Why do Protestants always refer the Catholic Church as Roman Catholic Church?

Why do Protestants always refer the Catholic Church as Roman Catholic Church? When in fact that the Catholic Church itself consist of 23 Rites, 22 Eastern Rites and 1 Latin Rite?

For me, when I’ve have specified RCC, I was doing so because I thought that’s what it was. Especially with the Vatican, origin and tradition of the Popes being in Rome. I’ve never done it to offend or anything like that…just thought that’s what it was.

I’ve never seen referring to the church as the Roman Catholic chuch that big of a deal…but really, I usually refer to it as the Catholic church.

Is RCC offensive?

It is not offended but when I wish to describe the Church as being universal the proper term to be used is Catholic Church, when you call the Catholic Church, you include both Latin and Eastern Rites, not just one.

This is kind of a familiar topic on these threads.

King Henry 8th, to support his victimization of Catholics, used a lot of propaganda. One of these was to suggest that the Catholic Church was a foreign power, and that true patriots should really to his church, rather than the “Roman” church.

So for some, it retains that bitter edge. And again, the language was picked up by nativist Americans in the 1830s, fearful of newer Catholic migrant groups. These weren’t True Americans, but Agents of the Pope.

In the end, it’s just an irrelevant adjective. The Catholic Church is universal; great to see that in coverage of the recent World Youth Day.

Makes sense…and fair enough!

Please forgive my ignorance…I’m starting RCIA in September, so I’m sure I would have learned that in there, but now I’ll already know! Thanks

Could one reason be because of (or related to) the Creed? Many Protestant denominations use the Nicene Creed - even the part about “one, holy, catholic and apostolic church”. So their idea of what the catholic church is is that they are part of a wider community of Christians. If their idea of what the catholic church is is different to what the Catholic Church itself defines as ‘Catholic’ then they must make a distinction, so they use the term ‘Roman Catholic’. The term, of course, has wider connotations - the most important being that “Roman” Catholics regard the Pope as the head of the Roman Catholic Church, but not of the Catholic church as they (Protestants) see it.

Another reason is that it is often used simply in a derogatory fashion - similar to some Protestants’ use of the word “Papist”. It is often used to fuel tensions between Catholics and Protestants as was often the case in Northern Ireland when certain Protestant ministers would literally be spitting when they used the term “Roman” or “Papist”! The term does not necessarily deny that there are other rites within the Catholic Church, but it is just a way of defining all those who are in communion with the Pope.

This is how I have always understood it. “Catholic” is derived from the Greek and means “universal.” Even Protestants speak of Christianity as the universal body of believers. Many Protestant churches make use of the Apostles’ Creed which states in part “I believe in…the holy catholic church,” the pastors often taking time to explain what that word means.

The ROMAN Catholic church means the church as administered and presided over by the Bishop of Rome…the Pope.

Even the Eastern Rites, the Greek Catholic Church and all, are still Roman Catholic rites because the Pope has primacy over them.

Simple, quick and easy. I hope this helps.

Eastern Rites Catholics are not Roman Catholic rites. They are Eastern Rites. That is pretty clear. They often address us as Roman or Latins. I have spoken to Eastern Rite Catholics, and they always identify themselves with their Rites, Byzantine, etc. These Churches are called nunates Churches.

I can speak for no one but myself.
My reason:

The many different rites within the RCC aside, the center of it is in Rome, the bishop of Rome is its head, and that’s what many of its followers also call themselves (does the signature “I am a Roman Catholic” ring a bell?)

Secondly, and actually more important:
In my view, the Catholic church is the universal, indivisible, invisible, communion of ALL believers in Christ, not any one denomination within Christendom.

In other words: The Catholic church is a tree, on which RCs is the largest branch. Other branches include the Eastern-Orthodox, Lutherans, Anglicans, Baptists, etc.

That’s why I refuse to call the RCC simply “The Catholic Church”. No matter how large a branch grows, it will never turn into the tree itself…

And yes, I know that I’ll probably be called “Catholic-hater” and what not for writing this post…if that’s what you want to believe - then knock yourself out. Doesn’t make it more true…

Can you explain to me how the rites are allowed to exist? I am unaware as to what that term means. Also, RCC is the only term I have ever known. I look forward to learning more. Thanks.

Exactly! I subscribe to the first reason, and reject the second - the derogatory one. I don’t use the term “derogatorily” (is that even a word in English?) - I use it as stated above, to distinguish.
The bishop of Rome is the head of the Roman-Catholic Church, and NOT of the Catholic church alltogether.

It has been my experience here, because Protestants seperated themselves from the Roman Catholic church. There are a few exceptions; Protestants know that it is the Pope the successor of Peter, that is the Head of the Catholic church who resides in Rome. Protestantism came from Roman Catholic church. At least that is what Orthodoxy claims, and apparently will not have any issue to protestants because they broke from the Pope.

History has dictated the status “quo”, depending from what part of the world you are from determines the mindset of authority in the Catholic church.** As far as scripture, sacred Tradition, church and secular history, the Pope bishop of Rome, is always looked to as the Chair of Peter, who posseses the keys to the kingdom of God on earth.** Not excluding the successors of the apostles in the catholic Bishops of all valid rites in the Catholic church. But we are speaking about protestants who are generally from the west. Jesus is the one who gave this authority to Peter in the Catholic church. But protestantism refuses to acknowledge the authority of Jesus on earth by the Vicar of Christ. Yes protestantism falls under Catholicism by creed and baptismal sacrament, but seperated from the head (the authority placed on Peter by Jesus). And the body cannot survive without the head to long, as recent history is displaying in protestant churches. But rest assured, they make no mistake in stating the Roman Catholic church under the Pope. Unless refering to a specific catholic rite.

Because the sign on the Church church around the corner says “Roman Catholic Church”

Here is a quote from Wikipedia:

The Eastern Catholic Churches are autonomous (in Latin, sui iuris) particular Churches in full communion with the Bishop of Rome — the Pope. They preserve the liturgical, theological and devotional traditions of the various Eastern Christian Churches with which they are associated, and between which doctrinal differences exist, in particular between the Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodoxy and the Assyrian Church of the East. They thus vary with regard to forms of liturgical worship, sacramental[1] and canonical discipline, terminology, traditional prayers and practices of piety. But they recognize that their faith is not at variance with that of the other constituent Churches of the one Catholic Church, including the Latin or Western Church, all of which are of equal dignity.[2] In particular, they recognize the central role of the Bishop of Rome within the College of Bishops. They preserve the special emphases and illuminations that Eastern Christianity has developed over the centuries, some of which Pope John Paul II illustrated in his apostolic letter Orientale Lumen of 2 May 1995.[3]

Most Eastern Catholic Churches have counterparts in other Eastern Churches, whether Assyrian or Oriental Orthodox, from whom they are separated by a number of theological concerns, or the Eastern Orthodox Churches, from whom they are separated primarily by differences in understanding of the role of the Bishop of Rome within the College of Bishops.

The Eastern Catholic Churches were located historically in Eastern Europe, the Asian Middle East, Northern Africa and India, but are now, because of migration, found also in Western Europe, the Americas and Oceania to the extent of forming full-scale ecclesiastical structures such as eparchies, alongside the Latin dioceses. One country, Eritrea, has only an Eastern Catholic hierarchy, with no Latin structure.

The terms Byzantine Catholics and Greek Catholic are used of those who belong to Churches that use the Byzantine liturgical rite. The terms Oriental Catholic and Eastern Catholic include these, but are broader, since they also cover Catholics who follow the Alexandrian, Antiochian, Armenian and Chaldean liturgical traditions.

Source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastern_Catholic_Churches

Not all of them especially those of the Eastern Rite Catholic Church.


The difference between the Latin Rites and the Eastern Rite Catholic Church is icons. In the Latin Rite, statues are used to depict saints, Mary, and God. In the Eastern or Oriental Churches, icons or pictures are used.

Eastern Catholic Church use the term Divine Liturgy instead of using the Latin Word Mass to describe their Liturgy. In fact, the Eastern Rite Catholic Church Liturgy is much older than the Latin Rite liturgy. Compared to Latin Rites, there has little or no change in their worship and tradition. In my opinion, they are closer the Apostolic Churches, since Christianity had its origins in the East.

Whatever the actual reasons behind the origin of “Roman Catholic”, it’s now become a common term to refer to the entirety of the Catholic Church.

This is probably not a good thing overall, but there isn’t much we can do in the grand scheme of things to change it.

Personally, I understand how someone could refer to all Catholics in communion with Rome as “Roman Catholics”, but that would imply that there some group of Catholics NOT in communion with Rome (outside of some loose affiliations of the excommunicate), an idea which, of course, we reject. I think it’s best to use the Roman Catholic term only when referring to Latin Rite Catholics or the Latin Church, as opposed to the entirety of the Churches in communion with Rome. (After all, as it’s been pointed out, we use the term Roman Catholic ourselves now!)

I think perhaps if the Eastern Churches had more visibility, this might not be a problem. Who knows? :shrug:

This is the Summary of Eastern Catholicism:

They are Eastern Christians in communion with Rome. They have Patriarchs as the head of their Churches, and they have their own Canon Law apart from Latin Rite Code of Canon. While Eastern Orthodox are Eastern Christians who are not in communion with Rome.

It is because even an unbelieving world recognizes the light of Christ shining brightly in the Catholic Church which is represented and led by Christ’s vicar, the Bishop of Rome. The association with the Bishop of Rome cannot be missed even by those that are not Christian let alone those that are.

Hi Manny,

Im a member of a Southern Baptist Church…and we only have a small community of Catholics in my home town. I have used the term Catholic Church and Roman Catholic Church. I suppose RCC has a more formal sound to it and makes my redneck self feel cityfied;) .

So based on my theory…
At least Southern Protestants use the term RCC as an act of cityfication. and yes, I know cityfication is not a word.



Had this discussion with some evangelical friends of mine recently. A lot of non-Catholics really think that’s the name of our church, some because they first heard it from a CATHOLIC. The large SPPX near us calls itself “Roman Catholic” on the sign outside…makes for a lot of confusion.

I have a Methodist friend who thought I was different from a Roman Catholic because I don’t live in Rome. :smiley: Who can blame them?

I don’t care for it myself, it makes me want to tell people I don’t care for potpourri. :wink:

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