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Early Independent Catholicism in Context: A re-examination of the career of Archbishop Joseph René Vilatte (1884-1929)

TANCIBOK, ALEXIS (2020) Early Independent Catholicism in Context: A re-examination of the career of Archbishop Joseph René Vilatte (1884-1929). Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Archbishop Joseph René Vilatte, a principal founder of Independent Catholicism, has for over 70 years been caricatured as a charlatan and religious adventurer. This thesis argues that, with the discovery of new material, a reevaluation of Vilatte’s career is warranted, and shows that contrary to the traditional narratives, Vilatte was above all a missionary, and campaigner for his vision of Catholic orthodoxy; mainly in America, but also in France. In line with other Old Catholics Vilatte believed that Rome was an impediment to Catholic unity, and that Rome’s centralised ecclesial model impeded Christian liberty, and hampered missions. Under the influence of Hyacinthe Loyson, Vilatte initially believed that Anglo-Catholics could be partners with the Old Catholics in the new mission field of America. After 1889, however, Dutch Old Catholics convinced Vilatte to sever his relations with the Episcopalians in Wisconsin. This not only forced Vilatte to clarify the differences between his Old Catholicism, Roman Catholicism and Anglicanism, but it resulted in the Syrian Orthodox Patriarch authorising his consecration as a missionary metropolitan in Colombo, Ceylon, in 1892, changing his mission to a national Independent Catholic movement in the United States. The thesis explores some of the challenges Vilatte faced as a missionary, unsupported by traditional institutions. The thesis further examines Vilatte’s view of Christian reunion, which he believed could only happen through Catholic unity, led by the universal episcopate rather than one church or individual. The most puzzling aspect of Vilatte’s career was his relationship with the Roman Catholic Church. On three occasions he negotiated reconciliation, but the available evidence shows that on all three occasions he did not abandon his belief in Catholic reform, nor did he intend to not function as a missionary.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Joseph Rene Vilatte; Hyacinthe Loyson; Jules Ferrette; Mar Alvares; Order of Corporate Reunion; Old Catholic; Independent Catholic; nineteenth century Christian reunion; nineteenth century American Churches and missionaries; Catholic Reform movements; Syrian Orthodox Church in India
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Theology and Religion, Department of
Thesis Date:2020
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:20 Nov 2020 13:07

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