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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The word Catholic is derived from the Greek adjective καθολικός (katholikos), meaning "universal".[1][2] In the context of Christian ecclesiology, it has a rich history and several usages.

The term "Catholic Church" typically refers to the Roman Catholic Church: in full communion with the Bishop of Rome, made up of the Latin Rite and the 22 Eastern Catholic Churches; this is the common usage in most countries.

Many Protestants sometimes use the term "catholic church" to refer broadly to the Christian Church and all believers in Jesus Christ across the world and the ages, regardless of denominational affiliation.[3] [4]

The Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Anglicans, Lutherans and some Methodists believe that their churches are catholic in the sense that they are in continuity with the original universal church founded by the Apostles. The Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Oriental Orthodox churches all believe that their church 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.[5] Catholicity is considered one of Four Marks of the Church, the others being unity, sanctity, and apostolicity.[6] according to the Nicene Creed of 381: "I believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church."


History of ecclesiastical use of "catholic"

Ignatius of Antioch

A letter written by Ignatius to Christians in Smyrna[7] around 106 is the earliest surviving witness to the use of the term Catholic Church (Letter to the Smyrnaeans, 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.[8] The term is also used in the Martyrdom of Polycarp in 155 and in the Muratorian fragment, about 177.

St Cyril of Jerusalem

St Cyril of Jerusalem (circa 315-386) 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).[9]

Theodosius I

The term Catholic Christians entered Roman Imperial law when Theodosius I, 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 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.[10] 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 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.[11]

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 churches that, in full communion with the Bishop of Rome — 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, Greek, Greek Melkite, Maronite, Ruthenian Byzantine, Coptic Catholic, Syro-Malabar, Syro-Malankara, Chaldean and Ethiopic Rites. Under Pope John Paul II the Catholic Church issued a book of beliefs under the title Catechism of the Catholic Church, 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."[12]

The term Catholic Church is associated with the whole of the church that is led by the Roman Pontiff, currently Pope Benedict XVI, 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.[13][14]

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.[15]

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"[16] in the 24 April 1870 Dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Faith of the First Vatican Council. 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 also identifies itself as Catholic, as in the title of The Longer Catechism of the Orthodox, Catholic, Eastern Church. This church and also Oriental Orthodoxy and the Assyrian Church of the East all see themselves as the "one holy catholic and apostolic Church" of the Nicene Creed (in distinction from each other, not collection).

Anglicans and Old Catholics see themselves as a communion within that one 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 certain churches in communion with him are allowed distinct pastoral heads with respect to ordinary administration. Anglicans and Old Catholics accept that the Bishop of Rome is primus inter pares among all primates[citation needed], but they embrace Conciliarism as a necessary check on what they consider to be the "excesses" of Ultramontanism.

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 often spoke of his great desire that the Catholic Church "once again breathe with both lungs",[17][18] thus emphasizing that the Roman Catholic Church seeks to restore full communion with the separated Eastern churches.[19]

After the East-West Schism, 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. 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, 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, etc.), and has declared that differences in traditional customs, observances and discipline are no obstacle to unity.[20]

Other Western Christians

  • Most Reformation 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 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 Church" in the Nicene Creed, the phrase the Catholic faith in the Athanasian Creed and the phrase holy catholic church in the Apostles' Creed.
  • The term can refer to the one (singular number) church that, according to Matthew 16:18-19, Jesus told the Apostle Peter he would build: "And I tell you, you are כיפא (Kepha) (Aramaic for "rock"), and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."

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. The Methodist and Anglican churches, specifically the Episcopalian and United Methodist Churches, have developed nicknames over the years such as Diet Catholic or Catholic Lite.[21][22]

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.[23][24][25] 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



  1. ^ "Catholic". Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford University Press. 2nd ed. 1989.
  2. ^ (cf. Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon)
  3. ^ "Beliefs and Social Issues, FAQ". United Methodist Church. Retrieved December, 2009. 
  4. ^ "ELCA Terminology". Evengelical Lutheran Church in America. Retrieved December 2009. 
  5. ^ F.L. Cross, Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 1977:175.
  6. ^ Christliche Religion, Oskar Simmel Rudolf Stählin, 1960, 150
  7. ^ J. H. Srawley (1900). "Ignatius Epistle to the Smyrnaeans". Retrieved 2007-06-24. 
  8. ^ "As certain unbelievers maintain, that He only seemed to suffer, as they themselves only seem to be Christians". Ignatius said these heretics did not believe in the reality of Christ's flesh, which did suffer and was raised up again: "They confess not the Eucharist to be the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins, and which the Father, of His goodness, raised up again" (Smyrnaeans, 7) and called them "beasts in the shape of men, whom you must not only not receive, but, if it be possible, not even meet with" (Smyrnaeans, 4).
  9. ^ "Catechetical Lecture 18 (Ezekiel xxxvii)". Trinity Consulting. Retrieved 2007-06-24. 
  10. ^ Paul Halsall (June 1997). "Banning of Other Religions Theodosian Code XVI.i.2". Internet Medieval Sourcebook. Retrieved 2007-06-24. 
  11. ^ Augustine of Hippo (397). "Against the Epistle of Manichaeus called Fundamental". Christian Classics Ethereal Library. Retrieved 2007-06-24. 
  12. ^ Catechism of the Catholic Church, 750
  13. ^ Steven Kovacevich, Apostolic Christianity and the 23,000 Western Churches, especially p. 15
  14. ^ Basic Principles Of The Attitude of The Russian Orthodox Church toward the Other Christian Confessions, adopted by the Jubilee Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church, 14 August 2000
  15. ^ Smyrnaeans, 2
  16. ^ Pope Pius IX; Vatican (1870-04-24). "First Vatican Council – Session 3: Dogmatic constitution on the Catholic faith". Retrieved 2007-06-24. 
  17. ^ Encyciclical Ut unum sint, 54
  18. ^ Apostolic Constitution Sacri Canones
  19. ^ Obituary of Pope John Paul II
  20. ^ Second Vatican Council Decree on Ecumenism, 16
  21. ^ "Diet Catholic". 2000-03-30. Retrieved 2009-05-28. 
  22. ^ "Methodist vs Catholic - Catholic Answers Forums". Retrieved 2009-05-28. 
  23. ^ "Nicene Creed". The Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod. Retrieved 2007-06-24. 
  24. ^ "Nicene Creed". Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. Retrieved 2007-06-24. 
  25. ^ "Nicene Creed". International Lutheran Fellowship. Archived from the original on 2007-09-28. Retrieved 2007-06-24. 

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

CATHOLIC (Gr. KaBoXtKOS, general, universal), a designation adopted in the 2nd century by the Christian Church to indicate Christendom as a whole, in contrast with individual churches. With this idea went the notions that Christianity had been diffused throughout the whole earth by the apostles, and that only what was found everywhere throughout the church could be true. The term thus in time became full of dogmatic and political meaning, connoting, when applied to the church, a universal authoritative and orthodox society, as opposed to Gnostic and other " sects " (cf. the famous canon of Vincent of Lerins A.D. 434; quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est). The term " Catholic " does not occur in the old Roman symbol; but Professor Loofs includes it in his reconstruction, based on typical phrases in common use at the time of the ante-Nicene creeds of the East. In the original form of the Nicene creed itself it does not occur; but in the creed of Jerusalem (348), an amplification of the Nicene symbol, we find " one Holy Catholic Church," and in the revision by Cyril of Alexandria (362) " Catholic and Apostolic Church " (see Creeds). Thus, though the word " Catholic " was late in finding its way into the formal symbols of the church, it is clear that it had long been in use in the original sense defined above. It must be borne in mind, however, that the designation " Catholic " was equally claimed by all the warring parties within the church at various times; thus, the followers of Arius and Athanasius alike called themselves Catholics, and it was only the ultimate victory of the latter that has reserved for them in history the name of Catholic, and branded the former as Arian.

With the gradual development and stereotyping of the creed it was inevitable that the term " Catholic " should come to imply a more narrowly defined orthodoxy. In the Eastern churches, indeed, the conception of the church as the guardian of " the faith once delivered to the saints " soon overshadowed that of interpretation and development by catholic consent, and, though they have throughout claimed the title of Catholic, their chief glory is that conveyed in the name of the Holy Orthodox Church. In the West, meanwhile, the growth of the power of the papacy had tended more and more to the interpretation of the word " catholic " as implying communion with, and obedience to, the see of Rome (see Papacy); the churches of the East, no less than the heretical sects of the West, by repudiating this allegiance, had ceased to be Catholic. This identification of " Catholic " with " Roman " was accentuated by the progress of the Reformation. The Reformers themselves, indeed, like other dissidents and reformers before them, did not necessarily repudiate the name of Catholic; they believed, in fact, in catholicism, i.e. the universal sanction of their beliefs, as firmly as did the adherents of " the old religion "; they included the Catholic creeds, definitions formulated by the universal church, in their service books; they too appealed, as the fathers of Basel and Constance had done, from the papal monarchy to the great ecclesiastical republic. The Church of England at least, emphasizing her own essential catholicity, retained in her translations of the ancient symbols the word catholic " instead of replacing it by " universal." But the appeal to the verbally inspired Bible was stronger than that to a church hopelessly divided; the Bible, and not the consent of the universal church, became the touchstone of the reformed orthodoxy; in the nomenclature of the time, " evangelical " arose in contradistinction to " Catholic," while, in popular parlance, the " protest " of the Reformers against the " corruptions of Rome " led to the invention of the term " Protestant," which, though nowhere assumed in the official titles of the older reformed churches, was early used as a generic term to include them all.

" Catholic " and " Catholicism " thus again changed and narrowed their meaning; they became, by universal usage, identified definitely with " Romanist " and the creed and obedience of Rome. Even in England, where the church retained most strongly the Catholic tradition, this distinction of " Protestant" and " Catholic" was clearly maintained, at least till the " Catholic revival " in the Church of England of the 19th century. On the continent of Europe the equivalent words (e.g. Ger. Katholik, Katholizismus; Fr. catholique, catholicisme) are even more definitely associated with Rome; they have lost the sense which they still convey to a considerable school of Anglicans. The dissident " Catholic " churches are forced to qualify their titles: they are " Old Catholics " (Alt-Katholiken) or " German Catholics " (Deutsch-Katholiken). The Church of Rome alone, officially and in popular parlance, is " the Catholic Church " (katholische Kirche, eglise catholique), a title which she proudly claims as exclusively her own, by divine right, by the sanction of immemorial tradition, and by reason of her perpetual protest against the idea of " national " churches, consecrated by the Reformation (see Church History, and Roman Catholic Church). The additional qualification of " Roman " she tolerates, since it proclaims her doctrine of the see of Rome as the keystone of Catholicism; but to herself she is "the Catholic Church," and her members are "Catholics." Yet to concede this claim and surrender without qualification the word " Catholic " to a connotation which is at best only universal in theory, is to beg several very weighty questions. The doctrine of the Catholic Church, i.e. the essential unity and interdependence of " all God's faithful people scattered throughout the world," is common to all sections of Christians. The creed is one; it is the interpretation that differs. In a somewhat narrower sense, too, the Church of England at bast has never repudiated the conception of the Catholic Church as a divinely instituted organization for the safe-guarding and proclamation of the Christian revelation. She deliberately retained the Catholic creeds, the Catholic ministry and the appeal to Catholic antiquity (see England, Church Of). A large section of her members, accordingly, laying stress on this side of her tradition, prefer to call themselves " Catholics." But, though the invention of the terms " Roman Catholic " and " Roman Catholicism " early implied the retention by the English Church of her Catholic claim, her members were never, after the Reformation, called Catholics; even the Caroline divines of the 17th century, for all their " popish practices," styled themselves Protestants, though they would have professed their adherence to " the Catholic faith " and their belief in " the Holy Catholic Church." Clearly, then, the exact meaning of the term varies according to those who use it and those to whom it is applied. To the Romanist " Catholic " means " Roman Catholic "; to the high Anglican it means whatever is common to the three " historic " branches into which he conceives the church to be divided - Roman, Anglican and Orthodox; to the Protestant pure and simple it means either what it does to the Romanist, or, in expansive moments, simply what is " universal " to all Christians. In a yet broader sense it is used adjectivally of mere wideness or universality of view, as when we speak of a man as " of catholic sympathies " or " catholic in his tastes." The name of Catholic Epistles is given to those letters (two of Peter, three of John, one of James, one of Jude) incorporated in the New Testament which (except 2 and 3 John) are not, like those of St Paul, addressed to particular individuals or churches, but to a larger and more indefinite circle of readers. (See Bible: New Testament, Canon.) The title of Catholicus (KaBoXucen) seems to have been used under the Roman empire, though rarely, as the Greek equivalent of consularis and praefectus. Thus Eusebius (Hist. eccl. viii. 23) speaks of the catholicus of Africa (Kaa9Xucov T7Js 'A4pucijs). As an ecclesiastical title it was used to imply, not universal (ecumenical), but a great and widespread jurisdiction. Thus the bishop of the important see of Seleucia (Bagdad), though subordinate to the patriarch of Antioch, had the title of Catholicus and power to consecrate even archbishops; and on the division of the see there were two Catholici under the patriarch of Antioch. In Ethiopia, too, there were Catholici with less extensive powers, subject to the patriarch of Alexandria. The title now survives, however, only as that of the head of the Armenian Church. A bishop's cathedral church is, however, in Greek the Catholicon. An isolated use of the word " catholic " as a secular legal term survives in Scots law; a catholic creditor is one whose debt is secured over several or over all of the subjects belonging to the debtor.

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also catholic




From Ancient Greek καθολικός (katholikos) from κατά (kata), according to) + ὅλος (holos), whole)



Catholic (comparative more Catholic, superlative most Catholic)


more Catholic

most Catholic

  1. Of the Western Christian church, as opposed to the Orthodox church.
    Christmas is celebrated at different dates in the Catholic and Orthodox calendars.
  2. Of the Roman Catholic church.
    The Church of the Sacred Heart is a Catholic one.





Catholic (plural Catholics)

  1. A member of a Catholic church.
    The wife of the Prime Minister is a Catholic.



Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From Wikibooks, the open-content textbooks collection

< Biblical Studies | Christianity

Introduction and Statistics

The name "Roman Catholicism" denotes the beliefs of those Christians who are in communion with the Pope who, as the successor of St Peter as Bishop of Rome, has primacy among all the bishops. Such Christians may be termed "Roman Catholics" or simply "Catholics". Historically speaking, the word "Catholic" has always been applied to the Church (it means "universal") and "Roman" goes before it to emphasise both the primacy of the Pope and continuity with the teachings of Jesus Christ and his apostles.

According to the 2006 Annuario Pontificio, the official yearbook of the Vatican, the membership of the Catholic Church was approximately 1,098,000,000 in 2004. There were 405,891 priests, 32,324 permanent deacons, and 113,044 seminarians when the data was compiled [1][2].

Include statistics of cardinals, bishops, episcopal sees, religious, parishes.

Hierarchy of the Catholic Church



Moral Teachings and Requirements

Prayers and Sacramentals

Liturgies of the Church, the Mass, and articles appropriate to the Mass

History of the Catholic Church and Biographies of the Saints

Other topics

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