/kath"euh lik, kath"lik/, adj.
1. of or pertaining to a Catholic church, esp. the Roman Catholic Church.
2. Theol.
a. (among Roman Catholics) claiming to possess exclusively the notes or characteristics of the one, only, true, and universal church having unity, visibility, indefectibility, apostolic succession, universality, and sanctity: used in this sense, with these qualifications, only by the Church of Rome, as applicable only to itself and its adherents and to their faith and organization; often qualified, especially by those not acknowledging these claims, by prefixing the word Roman.
b. (among Anglo-Catholics) noting or pertaining to the conception of the church as the body representing the ancient undivided Christian witness, comprising all the orthodox churches that have kept the apostolic succession of bishops, and including the Anglican Church, the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, Church of Sweden, the Old Catholic Church (in the Netherlands and elsewhere), etc.
3. pertaining to the Western Church.
4. a member of a Catholic church, esp. of the Roman Catholic Church.
[1300-50; ME; special uses of CATHOLIC]

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(as used in expressions)
Catholic Reformation
Orthodox Catholic Church
Eastern Catholic church
Isabella the Catholic
Louvain Catholic University of
Ferdinand the Catholic Spanish Fernando el Católico

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▪ Christian theology
      (from Greek katholikos, “universal”), the characteristic that, according to ecclesiastical writers since the 2nd century, distinguished the Christian Church at large from local communities or from heretical and schismatic sects. A notable exposition of the term as it had developed during the first three centuries of Christianity was given by St. Cyril of Jerusalem (Cyril of Jerusalem, Saint) in his Catecheses (348): the church is called catholic on the ground of its worldwide extension, its doctrinal completeness, its adaptation to the needs of men of every kind, and its moral and spiritual perfection.

      The theory that what has been universally taught or practiced is true was first fully developed by St. Augustine (Augustine, Saint) in his controversy with the Donatists (a North African heretical Christian sect) concerning the nature of the church and its ministry. It received classic expression in a paragraph by St. Vincent of Lérins (Vincent of Lérins, Saint) in his Commonitoria (434), from which is derived the formula: “What all men have at all times and everywhere believed must be regarded as true.” St. Vincent maintained that the true faith was that which the church professed throughout the world in agreement with antiquity and the consensus of distinguished theological opinion in former generations. Thus, the term catholic tended to acquire the sense of orthodox.

      Some confusion in the use of the term has been inevitable, because various groups that have been condemned by the Roman Catholic Church as heretical or schismatic never retreated from their own claim to catholicity. Not only the Roman Catholic Church but also the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Anglican Church, and a variety of national and other churches claim to be members of the holy catholic church, as do most of the major Protestant churches.

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Universalium. 2010.

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