Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Catholic Encyclopedia on "Catholic" and "Roman Catholic"

Consider this the secundae partis of a prior entry on this blog. Under the entry, "Roman Catholic," The Catholic Encyclopedia includes these comments:
A qualification of the name Catholic commonly used in English-speaking countries by those unwilling to recognize the claims of the One True Church. Out of condescension for these dissidents, the members of that Church are wont in official documents to be styled "Roman Catholics" as if the term Catholic represented a genus of which those who owned allegiance to the pope formed a particular species. It is in fact a prevalent conception among Anglicans to regard the whole Catholic Church as made up of three principal branches, the Roman Catholic, the Anglo-Catholic and the Greek Catholic. As the erroneousness of this point of view has been sufficiently explained in the articles CHURCH and CATHOLIC, it is only needful here to consider the history of the composite term with which we are now concerned.

In the "Oxford English Dictionary", the highest existing authority upon questions of English philology, the following explanation is given under the heading "Roman Catholic".

The use of this composite term in place of the simple Roman, Romanist, or Romish; which had acquired an invidious sense, appears to have arisen in the early years of the seventeenth century. For conciliatory reasons it was employed in the negotiations connected with the Spanish Match (1618-1624) and appears in formal documents relating to this printed by Rushworth (I, 85-89). After that date it was generally adopted as a non-controversial term and has long been the recognized legaland official designation, though in ordinary use Catholic alone is very frequently employed. (New Oxford Dict., VIII, 766)
Of the illustrative quotations which follow, the earliest in date is one of 1605 from the "Europae Speculum" of Edwin Sandys: "Some Roman Catholiques will not say grace when a Protestant is present"; while a passage from Day's "Festivals" of 1615, contrasts "Roman Catholiques" with "good, true Catholiques indeed".
Although the account thus given in the Oxford Dictionary is in substance correct, it cannot be considered satisfactory....
It is noteworthy that the representative Anglican divine, Bishop Andrewes, in his "Tortura Torti" (1609) ridicules the phrase Ecclesia Catholica Romana as a contradiction in terms. "What," he asks, "is the object of adding 'Roman'? The only purpose that such an adjunct can serve is to distinguish your Catholic Church from another Catholic Church which is not Roman" (p. 368). It is this very common line of argument which imposes upon Catholics the necessity of making no compromise in the matter of their own name. The loyal adherents of the Holy See did not begin in the sixteenth century to call themselves "Catholics" for controversial purposes. It is the traditional name handed down to us continuously from the time of St. Augustine. We use this name ourselves and ask those outside the Church to use it, without reference to its signification simply because it is our customary name, just as we talk of the Russian Church as "the Orthodox Church", not because we recognize its orthodoxy but because its members so style themselves, or again just as we speak of "the Reformation" because it is the term established by custom, though we are far from owning that it was a reformation in either faith or morals. The dog-in-the-manger policy of so many Anglicans who cannot take the name of Catholics for themselves, because popular usage has never sanctioned it as such, but who on the other hand will not concede it to the members of the Church of Rome, was conspicuously brought out in the course of a correspondence on this subject in the London "Saturday Review" (Dec., 1908 to March, 1909) arising out of a review of some of the earlier volumes of THE CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA.
You can read the article in its entirety here.


lojahw said...

At the risk of being redundant with my response elsewhere on "Return to Rome," the term "Catholic Church" was coined centuries before Augustine and before the bishop of Rome was afforded more than regional authority.

The notion that the "Catholic Church" is limited to those in communion with the bishop at Rome is inconsistent with early church history. The first mention of communion with a bishop was in the letters of Ignatius of Antioch, ca. 105 AD. Ignatius always referred to the local bishop, not the bishop of Rome. In fact, Ignatius explicitly denied a hierarchy of bishops. For example he wrote: “to Polycarp, Bishop of the Church of the Smyrnans, or rather, who has, as his own bishop, God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Ignatius went so far as to say, “Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.”

Unless one denies that Jesus Christ is present wherever two or three are gathered in His name, one should not object to descriptive designations for various branches of the one holy catholic and apostolic church. Those who pledge allegiance to Rome should be happy to be called Roman Catholics.

Lover of Jesus and His Word

Peter Sean said...

The sad fact is that the term "Rome", "Roman", "Romish", "Romanist", "Papist" have most definitely acquired an invidious and derogatory historical connotation. It takes an effort in willful ignorance to fail to notice that those terms were used by one side of the internecine debates that arose from the Reformation to denigrate the other side. Sometimes the people who felt most free to use these terms were also the same people most likely to massacre and oppress the same people to whom they applied such terms. Even during more benign periods of history - such as America in the 19th Century - terms like "Papist" and "Romanist" were used by the Know-Nothings to push an agenda that sought to marginalize Catholics.

None of this should be much of a surprise to anyone. The purpose of using derogatory terms that pick out an alleged defining characteristic of another group is to marginalize, caricature and ostracize that group so that their common characteristics with the user of the derogatory term can be ignored. If we call Catholics "papist" it is much easier to view them as diabolical and under the pernicious influence of a foriegn power, than if we call them "Catholics."

That is the real burden of history. That burden exists today. The use of the term "Roman Catholic" in the American or the English-speaking context bears that burden because it places the attention on the idea of "Roman", i.e., foreign, European, not English, which appeals to tropes of xenophobia that have constantly run through the English and the American cultures.

In light of that history - which all too often included the massacre, starvation and oppression of entire populations by the English Protestants - why are Protestants so insistent on calling Catholics "Roman"? Isn't it enough for Catholics to say that they find the subtle - and not so subtle - derogatory connotations of being foreign sufficient reason to desist? And why is it that the most virulent anti-Catholics are the one who are most insistent on using the terms "Papist", "Roman" or "Romanist"? Doesn't that usage betray the intent behind the use of such terms for the rhetorical purpose of making Catholics the "other"?

lojahw said...

Peter, Your comments about the use of "Papists" and "Romists" are well taken. However, notwithstanding your comments about English history, in the larger view of history, the term Catholic is more inclusive than the way your Church insists it be used. As I said earlier: those who pledge allegiance to Rome should be happy to be called Roman Catholics.


Peter Sean said...

However, notwithstanding your comments about English history, in the larger view of history, the term Catholic is more inclusive than the way your Church insists it be used.

Unfortunately, we are not "in the larger view of history." We are in a particular cultural context where the use of "Rome" or "Roman Catholic" was invented by the dominant culture as a way of marginalizing Catholics. That's the way that the term has historically been used in this culture and that is the way it used by anti-catholic apologists.

As for the allegiance argument, are we permitted to refer to the Presbyterian Church (USA) as the "Church of Louiseville, Kentucky" and Presbyterians as "Louisevillians." The potential for humor and depicting the PCUSA as a marginal church from a small town are endless, if we can.

No, obviously not. Such a tactic would be transparent and rude. Natural human courtesy argues that we use their terminology for themselves, which is why I refer to "Reformed" churches as "Reformed" although I don't believe that they truly are "reformed."

Dependant Rational Animal said...

Lojahw's comment presupposes that Ignatius was not in communion with Clement, a presupposition that is baseless in history. Though the Church's understanding of Peter's mission in the Church, and that of his successors in Rome, may have been nascent, to claim that Ignatius was not in union with the Pope, because he didn't understand what it meant to be Bishop of Rome is like claiming that any given man in history did not like water because he didn't know it is composed of two hydrogen particles bonded to a single molecule of oxygen.