For the record, Roman Catholic is a title given to the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church. It's not what we call ourselves. If you've ever met a member of the Lakota nation, I'd imagine they wouldn't like being called Sioux or even Lakota Sioux for that matter.

It's not like a denigrating title, but people so often make the Rome = Whore of Babylon connection that it is preferable to just call us Catholic.

If same could be said about "Protestants" I'd respectfully acknowledge the distinction, please say what you'd rather be called so we don't lump people into groups.

Could the same be said about "Mormons", should we refer to them as LDSers?


4 Answers 4


Hmm, but what would you call me I wonder? I am an Anglican. Specifically, I am an Anglo-Catholic, which means that I believe the Anglican Church is part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, that its threefold ministry is the threefold ministry of the Catholic Church, and that I am just as Catholic as you are. If you say "Catholics believe the Pope is infallible when speaking ex cathedra", I'm going to be in the corner with my hand in the air jumping up and down shouting "excuse me, I don't".

I don't call myself Protestant (because that would be a denial of my Catholicism), although I do call myself Reformed: nonetheless, I'm sure that many people would call me a Protestant.

If I was trying to be offensive towards the Church-that-acknowledges-the-Pope (excuse me for facetiousness), I would say "the Roman Church"! I say "Roman Catholic" solely to be non-ambiguous. I am sorry if this offends you, and I would love it if there was another phrasing that I could use.

I do sympathise: names are difficult and ambiguous, especially when those names are positive virtues!

  • 1
    Good point, the perspective one approaches their own religion is so very important here and no one wants to consider themselves to be tossed out of the Universal Church of Christ! I think whatever we call ourselves had better make our differences very clear, if those are applicable to the question at hand. There was a question about fasting and communion which was wholly impossible for me to answer because my entire conception of the Eucharist is different than that used in the question.
    – Peter Turner Mod
    Commented Aug 24, 2011 at 14:21
  • Yes, I thought exactly the same when I read that question. It's what tags are for, of course, but it's quite hard to group the various Protestant denominations. Commented Aug 24, 2011 at 14:25

I'm Roman Catholic, and it's not uncommon to use the term to describe the Church in mixed company to prevent the connotations and implications mentioned in the answers by wax eagle and lonesomeday. Official documents from parishes, dioceses, and even the Vatican use the term "Roman Catholic Church" interchangeably with the Catholic Church, particularly when the audience is not primarily the Roman Catholic Church and the term "Catholic Church" is ambiguous.

For example, when the Holy Father visited Poland to meet with the heads of other Churches, he said (emphasis mine):

As I recalled during last year’s ecumenical encounter in Cologne: “We can only obtain unity as a gift of the Holy Spirit.” For this reason, our ecumenical aspirations must be steeped in prayer, in mutual forgiveness and in the holiness of life of each of us. I express my satisfaction at the fact that here in Poland, the Polish Council for Ecumenism and the Roman Catholic Church have launched numerous initiatives in this area.

When he met with the Archbishop of Canterbury he said:

Since that meeting, the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion have entered into a process of fruitful dialogue, which has been marked by the discovery of significant elements of shared faith and a desire to give expression, through joint prayer, witness and service, to that which we hold in common. Over thirty-five years, the Anglican - Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) has produced a number of important documents which seek to articulate the faith we share.

I think in keeping with common practice, and in the spirit of ecumenism and to prevent ambiguity, it's important we don't refer to only one group as the the Catholic Church.

  • That's a good find. I don't know Polish but this translation might have been translated in multiple ways. It could be the best word in Polish to differentiate the Churches. But, in general you're right, when the question is phrased in the spirit of ecumenism (i.e. when issuing a joint proclamation with the Archbishop of Canterbury), then perhaps Roman Catholic Church is appropriate.
    – Peter Turner Mod
    Commented Aug 24, 2011 at 17:31

What would you call me? I am a Presbyterian. However, I ascribe to the Apostles Creed which says I am part of the "Holy Catholic Church." I am a protestant, but one of my own confessions says that I am part of the Catholic church, so in that sense, by the looses terms of Catholic, I am a Catholic. However, I am not a Roman Catholic or an Anglo-Catholic. I am mere a part of the Catholic church in so far as it refers to the Church Universal.

The fact is that the word catholic is actually an adjective meaning

  1. broad or wide-ranging in tastes, interests, or the like; having sympathies with all; broad-minded; liberal.
  2. universal in extent; involving all; of interest to all.
  3. pertaining to the whole Christian body or church.

Its hardly fair not to allow us to modify it in some way so that we can differentiate you from the Church Universal.

The second definition is much clearer:

  1. of or pertaining to a Catholic church, especially the Roman Catholic Church.
  2. Theology .

    a. (among Roman Catholics) claiming to possess exclusively the notes or characteristics of the one, only, true, and universal church having unity, visibility, indefectibility, apostolic succession, universality, and sanctity: used in this sense, with these qualifications, only by the Church of Rome, as applicable only to itself and its adherents and to their faith and organization; often qualified, especially by those not acknowledging these claims, by prefixing the word Roman.

    b. (among Anglo-Catholics) noting or pertaining to the conception of the church as the body representing the ancient undivided Christian witness, comprising all the orthodox churches that have kept the apostolic succession of bishops, and including the Anglican Church, the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, Church of Sweden, the Old Catholic Church (in the Netherlands and elsewhere), etc.

  3. pertaining to the Western Church.

However, it still lacks some clarity because of the 3rd part of the definition.

  • 1
    Actually, FWIW, the Apostle's and subsequent creeds refer to the "holy catholic and apostolic church" - note the small 'c' catholic. The word catholic simply means "universal" and in the creed arguably refers to the universal church body.
    – user32
    Commented Aug 26, 2011 at 18:32

I was a party to exactly the same discussion happening on Wikipedia over what to title the page on the [Roman] Catholic Church. The term "The Catholic Church" is used frequently to mean "the universal church" (c/f "one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church" from the Apostles Creed). There are times when it will be confusing to to explicitly state that we mean the church based in Rome, and then we should use "Roman Catholic". "Latin Rite" is simply too little known as a term to be useful.

On the other hand "Roman Catholic" certainly doesn't carry any derogatory overtones for most people. For those people who do dislike the Roman church, no change of name is going to make any difference.

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