The Ancient Catholic Church of the Netherlands is closely related to the Old Catholic Church, and the Liberal Catholic Church, both of which it can be said to have given birth to.
Catholicism came to the Netherlands by means of the proselytising of St. Willibrord in the 7th century. Willibrord had been consecrated by Pope Sergius I in 696 in Rome. In 1145 Pope Eugene III granted the Cathedral Chapter of Utrecht the right to elect bishops after such had been requested by the Holy Roman Emperor Conrad III and Bishop Heribert of Utrecht . The fourth Council of the Lateran confirmed this in 1215. Pope Leo X, issued the papal bull Debitum Pastoralis in 1520 giving extraordinary powers to Philip of Burgundy , 57th Bishop of Utrecht, essentially removing the ability of any external authority to "in the first instance, have his cause evoked to any external tribunal, not even under pretense of any apostolic letters whatever; and that all such proceedings should be, ipso facto, null and void".
Forced into hiding during the reformation, the Church of Utrecht continued to thrive, even eventually obtaining a comfortable enough status with the local authorities so as to allow it to freely and openly express Catholicism. Strangely, despite the Debitum Pastoralis and the waivers it provided, in 1592 the Ancient Church came under persecution from counter-reformist Jesuits, who, despite opposition from Rome accused Petter Codde , Archbishop of the Church of Utrecht of favoring the so-called Jansenist heresy. Pope Innocent XII appointed a Commission of Cardinals who investigated Archbishop Codde, ending in exoneration. In 1700 Archbishop Codde was summoned to Rome and brought before a second Commission appointed by Pope Clement XI. After another acquittal, Clement XI suspended the Archbishop in 1701 and appointed his successor to the See of Utrecht.
This was not a popular decision in Holland, culminating in a demand by the Dutch for the return of Codde, and their refusal of his successor. Codde returned to Utrecht in June of 1703. Codde formally resigned, protesting the circumstance in his Pastoral Letter of March 19, 1704. He died December 18, 1710.
Lacking an archbishop, the Church was able to arrange for Irish bishop, Luke Fagan , Bishop of Meath (later Archbishop of Dublin), to ordain priests for the Church of Utrecht. The legal matters arising from the violations of Debitum Pastoralis led to the case being brought before the University of Leuven in May of 1717, which found in favor of the Ancient Church, but was unable to resolve the matter with the Roman Church, leading to an autonomous, independent catholic church.
Pope Pius IX established a rival church of Holland in 1853 giving rise to the name "Old Catholic Church", which distinguished itself from the newly created church by its seniority in Holland. In 1870 Vatican I was convened, and the bishops of the Church of Utrecht were refused seats. Rather than a time of conciliation, the Vatican Council abolished the principle of appeal, opting rather for a policy of "papal infallibility". This led to considerable dissent throughout the Roman Catholic world, particularly in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Many separate communities of "Old Catholic Churches" were formed at this time, seeking to adhere to pre-Roman Christian traditions. Many of their first Bishops were consecrated by the Archbishop of Utrecht after this time, leading to the formation of the Utrecht Union of Churches .
Perhaps the most fundamental positions of the Ancient Catholic Church are its claim to Apostolic succession directly back to Christ, and to being legally separate from the Roman Catholic Church.