ASK FATHER: Use of the word “Catholic” in a title

From a reader…


I am planning on doing a web series on YouTube about the Faith. It is my understanding that the Catechism would forbid my using the name “Catholic” as part of the title of this series. If so, is “Christian” an acceptable alternative; or is this also not allowed.

The Code of Canon law prohibits associations from using the name “Catholic” unless that association has the approval of ecclesiastical authority, which usually means the local bishop.

That does not mean that I can’t call myself Catholic unless I check with the bishop each and every time. Nor does it require episcopal approval for one to describe one’s activities as Catholic.

If one is Catholic, presumably one does Catholic things. The Church restricts this title out of concern for the faithful, and for those outside of the Church who are being prompted by the Holy Spirit to enter.

It would scandalize the faithful if one were to open a sordid business and call it the “Catholic Dirty Book Store”, or start up an association of “Catholic Lawyers for Redefining Marriage”, or publish a newspaper filled with heretical and nonsensical opinions and call it the “National Catholic Reporter”.

The internet is, to a large extent, ground not yet covered by canonical legislation. Are blogs associations? Do they fall under the canonical legislation? What about YouTube channels? We are in unchartered waters.

When one is in uncharted waters one has two options. You can go ahead, full steam, and risk the chance of major problems in an attempt to reach the destination.  You can go slowly and carefully.

If you are intend to start up a YouTube channel to explain the Faith, first make sure you have the credentials and the ability to do so. With respect to some very earnest people, engaging in internet evangelization or catechesis requires more than a sincere desire to share the Faith. Some poor attempts do more harm than good if they open up the Faith to ridicule for poor presentation, or if they even unwittingly lead people toward error. You should have the technical skills to put together a quality presentation, as well as the theological acumen to navigate these unchartered waters.

Are you working with your pastor? A trusted priest?

As far as the name of your initiative is concerned, there are alternatives to using the word Catholic.  There are, for example, the names of many great saints. Depending on the specific areas you want to cover, a scriptural phrase or a line from the liturgy could be appropriate.  Make sure that if you use some Latin, that you get it right.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Jim Dorchak says:

    I imagine Mr. Michael Voris could add some pages of thoughts on this issue!

  2. Siculum says:

    On a related note, I’m looking forward to the time when the Holy See implements the control it has taken of the new ICANN domain name “.catholic,” even if it means that quality lay-run apostolates are not granted use of the domain.

  3. Priam1184 says:

    @Jim Dorchak Despite all of the unnecessary pain that he was subjected to I believe that Mr. Voris probably stumbled onto a better name for his organization anyways. Thanks Father for the advice. I have been wanting to do something like what this reader describes for a while but am not really certain how to proceed. Probably best for the amateur who doesn’t have advanced degrees in Theology but is beginning to become slightly well read in the Faith to stick to areas that are in their wheelhouse and not to venture further afield.

  4. LeslieL says:

    Oh, Father!
    “……or publish a newspaper filled with heretical and nonsensical opinions and call it the “National Catholic Reporter”……
    *sigh* morning tea all over my computer screen again…….
    (but I really needed the giggle this morning….thank you!)

  5. majuscule says:

    Probably best for the amateur who doesn’t have advanced degrees in Theology but is beginning to become slightly well read in the Faith to stick to areas that are in their wheelhouse and not to venture further afield.

    I wanted to blog about our experience in my parish with trying to get a TLM started. I’m finding that his branches off into other areas of the faith and an unlimited (yet loosely focused) opportunities for blog posts. Careful research is enlightening. Yesterday’s led me to “reredos” after spelling it wrong.

    If you don’t use Catholic in your title, you can also have it in your description. You should make it obvious someplace. Search engines will pick it up as a keyword.

    I agree that if you “stick to the areas” that you already have knowledge about, are enthusiastic about and open to learning more about you can successfully blog or YouTube.

  6. Matt R says:

    One can also explain what they know and give reflection or ask questions about what they don’t. The Internet is a great medium for interaction over time, so one can always come back to the topic with a more definitive point to make!
    Good luck to the original questioner!

  7. JARay says:

    I have just been reading the last posting from blogger Kevin M. Tierney on his” Common Sense Catholicism” blog, in which he gives his reasons for discontinuing blogging. I will not try to go over all he has said but he certainly bemoans the lack of charity in some of the well-known blogs and he claims that they do more harm than good. He instances the instance of Pope Francis kissing the hand of a known priest who promotes homosexuality and the spat between two well-known individuals one claiming that the incident never happened and the other detailing the facts of the incident.

  8. Mojoron says:

    This points out the dichotomy that we, Catholics, face when we are asked to “evangelicalize” the world and then are told that unless we are “credentialed” to spread the faith we are told we cannot. This points out why evangelical Christians are way ahead of the Church in spreading the Gospel, rightly or wrongly interpreted. I’m not suggesting that we spread the News with reckless abandon as Catholics, but what are our choices and procedural requirements? I understand that evalgelicalizing the public doesn’t necessarily require a PhD and can be done by simple example, which is probably the most meaningful method to spread the Word.

  9. JustaSinner says:

    Well I’m rolling my eyes at this…seriously? We have nun groups in open revolt, “Catholic” newspaper in de facto heresy, and we have the time to worry about capitalizing Catholic? Me thinks we’ve found the problem Houston!!!

    [Some people are able to concern themselves with the things you mention and also, mirabile dictu, to give orthography its due. Furthermore, “methinks” is one word in modern English, not two.]

  10. Eugene says:

    This is a very timely subject for. I live in Canada, in the province of Ontario, where the government funded ” Catholic” school system is comprised of a teacher’s union called The Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association (OECTA). The executive of this group has decided to participate in the Gay World Pride Day being held in Toronto this month, an event totally at odds with Catholic teachings. They are participating in “support of the most marginalized group in society and th church, the LGTB people”. After many protests they are still going ahead with their scandalous decision so I asked the Bishops of Ontario to take some action legal or otherwise to force this anything but Catholic association to have the word Catholic removed from their name. To date no response has been heard. If any of you out could say a Hail Mary or two for this situation it would be appreciated.

  11. Gail F says:

    I run a web magazine, and I use the word Catholic in the title. I do not have any permission from anyone to do so, although I did inform the Archbishop that I was starting it and I would change the title if he objected. The name of my publication, “The Catholic Beat,” is based on a reporter’s subject: the City beat, the sports beat… the Catholic beat. So it does not imply that the site tells you the official Catholic take on anything, just that it covers Catholic things. I would suggest that this person use a similar title, or refer to himself as Catholic (“A Catholic’s Look at the Catechism”), or refer to the subject (“All about the Catechism of the Catholic Church”) and not worry.

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