One of my pet peeves is when someone will say something like "the Catholic religion" or when Protestants and Catholics alike will use the word "Christian" when they really mean "Protestant." Catholicism is one of the three branches of Christianity (Protestantism and Orthodoxy being the other two). This chart should help illustrate the taxonomy:1, 2

|                               |                             |
Catholicism        Protestantism        Orthodoxy

Catholic or Protestant, we're all followers of Christ. When Jesus prayed for all believers in John 17: 20-26 the first thing He asked God for was that we would be one as God and Jesus are one. I know that there are many disagreements between Catholic and Protestant theology, but so many of them are shallow, and the ones that aren't shouldn't stop us from being the unified, amalgamated body of Christ.

1 - Dann's Offline Scratchpad made doing this chart a heckuva lot easier.
2 - Thanks to VT_Hawkeye and Dann for info on Orthodoxy.

Lest our little religion be too simple, we also use terms like "catholic" and "orthodox" as adjectives. This can lead to confusion when discussing matters of faith with a Christian and the context has not been made totally clear.

Catholic means "universal". Thus, when Protestants say they believe in "one holy, catholic, and apostolic church" when reciting the Nicene Creed, they mean the entire body of believers, Christ's universal church on earth. When referring to something pertaining to the branch of Christianity known as Catholicism, you may wish for clarity's sake to say Roman Catholic.

Orthodox as an adjective means that something conforms to established doctrine -- ideally, orthodoxy is that which has been believed by the majority of Christians throughout history. Since few churches consider themselves heretical, you may wish to render it adjectivally* as Eastern Orthodox.

2002.06.22 at 17:51 quijote says re: Catholicism in relation to Christianity, the term "Roman Catholic" does not apply to the whole Catholic Church, it only applies to the Western Rite (the Latin or Roman rites), used in Western/Northern Europe, the U.S./Canada, and Latin America. The Catholic church includes Eastern churches which are not Roman Catholic; Catholics in the Middle East, Eastern Europe, India, Greece, Russia, etc., belong to the non-Roman parts of the Catholic Church (as do many immigrants from these areas to the U.S.). Not to be picky, but the distinction is important to Catholics, because many Catholics acknowledge the Pope and are true Catholic but do not wish to be subordinated to the Roman "form" of rituals; this is completely orthodox (lowercase "o").

*It's a word because I say it is.

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