Proclaiming ourselves Catholic

By | January 28, 2009

However, in looking at papers and sites and newspapers, one thing became apparent. Upon further exploration, the same thing was noticeable in parish bulletins:

We do not always proclaim ourselves as “Catholic.”

Numerous examples abound: you might see the title of “Diocese of Smithville” or “St. Basil Parish,” rather than “The Catholic Diocese of Smithville” or “St. Basil Catholic Parish.”

(Yes, The Compass is also titled “the Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin” and our diocesan Web site has a copyright notice that says “Catholic Diocese of Green Bay.”)

There appears to be various reasons for this omission:

Sometimes people assume that “diocese” is just understood as being only a Roman Catholic entity. It goes without saying, as if were. However, there are many other Christian denominations that refer to themselves as “a diocese.” The Episcopal Diocese of New York, the Evangelical Lutheran Diocese of North America and the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America as just three examples.

The same assumption is made at the parish level. Yet Lutheran and Methodist congregations also call themselves “parishes,” and there are many “First Parish Congregational Churches” in the United Church of Christ communities.

Other people will say that to claim the word “Catholic” only for ourselves would be restrictive of the word’s proper usage. And it is true that “catholic” (small “c”) refers to the entire, universal Body of Christ, including the separated churches of the Orthodox tradition and Protestant churches — as our creeds proclaim. However, the word “Catholic” with a capital “C” is found in the dictionaries as defined to mean “of or pertaining to the Roman Catholic church.”

It is not arrogance or elitism to proclaim ourselves as “Catholic.” Rather it identifies who we are; it proclaims our beliefs; and it orients us in salvation history. And it also gives us a responsibility to hand the Catholic faith on to anyone who encounters us.

As Jesus told his disciples: “No one who lights a lamp hides it away or places it under a bushel basket, but on a lamp stand so that those who enter might see the light” (Lk 11:33).

Our parishes and dioceses work hard at revealing the light of Christ to others. So they should never be reluctant to proclaim their full name to anyone they meet.

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