General name for various national churches that at different times separated from the Roman Catholic Church. Three main segments are distinguishable.
The Church of Utrecht in Holland, which separated from Rome in 1724. The immediate occasion for the break was the Jansenism of some of the Dutch Catholics, notably their archbishop, Petrus Codde (1648-1710).
The German, Austrian, and Swiss Old Catholics were organized after certain leaders in these countries rejected the two dogmas of papal infallibility and the universal ordinary magisterium, defined by the First Vatican Council in 1870. Their principal intellectual leader was John Joseph Ignatius Döllinger (1799-1890), Bavarian priest and Church historian.
Slavic Old Catholic Churches, mainly Polish, Croat, and Yugoslav, came into existence in America and elsewhere because of alleged discrimination by Anglo-Saxon bishops, but also because of clerical celibacy.
The doctrinal basis of the Old Catholic Churches is the Declaration of Utrecht in 1889. Its main provisions are the rejection of the papal primacy and obligatory auricular confession; married clergy; and in general acceptance of the first seven ecumenical councils as adequate statements of the Christian faith.
In 1925 the Old Catholic communion formally recognized Anglican ordinations, and in 1932 entered into full communion with the Church of England, based on the Bonn Agreement of July 2, 1931.