In Defense Of The Word "CATHOLIC"


Many Protestants and even many Catholics refer to the Church as “Roman Catholic” incorrectly. I can understand Protestants making that mistake but there is no excuse for Catholics. Please read the link. I hope and pray that my fellow Catholics will learn the correct name of their own church.


You are of course correct. However, you are fighting against tradition. Many generations have referred to the “Catholic Church” as the “Roman Catholic Church”. It is not necessarily pejorative. I recall thinking nothing but very respectful thoughts about the “Roman Catholic Church” as a child. It conveyed a sense of history and majesty and was very clear that the Holy Father was the temporal head of that Church.

The problem with “Catholic” is that is is used by dozens of groups ranging from quirky to denominations that the Roman Catholic Church recognizes as having valid orders such as the Old Catholic Church (historical one in Europe) and the Polish National Catholic Church. Both of those would be able to legitimately say they were “Catholic”. Many Anglicans refer to themselves as “Catholic”. And I seem to recall the Orthodox say they are THE Catholic Church.

Same problem with Protestants. Many modern Christians would find that term pejorative as they are just “Christians” and eschew denominational labels and see themselves as simply practicing biblical Christianity. Not to mention that Bishop Kallistos Ware notes the 19th century Russian Theologian who referred to the Pope (and the RCC) and the first Protestant (since from EO point of view they invented new doctrines and left the other Patriarchs). Before anyone gets testy, I am not saying I believe this.

My thing is to attempt to be respectful and try to refer to people in the way that they appreciate. It is just easier to say “Roman Catholic” and be specific than “Catholic (in Union with Rome)”.
Similarly, an Orthodox clergyman of rank above a simple priest (IIRC) noted that from the Eastern Orthodox point of view neither the Catholics nor Anglicans had valid orders as only the Eastern Orthodox church does. So when approached, as he invariably was by people, asking whether they (EO) considered the person’s orders valid (usually when he was at dinner parties) he would say “in your denomination I believe they are valid”. Again, a way of being respectful.


I guess I’m just not getting it. I have always thought the term Roman Catholic more majestic and historic than mere Catholic which is a generic term to me.


My thing is to attempt to be respectful and try to refer to people in the way that they appreciate.

It is also considered respectful to call a person, organization or church by its proper name and not a made up one. It is incorrect and bad manners to call you Rev. South when that is not your name. Even if I can invent several reasons for doing so that would not justify my changing your name.


Spirit you are correct in that you are not getting it as so many others. The correct name of the Church is Catholic. That should be sufficient with most people. No matter whether you like the, as you call it, “majestic” way or not does not matter. If you are a Catholic then you should know that Catholic is not a generic title.
Only when the Reformation occurred did the name Catholic become a problem. Everyone wanted to keep it and use it for their church as they knew what it represented. Lutherns have it in their creed (actually our creed) and some other churches. Some are now changing that creed to read “One Holy Christian…” church dropping the Catholic but the Catholic Church has been called that since the first century.


Just got done watching a great program on EWTN on the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham (England). Fascinating story.

In any case, there was a large sign on the Catholic Shrine that said something like …“Welcome to the Roman Catholic National Shrine…”

Ricko - While I may agree with you as I point out:

Roman Catholic

a) Has entered into language both within Official circles and without.

b) As I noted in an earlier reply it has majesty

c) As I also noted with specific examples earlier, is FAR more descriptive than Catholic since that term is legitimately used by many other groups and as descriptors for things that are NOT the Roman Catholic Church.

I fully support your right to use the term “Catholic Church” just as I do the Anglicans, the Polish National Catholic Church, the Old Catholics (Union of Utrecht) and the Eastern Orthodox to also refer to themselves as the “Catholic Church”.


Our Lady Shrine is a figure of Our Lady of Walsingham, for whom the asst. Priest has a special devotion.


Anglicanus Catholicus


You Can Lead A Horse To Water…

In any case, there was a large sign on the Catholic Shrine that said something like …“Welcome to the Roman Catholic National Shrine…”

That’s the whole point. Even some uninformed Catholics do not realized that that are calling the Church by the wrong name. Lack of knowledge or indifference. Those Catholics who know better but give in to such a thing, well they should be ashamed of themselves. If those of you who do call the Church by its improper name would cease and use the correct title then you would not see signs such as you mentioned. If you are not ashamed I certainly am for you. :frowning:


I think of the Roman Catholic Church as just one of the 20-odd Churches in the Catholic Church, i.e. the Latin Rite. I’d think of Greek Catholics, Maronites etc as Catholic but not Roman Catholic. May not be the right word but sounds right to me, though I always refer to the Catholic Church as a whole


This hits the nail on the head, as far as I’m concerned. Using just “Catholic” is not accurate enough to specify which church I’m speaking of.

To those who take offense at the use of “Roman Catholic” – What other accurate adjective would you prefer people to add to Catholic to appropriately discern your church from the other churches which call themselves Catholic, or in some other way consider themselves to be a part of the universal (catholic) church?


No need to be ashamed for me. I belong to the Roman Catholic Church and that is its correct designation. I am not an Eastern Catholic. Yes, we are all Catholic but this nuance is a necessary distinction for obvious reasons. I am quite proud, thank you very much…God Bless…teachccd :slight_smile:




By the way, the question in my last post was not rhetorical. If we can come up with a term which is not offensive to Roman Catholics (that is, members of the church which calls itself Catholic and is headquartered in Rome) which also keeps at bay the confusion between the RCC and other “Catholic” churches, I’m more than willing to at least try to compromise on the issue.


I would suggest “Roman and Eastern Catholic Churches” as the most descriptive term.

I have also used Catholic® as a way of expressing how the Roman and Eastern Catholic Churches have pretty successfully cornered the market on the term “Catholic” in pop culture.


Hi just a quick, and hopefully related question:

I’m sure you’re all aware that the word “Catholic” is derived from a Greek word katholikos meaning “universal”, just as the word “baptize” was derived from a Greek word baptizo meaning “to dip or immerse”.

Is anyone aware of when the tendency began to use the term “Catholic” as more of a brand (for lack of a better term, Catholic® as Againor put it) in preference to “believers”, “disciples” or “Christians”.

We see in the book of Acts where and when the term “Christian” began to be used (Antioch, Acts 11:26), I was wondering if someone could show me the transition to the use of “Catholic” as a proper adjective rather than simply meaning “universal”. Thanks! :slight_smile:


I think when people hear or use the term “Roman Catholic” they automatically think of the Roman Emperor Constantine as its founder who started it in the 300’s when he made being Christian legal.

By calling Her the Catholic Church you are more accurate.
For since the early writtings of St. Igantius and later by St.Augustine
She was called Catholic.

one Lord. one Faith,one body,one church,one baptism, one name.


Roman Catholic refers to the Roman or Latin i.e., occidental rite of the Church. this is in contrast to the Byzantine or oriental rite Churches in union with Rome.
Deacon Ed B


How about THE Catholic Church? Others can try to appropriate that claim, but there is only one.


I use the term “Roman Catholic” for the same reason as you. Where I live, there are many Ukranianian Catholic, Byzantine Catholic, Maronite Catholic, Melkite Catholic, etc. parishes. If I want people to know which kind of Catholic parish I go to, I will say “Roman Catholic”.

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