Catholic

Catholic

Overview
The word catholic comes from the Greek phrase (kath'holou), meaning "on the whole," "according to the whole" or "in general", and is a combination of the Greek words meaning "about" and meaning "whole". The word in English can mean either "including a wide variety of things; all-embracing" or "of the Roman Catholic faith" as "relating to the historic doctrine and practice of the Western Church
Western Christianity
Western Christianity is a term used to include the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church and groups historically derivative thereof, including the churches of the Anglican and Protestant traditions, which share common attributes that can be traced back to their medieval heritage...

."

It was first used to describe the Christian Church in the early 2nd century to emphasize its universal scope
Universalism
Universalism in its primary meaning refers to religious, theological, and philosophical concepts with universal application or applicability...

.
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Encyclopedia
The word catholic comes from the Greek phrase (kath'holou), meaning "on the whole," "according to the whole" or "in general", and is a combination of the Greek words meaning "about" and meaning "whole". The word in English can mean either "including a wide variety of things; all-embracing" or "of the Roman Catholic faith" as "relating to the historic doctrine and practice of the Western Church
Western Christianity
Western Christianity is a term used to include the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church and groups historically derivative thereof, including the churches of the Anglican and Protestant traditions, which share common attributes that can be traced back to their medieval heritage...

."

It was first used to describe the Christian Church in the early 2nd century to emphasize its universal scope
Universalism
Universalism in its primary meaning refers to religious, theological, and philosophical concepts with universal application or applicability...

. In the context of Christian
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

 ecclesiology
Ecclesiology
Today, ecclesiology usually refers to the theological study of the Christian church. However when the word was coined in the late 1830s, it was defined as the science of the building and decoration of churches and it is still, though rarely, used in this sense.In its theological sense, ecclesiology...

, it has a rich history and several usages. In non-ecclesiastical use, it derives its English meaning directly from its root, and is currently used to mean
  • universal or of general interest;
  • liberal
    Liberalism
    Liberalism is the belief in the importance of liberty and equal rights. Liberals espouse a wide array of views depending on their understanding of these principles, but generally, liberals support ideas such as constitutionalism, liberal democracy, free and fair elections, human rights,...

    , having broad interests, or wide sympathies; or
  • inclusive
    Inclusive
    Inclusive may refer to:* Inclusion * inclusive disjunction, A or B or both* inclusive fitness, in evolutionary theory, how many kin are supported including non-descendants* inclusive interval includes its endpoints...

    , inviting and containing strong evangelism.


The term has been incorporated into the name of the largest Christian communion, the Roman Catholic Church
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

, which consists of 23 churches sui iuris, in full communion
Full communion
In Christian ecclesiology, full communion is a relationship between church organizations or groups that mutually recognize their sharing the essential doctrines....

 with the Bishop
Bishop (Catholic Church)
In the Catholic Church, a bishop is an ordained minister who holds the fullness of the sacrament of Holy Orders and is responsible for teaching the Catholic faith and ruling the Church....

 of Rome
Diocese of Rome
The Diocese of Rome is a diocese of the Catholic Church in Rome, Italy. The bishop of Rome is the Pope, who is the Supreme Pontiff and leader of the Catholic Church...

. The largest of these, the Latin Rite, consists of nearly 95% of the population of the Roman Catholic Church
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

; the remaining 5% consist of the 22 Eastern Catholic Churches.

Many Protestants
Protestantism
Protestantism is one of the three major groupings within Christianity. It is a movement that began in Germany in the early 16th century as a reaction against medieval Roman Catholic doctrines and practices, especially in regards to salvation, justification, and ecclesiology.The doctrines of the...

 sometimes use the term "catholic" (often with a lower-case letter "c") to refer not to the Roman Catholic Church alone but more broadly, to the Christian Church
Christian Church
The Christian Church is the assembly or association of followers of Jesus Christ. The Greek term ἐκκλησία that in its appearances in the New Testament is usually translated as "church" basically means "assembly"...

 and all believers in Jesus
Jesus
Jesus of Nazareth , commonly referred to as Jesus Christ or simply as Jesus or Christ, is the central figure of Christianity...

 Christ
Christ
Christ is the English term for the Greek meaning "the anointed one". It is a translation of the Hebrew , usually transliterated into English as Messiah or Mashiach...

 across the world and across the ages, regardless of denominational affiliation.
Generally, to avoid confusion between this concept and the Roman Catholic Church
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

, above, theologians writing in English will refer to the former as the "Church catholic", using the lower-case.

The Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Anglicans
Anglicanism
Anglicanism is a tradition within Christianity comprising churches with historical connections to the Church of England or similar beliefs, worship and church structures. The word Anglican originates in ecclesia anglicana, a medieval Latin phrase dating to at least 1246 that means the English...

, Lutherans, and some Methodists
Methodism
Methodism is a movement of Protestant Christianity represented by a number of denominations and organizations, claiming a total of approximately seventy million adherents worldwide. The movement traces its roots to John Wesley's evangelistic revival movement within Anglicanism. His younger brother...

 believe that their churches are catholic in the sense that they are in continuity with the original universal church founded by the Apostles, but the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Oriental Orthodox churches each maintain that their own denomination
Christian denomination
A Christian denomination is an identifiable religious body under a common name, structure, and doctrine within Christianity. In the Orthodox tradition, Churches are divided often along ethnic and linguistic lines, into separate churches and traditions. Technically, divisions between one group and...

 is the only original and universal church. In "Catholic Christendom" (including the Anglican Communion), bishops are considered the highest order of ministers within the Christian religion, as shepherds of unity in communion with the whole church and one another. Catholicity is considered one of Four Marks of the Church
Four Marks of the Church
The Four Marks of the Church is a term describing four specific adjectives—one, holy, catholic and apostolic—indicating four major distinctive marks or distinguishing characteristics of the Christian Church...

, the others being unity, sanctity, and apostolicity. according to the Nicene Creed
Nicene Creed
The Nicene Creed is the creed or profession of faith that is most widely used in Christian liturgy. It is called Nicene because, in its original form, it was adopted in the city of Nicaea by the first ecumenical council, which met there in the year 325.The Nicene Creed has been normative to the...

 of 381: "I believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church."

Ignatius of Antioch


A letter written by Ignatius of Antioch
Ignatius of Antioch
Ignatius of Antioch was among the Apostolic Fathers, was the third Bishop of Antioch, and was a student of John the Apostle. En route to his martyrdom in Rome, Ignatius wrote a series of letters which have been preserved as an example of very early Christian theology...

 to Christians in Smyrna
Smyrna
Smyrna was an ancient city located at a central and strategic point on the Aegean coast of Anatolia. Thanks to its advantageous port conditions, its ease of defence and its good inland connections, Smyrna rose to prominence. The ancient city is located at two sites within modern İzmir, Turkey...

 around 106 is the earliest surviving witness to the use of the term Catholic Church (Letter to the Smyrnaeans
Letter to the Smyrnaeans
The Letter to the Smyrnaeans was written by Saint Ignatius of Antioch around AD 110 to the Early Christians in Smyrna.It mentions the resurrection of Jesus:...

, 8). By Catholic Church Ignatius designated the universal church. Ignatius considered that certain heretics of his time, who disavowed that Jesus was a material being who actually suffered and died, saying instead that "he only seemed to suffer" (Smyrnaeans, 2), were not really Christians. The term is also used in the Martyrdom of Polycarp
Martyrdom of Polycarp
The Martyrdom of Polycarp is one of the works of the Apostolic Fathers, and as such is one of the very few eyewitness writings from the actual age of the persecutions. The work details Polycarp's death at the age of 86 years old, at the hands of the Romans, in the 2nd century AD...

in 155 and in the Muratorian fragment
Muratorian fragment
The Muratorian fragment is a copy of perhaps the oldest known list of the books of the New Testament. The fragment, consisting of 85 lines, is a 7th-century Latin manuscript bound in an eighth or 7th century codex that came from the library of Columban's monastery at Bobbio; it contains internal...

, about 177 .

Cyril of Jerusalem


Cyril of Jerusalem
Cyril of Jerusalem
Cyril of Jerusalem was a distinguished theologian of the early Church . He is venerated as a saint by the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, and the Anglican Communion. In 1883, Cyril was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Leo XIII...

 (c. 315-386), venerated as a saint
Saint
A saint is a holy person. In various religions, saints are people who are believed to have exceptional holiness.In Christian usage, "saint" refers to any believer who is "in Christ", and in whom Christ dwells, whether in heaven or in earth...

 by the Roman Catholic Church
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

, the Eastern Orthodox Church
Eastern Orthodox Church
The Orthodox Church, officially called the Orthodox Catholic Church and commonly referred to as the Eastern Orthodox Church, is the second largest Christian denomination in the world, with an estimated 300 million adherents mainly in the countries of Belarus, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Georgia, Greece,...

, and the Anglican Communion
Anglican Communion
The Anglican Communion is an international association of national and regional Anglican churches in full communion with the Church of England and specifically with its principal primate, the Archbishop of Canterbury...

, urged those he was instructing in the Christian faith: "If ever thou art sojourning in cities, inquire not simply where the Lord's House is (for the other sects of the profane also attempt to call their own dens "houses of the Lord"), nor merely where the Church is, but where is the Catholic Church. For this is the peculiar name of this holy Church, the mother of us all, which is the spouse of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Only-begotten Son of God" (Catechetical Lectures, XVIII, 26).

Theodosius I


The term Catholic Christians entered Roman Imperial law when Theodosius I
Theodosius I
Theodosius I , also known as Theodosius the Great, was Roman Emperor from 379 to 395. Theodosius was the last emperor to rule over both the eastern and the western halves of the Roman Empire. During his reign, the Goths secured control of Illyricum after the Gothic War, establishing their homeland...

, Emperor from 379 to 395, reserved that name for adherents of "that religion which was delivered to the Romans by the divine Apostle Peter, as it has been preserved by faithful tradition and which is now professed by the Pontiff (Pope) Damasus and by Peter, Bishop of Alexandria ...as for the others, since in our judgement they are foolish madmen, we decree that they shall be branded with the ignominious name of heretics, and shall not presume to give their conventicles the name of churches." This law of 27 February 380 was included in Book 16 of the Codex Theodosianus
Codex Theodosianus
The Codex Theodosianus was a compilation of the laws of the Roman Empire under the Christian emperors since 312. A commission was established by Theodosius II in 429 and the compilation was published in the eastern half of the Roman Empire in 438...

. It established Catholic Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire.

Augustine of Hippo


The use of the term Catholic to distinguish the "true" church from heretical groups is found also in Augustine
Augustine of Hippo
Augustine of Hippo , also known as Augustine, St. Augustine, St. Austin, St. Augoustinos, Blessed Augustine, or St. Augustine the Blessed, was Bishop of Hippo Regius . He was a Latin-speaking philosopher and theologian who lived in the Roman Africa Province...

 who wrote:
"In the Catholic Church, there are many other things which most justly keep me in her bosom. The consent of peoples and nations keeps me in the Church; so does her authority, inaugurated by miracles, nourished by hope, enlarged by love, established by age. The succession of priests keeps me, beginning from the very seat of the Apostle Peter, to whom the Lord, after His resurrection, gave it in charge to feed His sheep (Jn 21:15-19), down to the present episcopate (in Rome; here Augustine refers to the Petrine succession of the Pope).
"And so, lastly, does the very name of "Catholic", which, not without reason, amid so many heresies, the Church has thus retained; so that, though all heretics wish to be called Catholics, yet when a stranger asks where the Catholic Church meets, no heretic will venture to point to his own chapel or house.
"Such then in number and importance are the precious ties belonging to the Christian name which keep a believer in the Catholic Church, as it is right they should ... With you, where there is none of these things to attract or keep me... No one shall move me from the faith which binds my mind with ties so many and so strong to the Christian religion... For my part, I should not believe the gospel except as moved by the authority of the Catholic Church."
— St. Augustine (354–430): Against the Epistle of Manichaeus called Fundamental, chapter 4: Proofs of the Catholic Faith.

St Vincent of Lerins



A contemporary of Augustine, St. Vincent of Lerins, wrote in 434 (under the pseudonym Peregrinus) a work known as the Commonitoria ("Memoranda"). While insisting that, like the human body, church doctrine develops while truly keeping its identity (sections 54-59, chapter XXIII), he stated: "In the Catholic Church itself, all possible care must be taken, that we hold that faith which has been believed everywhere, always, by all. For that is truly and in the strictest sense 'catholic,' which, as the name itself and the reason of the thing declare, comprehends all universally. This rule we shall observe if we follow universality, antiquity, consent. We shall follow universality if we confess that one faith to be true, which the whole church throughout the world confesses; antiquity, if we in no wise depart from those interpretations which it is manifest were notoriously held by our holy ancestors and fathers; consent, in like manner, if in antiquity itself we adhere to the consentient definitions and determinations of all, or at the least of almost all priests and doctors" (section 6, end of chapter II) .

Western and Eastern Catholics


The Latin Rite of the Catholic Church and the twenty-two Eastern Catholic Churches consider that they continue and are charged with preserving the catholic tradition as handed down through the Early Church Fathers. Eastern Catholic churches are those particular church
Particular Church
In Catholic canon law, a Particular Church is an ecclesial community headed by a bishop or someone recognised as the equivalent of a bishop.There are two kinds of particular Churches:# Local particular Churches ...

es that, in full communion with the Bishop of Rome
Diocese of Rome
The Diocese of Rome is a diocese of the Catholic Church in Rome, Italy. The bishop of Rome is the Pope, who is the Supreme Pontiff and leader of the Catholic Church...

 — the Pope — while remaining autonomous (in Latin, sui iuris), preserve the liturgical, theological and devotional traditions of the various Eastern Christian churches with which they are associated. They include the Ukrainian
Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church
The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church , Ukrainska Hreko-Katolytska Tserkva), is the largest Eastern Rite Catholic sui juris particular church in full communion with the Holy See, and is directly subject to the Pope...

, Greek
Greek Byzantine Catholic Church
The Greek Byzantine Catholic Church is a sui iuris particular Church in full union with the Roman Catholic Church which uses the Byzantine liturgical rite in the Koine Greek and modern Greek languages...

, Greek Melkite
Melkite Greek Catholic Church
The Melkite Greek Catholic Church is an Eastern Catholic Church in full communion with the Holy See as part of the worldwide Catholic Church. The Melkites, Byzantine Rite Catholics of mixed Eastern Mediterranean and Greek origin, trace their history to the early Christians of Antioch, Syria, of...

, Maronite
Maronite Church
The Syriac Maronite Church of Antioch is an Eastern Catholic Church in full communion with the Holy See of Rome . It traces its heritage back to the community founded by Maron, a 4th-century Syriac monk venerated as a saint. The first Maronite Patriarch, John Maron, was elected in the late 7th...

, Ruthenian Byzantine
Ruthenian Catholic Church
The Ruthenian Catholic Church is a sui iuris Eastern Catholic Church , which uses the Divine Liturgy of the Constantinopolitan Byzantine Eastern Rite. Its roots are among the Rusyns who lived in the region called Carpathian Ruthenia, in and around the Carpathian Mountains...

, Coptic Catholic
Coptic Catholic Church
The Coptic Catholic Church is an Alexandrian Rite particular Church in full communion with the Pope of Rome. Historically, Coptic Catholics represent a schism from the Coptic Orthodox Church, leaving that church in order to come into full communion with the Bishop of Rome.The current Coptic...

, Syro-Malabar
Syro-Malabar Catholic Church
The Syro-Malabar Catholic Church in India is an East Syrian Rite, Major Archiepiscopal Church in full communion with the Catholic Church. It is one of the 22 sui iuris Eastern Catholic Churches in the Catholic Church. It is the largest of the Saint Thomas Christian denominations with more than 3.6...

, Syro-Malankara
Syro-Malankara Catholic Church
The Syro-Malankara Catholic Church is an Eastern Catholic Church in full communion with the Holy See...

, Chaldean
Chaldean Catholic Church
The Chaldean Catholic Church , is an Eastern Syriac particular church of the Catholic Church, maintaining full communion with the Bishop of Rome and the rest of the Catholic Church...

 and Ethiopic Rites. Under Pope John Paul II
Pope John Paul II
Blessed Pope John Paul II , born Karol Józef Wojtyła , reigned as Pope of the Catholic Church and Sovereign of Vatican City from 16 October 1978 until his death on 2 April 2005, at of age. His was the second-longest documented pontificate, which lasted ; only Pope Pius IX ...

 the Catholic Church issued a book of beliefs under the title Catechism of the Catholic Church
Catechism of the Catholic Church
The Catechism of the Catholic Church is the official text of the teachings of the Catholic Church. A provisional, "reference text" was issued by Pope John Paul II on October 11, 1992 — "the thirtieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council" — with his apostolic...

, which states: "To believe that the Church is 'holy' and 'catholic,' and that she is 'one' and 'apostolic' (as the Nicene Creed adds), is inseparable from belief in God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit."

The term Catholic Church is associated with the whole of the church that is led by the Roman Pontiff, currently Pope Benedict XVI
Pope Benedict XVI
Benedict XVI is the 265th and current Pope, by virtue of his office of Bishop of Rome, the Sovereign of the Vatican City State and the leader of the Catholic Church as well as the other 22 sui iuris Eastern Catholic Churches in full communion with the Holy See...

, and whose over one billion adherents are about half of the estimated 2.1 billion Christians. Other Christian churches also lay claim to the description catholic as a theological quality, including the Eastern Orthodox Church and those churches possessing the historic episcopate (bishops), such as those in the Anglican Communion. Some of them claim to be the one true Catholic Church from which, in their view, other Christians, including those in communion with the Pope, have fallen away.

Many of those who apply the term "catholic church" to all Christians indiscriminately object to this use of the term to designate what they view as only one church within what they see as the "whole" catholic church. However, the church in communion with the Bishop of Rome, both in its Western form and in that of the Eastern Catholic Churches, has always considered itself to be the historic Catholic Church, with all others as "non-Catholics" and regularly refers to itself as "the Catholic Church". This practice is an application of the belief that not all who claim to be Christians are part of the Catholic Church, as Ignatius of Antioch, the earliest known writer to use the term "Catholic Church", considered that certain heretics who called themselves Christians only seemed to be such.

Though normally distinguishing itself from other churches by calling itself the "Catholic Church", it also uses the description "Roman Catholic Church". Even apart from documents drawn up jointly with other churches, it has sometimes, in view of the central position it attributes to the See of Rome, adopted the adjective "Roman" for the whole church, Eastern as well as Western, as in the papal encyclicals Divini illius Magistri and Humani generis. Another example is its self-description as the "Holy, Catholic, Apostolic and Roman Church" in the 24 April 1870 Dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Faith of the First Vatican Council
First Vatican Council
The First Vatican Council was convoked by Pope Pius IX on 29 June 1868, after a period of planning and preparation that began on 6 December 1864. This twentieth ecumenical council of the Roman Catholic Church, held three centuries after the Council of Trent, opened on 8 December 1869 and adjourned...

. In all of these documents it also refers to itself both simply as the Catholic Church and by other names. The Eastern Catholic Churches, while united with Rome in the faith, have their own traditions and laws, differing from those of the Latin Rite and those of other Eastern Catholic Churches.

Divergent usages


The Eastern Orthodox Church
Eastern Orthodox Church
The Orthodox Church, officially called the Orthodox Catholic Church and commonly referred to as the Eastern Orthodox Church, is the second largest Christian denomination in the world, with an estimated 300 million adherents mainly in the countries of Belarus, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Georgia, Greece,...

 also identifies itself as Catholic, as in the title of The Longer Catechism of the Orthodox, Catholic, Eastern Church. So does the Coptic Church, which, being part of Oriental Orthodoxy
Oriental Orthodoxy
Oriental Orthodoxy is the faith of those Eastern Christian Churches that recognize only three ecumenical councils — the First Council of Nicaea, the First Council of Constantinople and the First Council of Ephesus. They rejected the dogmatic definitions of the Council of Chalcedon...

, is not in communion with the Eastern Orthodox Church and considers itself "the True Church of the Lord Jesus Christ".

Anglicans and Old Catholics see themselves as a communion within the Catholic Church and Lutherans see themselves as "a reform movement within the greater church catholic".

Roman Catholics view the Bishop of Rome as the "Successor of Peter" to serve as universal pastor to the entire Church, though all the particular Churches in communion with him have their own distinct pastoral heads, who, taken as a college
College of Bishops
The term "College of Bishops" is used in Catholic theology to denote the bishops in communion with the Pope as a body, not as individuals...

 in union with the Successor of Peter, are considered to be the subject of supreme power in the universal Church. Some Anglicans and Old Catholics accept that the Bishop of Rome is primus inter pares among all primates
Primate (religion)
Primate is a title or rank bestowed on some bishops in certain Christian churches. Depending on the particular tradition, it can denote either jurisdictional authority or ceremonial precedence ....

, but they embrace Conciliarism
Conciliarism
Conciliarism, or the conciliar movement, was a reform movement in the 14th, 15th and 16th century Roman Catholic Church which held that final authority in spiritual matters resided with the Roman Church as a corporation of Christians, embodied by a general church council, not with the pope...

 as a necessary check on what they consider to be the "excesses" of Ultramontanism
Ultramontanism
Ultramontanism is a religious philosophy within the Roman Catholic community that places strong emphasis on the prerogatives and powers of the Pope...

.

Recent historic ecumenical efforts on the part of the Catholic Church have focused on healing the rupture between the Western ("Catholic") and the Eastern ("Orthodox") churches. Pope John Paul II
Pope John Paul II
Blessed Pope John Paul II , born Karol Józef Wojtyła , reigned as Pope of the Catholic Church and Sovereign of Vatican City from 16 October 1978 until his death on 2 April 2005, at of age. His was the second-longest documented pontificate, which lasted ; only Pope Pius IX ...

 often spoke of his great desire that the Catholic Church "once again breathe with both lungs", thus emphasizing that the Roman Catholic Church seeks to restore full communion with the separated Eastern churches.

After the East-West Schism
East-West Schism
The East–West Schism of 1054, sometimes known as the Great Schism, formally divided the State church of the Roman Empire into Eastern and Western branches, which later became known as the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church, respectively...

, conventionally dated to 1054, a brief reunification was agreed to between the Pope and a number of Eastern Orthodox bishops at the Council of Florence
Council of Florence
The Council of Florence was an Ecumenical Council of the Roman Catholic Church. It began in 1431 in Basel, Switzerland, and became known as the Council of Ferrara after its transfer to Ferrara was decreed by Pope Eugene IV, to convene in 1438...

. However, this agreement was denied by one of the EO bishops present, namely Mark of Ephesus, and the common folk of the EOC generally rejected said agreement as well. The present pope, Benedict XVI
Pope Benedict XVI
Benedict XVI is the 265th and current Pope, by virtue of his office of Bishop of Rome, the Sovereign of the Vatican City State and the leader of the Catholic Church as well as the other 22 sui iuris Eastern Catholic Churches in full communion with the Holy See...

, has stated his wish to restore full unity with the Orthodox. The Roman Catholic Church considers that almost all of the ancient theological differences have been satisfactorily addressed (the Filioque clause, the nature of purgatory
Purgatory
Purgatory is the condition or process of purification or temporary punishment in which, it is believed, the souls of those who die in a state of grace are made ready for Heaven...

, etc.), and has declared that differences in traditional customs, observances and discipline are no obstacle to unity.

Other Western Christians

  • Most Reformation
    Protestant Reformation
    The Protestant Reformation was a 16th-century split within Western Christianity initiated by Martin Luther, John Calvin and other early Protestants. The efforts of the self-described "reformers", who objected to the doctrines, rituals and ecclesiastical structure of the Roman Catholic Church, led...

     and post-Reformation churches use the term catholic (often with a lower-case c) to refer to the belief that all Christians are part of one church regardless of denominational divisions; e.g., Chapter XXV of the Westminster Confession of Faith
    Westminster Confession of Faith
    The Westminster Confession of Faith is a Reformed confession of faith, in the Calvinist theological tradition. Although drawn up by the 1646 Westminster Assembly, largely of the Church of England, it became and remains the 'subordinate standard' of doctrine in the Church of Scotland, and has been...

     refers to the catholic or universal Church. It is in line with this interpretation, which applies the word catholic (universal) to no one denomination, that they understand the phrase "One Holy catholic and Apostolic
    Apostolic Succession
    Apostolic succession is a doctrine, held by some Christian denominations, which asserts that the chosen successors of the Twelve Apostles, from the first century to the present day, have inherited the spiritual, ecclesiastical and sacramental authority, power, and responsibility that were...

     Church
    Christian Church
    The Christian Church is the assembly or association of followers of Jesus Christ. The Greek term ἐκκλησία that in its appearances in the New Testament is usually translated as "church" basically means "assembly"...

    " in the Nicene Creed
    Nicene Creed
    The Nicene Creed is the creed or profession of faith that is most widely used in Christian liturgy. It is called Nicene because, in its original form, it was adopted in the city of Nicaea by the first ecumenical council, which met there in the year 325.The Nicene Creed has been normative to the...

    , the phrase the Catholic faith in the Athanasian Creed
    Athanasian Creed
    The Athanasian Creed is a Christian statement of belief, focusing on Trinitarian doctrine and Christology. The Latin name of the creed, Quicumque vult, is taken from the opening words, "Whosoever wishes." The Athanasian Creed has been used by Christian churches since the sixth century...

     and the phrase holy catholic church in the Apostles' Creed
    Apostles' Creed
    The Apostles' Creed , sometimes titled Symbol of the Apostles, is an early statement of Christian belief, a creed or "symbol"...

    .

  • The term used also to mean those Christian churches which maintain that their episcopate
    Historical episcopate
    The episcopate is the collective body of all bishops of a church. In the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Eastern Orthodox, Eastern Rite Catholic, Oriental Orthodox, Old-Catholic, Moravian Church, and Independent Catholic churches as well as in the Assyrian Church of the East, it is held that only a...

     can be traced unbrokenly back
    Apostolic Succession
    Apostolic succession is a doctrine, held by some Christian denominations, which asserts that the chosen successors of the Twelve Apostles, from the first century to the present day, have inherited the spiritual, ecclesiastical and sacramental authority, power, and responsibility that were...

     to the apostles and consider themselves part of a catholic (universal) body of believers. Among those who regard themselves as catholic (lower-case "c"), but not Roman Catholic (upper-case "c"), are Anglicans and some smaller Breakaway Catholic Churches
    Breakaway Catholic Churches
    Catholics not in communion with Rome, or Breakaway Catholics, are those religious groups that, while consciously embracing Catholic tradition, have chosen to separate from the Roman Catholic Church. They differ from Protestantism in that they practice rites, rituals and devotions specific to...

     such as the Polish National Catholic Church
    Polish National Catholic Church
    The Polish National Catholic Church is a Christian church founded and based in the United States by Polish-Americans who were Roman Catholic. The PNCC is a breakaway Catholic Church in dialogue with the Catholic Church; it seeks full communion with the Holy See although it differs theologically...

    , Independent Catholics, Ancient Catholics and the Liberal Catholic Church
    Liberal Catholic Church
    The Liberal Catholic Church is a form of Christianity open to theosophical ideas and even reincarnation. It is not connected to the Roman Catholic Church, which considers it heretical and schismatic...

    es, as well Lutherans
    Lutheranism
    Lutheranism is a major branch of Western Christianity that identifies with the theology of Martin Luther, a German reformer. Luther's efforts to reform the theology and practice of the church launched the Protestant Reformation...

     (though the latter often prefer the lower-case "c" and stress that they are both Protestant and catholic). Some 19th and 20th century churches like the Old Catholic Church
    Old Catholic Church
    The term Old Catholic Church is commonly used to describe a number of Ultrajectine Christian churches that originated with groups that split from the Roman Catholic Church over certain doctrines, most importantly that of Papal Infallibility...

    es and Traditionalist Catholic
    Traditionalist Catholic
    Traditionalist Catholics are Roman Catholics who believe that there should be a restoration of many or all of the liturgical forms, public and private devotions and presentations of Catholic teachings which prevailed in the Catholic Church before the Second Vatican Council...

    s (who may or may not be in communion with Rome) consider themselves to be catholic and also "true" Roman Catholics.

  • Some use the term catholic to distinguish their own position from a Calvinist or Puritan
    Puritan
    The Puritans were a significant grouping of English Protestants in the 16th and 17th centuries. Puritanism in this sense was founded by some Marian exiles from the clergy shortly after the accession of Elizabeth I of England in 1558, as an activist movement within the Church of England...

     form of Reformed-Protestantism
    Protestantism
    Protestantism is one of the three major groupings within Christianity. It is a movement that began in Germany in the early 16th century as a reaction against medieval Roman Catholic doctrines and practices, especially in regards to salvation, justification, and ecclesiology.The doctrines of the...

    . These include a faction of Anglicans often also called Anglo-Catholics
    Anglo-Catholicism
    The terms Anglo-Catholic and Anglo-Catholicism describe people, beliefs and practices within Anglicanism that affirm the Catholic, rather than Protestant, heritage and identity of the Anglican churches....

    , 19th century Neo-Lutherans
    Neo-Lutheranism
    Neo-Lutheranism was a 19th century revival movement within Lutheranism which began with the Pietist driven Erweckung, or Awakening, and developed in reaction against theological rationalism and pietism...

    , 20th century High Church Lutherans or evangelical-Catholics and others.


Methodists and Presbyterians believe their denominations owe their origins to the Apostles and the early church, but do not claim descent from ancient church structures such as the episcopate. However, both of these churches hold that they are a part of the catholic (universal) church. According to Harper's New Monthly Magazine: As such, according to one viewpoint, for those who "belong to the Church," the term Methodist Catholic, or Presbyterian Catholic, or Baptist Catholic, is as proper as the term Roman Catholic. It simply means that body of Christian believers over the world who agree in their religious views, and accept the same ecclesiastical forms.

Avoidance of usage


Some Protestant churches avoid using the term completely, to the extent among many Lutherans of reciting the Creed with the word Christian in place of catholic. The Orthodox churches share some of the concerns about Roman Catholic papal claims, but disagree with some Protestants about the nature of the church as one body .

See also



  • Anglican Catholic Church
    Anglican Catholic Church
    The Anglican Catholic Church is a body of Anglican Christians in the continuing Anglican movement, separate from the Anglican Communion centered on the Archbishop of Canterbury....

  • Anglican Use
    Anglican Use
    The term Anglican Use has two meanings. First, it refers to parish churches founded by former Episcopalians, members of the United States' branch of the Anglican Communion, who have joined the Catholic Church...

  • Catechism of the Catholic Church
    Catechism of the Catholic Church
    The Catechism of the Catholic Church is the official text of the teachings of the Catholic Church. A provisional, "reference text" was issued by Pope John Paul II on October 11, 1992 — "the thirtieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council" — with his apostolic...

  • Catholic Church
  • Catholicism
    Catholicism
    Catholicism is a broad term for the body of the Catholic faith, its theologies and doctrines, its liturgical, ethical, spiritual, and behavioral characteristics, as well as a religious people as a whole....

  • Christianity
    Christianity
    Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

  • Independent Catholic Churches
    Independent Catholic Churches
    Independent Catholic churches are Catholic congregations that are not in communion with the Roman Catholic Church or any other churches whose sacraments are recognized by the Roman Catholic Church...

  • Liberal Catholic Church
    Liberal Catholic Church
    The Liberal Catholic Church is a form of Christianity open to theosophical ideas and even reincarnation. It is not connected to the Roman Catholic Church, which considers it heretical and schismatic...

  • List of popes
  • Old Catholic Church
    Old Catholic Church
    The term Old Catholic Church is commonly used to describe a number of Ultrajectine Christian churches that originated with groups that split from the Roman Catholic Church over certain doctrines, most importantly that of Papal Infallibility...

  • Universal Catholic Church
    Universal Catholic Church
    The Universal Catholic Church is a Christian church with headquarters based in the United States. The Church traces its founding to Jesus and the Twelve Apostles and regards the bishops to be the literal successors of the Apostles, holding their keys of authority...