The terms Old Catholic Church, Old Catholics and Old-Catholic churches designate "any of the groups of Western Christians who believe themselves to maintain in complete loyalty the doctrine and traditions of the undivided church but who separated from the see of Rome after the First Vatican council of 1869–70".
The expression Old Catholic has been used from the 1850s by communions separated from the Roman Catholic Church over certain doctrines, primarily concerned with papal authority and infallibility. Some of these groups, especially in the Netherlands, had already existed long before the term.
These churches are not in full communion with the Holy See. Member churches of the Union of Utrecht of the Old Catholic Churches (UU) are in full communion with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Sweden and the Anglican Communion; many members of the Union of Utrecht of the Old Catholic Churches hold membership in the World Council of Churches.
The term "Old Catholic" was first used in 1853 to describe the members of the See of Utrecht who did not recognize any infallible papal authority. Later Catholics who disagreed with the Roman Catholic dogma of papal infallibility as defined by the First Vatican Council (1870) were thereafter without a bishop and joined with the See of Utrecht to form the Union of Utrecht of the Old Catholic Churches (UU). Today, Old Catholic Union of Utrecht churches are found chiefly in Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Austria, Poland and the Czech Republic. The Union of Scranton separated from the Utrechter Union in protest over the UU's ordination of women and LGBT Christians.
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