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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 legal and 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. To begin with the word is distinctly older than is here suggested. When about the year 1580 certain English Catholics, under stress of grievous persecution, defended the lawfulness of attending Protestant services to escape the fines imposed on recusants, the Jesuit Father Persons published, under the pseudonym of Howlet, a clear exposition of the "Reasons why Catholiques refuse to goe to Church". This was answered in 1801 by a writer of Puritan sympathies, Percival Wiburn, who in his "Checke or Reproofe of M. Howlet" uses the term "Roman Catholic" repeatedly. For example he speaks of "you Romane Catholickes that sue for tolleration" (p. 140) and of the "parlous dilemma or streight which you Romane Catholickes are brought into" (p. 44). Again Robert Crowley, another Anglican controversialist, in his book called "A Deliberat Answere", printed in 1588, though adopting by preference the forms "Romish Catholike" or "Popish Catholike", also writes of those "who wander with the Romane Catholiques in the uncertayne hypathes of Popish devises" (p. 86). A study of these and other early examples in their context shows plainly enough that the qualification "Romish Catholic" or "Roman Catholic" was introduced by Protestant divines who highly resented the Roman claim to any monopoly of the term Catholic. In Germany, Luther had omitted the word Catholic from the Creed, but this was not the case in England. Even men of such Calvinistic leanings as Philpot (he was burned under Mary in 1555), and John Foxe the martyrologist, not to speak of churchmen like Newel and Fulke, insisted on the right of the Reformers to call themselves Catholics and professed to regard their own as the only true Catholic Church. Thus Philpot represents himself as answering his Catholic examiner: "I am, master doctor, of the unfeigned Catholic Church and will live and die therein, and if you can prove your Church to be the True Catholic Church, I will be one of the same" (Philpot, "Works", Parker Soc., p. 132). It would be easy to quote many similar passages. The term "Romish Catholic" or "Roman Catholic" undoubtedly originated with the Protestant divines who shared this feeling and who were unwilling to concede the name Catholic to their opponents without qualification. Indeed the writer Crowley, just mentioned, does not hesitate throughout a long tract to use the term "Protestant Catholics" the name which he applies to his antagonists. Thus he says "We Protestant Catholiques are not departed from the true Catholique religion" (p. 33) and he refers more than once to "Our Protestant Catholique Church," (p. 74)
On the other hand the evidence seems to show that the Catholics of the reign of Elizabeth and James I were by no means willing to admit any other designation for themselves than the unqualified name Catholic. Father Southwell's "Humble Supplication to her Majesty" (1591), though criticized by some as over-adulatory in tone, always uses the simple word. What is more surprising, the same may be said of various addresses to the Crown drafted under the inspiration of the "Appellant" clergy, who were suspected by their opponents of subservience to the government and of minimizing in matters of dogma. This feature is very conspicuous, to take a single example, in "the Protestation of allegiance" drawn up by thirteen missioners, 31 Jan., 1603, in which they renounce all thought of "restoring the Catholic religion by the sword", profess their willingness "to persuade all Catholics to do the same" and conclude by declaring themselves ready on the one hand "to spend their blood in the defence of her Majesty" but on the other "rather to lose their lives than infringe the lawful authority of Christ's Catholic Church" (Tierney-Dodd, III, p. cxc). We find similar language used in Ireland in the negotiations carried on by Tyrone in behalf of his Catholic countrymen. Certain apparent exceptions to this uniformity of practice can be readily explained. To begin with we do find that Catholics not unfrequently use the inverted form of the name "Roman Catholic" and speak of the "Catholic Roman faith" or religion. An early example is to be found in a little controversial tract of 1575 called "a Notable Discourse" where we read for example that the heretics of old "preached that the Pope was Antichriste, shewing themselves verye eloquent in detracting and rayling against the Catholique Romane Church" (p. 64). But this was simply a translation of the phraseology common both in Latin and in the Romance languages "Ecclesia Catholica Romana," or in French "l'Église catholique romaine". It was felt that this inverted form contained no hint of the Protestant contention that the old religion was a spurious variety of true Catholicism or at best the Roman species of a wider genus. Again, when we find Father Persons (e.g. in his "Three Conversions," III, 408) using the term "Roman Catholic", the context shows that he is only adopting the name for the moment as conveniently embodying the contention of his adversaries.
Once more in a very striking passage in the examination of one James Clayton in 1591 (see Cal. State Papers, Dom. Eliz., add., vol. XXXII, p. 322) we read that the deponent "was persuaded to conforme himself to the Romaine Catholique faith." But there is nothing to show that these were the actual words of the recusant himself, or that, if they were, they were not simply dictated by a desire to conciliate his examiners. The "Oxford Dictionary" is probably right in assigning the recognition of "Roman Catholic" as the official style of the adherents of the Papacy in England to the negotiations for the Spanish Match (1618-24). In the various treaties etc., drafted in connection with this proposal, the religion of the Spanish princess is almost always spoken of as "Roman Catholic". Indeed in some few instances the word Catholic alone is used. This feature does not seem to occur in any of the negotiations of earlier date which touched upon religion, e.g. those connected with the proposed d'Alencon marriage in Elizabeth's reign, while in Acts of Parliament, proclamations, etc., before the Spanish match, Catholics are simply described as Papists or Recusants, and their religion as popish, Romanish, or Romanist. Indeed long after this period, the use of the term Roman Catholic continued to be a mark of condescension, and language of much more uncomplimentary character was usually preferred. It was perhaps to encourage a friendlier attitude in the authorities that Catholics themselves henceforth began to adopt the qualified term in all official relations with the government. Thus the "Humble Remonstrance, Acknowledgement, Protestation and Petition of the Roman Catholic Clergy of Ireland" in 1661, began "We, your Majesty's faithful subjects the Roman Catholick clergy of Ireland". The same Practice seems to have obtained in Maryland; see or example the Consultation entitled "Objections answered touching Maryland", drafted by Father R Blount, S.J., in 1632 (B. Johnston, "Foundation of Maryland, etc., 1883, 29), and wills proved 22 Sep., 1630, and 19 Dec., 1659, etc., (in Baldwin, "Maryland Cat. of Wills", 19 vols., vol. i. Naturally the wish to conciliate hostile opinion only grew greater as Catholic Emancipation became a question of practical politics, and by that time it would appear that many Catholics themselves used the qualified form not only when addressing the outside public but in their domestic discussions. A short-lived association, organized in 1794 with the fullest approval of the vicars Apostolic, to counteract the unorthodox tendencies of the Cisalpine Club, was officially known as the "Roman Catholic Meeting" (Ward, "Dawn of Cath. Revival in England", II, 65). So, too, a meeting of the Irish bishops under the presidency of Dr. Troy at Dublin in 1821 passed resolutions approving of an Emancipation Bill then before a Parliament, in which they uniformly referred to members of their own communion as "Roman Catholics". Further, such a representative Catholic as Charles Butler in his "Historical Memoirs" (see e.g. vol. IV, 1821, pp. 185, 199, 225, etc., ) frequently uses the term "roman-catholic" [sic] and seems to find this expression as natural as the unqualified form.
With the strong Catholic revival in the middle of the nineteenth century and the support derived from the uncompromising zeal of many earnest converts, such for example as Faber and Manning, an inflexible adherence to the name Catholic without qualification once more became the order of the day. The government, however, would not modify the official designation or suffer it to be set aside in addresses presented to the Sovereign on public occasions. In two particular instances during the archiepiscopate of Cardinal Vaughan this point was raised and became the subject of correspondence between the cardinal and the Home Secretary. In 1897 at the Diamond Jubilee of the accession of Queen Victoria, and again in 1901 when Edward VII succeeded to the throne, the Catholic episcopate desired to present addresses, but on each occasion it was intimated to the cardinal that the only permissible style would be "the Roman Catholic Archbishop and Bishops in England". Even the form "the Cardinal Archbishop and Bishops of the Catholic and Roman Church in England" was not approved. On the first occasion no address was presented, but in 1901 the requirements of the Home Secretary as to the use of the name "Roman Catholics" were complied with, though the cardinal reserved to himself the right of explaining subsequently on some public occasion the sense in which he used the words (see Snead-Cox, "Life of Cardinal Vaughan", II, 231-41). Accordingly, at the Newcastle Conference of the Catholic Truth Society (Aug., 1901) the cardinal explained clearly to his audience that "the term Roman Catholic has two meanings; a meaning that we repudiate and a meaning that we accept." The repudiated sense was that dear to many Protestants, according to which the term Catholic was a genus which resolved itself into the species Roman Catholic, Anglo-Catholic, Greek Catholic, etc. But, as the cardinal insisted, "with us the prefix Roman is not restrictive to a species, or a section, but simply declaratory of Catholic." The prefix in this sense draws attention to the unity of the Church, and "insists that the central point of Catholicity is Roman, the Roman See of St. Peter."
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.
The historical facts summarized in this article are given in an extended form in a paper contributed by the present writer to The Month (Sept. 1911). See also "The Tablet" (14 Sept., 1901), 402, and Snead-Cox, Life of Cardinal Vaughan, cited above.
APA citation. (1912). Roman Catholic. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/13121a.htm
MLA citation. "Roman Catholic." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 13. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/13121a.htm>.
Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Nicolette Ormsbee.
Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. February 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, D.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.
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