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The word "catholicism" is frequently used in these web pages, but probably not the way most people use it. I posted this page because I don't want anyone offended at my use of the word.

If You're Not a Catholic:


The Apostles' Creed says, "I believe in . . . the Holy Catholic Church."

I consider myself a Calvinist, not a Roman Catholic.

So keep reading!

If You're Catholic:

I am not a Roman Catholic, but I have spent the last 9 years of my life in a Catholic Worker House of Hospitality, so it's not like I'm a crude catholic-basher.

I was excommunicated by the "Religious Right" because I defended the Anabaptists and said the Reformers were fascists.

So keep reading!

What the word "Catholicism" does not mean in Vine & Fig Tree essays.

What the word "Catholicism" more likely means in Vine & Fig Tree essays.

"Catholic" means "universal." When you think about it, it's odd that anyone would limit the word "catholic" by the use of a modifier like "Roman." It's like "Los Angeles-statewide," or "California-national." If it's only California, it's not national. If it's only Roman, it's not catholic. So . . .

When the word "catholic" is used as an archetype, it means

When used in this context, the opposite of "catholic" is not "protestant," but

"No borders."
"My country, right or wrong," is a thing that no patriot would think of saying except in a desperate case. It is like saying, "My mother, drunk or sober."
G. K. Chesterton, The Defendant

For further study . . .

Thomas Merton, on Augustine's City of God:

It grew out of St. Augustine's meditations on the fall of the Roman Empire. But his analysis is timeless and universal. That is to say, it is Catholic in the etymological sense of the word.

Infopedia lists several works in which the word "catholicism" is defined as follows:

Webster's Dictionary

catholic cath•o•lic \'kath-lik, 'ka-the-\ adj [MF & LL; MF catholique, fr. LL catholicus, fr. Gk katholikos universal, general, fr. katholou in general, fr. kata by + holos whole _ more at cata-, safe ] (14c)
often cap : of, relating to, or forming the church universal
b. often cap : of, relating to, or forming the ancient undivided Christian church or a church claiming historical continuity from it
c. cap : roman catholic
2.: comprehensive, universal ; esp : broad in sympathies, tastes, or interests _ catholically \ke-'thae-li-k(e-)le\ adv _ catholicize \-'thae-le-,siz\ vb Catholic \'kath-lik, 'ka-the-\ n (15c)

1. : a person who belongs to the universal Christian church
2. : a member of a Catholic church; esp : roman catholic

Roget's Thesaurus

catholic [adj] all-embracing, general
inclusive, broad-minded, charitable, comprehensive, cosmic, cosmopolitan, diffuse, eclectic, ecumenical, extensive, generic, global, inclusive, indeterminate, large-scale, liberal, open-minded, planetary, receptive, tolerant, unbigoted, universal, unprejudiced, unsectarian, whole, wide, world-wide

Funk & Wagnall's Encyclopedia

The term catholic (Gr. katholikos, "universal," from katholou, "in general") was first used in the letter of St. Ignatius of Antioch to the Smyrnaeans (about ad 110). The term was later used by Clement of Alexandria in his Stromata (Miscellanies). The technical use of the word seems to have been established by the beginning of the 3d century. The formal principle of the Catholic church was expressed by the French theologian Vincent of Lerins as follows: "That which has been believed everywhere, always, and by all. This is what is truly and properly catholic."

Merriam Webster's Dictionary of English Usage:

Catholic, catholic
A number of commentators note that the capitalized Catholic is used by Christian institutions other than the Roman Catholic Church, but in American use it is usually taken to mean "Roman Catholic" unless otherwise modified.
Books in the tradition of what we sometimes call "the Catholic novel" -Doris Grumbach, Saturday Rev., 4 Mar. 1978
... memories of growing up Catholic on the South Side of Chicago -Martin Levin, N.Y. Times Book Rev., 22 Apr. 1973
The lowercase catholic does not refer to religion but to broadness of tastes or interests:
... they demonstrated a catholic taste in what they selected for the different rooms of this house -Rita Reif, N.Y. Times, 10 May 1979
... a model of how to be Left without being gauche. A man of catholic attainments and no side -Alex Hamilton, The Guardian, 3 Nov. 1973
... one of the most catholic of physicians in his willingness to try unorthodox methods -Gilbert Cant, N.Y. Times Mag., 3 Feb. 1974

[This last quote is stupid nonsense. If "Catholic" does not mean "orthodox" it means nothing. - kc]

Webster's Dictionary

cath•o•lic•i•ty \,ka-the-'li-se-te, ,kath-'li-\ n, pl -ties (1704)
1. cap : the character of being in conformity with a Catholic church
: liberality of sentiments or views <~ of viewpoint _W. V. O'Connor>
b. : universality
c. : comprehensive range <~ of topics>

This last definition more closely fits the usage of Vine & Fig Tree. We believe God's Law is comprehensive, applying to every area of life. We believe God's Kingdom will be universal, extending to every nation on earth. We believe this vision is truly liberal, in the sense that God's Word transcends the misleading distinction between "left" and "right," and is the Truth, and it is the truth which shall make you free.

If you have questions, please ask me.

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