Progressive Catholic Group Ordaining Transgender Priest

Shannon T.L. KearnsThe North American Old Catholic Church is ordaining Shannon T.L. Kearns, a trans man, later this month. Kearns (right) will be responsible for starting a new parish in Minneapolis.

“The North American Old Catholic Church looks forward to establishing a presence in Minneapolis with the ordination of Father Kearns,” said Bishop Benjamin Evans, who is presiding over the ordination on January 19. “God’s Holy Spirit continues to bless us with growth.”

Founded in 2007, the North American Old Catholic Church has a mission of social justice, does not submit to the authority of the Pope, and is open to female and LGBT clergy.

“I am honored and humbled to have my calling to ministry affirmed by the North American Old Catholic Church,” says Kearns, who transitioned while studying at Union Theological Seminary in New York. “I look forward to many years serving as a priest.”


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  • gaym50ish

    Maybe the North American branch was founded in 2007, but the Old Catholic Church split from the Roman Church more than a century ago. Its faithful do not believe in papal infallibility and are not homophobic. It is a member of the World Council of Churches. It could be a good alternative for Catholics who just can’t give up their beliefs.

    If you are in a fundamentalist Protestant denomination, try the more tolerant United Church of Christ or the Unitarian-Universalist Church. Look into membership in the predominantly gay Metropolitan Community Churches, which welcome everyone. Do yourself a favor — dump your homophobic church and find a religious institution that shares your values.

  • hyhybt

    @gaym50ish: Amen… if those options are available.

    Putting “Old” in your new organization’s name, whether that happened five years ago or over a hundred, does seem strange, though, and more than a little dishonest, especially when it’s used to contrast that group with a similarly-named one that’s been around since years only had three digits.

  • Eli Miami

    @hyhybt: If you knew the history of the Old Catholic movement, you would not find its use of “Old” to be “dishonest,” just a quirk of its history.

    In a nutshell (and omitting a lot of fascinating history), Old Catholicism stems from the Archdiocese of Utrecht, in the Netherlands, which had been granted certain privileges by medieval Popes to select their archbishop on their own. When the Protestant Reformation occurred, the Catholic Church in that country was suppressed, but the Church maintained itself, and passed on the “apostolic succession” within itself. This led to an oppressed and underground but autonomous Catholic Church in the Netherlands, maintained over centuries until in the 19th century the Vatican was able to persuade the Netherlands to permit Catholicism to operate freely there again, including naming bishops approved by the Vatican. Most of the country’s Catholics went along with the Vatican, but others stayed true to the local form of the Catholic Church, led by their own Archbishop of Utrecht (not appointed by the Vatican), and became known as the “Old Catholics,” because they were actually the continuation of the old Catholic Church hierarchy in the country that had gone underground, whereas the Vatican-appointed bishops of the re-established hierarchy were “new.”

    When the First Vatican Council was held later in the 1800s, many Catholics around the world (but especially in German-speaking countries) rejected its innovations, like the doctrine of papal infallibility. They decided to separate form Rome’s control, and so reached out to the independent Archbishop of Utrecht and his “Old Catholics” in the Netherlands. The Archbishop and his own bishops consecrated bishops for these newly Rome-free Catholics, and so the name “Old Catholics” was extended to the latter too. From the interconnected national churches that arose at that time, the entire Old Catholic movement has originated, and the name is rooted in the history of Utrecht’s Catholics having maintained the older Catholic hierarchy in the Netherlands.

    If interested, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_Catholic_Church#Post_Reformation_Netherlands:_first_period for more information.

  • hyhybt

    @Eli Miami: Thank you!

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