Catholic term on the Western Church

Why is the Western branch of the Catholic Church called the Latin Church? The Church is from Rome which is why I believe it is correct to identify as Roman Catholic. Is this wrong?

God Bless,

Because there was a people called the Latins.

It’s the Latin rite. “Roman Catholic” was a derogatory term that Protestants coined in order to chide us that we weren’t Christian so much as Roman. That’s why it’s not (strictly) correct to ID us as “Roman Catholic”… “Latin Rite Catholic”, on the other hand, is completely legitimate.

There is technically no such thing as the Latin Rite. Legally, it’s the Latin Church and the Roman Rite. Unfortunately, even the Church herself uses the ambiguous term “Latin Rite” in her documents. The usage is widespread and it dismays me, because it is always imprecise.

Here’s the Whole Story on the term “Roman Catholic”.

To get these terms correct, here are some points:

  1. The Catholic Church is 23 sui iuris Churches. There is one Western Church and 22 Eastern Churches.

  2. The one Western Church is precisely called the Latin Church, after the Latin people.

  3. There are several liturgical traditions in the whole Catholic Church. One of them is called the Latin liturgical tradition. However, this point is more academic than legal.

  4. Within the Latin liturgical tradition, as with many, there are several Rites. The most widespread, both in the Latin Church and throughout the whole world, is the Roman Rite. However, there are many others, named after a place (eg Ambrosian Rite) or a religious Order (ie Dominican Rite).

The majority of Catholics, and certainly the large majority of American Catholics, are Latin Catholics who worship according to the Roman Rite which is itself a subset of the larger Latin liturgical tradition.

But you are aware that the term " Latin " was a insult to Western Catholics since Muslims and the Greek orthodox would use it to insult us, yet we still use that term today. The term Christian was a derogatory term as well, because the Antiochian Pagans would use it to make fun of followers of the way, Jesus Christ, and we also use this term today.

It would just make sense if we were identified as Roman since we are under the traditions and practices of the Church of Rome. Plus Pope Benedict the 15th and Pope Pius the 12 called the Church the " Holy Roman Catholic Church " many times in their encyclicals.

God Bless,

I thought its right to just identify as Catholic for the “universal” Church. St. Ignatius of Antioch in about 100 AD used the term for the first time when describing the Church. I do find it as derogatory to say “Roman” Catholic for that implies affiliation with the Romans who crucified Christ. But, with the term Latin rite it can be taken from the Latin language and not just from the barbaric Latin tribe from Latium. That is where the language got its name but not where the Church rite gets its name.

You then have to look that we are a part of the Holy Roman Catholic Church because our Church is seated in Rome on St. Peter in the Holy See. So, that is where the derivation of Roman Catholic comes into play because like the Church seats of Antioch, Constantinople (Istanbul), &c., that is where they identify themselves from. Nowadays we don’t take as much of the comparison to the Romans of the first centuries because the term Romans isn’t relevant nowadays. Today the term Romans comes from our Church seat not anything pagan.

I hope I made even the slightest amount of sense in my rambling!


That makes sense also, but for assuming all Romans were the Roman soldiers would be like saying all Germans are Nazis in my opinion.

The gist of the matter is that is that (at least in English) we lack clear terminology that identifies the Western Catholic Church.

At various times and in certain places, some of the terms that get used have had negative connotations.

It’s annoying.

So what do you suggest? Just identify as Latin Catholic?

“Roman Church” was what the Western Church called itself in the Councils before protestantism. They also called themselves “Latin Catholics” as opposed to Greek Catholics, Coptic Catholics, etc. The protestants coined the term, “Roman Catholic”.

“However, as a result of this decree, let no prejudice arise to the canons and other ecclesiastical constitutions according to which the decision of the greater and senior part should prevail, because any doubt that can arise in them can be settled by a higher authority; whereas in the Roman church there is a special constitution, since no recourse can be had to a superior.” - Third Lateran Council (AD 1179), Canon I

“He dictated a letter, which he signed with his own hand, in which he firmly confesses that he holds the faith held by the Roman church, which is by God’s plan the mother and mistress of all the faithful.” - Fourth Lateran Council (AD 1215), Constitutions 2

“Also, the said metropolitan and bishop and their successors are forthwith to be preferred in each and every honour to bishops who are separated from the communion of the holy Roman church.” - The Council of Florence (AD 1445), Session 14

Most people these days believe that Roman Catholic is clear enough terminology and fully understand what is meant. However, there are some people who like to make an academic exercise out of the terminology, thus confusing those who were never confused in the first place.

I am a Roman Catholic. That is very easily understood by most people and does not need annoying clarifications.:wink:

I don’t know what people *should *do. Both Roman Catholic and Latin Catholic have been used as pejoratives. Both terms have been used by Catholics to describe themselves.

I say Latin or Western Catholic if I need to distinguish between the sui juris Churches.

I say Roman Catholic when I mean to distinguish between Catholics faithful to the Magisterium versus those breakaway churches in the directory pages who include the word Catholic in their name.

I sigh and wish there was less confusion.

I’m not so sure. I think there is widespread confusion regarding the existence and status of the Eastern Catholic Churches. I know many Catholics who like to think that “Roman Catholic” refers to the Latin Church, and yet the rest of the world regards the Roman Catholic Church as the whole thing, and when told “Well, Byzantine Ruthenian Catholics are under the pope” would likely reply “So they are Roman Catholic!” The Church herself uses “Roman Catholic” in this fashion!

Please read the Wikipedia article I linked, it is a rather exhaustive history of the term “Roman Catholic” and current usage. It is very interesting.

I sort of agree with you.

I agree that many people were never confused. But I suspect it is because many of them do not have much in the way of knowledge about the existence of Eastern Catholics.

I agree about the academic exercise part. But the majority of the my discussions on this board where a distinction is necessary ARE academic. What’s wrong with having academic discussions?

There is nothing wrong with academic discussion, not a thing. However we are talking real life here, and most people understand perfectly well what “Roman Catholic” means. So we don’t need to go around confusing them by trying to give them a linguistic or history lesson.
Use of the term "Roman Catholic is perfectly fine. In fact, I have personally used the term “Latin Rite Catholic” a few times, and the response usually was along the lines of “They don’t say the Mass in Latin any more.” or “Are you talking about the Latin Mass?”

Also, it might be the area where I live, but I have never met a Catholic who did not know about the Eastern Churches. They would not call them Roman Catholic. But in some areas of the country there aren’t many Eastern Churches, so I can see where people would be ignorant of them.

In these forums I have frequently observed people using the term “Roman Catholic” in a perfectly ordinary way, and immediately someone jumps in and corrects them. That is not helpful, and it usually confuses them. So my point is, it’s not wrong to call yourself a Roman Catholic and leave it at that, as most people understand the reference perfectly. Save the rest for academics, or perhaps a cocktail party.:wink:

Actually I think “Latin Mass” is the misused term. But that’s another thread…

Also, it might be the area where I live, but I have never met a Catholic who did not know about the Eastern Churches. They would not call them Roman Catholic. But in some areas of the country there aren’t many Eastern Churches, so I can see where people would be ignorant of them.
There are Eastern Churches in the Los Angeles Archdiocese. But not many.

In these forums I have frequently observed people using the term “Roman Catholic” in a perfectly ordinary way, and immediately someone jumps in and corrects them.
What I see more of is people feeling very offended by “Roman Catholic” because they see it as a protestant slur. (Apparently some are offended by Latin Catholic from what I saw earlier in this thread.) I never thought that but I am sensitive the folks who do feel offended.

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