"Roman" Catholic Church

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I read very often that many Non-Catholics when referring to our Church call it the "roman" Catholic Church and speak about us as Roman Catholics. Did the Church ever use "Roman" as an official title? If this is the case I would like to know what Church Father, what Pope, or what Council gave that title to the Church. Since when is the term used?

Thank you for your answers.


-- Enrique Ortiz (eaortiz@yahoo.com), October 13, 2001



-- Enrique Ortiz (eaortiz@yahoo.com), October 13, 2001.


Hello, Enrique.
I don't know if you remember, but I have posted at least one message here in which I strongly opposed the use of the term, "Roman Catholic," giving at least some of the reasons that it should not be used. [For example, please see what I wrote on March 27, 2001, on this thread.]

Today, I want to quote part of a Catholic Encyclopedia article on this subject. (I should start by mentioning that the term, "Roman Catholic," was invented by 16th-century Christians who rejected the papacy ["Rome"].)

--------------------- BEGIN QUOTATION ------------------
With regard to the modern use of the word, "Roman Catholic" is the designation employed in the legislative enactments of Protestant England, but "Catholic" is that in ordinary use on the Continent of Europe, especially in Latin countries. ... In England, since the middle of the sixteenth century, indignant protests have been constantly made against the "exclusive and arrogant usurpation" of the name Catholic by the Church of Rome. ... According to some, such combinations as Roman Catholic, or Anglo-Catholic, involve a contradiction in terms. [It is self-contradictory to label something as both local ("Roman" or "Anglo") and universal ("Catholic"). JFG] ...
"From about the year 1580, besides the term papist, employed with opprobrious intent, the followers of the old religion were often called Romish or Roman Catholics. Sir William Harbert, in 1585, published a "Letter to a Roman pretended Catholique", and in 1587 an Italian book by G.B. Aurellio was printed in London regarding the different doctrines "dei Protestanti veri e Cattolici Romani". ...
---------------------- END QUOTATION -----------------------

Now, it could be true that, at some point, a pope has used the term, "Roman Catholic," in an unofficial way, without being aware of the negative history behind it. (I am not aware of such use by a pope.) The important thing to me is that the term is not being used today. We do not read the "Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church." The Fathers of Vatican II did not write about "Roman Catholics."

St. James, pray for us.
God bless you.

-- (jfgecik@hotmail.com), October 13, 2001.

I took a look at the Catholic Encyclopedia, www.newadvent.org/cathen , on the words "Roman Catholic". One interesting account there is that of Cardinal Vaugh, in 1901, who, when forced to use that name, said there are two meanings to the term. One we accept: that the See of Peter at Rome is the center of our Church. The other we reject: that the word "Roman" can be used to divide up the Church, as if the Catholic Church could be sectioned into Anglo, Roman, Greek.

I was really opposed to use of the word Roman. Then I was told that a pope had used the term in an official document.

In a way Roman Catholic seems like a contradiction in terms. And I doubt that people in other rites, than the Latin, are using it. But what I see happening, is that faithful Catholics are now using the term to declare their unity with the Pope. It's become almost a cry of identity. It has even been put on signs in front of churches: Roman Catholic Church.

Yes, there is some difficulty with the term. But I have an idea it will be used more and more. It seems many of the faithful are using it as a battle cry against those progressives who continue to attack the hierarchical Church in our time in history.

Dandi Kenoyer(hothamsound@hotmail.com

-- Dandi Kenoyer (hothamsound@hotmail.com), October 21, 2001.

The name "Roman Catholic Church" was started in 321 A.D. by Emporer Constantine. Constantine had passed a law that went into effect on March 7, 321. "On the venerable day of the Sun (Sunday), let the magistrates and the people residing in the cities rest, and let all workshops be closed."

At the time of his rule, the Roman Empire was disintegrating. Morality was at an all-time low... Yet Religion was far from dead. Constantine himself was a dedicated sun worshipper, as were a majority of his subjects. In fact the very name "Sunday" stems from pegan sun worship. By this time a growing number of Christians were Following the Catholic Church's example of giving up the Sabbath and keeping Sunday in honor of the resurrection. Constantine had already seen the moral strength of Christianity as revealed in the courage of its martyrs, and this gave him an idea. He thought to himself, "Why not unite the Christians and the pegans together through their mutual respect for Sunday?" That's why he pass his famous Sunday law hoping to bring unity to his empire, thus saving it from ruin. His plan failed and Rome still went down.

However as he passed the law and making religios worship a law, he joined church and state together, creating the Roman(State) Catholic (Church) Church. Roman Catholic Church.

Now one thing to bear in mind is the the "Catholic" Church before the joining of church and state in Rome was "Catholic"... translated meant was freely used by the earlier Christian writers in what we may call its primitive and non-ecclesiastical sense. Thus we meet such phrases as the "the catholic resurrection" (Justin Martyr), "the catholic goodness of God" (Tertullian), "the four catholic winds" (Irenaeus), where we should now speak of "the general resurrection", "the absolute or universal goodness of God", "the four principal winds", etc. The word seems in this usage to be opposed to merikos (partial) or idios (particular), and one familiar example of this conception still survives in the ancient phrase "Catholic Epistles" as applied to those of St. Peter, St. Jude, etc., which were so called as being addressed not to particular local communities, but to the Church at large. (newadvent.org definition of Catholic)

-- Kelly (scrappy8527@yahoo.com), May 18, 2004.

The name "Roman Catholic Church" originated in the 16th century by Protestants who wished to emphasize their misguided notion that the Catholic Church was a follower of "Rome", not of God. There is NO written record of that name from any earlier point in history.

The law Constantine imposed in 321 followed his personal conversion to Catholicism, and his decree making Christianity - therefore Catholicism - the official religion of the empire. Having turned away from his own pagan past, and recognized the truth of Catholicism, he elevated his newfound faith to this official status, including imposition of the Catholic day of worship which dated from Apostolic times (see Acts 20:7), while placing sanctions on those who clung to paganism (though he did not actively persecute them as Catholics had been persecuted before this decree).

The pagan Roman Empire was indeed in its death throes during Constantine's reign. But his decision to legitimize Christianity on an official level had no bearing on that fact. Yes, the modern name "sunday" is indeed derived from pagan sun worship, just as all the modern names of the days are derived from pagan gods. But those names were not in general usage until well after Constantine's time.

Obviously the word katholicos (catholic) was used in Greek literature well before the time of Christ, and well afterwards, since it is a common Greek adjective meaning "universal". This is precisely why the Church founded by Christ for ALL men - the one He commanded to "make disciples of ALL peoples" - called itself by that name from earliest times. While "catholic" is used many places in its general grammatical sense, it is used in its specific sewnse, as the name of the Church founded by Christ, only since Apostolic times. The oldest known written record of the official use of the name "Holy Catholic Church" dates from 107 AD, in the writings of Ignatius, a Catholic bishop who was catechised and ordained by the Apostle John.

-- Paul M. (PaulCyp@cox.net), May 18, 2004.

ok if he "Turned from his own Pegan past" why was he trying to pull parts of it into Christianity? He did give up his religion. He was always a pegan at heart. He went as far as to have the coins he bore have the letters of Jese on one side and the Sun God on the other. Turned from paganism? Hardly... he had his own agenda...

-- Kelly (scrappy8527@yahoo.com), May 18, 2004.

mind all the spelling errors.. I'm at work :)

these keyboards aren't that great

-- Kelly (scrappy8527@yahoo.com), May 18, 2004.

Paul M, I agree with the general thrust of your post, but you said “The law Constantine imposed in 321 followed his personal conversion to Catholicism, and his decree making Christianity - therefore Catholicism - the official religion of the empire. Having turned away from his own pagan past, and recognized the truth of Catholicism, he elevated his newfound faith to this official status, including imposition of the Catholic day of worship … while placing sanctions on those who clung to paganism …The pagan Roman Empire was indeed in its death throes during Constantine's reign.”

This is wrong. Although the empire was in virtual civil war just before Constantine, under his rule it was almost as strong and united as ever. He proclaimed the Edict of Milan granting Christians freedom to practise their religion. He did not himself become a Christian until he was on his death-bed 20 years later. Even then, he did not become a Catholic, but was baptised into the Arian heresy. Catholicism did not become the official religion of the empire until many decades after his death. Sanctions against pagans did not begin until decades (centuries?) after that.

-- Steve (55555@aol.com), May 20, 2004.

Hi Steve,

Thanks for the corrections. I realize Constantine postponed his baptism until he was on his deathbed, a practice fairly common among Catholics of the time. This was due primarily to the Church's teaching that the sacrament of Confession could be received only once during a person's lifetime, and that mortal sins committed subsequently could therefore not be forgiven. However, I believe Constantine accepted the basic tenets of Christianity well before his death. Otherwise there would have been no explainable motive for the Edict of Milan. I don't believe it was a matter of "freedom of religion" in the American sense.

-- Paul M. (PaulCyp@cox.net), May 20, 2004.

Constantine may well have accepted the basic tenets of Christianity, but I think his main motive for the Edict of Milan was that Christians were a very large and discontented minority which largely operated underground. The church's inability to operate freely and openly encouraged the development of radical Christian heretical sects with extreme ideas such as rejection of all temporal authorities. Constantine thought that legalizing Christianity (and making it better organized through the Council of Nicea which he paid for and helped organize) would make it a force for stability of the empire instead of a source of instability.

After the Edict there was freedom of religion in the modern sense. People were free to worship any god they chose. The majority of those outside the cities were still pagan. ("Pagani" means "peasants, country-dwellers"). The pagan gods were still the official patrons of the empire. Shortly after their official status was removed, Rome was sacked by the barbarians in 410 AD, leading to a common belief that Rome had been punished for abandoning the gods who had nurtured it. It was to counter this argument that St Augustine wrote "City of God".

-- Steve (55555@aol.com), May 20, 2004.

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