Catholic

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The word Catholic (katholikos from katholou - throughout the whole, i. e., universal) occurs in the Greek classics, e. g., in Aristotle and Polybius, and was freely used by the earlier Christian writers in what we may call its primitive and non-ecclesiastical sense. Thus we meet such phrases as the the catholic resurrection (Justin Martyr), the catholic goodness of God (Tertullian), the four catholic winds (Irenaeus), where we should now speak of the general resurrection, the absolute or universal goodness of God, the four principal winds, etc. The word seems in this usage to be opposed to merikos (partial) or idios (particular), and one familiar example of this conception still survives in the ancient phrase Catholic Epistles as applied to those of St. Peter, St. Jude, etc., which were so called as being addressed not to particular local communities, but to the Church at large. The combination the Catholic Church (he katholike ekklesia) is found for the first time in the letter of St. Ignatius to the Smyrnaeans, written about the year 110. The words run: Wheresoever the bishop shall appear, there let the people be, even as where Jesus may be, there is the universal [katholike] Church. However, in view of the context, some difference of opinion prevails as to the precise connotation of the italicized word, and Kattenbusch, the Protestant professor of theology at Giessen, is prepared to interpret this earliest appearance of the phrase in the sense of mia mone, the one and only Church [Das apostolische Symbolum (1900), II, 922]. From this time forward the technical signification of the word Catholic meets us with increasing frequency both East and West, until by the beginning of the fourth century it seems to have almost entirely supplanted the primitive and more general meaning. The earlier examples have been collected by Caspari (Quellen zur Geschichte des Taufsymbols, etc., III, 149 sqq. ). Many of them still admit the meaning universal. The reference (c. 155) to the bishop of the catholic church in Smyrna (Letter on the Martyrdom of St. Polycarp, xvi), a phrase which necessarily presupposes a more technical use of the word, is due, some critics think, to interpolation. On the other hand this sense undoubtedly occurs more than once in the Muratorian Fragment (c. 180), where, for example, it is said of certain heretical writings that they cannot be received in the Catholic Church. A little later, Clement of Alexandria speaks very clearly. We say, he declares, that both in substance and in seeming, both in origin and in development, the primitive and Catholic Church is the only one, agreeing as it does in the unity of one faith (Stromata, VII, xvii; P. G., IX, 552). From this and other passages which might be quoted, the technical use seems to have been clearly established by the beginning of the third century. In this sense of the word it implies sound doctrine as opposed to heresy, and unity of organization as ...


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