The Roman Catholic Faith

By Father Gerardo R. Tapiador, taken from his book "The Roman Catholic Faith and The Bible"

Have you ever wondered why you are called a Roman Catholic? In the first place, some people would normally question your sense of patriotism if you ever called yourself a Roman when you would hardly have any connection with Rome itself. Secondly, a poet would sometimes pick up the world "Catholic" and make it rhyme with "Alcoholic". What hurts most in remaining a Roman Catholic, however is when you receive certain pamphlets proliferated for free that have titles like "Are Roman Catholics, Christians?" or "The Roman Catholic Bible has the Truth"( pamphlet that uses Roman Catholic translations of the Bible against Catholic doctrines and practices) and thereby associate Roman Catholics with pagans. When this happens to you, it is clear that you must therefore discover what it means to become a Roman Catholic.

A Roman Catholic like any good Christian discovers his identity basically from the very word of God, the Bible. If you open your Bible to the New Testament, you would discover that there are not only gospels which are addressed to all Christians but also letters that are addressed to specific Christian churches during the time of the apostles. These letters verify that such Christian churches mentioned actually existed by the very fact that they have letters addressed to them. Clear examples would be the Churches of the Thessalonians, the Phillipians, the Galatians, the Corinthians, etc etc…The two letters if Paul to the Thessalonians verify that there actually existed a church of the Thessalonians. The most important letter of Paul that is normally placed before all other letters, therefore, also verifies that such a church to whom Paul addressed his letter actually existed during that time. In clear and simple words, the letter of Paul to the Romans provides us with clear evidence that the Roman church actually existed in his time. It is from this church that we have our first name - ROMAN.

If you turn to the letter of Paul to the Romans, you would discover the qualities that he affirms of the Roman Church. In Romans 1:7, we read Paul addressing the Roman Church, "To all in Rome, Beloved of God, called holy ones(saints)…." And in Romans 1: 8, after offering a thanksgiving to God for them, he expresses what he knows of their faith, "First of all, I give thanks to my God through Jesus Christ for all of you because your faith is heralded throughout the whole world." Since it is Paul's letter to the Romans, 'you' here refers to the Romans and 'your faith' is the faith of the Romans. In simple words, Paul clearly acknowledges that it is the faith of the Roman Church that is heralded throughout the whole world.

In the original Greek text, the last part of Romans 1: 8 reads as follows,"he pistis humon katangeletai en holo to kosmo." "he pistis humon" means 'your faith'. "Katangeletai" means 'is proclaimed/heralded throughout'. It is a compound verb consisting of the preposition 'kata' which means 'according to' or 'through(out)' while '-angeletai' means 'is proclaimed'."En holo to kosmo' means 'in the whole of the world'. Hence, the word "Catholic" is formed from an abbreviation of the whole verse in which we simply combine the preposition 'kata' (throughout) and the adjective 'holos' (whole) to describe the Roman faith as 'proclaimed throughout the whole world'. We see clearly that the word "Catholic" finds its origin from original Greek words. This proves that the Roman Catholic faith was already recognized by all the other local churches. Paul himself verifies this fact when he states in Romans 16 : 16, " All the churches of Christ send you (in this context, the Romans) greetings."

The word kat-holos in Greek can also mean 'according to the totality'. Hence the Catholic faith is not only the original faith from its original Greek but consists of a faith that must be total or wholesome so that what is Catholic is also holistic. In this sense, a Christian who is Catholic accepts the totality of what God has given to him. He accepts the full Christian Bible in all its parts as it has handed down to him, particularly in the Greek manuscripts that the Vatican possesses. He recognizes not only the Bible but also the rich Tradition of the Church through which the Bible was handed down throughout the centuries. For this reason, the Roman Catholic Christian can claim not only the preservation of the original Christian faith as first proclaimed by the Roman Church throughout the whole world but also its development to its fullest sense.

When we therefore compare the Roman Catholic faith with the other Christian faiths, we see that is is not only the original faith but is a holistic faith in contrast to the 'partial' faith of other Christians. To be a Roman Catholic demands that one must have more faith than any other Christians. He must go on believing even when other Christians do not believe. A clear example is when we ask a 'bible Christian' whether he believes in Mary as the mother of God. His outright answer is a big 'No' - an answer that indicates that he does not have the faith that God who made himself to become a man also took for himself a mother by the very process of his incarnation. On the other hand, a Roman Catholic professes his faith by saying, " I believe in Jesus Christ…born of the Virgin Mary." He expresses here his faith that Mary truly became the mother of God by the mystery of the incarnation through which she became also the mother of the Church and mother of all Christians. The same is true with all the other objections raised against the Roman Catholic faith. The Roman Catholic believes what others do not believe anymore - meaning that he has more faith than others who cannot accept all that he believes in.