Catholicism is not a denomination - do I understand correctly?

Hello! Recently a Protestant friend and I were discussing some of the beliefs of the Catholic Church. She saw Catholicism as one denomination of Christianity among many, while I saw it as the Universal Church - not a denomination, but rather the unity of Christian churches in communion with Rome. (I have heard that the term ‘denomination’ implies schism or seperation, in a way; it means ‘to take a new name’.)

Do I understand this correctly? I’m new to Catholicism and I don’t want to explain it to others more badly than I have to.

(Apologies ahead of time if I’ve posted in the wrong forum - I thought that the thread fit in with “comparing and contrasting beliefs”.)

For most or many Protestants, the Catholic church is just one “tradition” of Christianity among many…Methodists are another…Anglicans are another…Lutherans are another…Orthodox are another…“denomination” are all…though a few would not accept the appelation…Catholics among them.

Yes. Your explanation is perfect. Catholicism existed before any Christian denomination (Catholicism was Christianity, as per the early Church Fathers, etc.) for centuries. The Church compiled the Bible, etc. All Protestant denominations owe their beginnings to the Catholic Church.

There are denominations, yes, and there is the Catholic Church, the one Universal church comprising of 23 sui iuris (particular) churches, all in communion under the Vicar of Christ, and “God’s representative” the Holy Father.

The denominations are only “ecclesial communities” because they have not valid orders.

The Orthodox have valid orders, and even though are schismatic, are an apostolic Church with valid sacraments, and we pray for reunification.

It is really difficult to wrap my head around the concept that the denominations are not really churches at all! Especially when the sign over the door says …Church, etc.

The mutual excommunications of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches were lifted in 1965.

It might be preferable to avoid the use of the term “schismatic” in describing the current state of relations between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches.

We do indeed pray for full reunification, but should also recognize the great progress in dialogue that has occurred over the past several decades.

Since Catholicism is THE original Church, it cannot come FROM another Christian Church. Christ only established one Church, not thousands. And, this Church, the Catholic Church, is the Mystical Body of Christ. Christ has only one body.

For the first 1000 years of Christianity, if one was Christian, one was Catholic. There was nothing else with regard to Christianity. Then, in 1054 A.D., the Orthodox split off. But, they retained apostolic succession, and, therefore, all seven Sacraments.

Not until 1517 A.D., did Protestantism come into being, and it has been splintering ever since into literally thousands of man-made, doctrinally disunified, contradicting denominations.

Hey. Protestant here.

I think there are two ways to approach this question:

Within America Catholicism is considered a denomination because it is considered a “brand” of Christianity. Whether or not it was the first or original brand would not be tied to this definition of denomination.

Secondly, I would say that I agree with Apostolic Succesion with the Orthodox and the Catholics, Protestantism was specifically began to go against (as we would argue) things that the Catholic church (at the time) was doing incorrectly. This for Protestants would mean that they would be within the Apostolic Succesion by Faith if not by order.:smiley:

Glad to have my first post!

Ah! Thank you for correcting me on that. You’re most certainly right! Thank you!

I know! But, does the First Foursquare United Gospel Association of Continuing Baptepresbytericostal Reforming Church really sound like they have valid orders?

I know what you mean though, I just like making up overly-exaggerated names, that’s all. Now the buildings they worship in are “churches” don’t get me wrong.

Remember the tv show “Lois and Clark”? It was a take-off of “Superman” Everytime the plot revolved around a “church” it was called “The First Church of the Blue Suede Shoes, Deliverance.”:slight_smile:

Never seen it before, but I’m going to watch it on YouTube now–just because of that :slight_smile:

I liked this explanation. :slight_smile:

Therefore, there exists a single Church of Christ, which subsists in the Catholic Church, governed by the Successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him. **The Churches which, while not existing in perfect communion with the Catholic Church, remain united to her by means of the closest bonds, that is, by apostolic succession and a valid Eucharist, are true particular Churches. **Therefore, the Church of Christ is present and operative also in these Churches, even though they lack full communion with the Catholic Church, since they do not accept the Catholic doctrine of the Primacy, which, according to the will of God, the Bishop of Rome objectively has and exercises over the entire Church.

On the other hand, the ecclesial communities which have not preserved the valid Episcopate and the genuine and integral substance of the Eucharistic mystery, are not Churches in the proper sense; however, those who are baptized in these communities are, by Baptism, incorporated in Christ and thus are in a certain communion, albeit imperfect, with the Church.Baptism in fact tends per se toward the full development of life in Christ, through the integral profession of faith, the Eucharist, and full communion in the Church.

***- Congregation For The Doctrine Of The Faith, “Dominus Iesus” On the Unicity and Savific Universality of Jesus Christ and The Church. Section 17 (Emphasis Added)

roma locuta est, causa finita est


You are correct in designating tradition however the question is denomination. Denomination is a Protestant thing. The best of my recollection that guy Guanaphore that I have not seen in awhile states that Protestants denominated from the OHCAC.:slight_smile:


You are incorrect. It is like this. McDonalds is in Rome and the franchises exist all over the world. The franchise in america is the same brand as the original brand in Rome…think of it like spokes on a wheel.:slight_smile:

Well I can put a sign on my door saying ‘Grand Supreme Dictator for Life of Planet Earth and Surrounding Districts’, but I doubt that fact makes it so. There’d probably be at least a few Martians or Venusians who might object :stuck_out_tongue:

Any Catholic who knows Latin (and anyone else who does) knows that denomination means “naming”. Catholics call themselves so because that is the kind of Christian they are. So obviously Catholic is a denomination.

What is important to realize is that the word denomination does not mean sect or division. It essentially mean adjective.


While this may be true to some extent…the reality is that words come into use and understanding by use…in other words “words” are introduced at various times based on usage…

In consideration that the word denomination came into use in the 15th century it should be noted that prior to that time there was no such thing as a religous denomination and by usage it has become a way of designating something that did not exist prior to that time.

The usage of the word while common does not make it correct. I like that old time religion and in that context denomination does not apply to the OHCAC in so far as the word exists in the world as a label of invention by usage that does not mean that it is a word that is necessarily accurate…

get my drift…I am not obligated to accept this word that did not exist in our language prior to the 15th century to describe something that happened after that.:slight_smile:

The point is that we need a word to describe the various expressions of the Christian religion. “We” meaning the greater society. In the United States, where Catholicism is the religion of a minority, however sizable, of Christians, it is just one voice proclaiming that Jesus Christ is Lord. So, what do you propose we, in a secular society, call the various groups that are based on the Christian religion? I would imagine that in countries where the Catholic church predominates, the term “the church” would probably work to describe it, just as “the church” used to mean “the Church of England” in that country.

In the United States, the term “the church” has a broader meaning, signifying the Christian community in general and in its relationship to the state. Indeed when we talk about separation of church and state we really include all religious groups including Jews, Muslims and Buddhists (and others) in the term “church”.

I actually get your point about the way words change from their etymological roots. My question remains, if not “denomination” then what?

The need of society to use language succinctly may from time to time get in the way of the theological, philosophical, philological, political or aesthetic scruples of one group or another. A case in point is the term, once used perjoritively “Obamacare”. During the congressional debate prior to the bill’s passage it was used only by opponents. Now, even President Obama himself uses the word.


I prefer to accept the OHCAC as unchanged and if you read Church documents then the Church is on to this notion “Gaudiem et spes”…The Church in the Modern World.

The Church exists in the world and what happens around it is relevant but does not change what it.

If someone takes the name Christian and uses it that does not mean that it is a Christian organization. I dare say Mormons in my opinion are not Christians.

If someone takes the name Church and uses it that does not make it a Church. Scientology declares itself to be a Chruch and in my opinion that does not make it the Church.

Protestants declare themselves to be Christian and the OHCAC recognizes them as Christians not because they say so rather because we accept the Trinitarin Baptism that as Paul says in Roman’s 6 incorporates them into the life and death of Christ. It also incorporates them into the mystrery, the Church, by which Gentiles are made fellow heirs with Christ.

Do I abrogate Paul because someone chooses not to know what it is they should know about the use of words or do I see through the Semantic problem of use as accepted by some but not by all. You may want to read Alfred Korzybski, Science and Sanity…the founding work for General Semantics. Here is the basic tenet.

The map is not the territory.

If you want to incorporate your understanding of words in your map…just know that it does not equate to the territory.

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