Bishop David M. O’Connell of Trenton has urged members of a New Jersey church community to reconsider their decision to break from the Catholic Church and join an “independent” jurisdiction.
“I pray that you will re‐consider the dangerous, schismatic path you have chosen and I invite you to return to full communion with the Roman Catholic Church,” Bishop O’Connell told members of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in a June 24 statement.
He described members of the separated community as “no longer … interested or concerned with the canon law of the Roman Catholic Church.”
Our Lady of Guadalupe members left the Catholic Church when three churches were united into one parish earlier this year, a move that left many parishioners dissatisfied.
It is now affiliated with the American National Catholic Church, a group of six parishes calling itself an “independent Catholic jurisdiction.” The “independent” parishes reject Catholic beliefs on subjects such as marriage, sexuality, and the priesthood.
In his statement, Bishop O'Connell explained that an “independent” Catholic Church was a contradiction in terms. By its very nature, he said, the Church involves “a communion of faith, governance and the sacraments.”
He said that members of Our Lady of Guadalupe were being “dishonest with themselves and, even more importantly … with others,” by claiming to be Catholic.
The Bishop of Trenton clarified that this group and the individuals leading or promoting it are not in communion with the Catholic Church. Citing the Gospel of Matthew, he warned the lay faithful against “false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but underneath are ravenous wolves.”
He said his “greatest fear” was that the leaders of the schism at Our Lady of Guadalupe “will take other well‐intentioned Catholics down with them, leading them away from the true practice of their faith under the pretense of legitimacy.”
Members of Our Lady of Guadalupe have claimed that Spanish and Portuguese members felt displaced by the parish merger. Bishop O’Connell has maintained that that Masses and ministry in both Spanish and Portuguese continued to be offered despite the combining of parishes.
“Christ the King parish has extended a warm welcome to all members of the merged parishes,” said the bishop. “There was a long and comprehensive study conducted and widespread consultation of the faithful prior to the decision to merge those parishes into one new parish.”