The difference between a Catholic and a Roman Catholic?

The difference between a Catholic and a Roman Catholic?

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What is Catholic?

The term “catholic” simply means “universal,” and when employing it in those early days, St. Ignatius of Antioch and St. Polycarp of Smyrna were referring to the Church that was already “everywhere,” as distinguished from whatever sects, schisms or splinter groups might have grown up here and there, in opposition to the Catholic Church.

The term was already understood even then to be an especially fitting name because the Catholic Church was for everyone, not just for adepts, enthusiasts or the specially initiated who might have been attracted to her.

Again, it was already understood that the Church was “catholic” because — to adopt a modern expression — she possessed the fullness of the means of salvation. She also was destined to be “universal” in time as well as in space, and it was to her that applied the promise of Christ to Peter and the other apostles that “the powers of death shall not prevail” against her (Mt 16:18).

The Catechism of the Catholic Church in our own day has concisely summed up all the reasons why the name of the Church of Christ has been the Catholic Church: “The Church is catholic,” the Catechism teaches, “[because] she proclaims the fullness of the faith. She bears in herself and administers the totality of the means of salvation. She is sent out to all peoples. She speaks to all men. She encompasses all times. She is ‘missionary of her very nature'” (no. 868)

What is Roman Catholic?

The term Roman Catholic is not used by the Church herself; it is a relatively modern term, and one, moreover, that is confined largely to the English language. The English-speaking bishops at the First Vatican Council in 1870, in fact, conducted a vigorous and successful campaign to insure that the term Roman Catholic was nowhere included in any of the Council’s official documents about the Church herself, and the term was not included.

Similarly, nowhere in the 16 documents of the Second Vatican Council will you find the term Roman Catholic. Pope Paul VI signed all the documents of the Second Vatican Council as “I, Paul. Bishop of the Catholic Church.” Simply that — Catholic Church. There are references to the Roman curia, the Roman missal, the Roman rite, etc., but when the adjective Roman is applied to the Church herself, it refers to the Diocese of Rome!

Lets take the Cardinals, for example, are called cardinals of the Holy Roman Church, but that designation means that when they are named to be cardinals they have thereby become honorary clergy of the Holy Father’s home diocese, the Diocese of Rome. Each cardinal is given a titular church in Rome, and when the cardinals participate in the election of a new pope. they are participating in a process that in ancient times was carried out by the clergy of the Diocese of Rome

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