“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” -Colossians 1:15-20
The Remnants of Christ Catholic Church of the Americas and Europe
If truth be told, there are several remnants of Christ Catholic Church of the Americas and Europe throughout the world and each of them in their own distinct way are connected with Archbishop Karl Hugo Rehling Prüter’s lifelong ministry within the Old Catholic Movement. Christ Catholic Church Archdiocese of the Prince of Peace is one such continuing ministry and is the most intimately connected of all.
True to the practice of my predecessor I have intentionally left some things out of this historical account mainly to protect the innocent and perhaps some of the guilty too. The ministry that is Christ Catholic in association has spanned almost 100 years and across several countries. That’s a lot of history and as with every group in the world, when people are involved, unraveling the truth of the historical events of the organization is often subjective and always confusing. I have tried to offer the facts as they have already been publicized by Bishop Karl Prüter and have attempted to give an accurate, if focused, account of our shared history together since 2003.
The Most Rev. Brian E. Brown, OSH
Presiding Archbishop of Christ Catholic Church
Abbot General of the Order of the Shepherd’s Heart
April 23, 2010 Hollister, Missouri
Let us begin at the beginning…
This account of the history of Christ Catholic Church up until 2003 is taken from several different sources, all written by Bishop Karl Prüter himself: The Old Catholic Church, The Story of Christ Catholic Church (All Five Editions), The Blue Jellybean, Hedy Lamarr, and We Don’t Eat Negroes, as well as from his personal journals.
The Free Catholic Movement
And Congregational Influence
Written By. Bp. Karl Prüter
Excerpt From The Old Catholic Church 2006
In the 1930’s Old Catholics began to do work among the Congregational Christian Churches, with surprising success and long-range effects. At first glance, this would have seemed an unlikely field for Old Catholic missionary efforts. But to those familiar with Congregational history, it was less of an evangelistic effort than a call to return to the catholic heritage of the Pilgrim Fathers.
The early Congregationalists were Christocentric, and their worship centered around the Blessed Sacrament. Their devotion to the Sacrament grew directly out of the fact that it had been specifically commanded by our Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, their entire church life was a simple attempt to put into effect what Christ willed for them as individuals and as a congregation. However, without the episcopacy they quickly fell away from their catholic doctrine and practices. In the early nineteenth century, the Unitarian Movement had made deep inroads in to Congregationalism; before the end of the century, almost every vestige of Catholicism had disappeared.
It was the early meetings of the Ecumenical Movement that sparked the revival of the Catholic heritage in Congregationalism. The publication of the General Councils Book of Worship for Free Churches and Karl Prüter’s A Divine Liturgy for Free Churches pointed the way toward Catholic revival. A small but significant number of churches began to celebrate Mass on a weekly basis using either the Divine Liturgy for Free Churches, The Anglican Book of Common Prayer, the Old Catholic Missal and Liturgy edited by Archbishop Mathew and Archbishop Gul in 1909.
Orders also became a matter of concern. A few ministers sought and received Catholic ordinations from American Old Catholic bishops. Bishop Howard Mather served the Order of Antioch while functioning as a Congregational pastor in a number of Congregational Churches, including the historic Church at Sheffield, Massachusetts. Often they met with serious opposition, but in most instances the congregations regarded what was happening as a revival of true Congregationalism. Those in the Liturgical Movement had considerable support from influential persons in the Congregational Churches. Dr. Raymond Calkins lead the way by affirming a faith in the Real Presence, and Dr. Douglas Horton, father of the United Church of Christ, gave encouragement to the small group of Free Catholics who appeared across the country in such places as Pittsburgh, PA, Tarentum, PA, Sheffield, MA, Orford, NH, Chicago, IL, Berwyn, IL, Blechertown, MS, Mexico, D.F., Mexico, Champaign, IL, and Philadelphia, PA.
The movement was just gathering momentum when Congregationalism was dealt a shattering blow. The merger which was vigorously fought by a small group of dedicated souls, was finally consummated with the Evangelical and Reformed Church. The United Church of Christ was formed for the avowed purpose of reducing the number of denominations in the country. Like many similar attempts before it, the result was a net increase. Whereas before there had been two denominations, there now emerged five. Most of the Congregational Churches became part of the new United Church, but large numbers including many that we labeled as “Free Catholic,” regrouped in new ecclesiastical bodies. The following groups attempted, each in its own way, to preserve the heritage: The Conservative Congregational Conference, The Midwest Congregational Christian Fellowship, The National Association of Congregational Christian Churches, and Christ Catholic Church.
The latter Communion was formed in 1965, when leaders of the “Free Catholic Movement” became concerned that it was going to become another victim of the merger. The Rev. Hugo R. Prüter, who had been pastor of the North Berwyn Congregational Church, attempted to preserve the Catholic heritage in that church, first through affiliation with the National Association and then through affiliation with the Midwest Congregational Fellowship. However, none of the other members of these associations seemed interested in preserving Catholicism, even those which had been a part of the Free Catholic Movement. They felt their very existence was at stake and they seemed not to care about the nature of that existence.
The Rev. Prüter worked for while with the Pilgrim Missionary Society and even attempted a new Catholic mission in Itasca, Illinois. A church was organized, but the members who flocked to the Congregational banner were not Catholic in thought or practice. Realizing that with the existing organizations Free Catholic parishes were not possible, the Rev. Prüter resigned from his parish in 1965 and made a pilgrimage to Europe.
After visiting several Old Catholic Churches and after much thought, he went to a small chapel in Upper Bavaria at Traunwallchen and there he sought for direction. He returned to the States in 1965 with the burning conviction that he would find a Catholic parish which would satisfy his spiritual needs. He settled in Boston in order to do some graduate study, and here he began his search for a Free Catholic parish. Since there was none to be found, he visited Archbishop Peter A. Zhurawetsky of Christ Catholic Church of the Americas and Europe and placed the problem before him. He received Catholic orders and the religious name of Father Karl, and with Archbishop Peter’s blessing organized a parish in Boston’s Back Bay area. Two years later, at Archbishop Peter’s request, Father Karl was consecrated bishop. In 1968 the Diocese of Boston was designated an independent autonomous Communion, free to carry on its Old Catholic and Free Catholic traditions as Christ Catholic Church, Diocese of Boston.
What the new Church sought to preserve is the basic tenants and teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ and the Church and the Sacraments which He gave us. Some continuing Congregationalists may find the role of the bishop and the method of property ownership objectionable. Christ Catholics would reply that the early church had bishops, and that the property of the church belongs neither to the bishop nor to the congregation, but to Christ, who is the head of every church. In few churches of any tradition is there this sense of trusteeship. All too often congregations believe they own the property and that they may govern the church as they please. A Congregational historian, Dale, insisted that congregations are free only to worship as Christ directs them, to call as their pastor only those men whom Christ has chosen for them, and to preach those doctrines which Christ has given them. Christ Catholic Church claims that it follows no church order nor preaches any doctrine accept that which has been given to us by Jesus Christ and handed down by the Apostles. It sees it’s mission to seek out people not because they wish to be Catholics or Congregationalists, or anything else, but solely on the basis on their willingness to follow Jesus Christ.
Christ Catholic Church of the Americas and Europe
And Its Many Incarnations Through the Years
Written By. Bp. Karl Prüter
The Story of Christ Catholic Church (All Five Editions)
Since the eighteenth century there has been a growth of Catholic Churches that have separated from the Vatican. The first of these non-papal churches developed in the Netherlands when the Dutch Catholics extended sympathy and hospitality to French Catholics, who had been denied religious liberty in France and fled to the Netherlands. Catholics have always held that under Christ one finds perfect freedom. Rather than disavow their historic principles the Dutch Churches received those who fled France. In retaliation Rome refused to appoint any new bishops for the See of Utrecht and Utrecht was forced to receive as their bishops men who have valid consecrations but whom Rome refused to recognize. The Church at Utrecht has maintained a separate existence from Rome since the eighteenth century.
A second group of churches joined the Dutch Church after the First Vatican Council in 1870 proclaimed the doctrine of Papal Infallibility. Since only Christ is infallible, many churches in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland separated from Rome and took the name of Old Catholic. Since these churches were without a bishop and since they held the same faith as the Churches of Utrecht, they came into union under the leadership of the Archbishop of Utrecht.
In the United States similar churches were first established among Belgian immigrants around the turn of the century under the leadership of Bishop Rene Villatte, who had been consecrated by a bishop of the ancient Mar Thomas Church of India. Other non-papal churches sprang up among the Poles, Ukrainians, Greeks, and Native Americans; their orders came from various Orthodox and Old Catholic Churches.
In the early nineteen hundreds there was a wave of new immigrants settling in America and attempting to adjust to a new life. Many were Roman Catholic Poles, Lithuanians, Czechs, and Germans who had difficulty adapting themselves to the ways of the Irish clergy. In addition, a new sense of independence manifested itself, and many of the immigrants wanted to throw off the traditional discipline of the Roman Church. One would have difficulty finding the motives which produced the restlessness among the immigrants, for they were many and varied.
In the first part of the twentieth century, the American Catholic Church experienced numerable schisms both small and large. The largest was the formation of the Polish National Catholic Church, but more often it was an isolated family or individual that drifted away. Many of the latter found their way into or helped form independent Orthodox and Catholic Churches. When whole congregations and their priest broke away, they usually sought to have the priest ordained by someone in Villate or Mathew line of succession and proceeded to establish a new church.
In 1937 a number of churches of Slavic background came together and formed the Polish Old Catholic Church. They incorporated in New Jersey and elected Father Joseph Zielonka as their first bishop. Most of these churches were in New Jersey in such places as New Brunswick, South River, Dover, and Dunnellen, although they were also represented in Springfield, Massachusetts and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The church grew steadily and by 1960 consisted of thirty-two parishes and approximately 7,200 members.
Upon the death of Archbishop Zielonka in 1961, his Suffragan Bishop, Peter A, Zhurawetsky, was raised to the office of Archbishop. Bishop Peter had been consecrated at Springfield, Massachusetts in 1950 by Patriarch Joseph Klimovicz of the Orthodox Catholic Patriarchate of America, and assisted by Archbishop Konstantine Jaroshevich, a Byelo-Russian prelate who had been consecrated by Archbishop Fan Stylin Noli of the Albanian Orthodox Church, Archbishop Ziekonka, Metropolitan Nicholas Bohatyretz of the Ukrainian Church and Old Catholic Bishop Peter M. Williamowicz.
In the same year, in order to lift barriers so that all nationalities might feel welcome, the Church changed its name to Christ Catholic Church of the Americas and Europe. The future looked good and the fields seemed ripe for the harvest, but a number of problems began to plague the small polygot church.
First, not all the parishes and clergy were willing to accept the leadership if the new Archbishop, Peter A. Zhurawetsky. Second, Father Felix Starazewski was regarded by many as the legitimate successor of the late Bishop Zielonka. Father Starazewski and his parish in South River, New Jersey would not accept the jurisdiction of Archbishop Peter. The third, and perhaps the most critical factor were the union attempts with other Old Catholic and Independent Orthodox bodies. The internecine quarrels, which characterized so much of the Free Catholic Movement of this period, not only affected the cooperating synods but also spilled over into Christ Catholic Church and splintered it. By 1965 the Church had been reduced to a handful of communicants and clergy.
Finally, the Church was to take an entirely new direction as the result of the ordination of Karl Prüter, a former Congregational minister. The ordination took place in Archbishop Zhurawetsky’s oratory at Rahway, New Jersey November 7, 1965. Father Karl returned to Boston, where he was studying for a master’s degree in history and began a mission in Boston’s Back Bay area. The little parish, the Church of the Transfiguration grew quickly and Father Karl set out to reach those who were seeking an experiential relationship with God. During this time, he wrote “The Teachings of the Great Mystics” which was published in 1969 and “The Prayers of an Unknown Mystic.” Very soon Father Karl gathered another parish in Deering New Hampshire. It established an outdoor chapel and it was attended by an average of fifty people, of which at least, forty were college age campers who came from a number of summer camps in the area.
At this time the church began to receive strength from several new sources. The Church of the Transfiguration was organized in Boston and the Church of St. Paul was organized in Hobbs, New Mexico. These parishes were made up of new converts from Roman Catholic and Episcopal Churches, and consisted of people who had no intention or desire to continue quarrels of the past decade. Further, the clerical leadership now consisted of men for whom loyalty to the archbishopric was viewed as necessary to good church order.
Archbishop Peter appointed Father Karl as his secretary and among his duties he was required to fill out the annual report to the “Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches.” Bishop Zhurawetsky had continued to list the twenty-six congregations that were part of the Church when Bishop Zielonka had been alive. At this point in time, Archbishop Peter offered to elevate Father Karl to the Episcopate and the matter was brought before the two congregations severed by Father Karl. The offer seemed like a solution to a problem which perplexed Father Karl, i.e. not wanting to file reports of an exaggerated nature and the desire of the Boston and Deering congregations that they not be associated with a “paper church.” The offer was accepted with the understanding that the two parishes become the independent jurisdiction of Christ Catholic Church, Diocese of Boston. It was thought by the parishes that this would probably be unacceptable to the Archbishop but to everyone’s surprise he had Father Karl come to Wren Oak, New York where the man he had chosen to be co-consecrator, Uladyslau Ryzy-Ryski, had his Oratory and on November 7, 1967 Father Karl was consecrated as Bishop of Boston.
In 1967 the Diocese of Boston was established and in the same year the Diocese of New Mexico and the East. For a few years, Bishop Daniel Smith carried on active work in Hobbs, New Mexico but later moved to Denver where he served the Church of St. Paul.
In 1969 the Monastery of Our Lady of Reconciliation was established at Glorietta, New Mexico. Here under the leadership of Bishop Christopher William Jones, as abbot, the monastery ministered to many of the disenchanted youth of the sixties. Bishop Jones was the author of such books as “Listen Pilgrim” and “Look Around Pilgrim.”
The Diocese of Boston very quickly showed signs that it would grow having been shaped by Bishop Karl Prüter’s experience with the Free Catholic Movement. At the same time, Archbishop Peter seemed to have lost interest in his own jurisdiction, which he called Christ Catholic Church of the Americas and Europe and turned his attention to building an American Patriarchate. In a short time he was so totally absorbed in this project that he ceased to use the Christ Catholic Church. At the synod, which met in Chicago, it was voted to rename Christ Catholic Church Diocese of Boston, simply Christ Catholic Church.
Christ Catholic Church moved its headquarters to Zuni, New Mexico. There the Church began to publish material on Old Catholicism through St. Willibrord Press and it was distributed throughout the entire Old Catholic Movement. Bishop Karl wrote “The History of the Old Catholic Church,” “Are You A Catholic Without Knowing It?” and a core of pamphlets and tracts. The outreach through its publishing activities made Christ Catholic Church one of the best known of the Old Catholic Communions in the USA and perhaps more important, it had become the leading distributor of books and pamphlets in Orthodox Catholic Autocephalous Movement. Not only did it handle the books of Bishops Prüter and Jones but books by other Old Catholics, and even some by the opponents of the movement such as Peter Anson, C.B. Moss, and Henry Brandreth. If you wanted books about Old Catholicism, the obvious source for scholars, students of the movement, and the curious was St. Willibrord Press.
For many years it had only four small parishes served by unpaid priests in small house chapels. Yet eventually the church attracted people who were willing to commit themselves totally to Christ. The Church focused on people and not on numbers. In Cottonwood, Arizona there was only one family affiliated with the church. However, Bishop Karl drove from Zuni that was 150 miles away, once a month to celebrate Mass. Usually only the family of Charles Van Gorder was there, although sometimes neighbors were encouraged to attend. The Van Gorders took instruction and in due time were baptized and confirmed and received into the Church. Mrs Van Gorder came from the Mormon Church and Charles had been a Methodist. Later they moved to Phoenix and Charles received training and was ordained a priest. The Van Gorders rebuilt their garage as a chapel and in time gathered a congregation of forty people, most of them former Mormons.
Shortly before the establishment of that parish, call had come from a group of former Episcopalians in Phoenix who desired to organize a Christ Catholic parish. They wanted Robert Bridges ordained as a priest. Again, Bishop Prüter traveled three hundred miles every weekend for a year to train Roberty Bridges, and organize the parish of St. Jerome. Father Bridges served many years, although during the last years of his life he was in poor health.
Another parish that came to Christ Catholic Church was brought in by Bishop Stephen Corradi, who came from the Apostolic Church of Brazil. He agreed to serve Christ Catholic Church as a priest. Te four parishes of this small communion attracted visitors from near and far. Without buildings or a paid clergy they were winning people for God in a time when much of the world seemed busy denying Him. It was the era of the “God is dead movement” and the Church was anxious to proclaim the message that, “He lives.”
While this activity was going on in the southwest, Bishop Karl received a number of interesting inquiries from the eastern part of the nation. Roger Fleurant, a Roman Catholic, who had completed his seminary training, only to find the Church had changed beyond recognition as a result of Vatican II, asked to be admitted into Christ Catholic Church. He had, as a layman, organized a Rosary Group in Biddeford, Maine and the members wanted him to become a priest so that they might again be able to attend Mass where the Tridentine Rite was used. Bishop Karl traveled to New England in 1974 where the ordination took place in the Church of Christ the King at Malden, Massachusetts. At the same time, the Malden Church was received into Christ Catholic Church together with the two priests who served it.
When Father Roger returned to Biddeford he built a chapel in his home an the rosary group became a congregation. He ministered to this parish for many years, until it became necessary because of his mother’s health to transfer to Las Cruces, New Mexico. There he gathered a new congregation, Sangre Christo Christ Catholic Church.
The Church began to grow more rapidly and new parishes appeared in every part of the country. In New England a small mission was established in New Lenox, Massachusetts, under the leadership of Richard Charron, In Massachusetts, St. Dunstan’s Priory was established in Kingston. Serving as its priest was Fr. Philip Avila Oliver, a recent immigrant from the Azores. He had been ordained a priest by the Old Catholic Church of the Azores, and was incardinated into Christ Catholic Church.
In 1975 Bishop Karl moved from the southwest to Chicago, Illinois where he established St. Willibrord Center. The Center consisted of a store front chapel and a bookstore. The bookstore was arranged so that it offered a variety of Catholic books, gifts, and even greeting cards. There was a table with coffee and snacks so that people could come in and informally talk about faith and Christ Catholic Church. The intention was to reach out to those who in the sixties had gone into the various cults, or drugs, or had simply drifted away from the faith of their parents. In a short time a congregation of thirty developed and Fr. Karl found himself busy as a counselor. Those who sought his counsel came with a variety of personal problems: among them was that many were unemployable and often when they did obtain jobs they quickly lost them.
One of the members of the congregation was Fr. William Haller, a priest from the Liberal Catholic Church. Because he was looking for an Orthodox Catholic Church he found himself very much at home at St. Willibrord’s parish and asked to be incardinated into Christ Catholic Church. After his incardination he gathered a parish in Aurora, a small community west of Chicago.
With churches in the Southwest, the Midwest, and New England it seemed too much for an unsalaried bishop who had to hold a secular job in order to support himself. At a meeting of the Sunod of the Northeast Fr. Philip Avila Oliver was selected to be bishop for that area. He was consecrated on November 25, 1984 at St. Augustine’s African Orthodox Church in Chicago by bishop Karl Prüter and assisted by two bishops of the African Orthodox Church, namely Archbishop Duncan Hinkson and Bishop Jean LaPointe.
In 1983 Bishop Karl relocated to Highlandville, Missouri where he built the Cathedral of the Prince of Peace, a small stone building adorned by a blue onion cupola. The following year the “Guinness Book of World Records” designated it as the “World’s Smallest Cathedral” and visitors began coming from all parts of the world to visit it and some to attend Mass or to offer a prayer for peace. The town is situated almost in the geographic center of the nation and Bishop Karl found it easier to reach out and consequently new parishes were established in new areas. Parishes were eventually established in Columbus, Deming and Las Cruces, New Mexico. In Highlandville, Missouri a Garden of the Saints was established next to the Cathedral.
In central Illinois Fr. Robert Brouillette had a vital nursing home ministry, with services at a home in Shelbyville and a Bible class in LeRoy. Fr. David Ellis had a small parish in Mt. Zion, a small community south of Decatur.
In 1989 the Church merged with the Ontario Old Roman Catholic Church. Fr, Fredrick Dunleavy was consecrated Archbishop to succeed Archbishop Nelson Hillyer who had served in that capacity since 1965. The Ontario Old Roman Catholic Church was founded by Bishop William Pavlik who had formerly been with Bishop Richard Marchenna. Bp. Pavlik came to Canada on behalf of the Old Roman Catholic Church and served for a while in the newly created Diocese of Ontario. In 1963 he separated from Bp. Marchenna and named his new jurisdiction, “The Old Roman Catholic Church of Ontario.” The new church worked with the poor in the inner city of Toronto and had a visible and appreciated apostolate of social services. The ORCCO maintained a food pantry and brought together many of Toronto’s poor into a caring and supportive community. Even today St. Andrew’s parish ministers largely to the poor, although many of its members have come out of poverty and their children even their grandchildren, attend the Church as sponsoring members. Among the present members of St. Andrew’s is Bishop Hillyer’s son.
At the death of Bp. Hillyer in 1987 the Church turned to Christ Catholic Church for the consecration of their newly elected bishop, Fr. Fredrick Dunleavy. They also decided to enter into union with Christ Catholic Church to end their isolation. The Old Roman Catholic Church of Ontario had two other parishes in addition to St. Andrews, one in Niagara Falls, New York and another in Erie Pennsylvania. Eventually these left and the Toronto parish felt the need for fellowship of other congregations. The union came together largely on mutual faith with few written documents and Bishop Karl Prüter was accepted as Presiding Bishop, although there was never a formal vote. At a Church Synod that met in Republic, Missouri in 1989, Bishop Karl Prüter resigned as Presiding Bishop in order to devote more time to the Cathedral Church. At that time Bishop Dunleavy was elected as Presiding Bishop with the title of Archbishop. The formal elevation took place on June 18, 1991. At the elevation, Archbishop Fredreick of conversations he was having, on behalf of Christ Catholic Church, with Archbishop Donald Mullan of the Liberal Catholic Church of Ontario and indicated that the union of the two bodies seemed possible and desirable. Bishop Karl then visited Bishop Mullen at Niagara Falls and found himself enthusiastic about the possible union of the two churches. At another visit attended by the clergy of the Liberal Catholic Church and Bishop Prüter it was decided to take the necessary steps to unite the two bodies. Archbishop Dunleavy was not present at the meetings but instructed Bishop Karl to represent him and Christ Catholic Church. At the meeting it was decided to poll the clergy and the parishes of both denominations as to whether they favored the union. The vote to unite was favorable.
The next step was to vote on the choice of a Presiding Bishop. A vote was taken and Archbishop Donald Mullan was elected. It had been further agreed that the new church body would be known as Christ Catholic Church, on both sides of the border.
It was a union that was not “made in heaven,” for although it had been assumed that both churches had the same polity, theology, and that their approach to worship were similar, it was soon discovered that this was not so. Although only one parish in Canada was tainted with theosophy most of the others were very Protestant in the approach t worship. In matters of worship most of the parishes that came from the Liberal Catholic Church of Ontario used eclectic Mass, which included portions from the Anglican Rite and from the Novus Ordo. Hymns and music tended towards fundamentalist Protestantism.
Theologically the Christ Catholic Churches south of the border grew uneasy over the uncertain trumpet that was being sounded by the new Christ Catholic parishes, and urged Bishop Karl to separate from Archbishop Mullan and the parishes that came with him. The separation was made on November 24, 1995 when Archbishop Karl sent a letter to Archbishop Donald Mullan informing him that Christ Catholic Church could no longer be a part of Christ Catholic Church International, the merger had lasted just three short years. Bishop Karl felt certain that almost all the parishes and priests from the original Christ Catholic Church would support his Episcopal action. He was not only correct in his assumption, but one of the priests who had left because of the union returned to the fold.
The reorganized Church entered 1996 with ten parishes and ten priests in the United States, Canada, and Australia. In addition it continued to publish the St. Willibrord Journal, which under the editorship of Father Charles Harrison has for over a decade given a clear Catholic witness and is circulated through the Independent Catholic and Orthodox Community,
The growth of Christ Catholic Church was slow after the separation from Christ Catholic Church International but they felt stronger than before. Fr. John Havens continued with Bishop Prüter and began a mission in Killeen, Texas. In 2002 Christ Catholic Church received a parish in Oakland, California that had asked for a priest a decade earlier. At that time the jurisdiction had been unable to send anyone although Bishop Karl had celebrated Mass a few times with this budding parish when we was in the Bay Area. At this time, John Marquette in whose home the group had met was willing to step forward and receive Holy Orders. He was ordained and served the congregation as pastor.
2003 And Beyond: A Time of Change for Christ Catholic Church
Written By Bp. Brian E. Brown, OSH
It was during this time that Bishop Karl Prüter met Br. Brian Brown of the Community of the Companions of God and a new friendship was begun and their lives and ministries intertwined forever. Br. Brian was a member of the Community of the Companions of God, a Celtic Catholic religious order located in the Ozarks and served as a pastor of a small Celtic Catholic Mission, St. Melangell’s in Branson, Missouri. Even though he served as a pastor of his own flock, it was the custom of Br. Brian to attend a regular place of worship for his own spiritual nourishment. This was when he found a charming little stone building with a Bavarian blue cupola and a bishop affectionately referred to as the Gandalf of the Ozarks, Bishop Karl Prüter.
The two came to know one another and developed a mutual appreciation and affection. They were different people to be sure, with different ideas on ministry and society but they found much common ground from which to grow a close relationship, the elder becoming a mentor, the younger serving as an assistant. They worked well together on many different projects, usually involving St. Willibrord Press where Br. Brian helped with proofing, printing, and marketing of the materials they produced. Br. Brian helped build Cathedral Books online for the good bishop and spent much time as a “computer consultant” at which time he would often hear Bishop Prüter exclaim in his deep baritone voice, “tools of the devil” as he playfully stormed off into the other room.
Bishop Prüter was much more conservative than Br. Brian in many different ways but Br. Brian always thought this was more of a generational attitude than anything and knew that in the early days of his ministry Bishop Prüter had been seen very much as a liberal and in fact it was stated in all the literature at the time that Christ Catholic Church had a “decided liberal outlook.” One of the things they shared was a commitment to Orthodoxy, Bishop Prüter to a more Conservative Orthodoxy and Br. Brian to a more Generous Orthodoxy.
For the next few years a series of Old Catholic and or Continuing Anglican religious brothers, deacons, priests and bishops paraded in and out of Christ Catholic Church and the “World’s Smallest Cathedral.” Each of them in their own way had been seeking association with Christ Catholic Church and a personal relationship with Bishop Prüter often to bolster their own faltering or lacking ministries. Sadly, upon finding an open door and a willingness to embrace them and their ministry, they often sought to remake Christ Catholic Church in their own image. This usually invited trouble. Bishop Prüter was a passionate and strong willed man and while those were qualities Br. Brian admired in him those were two qualities he tried to never cross. Bishop Prüter sought in vain for a successor to take over the leadership of Christ Catholic Church but to no avail for one reason or another. Eventually he set his sight on his young pupil and friend and began to groom Br. Brian to indeed become his successor and to carry on his ministry and so it was during this time that Br. Brian became the Chaplain for the Cathedral of the Prince of Peace and Christ Catholic Church.
Br. Brian ultimately held dual affiliation with Christ Catholic Church and the United Catholic Church which was under the episcopal leadership of Archbishop Robert M. Bowman, another man whom Br. Brian admired greatly. This was a unique occurrence as it was not common for members of Christ Catholic Church to hold dual affiliations but it was specifically allowed in this instance. Br. Brian served as Chaplain to the Cathedral of the Prince of Peace and sat on the Cathedral Chapter. He was eventually ordained a deacon and then a priest within the United Catholic Church with the blessing and support of his mentor Bishop Prüter.
While the relationship between the two men grew stronger, it was not without its struggles. There were really only two issues where they were completely at odds with one another and both were seemingly uncompromising in their respective positions of women in the ministry and the various GLBT (gay, lesbian, transgendered) issues that had risen in the Church universal. Bishop Prüter was against the ordination of women and while he welcomed GLBT people to the Church and the Eucharistic Table, he did not believe in same sex marriages or in ordaining non-celibate gay men to any level of ministry within the Church. Father Brian respected and accepted his views even though he disagreed with him strongly.
On three separate occasions Bishop Karl asked Father Brian to be consecrated to the episcopacy and to take over as the Presiding Archbishop of Christ Catholic Church and each of those times Father Brian turned down his friend and mentor. Father Brian cited the fundamental difference in their respective beliefs in regards to women’s ordination and total inclusivity of GLBT people in every aspect of the Church. Surprisingly, Bishop Prüter was willing to live with the differences in the hopes that they might work through their differences and as he put it, he hoped Father Brian might grow to change his mind. He wanted very much to consecrate Father Brian and retire from the leadership of Christ Catholic Church and Father Brian wanted very much to follow in his mentor’s footsteps but not at the cost of the relationship which would surely be stressed.
Father Brian had seen a plethora of ill-trained and theologically uneducated clerics come through Christ Catholic Church who sought only to take the ministry that the good bishop had built and change it into something else while using Christ Catholic Church as a springboard to shore up their own weak ministries. He didn’t want to be lumped into that same category of charlatans because his respect and love of Karl Prüter, as well as his own ministry, was too great to allow such a thing.
After Father Brian’s third refusal Bishop Prüter walked away with his hat in his hand, their relationship was strained like never before. They remained friends and associates and in many ways they ultimately grew much closer to one another but it took some time to heal the rejection and disappointment they both felt. They continued their work together on many different projects and shared much of their personal ministries also socializing personally. Over the years, Father Brian had become a friend not just of Bishop Karl but also of other members of the Prüter household, namely his wife Teresa and his son Marc.
Needing to move in closer to the city so that they might avail themselves of better medical care, Bishop Prüter and his wife Teresa sold the Cathedral property in Highlandville and moved to Springfield, Missouri a town just 15 miles north. Bishop Prüter continued offering Mass at the little Cathedral by way of an understanding he developed with the new owners.
In the summer of 2005 Bishop Karl thought he had found his replacement in Father Robert O’Block of the Southern Episcopal Church and consecrated him to the episcopacy on September 2nd. Two years after his consecration, on August 4, 2007, Bishop O’Block took over control of Christ Catholic Church Diocese of Boston. One year later Bishop O’Block retired, taking the title of Archbishop Emeritus and leaving Christ Catholic Church Diocese of Boston in the hands of another cleric from the Southern Episcopal Church, Bishop William Sloane. Christ Catholic Church Diocese of Boston ultimately became a diocese of and subject to the Southern Episcopal Church, and is now known only as the Christ Catholic Diocese of the Southern Episcopal Church.
Possessing a little different vision and approach to being church, the diocese and its members left the United Catholic Church in the spring of 2006 seeking God’s will in their ministry. In early summer of 2006 on the Feast of Saint Kevin Fr. Abbot Brian, with the consent, support, and prayers of Bishop Larry Cameron and Archbishop Karl Prüter, was consecrated to the Office of Bishop. A unique and ecumenical communion was formed by the Chapter Members of the Cathedral of the Prince of Peace, the Ecumenical Free Catholic Communion, which had a unique emphasis of and focus on the unity of the Free Catholic Movement which Archbishop Karl Prüter had participated in during the later years of his Congregational ministry.
Bishop Karl helped shape the newly emerging communion, offering his wisdom and years of experience as well as his constructive criticism. He also joined the staff of its seminary, Whithorn School of Theology, as the Chair of Old Catholic Studies and the Dean of the World Peace Academy. Bishop Karl had long sought to make the World Peace Academy a reality and was delighted that this was finally coming to fruition.
In the summer of 2007 having no one to celebrate the Holy Mass at the Cathedral of the Prince of Peace in Highlandville, Missouri, Bishop Karl turned to his chaplain and protégé in ministry, Bishop Brian. Bishop Brian heeded the call and began offering Mass at the small Cathedral until May 1, 2009 when the owners of the property turned it into a commercial wedding chapel.
As Bishop Karl grew older and his health failed he leaned heavily on his devoted wife and Bp. Brian. Eventually the decision was made that the Prüter’s would move to Colorado to be closer with Teresa Prüter’s children and grandchildren.
Wanting to impart his episcopal blessing upon Bishop Brian and his ministry, Archbishop Karl Prüter sub-conditionally consecrated Bishop Brian Brown on the Feast of St. Ciaran of Clonmacnoise, September 9, 2007 at the Cathedral of the Prince of Peace in Highlandville Missouri. Bishop Prüter then turned over his ministry at the Cathedral of the Prince of Peace, “The World’s Smallest Cathedral” and the episcopal protection of Christ Catholic Church Archdiocese of the Prince of Peace to Bishop Brian’s care and continued episcopal oversight.
Bishop Brian promised to continue on with the ministry at the Cathedral for as long as he was able and was given the antimension which had been given to Bishop Prüter by Archbishop Zhurawetsky at his consecration. Bishop Brian also agreed to take on much of the work of St. Willibrord Press as per Bishop Prüter’s request. He was then given most all of Bishop Karl’s library and other assorted items and ultimately entrusted with the safe keeping and care of the cremated remains of Bishop Prüter and family in the columbarium at the Cathedral property.
Bishop Brian helped the Prüter’s pack-up and finalize things in the Ozarks and they were on their way to the mountains. Shortly after his move to Colorado, just two months later, he passed away.
Bishop Karl Prüter went home to be with the Lord on a Sunday evening November 18, 2007 around 8 pm. His wife Teresa was with him and he was most assuredly surrounded by a great cloud of angels and saints. He fought the good fight and finished the race. Teresa was reading Psalm 23 and holding his hand and as she came to the end of the Psalm, he let go and flew to the arms of his Lord and Saviour. His death was peaceful and gentle, and his reward eternal.
Bishop Brian Brown conducted his memorial service at the Cathedral of the Prince of Peace. Sadly enough, outside of the Archdiocese of the Prince of Peace, no one who claimed or who has since claimed to be the continuation of Christ Catholic Church paid their respects at his funeral.
Bishop Brian was given custody of his relics to protect and safeguard. Most all of his vestments, personal papers, and remaining library, were also bequeathed to him. Bishop Brian was granted the legal rights and ownership of Bishop Prüter’s various published books, pamphlets and assorted writings as well as sole ownership and control of St. Willibrord Press.
It was because of Bishop Brian’s long standing friendship, collaboration, and shared ministry with Bishop Prüter that Christ Catholic Church survived Fr. Karl’s death, even unto today, so that the ministries most dear to his heart will be kept alive for future generations to come.
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