>I’m reading two scholarly books right now that refer to the religious practices and beliefs of the Middle Ages as Catholic, capital C. [ETA: I want to add some information to clarify a few things, partly in response to something a friend ask via e-mail. Both books are dealing only with medieval English culture and literature, so there’s no pressing need to distinguish the Eastern from Western Christian Church in this context. But they do have to sometimes talk about early modern English culture, and one of them is talking about present day manifestations and uses of medieval texts, so the need to distinguish pre- and post-Reformation English Christianities *is* necessary in some way.]
In one case, the book is by a British scholar writing for a British press, and I suspect the practice is standard to both, and reflects all sorts of legacies of the Reformation still alive and well, if muted, in England. In this case, the word signals something like ‘In the Middle Ages, they were Catholic. Now we are proper English Protestants.”
In the other case, the book is published by the Catholic University of America Press, so if it’s house style, it’s of a different ilk, claiming continuity rather than difference. But actually, flipping about, I see this author uses the generic “Christian” more often and seems only to rely on “Catholic” when needing to distinguish it from Reformation denominations and practices.
But I have to say, I’ve always found the use of “Catholic” with a capital C anachronistic for the Middle Ages, especially if all or most of what you’re talking about in a work is the Middle Ages, so both of these examples strike me as wrong in some way. Not hugely, grossly wrong, but wrong in the way a slightly out of tune piano note is wrong — something’s off.
But maybe that’s just me. What are your preferences and practices?