Catholic vs. Roman Catholic


Is there a difference between these two terms or are they just two terms for the same thing?





I’m glad you asked that, good question. In reference to the meaning there is no difference. Catholic and Roman Catholic are the same thing.

However as far as being correct, the name Roman Catholic is not. That is a title that Protestants tack on for various reasons.

I don’t like it anymore than anyone would like being addressed by the wrong name. So to be polite and correct the name Catholic should be used.


Thanks. I only asked because I read a post where someone said Roman Catholics XXX to Catholics. It confused me a bit. Thanks again.


Well it is just Catholic - latin rite. Roman Catholic is a term the protestant’s labeled us (latin rite). It kinda stuck.
Catholic = All Churches in communion with the Bishop of Rome (the Pope).
I am quite sure there will be folks that will post all the rites that are under the umbrella of the Catholic Church.


I’m a slow poster. I was posting while you posted your reply. :slight_smile:


Hi Valke2 and peace be with you. :slight_smile:

I went to Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary just to make sure I was accurate.
Pasted definitions, below:

catholic with a small "c"
Function: adjective
Etymology: Middle English catholik, from Middle French & Late Latin; Middle French catholique, from Late Latin catholicus, from Greek katholikos universal, general, from katholou in general, from kata by + holos whole – more at CATA-, SAFE
1 a often capitalized : of, relating to, or forming the church universal b often capitalized : of, relating to, or forming the ancient undivided Christian church or a church claiming historical continuity from it c capitalized : ROMAN CATHOLIC
2 : COMPREHENSIVE, UNIVERSAL; especially : broad in sympathies, tastes, or interests

Catholic with a Capital “C” -
Function: noun
1 : a person who belongs to the universal Christian church
2 : a member of a Catholic church; especially : ROMAN CATHOLIC

[quote][INDENT]Roman Catholic

Main Entry: 1Roman Catholic
Function: noun
: a member of the Roman Catholic Church

Main Entry: 2Roman Catholic
Function: adjective
: of, relating to, or being a Christian church having a hierarchy of priests and bishops under the pope, a liturgy centered in the Mass, veneration of the Virgin Mary and saints, clerical celibacy, and a body of dogma including transubstantiation and papal infallibility[/INDENT]

Does this help at all at giving you a better understanding?

God Bless!


The Catholic Church has never referred to herself as the Roman Catholic Church.

Since Catholic means universal, when the Protestants broke away from the universal Catholic Church, they still confess to believe in one holy catholic church. So they needed to rename the Catholic Church to the Roman Catholic Church.

Some do not mind the name as evidenced by a Catholic Church that even embraced it in it’s name. But it is a name placed upon the Catholic Church by the reformers.

But as I already said, the Catholic Church has NEVER referred to herself in any official church documents as the “Roman” Catholic Church.

God bless,


While I think you’ve probably got the gist of it by now, a real world, easy to understand model is “I’m a Roman Catholic, which means I’m a part of the Catholic church”.

Roman is a church of the Latin Rite within Catholicism. (If I recall correctly). There are also Byzantine Catholics and Armenian Catholics and quite a few others.


Hi Ricko,

I never used to use the term Roman Catholic until about five years ago when I entered a French Canadian Public Chat room titled: “Catholique”.
Of course, I assumed the participants were in union with Rome.
Big mistake.
During conversations about prayers, I mentioned the “Hail Mary”.
Oh man, they were all over me - insisting that Mary is dead; she can’t hear us; I have to go right to Jesus, etc…
Well, I sent someone (who spoke/understood English) a PM, asking: “Isn’t this a Catholic Chat room?”.
The reply I got was, "Yes, catholic as in the “universal Christian Church”. Obviously, they were not in union with Rome.

Anyway, ever since that episode, I refer to myself as ***Roman ***Catholic in order to avoid such unpleasant scenes like that in the future.
Personally, I’m not offended by the word. However, I am offended by those who use the word “papist” to describe my Catholicism.
I consider that quite derogatory.

God Bless! :slight_smile:


Ask a (Roman) Catholic and s/he will say, "No."
Ask anyone else, and s/he will say, “Yes.”

See this thread, which covered the answer somewhat more effectively, I think, than it is being covered here.




There ARE, of course, Roman Catholics. The live in the capital of Italy:D .


The Roman Rite of the Catholic Church has referred to herself as “the Roman Church” in reference to Orthodoxy or the Eastern Catholics. Of course the church’s official name as “The One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church” is different from how the Church refers to herself inside the Catholic Church as a whole. The term Roman Catholic is not entirely negative as it helps distinguish the churches within the Catholic Church. There are 22 churches within the Catholic union, the Roman Church being the largest. Others include the Coptic Catholic Church, Ethiopic Catholic Church, Maronite Catholic Church, Syrian Catholic Church, Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, Armenian Catholic Church, Chaldean Catholic Church, Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, Albanian Byzantine Catholic Church, Belarusian Greek Catholic Church, Bulgarian Greek Catholic Church, Greek Byzantine Catholic Church, Hungarian Greek Catholic Church, Italo-Albanian Catholic Church, Macedonian Greek Catholic Church, Melkite Greek Catholic Church, Russian Byzantine Catholic Church, Ruthenian Catholic Church, Slovak Greek Catholic Church, and the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. All of the listed bodies are as Catholic as the “Roman Catholics.”


Here are some articles about the name of the church.

The first one is from the ewtn web site.

And here is one from the catholic encyclopedia


Furthermore, in the encyclicals Divini illius Magistri and Humani generis the term “Roman Catholic Church” has been used to refer to the whole Church in communion with Rome. The use of “Roman Catholic” is not a Protestant invention, it has existed long before that rift in Catholicism. Granted, some Protestants do use it in a negative light, yet it is not used as such in ecumenical conversation or between Catholics, Orthodox Easter Catholics etc.


Respectfully, this is not true. It is in fact a Protestant invention and is only used by the Catholic Church on occassion when refering to them and what they say about the Church. It is ironic that the Catholic Church will do this and respect and understand that non-Catholic Christians call the Catholic Church “Roman Catholic” but it has never existed from the Church herself and has never given over the right to call herself the Church or the Catholic church.

Please provide a source from before the Reformation in which the Catholic Church ever called herself Roman Catholic.

Go and read the articles. Throughout Catholic Church is refers to herself as simply the Church, or Catholic Church. It is only when you get to point #27 of Humani Generis when the Church is explaining how non-Catholics talk about the Church that Roman Catholic is used.

The Catholic Church has never refered to herself in internal documents as the the Roman Catholic Church. If the Eastern rites refer to Roman Catholic it is only to identify that they are speaking about Latin Rite rather than any other rite.

Even in joint documents with Protestants, the Catholic Church usually uses the designation of Catholic Church and rarely uses the term Roman Catholic.

Respectfully, you are incorrect and contradict the information in the article links that have been provided.

God Bless,


My point was not directed towards Protestant-Catholic relations, as the Protestants have obviously used the term in a negative standpoint, rather, they where about Eastern Christian relations. I was specifically referencing the term “Roman Church” rather than “Roman Catholic” which is used to distinguish within the Catholic Church. I can give you one of the earliest sources from Christian history, the Second Council of Nicea, written by Pope Hadrian himself.

“If you persevere in that orthodox Faith in which you have begun, and the sacred and venerable images be by your means erected again in those parts, as by the lord, the Emperor Constantine of pious memory, and the blessed Helen, who promulgated the orthodox Faith, and exalted the holy **Catholic and Apostolic Roman Church **your spiritual mother, and with the other orthodox Emperors venerated it as the head of all Churches, so will your Clemency, that is protected of God, receive the name of another Constantine, and another Helen, through whom at the beginning the holy Catholic and Apostolic Church derived strength, and like whom your own imperial”

Granted, this could be referred to as the “rite” statement, yet this is using the traditional “Catholic and Apostolic” title and is in reference to the Church herself. A rite by definition is an order of service for celebrating a particular sacrament(s) which is not being used here. Semantics, but nonetheless present.

Despite this, your objections to what I have said are off from my Eastern point. I completely agree with you in regards to the Protestant factor.

God Bless.


For those who hold a belief in the universal/supreme jurisdiction of the Pope there is no difference. For those who believe that jurisdiction is a matter of collegiality (the other four ancient Patriarchates, among others, who, by the way, still operate collegially) the use of the term “Roman” is simply a qualifier. Then there are those of us “small-fry” out here who are waiting for both the East and the West to get their acts together and make their submission to us:D



Amen, brother.

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