catholic church [Gr., = universal], the body of Christians, living and dead, considered as an organization. The word catholic was first used c.110 to describe the Church by St. Ignatius of Antioch. In speaking of the time before the Reformation in Western Europe, Catholic is technically used to mean orthodox (i.e., those who accept the tradition as mediated by the Roman Church). Today in English it usually means the Roman Catholic Church. Protestants use the word catholic in its original sense to designate the Christian Church taken as a whole.