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The Church's official name
Question from Frank Borghese on 12-27-2005:
This may be a silly question, but I've found no consensus even among some Catholics.

While the latin rite is called the Roman Catholic Church is it technically incorrect to call the church as a whole, including the eastern rites, the Roman Catholic Church?

My understanding is that the church is officially called the Holy Catholic Church but not the Holy, Catholic, Apostolic and Roman Church because of the use of Roman in the latter. Anything that clears this up would be appreciated (and would settle a friendly argument!).

Answer by Rev. Mark J. Gantley, JCL on 12-29-2005:
The Church that I am a member of is the "Catholic Church."

The Catholic Church includes a number of ritual Churches -- e.g., Latin Church, Maronite Church, Armenian Church, Coptic Church, Ukrainian Church. It is also appropriate to include tyhe term "Catholic" in the title of each of these Churches -- e.g., Latin Catholic Church, Maronite Catholic Church, Armenian Catholic Church, Coptic Catholic Church, Ukrainian Catholic Church. Related to this, your use of the term "rite" is incorrect. The correct term would be "ritual Church" or "Church sui iuris." Each of these Churches is a "ritual Church" or "Church sui iuris." Together, all of these Churches is the Catholic Church.

Personally, I never use the term "Roman Catholic Church," as it is not a term that the Church uses to apply to herself in official documents. I realize this is common usage, however, for many people in the secular world, and this usage has been taken over frequently by many in the Catholic Church. It is often used by people in the Catholic Church to distinguish "true" Catholics from pretenders. Still, I avoid using it because it does not originate in usage with the Church herself.

When the Church uses the term "Roman Church," it is referring to the Church of the Diocese of Rome. "Roman" is also used in matters related to the liturgy (e.g., the Roman Missal, the Roman RItual, the Roman Pontifical).

It is also appropriate to use the term "Church" when referring to a diocese -- e.g., the Church of the Diocese of Las Vegas. A diocese (or eparchy in the Eastern Churches) is a portion of the people of God gathered with its bishop (or eparch) and is a complete expression of the Catholic Church.

It is appropriate to use the term "church" when referring to the building that is the worship location for a parish, although in this sense I usually do not capitalize the word "church" unless it is a part of a title (e.g., St. Patrick's Catholic Church).

So let me sum up -- there is the one universal Catholic Church. There are the various ritual Catholic Churches (I believe 22 in all) that together are the one Catholic Church. Each ritual Church has many dioceses that are complete expressions of the Catholic Church. And there are church buildings related to parishes. Like many words, one word has been uses and shades of meaning.


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