In 2003 the issues of the ordination of women and blessing of same-sex unions divided the International Bichops’ Conference (IBC) of the Union of Utrecht. At the IBC meeting in November 2003 the PNCC was voted out of the Union of Utrecht because the PNCC remained faithful to the Catholic Faith as well as the Declaration of Utrecht and would not accept the ordination of women and blessing of same-sex unions.
Following the removal of the PNCC from the Union of Utrecht after 96 years of membership, the PNCC found herself standing alone. However. the PNCC was giving episcopal oversight to a group of former Lutherans in Norway and began to formulate a structure to move forward with this and other relationships.
In 2006 the 22nd General Synod formed The PNCC – Nordic Catholic Church Commision. The Declaration of Scranton was promulgated by the PNCC bishops in April 2008 and accepted by the PNCC National Clergy Conference in October. The delegates of the 2010 General Synod concurred with the Official Commentary for the Declaration of Scranton, the Requirements for communion with the Polish National Church and the Statutes for governing the Union of Scranton.
Preface of the Official Commentary for the Declaration of Scranton
“As can be seen in its content, the Declaration of Scranton of 2008 is modeled heavily on the 1889 Declaration of Utrecht of the Old Catholic Churches. This is true not only in its content, but also in the reason for its coming to fruition.
Originally. the Declaration of Utrecht was written as a statement of faith for the Old Catholic Churches. The Churches that were involved in its writing were the Old Catholic Churches of Holland, Germany and Switzerland. This declaration was later accepted by the Old Catholic Church of Austria, which was also in existence at the time. The Declaration of Utrecht served as a model of unity for these Churches and from it the Union of Utrecht was born. From that time forward the Declaration of Utrecht served as a standard for those churches that sought consecration of bishops and acceptance into the Union of Utrecht.
Before his consecration in 1907 Bishop Francis Hodur was required to assent to the tenets of the Declaration of Utrecht and was required to sign it. This Declaration remains as one of the normative documents of faith for Polish National Catholics.
Regrettably, many of the Old Catholic Churches have begun to look upon the Declaration of Utrecht as merely a historical artifact and not as a basis of faith. This view has led these churches to deviate from the faith of the Undivided Church that was expounded in the Declaration of Utrecht. This deviation became irreconcilable when these Churches attempted to ordain women to Holy Orders and solemnize same-sex unions.
Because of this development within the Union of Utrecht, the Polish National Catholic Church is separated from the errant Churches of that Union since 2003. As it would seem, the Polish National Catholic Church is the only remaining Church that still holds the Declaration of Utrecht as a true document of faith for Old Catholics.
Subsequent to this separation from the Union of Utrecht, the Polish National Catholic Church has been approached by other religious bodies that desire to become Catholic Churches in the fullest sense. They express a desire to hold the traditional Catholic beliefs and practices of the Ancient Church (Church of the first millennium); this includes the Polish National Catholic understanding of the papal office. The Polish National Catholic Church found herself in a similar position as the Church of Utrecht did in 1889. That Old Catholic Church of Utrecht had existed since 1724 and had remained constant in her profession of the traditional Catholic faith. When approached by other religious bodies that had the same understanding of the Catholic faith and a desire to unite with Utrecht while still maintaining their autonomy, a document was needed to articulate such a relationship among them. Hence, the Declaration of Utrecht was written.
Similarly, the Polish National Catholic Church, in existence since 1897, has been steadfast in upholding the traditional Catholic faith. Other religious bodies have been approaching the Polish National Catholic Church with a desire to share in this understanding of the faith and to have an autonomous Catholic Church of their own. The Polish National Catholic Church found it necessary to expand the Declaration of Utrecht, clarifying points of Catholic understanding that were not addressed in the original document, especially those dealing with the issues that brought about the fracture in the Union of Utrecht. It is for this reason that the Declaration of Scranton was written. It is held as a normative document of faith of the Polish National Catholic Church and is the standard for future agreements with those who wish to unite with us in the Union of Scranton.”
The Nordic Catholic Church enters the Union of Scranton
In keeping with the statutes of the Union of Scranton, the Polish National Catholic Church accepts the Nordic Catholic Church as a member church of the Union of Scranton.
On July 25th 2011 the Very Rev. Roald Nikolai Flemestad was consecrated to the Holy Office of Bishop for the Nordic Catholic Church by the Most Rev. Anthony A. Mikovsky, Prime Bishop of the Polish National Catholic Church. The consecration took place at historic St. Stanislaus Bishop and Martyr Cathedral in Scranton, Pennsylvania. The Rt. Rev. Thaddeus Peplowski and the Rt. Rev. John E. Mack of the Polish National Catholic Church were co-consecrators. The following five bishops of the Polish National Church also laid hands during the rite of consecration: the Rt. Rev. Thomas J. Gnat, the Rt. Rev. Sylvester Bigaj, the Rt. Rev. Anthony Kopka, the Most Rev. Emeritus Robert M. Nemkovich and the Most Rev. Emeritus John F. Swantek.
With this consecration the Union of Scranton now became a reality. A Union of Churches in full communion through their bishops.
The bishops meet yearly as the International Catholic Bishops Conference (ICBC). The inaugural meeting of the ICBC was held the day after the consecration of Bishop Flemestad on July 26th 2011 at the PNCC National Church Center in Scranton.
A more detailed historical presentation is available here: The PNCC and the Declaration and Union of Scranton.
Link to the official website: The Union of Scranton.