I've come across many instances that treat the two terms as separate and distinct. In surveys and polls, Catholics are identified separately from "Christians". More recently, I've noticed that even professional organizations will identify them as separate groups (i.e. mental health counseling). Speaking as a non-Catholic here, I just hope that the distinction is not of malicious intent. One plausible reason is that Catholic expressions of piety (i.e. the rosary) may not be well received by a faithful non-Catholic Christian crowd, and so counseling treatment without consideration of this issue may be offensive to the patient. But still, that doesn't explain why people won't just use terms like "non-Catholic Christian" and "Catholic".

Anyway, regardless of what people believe about the above subject, the main reason for this question is whether this subject of the above paragraph would be on-topic here. It's not really about theology or practice. It's just about whether it's appropriate to classify Catholics as a separate group from so-called "Christians" for professional purpose or academic inquiry.

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    Historically, both Catholics and Protestants have accused each other of not being Christian. In my experience, Catholics don't talk that way about Protestants much anymore, but there is still a sentiment among many Protestants—especially conservative ones—that Catholics are not really Christians, so that language persists among some Protestants. Of course, professionally and socially it is not at all polite to distinguish between Catholics and Christians. But it is perfectly polite to distinguish between Catholic and Protestant Christians. Oct 17, 2015 at 16:19
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    In my experience, Catholics are more likely to self-identify as "Catholic" when someone asks their religion, whereas say Baptists are more likely to self-identify as "Christian". Of course there are many exceptions both ways. Perhaps, Catholics on average feel a stronger connection to the Church on average and Protestants feel a stronger connection to the Bible, or something along those lines... I agree with @Lee that these days Protestants are more likely to look down on Catholics than the other way around, but again, each individual is different... Both are real Christians, of course.
    – ThaddeusB
    Oct 17, 2015 at 19:44
  • From what I've read, any group identifying themselves as "Christian" is a Christian group for the purposes of the site. Oct 18, 2015 at 22:25

1 Answer 1


Whether it is appropriate or not is probably not a good question for this format, but a question about why it is sometimes broken down that way and sometimes not (with specific examples) would likely be fine. Even though it's a cultural and perception thing there are reasons that various people give that could be explained in a documentary style answer. Only the "truthy" question about whether they are right or wrong to do that should be avoided here.

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