Tanya asked:

Where does the term Roman Catholic Church appear anywhere in Church history?

Karl Keating replied:

"...this is almost a trick question because the phrase Roman Catholic Church is not the name of our Church. The name of our Church is simply Catholic Church. And that usage is as early as 107 by Ignatius of Antioch who was an early bishop. And he used it as a phrase that was already in common usage and of course we don't have a whole lot of writings from the first century outside of scripture itself, but here we have somebody writing within a decade of the death of John the apostle, and he's referring to the Catholic Church. And he's using it as a formal name. He's not using catholic as a lower case c, meaning just universal in the general sense. He's talking about the institution of the Catholic Church...

The phrase Roman Catholic Church though is actually much newer, chiefly from the 19th century. And it comes from not the Catholic Church but from the Anglican Church. ...there was a movement within the Anglican Church, and for a while John Henry Newman, before he became a Catholic, was part of this movement, the high church or the liturgical end of the Anglican Church posited that there were three branches of the Catholic Church. There's the Roman Catholic Church that is the one under the pope in rome, there was the Eastern Orthodox Church, and there was the Anglican Church. Protestants were in a separate category. But the Catholic Church itself, three faces to it so to speak ... so what these scholars called the Anglican Catholic Church, and then they needed to distinguish that from what we just call the Catholic Church they called us the Roman Catholic Church. So it was actually a phrase or title put on us by Protestants in England, Anglicans are Protestants, in the 19th century.

Now in the U.S. for legal purposes normally the church is called the Roman Catholic Church. So for example your diocese is probably called the Roman Catholic Church of X city, wherever you are ... but that is a kind of an accommodation for legal purposes. But the name of our church is simply Catholic Church. ... let me make one distinction here. The Catholic Church has within it what we call churches east and west. We're familiar, most of us, with the western church also known as the latin church and that's what ninety plus per cent of American Catholics belong to. But there are many eastern catholic churches too. The Byzantine churches, the Maronite Church and so on and so forth ... so when we are talking at that level, distinguishing east and west, the western one is often called the Roman Catholic Church, we might have the Byzantine Catholic Church, the Chaldean Catholic Church, the Ukrainian Catholic Church and so on. They are all part of the one Catholic Church but we distinguish their rites from one another, their liturgical styles from one another..."


Catholic Answers, "Open Forum" (San Diego: Catholic Answers, 2015)

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Show air date: August 11, 2015

Name of show: Open Forum

Guest comments by: Karl Keating

Question appeared in show: 13:22

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