What makes a Catholic a ''Roman'' Catholic?

What makes a Catholic a ‘‘Roman’’ Catholic? and what is the difference between a ‘‘Roman’’ Catholic and a ‘‘Latin’’ Catholic?

God bless


We belong to the Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. The tag Roman was used to distinguish the true Church from Henry the Eight’s Anglican Church by Anglicans who liked to call themselves Catholic. Their reformation was from the top down and there was great hatred and oppression of Catholics in Britain until well into the 1800’s legally. A catholic could not own property (and thus could not vote); join the military, or certain professions and many Catholic priests under Elizabeth 1 were martyred, along with early martyrs like Fisher and More. The term Roman was disparaging and thus Catholics are adverse to use it preferring to distinguish their Rite as Latin, as compared to Coptic etc.
As the Anglican Church moved slowly from the ground root of their Catholic past, and have over the last hundred years becoming less and less founded in their beliefs from the Bible, eg women and openly homosexual priests, they use less the title Catholic thus making redundant the title Roman for the real Catholics.
I think everyone knows what you mean when you say you are Catholic, so the term Roman is part of history in most countries.

These terms are interchanged a lot by people. Technically, all Roman Catholics are Latin Catholics because the Roman rite is a ‘latin rite’ (as in, not Eastern Catholic)

In common practice, however, I’ve seen people refer to themselves as Roman Catholic when they follow the Ordinary Form and Latin Catholic when they follow the tridentine (extraordinary form). It’s an artificial division, because they’re both different forms of the same rite, but I suppose it’s faster to say you’re latin Catholic than it is to say "I attend the EF mass). It could also be because of the higher use of Latin in the EF.

Long story sort, the Roman rite is one of the Latin (not eastern Catholic) rites. In modern parlance though, some people make a distinction based on what form of the mass they favor. ‘Catholic’ in itself means just that, you’re labeling yourself as part of the one true church, but not elaborating on which of the accepted rites you adhere to.

My experience as a 52 year old life long Catholic is that the use of the term ‘Roman Catholic’ is a pejorative use. It had traditionally been used by Protestants to signify Catholics who held the Pope in Rome as the head of the Church as opposed to themselves who’d rejected the seat of Peter in Rome.

I remember when I was young my mother often correcting people who used the term ‘Roman Catholic’ by saying we are not Roman Catholic, we are all Catholic. Contrary to that term, ‘catholic’ specifically signified that Christ the Saviour was sent to all people and as His followers, we all share in the family inheritance of His legacy. It is an insult to identify as a separate faith to all Catholics.

I’m not sure I agree, really. I mean, perhaps in another time it was pejorative, but nowadays even the dioceses of the Roman Rite themselves identify themselves as a Roman Catholic diocese/archdiocese. I see no more insult in referring to onesself as Roman Catholic than there would be in an Eastern Rite follower referring to themselves as Eastern Catholic or more specifically by their rite (Chaldean Catholic, Maronite Catholic, etc) Sure, we are all Catholic, but to pretend that we don’t have different liturgical practices is in itself insulting, in my opinion. The beauty of our church is that we HAVE those different liturgical practices and yet we are all Catholic and we are all members of the same communion with the Church that Jesus established. It is simply helpful at times to specify which accepted liturgical practice one adheres to.

They are the same. No differences. The “Roman” Catholic follows the Latin Rite and it can be in Extraordinary Form (Latin Tridintine Mass) or Ordinary Form (Novus Ordo Mass).

I believe you may be speaking from an American experience, whereas sectarianism, arising from a British heritage, such as Australia, was found in the title Roman, from the history expressed in my previous post. (Note the tern is considered disparaging in the two Australian posts.) Thus there may well be a cultural difference in the etymology.:smiley:

To add in a bit more confusion, the Roman Rite (EF/OF) is just one of the Latin Rites. It isn’t the only one. For instance, the Mozarabic Rite and the Ambrosian Rite are both Latin Rites.

This is an easy one. The term Roman Catholic was brought into use in the 17th century to differentiate the two types of Christians - those in communion with Rome and the Pope and those who’d broken this communion. All Catholics became referred to as Roman Catholics. The term Latin Catholic is a different differentiation. This one has to do with the Rite the individual has been Baptized into. There are 23 valid Rites in the Church, i.e. Maronite, Ambrosian, Ruthenian, and they are generally called the Eastern Rites as a whole and we using the Novus Ordo are called the Latin Rite Church or the Western Rite Church (meaning the same Rite). So, the division is between Latin Rite Catholics (the NO) and those of the Eastern Rites (the other 23 Rites).

There is also a third differentiation, and that term applies to the actual Rites used for the celebration of Mass, not the particular Rite any one person belongs to. I was Baptized into the Latin Rite as most are. If I’d have gone to a different place for my instruction, I would’ve been Baptized into a different Rite, but I’m still a Catholic. I’m a Catholic of the Latin Rite and a Roman Catholic. I could be a Roman Catholic of the Ambrosian Rite. and that’s pretty much how it works.

Some folks change Rites within the Church, usually for marriage reasons, but they remain Roman Catholics to outsiders no matter which Rite they belong to and practice the disciplines of. Hope this helps.



Hello Eltoro.

I agree 100% and considering the delineation these days between Faithful Catholic and Dissenting Catholics, perhaps the term Roman Catholic has a deeper meaning even among us Catholics. I see the term “R.C.” in front of the word “Catholic” on more than one sign in front of a Catholic Church and perhaps these days of dissent among Catholics of all stripes and Rites is the reason the Pastor at that particular place uses the term on his Parish’s signs.


Best explanation so far. I keep learning.

EWTN has many posts on this.

A “Roman Catholic” is someone who adheres to the Roman Rite (which is most Catholics). A Latin Catholic is someone who identifies with one of the several Latin Rites:

Roman (the Roman Rite has a few Uses and Forms):
— Ordinary Form
— Extraordinary Form
— Anglican Use
— Zaire Use (not sure if really licit or not)
Dominican (used on special occasions)
Carmelite (used for Mass by the Carmelite Monks in Wyoming who bring us Mystic Monk coffee)

There also used to be several other Rites in Northern Europe which where ended after the Council of Trent (those Rites were rather new at the time of the Council)

Also the African Rite of the Latin Church died out from the Muslim conquest of Northwestern Africa.


  • So a Catholic is someone who is part of the Catholic Church, in communion with the Bishop of Rome (Latin Catholic or Eastern Catholic… All Rites and Churches)

  • A Latin Catholic is someone who identifies with one of the several Latin Rites (note: there is no rite called the Latin Rite, no matter what some may say… There are a group of Latin Rites)

  • Finally, a Roman Catholic is someone is is a member of the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church.

NOTE: a few of the reasons why the Anglicans started calling us “Roman Catholic” was:

  1. they wanted to hold on to the Catholic name
  2. they resented the fact that the Council of Trent declared the many British Rites/Uses void and forced the Roman Rite on them. I.E:
    — Durham Rite
    — Sarum Rite
    — Use of York


Eastern Rite call us Roman Catholic. they are Catholic but not Roman Catholic. I prefer Catholic for all of us.


There have been a number of discussions on CAF’s “Eastern Catholicism” section on this topic (which you could probably find easily) but generally “Roman Catholic” is a shortened form of Roman-Rite Catholic (RRC).

Actually, the term “Roman Catholic” has been used as a self-identifying label by Catholics for a very long time. Indeed, the term shows up more than 400 times on the Vatican’s own site.

While some Catholics do have an aversion to it, others evidently do not.

When the Vatican uses “Roman Catholic” they are usually (not always, but usually) referring to one of the following:

  1. referring to the Roman Rite part of the Church
  2. referring to the Diocese of Rome

For example: talking about Catholic and Protestant or Catholic and Old Catholic reunification, documents will often refer to the “Roman Catholic Church” because (1) they all broke away from the Roman Rite and if ever reunited, would most likely be reunited to the Roman Rite.

Example 2: whenever the docs mention the “Cardinals of the Holy Roman Catholic Church” or (more properly) the Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church, they are referring to the Diocese of Rome. Cardinals only play an official role for the Diocese of Rome, which is why all Cardinals are assigned a Church in the Diocese of Rome, so that they are officially clergy of the Diocese of Rome.

In regards to the Baltimore Catechism, it was written in the United States. American Catholics are less adverse to the term “Roman Catholic” because we have many different schism groups here: Old Catholic Church, Polish National Catholic Church, American Catholic Church, Liberal Catholic Church, Anglican Catholic Church, Holy Catholic Church Anglican Rite church, etc.

Not to mention the Eastern Catholics who we are in communion with.

Most of the Catholic Nations don’t have this much “diversity”

God bless

Hello Phil.

When they use the term Roman Rite in referring to Liturgy, they mean the Novus Ordo. I am a Latin Rite Catholic and also a Roman Catholic. I adhere to the Latin Rite/Roman Rite for my worship and disciplines. That means I go to the Novus Ordo. Generally speaking the Roman Rite and Latin Rite are one in the same and when spoken of they are interchangeable in the context in which they are used. When speaking of those who are not using the Novus Ordo, they tend to specifiy the exact Rite, i.e. Ambrosian, Maronite, Tridentine, etc. But in general when the Vatican is talking Liturgy they are talking the Roman Rite which is the Latin Rite and both refer to the Novus Ordo.


In England, since the middle of the sixteenth century, indignant protests have been constantly made against the “exclusive and arrogant usurpation” of the name Catholic by the Church of Rome. The Protestant, Archdeacon Philpot, who was put to death in 1555, was held to be very obstinate on this point (see the edition of his works published by the Parker Society); and among many similar controversies of a later date may be mentioned that between Dr. Bishop, subsequently vicar Apostolic, and Dr. Abbot, afterwards Bishop of Salisbury, regarding the “Catholicke Deformed”, which raged from 1599 to 1614. According to some, such combinations as Roman Catholic, or Anglo-Catholic, involve a contradiction in terms. (See the Anglican Bishop of Carlisle in “The Hibbert Journal”, January, 1908, p. 287.) From about the year 1580, besides the term papist, employed with opprobrious intent, the followers of the old religion were often called Romish or Roman Catholics.


Thurston, H. (1908). Catholic. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
Nihil Obstat. November 1, 1908. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor.
Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

Latin Church
The Latin Church is simply that vast portion of the Catholic body which obeys the Latin patriarch, which submits to the pope, not only in papal, but also in patriarchal matters. It is thus distinguished from the Eastern Churches (whether Catholic or Schismatic), which represent the other four patriarchates (Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem), and any fractions broken away from them. The Latin patriarchate has always been considerably the largest.


Fortescue, A. (1910). Latin Church. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
Nihil Obstat. October 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, Censor.
Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York.

Roman Catholic
A qualification of the name Catholic commonly used in English-speaking countries by those unwilling to recognize the claims of the One True Church. Out of condescension for these dissidents, the members of that Church are wont in official documents to be styled “Roman Catholics” as if the term Catholic represented a genus of which those who owned allegiance to the pope formed a particular species. It is in fact a prevalent conception among Anglicans to regard the whole Catholic Church as made up of three principal branches, the Roman Catholic, the Anglo-Catholic and the Greek Catholic. As the erroneousness of this point of view has been sufficiently explained in the articles CHURCH and CATHOLIC, it is only needful here to consider the history of the composite term with which we are now concerned.


Thurston, H. (1912). Roman Catholic. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
Nihil Obstat. February 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, D.D., Censor.
Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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