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Is it correct to use the word "catholic" when we say "we believe in one holy, catholic, and apostolic church"?

I know catholic means also universal, united, etc., but in Romanian (which is my native language), we use something like "council based" instead of catholic, and I think it's less confusing.


Orthodox Christians understand the word "catholic" word to mean "whole, complete, lacking in nothing." Hence, when we say "one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church," we mean that the one, holy, and apostolic Church is "whole, complete, and lacking in nothing." The word "catholic" with a small "c" has nothing whatsoever to do with Roman "Catholic" with a capital "C". If it were incorrect to use the word "catholic" in the Creed, we wouldn't use it. And every English translation of the Creed that I have ever seen uses the word "catholic."

When "catholic" is defined as "universal," it does not mean in the sense of "found everyplace in the universe."

The word used in Romanian -- like the word sobornyj used in the Slavonic version of the Creed -- also means something like "council based," but not in the sense of "conciliar," but, rather, in the sense of "all parts coming together to form a whole" -- hence "whole, complete, lacking-in-nothing."

Apart from the word "catholic," there really is no English word that implies "all parts coming together to form a unified, complete whole" other than "catholic." Saying "one, holy, conciliar, and apostolic," "one, holy, complete, and apostolic," or "one, holy, all-around-the-world, and apostolic" simply does not work linguistically.

Finally, those united with the Pope of Rome are properly called "Roman Catholics," not "Catholics," just as we are properly called "Orthodox Christians" rather than just "Orthodox." [There are, of course, also Orthodox Jews, Orthodox Presbyterians, etc.]

" Orthodox" is an adjective that modifies the noun that follows it. Hence, what is our faith? "Christian." What kind of Christians are we? "Orthodox Christians" -- "right believing, right glory" Christians.

Published in January 2011.

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