Apostolic Succession

Apostolic Succession in the PNCC

Adapted from an article by Rt. Rev. John Zenon Jasinski “The Apostolic Succession in the Polish National Catholic Church.”
The Polish National Catholic Church is, in one sense, as old as Christianity itself. The Divine Founder and the head of the Catholic Church is our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
During the three years of our Lord’s public life, He gathered around Him a band of faithful disciples whom He instructed to bring the fruits of redemption to all nations – giving them and their successors power of mission, orders, and authority.

  • Mission of teaching: Christ commanded to teach all nations His divine truth. (Matthew 28:19-20)
  • Orders to dispense His grace through the Holy Sacrifice of the Altar and the Sacraments. (Luke 22:19; Matt. 28:19; John 20:23)
  • Authority to guide and rule the lambs and sheep of His flock (John 21:17)

The apostles, therefore, and their legitimate successors are the persons to whom Christ entrusted the duty of forming in His name, among all nations and all ages, a spiritual society, the Holy Catholic Church. The Polish National Catholic Church is a historic continuity in that it is descended from the Church that our Lord established after His Resurrection
The Polish National Catholic Church has the same type of government that Christ gave to the apostles, has the same faith that He deposited with them, believes in the doctrine, government, and worship of the primitive Apostolic Church.
The doctrine of the Polish National Catholic Church is founded on the Holy Scriptures, the Holy Traditions, and the dogmatic decisions of the first Seven Ecumenical Councils.
The Holy Scriptures are interpreted strictly in accordance with the teachings of the first Seven Ecumenical Councils and the Holy Fathers of the Catholic Church.
The doctrine is safeguarded and defined by the General Synod of the Polish National Catholic Church. Such definitions by the General Synod neither constitute nor establish new doctrines, but are official statements that the particular doctrine was revealed by God and is contained in the “Depositum Fidei, or “Sacred Depository’” of Catholic Faith.
Doctrinal symbols of the Polish National Catholic Church are the Apostles’ and the Niceo-Constantinopolitan Creeds. Recognizing Christ as the only head of the Church, it does not accept the dogma of Papal infallibility, or regard the Pope as the special representative or Vicar of Christ on earth. According to the teachings of the Polish National Catholic Church, infallibility belongs to the whole assembly of true members of the “Ecelesia” or Church, which is represented by its Synod legally and canonically called together, whose decisions are confirmed by the consensus of the Church.
Our Beliefs

  • We believe and worship only one God; in three Divine Persons, distinct from and equal to each other, that is to say, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
  • We believe in the Catholic doctrines of the Incarnation, Passion Death, Resurrection and Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ.
  • We believe in the personal union in Christ of two natures, the divine and the human.
  • We honor the Virgin Mary as the Mother of God and hold the true Catholic doctrine of the virgin birth of Christ.
  • We believe in the true, real, spiritual presence of the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist.
  • We believe in the Seven Sacraments instituted by Jesus Christ for the salvation of mankind.
  • The Polish National Catholic Church expects of all its members loyalty to the doctrines, discipline, worship and faith in the One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Church, in all the essentials, but allows great liberty in non-essentials.
  • The fundamental principles of the Polish National Catholic Church are based upon the Holy Scriptures as the true rule of faith, but interpretation of the same is based not upon individual private judgment, but upon the competent canonical authority of the Church.
  • The Apostles’ Creed is the baptismal symbol and the Nicene Creed is accepted as the sufficient statement of the Christian faith. We regard the historic episcopate, locally adopted in the methods of its administration to the needs of the nations and peoples, as the best source of God to the unity of the Christian Church.

Bishop Francis Hodur
Historically speaking, the beginning of the Polish National Catholic Church in the United States of America took place in 1897 in Scranton, Pennsylvania. A group of Polish Americans consisting of about 300 families under the able leadership of Rev. Francis Hodur, then a pastor of the Roman Catholic Church of the Holy Trinity in Nanticoke, Pennsylvania, organized the first Polish National Catholic Church parish of St. Stanislaus in this country.
With a magnificent faith in its divine mission and with the great religious aspiration to win the soul and intellect of the Polish people, this movement spread to every section of the country, and the Polish National Catholic Church was established on the basis of democratic Catholicity.
In September 1904, at Scranton, Pennsylvania, the first Synod was held, it represented about 20,000 adherents in five states. The Rev. Francis Hodur was elected Bishop and was consecrated in 1907 by Archbishop Gerard Gul of Utrecht, Bishop John Van Thiel of Haarlem, and Bishop Peter Spit of Deventer, the Old Catholic Bishops of the Netherlands. The Old Catholic Church is the sole historic survivor of a movement which once had contended in a brilliant controversy with Jesuitism. This Church has true Catholic succession, the same as the Roman Catholic Church.
Apostolic Line
The area of Europe known as the Low Countries was missionized by St. Willibrord in the Seventh Century firmly establishing the Catholic Faith and Tradition in the Netherlands and other countries in that region. Early on, three principal dioceses were established in the cities of Utrecht, Deventer and Haarlem to administer the affairs of the Church in the territory. Utrecht eventually became the archiepiscopal see with supervision over Deventer and Haarlem. Assenting to a petition made by the Holy Roman Emperor Conrad III and Bishop Heribert of Utrecht, Blessed Pope Eugene III, in 1145 A.D. granted the Cathedral Chapter of Utrecht the right to elect successors to the See in times of vacancy. This privilege was confirmed by the fourth Council of the Lateran in 1215. The autonomous character of the Ancient Catholic Church in the Netherlands was further demonstrated when a second grant by Pope Leo X, Debitum Pastoralis, conceded to Philip of Burgundy, 57th Bishop of Utrecht, that neither he nor his successors, nor any of their clergy or laity, should ever, in the first instance, have his cause evoked to any external tribunal, not even under pretense of any apostolic letters whatever; and that all such proceedings should be, ipso facto, null and void. This papal concession, in 1520, was of the greatest importance in defense of the rights of the Church.
Armed with the protection of the papal concessions, the Church in the Netherlands continued to minister even through the Reformation. During this period of strife, the Church in the Netherlands, as in many other countries, was forced to “go underground” in order to survive. But survive and remain extant, it did. Eventually, the Archbishop of Utrecht and other Church leaders reached an informal agreement with the civil government, whereby it could again function openly without interference from the Reformers. The Archbishop of Utrecht and the Dutch Catholic Church, being used to a more austere form of worship and being Catholics at peril, sympathized with members of the European Jansenist Catholic movement, and incurred the wrath of the Jesuits as a result. “Jansenism” was a movement within the Roman Catholic Church that preferred a rigorous piety on Catholic expression, acceptance of predestination, and an emphasis on the sinfulness of man. The underlying theology that Jansenism was based upon, was the work “Augustinus”, written by Bishop of Ypres, Cornelius Jansen. Jansen wrote his work based upon an intense study of the theology of St. Augustine of Hippo and entrusted his writings to trusted friends to be published after his death. The extreme expression of his work was termed “Jansenism”. “Jansenism” was condemned as heresy (“Cum occasione” (31 May, 1653)), and members of the Church were required to sign an affirmation of a formulary containing heretical points, called the five propositions, that were claimed to have been in the work “Augustinus”, but in fact were not. This caused a rejection of the formulary by “Jansenists”, based upon the inconsistency of the facts, and by others who had not read the work in question. Pope Clement XI issued the bull “Unigenitus” condemning 101 propositions in a treatise by another French Jansenist, Pasquier Quesnel (1634 – 1719). The Old Roman Catholic Diocese of Utrecht, along with Haarlem and Deventer, were under siege by elements within the Roman Catholic Church, as a result of giving sanctuary to the Jansenists, and for refusing to give up the right to freely elect Episcopal successors and was forced by necessity to function as a separate Catholic communion. On October 15, 1724, Cornelius van Steenoven was consecrated the seventh Archbishop of Utrecht by Dominique Marie Varlet, Bishop of Babylon, marking the beginning of an independent Old Roman Catholic Church of Holland. The famous canonist of Louvain University, Van Espen, defended the legality and canonicity of this consecration.
Bishop D. M. Varlet consecrated four Archbishops of Utrecht and, when he himself died, Meinhardt, the last Archbishop whom he consecrated established the Bishopric of Haarlem in 1742 and the Bishopric of Deventer in 1752. The Bishop of Haarlem consecrated Moinhardt’s successor, and so the succession of bishops and priests has been maintained down to our own day.
Following the First Vatican Council in 1870 (at which the hierarchy of the Church of Holland were refused admittance), a considerable dissent among Catholics, especially in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, arose over the dogma of papal infallibility. The dissenters, while holding the Church in General Council to be infallible, could not accept the proposition that the Pope, acting alone, in matters of faith and morals is infallible. Many formed independent communities that came to be known as “Old Catholic”.
The apostolic line of the Archbishops Of Utrecht in communion with Rome is as follows:

Name Episcopate Consecrated by
Frederick Schenk, first Archbishop, 57th successor of Saint Willibrord 1559-1580  
Sasbout Vosmeer 1602-1614  
Philippus Rovenius 1620-1651  
Jacobus de la Torre 1651-1661  
Boudewijn Cats 1662-1663  
Johannes van Neercassel 1663-1686 Archbishop of Cologne
Petrus Codde 1688-1710 Archbishop of Mechlen

After the break with the Roman jurisdiction:

Name Episcopate Consecrated by
Cornelis Steenhoven 1724-1725 Dominique Marie Varlet (Babylon)
Cornelis Johannes Barchman Wuytiers 1725-1733 Dominique Marie Varlet (Babylon)
Theodorus van der Croon 1734-1739 Dominique Marie Varlet (Babylon)
Petrus Johannes Meindaerts 1739-1767 Dominique Marie Varlet (Babylon)
Gualtherus Michael van Nieuwenhuyzen 1768-1797 Johannes van Stiphout (Haarlem)
Johannes Jacobus van Rhijn 1797-1808 Adrian Broekman (Haarlem)
Willibrord van Os 1814-1825 Gisbert de Jong (Deventer)
Johannes van Santen 1825-1858 Johannes Bon (Haarlem)
Henricus Loos 1858-1873 Henricus van Buul (Haarlem)
Johannes Heykamp 1875-1892 Casparus Johannes Rinkel (Haarlem)
Gerardus Gul 1892-1920 Casparus Johannes Rinkel (Haarlem)

The consecration of Rev. Francis Hodur by the Old Catholic Bishop of Holland gave the Polish National Catholic Church of America a direct Western line of Apostolic Succession. The doctrine of Apostolic Succession means that according to the institution of Christ the Bishops succeed one another in an unbroken chain from Christ Himself through His apostles and their successors, the Bishops of the Church, and reach down to the episcopate of the present day. The Polish National Catholic Church up to this time upholds this doctrine of Apostolic Succession.
Bishops of the Polish National Catholic Church in Apostolic Succession:

Name Consecrated Date of Consecration Born-Died
Most Rev. Francis Hodur Utrecht, Holland September 29 1907 1866-1953
Most Rev. Leon Grochowski Scranton PA August 17 1924 1886-1969
Rt. Rev. Francis Bonczak Scranton PA August 17 1924 1881-1967
Rt. Rev. Valentine Gawrychowski Scranton PA August 17 1924 1870-1934
Rt. Rev. John Gritenas Scranton PA August 17 1924 for the Lithuanian National Catholic Church 1884-1928
Rt. Rev. John Zenon Jasinski Scranton PA June 7 1928 1888-1951
Rt. Rev. John Misiaszek Scranton PA August 26 1936 1903-1972
Rt. Rev. Joseph Padewski Scranton PA August 26 1936 1894-1951
Rt. Rev. Joseph Lesniak Scranton PA November 16 1937 1890-1979
Rt. Rev. Joseph Soltysiak Scranton PA April 23 1952 1895-1973
Most Rev. Thaddeus F. Zielinski Buffalo NY September 2 1954 1904-1990
Rt. Rev. Joseph Kardas Buffalo NY September 2 1954 1898-1958
Most Rev. Francis Carl Rowinski Chicago IL May 9 1959 1918-1990
Rt. Rev. Eugene Magyar Scranton PA June 29 1963 for the Slovak National Catholic Church 1909-1968
Rt. Rev. Joseph Nieminski Scranton PA June 26 1968 1926-1992
Rt. Rev. Walter Slowakiewicz Scranton PA June 26 1968 1911-1978
Rt. Rev. Anthony M. Rysz Scranton PA June 26 1968 1924-
Rt. Rev. Daniel Cyganowski Chicago IL November 30 1971 1921-1983
Rt. Rev. Thomas Gnat Scranton PA November 30 1978 1936-
Rt. Rev. Joseph Zawistowski Scranton PA November 30 1978 1918-2001
Most Rev. John Felix Swantek Scranton PA November 30 1978 1933-
Rt. Rev. Thaddeus Peplowski Scranton PA November 30 1990 1936-
Most Rev. Robert M Nemkovich Scranton PA October 18 1993 1942-
Rt. Rev. Joseph Tomczyk Scranton PA October 18 1993 1935-1995
Rt. Rev. Jan Dawidziuk Scranton PA November 30 1999 1937-
Rt. Rev. Casimir Grotnik Scranton PA November 30 1999 1935-2005
Rt. Rev. Sylvester Bigaj Scranton PA November 30 2006 19XX-
Rt. Rev. Anthony Kopka Scranton PA November 30 2006 19XX-
Rt. Rev. John Mack Scranton PA November 30 2006 19XX-
Rt. Rev. Anthony Mikovsky Scranton PA November 30 2006 19XX-