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Catholic or catholic?

If you do not know the blog Get Religion, you should, especially if you have any interest in reporting on religion in secular media, or any interest in how religions present themselves to the world through the secular media.

There was a recent post discussing the terms Catholic and catholic, and what they mean. While doing a good job of looking at catholic as universal versus Catholic as referring to the Catholic Church, it left a few vagaries intact, that I have always struggled with, especially in secular reporting on the Catholic Church.

Briefly, the most misunderstood aspect of secular reporting on these terms is to always conflate ‘Roman Catholic Church’ and Catholic Church.

I have mentioned it before, but, simply put, the Catholic Church is the Catholic Church. It is not the only church that is catholic, nor is it the entire church catholic, but there is only one church called, officially, the Catholic Church., and it is the 1.1 billion member church in communion with Rome.

Roman Catholic, at most, indicates only a part of the Catholic Church – one of the 23 sui iuris churches that make up the Catholic Church. Roman Catholic and Latin Catholic are basically synonymous. However, Roman Catholic Church and Catholic Church are not synonymous. A Ukranian-Greek Catholic, a Chaldean Catholic, or a Maronite Catholic are all Catholic, but none are Roman Catholic.

More strictly, as I write from Rome, Roman Catholic means those Catholics who belong to the Church of Rome – that is, the Diocese of Rome. There are less than 3 million. Neither should the entire Catholic Church be referred to as the Roman Church – that would be like referring to the Anglican Communion as the Church of Canterbury, or to the Lutheran World Federation as the Augsburgian Church.

Yet, the AP style manual still insists on using ‘Roman Catholic’ instead of simply Catholic. In the end, admitting that the Catholic Church is properly called Catholic and not Roman Catholic does not mean it is, or thinks it is, the only catholic church, nor that it is the entire church catholic, but it is ecumenically appropriate to call a Church what it calls itself. The Catholic Church is the Catholic Church, and no high-church Anglicans were harmed in the making of this statement.


Eastern Catholics explain tradition, value of married priests

Tuesday, November 13, 2012
By Cindy Wooden Catholic News Service

ROME (CNS) — In Eastern Christianity — among both Catholics and Orthodox — a dual vocation to marriage and priesthood are seen as a call “to love more” and to broaden the boundaries of what a priest considers to be his family, said Russian Catholic Father Lawrence Cross.

Father Cross, a professor at the Australian Catholic University in Melbourne, was one of the speakers at the Chrysostom Seminar in Rome Nov. 13, a seminar focused on the history and present practice of married priests in the Eastern churches.

The Code of Canons of the Eastern (Catholic) Churches insist that “in the way they lead their family life and educate their children, married clergy are to show an outstanding example to other Christian faithful.”

Speakers at the Rome conference — sponsored by the Australian Catholic University and the Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies at St. Paul University in Ottawa — insisted the vocation of married priests in the Eastern churches cannot be understood apart from an understanding of the sacramental vocation of married couples.

“Those who are called to the married priesthood are, in reality, called to a spiritual path that in the first place is characterized by a conjugal, family form of life,” he said, and priestly ordination builds on the vocation they have as married men.

Father Cross and other speakers at the conference urged participants to understand the dignity of the vocation of marriage in the way Blessed John Paul II did: as a sacramental expression of God’s love and as a path to holiness made up of daily acts of self-giving and sacrifices made for the good of the other.

“Married life and family life are not in contradiction with the priestly ministry,” Father Cross said. A married man who is ordained is called “to love more, to widen his capacity to love, and the boundaries of his family are widened, his paternity is widened as he acquires more sons and daughters; the community becomes his family.”

Father Basilio Petra, an expert in Eastern Christianity and professor of theology in Florence, told the conference, “God does not give one person two competing calls.”

If the church teaches — as it does — that marriage is more than a natural institution aimed at procreation because it is “a sign and continuation of God’s love in the world,” then the vocations of marriage and priesthood “have an internal harmony,” he said.

Father Petra, who is a celibate priest, told the conference that in the last 30 or 40 years some theologians and researchers have been making a big push to “elaborate the idea that celibacy is the only way to fully configure oneself to Christ,” but such a position denies the tradition of married priests, configured to Christ, who have served the church since the time of the apostles.

Father Thomas J. Loya, a Byzantine Catholic priest and member of the Tabor Life Institute in Chicago, told the conference it would be a betrayal of Eastern tradition and spirituality to support the married priesthood simply as a practical solution to a priest shortage or to try to expand the married priesthood without, at the same time, trying to strengthen Eastern monasticism, which traditionally was the source of the celibate clergy.

He called for a renewed look at what the creation of human beings as male and female and their vocations says about God to the world.

Father Peter Galadza of the Sheptytsky Institute told conference participants that the problem of “cafeteria Catholics” who pick and choose which church teachings they accept is found not just among Catholics who reject the authority of the church’s leaders; “those who believe they are faithful to the magisterium” also seem to pick and choose when it comes to the church’s official recognition of and respect for the Eastern tradition of married priests.

“We know we are only 1 percent of the world’s Catholics, but Eastern Catholics have a right to be themselves,” he said.

“As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, we hope the same Holy Spirit who guided the authors of its decrees would guide us in implementing them,” he said, referring specifically to Vatican II’s affirmation of the equality of the Latin and Eastern churches and its call that Eastern churches recover their traditions.

“There has been a long history of confusing ‘Latin’ and ‘Catholic,'” he said, and that confusion has extended to an assumption that the Latin church’s general discipline of having celibate priests is better or holier than the Eastern tradition of having both married and celibate priests.

The speakers unanimously called for the universal revocation of a 1929 Vatican directive that banned the ordination and ministry of married Eastern Catholic priests outside the traditional territories of their churches. The directive, still technically in force, generally is upheld only when requested by local Latin-rite bishops.

Copyright (c) 2012 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

Catholic or Roman Catholic? – Kasper on Ratzinger


“It is the Catholic Church, not the Roman Catholic Church. I know Pope Benedict is strongly against using ‘Roman Catholic’ [to describe the whole Catholic Church] because like me he lived through the Nazis. The Nazis called us römisch-katholisch to emphasize the Roman and downplay the Catholic. No German Catholic theologian would use ‘Roman Catholic’ in that way.”

Cardinal Walter Kasper, during a lecture in a course offered at the Angelicum this semester, “Ecclesiological Themes in Ecumenical Dialogue: Catholicity, Apostolicity, Unity”

Prayer for Christian Unity?

One of the most well advertised annual events during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in Rome has nothing to do with ecumenism.

At least, not explicitly.

Every night at 8:00pm during the WPCU, there is a liturgy at Santa Maria in Via Lata, just off the Via del Corso. Instead of inviting in the Orthodox, Anglican, and Protestant communities in Rome to lead worship in rotation, every one of these liturgies is Catholic. The unique aspect of the series, however, is that each is celebrated according to a different liturgical rite, sponsored by different of the Churches sui iuris that make up the Catholic communion.

It is a great idea, but the question is whether it is appropriate for the week of prayer that is meant to focus on the restoration of unity with other Christians. Is it a celebration of the unity-in-diversity that already exists in a real but imperfect way in the Catholic Church? Does it smack of uniatism, or of Catholic imperialism? Is it enough to remind Roman Catholics that not all Catholics are Roman, that we do not all do things the same way, and therefore demonstrate a fundamental principle of ecumenism – that unity does not mean uniformity?

This year’s schedule includes most of the major liturgical traditions – though the East Syrian, or Assyrian/Chaldean rite is notably absent for some reason:

  • January 18: Byzantine Rite, Greek Catholic Church
    (organized by the Pontifical Greek College)
  • January 19: Byzantine Rite, Ukrainian Catholic Church
    (organized by the Basilian Fathers of St. Giosafat)
  • January 20: Byzantine Rite, Romanian Catholic Church
    (organized by the Pontifical Romanian College)
  • January 21: Maronite Rite, Maronite Catholic Church
    (organized by the Maronite Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary)
  • January 22: Latin Rite, Roman Catholic Church
    (presided by Archbishop Piero Marini)
  • January 23: West-Syrian Rite, Syro-Malankara Catholic Church
    (organized by the Pontifical Damascene College)
  • January 24: Armenian Rite, Armenian Catholic Church
    (organized by the Pontifical Armenian College)
  • January 25: Ge’ez Rite, Ethiopian Catholic Church
    (organized by the Pontifical Ethiopian College)

First, I have to say it is a great opportunity to celebrate the liturgical diversity of the Catholic Church. In a way it recalls Bl. John XXIII’s decision to open Vatican II in the Ambrosian Rite rather than in the Roman – a reminder that there is always more than one way to be Catholic.

It is also helpful for us Latins to remember that the Catholic Church is actually catholic, and not simply an extension of Latin-Roman/Western culture. All Roman Catholics are Catholic, but not all Catholics are Roman Catholic.

(It should go without saying the ecumenically obvious statement that not all catholics are Catholic, either, but that does not merit calling all Catholics ‘Roman Catholic’. Capisce?)

One caveat is that it can reduce the respective churches of the Catholic communion merely to their liturgical patrimony, as if the Catholic Church simply enjoys liturgical diversity in a single monolithic ecclesial entity, rather than in fact being a communion of churches.

Another is that such a celebration during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity could communicate an unintended model of unity, some kind of liturgical uniatism – or, as one my first ecumenical dialogue partners, an avid Trekkie, would put it, this model makes the Catholic Church out to be the Borg, with a simple message: “Your patrimony will be absorbed and added to our own. Resistance is futile.”

Certainly, that is not ecumenism according to the Catholic Church. (Though there is at least a hint of receptivity!)

Nevertheless, it is a celebration of Christian Unity – to be precise, of Catholic unity – to be able to celebrate the same Eucharistic mystery in such varied and ancient liturgical traditions, all of which are found within the Catholic Church. It just is not the kind of Christian Unity, or not the whole scope of the kind of unity, envisioned by the Week of Prayer.

It might be more fitting, however, if the week included Anglican, Protestant, and Orthodox Eucharistic liturgies, in which it is precisely our inability to share communion that compels us to strive for the unity for which Christ himself prays. Or let us celebrate the rich diversity of the Catholic communion in the same manner, but in a different week: perhaps the Pentecost octave. Then at least we would have time to participate in both!


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