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Roman Catholic vs Catholic
Question from Diane Pereira on 10/3/2008:

A friend asked me today - is the Roman Catholic Church the same as the Catholic Church? I wasn't sure as I know of the Ukrainian Catholic Church is a bit different because they use the Julian Calendar and use the Eastern Right but I know that we can attend to fulfill our Sunday obligation. But is there a Catholic Church that we would not be recommended to attended rather than a Roman Catholic Church? Thanks For Your Help!

I'm assuming that we call it the Roman Catholic Church because that is where Peter - the first Pope went to start the Church.

Answer by Rev. Mark J. Gantley, JCL on 10/3/2008:

I do not use the term "Roman Catholic Church" and also official documents of the Vatican do not use the term "Roman Catholic Church."

The Catholic Church is a communion of several ritual Churches, including the Latin Church, Ukrainian Church, etc. The key to this is the authority of the pope, the successor of St. Peter (as you realize). If the Church is under the authority of the pope and the bishops in communion with him, then the Church is authentically Catholic.

Be careful, though. Some groups might claim to be Catholic but not truly be, according to our definition, since they are not under the authority of the pope.

I would note that the vast majority of the membership of the Catholic Church are members of the Latin Church.

The term "rite" (not "right") refers to the ceremonial traditions that a ritual Church uses. Some ritual Churches use the same "rite." For example, several of the Churches (including the Ukrainian) use the Byzantine rite.

Some rites are used only by one ritual Church. For example, the Maronite ritual Church uses the Maronite rite. This is an example where the ritual Church and the rite names are the same.

The Latin Church uses the Roman rite. So in this case, the name of the ritual Church and the name of the rite are different.

So the bottom line needs to be -- is the Church under the pope or not? If it is, then OK. If not, beware.

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