How/why the Catholic Church is not a denomination?

Hey everyone. I have heard it said before that the Catholic Church is not a denomination. I agree with this because I know it is orthodox theology but I do not know how/why the Catholic Church isn’t a denomination. Could someone please explain this to me? Is it because the Catholic Church is the original Church and didn’t split from any other church?

Denominations are an offshoot of the original. The Apostolic Churches (Catholic, Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Assyrian) are of true apostolic lineage, thus bearers of the true faith.

Denomination means renamed. We were never renamed.

Technically we are. The Apostles called their “group” as The Way. Later on in Antioch, the followers of Christ were called Christians. Then even later on, Catholic and Orthodox were originally adjectives to describe the Church (catholic, universal) and the faith (orthodox, true, correct). Only after the schisms did those adjectives become nouns.

True. The word also shares the same root as “denominator” (the bottom number in a fraction, which is the number of fractional parts).

The Catholic Church is whole. Denominations are fractional parts.

We are not a divided church, we are one. Brothers and Sisters, let us pray for this awareness.

Jesus prayed that his Church would be one, not 30+thousands!

My understanding is that it actually indicates having been named, in which case the Catholic Church is certainly a denomination.

But this is a very silly semantic game over which to quibble.

To its credit, Wikipedia has an excellent article on this, which I encourage everyone to read:

Ever since the year 325 we believe in unam, sanctam, cathólicam et apostólicam Ecclésiam. The Orthodox church - though not yet in full communion with the Catholic church - still professes to be part of the one Catholic church.

All other Christian communities are still part of the “one Church” which is the mystical body of Christ, to which belong all baptized. But the fullness of the Church subsists in the Catholic church, in which we are “one flock with one shepherd”.

“Denomination” can mean a lot of things. It’s a vague term, and I don’t think it’s a term addressed in any official Catholic teaching. (I may be wrong on that.)

If it simply means “a religious organization,” obviously the Catholic Church is one (though one could quibble about the “sui juris churches” and argue that the Catholic Church is actually 23 denominations!).

But the term has a fairly specific, narrow historical meaning. The roots of denominationalism, many would say, lie in 17th-century England with the collapse of the Church of England’s attempt to unify all English Christians under one ecclesiastical roof. Dissenting churches were reluctantly recognized, and political thinkers began to articulate the idea that it was a good thing to have multiple expressions of Christianity within a nation.

In America, this theory found its fulfillment, with the First Amendment’s disestablishment clause.

In America, a “denomination” came to be defined as one particular organization of Christians among others, none of them claiming to be the Church and all of them cooperating insofar as their differing views allowed. Denominationalism in the narrow sense means that multiple parallel organizations are accepted as the norm, with people choosing the one that best fits them.

In that sense the Catholic Church is clearly not a denomination.

As I said above, you could argue that the “sui juris churches” are denominations. Religious orders are clearly different from denominations, but in some ways function similarly. The recent invention of the “personal prelature” marks another kind of ecclesiastical organization that is somewhat like a denomination.

Catholics are often confused about this because on the one hand they claim not to be a denomination, while on the other mistakenly assuming that each Protestant denomination claims to be what the Catholic Church claims to be.


Well, the communion of the 24 sui iuris churches is the Catholic church, and they are not denominations, but autonomous particular churches that “share a specific liturgical, theological and canonical tradition”. The Latin Rite or Latin Church is the largest sui iuris church. At a further subdivision we have the local particular churches such as the individual dioceses…

There is a nice explanation of the unity of the one Church founded by Christ and on its subsistence in the Catholic church here.

A religious order or, rather, institute, may be under the supervision of the bishop or of the Holy See itself.

A personal prelature is similar to a diocese, but the latter covers a territory, the former persons, regardless of their location (from this comes the name personal). In it, clergy or lay faithful carry out specific pastoral activities. The only one so far is the Opus Dei, under the governance of a prelate bishop appointed by the Pope, and is subject to the Congregation for Bishops, one of the 9 Congregations of the of the Roman Curia, the central administrative organism of the Catholic Church.

Yes, but it’s the kind of thing we like to do around here.

Yup, take away the wordplay and CAF collapses into about 3 pages. :D:D:D:D

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