Vedic Christianity and the Liberal Catholic Church

Interfaith work usually brings together individuals from distinct faith traditions; sometimes we meet someone who embodies this work and brings traditions together in their own life. Our guest post is by Father Tony (The Very Reverend Monsignor Anthony Guagliardo/Sri Hariharananda Sivadasa Bharathi Swami). Father Tony’s congregations will meet at our Interfaith Spiritual Space in the New Orleans Healing Center when we open in April.

Father Tony explains the traditions he comes from:

Liberal Catholic Church
The Liberal Catholic Church (LCC) is a form of Christianity open to Theosophical, Gnostic and Mystical ideas, including reincarnation. The title also is applied to various separate and independent denominations throughout the world holding many theosophical and vedic ideas in common.

Church background
The founding bishop of the Liberal Catholic Church was the Most Reverend James I. Wedgwood of the Wedgwood China family, formerly a priest in the Church of England (Anglican), who became a theosophist and was ordained as a priest in the Old Catholic movement on July 22, 1913 by Arnold Harris Mathew . Archbishop Mathew was a resigned Roman Catholic priest who had been consecrated by Archbishop Gerardus Gul of Utrecht on April 28, 1908 and appointed as the first Old Catholic bishop in Britain. Thus the Liberal Catholic Church traces its apostolic succession back to Rome through Old Catholicism. Bishop Wedgwood was consecrated to the episcopate on February 13, 1916 by Bishop Frederick Samuel Willoughby (who had been consecrated by Bishop Matthew), and started the organization that would later become the Liberal Catholic Church of which Wedgwood became the first Presiding Bishop.

Basis of Teaching
According to church teaching, the Liberal Catholic Church draws the central inspiration of its work from an earnest faith in the living Christ. It holds that the vitality of a church gains in proportion as its members not only revere and worship a Christ who lived two thousand years ago, but also strive to affirm in their lives the eternal Christ of whom St. John (Chapter 8:58) speaks: "Before Abraham was, I am." It is the Christ who ever lives as a mighty spiritual presence in the world, guiding and sustaining His people.

Liberal Catholicism regards these promises as validating all Christian worship, of whatever kind, so long as it be earnest and true. But it further holds that while the promise of the Presence with individual believers is thus effective, Christ also appointed certain rites or sacraments, called 'mysteries' in the Eastern Church, for the greater helping of his people, to be handed down in the Church as special channels of power and blessing. Through these 'means of grace' The Liberal Catholic Church believes that Christ is ever present within His Church, in fellowship and Communion, guiding and protecting them from birth to death.

Sacraments and apostolic succession
According to the Liberal Catholic Church's Statement of Principles, "The Liberal Catholic Church recognizes seven fundamental sacraments, which it enumerates as follows: Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Eucharist, Absolution, Holy Unction, Holy Matrimony, Holy Orders. It possesses an unbroken apostolic succession through the Old Catholic Union of Utrecht and its orders are 'acknowledged as valid throughout the whole of those churches of Christendom which maintain the apostolic succession of orders as a tenet of their faith."

Unity of all religions

The Liberal Catholic Church believes that there is a body of doctrine and mystical experience common to all the great religions of the world and which cannot be claimed as the exclusive possession of any. Moving within the orbit of Christianity and regarding itself as a distinctive Christian church it nevertheless holds that the other great religions of the world are also divinely inspired and that all proceed from a common source, though religions may stress different aspects of the various teachings and some aspects may even temporarily be ignored. These teachings, as facts in nature, rest on their own intrinsic merit. They form that true catholic faith which is catholic because it is the statement of universal principles. The LCC bases these beliefs on what St. Augustine said: "The identical thing that we now call the Christian religion existed among the ancients and has not been lacking from the beginnings of the human race until the coming of Christ in the flesh, from which moment on the true religion, which already existed, began to be called Christian." (Retract I. XIII,3). The same principle is involved in the declaration of St. Vincent of Lerins: "That let us hold which everywhere, always and by all has been believed: for this is truly and rightly catholic."

Sant Issa Sangham
In 2009, Bishop Delahunt of the LCC Theosophia Synod established an autonomous prelature called the Sant Issa Sangham ("Fellowship of Holy Jesus" in Sanskrit), appointing as Director the Very Reverend Monsignor Anthony Guagliardo (Sri Hariharananda Sivadasa Bharathi Swami), who is simultaneously an initiated Sannyasin of Sanatana Dharma (Hinduism) in the ancient monastic order of the eminent Indian philosopher and saint Adi Shankaracharya (500 - 430 BCE). Recognizing Liberal Catholicism as "Vedic Christianity", the Sant Issa Sangham provides a system of worship which is based on the belief that Jesus Christ lived, was trained and taught in India during His life, and the rituals are based on Dharmic puja (rituals of worship) and sadhana (personal spiritual practices).

Author’s Bio:
The Very Rev Msgr Anthony Guagliardo, born of Anglo-Indian parents from Ireland and early orphaned after his parents' untimely death, was born in 1957.  He was subsequently adopted, renamed and raised renamed Anthony Raul Giuseppe Guagliardo in a American family of Cuban and Italian descent in Tampa, Florida. Raised Roman Catholic, he completed his bachelor's and master's studies in Social Psychology, Ancient History and Comparative Religion at the University of South Florida, City Colleges of Chicago, University of Maryland, Fordham University in New York and received his Doctorate of Divinity from Mar Tomas Malabar Syro-Orthodox Seminary in 1979.  He served as Captain in the Chaplaincy of the United States Air Force for seven years based out of Ankara, Turkey, after which he obtained a permanent leave of absence from his priestly duties from the Military Ordinariate, resigned his commission as an Air Force Captain and traveled to India to discover his biological roots in 1984.  It was at this time he decided to reclaim his birth name of Shivadas (Sivadasa) and embraced Sanatana Dharma (Hinduism), the spiritual path of his maternal ancestors, studying Adi Shankara's Advaitin (non-dualistic) philosophy and taking diksha (initiation) from his late guru, Sri Sharadhananda Bharati of the Sringeri Sharada Peetham Math (monastery) in India and took the spiritual name of Sri Hariharananda Sivadasa Bharathi Swami. 

After his return to the United States, he became a priest in the Liberal Catholic Church – Theosophia Synod and was later elevated to the position of Monsignor. Since then he has worked as an editor for several newspapers and magazines, authored several books, served as CEO/Temple Manager, pujari (priest) and religious studies instructor for the Hindu Temple of Georgia in Atlanta, and worked as a counselor and certified hypnotherapist. He currently serves as Director of Operations for both the Gandhi Foundation USA, Atlanta City of Peace, Inc. And the Dharmic Arts Foundation, Inc. And has worked with numerous other non-profit community organizations and associations such as The Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, the Pagan Allied Network of America and the Asian American Chamber of Commerce of Georgia. He recently published his latest book, Srimad Bhagavad Gita: An American Translation in Prose. He currently resides in New Orleans, where he has established the Saint Sophia Mission of the Liberal Catholic Church – Theosophia Synod and a Dharmic Christian Fellowsihp called The Sant Issa Sangham.



1 comment:

  1. It was nice reading this, especially since I was married in the Liberal Catholic Church.

    It's nice to see a religious organization accept that other faiths are also inspired by the same God.