A group blog to promote discussion, debate and insight into the history, particularly religious, of America's founding. Any observations, questions, or comments relating to the blog's theme are welcomed.
Those Bloody Papists?: Why, Even the Term "Roman" Catholic Was an English Insult
An interesting tidbit I ran across the other day—”Roman” Catholic was a term spread by the English in the 1600s as a pejorative. The church’s name is the Catholic Church, “catholic” of course meaning “universal.” The English “Protestants” wanted to claim the word “catholic” for themselves, though as we know it didn’t really stick.
Well, after Henry VIII takes over the Catholic Church in 1536, it's hardly "one" or "catholic" anymore--unless Henry's is true and the "Roman" one is the fake. In fact, the Anglican Church's "Thirty-Nine Articles" makes exactly that claim, calling its doctrine "catholic" over 200 times while distinguishing itself from the "Romish" church 27 times.
Which is where all of Protestantism went in its theological claims---"Rome" and its "Papism" is the fake, and Protestantism is the "true religion"---a phrase used countless times by the American founding generation to refer to themselves as opposed to Catholicism. So whenever you read the term "true religion" in the Founders' documents, now you know what they mean.
Although it may previously have appeared elsewhere sporadically, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia*, "Roman" Catholic came into its now common use in the English-speaking world as a result of the Anglican schism, of circa 1600s British politics.
Who knew? I bet not even 1 Catholic in 100, let alone everybody else these days. Stupid bloody papists. They don't even know when they're being insulted!
*"A study of these and other early examples in their context shows plainly enough that the qualification "RomishCatholic" or "RomanCatholic" was introduced byProtestantdivineswho highly resented theRomanclaim to anymonopolyof the termCatholic. InGermany,Lutherhad omitted the wordCatholicfrom theCreed, but this was not the case inEngland. Evenmenof suchCalvinisticleanings asPhilpot(he was burned underMaryin 1555), andJohnFoxethemartyrologist, not to speak ofchurchmenlike Newel and Fulke, insisted on therightof theReformersto call themselvesCatholicsand professed to regard their own as the onlytrueCatholicChurch. ThusPhilpotrepresents himself as answering hisCatholicexaminer: "I am, masterdoctor, of the unfeignedCatholicChurchandwilllive and die therein, and if you canproveyourChurchto be theTrueCatholicChurch, I will be one of the same" (Philpot, "Works", Parker Soc., p. 132).
It would be easy to quote many similar passages. The term "Romish Catholic" or "RomanCatholic" undoubtedly originated with theProtestantdivineswho shared this feeling and who were unwilling to concede the nameCatholicto their opponents without qualification. Indeed the writerCrowley, just mentioned, does not hesitate throughout a long tract to use the term "ProtestantCatholics" the name which he applies to his antagonists. Thus he says "WeProtestant Catholiques are not departed from thetrueCatholiquereligion" (p. 33) and he refers more than once to "Our Protestant Catholique Church." (p. 74)
On the other hand the evidence seems to show that the Catholics of the reign of Elizabeth and James I were by no means willing to admit any other designation for themselves than the unqualified name Catholic."