what is the difference?

What’s the difference between the term Roman Church and Latin church? I have seen the early Church Fathers identify the western church the Roman Church, and many Western Churches are identified Roman Catholic because they are Catholic Churches that belong to the Roman Church, so why does the catechism use the term " Latin Church "?

Roman Church and Latin church= No difference


May the SACRED HEART BLESS YOU and make You a Saint as You come home to the Catholic Church!!

Sorry to derail the thread, I just had to welcome You!!

The Latin Church is a specific official term which denotes the largest Church in the Catholic communion, the one which uses the Roman Rite.

The Roman Church is a shorthand for referring to the Catholic Church. It may refer to the Latin Church alone, or it may refer to the whole communion of Churches, but it is ambiguous because it just means that the Church is based in Rome.

Actually, the term Roman Church by the Fathers, denotes the church of Rome, that is the diocese of Rome.

Within the Catholic Church, the term Latin Church, used as official and legal name for church sui iuris which the Bishop of Rome acts as its patriarch (not to confuse his role as the supreme pontiff of the whole Catholic Church). This Latin Church, uses several rites, for extensive degree using the Roman rite, alongside several other rites (Bragan, Mozarabic, Ambrosian, religious orders’ rite, and some uses of the Roman rite).

The term Roman Catholic Church, is unofficial name, coined by non-Catholic to call the Catholic Church.

If you look at Church history, there really is not “official name” used by anyone for much of it. Followers of Christ were always called something by someone, and it kind of stuck. Back then they just say, “the Church in Jerusalem” or “the Church in Antioch”. In Antioch the term “Christian” was first used in reference to the followers of Christ. But this was meant to be a derogatory term and often used in slurs. You will see in Scripture that even later on in Acts, St. Paul still refers to himself as being part of “The Way” rather than calling himself a Christian.

Catholic and Orthodox also weren’t names of the Church. They simply say, “the Church in Rome” or “the Church in Constantinople”. Catholic was an attribute of the Church and Orthodox was an attribute of the faith. The Orthodox still retain that understanding today. They are called the Orthodox Church because they are the Church with the orthodox faith. There is no big-O and small-O for the Orthodox, they are one and the same. Same when we see the Church Fathers speak about the “catholic church”. No distinction between small or big “C” in both words. It is synonymous.

“The Latins” seem to be a derogatory term from the Greeks. I’ve read some of the early canons by the Eastern Churches even prior to the Great Schism but at a time when tension was building. The Fathers of those councils would refer to those in the Roman Church as “the Latins” in a very derogatory tone. Like, “we are going to do it this way because it is the correct way, unlike those Latins”. It was almost like “Latins” was meant to sound like “Nestorians” or “Donatists”. A label on a group of heretics.

So before you say “Roman Catholic is derogatory so we call ourselves Latin,” think again.

The Code of Canon Law of 1983 adopted the name Latin Church over Roman Church as the legal name for the Western Church, because Pope Paul VI realized that the term “Roman” no longer really described the Western Church. It was he who started to use the term Latin Church in any official documents.

The reason is actually quite simple. Originally, Roman Catholics came from the Roman Empire. In the 20th century, this was no longer the case. Asia, Africa, Oceania and the Americas are home to many Western Catholics who are not descendants of the Roman empire. The same is probably true of most of Northern Europe. especially the Slavic and Baltic countries. Their heritage is no truly Roman and their cultures are not truly Roman.

Roman would be more France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Romania and some of the outposts such as Britain, parts of Germany and parts of North Africa.

With the advent of the American Revolution, there followed the Revolutions of South America as well. The Roman Church was always suspect. Faithful Catholics were treated with suspicion out of a false belief that they have more fidelity to the pope than to the nation. The truth was that faithful Catholics were faithful to the Gospel and when the new governments transgressed the Gospel, they resisted. But they were no less patriotic than other nationals, be they Americans, Canadians, Venezuelans, Mexicans, or Australians.

Over the centuries, many Roman Catholics were influenced by the political environment of the new nations of the Post Columbian era, to the point that they compartamentalized their faith. This is still the case today. The want to put bishops and Church into a box where they should only speak about heaven and hell, but never about poverty, racism, materialism, exploitation, human trafficking, and other immoral issues in our society. In other words, Roman Catholics adopted the Protestant mindset. “The Church must submit to the state and limit her field of action according to the wishes of the democracy.” The term Roman Catholic took on a very negative meaning and still does, especially in the media.

Latin Catholic is faithful to the roots of the Church in the Latin world, while at the same time, it does not link Catholicism with any empire. The term Latin Catholic really describes a people from a particular faith community, but diverse political and ethnic communities.

Pope Paul VI had almost finished the revision of Canon Law when he died in 1978. Bl. John Paul II called the canonists back to Rome to finish the job. In 1983, he promulgated the new code. The first Canon calls the Roman Catholic Church, the Latin Church. Nowhere in the canons is the term Roman Catholic ever used again. The term Roman has been set aside to refer to one of the many Latin Rites: Roman Rite, Ambrosian Rite, Mozarabic Rite, Carthusian Rite, Dominican Rite, Bragan Rite, and Carmelite Rite.


Br. JR, FFV :slight_smile:

Thanks brother! I didn’t know that!

Perhaps that historical baggage exists (like, “those Greeks!”).
Yet, that is the legal and official name of the biggest sui iuris church of in the Catholic communion: The Latin Church.
As Brother JR explained, this name is inscribed in the Canon Law (Canon 1), thus its proper name.

What I don’t understand is if Pope Paul VI changed the Western Church name from Roman to Latin, then why do Western Churches still use the term " Roman Catholic " to identify there Churches. For example " Saint Joseph Roman Catholic Chrch " Why not " Saint Joseph Latin Catholic Church?

That’s easy to explain. Take this example. If you read the passport of any US Citizen, that’s exactly what it says.

Citizenship: US

It does not say Citizenship: American

Why not?

  1. America is a continent that crosses the Equator into northern and southern hemisphere. Therefore, everyone from this continent or two, whichever way you want to divide it, is American.

  2. America is not our legal name. We’re the United States OF America.

However, in out popular custom or habit, people around the world refer to the United States as America. We’ve inverted the terms. America is used to identify the country rather than the continent. To keep things straight, we have to place N. or S. before America when speaking of the continent.

Another example, the Franciscans. The order that everyone calls The Franciscans is not really that. Their actual name is the Friars Minor of the Leonine Union. Franciscan is every religious community that that has direct succession from St. Francis of Assisi. But most of us simply call them the Franciscans. Amongst Franciscans, we refer to them as the Observants, because of all the groups that were united by Pope Leo XIII, the Observants was the largest. The laity does not know this. The few that do know it, just ignore it like the rest of us. The term Franciscans is easier and more familiar. No one around here calls my community The Brothers of Life. We’re called The Franciscans. Our legal name is Fratres Franciscani Vitae (Franciscan Brothers of Life). It’s all about being very human.

Even the Eastern Catholics refer to the people of the West as The Roman Catholics. It takes years for people to catch on to things like this.


Br. JR, FFV :slight_smile:

Wow! So Roman Catholic is the knick name while Latin Church is the legal name, correct? What did Western Catholics identify themselves as before Pope Paul VI? What was the Legal name?

Why is it that I remember hearing the actual name of the Church was The Church of Christ? I also seem to remember hearing once that the term Catholic Church was originally created by detractors, yet the Church ended up embracing it and it has stuck after all of these years. Can someone verify or clarify this for me? I truly do not remember either source and have never heard it since, so I haven’t even shared it, but this seems like as good a time and thread as any other :wink:

Brother JR, something tells me you can help me with this one, :wink: :thumbsup:

I think the terms were used interchangably in the past. We have to also note that many legal/historical references to “Roman Church” actually refer specifically to the diocese of Rome - not the entire Latin Church. A Cardinal is a Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church because he is ceremonially incorporated into the clergy of the Diocese of Rome. Here, Holy Roman Church refers to the Diocese of Rome and not the entire Latin Church. Each cardinal is assigned a church in Rome to respect the ancient tradition that the clergy of Rome elect the pope. In terms of parishes named “Roman Catholic” you could also see it as a reference to the Rite…these are parishes of the Latin Church that use the Roman Rite. A parish of the Anglican Ordinariate, on the other hand, is also a parish of the Latin Church, but uses the Anglican Use of the Roman Rite and may prefer to identify itself as an “Anglican Catholic” church rather than a “Roman Catholic” church.

The Church has been called many things over the centuries. Originally, Christianity was known as The Way. Later it was known as Christianity. Later as catholic with a lower case “c” referring to the catholic in the creed.

It was during the Middle Ages that the term Roman Church came into use. By that time, the schisms between East and West were in full swing. The term became popular, because even though the Eastern Catholics who seceded from the Church were not Latin Catholics, but Eastern Catholics, their issue was one of resistance against Rome, not against the mother Church. For example, the Greek Orthodox have nothing against the Greek Catholics. They seceded from the Greek Catholics to avoid the Roman Catholics.

Over the centuries, the term Roman Catholic was used inappropriately to mean Catholicism, which is not the case at all. Vatican II was the first council to give proper attention to the Eastern Catholics and to acknowledge that they too are Catholics and that Roman Catholics do not have a monopoly on Catholicism.

My theory is that this was easier at Vatican II than any other council because the backgrounds of Bl. John XXIII and Pope Paul VI. Both had a lot of exposure to Eastern Catholics and to other Latin rites as well. Remember, Pope Paul was Archbishop of Milan. Milan did not use the Roman Rite mass. These men were very exposed to the diversity within the Church, probably more than their predecessors. They were well traveled, which was not the case with their predecessors.

It was logical that Pope Paul would be sensitive to the plight of the Eastern Catholics who always felt as foster children, given that everything that comes out of the Church is written in Latin and everything was sealed with “The Roman Church” or the “Roman Catholic Church”. Even catechisms taught children that the true Church of Jesus Christ was the Roman Catholic Church. If you were a Chaldean Catholic, you were not in the true Church, which is utter nonsense. If you look through the old catechisms, the term Roman Catholic Church is often present, rather than Catholic Church. We educated generations of Catholics to see Catholicism and Roman Catholicism as interchangeable.

It’s not a wonder that the term Roman Catholic became a dirty word in many parts of the world, including among Catholics. The Roman Catholics were looked upon as oppressive and still are by many Eastern Catholics and by many Protestants. The truth is that Roman Catholics were oppressive, not because they were Catholic, but because Europe was a military and economic power to be dealt with. What Church reigned in Europe? Guilty by association.

This is one of those areas where traditionalism has to be a little more sensitive. It is well to wish to recover and preserve tradition. It is also important not to lose our consciousness of the Eastern Churches. When traditionalism uses expressions such as “Eternal Rome” it sounds very arrogant to the Eastern Catholic ear. Sometimes, I see people make real silly statements such as, “Latin is God’s language.” I cringe when I read such things. There are other languages used in the Church that are older than Latin, including Arabic and Aramaic.

We have to be careful not to head in the same direction as we did during the Middle Ages, when terms like Catholic and Roman were associated with arrogance and with separatism. That’s how they became insulting terms.


Br. JR, FFV :slight_smile:

So even before VII was the western Church called Latin?

It was always the Latin Church, but in the Code of 1983, the name is legally used. This adaptation of the name Latin Church as the legal name came from Vatican II. I believe that we’re going to here this more and more, especially now that we have Eastern Catholic Cardinals.

Also, as of 1983, no group or institution may refer to itself as Catholic without the Church’s permission or you can be sued in court.


Br. JR, FFV :slight_smile:

Oh okay, I wonder if churches are gonna start calling itself Latin Catholic etc.

At least according to 1917 Code of Canon Law, yes.

Can. l. Licet in Codice iuris canonici Ecclesiae quoque Orientalis disciplina saepe referatur, ipse tamen unam respicit Latinam Ecclesiam, neque Orientalem obligat, nisi de iis agatur, quae ex ipsa rei natura etiam Orientalem afficiunt. (emphasis mine)

The difference between the Code of 1917 and the Code of 1983 is the absence of the term Roman Catholic and Roman Church in the Code of 1983. If I’m not mistaken, the term Roman Pontiff is used in the Code of 1917, but is nowhere in the Code of 1983.

I’ll have to look again. It’s been a long time since I have even since a Code of 1917. I’m sure we have one in the library. I was trained in it. To my chagrin. I finished my courses in Canon Law June 1983. :eek:

Had to start reading all over again. :sad_yes:


Br. JR, FFV :slight_smile:

So Catholics of the Latin church still continue calling themselves Roman Catholic, or is it now Latin?

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