The Reformed Are Catholic

THE CREEDS OF FOUR COUNCILS RECEIVED. And, to say many things with a few words, with a sincere heart we believe, and freely confess with open mouth, whatever things are defined from the Holy Scriptures concerning the mystery of the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ, and are summed up in the Creeds and decrees of the first four most excellent synods convened at Nicaea, Constantinople, Ephesus and Chalcedon — together with the Creed of blessed Athanasius and all similar symbols; and we condemn everything contrary to these.

THE SECTS. And in this way we retain the Christian, orthodox and catholic faith whole and unimpaired; knowing that nothing is contained in the aforesaid symbols which is not agreeable to the Word of God, and does not altogether make for a sincere exposition of the faith.

—From Chapter 11 of The Second Helvetic Confession

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    • Of course, the term ‘catholic church’ for the church of Christ throughout the world has been in use continuously since the early second century (e.g. Ignatiius and Polycarp).

      The Church of Rome does not use the term ‘Roman Catholic’ on official documents, not even in the Second Vatican Council – this is a term that was applied to the Church of Rome by Anglicans, and it has been widely adopted by its adherents (as have names coined by others, such as Methodist and Quaker) as an unofficial title.

      Where the Church of Rome uses the adjective ‘Roman’ it usually applies to the diocese of Rome, thus the cardinals are known as cardinals of the Holy Roman Church (this is found, for example, in the Council of Trent, and up to the present day) because they become titular heads of individual churches in the diocese of Rome. The term ‘Roman Catholic’ is technically a contradiction, because what is specifically Roman is not actually catholic.

      The official teaching of the Church of Rome is that she is the catholic Church, so that when Romanists recite the creed they mean by ‘the one holy catholic and apostolic church’ the churches subject to the See of Rome, which (according to the Council of Trent) is ‘the mother and mistress of all churches’. This would include all churches such as the Maronites and Chaldeans who have different rites, but are still subject to the Pope.

      Since Trent uses the term ‘Catholic Church’ and specifies that the Roman Church is ‘the mother and mistress of all churches’ I would say that the Church of Rome self identified as the ‘Catholic Church’ at Trent (mid sixteenth century), but the same idea is also found in Papal bulls in the medieval church.

    • For example, the Papal Bull ‘Unum Sanctum’ of 1302, the first and last sentences of which read:

      Unam sanctam ecclesiam catholicam et ipsam apostolicam urgente fide credere cogimur et tenere, nosque hanc firmiter credimus et simpliciter confitemur, extra quam nec salus est… Porro subesse Romano Pontifici omni humanae creaturae declaramus dicimus, definimus et pronunciamus omnino esse de necessitate salutis.

      (In one holy catholic and apostolic church, we are, urged by our faith, compelled to believe, and we do firmly believe and simply confess that outside of it there is neither salvation nor remission of sins…Furthermore, we declare, we proclaim, we define that it is absolutely necessary for salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman Pontiff.)

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