"Roman Catholic"

[It's been pointed out to me that this rant is off-base because the Catholic Church doesn't call itself the "Roman" Catholic Church. Like the Eastern Orthodox, they consider their church to be the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. This rant remains here for the historical record, but it's been replaced by a new one. —JoT, August 2003]

"Catholic" means universal. "Roman" means "of Rome" or "not Eastern Orthodox." Thus the term "Roman Catholic" is a contradiction in terms. It's like saying the "Universal Western" Church or "Global European" Church.

Calling the Roman church "Catholic" is like calling the US baseball championship the "World Series," or like calling an earthbound beauty pageant the "Miss Universe" contest.

(I've posted a few posts critical of Roman Catholicism lately. Let me say that I don't have anything in particular against Roman Catholicism. It's a religion more or less like any other. But then, that's not exactly a compliment. For that matter, I've been criticized for treating Catholicism as a legitimate form of Christianity.)

March 2002


PS: The more I've learned about the origins of Catholic practices, the more appropriate the term "Roman" Catholic seems. Catholicism isn't just geographically centered in Rome. It also incorporates plenty of Roman practices: venerating statues of the divine dead, hailing a top priest as pontifex maximus, using a dead language in liturgy, believing in a purgatory, etc. [Mar 08]