Many people like to refer to the Catholic Church as the ‘Roman Catholic Church’, which I always find rather amusing. I’ve decided to write this page to clear up this misconception (though I’ll admit it’s been cleared up a thousand times already).
The common misconception is that, since the Catholic Church does find its temporal head in Vatican City (which is in Rome), it must make sense that one can refer to it as the Roman Catholic Church. And while this is true that the temporal head, the Pope, resides there, one must understand that the nature of the Church is much more complex than this. I shall now refer to the Rites of the Church. There are seven “rites”, or liturgical traditions, which exist within the Church. Each rite, though sharing the same teachings and beliefs as the Roman (Latin) rite, differ in language/cultural and liturgical styles. There are seven rites within the Church:
All seven of these rites are understood as being equal within the Church, though the Latin rite is by far the most popular:
“Within the Catholic Church … Canonical rites, which are of equal dignity, enjoy the same rights, and are under the same obligations. Although the particular churches possess their own hierarchy, differ in liturgical and ecclesiastical discipline, and possess their own spiritual heritage, they are all entrusted to the pastoral government of the Roman pontiff, the divinely appointed successor of St. Peter in the Primacy.”4 (The Catholic Encyclopedia)
This is one of the many reasons why the Church is understood as Catholic, because we are universal. There is no “one style” or culture that is valid. The Church respects and venerates all of these rites, seeing them as fundamental to the life of the Church. And this is why I absolutely despise it when people refer to the Church as the ‘Roman Catholic Church’. Because while I am a die-hard fan of my own rite (Latin), these other rites are beautiful and should be recognized. Thus, why the term ‘Catholic Church’ is far more proper. A final argument, is that even if we were to say that the Roman Rite is far more popular and well-known, and thus there is nothing wrong with calling it as such (or the even more silly ‘RCC’), we can look at how odd it would be to apply a similar argument to other nations/groups. For example, no one refers to the Muslims as the Indonesian Muslims (since Indonesia is the country with the most Muslims). Likewise, no one would refer to all Americans as “Las Vegas Americans”, or New York Americans”, or “Washington D.C. Americans”. Doing such would be seen as ignorant at best, and offensive at worst. In the same way, the Catholic Church is just that: Catholic. Not just Roman, nor Chaldean or Maronite. Please, share this information with your friends. This is a very annoying misunderstanding which I find can be offensive to my brothers and sisters in other rites.