For many the term usually refers to Christians and churches, western and eastern, in full communion with the Holy See, known alternatively as the Catholic Church or as the Roman CatholicChurch. However, many others use the term to refer to other churches with historical continuity from the first millennium.
In the sense of indicating historical continuity of faith and practice, the term "catholicism" is at times employed to mark a contrast to Protestantism, which tends to look solely to the Bible as interpreted on the principles of the 16th-century Protestant Reformation asits ultimate standard. It was thus used by the Oxford Movement.
According to Richard McBrien, Catholicism is distinguished from other forms of Christianity in its particular understanding and commitment to tradition, the sacraments, the mediation between God, communion, and the See of Rome. According to Orthodox leaders like Bishop Kallistos Ware, the Orthodox Church has these things aswell, though the primacy of the See of Rome is only honorific, showing non-jurisdictional respect for the Bishop of Rome as the "first among equals" and "Patriarch of the West". Catholicism, according to McBrien's paradigm, includes a monastic life, religious institutes, a religious appreciation of the arts, a communal understanding of sin and redemption, and missionary activity.Contents [hide] * 1 History of the term Catholic * 2 Divergent interpretations * 2.1 Catholic Church use * 2.1.1 Latin and Eastern Catholic Churches * 2.2 Other traditions * 2.3 Anglicanism * 2.4 Protestantism * 3 Brief organizational history of the Church * 4 Distinctive beliefs and practices * 4.1 Sacraments or sacred mysteries * 5 See also * 6References * 7 Further reading * 8 External links |
 History of the term Catholic
Main article: Catholic (Christian terminology)
The earliest recorded evidence of the use of the term Catholic Church is the Letter to the Smyrnaeans that Ignatius of Antioch wrote in about 107 to Christians in Smyrna. Exhorting Christians to remain closely united with their bishop, he wrote: "Wherever thebishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church." Numerous other early writers including Cyril of Jerusalem (c. 315–386), Augustine of Hippo (354–430) and others further developed the use of the term "catholic" in relation to Christianity.
 Divergent interpretations
Many individual Christians andChristian denominations consider themselves "catholic" on the basis, in particular, of Apostolic Succession. They fall into five groups:
1. The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, considers full communion with the Bishop of Rome an essential element of Catholicism. Its constituent particular Churches (Western and Eastern) have distinct and separate jurisdictions, while stillbeing "in union with Rome."
2. Those, like the Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox, that claim unbroken Apostolic Succession from the early Church and identify themselves as the Catholic Church. The Eastern Orthodox, but not the Oriental, see themselves (along with the See of Rome) as part of a patriarchal first-millennium structure that developed in the East into the theory of thefive patriarchal sees, but not in the West, which preferred the theory of the three Petrine sees of Rome, Alexandria and Antioch. The title, "Patriarch of the West", was rarely used by the popes until the 16th and 17th centuries, and was included in the Annuario Pontificio from 1863 to 2005, being dropped in the following year as never very clear, and having become over history...