The Union of Scranton

Cathedral of the PNCC in Scranton PA

This text is taken from the website of the Nordic Catholic Church. As some of you might know, the Polish National Catholic Church, based in Scranton PA in the United States is no longer in communion with the Union of Utrecht or the Episcopal Church over the “same old issues” – the ordination of women and same-sex so-called marriages.

For some time, the PNCC seemed to be static like some Orthodox communities and largely closed to contacts outside the Polish-American community. The PNCC, which split away from Rome in the 1900’s, originated amongst Polish miners and that their early history was driven by circumstances and not by calculated strategy or theological reflection. They had to find their identity as the process went on leading them first to Utrecht and then embracing The Road to Unity mentioned in the text below.

The PNCC, in spite of some theological eccentricities along the way, has moved towards a position that is much more similar in some respects to western rite Orthodoxy. Its isolation has given some protection against the aggiornamento in the Roman Catholic Church in the 1960’s and 70’s. They had bad experience with the Episcopalians and now with the Union of Utrecht. With the number of questionable independent bishops in America looking for respectability, it is understandable that the PNCC has not been inclined to take risks. They took some time accepting the Norwegian Lutheran community that became the Nordic Catholic Church and consecrating Fr Roald Flemestad to the Episcopate. Thus the PNCC shows a prophetic sense of generosity and a spirit of solidarity with other Christians who suffered from their Churches as they suffered from the pastoral inflexibility of the Roman Catholic Church in the USA in the 1900’s.

With this acceptance of the Norwegian community, the PNCC instituted a Union of Scranton, effectively in emulation of the old Union of Utrecht, but by rejecting the offending agendas (women’s ordination and same-sex marriages).

Bishop Flemestad will be spending time in Germany (Munich) at the end of this month, establishing a pioneer parish for the Nordic Catholic Church. Some of the German Old Catholic parishes have left the Union of Utrecht for the “usual” reasons and seek a more orthodox expression of Old Catholicism.

* * *

The Nordic Catholic Church was established in Norway in 2000 under the auspices of the Polish National Catholic Church (PNCC). Today the Nordic Catholic Church is led by Bishop Roald Nikolai Flemestad as a member Church of the Union of Scranton.

The following is taken from the preamble of the Statutes of the Union of Scranton:

The Union of Scranton is a union of Churches – and their bishops governing them – that is determined to maintain and pass on the Catholic faith, worship, and essential structure of the Undivided Church of the first millennium. The Union of Scranton finds its origins in the development of the Union of Utrecht established on September 24, 1889, in Utrecht, Holland (…) The full communion of the Churches found its expression and was evident in the bishops uniting to form a Bishops’ Conference, which other bishops later joined. Since the Polish National Catholic Church (PNCC) continues to hold the Declaration of Utrecht as a normative document of faith, the development of the Union of Scranton follows a similar design.

The Union of Scranton emerged because certain member Churches of the Union of Utrecht unilaterally began to ordain women to the Priesthood and to bless same-sex unions in opposition to Holy Scripture and the Sacred Tradition of the Undivided Church. Since November 20, 2003 the PNCC is neither in communion, nor affiliated with the Churches of the Union of Utrecht.”

Within the context of the Union of Scranton the Nordic Catholic Church has its orders and has received apostolic succession from the PNCC. Additionally, the theology reflects the doctrinal dialogue between the Chalcedonian Orthodox patriarchates and the Old Catholic churches as agreed in the consensus document Road to Unity from 1989. Thus, like the PNCC, the Nordic Catholic Church adheres to the teachings and praxis of the Undivided Church.

Furthermore, the Nordic Catholic Church emphasises in its Statement of Faith that it adheres to its Scandinavian Lutheran heritage to the extent that it has embraced and transmitted the orthodox and catholic faith of the Undivided Church.

The Nordic Catholic Church has presently five parishes in Norway and a developing community in Stockholm, Sweden. The activities outside Scandinavia take place in cooperation with the PNCC within the framework of the Union of Scranton.

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2 Responses to The Union of Scranton

  1. Matteus Maria says:

    Thanks Father, for informing others in Europe about this very important initiative. As you probably know, the parish in Stockholm, Sweden, are now preparing for the ordination of their first deacon now in February, followed by the ordination of their first priest in May, when probably PNCC:s archbishop will come to Sweden for this most important ordination, which in that case also will an important ecumenical manifestation.

  2. Matthew the Penitent says:

    I truly wish them well. It’s been 12 years since the NCC was established and still only 5 parishes and 1 mission (Sweden). Not much of a growth factor. Re-establishing the German Old Catholic Church via those who left Utrecht might increase interest in Northern Europe but I doubt it. The Scandinavians (Lutherans) have strayed so far from the true faith and path I don’t think they want to find their way back. Most of the Lutherans here in the USA are not far behind.

    to the extent that it has embraced and transmitted the orthodox and catholic faith of the Undivided Church“, what does this mean? By whose definition? Low church Anglicans and Presbyterians only accept the first 4 Ecumenical Councils while other Anglicans and some Lutherans pay lip service to the 7(8) Great councils of the Undivided Church, but only lip service. Not sure what the PNCC accepts. I do wish they would look to the East for guidance in some issues rather than Rome. IMO the Orthodox East is still the ‘purist’, authentic Apostolic Christianity. Not that there aren’t problems and difficulties but still, a standard must be sought, found and rallied around.

    It will be interesting to see what may come of this in the next few years.

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