Catholic Church, whose canon law considers it a schismatic sect. The ANCC was founded with the mission of fully implementing its interpretation of the Second Vatican Council and is notably more liberal than the Catholic Church in its acceptance of married clergy, homosexuality, same-sex marriage, the ordination of women, and use of contraception.[2]


The American National Catholic Church traces its apostolic succession through Roman Catholic Bishop Carlos Duarte-Costa (1888–1961) of Brazil.[2] Bishop Duarte-Costa was an early proponent of some of the reforms of the Second Vatican Council. As early as 1936, he called for the celebration of the liturgy in the vernacular; a greater role for the laity in the liturgy, including service as Eucharistic Ministers; and the election rather than appointment of bishops. He advocated for allowing clergy to marry and for general absolution at Mass and was a vocal critic during and after World War II of the Brazilian government's ties with Nazi Germany.[3] In 1945 Duarte-Costa announced plans to form the Brazilian Catholic Apostolic Church, in which priests would be permitted to marry and hold secular jobs, private confession and praying the rosaries would be abolished, and bishops would be elected by popular vote. Consequently, he was excommunicated.[4]

Currently, there are American National Catholic Church parishes in Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Missouri, North Dakota, and Virginia, with others in the process of formation in Illinois, Florida, New Mexico, and New York. ANCC priests and deacons also minister in prisons, homeless shelters, HIV/AIDS residences, psychiatric hospitals, teaching, and media.

The first presiding bishop of the ANCC is the Most Reverend George R. Lucey, who is a member of the Franciscan Community of Mercy (FCM).[2]

Polity and Beliefs[edit]

The ANCC embraces the entire Roman Catholic deposit of faith[5] but diverges from it regarding the ordination of women and in the realm of sexual morality. It does, however, hold belief in the Trinity, a form of apostolic succession, the salvific act of Christ, the Economy of Salvation, Mariology, and the sacraments. But consistent with the Catholic Church's fidelity to the renewing spirit of the Second Vatican Council, and regarding itself as a contemporary expression of an ancient faith, it departs in many ways from the Roman Catholic Church. While it respects the Bishop of Rome, considering him "first among equals", it does not acknowledge his primacy or infallibility.[6]

Since its founding in 2009, the ANCC has embraced a path of intentional growth in recognition that many other Independent Catholic jurisdictions failed because they concentrated on quantity at the expense of quality.[7] The early stages of the Church's development focused, consequently, on establishing a strong foundation and solid infrastructure, both aimed at ensuring the Church's future. The American National Catholic Church states that it measures its growth in terms of four general aims:

  • to further the work of the Gospel of Jesus Christ by proclaiming the presence of the Kingdom;
  • to support missionary work;
  • to be involved in the planting and strengthening of local churches; and
  • to edify and strengthen believers through Christian fellowship, the liturgical celebrations of the seven sacraments, and the ministry of the Word of God.[8]

The ANCC is congregational rather than hierarchical.[6] Parishes are self-governing, bishops are elected by clergy and laity for limited terms rather than appointed, and all clergy are non-stipendiary, supporting themselves and their ministries with regular jobs intended to keep them in touch with the worldly challenges faced by their parishioners. In both worship and governance, the ANCC actively encourages lay participation.

The ANCC allows qualified women and gay persons to receive Holy Orders. Believing that the lived experience of married life can be an invaluable gift for ministry, the ANCC also welcomes married clergy. [6] The ANCC is one of a few Christian churches that recognize gay marriage.[7]

Training of clergy[edit]

All clergy receive comprehensive theological training. After providing certificates of Baptism and Confirmation (and in the case of persons previously ordained, Ordination), applicants must submit a detailed personal narrative, provide professional and personal references, and undergo exhaustive interviews with vocation/formation staff. Applicants must attend an ANCC retreat during which they are further evaluated. Applicants previously ordained in other Christian churches must complete a pastoral internship and a diaconate assignment of one year, after which an additional two-year discernment period is imposed before full incorporation into the ANCC. Only two percent of applicants are selected to study for the priesthood or for incardination.[2]

The Church's clergy possess numerous degrees from institutions of higher learning as well as degrees from accredited seminary programs from various universities. Candidates for ordination to the diaconate and priesthood receive a rigorous, comprehensive, academic and practical education. Criminal background checks and psychological evaluations are required of all applicants.[7] In 2010 the Church founded its own seminary,[7] St. John the Beloved Seminary, offering non-residential theological studies for those pursuing the priesthood.[9] As of 2015 there were three ANCC seminarians there.[10] However, the Church's website no longer mentions the seminary.


  1. ^ "About: History". American National Catholic Church. Retrieved 31 March 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d "Frequently Asked Questions". American National Catholic Church. Retrieved 22 March 2017.
  3. ^ "Carlos Duarte Costa". Retrieved 2014-05-02.
  4. ^ ""Rebel in Rio", Time Magazine, July 23, 1945". Archived from the original on 2012-09-12. Retrieved 2016-11-07.
  5. ^ "Catechism of the Catholic Church". Retrieved 2014-05-02.
  6. ^ a b c "About: Beliefs". American National Catholic Church. Retrieved 22 March 2017.
  7. ^ a b c d Cathy Lynn Grossman (October 16, 2012). "American National Catholic Church, An Independent Catholic Church, Offers Progressive Form Of Catholicism". Retrieved March 24, 2017.
  8. ^ "About: Mission". American National Catholic Church. Retrieved 22 March 2017.
  9. ^ "History «  American National Catholic Church". Archived from the original on 2015-12-08. Retrieved 2015-12-01.
  10. ^ "Our Seminarians «  American National Catholic Church". Archived from the original on 2016-03-30. Retrieved 2015-12-01.

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