Breakaway Catholics

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Catholics not in communion with Rome, or Breakaway Catholics, are those religious groups that, while consciously embracing Catholic tradition, have chosen to separate from the Roman Catholic Church. They differ from Protestantism in that they practice rites, rituals and devotions specific to Catholicism and do not reject a Catholic identity. Their decision to follow a separate hierarchy most often stems from a perception on their part of a need to do so caused by a failure in the institution of the church.


These groups can be grouped into a number of categories:

  • Traditionalist Catholics:

A number of Traditionalist Catholic groups, who have advocated for a restoration of many or all of the liturgical forms, public and private devotions and presentations of Catholic teachings which prevailed in the Catholic Church before the Second Vatican Council, have left the Roman Catholic Church and begun their own religious organizations. Most of these schismatic Traditionalist Catholics belong to the Latin Rite, although some groups are part of the Byzantine Rite.

  • Old Catholics:

The Old Catholic Church is a Christian denomination that split from the Holy See in the 1870s because they disagreed with the solemn declaration of the doctrine of papal infallibility promulgated by the First Vatican Council (1869–1870). The Old Catholic Church holds close to ideas of ecclesiastical liberalism (Liberal Christianity).[citation needed] The Church is not in communion with the Holy See, though the Union of Utrecht of Old Catholic Churches is in full communion with the Anglican Communion.

  • Groups that broke with Rome over perceived injustice and / or hierarchical abuses

Some groups such as the Polish National Catholic Church arose as a result of grievances relating to the second-class status of immigrant Polish Catholics by the American Irish and German dominated church hierarchy. Ethnic grievances still play a role in the church today as in the case of St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish in St. Louis, Missouri.

In 1534, King Henry VIII of England, who had previously been awarded the title "Defender of the Faith" by the Pope, signed into law the Act of Supremacy, placing the ecclesiastical governance of the Catholic Church in England (Ecclesia Anglicana), under his own jurisdiction in order to grant himself an annulment from his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, establishing the independence of the Church of England from the See of Rome. Since the English Reformation the English Church, known as the Ecclesia Anglicana or Church of England, has experienced various other reforms over the centuries, all the while maintaining its via media character as established by the Elizabethan Settlement of 1558, wherein the church was understood to be both Catholic and Reformed.

List of breakaway churches[edit]

See also[edit]