The word “catholic,” with an intentional lower-case “c” has long been paired with the idea of universal Christianity, not in the sense of “universalism” whereby all paths lead to the same destination, but rather as a legitimate follower of Jesus Christ across all denominations and major church brands (think: Eastern Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, Anglicanism and Protestantism). A Catholic Christian is a person who aligns with Roman Catholicism, where as a catholic Christian is a general term for anyone, Roman Catholic or otherwise, who follows Jesus Christ regardless of what particular brand or congregation he or she worships with.
This thread is devoted to peaceful conversations between a Roman Catholic and myself, a Protestant. It is important to note that neither of us claim to be experts or to represent all of those who share our respective traditions. We are speaking from our own experiences, understandings and learning, nothing more.
This particular thread has been developing for awhile through a series of private emails between myself and a dear friend who has given me permission to reproduce the salient features of our emails. The purpose here is threefold:
1) To understand our friends’ respective Christian traditions better.
2) To promote unity among believers despite differences in those traditions, and
3) To respect those differences without trying to harmonize them or trying to get participants to proclaim unity in all beliefs.
Before we get started, I would like to make a few important distinctions:
This is not an “interfaith” discussion. On the most basic level, it is an in-house conversation among Christians. One of my most annoying observations about chatting with some fellow Protestants is that they talk ABOUT Catholics without talking WITH them, and that these Protestants refer to themselves as “Christians” in contrast with those “Catholics.” This is not acceptable. Catholics are no less Christian than Protestants are, and we must cease using such divisive language.
The follow-up protest I often hear from such well-intentioned Protestants is that they mean “cultural” Catholics, rather than “practicing” Catholics. I understand the distinction, but similar to sex-abuse cases, we are kidding ourselves if we think that this is a malaise unique to the Catholic church, for I know many people who were raised in Protestant homes and consider themselves “Christians” without ever actually following Christ, much less participating with a local congregation or reading the Bible. No, we cannot speak in terms of “Catholics” in contrast with “Christians.” That is plainly ignorant, and it must stop.
Welcome to the discussion.