The Polish Catholic Petition (1903)

During the year we had the honor of presenting to the House of Bishops a letter from the Right Reverend Dr. Kozlowski, the Polish Catholic Bishop, asking under the terms put forth by the Lambeth Conference and the General Convention, for Christian recognition and fellowship. Bishop Kozlowski was consecrated in Europe by the Old Catholic Bishops, with whom in the person of Bishop Hertzog, our Church has long been in friendly intercourse and with whom at the meetings held at Berne and elsewhere our Bishops have met in Conference. Bishop Kozlowski is an ecclesiastic of recognized scholarship and high standing in the Communion to which he belongs. The self denying and holy life he leads bears witness to the integrity and nobility of his character. The work among the Poles in which he is engaged is one of great importance and fraught with most fruitful consequences. There are at least twenty if not more ecclesiastics under him and a staff of teachers and sisters are engaged in his hospital and school work at Chicago. The movement in which he is engaged is of wide extent and more than sixty thousand Poles have turned to him for spiritual guidance. Responding to the invitation of our church he asks not for absorption into our Communion, but for Christian fellowship and intercommunion. He stands as do the Old Catholics in Europe on the broad principles of Catholicity and the Faith as set forth in the ancient Creeds and recognized Ecumenical Councils. One with us and the Eastern, Russian, and Greek Churches, he repudiates the Roman papacy and its modern additions to the faith. He is reforming the Latin liturgy and putting it into the language spoken by his people. To the objection sometimes made that the Old [44/45] Catholics in Europe, are, in consequence of separation from Rome, in schism; our reply is that the sin of schism in the case of a separation always lies with that party which demands uncanonical and unscriptural terms for communion and as modern Rome does this she is in schism everywhere. It is Rome that is the schismatical body, not the Old Catholics. If ever there was a man raised up by God to do a reforming work in the Roman Church in this Country, we believe he is to be found in this brave, noble hearted and sincere follower of Jesus Christ. Of course his work will be subjected to every kind of misrepresentation and every thing that malice and intrigue can effect will be done to hinder it. It needs not only our sympathy and response, but the aid which a rich Church like ours should give. Not being a party movement it ought to appeal to all Churchmen. It is here in America that the greatest religious struggle for Apostolic order and evangelical truth, against papal error and sectarian loss is going on, and in helping this brave Bishop we shall most efficiently aid Christ’s work. God forbid, that to those who are struggling up out of the mists of mediaeval darkness and seeking release from the shackles of papal bondage, the voice and the hand that refuses Christian recognition and help comes from our Church.[1]

[1] “THE POLISH CATHOLIC PETITION” in Journal of the Twenty-Ninth Annual Council of the Diocese of Fond du Lac, Held in S. Paul’s Cathedral, Fond du Lac, on the 2nd Day of June, A.D. 1903 (Fond du Lac: P.B. Haber, 1903), 44-45.

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