When we say “We’re not Roman, but we are Catholic” we mean four things:
- That we are united to the whole Church
- That we believe in (cling to, rely on) the Church, and
- That we hold to the universal Christian Faith that has been believed everywhere, always and by all, embracing St. Vincent of Lerins’ ancient hermeneutic of universality, antiquity and consensus.
- That we do not relate to the Pope of Rome as the Bishop of bishops and Vicar of Christ.
Christians throughout the world, who are united under the Pope of Rome, commonly refer to themselves and are referred to by others as “Catholics” or “Roman Catholics”. But the word “catholic” is one of four descriptive adjectives of the Church, the other three being “one,” “holy” and “apostolic.” The word “Catholic” is more properly used as an adjective of the Church, rather than that of Christians.
When we substitute nationalistic adjectives to describe the Church in which we express belief, (e.g.. Roman, Greek, Russian, Coptic, American) we dilute the ability of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church to transform the world.