The Society of Mercy

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The Priestly Society of Mercy
LeaderWilliam Myers
RegionUnited States of America
Louisville, KY
Separated fromOld Catholic Church

The Society of Mercy (formally The Priestly Society of Mercy or Societas Sacerdotalis Misericordiae) is a group of Catholic clergy not under Papal jurisdiction and descends from the Old Roman Catholic tradition. The Society is a descendant of the church begun by Archbishop Arnold Harris Mathew in 1910 and formerly part of the Church of Utrecht. The Society maintains the traditional dogmas of Catholic Christianity while emphasizing the necessity of a pastoral approach.[1]


The Society of Mercy maintains the dogmatic beliefs of the Roman Catholic Church prior to the First Vatican Council. This means that the dogmas of Papal Infallibility and the Immaculate Conception are rejected as dogmatic articles. They may be held as doctrine by faithful, however. There is particular emphasis on the beliefs and practices of the early church. The church describes itself as pastoral on issues of morality, and emphasizes the primacy of a well formed conscience.

The church maintains the three-fold ministries of bishop, priest, and deacon. Also important is the concept of apostolic succession. External objects used in worship and devotions include statues and icons as well as other items typical of high church worship.


The Church of Utrecht was permitted to elect its own bishops in 1145. This situation was confirmed in 1215 by the Fourth Lateran Council as well as by Pope Leo X in 1540.[2] In 1705, the archbishop of the Church of Utrecht, Petrus Codde was deposed by the Pope and accused of Jansenism. The chapter elected their bishop who was consecrated by Bishop Dominique Marie Varlet. The Pope also appointed his own candidate. The Church of Utrecht continued outside of the authority of the Pope. In 1853, the relationship was further strained as Pope Pius IX appointed bishops for the Dutch Church. Until that time, Roman Catholics who did not break with the Old Roman Catholics were led by a vicar apostolic.

The Church of Utrecht was joined in 1870 by those clergy and laity who objected to the First Vatican Council. The Union of Utrecht was formed to incorporate the various groups within Continental Europe. They began to use the title Old Catholic to distinguish themselves from the Roman Catholic Church.[3] The Old Catholic Church in Great Britain was established in 1908 with the consecration of the former Roman Catholic priest Arnold Harris Mathew. In 1910, he broke with the Old Catholics over what he believed to be increasing modernism in their beliefs and practices. The church was re-named The Old Roman Catholic Church in Great Britain.

Archbishop Mathew consecrated Archbishop Rudolph de Landes-Berghes to head the church in the United States in 1914. De Landes-Berghes consecrated Carmel Henry Carfora, who led the church when de Landes-Berges joined the Roman Catholic Church. Carfora headed the church until 1958, and it at one time boasted over 50 parishes.[4] However, several groups left for Orthodoxy and when Carfora died the church split into various factions. Since 1958, there have been attempts to gather together the various dioceses and jurisdictions that constituted the church.[5]

In 2013 the Old Roman Catholic Church in America re-united with the original British Church, the Old Roman Catholic Church in Great Britain. In 2016, the clergy of the Old Roman Catholic Church in America began to discuss re-structuring as a priestly society. In 2017 the re-structuring became formal and the organization adopted the name "The Society of Mercy."


  1. ^ Myers, William. "An Old Roman Catholic Catechism"
  2. ^ Neale, J.M. "The So-Called Jansenist Church of Holland"
  3. ^ Moss, C.B. "Old Catholics: Their Origins and History
  4. ^ Trela, Johnathan. "The North American Old Roman Catholic Church"
  5. ^ Myers, William. "Old Roman Catholicism"

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