Foundations of Catholic Identity

Foundations of Catholic IdentityWhen we think of Catholic Identity we may think of many different things. Symbols, prayers and practices, doctrine and hierarchy all top the list. But what if we looked in another direction at anthropology? Where exactly does our Catholic Identity come from?

Seven “Cs”

When considering the anthropology of any faith tradition it is important to understand there are some very common foundations. Dr. Kathleen O’Gorman, Associate Professor of Loyola Institute of Ministry, New Orleans, has developed the Seven C’s of anthropology for the study of faith traditions. Her research provides a foundation for understanding religions, or faith traditions, and the foundation aligns nicely to understanding what Catholic Identity really means. Let’s take a closer look at the Seven C’s within the context of the Catholic faith tradition..

  1. Context -Where and when did Catholicism emerge? Geographical location and historical location. What background dynamics evoked it?  What was happening that gave rise to this movement or practice?
  2. Cosmology -Often expressed as Worldview, or world-understanding.  What does the World include?  What is its meaning and signifcance?  What or who makes it up?  What are we to make of the World in which we find ourselves?  Is Creation flawed or our perfect world?  Is it good or to be tamed?
  3. Creator -Is there a belief in an ultimate Creator?  Is there a sense of the Divine?  What kind of being is God?  What names are given to God?
  4. Community -Who belongs?  What is the criteria for belonging?  How is initiation into the community effected?  What rites?  Practices? Is the community more open or more closed?
  5. Creed -What core beliefs are taught and shared? What do those who belong believe?
  6. Cult -What rituals are practiced?  How are they practiced?  Where and When?
  7. Code -What is forbidden or commanded?  What rule of life are followers expected to follow?


Now we consider what this means to who we are as Catholics. Looking at the Seven “C’s”, take a few minutes to reflect on the answers to these questions. By identifying the answers, we are actually identifying the anthropological foundations of our Catholic faith. This is Catholic Identity!

The implications of uncovering such information is that we begin to see how we express ourselves through our context, cosmology, creator, community, creed, cult, and code. Can we, then, begin to see where these areas fit into the cognitive (head), affective (heart), and behavioral (hands) aspects of what it means to be human? If we can identify with the Seven C’s, we will be able to more clearly see how our faith is a lived expression of who we are as Catholics.

Is Catholic Identity something that can be taught or is it something that comes from within? Please comment below.

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