Polish-Catholicism is the variety of the Old Catholic Church based on Polish religious and cultural traditions. To simplify, polishcatholicism is the content of teaching of the Old Catholic Churches and the whole adopted rules relating to faith, morality, religious life and the functioning of the Church.
Polish-Catholic Churches recognize the origins of theirs foundation of the existence of a Polish National Catholic Church; they share a common line of apostolic succession from the Church or a common historical continuity.
The idea of a national church in Poland has roots in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries when some theologians and thinkers had intentions to organize an autocephalous national church. One of them – Jan Ostroróg, the Polish magnate and a PhD in canon law and Roman law, postulated to carry out a strict line of demarcation between matters of religion and political affairs. During the reign of Zygmunt Stary (English: Sigismund the Old), the reformation currents began to permeate Poland. The greatest flowering of efforts in nationalization of the Church came under Zygmunt August (Sigismund Augustus) in the mid-sixteenth century. Andrzej Frycz Modrzewski was the spokesman of the national Church in Poland. The archbishop of Gniezno – Pr. Jakub Uchański, who demanded the convening of a national council to unify efforts of various groups of reform in Poland, also favoured Modrzewski’s views. The idea of national church collapsed in the face of wars and partitions of Poland.
Polish-Catholicism was established not in the home country but in the United States as a result of disputes within the Catholic Church among the Polish community in America in the nineteenth century. This was caused by conflicts with the Irish and German priests who did not understand the habits and problems of Polish immigrants. Initially, the resistance of the Catholics of Polish origin was chaotic. Three major centres were formally in the years 1897-1904:
Buffalo – Buffalo centre dates back to the origins of misunderstandings between Poles and Pr. Jan Pitass who opposed the construction of a new church and foundation of other Polish parishes. The centre in Buffalo adopted the name „Polish-Catholic Church” in North America.
Chicago – Chicago centre is the result of a dispute with the Order of the Resurrection and the parishioners. The Assembly did not want to appointed as the pastor a very well-liked Pr. Antoni Kozłowski (vicar of the parish of St. Jadwiga). The dispute ended with Antoni’s deprivation in 18th December 1894 and split of the parish. On the 11th Nov 1895 the Polish Catholic Church in Chicago was constituted.
Scranton – Scranton centre dates back to the origins of conflict which erupted in the oldest Polish parish – Sweetest Heart of Jesus – between the faithful and the Father, pastor Ryszard Aust.
In March 1909, the centre in Chicago and five years later – the centre in Buffalo joined the centre in Scranton and formed the Polish National Catholic Church (PNCC). As their leader they chose Pr. Franciszek Hodur who was later consecrated a bishop by Archbishop of Union of Utrecht and the centre joined Polish National Catholic Church to the family of Old Catholic Churches.
Polish National Catholic Church began to found parishes in Poland in the 1920s. The first one was organized in 1922 – the Krakow parish in the Podgórze (Foothills) dedicated to the Resurrection. Its freedom of action began in 1924. The parish was organized in Nowy Wiśnicz near Bochnia in 1923. In 1930, there were 64 Polish Catholic Church parishes in Poland which employed 56 priests. In 1931, there was a conflict between the bishops in the Polish National Catholic Church with the result that bishop Władysaw Faron founded his own Polish Old Catholic Church.
After World War II, the People’s Poland authorities were reluctant to institutions of the national church because its head was a citizen of „imperialist” (in the terminology of the Communist) country – Bishop Francis Hodur. In 1951, Polish National Catholic Church diocese announced (due to the pressures) the autocephaly from the rest of the diocese of Polish National Catholic Church and formed the Polish Catholic Church.
In 1995, in the Polish Catholic Church a group of believers who did not consider personal decisions of Polish Catholic Church National Synod in Warsaw in June of that year was separated. The faithful were repeatedly trying to be placed under the jurisdiction of the Polish National Catholic Church but the church’s superior Bishop Robert M. Nemkovich did not plan to create any mission of the Polish National Catholic Church on the Polish territory. On the 9th of the October 2006 at the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Administration, this group of believers was registered as the Polish National Catholic Church in Poland with its headquarters in Warsaw. Jerzy Rybka has been its Bishop since 2013
In 1996, the pre-war Polish Old Catholic Church was reborn under the name of the Polish Old Catholic Church. Bishop Wojciech Kolm by the decision of the Synod of the Church of the 1999’s was elected as its Bishop. He received episcopal ordination from the German bishop Norbert Szuwarta of the Mariavite Church; without the acceptance of bishops of the underground Old Catholic Church. Since 2000, the Bishop Mark Kordzik is the supreme head but he is listed as the supreme since 25th July 2006 in the register of churches and other religious associations.
In 2006, the PCC was established in Canada. It was formed when the faithful of St. John in Toronto refused to disconnect the Polish National Catholic Church in the USA and Canada (PNCC) from the Union of Utrecht of Old Catholic Churches, which has left due to lack of approval for gay marriage and women priests. International Old Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Union of Utrecht decided that the cathedral will be placed under the direct jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Utrecht. In 2005, the Union of Utrecht decided that the parish will be considered as the Old Catholic Church parish of the Union and its jurisdiction will be attributed to the Episcopal Bishop of Toronto. In 2009, the Church was deleted and the John’s Cathedral returned to the Polish National Catholic Church.
In 2012, Father Adam Rosiek – one of the clergy of the Polish National Catholic Church in Poland – has announced secession, teamed up with former Polish National Catholic Church Bishop Sylvester Bigaj and created a new religious association under the name of the Polish National Catholic Church in Canada – Lordship Missionary in Poland.
The scholarship of Polish Catholic Churches does not depart from the faith and tradition of the Catholic Church. In the exercise of those sacred functions, the liturgical calendar of the church year is used. The Church offers the highest honour to God in the Holy Trinity. The church worships angels, apostles, martyrs and saints – among them the Virgin Mary in a special way. The Church recognizes the traditional seven sacraments in accordance with the teachings of the Catholic Church. The Eucharist is celebrated in two forms: the Body and Blood of Christ. In the Church two forms of confession are celebrated: Individual (otic in the confessional) and overall (exercised as a ceremony in front of the altar or in combination with Holy Mass – called as Universal Confession). Children and young people are obliged to join the sacrament of Confirmation. Polish-Catholics does not recognize the dogma of papal infallibility.
Characteristics of distinguishing the Polish-Catholicism from the Old-Catholicism:
- cultivates tradition and devotion typical of Polish Catholicism;
- – uses the Polish language in the liturgy;
- – It is true that it rejects the dogma of the immaculate conception of the Virgin Mary and her Assumption but for reasons of traditional and cultural; it recognizes them as doctrinal elements;
- – There is no practice of women as priests and blessings of same-sex couples.
Organization of Polish-Catholic Churches
Polish-Catholic Churches takes Synodal – Episcopal system as their own which indicates that:
- The Synod – the highest supreme authority; it consists of clergy and laity. It is convened every 5 years and in the Old Catholic Church in Poland – every 6 years. Lay delegates to the Synod and lay members of the Synodal Council have equal rights as clergy.
- Synodal Council – the supreme body of the executive which includes clergy and lay delegates. In the Old Catholic Church in Poland the Council of Leviticus is the equivalent of this body.
- The Audit Committee – power controlling committee. The Council of Leviticus in the Old Catholic Church in Poland has the power of this body.
- Bishops Court – disciplinary power.
Polish Catholic Church’s Priests (excluding clergy of the Old-Catholic Church of the Republic od Poland) does not apply to celibacy. Polish-Catholicism accepted the principle of the Old Catholic Church’s Apostolic Office which represent respectively:
- deacon – a man who has received at least ordained deacon.
- priest – a man who was ordained a priest by the ordinand bishop or the bishop designated by him.
- bishop – the priest elected by the synod which should be consecrated by three other bishops
Taxonomy of the Polish Catholic Churches
The most important bishop in the hierarchy of the Church is highlighted below.
Polish National Catholic Church
Cathedral Church of: Buffalo, Chicago, Manchester, Scranton, Toronto.
- Bishop Senior Stanisław Biliński
- Bishop Senior Tomasz Gnat
- Bishop John Mack
- Bishop PhD Antoni Mikovsky
- Bishop Senior Robert Nemkovich
- Bishop Bernard Nowicki
- Bishop Senior Tadeusz Stanisław Pepłowski
- Bishop Paweł Sobiechowski
- Bishop Senior Jan Franciszek Swantek
Polish-Catholic Church of the Republic of Poland
Cathedral Churches in : Czestochowa, Warsaw, Wroclaw
- Bishop Prof. PhD Wiktor Wysoczański
Old-Catholic Church of the Republic of Poland
Cathedral Church in Lodz
- Bishop-elect Artur Robert Wieciński
Polish National Catholic Church in Poland
Cathedral Church in Warsaw
- Bishop Jerzy Rybka
National Catholic Church of Poland
- Bishop Adam Rosiek