Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Not "Catholic Christian" - Just "Catholic"

When we here the word "Catholic" a lot of us (even lifelong Catholics) think of the things that make us uniqe - the Sacraments, Mass, Mary, purgatory, the Pope, etc. There is certainly nothing wrong with thinking about those things and our unique status and identity as a Church. But, this thinking is also very limited and if it stops there, it shows an improper understanding of the nature of the Church.

The biggest problem is in the way "Catholic Christian" is used, it insinuates Catholics are merely a subset of all Christians and therefore the larger group (represented by the word "Christian") has as a mere subset of it Catholics. We are merely a portion of this one "Christian" Church. Yet, this isn't what the Catholic Church teaches about itself.

Before I go any further, let me be clear. I am not saying that non-Catholic Christians are not united to the Church of Christ. Nor am I saying anything about their salvation (for more on these topics see the links at the bottom). Rather, I am making a positive affirmation of what the Catholic Church truly is and critiquing the use of the term "Catholic Christian", because it is not only insufficient as a descriptor of who we are as The Church of Christ, but it is also inaccurate and redundant.

If we are to understand the Catholic Church properly, we must understand her nature. This is what Vatican II says about the Church (emphasis added):
"This is the one Church of Christ which in the Creed is professed as one, holy, catholic and apostolic, which our Saviour, after His Resurrection, commissioned Peter to shepherd, and him and the other apostles to extend and direct with authority, which He erected for all ages as "the pillar and mainstay of the truth". This Church constituted and organized in the world as a society, subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him, although many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside of its visible structure. These elements, as gifts belonging to the Church of Christ, are forces impelling toward catholic unity." - LG 8
The Church of Christ subsists in the Catholic Church, not the other way around. If the Catholic Church subsisted in the Church of Christ, then the term "Catholic Christian" would make more sense. But, as it is we should not use the term if we mean to reflect a true doctrine an orthodox understanding of our identity as Catholics.

To put it another way - there is one Church which Christ founded. That Church is the Catholic Church.

Another thought - "Catholic Christian" is redundant. Catholics are by definition Christians. As another document in Vatican II stated:
"it is only through Christ's Catholic Church, which is "the all-embracing means of salvation," that they can benefit fully from the means of salvation. We believe that Our Lord entrusted all the blessings of the New Covenant to the apostolic college alone, of which Peter is the head, in order to establish the one Body of Christ on earth to which all should be fully incorporated who belong in any way to the people of God." -UR 3
Being Catholic is the very definition of being a Christian.
Just "Catholic" please.

Related Posts:
**"Outside the Church There Is No Salvation"
**Is Receiving the Eucharist a Requirement for Salvation?
**Can Non-Catholics Be Saved?
**How Do We Know The Church Teaches Truth?


Nathan said...

What do you think of the term "Roman Catholic"? Do you see that as another attempt at making the Catholic Church a subset, this time our Church being the "Roman" branch of a larger "Catholic" Church perhaps containing all other Christians? I think the Anglicans used to believe there were 3 branches of the "catholic church" - Roman, Orthodox, and Anglican.

George @ Convert Journal said...

Well said. I took a crack at this too, saying Catholic = Christian; Christian = Catholic. There is but one Christian Church and other Christian communities are part of it. While they would hate the notion, they are (partially) Catholic.

Martina said...

I agree, but let me share a story of mine about why we fought for Catholic Christian on one of the largest secular parenting websites.

::prefaced by saying, one Catholic to another, I *completely* understand where you are coming from and I wholeheartedly agree::

This topic hits close to home for me b/c I lead the renegade brigade on to get our proper identity restored to our message board. You see, there were Mainstream Christians, Progressive Christians, Pentacostal Christians, Conservative Christians. Then there were atheists, agnostics, pagans, Mormons, Jehovah's Witness and Catholics. I was really bothered by this and together our group bandied together to appeal to the higher ups of BBC to change the name from Catholic Families to Catholic Christian Families. They tried to tell *us* the negative connotation Catholic Christian. The end result was that they finally gave in and gave us the title that we knew was proper and fitting given that the nature of the board was not only friendship and laughs, sharing in the Faith, but it was also a way to evangelize. The idea of the name change was not really for *us* because we knew our identity. It was a way to fight the plaguing thought processes by trolls that we were a "cult." So...all that to say that I completely agree with where you are coming from, but in our instance it was an evangelization tool to say to lookie loos and lurkers:

"We are not only Christian, we are the ORIGINAL flavor, baby!" :)

Justin Michael Schwartzbeck said...

@Nathan: there are multiple valid rites within the Catholic Church, including Greek, Byzantine, and Coptic. Roman refers to the Latin rite, although the term "Roman Catholic" is often used as a form of derision against the Catholic Church by some protestants, which is why it's a term that I like to avoid.