The secondary scholarly sources are pretty thin. The major works are:
J. Gordon Melton, The Encyclopedia of American Religions. Wilmington, NC: McGrath Publishing Company, 1978.
Melton made the first attempt at a thorough survey of all jurisdictions. Ultimately, that is an impossible task, but he did better than most. One has to use this source with caution. Many of the entries are taken directly from the denominational "hype-sheets," and only a few of the jurisdictions were subjected to rigorous cross-checking. There are subsequent editions of this source, but few substantive additions.
Karl Pruter and J. Gordon Melton, The Old Catholic Sourcebook. New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1983.
This source has both the advantage and disadvantage of the late Karl Pruter's input. Bp. Pruter (who began his clerical career as a Congregationalist minister) has been in the thick of the independent movement for decades. The disadvantage (as Karl was the first to admit) is that, like Samuel Clemmens, the older he got, the fewer things that happened he could remember, and the more things that didn't happen he could remember. The table of episcopal consecrations contains far too many entries that are contradicted by direct evidence. The source is useful for addresses, although it is best to supplement this book with Pruter's annual directory of Independent Bishops.
Peter F. Anson, Bishops at Large. London, Faber and Faber, 1964.
This is quite useful on the English background of many of the Old Catholic orders that migrate to the US.
H. R. T. Brandreth, Episcopi Vagantes and the Anglican Church. London: SPCK, 1947.
Much of this is supplanted by Anson, but the section on Vilatte, and his connection with PECUSA, is more fully developed in this source.
Jonathan Trela, A History of the North American Old Roman Catholic Church. Scranton, PA: Privately Printed, 1979.
Trela is a priest in the Polish National Catholic Church, the only Old Catholic Church in the US to be recognized by the see of Utrecht. He has produced a brief, even-handed treatment of the Carfora succession, which was the PNCs major rival for years.
Gordon Huelin (ed.), Old Catholics and Anglicans, 1931-1981, to Commemorate The 50th Anniversary of Intercommunion. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983.
Precious little on the American side, but I've included it for those Anglophiles and Anglicans who might read this.
The printed primary material is legion, and mostly useless. It consists primarily of pamphlets, booklets and leaflets, of the Chamber of Commerce variety. One must look at this ephemeral literature to get some sense of the ethos of these jurisdictions, but they contain little useful information.
There are three notable exceptions.
THE AUGUSTINIAN, a periodical published by Carmel Henry Carfora, Presiding Bishop of the North American Roman Catholic Church. It came out monthly from 1945-1950, and resumed publication under Bp. James Rogers from 1966-1969. The NY Public Library has a few issues. The Regenstein Library at the University of Chicago has a complete run listed in the catalog, but missing from the shelves since 1978. Melton cites many issues of the publication from his private collection at the Institute for the Study of American Religion in Santa Barbara. I was able to see the complete run in the private collection of Bp. Francis Facione (about which more later). This contains news stories and reports which are consistent with other documentary evidence.
Charles Webster Leadbeater, The Science of the Sacraments. Los Angeles: St. Albans Press, 1920.
This has become the foundation document for Liberal and Gnostic Catholic sacramental theology. All liturgies in these traditions I have seen have obvious roots in this source.
Frederick Meyer (ed.), CORRESPONDENCE BETWEEN MEMBERS OF THE ANGLO-CONTINENTAL SOCIETY AND (1) OLD CATHOLICS, (2) ORIENTAL CHURCHES. London: Rivingtons, 1984.
This collection is cited frequently by American Old Catholics as a touch-stone document for determining the "essence" of Old Catholicism.
Archival sources are rare. Nashota house has a few items relating to Joseph Rene Vilatte. In a cooperative venture with European Old Catholics, the Nashota faculty prepared him for ordination. The most interesting phase of his career--his episcopacy following consecration from a Ceylonese succession--is not covered by these documents. Vilatte for a while attempted to be both Anglican and Old Catholic in Wisconsin, hence every now and then one finds a break-away Anglican willing to accept orders from the Villatian succession (but very rarely) Vilatte had a reputation--deserved--of ordaining and consecrating anything that moved. Shortly after consecration, the new bishop and Vilatte would usually enter into mutual anathematizations and excommunications. (The issue was jurisdiction--which is interesting because most had no congregations or priests.)
The Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism at Notre Dame has a fair number of materials about RC reaction to Independent Catholics, but no materials from those jurisdictions.
Individual congregations--such as Our Lady of Good Hope in St. Petersburg, Florida, St. Marks in Louisville, Kentucky , St. Claire in South Haven Mich., St. Matthew's in Orange CA, St. Leonard's in NYC, Sacred Heart of Jesus in Chicago, and St. Luke's in Troy Mich.--which have lasted for a decade or more often have quite good and useful archives. Unfortunately, few things are as ephemeral as most Old Catholic Congregations. A greater number of Independent Anglican parishes have persisted and maintained good records.
The most extensive collection I have seen is in the possession of the Most Rev. Francis P. Facione, Bp. of the Diocese of the Central States, who resides in Louisville, Kentucky. He has collected several boxes of material on the Carfora succession, including the papers of various elder bishops in that succession over the last twenty years, and thus has a great deal of correspondence and other documents from the 1920s forward. The last I talked with Bp. Facione, he was seriously thinking of trying to find an archival home for the material, which I would estimate to be some 10,000 pieces.
The materials on which I most depend as a historian are thin, so I decided about ten years ago to spend some of my research time each year traveling, asking questions, recording, taking photographs, and mostly listening--not only to "official" conversations, but side conversations as well. I became an amateur anthropologist.
My reading and listening and sorting it out have yielded a complex and contradictory mosaic which defies systematic treatment. Nevertheless, I would hazard the following generalizations.
In Independent Catholicism, the most remarkable division is between the Vilatte and Carfora successions. The Vilatte folk are mostly clerics in clusters of three and four, celebrating mass in living rooms with only the three or four clerics in attendance. It is not unusual to find an ordinary, a coadjutor, a priest and a deacon. Interestingly, the body that Vilatte founded, The Old-Catholic Church of America, is an exception to this generalization. The house-mass groups that are typical of this juristiction a well defined and the collegiality of the clergy is well maintained and nurtured. The Carfora folk generally have congregations. They may be as small as a dozen people, but they are communities with a history together (sometimes they are several hundred strong). The Vilatte folk tend not to be well educated. In a fairly typical jurisdiction, the Bishop may have had some college education, but no degree, and priests generally have had a high school education. Conversation rarely includes theology or biblical scholarship, but frequently centers around the most precise ways to celebrate mass. Again, the OCCA is the atypical jurisdiction in this category, with a well educated clergy, many of whom have an M.Div. and/or advanced degrees, and those who do not have excellent tutorial formation. The spirited theological conversations among OCCA clergy are impressive. Similar in this regard to the OCCA, the Carforians tend to be well educated. Among the Council of Independent Bishops, for examples (all Carfora successions) are three Ph.D.s (Wayne State, Illinois, Columbia), two M.A.s (Loyola of Chicago and Ohio State), and a B.A. (Howard). In one of the jurisdictions represented on that council, all of the priests have advanced degrees from accredited universities.
The differences between Vilatte and Carfora as still visible in their successors. Vilatte thought that one day all would be priests, therefore pastoral development was considered largely superfluous. Carfora, an RC priest when he first came to the US, thought the geographical structure of the American church made no sense, given the realities of the American social structure. He advocated ethnic jurisdiction. After he left and received Old Catholic episcopal orders Carfora organized his North American Old Roman catholic Church in precisely that way, incorporating the existing African Orthodox Church (which had been founded by Black Anglicans in the late 19th century). Imani Temple is consistent with this idea, and it is interesting that the African Orthodox Church declined to consecrate Stallings. He was, however, consecrated by Carforian bishops.
The Liberal Catholic Church carries on parochial ministries and has a relatively well educated clergy. The Liberal Catholics derive their orders from England. The Gnostic Catholic bodies--most of whom descend from the Vilatte line--are similar but smaller and have fewer parochial ministries. They are more overtly esoteric than the Liberal Catholics.
The various Anglican bodies fit the general configuration of Carfora and Liberal Catholic parishes, both in education of clergy (although a much higher percentage of Independent Anglican clergy are seminary educated than is the case with the other two groups) and in congregational stability.
Old catholic bodies are frequently made up of those who believe that Rome has not changed enough or that Rome has changed too much. In different jurisdictions, one may see Tridentine, novus ordo, or experimental liturgies. There are some Old Catholics who have left in order to be able to be openly gay. Others have left in order to adhere to a stricter traditional sexual code of behavior. There is a great deal of constant re-structuring in this amorphous family.
Old Catholicism in the US IS a family, but highly dysfunctional. One of the chief pastimes is sharing rumors about misdeeds in other jurisdictions. Another pastime is constant re-ordination sub-conditione, even when a priest has been ordained by a bishop in the same succession as the receiving bishop. Both conversations and documents have convinced me that re-ordination is simply standard operating procedure.
Independent Anglicanism in the US has some contradictory tendencies. Some left as early as the late 40s, early 50s in reaction to perceived political and theological liberalism in PECUSA. Others left in the 60s in reaction to the shift from PECUSA to ECUSA--they felt that the Protestant part was being lost. In the 70s and after, some left because the new prayer book was "too catholic." Others left over the ordination of women to the priesthood. This led to some strange alliances, including a few gay Anglo-Catholic leaders fellowshiping with homophobic Anglo-Catholic leaders.
Both the Independent Catholic Movement and the Independent Anglican Movement are in a constant state of flux, and it is quite possible that eventually we will see some alliances across jurisdictions. Already, in a prominent ECUSA diocese, a bishop has given tacit permission for Episcopal Synod parishes to obtain the temporary services of Old Catholic priests for Sunday masses.
Decentralization of religious organizations in the US is a likely trend in the future (we can see some signs of it now). It may be that these Independent movements may provide us with models, both of what has not worked, and what might work, if taken seriously.
I hope, with others, to obtain the funding to continue this study in greater depth.
OLD CATHOLICS ON THE WEB