Take the 2-minute tour ×
Christianity Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for committed Christians, experts in Christianity and those interested in learning more. It's 100% free, no registration required.

If the word "catholic", from the Greek adjective καθολικός (katholikos), means "universal", why The Catholic Church is known as "The Roman Catholic Church"?

Is it possible be "universal" and "roman" at the same time?

share|improve this question

2 Answers 2

The Catholic Church does indeed usually refer to itself just as "The Catholic Church". That is what it's Wikipedia article calls it (Wikipedia usually names all organizations according to what they call themselves). Many Catholic-related organizations just use the word "Catholic" in their names - CAFOD is an example; Catholic School boards are another.

The term 'Roman Catholic' was originally applied by people who disagree with the Catholic church's claim to be the church (when they were not just referring to it as 'the Roman Church'). Over the centuries the usage has mutated, and term has been applied for various reasons, and is used by many people as if it were the official name of the church. However the history of the usage is extremely complicated. Even the Catholic Church sometimes refers to itself as the "Roman Catholic Church", especially if there is any danger of confusion, or of offence. This Wikipedia article gives some history of the usage of the term Catholic.

Those of you with way too much time on your hands can go and look through the Wikipedia debates on the correct naming of the church in the Catholic Church talk pages.

share|improve this answer
1  
I've searched about the "official" Catholic Church name on The (English) Wikipedia. Here in Brazil (the country with the largest number of Catholics), people call the Catholic Church as "ROMAN Catholic Apostolic Church" (some hispanics countries also added the "Apostolic" word to the name) how you can see on the Portuguese Wikipedia page (pt.wikipedia.org/wiki/Igreja_catolica) –  vs06 Jan 31 at 0:36
    
This is an excellent article. It's worth noting that "Roman Catholic" is the normal term used in the ecumenical movement, e.g. in the name of ARCIC. –  lonesomeday Jan 31 at 19:03
    
I think that's because Anglicans (who consider themselves catholic) would object otherwise. –  DJClayworth Jan 31 at 19:13
    
Indeed. I myself am such an Anglican! –  lonesomeday Jan 31 at 22:44

There are two parts for this:

First part: The Catholic Church ('C' as capital) is that group of churches in communion with the pope. If a group isn’t in communion with the pope, it isn’t part of the Catholic Church.

Within the Catholic Church there are a number of individual churches, sometimes called rites. One of these is the Roman rite or Roman church. It includes most of the Catholics in the Western world. A Roman Catholic is a Catholic who is a member of the Roman rite.

There are many Catholics in the East who are not Roman Catholics, such as Maronite Catholics, Ukrainian Catholics, and Chaldean Catholics. These are all in communion with the pope, but they are not members of the Roman rite, so they are not Roman Catholics.

The Roman rite is not stricter than these other rights. They are equal. They all teach the same faith; it is only local customs that are different among them.

Second part: How the term Roman got attached to it?

It is not possible to give an exact year when the term "Roman Catholic Church," began to be called. The term is assumed to originated as a reference created by Anglicans who wished to refer to themselves as Catholic. They thus coined the term "Roman Catholic" to distinguish those in union with Rome from themselves.

From Catholic Answers:

Different variants of the reference "Roman" appeared at different times. The earliest form was the noun "Romanist" (one belonging to the Catholic Church), which appeared in England about 1515-1525. The next to develop was the adjective "Romish" (similar to something done or believed in the Catholic Church), which appeared around 1525-1535. Next came the noun "Roman Catholic" (one belonging to the Catholic Church), which was coined around 1595-1605. Shortly thereafter came the verb "to Romanize" (to make someone a Catholic or to become a Catholic), which appeared around 1600-10. Between 1665 and 1675 we got the noun "Romanism" (the system of Catholic beliefs and practices), and finally we got a latecomer term about 1815-1825, the noun "Roman Catholicism," a synonym for the earlier "Romanism."

share|improve this answer
2  
I know it's common to say that Roman Catholics are Catholics of the Latin Rite, but, as the second part of your answer makes clear, it is historically inaccurate. When the Catholic Church uses the term "Roman" it refers to the whole Church, not to the Latin Rite alone. –  lonesomeday Jan 31 at 10:40
    
The term "Latin church" is more properly used for what you call "Roman rite". This article claims that "Roman Catholic" is never used by the church to mean the Latin Rite, but is sometimes used to refer to the whole Catholic church. However it does admit that plenty of other people do. The situation is confused. –  DJClayworth Jan 31 at 15:23

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.