Frequently Asked Questions
(last updated July 7, 2018)
What is an “esoteric” Catholic/Orthodox Church?
Succinctly, it is a Christian Church of freedom. It provides all of the benefits of an apostolic Christian Church without any of the dogmatic deficits. With us, you are free to experience God according to your own sensibilities. You are free to be both a worshiper of Christ and a philosopher of spirituality. Our interpretations of theology do function entirely at the conventional level of the Roman Catholic Magisterium, the Desert Fathers, and the Doctors of the Church, but on a personal level they also extend beyond into the realm of esoteric Christianity, Gnosticism, and both western and eastern mystery traditions.
At the present time, our ministers are philosophically engaged in the study of Esoteric Mysticism which is a syncretic system for experiencing God via multiple stages of realization. It utilizes many unconventional methodologies like Buddhist meditation, Christian esoteric theology, Catholic contemplation/Lectio Divina, Hindu yoga, Eastern Orthodox hesychasm, metaphysical science (including tarot, runes, I Ching, archetypal divination), and neopagan mythology, not as an integration into our Christian practice, but as a supplement to the vast range of spiritual wisdom available.
Some of your philosophical engagements seem a bit contradictory to good Christian values. How do you explain this?
The best way to understand some of the complexities of our work outside of the Church is to hear it directly from Patriarch Nicholas III himself. He did an internet radio show that clearly explains the fullness of our work both inside and outside the Church. You may listen to it by clicking here.
Are you in union with any of the larger conventional Churches?
We are fully autocephalous at this time, but we welcome full union with the larger canonical Churches, even though we know their prejudices and biases prevent this from being possible right now. Generally speaking, it is the larger canonical Churches that trivialize our existence into obscurity and this leads to a continuing divide between us where none should, in reality, exist. But in spirit, we do remain willing to accept FULL union. So while we are sadly not in union with the Roman Catholic Church, we are fortunate to be in communion with the Old Roman Catholic Church [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_Catholic_Church] through our direct affiliation with the Old Roman Catholic Order of St. Michael the Archangel [Order of Exorcists].
Is Jesus Christ your savior?
Yes, absolutely! But we hold a far more enlightened conceptualization of Christian soteriology. For us, Jesus opens the door to Eternal Life, but he doesn’t carry you through the threshold. You have to do that for yourself utilizing a combination of faith, works, and epignosis. For more information on our position regarding soteriology see our canons below.
Are you really true Christians? You don’t talk like any Christians I have ever known.
This is most likely because we define ‘being a Christian’ differently from mainstream Christianity. For us, it is not the mere believing in Christ as the Lord and Savior of mankind that makes one a “true Christian”; rather, it is the resolve of the individual to be Christ in the flesh to other people. Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Well, it works both ways. A Christian is Christ-like, not in the sense of being saintly and holy in appearance, but is unyielding in their own resolve for being accepting of all people, regardless of who they are or what they believe. This is not to say that we should be accepting of unskillful behavior, though. People who violate creation by promoting destructive ideologies should be condemned, as Christ did no less within his time.
Do you believe the Bible is the Word of God?
Yes, in as much as these are inspired faith accounts (the experiences of its authors with God), written down by people of another time for people of another time. We see the Bible as the framework of our Christian theology, but we are also pragmatic in the sense that we acknowledge that its relevance to contemporary society is not always perfectly applicable. Using the Bible to justify atrocities like killing homosexuals (Leviticus 20:13), just to cite one example, is not a skillful utilization of the Bible. As a modern society, we are more scientifically enlightened (or at least should be) than the people of the time of Leviticus. We should not be afraid to act like it.
Are your Sacraments valid?
Under our Patriarch Nicholas III, we carry 21 lines of Apostolic Succession extending from Roman Catholicism into Eastern Orthodoxy. All of our ordination rites are consistent with the larger canonical Churches. The rites we use are identical to the rites used by the Roman Catholic (for the Nicholean tradition) and Eastern Orthodox Churches (for the Holy Imperial Russian Orthodox Church). As such, our Sacraments are as valid as any larger Apostolic Church.
Are your clergy valid ministers of the Sacraments? What are their credentials to practice ministry and offer the Sacraments?
Again, because our bishops are validly consecrated according to valid Christian rites by validly ordained bishops, our apostolic authority is indisputably valid. Our clerical credentials are defined by A) our valid apostolic succession B) our seminary training C) the spiritual maturity of our candidates D) any secular education with the bachelor’s level being required for active pastoral ministry.
Why do we need an alternative to the conventional Churches?
Because Christianity, as a religious system, has failed. Today, all 33,000+ denominations of Christianity are more interested in promoting divisive theological interpretations of the Bible than they are with experiencing God directly. They worship this book and have forgotten all about the Actual God it speaks about. And when the conventional Church [with all of its 33,000+ denominations] is not engaging theological divisiveness against itself, it is embracing political corruption, seeking monetary rewards for spiritual favors, or simply teaches metaphysical lies so as to secure its own foundation.
Our Churches are non-dogmatic. We don’t waste our time forcing people to believe in something. Like Christ, we bring the direct experience of God to our members. It is not our place to enforce certain lifestyles, concepts, or ideologies onto our members. The job of a priest is to merely be an instrument of Christ. We leave the details of that relationship to the particular member and to God.
I’m not a Christian, but am I welcome to participate in your Church?
Yes, of course! Our Churches are institutions of the cultivation of a direct experience with God. This is not only a Christian reality, but it transcends all religious barriers. To participate in our Sacramental life, however, we do ask that you receive initiation for purposes of your own spiritual integration. In Christianity, this is done via Baptism and it is given freely (on the spot if necessary) to anyone who asks for it.
How do you reconcile non-Christian beliefs with your Christian theology?
Why would we need to? Theology, be it Christian or otherwise, is merely one story about God. Each religion or spirituality has their own and we celebrate this diversity. While we personally may choose to follow the Christian story, we also enjoy the intense philosophical enrichment of studying the stories of others. Once one has a direct experience with God, conflicting appearances like different beliefs and different religions become less and less important. Eventually, they lose all of their power over you and you become free. You own your beliefs instead of it being the other way around.
You speak about following an Orthodox theology, but so much about what you talk about is heretical. Aren’t you just heretics pretending to be mainstream Christians?
What is a heretic? Christianity is a Jewish heresy. Buddhism is a Hindu heresy. Everyone is a heretic to someone so why should we worry about this? In matters of the Church, what we teach from the pulpit, how we practice, how we live the Christian life is no different from the mainstream, but being non-dogmatic we are free to be philosophers, to question, to speculate, to learn and grow spiritually using any wisdom tradition that serves this purpose. If that is heretical, than we proudly accept your judgment of us.
We take issue with the way you practice Christianity and would like to communicate this with you so as to help save you from the darkness of your ways. How can we best contact you?
Please don’t. If you feel this way, it is only because you are operating on a level of understanding that differs greatly from our own. Our ways have proven themselves to be skillful adaptions to the Christian message. We are not concerned with how our methodology appears to the uninitiated. If you cannot understand this, there is nothing we can do to help you. While the mysteries we protect are available to all, the skillful use and understanding of them is only as compatible as the mind that attempts to integrate them. If you aren’t ready; you aren’t ready. Please don’t approach us with the attitude that you know more about what we are doing than we do. We encounter this often and have grown quite weary of it.
I want to be a priest? Do you offer ordination?
Because the Independent Sacramental Movement is vulnerable to insincere requests, “vanity ordinations,” and any number of other abuses, to become a priest in our Churches requires a direct invitation by one of our bishops. In most cases, you will need to become a regular participant in one of our local chapels or groups and attend a seminary/mentorship program for many years before you will be considered for the reception of Holy Orders. You will also be expected to serve our Churches in a lifetime commitment by the taking of vows.
I was already ordained and would like to incardinate into your Church. How is this done?
Also, because our Churches have been taken advantage of by individuals requesting incardination without a sincere commitment to serve our Churches, incardination requires an invitation by one of our bishops. Because of our size and lack of financial resources, we have no means or desire to operate beyond the locality of our Patriarch at this time; therefore, incardination would require that the individual in question is willing to serve the local community in the Atlanta, Georgia USA area. If you are, however, planning to reside within the Atlanta area and you would like to incardinate into our Churches, you may email such a request to email@example.com
I want to attend your services. Where are your physical locations?
At the present time, there is only one Nicholean Catholic Church in the world. You may attend services at the mission church located at:
Holy Nicholean Catholic Church
1241 Joe Frank Harris Parkway
Cartersville, GA 30120
Being a mission church, we often have to attend to several emergency situations within the outreach ministry. This prevents us from always have a regular Mass schedule like a ordinary parish would. It is always a good idea to check the liturgical schedule before traveling out to visit us. You may find the schedule HERE.
What is the difference or relationship between the Holy Nicholean Catholic Church and the Holy Imperial Russian Orthodox Church?
At this time, the Holy Nicholean Catholic Church has become an integration of both eastern and western Christian traditions. The Holy Imperial Russian Orthodox Church has been dissolved due to years of inactivity.
How does your Church differ from the conventional Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox Churches?
Essentially, the difference is only found within how each enforces dogmatism. Unlike the conventional Churches, our Churches are non-dogmatic institutions. We practice a conventional, traditional Christianity, but we don’t force our members to believe anything particular about the Christian faith, nor do we define our Christianity by the standards of what people believe. We place no intrinsic importance on belief as a human activity. Our only concern is with the direct experience with God of which our Churches are abundantly rich. More can be learned about our specific canonical differences by reading our canons below.
The Holy Nicholean Catholic Church exists to bridge the gap and heal all division between the Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodoxy, all contemporary Independent derivatives with authentic apostolic succession, and those traditions of ancient Christianity that were fractured by proto-orthodox ideologies. Secondarily, the HNCC wishes to restore the proper place of Holy Wisdom within the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church by helping those traditions that are opposed to Gnosticism to see that there is essentially no true distinction between orthodoxy and gnostic theology if one understands the proper application of what St. Peter called “epignosis”. A tertiary concern of the HNCC, and by no means implying that it is less important, is to establish a spiritual home for those who have become disenfranchised by the conventional churches. Ultimately, the HNCC’s goal is to heal the wounds of Mother Church, restoring the unity of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church for which it was established under Jesus Christ, the Son of the Eternal Father.
We realize that such a task will most likely never be achieved in our lifetime, but it is our intention to set the precedent that will pave the road for those to follow. It is also important to establish that we are NOT a “Gnostic” or Reconstructionist Church. We occasionally utilize ancient Gnostic philosophical perspectives as a means to elucidate early interpretations of Christian theology, but we feel any effort to make Gnosticism its own religion is superfluous to any serious ministerial effort. We contend that Gnosticism is best understood in context to those religious systems that have been influenced by it. We see gnosis as a fundamental component to orthodox Christianity through the epignosis talked about in the Second Book of Peter, not as a heresy. Gnosticism and orthodoxy have become so intertwined with each other over the course of Christian theological development that it would be foolish to assume that ancient Christianity existed separate and in direct opposition to it as became politically evident in the later years of the early Church. In fact, we reject any accusations that we are heretical, schismatic or apostates for holding this view. We wholeheartedly support the Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church with few exceptions. Those exceptions (like a married priesthood) [noted below] are elements unique to our specific tradition and in no way disturb the balance of the essential theology determined by the Roman Catholic Magisterium.
Unlike so many autocephalous churches, we ultimately are desirous of union with the Pope of Rome and Patriarch of Constantinople. We make every effort to support the Holy Synods of Bishops and do our best to integrate their decisions into our tradition. Keeping this in mind, one might be inclined to ask questions like: what makes you different from Roman Catholicism? The answer is quite simple.
We are different because:
1. we are a non-dogmatic apostolic liturgical system.
2. we posit that salvation is achieved by faith, for works, and through epignosis.
3. we respect all religions, traditions, and creeds even though we protect and defend our own tradition’s boundaries.
Essentially, existing as a non-dogmatic church places the responsibility of one’s own spirituality into the hands of the individual. The tradition exists to support the individual in this task, but it is not designed to rule over him or her. We have determined that healing the Christian schism can only be achieved by embracing theological and philosophical diversity. When a Church declares that “we are right and you are wrong”, such a church has become a weapon of injustice, rather than an instrument of peace.
Likewise, epignosis (true direct knowledge via experience, not falsely ascribed heresy from antiquity), must be understood within its proper context as the early Christians knew so very well.
To learn more about what our Church believes, we invite you to study the Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church: http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/ccc_toc2.htm
We seldom differ from its teaching and we do so only when it is hopelessly in direct violation of our established tradition through the protection afforded the theology of the Holy Bible.
Please see our objections below with theological explanation and commentary. It is extremely important to note that the Holy Nicholean Catholic Church does not adhere to a static doctrine. Our convictions support a doctrine of dynamic evolution. While the objections to the Roman Catholic Catechism we offer below represent our present wisdom, we accept the possibility that these views might need to change in the future, particularly if reunification with the larger Church becomes a possibility.
OPEN ADULT BAPTISM
Paragraphs 1247-1249 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church states:“Since the beginning of the Church, adult Baptism is the common practice where the proclamation of the Gospel is still new. The catechumenate (preparation for Baptism) therefore occupies an important place. This initiation into Christian faith and life should dispose the catechumen to receive the gift of God in Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist.
The catechumenate, or formation of catechumens, aims at bringing their conversion and faith to maturity, in response to the divine initiative and in union with an ecclesial community. The catechumenate is to be “a formation in the whole Christian life . . . during which the disciples will be joined to Christ their teacher. The catechumens should be properly initiated into the mystery of salvation and the practice of the evangelical virtues, and they should be introduced into the life of faith, liturgy, and charity of the People of God by successive sacred rites.”
Catechumens “are already joined to the Church, they are already of the household of Christ, and are quite frequently already living a life of faith, hope, and charity.” “With love and solicitude mother Church already embraces them as her own.”
We agree with the formulation stated above, but we retain this practice as an “ordinary form” of the Sacrament of Baptism. Our tradition has added an “extraordinary form” which offers Baptism freely to the adult in the same manner as the Sacrament is given to an infant. Ultimately, it is our hope that all individuals that come to us for Baptism choose to become fully initiated into the Mysteries as catechumens, however, we feel that unbaptized adults are greatly in need of the Grace Baptism provides regardless of that adult’s particular commitment to the Church.
Any individual that has been deprived of the Sacraments for an extended period of time is at great spiritual risk. To further place at risk such an individual by enforcing a substantial religious commitment that he or she may not yet be able to meet, we feel, is irresponsible. Therefore, it is our position that the Sacrament of Baptism can, when the situation calls for special care, be conferred without any particular catechumenate training. Our tradition reserves the Sacrament of Confirmation for such occasions, preferring to leave the Sacrament of Baptism as an example of the freedom of Christ’s love.
In keeping with this practice, parishes of the Holy Nicholean Catholic Church are prepared to offer the Sacrament of Baptism at every (or any) liturgy to anyone who wishes to receive it without any obligation whatsoever.
Like the Roman Catholic Church, the Holy Nicholean Catholic Church affirms that the canonical scriptures produce the only authoritative written source for theological doctrine; however, our tradition derives philosophical inspiration through the careful reflection of other sources. While we consider only canonical scripture to be appropriate for liturgical ceremony, the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of both the Old and New Testament periods form a more complete vision of early Christian diversity. Additionally, the Nag Hammadi library increases our spiritual wealth in the form of mystical truth and reality. Again, while we do not recognize these extracanonical sources to be authoritative within the context of our own theology, we refuse to recognize them as heretical. Early Christianity was an extremely diversified religious experience. As such, we intend to preserve this spirit within the rich mystical tradition of our church.
Paragraph 2357 states: “Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.” They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.”
Our position is that the Holy Nicholean Catholic Church must not stand in judgment against such individuals who define themselves as homosexuals. While we do not dismiss what the Roman Catholic Church has stated, we likewise do not affirm it as our own teaching. In a sense, because we can find ourselves in agreement that its “psychological genesis remains largely unexplained”, we choose not to define it in general terms. However, homosexuality does present some Sacramental and ministerial challenges which we shall deal with below.
ORDINATION & HOMOSEXUALITY
We do not find any substantiated cause to refuse the Sacrament of Holy Orders to a homosexual provided that such an individual is committed to a life of celibacy and chastity. While intrinsically we also choose not to involve ourselves in the personal choices of conscience each individual makes unto themselves, in the interest of ecumenical relations, we have chosen our position on this issue to represent the most neutral solution available.
SACRAMENTAL MARRIAGE & HOMOSEXUALITY
Paragraph 1601 states: “The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament.”
The Sacrament of Matrimony is theologically defined by the potential of a man and woman to create new life in the form of offspring. All Sacraments of the Church reflect a strong bias in keeping with producing life in its many forms. The Sacrament of Matrimony was not instituted to give free license to individuals so that they may engage in morally acceptable sexual behavior, nor was it created to become a financial convenience of political law. It was provided as a Sacrament so that mankind might fulfill God’s command to be fruitful and multiply. Because homosexual union cannot, by virtue of its establishment, produce new life in the form of offspring, the Church cannot validly confer this Sacrament upon a homosexual couple even if it desires to. While many independent churches have decided to offer this Sacrament in the form of homosexual union anyway, the Holy Nicholean Catholic Church feels such a dramatic change in Sacramental definition and validity must come directly from an ecumenical council, as no one bishop or small gathering of bishops is qualified to redefine Sacramental Theology to this extent. We pray for the Holy Spirit to continue to guide the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church in this matter. We feel the homosexual community deserves an enlightened answer, which the HNCC admits it regretfully does not possess at this time.
Paragraph 1395 states: “By the same charity that it enkindles in us, the Eucharist preserves us from future mortal sins. The more we share the life of Christ and progress in his friendship, the more difficult it is to break away from him by mortal sin. The Eucharist is not ordered to the forgiveness of mortal sins – that is proper to the sacrament of Reconciliation. The Eucharist is properly the sacrament of those who are in full communion with the Church.”
The Holy Nicholean Catholic Church strongly supports the contention that there is far too much theological evidence supporting an open communion to maintain a rigid doctrine of closed communion. Luke 5:32 reads, “I am not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” While we can understand the Roman Catholic position to preserve the mystery of Christ’s Body and Blood for only the properly initiated, we also must consider that Jesus Christ, while he was on earth, made himself available to all, particularly the worst of sinners. To deny a person of another religion, another denomination, or a mortal sinner the Body and Blood of Christ is to deprive such an individual of that which such a person may need most. It is, therefore, our position that the Church cannot stand in the way of someone who reverently comes to meet his/her God in the Blessed Sacrament. We do, however, recommend that such a person first make an effort to be baptized into the Christian faith before seeking reception of the Eucharist. HNCC parishes are prepared to offer the Sacrament of Baptism at all liturgical services, so those desirous of the Sacraments of the Church are invited to receive it without delay. It is also advised that the Sacrament of Reconciliation be used frequently as a means to better prepare oneself for these Sacred Mysteries.
Paragraph 2271 states: “Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law:
You shall not kill the embryo by abortion and shall not cause the newborn to perish.
God, the Lord of life, has entrusted to men the noble mission of safeguarding life, and men must carry it out in a manner worthy of themselves. Life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception: abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes.”
The Holy Nicholean Catholic Church upholds a general pro-life position. We differ only in the respect that if such a person has fallen into such an error, such a person must not be deprived of the Sacraments of the Church, for, once again, such a time is when Christ is needed most in that individual’s life.
RIGHT TO DIE & EUTHANASIA
Paragraph 2324 states: “Intentional euthanasia, whatever its forms or motives, is murder. It is gravely contrary to the dignity of the human person and to the respect due to the living God, his Creator.”
The HNCC, however, holds no moral position in support or in condemnation of the right of a terminally ill person to choose to end one’s suffering prior to nature taking its painful course, provided a qualified clinician has determined that the individual has full command of their mental faculties, is choosing this path with their own full volition, and is utilizing a method approved by law to carry out the task. We affirm that such an action is not suicide and hold no sinful culpability against such a person.
The function of Euthanasia (assisting another in this action) is more complicated. At this time, the Holy Nicholean Catholic Church has not defined its position in favor of or against that of the Church of Rome. In keeping with our proclivity to defend the personal spiritual responsibility of the individual, we leave such matters up to individual conscience and local laws unless we are inspired by the Holy Spirit to do otherwise at a later time.
Paragraph 2370 states: “Periodic continence, that is, the methods of birth regulation based on self-observation and the use of infertile periods, is in conformity with the objective criteria of morality. These methods respect the bodies of the spouses, encourage tenderness between them, and favor the education of an authentic freedom. In contrast, “every action which, whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible” is intrinsically evil:
Thus the innate language that expresses the total reciprocal self-giving of husband and wife is overlaid, through contraception, by an objectively contradictory language, namely, that of not giving oneself totally to the other. This leads not only to a positive refusal to be open to life but also to a falsification of the inner truth of conjugal love, which is called upon to give itself in personal totality. . . . The difference, both anthropological and moral, between contraception and recourse to the rhythm of the cycle . . . involves in the final analysis two irreconcilable concepts of the human person and of human sexuality.”
The Holy Nicholean Catholic Church upholds the personal responsibility of a married couple to use whatever family planning methodology is right for them according to their needs and finances, provided such a method does not involve abortion. We neither endorse nor condemn the use of contraceptives by married couples.
Paragraph 2352 states: “By masturbation is to be understood the deliberate stimulation of the genital organs in order to derive sexual pleasure. “Both the Magisterium of the Church, in the course of a constant tradition, and the moral sense of the faithful have been in no doubt and have firmly maintained that masturbation is an intrinsically and gravely disordered action.” “The deliberate use of the sexual faculty, for whatever reason, outside of marriage is essentially contrary to its purpose.” For here sexual pleasure is sought outside of “the sexual relationship which is demanded by the moral order and in which the total meaning of mutual self-giving and human procreation in the context of true love is achieved.”
To form an equitable judgment about the subjects’ moral responsibility and to guide pastoral action, one must take into account the affective immaturity, force of acquired habit, conditions of anxiety or other psychological or social factors that lessen, if not even reduce to a minimum, moral culpability.”
The Church takes no position on the biological propensity of the human being to engage in masturbation. Theologically, we find it to be neither a grave matter nor a sin. In all actuality, we find far more culpability in the words of a minister or authority figure to condemn what appears to be a natural function of biology and therefore risk causing another to fall into a tangent of scrupulosity. Compulsory and/or excessive utilization with or without the use of pornography may be indicative of a deeper problem that should be explored with one’s confessor.
EXTRA-MARITAL RELATIONSHIPS AMONG THE LAITY
Paragraph 2353 states: “Fornication is carnal union between an unmarried man and an unmarried woman. It is gravely contrary to the dignity of persons and of human sexuality which is naturally ordered to the good of spouses and the generation and education of children. Moreover, it is a grave scandal when there is corruption of the young.”
While we believe that it is not the purpose of a church to serve as a sexual authority looming over the bedrooms of its members, the Holy Nicholean Catholic Church does agree that extra-marital sexual relationships are contrary to the life of commitment and holiness each individual is called to serve. Keeping this in mind, however, we refuse to stand as a judge against a person’s individual conscience in such matters of sexuality, for such is God’s function. While the HNCC will not deprive those engaged in fornication from participating in the life of the Church, we do teach that fornication is inadvisable for those engaging the spiritual life, particularly when monogamy is not observed.
EXTRA ECCLESIAM NULLA SALUS
Paragraph 819 states: “Furthermore, many elements of sanctification and of truth” are found outside the visible confines of the Catholic Church: “the written Word of God; the life of grace; faith, hope, and charity, with the other interior gifts of the Holy Spirit, as well as visible elements.” Christ’s Spirit uses these Churches and ecclesial communities as means of salvation, whose power derives from the fullness of grace and truth that Christ has entrusted to the Catholic Church. All these blessings come from Christ and lead to him, and are in themselves calls to “Catholic unity.”
In keeping with this more enlightened contemporary view of the Church, we trust that God will work out the salvation of each individual according to that individual’s spiritual needs, tradition, religion, and gifts. We will not limit the power of the Sacrifice of the Cross to include only those of a Christian persuasion. We firmly contend that salvation is open to all people and is mysteriously contained within the perennial philosophy existent in all religious systems.
Within its understanding of theology, the Holy Nicholean Catholic Church strongly asserts that salvation requires a triple formulation ofFaith (πίστιν), Works (ἔργα), and Knowledge (ἐπίγνωσις). Protestantism has a long history of affirming its incomplete doctrine of Sola fide (i.e., faith alone is all that is required). In St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians he states, “For by grace (χάριτι) you have been saved through faith (πίστεως); and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God (2:8).” Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for such theology to be utilized outside of its original context. This manifests a certain theological premise without further essential consideration. Later, in verse 10, St. Paul writes, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works (ἔργοις), which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” By this elaboration, it is clear that while salvation is attained via Grace (a free, unmerited gift from God) through Faith, man is not saved by the good Works he performs, but rather for the good Works he chooses to undertake.
In the Book of James, the Brother of Jesus writes, “What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith (πίστιν) but he has no works (ἔργα)? Can that faith (πίστις) save him (2:14)?” And later in verse 26, St. James writes, “For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith (πίστις) without works (ἔργων ) is dead.” What is demonstrated here is a clear continuation of the thoughts of St. Paul above. Salvation is freely given by Grace through one’s Faith, but true Faith is unattainable without the good Works that produce it.
Finally, in the Second Book of St. Peter, the apostle writes, “seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge (ἐπιγνώσεως) of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust (1:3-4).” And then in verses 5-7, “Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith (πίστει) supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge (γνῶσιν), and in your knowledge (γνώσει), self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.” St. Peter forms a perfect synopsis of the Faith, Works, and Knowledge theology that our sacred tradition maintains. It can only be through the divinization of humanity (i.e., theosis) that humanity is truly saved; furthermore, theosis can only be achieved through a strong Faith, reflected by the good Works that produce it, and accomplished by a direct Knowledge merited via a first-hand relationship with God.
It is also important that we provide a final word about ἐπίγνωσις (transliterated to epignosis) [see 2Peter 1:3]. The Holy Nicholean Catholic Church wishes to distinguish itself from the contemporary Gnostic community that uses the word “gnosis” as a means to reflect the esoteric liberation and enlightenment of some ancient Christian theology. While our own theological interpretations strongly support the need to understand what ancient Gnostics taught and believed, our tradition should not be confused with Gnosticism as either an ancient or modern system. Ancient Gnosticism had a very strong propensity to assume that this soteriological Knowledge was only available to a certain elite. Our tradition, however, teaches that while this Knowledge may not be accessible to all, it is available to all who apply themselves through a praxis of Faith and Works. We attempt to emphasize this difference by use of the word “epignosis” rather than “gnosis”. Epignosis carries the Greek prefix “epi” which means a certain ‘fitting upon’ through a specific form of contact. This prefix then intensifies the word gnosis by emphasizing that true gnosis occurs via an appropriate, proper, yet direct, experiential relationship with God. In other words, true gnosis is a specific type of experience that only occurs given a specific approach. This is the fundamental mystery of God that our tradition teaches and protects. Exoterically, such an epignosis is facilitated through the administration and reception of the Sacrament of Eucharist and the eventual theosis that is produced by this Sacrament. Esoterically, however, it occurs beyond praxis, beyond tradition, and beyond any application of the will.
Paragraph 1463 states: “Certain particularly grave sins incur excommunication, the most severe ecclesiastical penalty, which impedes the reception of the sacraments and the exercise of certain ecclesiastical acts, and for which absolution consequently cannot be granted, according to canon law, except by the Pope, the bishop of the place or priests authorized by them. In danger of death any priest, even if deprived of faculties for hearing confessions, can absolve from every sin and excommunication.”
The Holy Nicholean Catholic Church refuses to deprive anyone of the Sacraments of the Church, regardless of their specific moral condition; furthermore, we affirm that using Sacramental Deprivation in such a way is contrary to the spirit of Grace the Sacraments both represent and contain. The Sacraments must never be used, even indirectly, as a weapon against unwholesome behavior. There will be times, however, when the Church may need to distance itself from harmful persons. We recognize that not everyone will have our best interests in mind and may actually seek to use affiliation with us as a means to undermine our work. Excommunication, then, will be retained only as a means to protect the Church against such motivations.
Paragraph 1599 states: “In the Latin Church the sacrament of Holy Orders for the presbyterate is normally conferred only on candidates who are ready to embrace celibacy freely and who publicly manifest their intention of staying celibate for the love of God’s kingdom and the service of men.”
St. Paul writes in 1Timothy 3:2, “An overseer [bishop], then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach.” Then in verses 4-5 he states, “He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?)”. In keeping with the spirit of St. Paul, the Holy Nicholean Catholic Church will not enforce a code of celibacy upon its clergy. In fact, we encourage and prefer our clergy to be married before receiving Holy Orders. We will, however, openly assist the discernment of anyone with a potential vocation regardless of marital status, for no Sacrament should be an impediment unto another.
The Holy Nicholean Catholic Church requires its single clergy (including seminarians) to remain chaste in keeping with a commitment of sanctification worthy of the Holy Office they have received. Extra-marital sexual relationships by clergy cannot be permitted; as such an action would contradict the life of commitment they have accepted as part of their sacramental ministry.
CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE
The Holy Nicholean Catholic Church maintains a no-tolerance position on child sexual abuse by clergy. All clergy of the Holy Nicholean Catholic Church are required to undergo an extensive background check before being admitted to active ministry. Any clergy found to be guilty of committing acts of a sexual nature with a minor will be immediately removed from their ministerial duties and will also be defrocked from the priesthood (if applicable). Additionally, their Bishop will be required under his Vow of Obedience unto the Patriarch to cooperate fully with law enforcement, providing any information that will assist with prosecuting the perpetrator.
The Holy Nicholean Catholic Church will not, under any circumstances, protect a guilty clergymen and shelter him or her from the consequences of their criminal actions. Any Bishop responsible for doing so will also be removed from office.
MARRIAGE AFTER ORDINATION
As stated above, the Holy Nicholean Catholic Church strongly encourages all of its priests to be married before taking Orders, but we do understand that not all vocations will manifest in this way. With proper discernment, the Church will consider allowing its deacons and priests to marry, provided much care is taken in regards to how the minister conducts himself. In order to prevent conflicts and scandal, we do not allow our ministers to pursue a romantic relationship with anyone under their pastoral care.
At this time, the HNCC yields to the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches on the question of female priests and bishops. Like homosexual marriage, such a serious deviation from the traditional teaching of the Church, we contend, must come from the actions of an ecumenical council or via reasonable historical precedent. While we do recognize that the extra-canonical sources (e.g. the Gospel of Philip and the Gospel of Mary) appear to reflect a favorable theology and St. Paul himself may have had high ranking female clergy under his pastoral care, we feel such a decision must be made by the Church as a whole. We have decided, however, to begin ordaining female deaconesses in keeping with the traditions of the early Church as demonstrated abundantly in such writings as the third century A.D. Didascalia Apostolorum. Additionally, the Eastern Orthodox Churches have a standing history of ordaining women to the Order of Deaconess, the rites of which can be found in the seventeenth century A.D. Dmitrievsky’s Eucholgia. Also, the icon of St. Dorothy of Kashin pictures her holding a censor, the common attribute of a deacon. Such evidence proves to our satisfaction the validity of the Office of Deaconess.
In the HNCC, like Sub-Deacons, Deaconesses are eligible to receive ministerial license (Reverend status if they have minimally two years of college) and have the sacramental authority to perform baptisms (in case of extreme need), non-liturgical weddings (when appropriate to the pastoral needs of the couple), non-liturgical funerals (also when appropriate), assist with exorcisms, communion services outside of Mass, offer pastoral counseling, and offer sermons. The liturgical rank of Deaconess is equivalent to the minor order of Sub-deacon and is considered separate from the Sacrament of Holy Orders.
Paragraph 1614 states: “In his preaching Jesus unequivocally taught the original meaning of the union of man and woman as the Creator willed it from the beginning permission given by Moses to divorce one’s wife was a concession to the hardness of hearts. The matrimonial union of man and woman is indissoluble: God himself has determined it “what therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder.”
The Holy Nicholean Catholic Church stands by the words of Jesus in matters pertaining to divorce. In Matthew 19:9 Jesus says, “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” The Sacrament of Matrimony is a binding Sacrament that cannot be dissolved for any reason outside of death. Actions of immorality on the part of one’s partner, however, may constitute a provision that invalidates the Sacrament. In such cases, the Church will permit an annulment so as to allow the member in question a means to remarry at some point in the future. The annulment process should be simple, painless, and without delay. All pastors of the Church will be permitted to authorize such annulments after a simple, but careful, investigation.
ESOTERIC ARTS & SCIENCES
Paragraph 2116 states: “All forms of divination are to be rejected: recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to “unveil” the future. Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time, history, and, in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers. They contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone.”
In other places throughout the Catechism, the Church of Rome offers similar reactions to such practices. The HNCC, however, feels that the teachings of the Church of Rome only stand to apply as far as to one who is uninitiated into the solemn Mysteries of Christ. Alternatively, if someone has reached a certain level of epignosis, that individual’s spirituality will eventually demand that such an individual grow and evolve. Occasionally, this will manifest as a profound need to move beyond the convention of one’s tradition for an undisclosed period of time. Inasmuch as this phenomenon occurs, the HNCC feels its responsibility is to guide such a person through the western magical tradition (or any other spiritual tradition), rather than condemn it, reject it, or warn against it. Although, let it be known that we decidedly maintain that general occultism and mystery traditions offer considerably less esoterically than what has been preserved (largely in secret) by the Christian Church in its two-thousand year history. Realization of this fact, however, is often obscured until one engages the mysteries contained within other available traditions, even if those other traditions are grossly incomplete. While we contend that the Mysteries of the Church are comprehensive and exceed any need for other systems, we understand that a solid spiritual foundation is largely dependent upon willful exploration.
Paragraph 285 states: “Since the beginning the Christian faith has been challenged by responses to the question of origins that differ from its own. Ancient religions and cultures produced many myths concerning origins. Some philosophers have said that everything is God, that the world is God, or that the development of the world is the development of God (Pantheism). Others have said that the world is a necessary emanation arising from God and returning to him. Still others have affirmed the existence of two eternal principles, Good and Evil, Light and Darkness, locked, in permanent conflict (Dualism, Manichaeism). According to some of these conceptions, the world (at least the physical world) is evil, the product of a fall, and is thus to be rejected or left behind (Gnosticism). Some admit that the world was made by God, but as by a watch-maker who, once he has made a watch, abandons it to itself (Deism). Finally, others reject any transcendent origin for the world, but see it as merely the interplay of matter that has always existed (Materialism). All these attempts bear witness to the permanence and universality of the question of origins. This inquiry is distinctively human.”
The Holy Nicholean Catholic Church could not agree more with this position and it fully endorses the right of each individual to explore, to the fullest, any philosophical perspective that one might intuit into leading them closer to the truth we all seek. While it is our personal opinion that so-called “Gnostic churches” are superfluous to the greater Christian tradition as a whole, we love and respect our “gnostic” brothers and sisters as members of the Body of Christ, even though we strongly disagree with any form of reactionary theology, which is, unfortunately, all too common in such circles.