Ecclesiastical Counterfeiting

Bishop Damien Mead in his Facebook column tells us about unscrupulous characters using our Church’s name and arms:

From time to time I notice (or have pointed out to me) that people (and ‘organisations’) adopt the ‘Anglican Catholic Church’ name and logo / service mark (shield) as their own, whether or not they are associated with the ACC. I acknowledge that a long debate could surround the legitimate use of the words ‘Anglican Catholic ‘. But when used in conjunction with our ACC shield, I think it is misleading unless the folk using it clearly do have an association with the ACC.

A few days ago I noticed that a ‘priest’ in Italy was using the name and shield so I wrote to him asking him if he was (a) a member of the ACC (b) did he realise that the shield belonged to the ACC (c) and that the name ‘Anglican Catholic Church’ did not, for many of us, translate as ‘Anglican Communion’ which is what he seemed to think. Gosh the email response I had back from him, in Italian, was ferocious and nasty … The only English words he used were the sort of words my mother would say that he needed to wash his mouth out with soap! All very Christian, priestly and ecumenical I must say! He seems to have blocked me now but I think the shield has disappeared from his profile. All he had to do was respond with a simple “oops sorry!”

Periodically I also have people contact me to ask if so-and-so priest, bishop, layman is a member of the ACC because of something they state on their FB profile or website or because of a picture or logo they are using (I was even pointed in the direction of one German ‘priest’ claiming me as his bishop). If in doubt please feel free to check it out with me! I can’t really comment on the ‘validity’ or ‘integrity’ of those who claim episcopal or sacerdotal status on here, my use of ‘…’ in referring to those above is simply because the behaviour of both of these particular ‘gentlemen’ leaves me room to doubt! However, I can, reasonably well, identify those who have communio in sacris with the Church to which I belong.

He makes the point very well, particularly the distinction about the term Anglican Catholic being something generic rather than proprietary. However, the clerics in question were also fraudulently using the ACC’s arms, which are the legal property of our particular institutional Church. Such misrepresentation is a legal offence in the USA and most other countries.

Inventors have patents to protect their property. Composers, film makers and publishers have their copyrights against plagiarists who would steal their work for their profit. All manufacturers and traders have their trademarks and symbols which are protected by law. Camembert cheese, fine wines and champagne are protected by law as appellation d’origine contrôlée. Brands of fashion wear have their reputations in high street shops, and many customers go by the brand to know they are buying a product of quality. This is how it works. Anyone can build up a business if he is any good, and acquire his own reputation and trademark.

It is no different for Churches. Our reputation as clergy or institutions of integrity and trustworthiness can be ruined in no time flat by some fraud pretending to belong to us when he does not. There can be a reasonable amount of tolerance for those who claim to be Anglican Catholics or Independent Catholics or Independent Orthodox. Those are not proprietary trademarks but general descriptions of a type of Christianity which indicate what kind of worship and doctrine people will find. The problem comes in when you get men claiming to be Roman Catholics under the Pope as I described in Vagante Bishops and Aping Rome or men claiming to be priests of the Church of England or the Russian Orthodox Church. There, we find true misrepresentation and an intention to deceive.

I have often been criticised for my tolerance in regard to independent churches when there is some minimum level of sincerity and integrity. The Church can very well overflow the limits we humans try to put on it in our zeal to protect our reputations and our source of living like any business or creator. I support my Bishop in his indignation faced with a German and an Italian, both unnamed, who have been plagiarising our Church websites and symbols. In hindsight, I see very little or no future in clergy striking out of their own away from anything recognisable as an institutional Church.

Where is the line drawn? Anyone can make a car or a van if they have the skills and equipment to produce a vehicle that works and is roadworthy, but only certain people can call it a Ford or a Renault. We Anglican Catholics use these names without being in communion with either the Pope or the Archbishop of Canterbury, but we don’t do so fraudulently or with the effect of misleading or deceiving. If our faithful know what we are and what we are not, then they have the freedom to choose what we offer them in the way of a Christian life and the Sacraments of Christ. Some would have the terms Catholic, Orthodox and Anglican restricted to the large institutions and claimed as proprietary trademarks, (respectively the Roman Catholic Church, the Patriarchates of Constantinople, Antioch, Moscow, etc. and the Lambeth Conference) using them. The truth is somewhere in the middle between the totalitarian and liberal extremes.

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14 Responses to Ecclesiastical Counterfeiting

  1. Neil Hailstone says:

    Nothing in this article surprises me. During my last of many periods of disillusion with the C of E, I had a very good look around for alternatives. Certainly of course there are proper alternatives which include smaller jurisdictions. That said, in my researches and enquiries I came across a number of ‘jurisdictions’ which were very clearly the work of Walter Mitty characters and Wanabees. Utterly lamentable and the fact that some claim affiliation with proper Catholic jurisdictions totally deplorable.

    I would also have concerns as to whether the people involved are seeking to defraud gullible members of the public with criminal activity. Thankfully there are suitable alternatives to the C of E if recent developments are a trigger for some Anglican Catholic Christians to leave. Personally

    I have been in useful dialogue with an orthodox Old Catholic jurisdiction which is firstly ‘Above Board’ and secondly ‘Fit for Purpose’ and where I would be made welcome. There are others.

    • There are quite a few here in France. Some ride “piggy back” on the traditionalist movement, but people are increasingly discerning. Others cater for hypochondriacs whose hobby is navel-gazing and worrying about their aches and pains – and call on healers when the doctor doesn’t seem to be able to do anything. Then there is the exorcism industry dealing with “minor exorcisms” and palms being crossed with silver. The problem is finding a niche, when clergy of the Roman Catholic Church find themselves increasingly redundant and unwanted.

      I think, in the end of the day, the distinction comes between some community (like the RC traditionalist societies or the Continuing Anglican Churches) that split away from the parent Church on account of matters of conscience and comprised a community of faithful from the beginning – or a single individual who wanted to get ordained and then seeks to create a more or less fictitious “church” to justify his quest for clerical status.

      Here’s a rather pathetic example.

    • Father Martin says:

      Mr. Hailstone,
      The recent dissolution of the ROCORWRV has left many of us without a church. I find your reference to an orthodox Old Catholic jurisdiction quite interesting. Could you share this us? I would very much like to contact them. The ROCOR debacle has left a very nasty taste for all things Eastern. Your help would be most appreciated.

      • I think he is talking about the Union of Scranton, which in America means the Polish National Catholic Church. I think you wouldn’t like their liturgy.

        Everything that exists is known about. Your best bet would be one of the Continuing Anglican Churches.

  2. Neil Hailstone says:

    Fathers

    Unfortunately, in my opinion, the Union of Scranton, has as it’s preferred partner in the United Kingdom – The Free Church of England. An orthodox Anglican church but adhering to the Book of Common Prayer and the 39 Articles. From my perspective as an Anglican Catholic that is not a jurisdiction which would be suitable as indeed it would not for my brethren and sisters who worship in Society of St Wifrid and St Hilda/FIF churches.

    This means that The Nordic Catholic Church (Union of Scranton) has not established or provided oversight for catholics wishing to depart from the Church of England here in the UK. What seems to me so regrettable is that they have done so in Continental Europe with orthodox catholic congregations but not here in the UK.

    The Old Catholic Jurisdiction to which I made reference above is the Old Catholic Church UK. My contact with them reveals an orthodox and credible Old Catholic jurisdiction adhering to The Declaration of Utrecht 1889. The OCC UK is autocephalous.

    There are orthodox Old Catholic Churches in South America and India who have been incardinated into OCC UK jurisdiction. There is a Concordat of Inter Communion with the Greek Orthodox Church (Patriarchate of Alexandria). The OCC UK is not a constituent member of the Union of Scranton.

    For your further information the OCC UK website is http://www.oldcatholicchurchuk.com

    E Mail to info@oldcatholicchurchuk.com
    E Mail to Metropolitan Archbishop on lesdoughty@hotmail.co.uk

  3. Neil Hailstone says:

    Father Martin
    As I understand it the OCC UK will enter into meaningful discussions with churches and congregations who can accept the definition of catholic faith declared by St Vincent de Lerins, the 7 catholic sacraments, adhere to the all male traditional three fold apostolic ministry, the catholic creeds etc. The Declaration of Utrecht should not prove an obstacle to believers in the Anglican Catholic, traditional Old Catholic or Holy Orthodox traditions. I write as a member of the Anglican Catholic Laity.

    • Father Martin says:

      Mr. Hailstone,
      Thank you for responding to my request. As Father Anthony has suggested Continuing Anglicanism would be a logical choice for me, however, no matter how much I try, I am unable to accept the 39 Articles. I fully understand that many interpret them in an orthodox and catholic way, yet for me they are a great stumbling block. I have, over the years, declined three very good offers from as many Continuing Anglican jurisdictions. I have several friends in Continuing Anglicanism (I have spoken to your and Father Anthony’s metropolitan) and would find it to be a very comfortable home, were it not for the 39 Articles and the deficiencies of the BCP. I recently discovered the OCC-UK and considered contacting them but I noticed, as did Father Anthony, the photo of the liturgy shows the clergy facing the congregation. Do you know which liturgy they use?

  4. Neil Hailstone says:

    Further info about OCC UK which does not appear on the website. This is from an authoratative source. The jurisdiction includes former Anglican and Roman Catholic priests.

    The liturgies used here in the UK include The Novus Ordo – The American Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter liturgy – much older liturgies.

    I would suggest after a relevant conversation about this matter that if a liturgy is orthodox Old Catholic compliant there will be no problem for any priest or group seeking admission.

    • Father Martin says:

      Mr. Hailstone,
      I looked further at the OCC-UK website and there appears to a great deal of “contemporary liturgics”, while they may be orthodox in dogma their liturgical practices would prohibit me from affiliating. I may have to bite the bullet and get over my aversion to the 39 Articles!

      • Don’t worry about the 39 Articles. I didn’t have to swear to uphold them as I entered the ACC, or even the TAC seven years prior to that. It isn’t an issue in the Catholic continuing Churches. Just go and see your local ACC or ACA or whatever Bishop and talk it out with him.

  5. Neil Hailstone says:

    Fr Martin

    We must all of us prayerfully find our way forward. My hope and prayer is that you will resolve the issues which you currently face.

    After a long period of discernment I have found a new home in OCC UK and have been accepted for Lay membership. I wish you well on the Pilgrim Way.

    • Father Martin says:

      Mr. Hailstone,
      I sincerely thank you for your prayers on my behalf, they are appreciated and very much needed. I am pleased that you have found a new home in the OCC-UK and hope that it will continue to provide you with the grace and sacraments we all need. Rest assured the kindness you have shown me will not be forgotten and that you will remain in my prayers.

      • I second this and reaffirm my support of all Catholic Churches that are genuinely working to build up God’s Kingdom. One thing I appreciate about the OCC-UK is its monastic presence – like many ideas I have expressed in this blog.

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