A plea for charity and clarity when using the "Protestant" label


I’ve never started a “rant thread” before, so this should be fun. :wink:

I’ve become increasingly aware of how often many of us Catholics will toss around the term “Protestant” as a label in order to denote that something is diametrically opposed to the Catholic faith. Except, most of the times I’ve encountered the term used, it has more to do with practices rather than any sort of doctrinal teaching.

Someone will say “That hymn has a distinctly Protestant flavor”, or “That type of prayer is thinly-veiled Protestantism”. What does that even mean? The term is so broad as to be meaningless. And even if something is often associated with “Protestants”, that does not mean it is necessarily opposed to Catholic teaching.

And, when the “Protestant” label is used in this way, it is ordinarily used in such a way as to make the person’s argument above criticism. All they have to do to “win” the argument is to attach the “Protestant” label to the other person’s point of view. If you disagree, well, that just means you have subconscious “Protestant” tendencies. Maybe it’s because you were a convert, or maybe you’ve been reading the works of too many converts. :shrug:

I guess I’m a little frustrated because this usage has the tendency to put up a major roadblock in any intelligent discourse. It seems to always lead to bickering.

I’m not sure what the point of this thread is. I guess I just wanted to bring the issue to light in the hopes that we can all work towards being more charitable and clear in our discussion. To simply call something “Protestant” does not help clarify anything. A preferred tactic would be to articulate precisely what it is about this or that song, prayer, etc. that contradicts this or that clear Catholic teaching.

Okay, I’ll get off my soapbox now. :slight_smile: Does anyone agree or disagree with my observations?


Me. The term is essentially meaningless because it denotes only two things in the practical sense it is used:

  1. Not a Catholic or Orthodox
  2. Not so out of the scope of the majority of Christianity to be labeled a cult.
    For all practical purposes, that is what I see it meaning; which is quite little.


Generally when I use the word protestant I am referring to one who isn’t Catholic is all. I have some members of my family who left the Church to become Lutherans, SDA, and others that I am not even sure what they are (sadly, I am not sure they know). I mean that, seriously. One has not been able to tell me, she is very vague about it. All of them tell me that they are still Catholic though. Now I know they were Baptized Catholic and that there isn’t anything they can do to not be Catholic, (which I read on EWTN one time, I believe by Fr. Levis, that this only makes it that much eaaier for them when they return to the Church), which I pray daily they will one day do…but, I don’t think of them as Catholics, I think of them as Protestants as they are all protesting some belief of the Church.
To me when someone is praticing their faith in the Catholic Church then they are to be called Catholic. Does that make sense to you?


Catholics often use the word “Protestant” to cover every Christian who’s not a Catholic. It’s sloppy language and sloppy thinking. At the same time, many non-Catholics use the word “Roman” when referring to Catholics. These labels can be used innocently, or it can be mudslinging. Someone accuses his opponent of acting like a “Protestant” to discredit his opinion. It’s a red herring, a method to turn attention away from the real issues in the debate.

Technically, Protestantism encompasses the religions that originated with the doctrines of the Reformation: Anglicanism, Anabaptism, Calvinism, Lutheranism, and Zwinglianism. The churches directly after them would include the Episcopalian, Presbyterian, and Methodist.

Baptists, Pentecostals, Quakers, Seventh Day Adventists, Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses, and Non-Denominational Christians and others do not even consider themselves Protestant (they insist on being called Christians), and they are *not *Protestant in the historic sense (I would question whether some are even Christian), although certainly they are more in alliance with Protestant thinking, or the faith of the “Reformers” (protestors).

But “Protestant” continues to be an umbrella term. When Catholics say that a certain music sounds “Protestant” or that a service looks “Protestant” they usually mean happy-clappy, stripped down, and void of Latin-rite reverence. When non-Catholics say that a service looks “Roman” they are usually referring to “smells and bells.” This is not quite right, however, since many Anglican and Lutheran services today look more “Catholic” than ours do!


Way to go, Joe! :thumbsup:

I am thankful for your rant…it needed to be stated. :tiphat:


That sounds just like a protestant rant to me.



The trouble is that there is simply no useful label for non-Catholic, non-Orthodox Christianity.

The common denominator, insofar as there is one, among the variety of communities under the Protestant umbrella is the Nicene Creed. Otherwise, liturgy, theology, sacraments, structure et al vary tremendously. This would not be as difficult to address were these communities few in number; unfortunately, there are hundreds and hundreds. This makes addressing each specific denomination practically impossible.

My advice to Protestants on the board is to be specfic in your profile. It is rather common for people to list something such as “Christian” but then complain in thread that they are being tarred with a Protestant brush.

When we put Catholic or Orthodox in our profile, you have a fair idea of where we are coming from. Protestant at least says, “Non-Catholic/Non-Orthodox”, which is helpful to some small extent.

I do not understand why more people don’t list their denomination in their profile. It would clear up these situations to a considerable extent.


I agree, what is the big secret about what people are anyway? Why not just come right out and say? I am a Catholic and all Catholics are Christians however, not all people are Christians, why not just put in your profile what you are like Teflon suggests?
If you are Baptist, Lutheran, etc…we’ll know you are a Christian, if you are a Atheists, why not just say so, if you are Jewish, hey, list that… whatever.


I have done my part. I am now labeled.


Kind of reminds me of my days in the ministry. For some the word ‘preacher’ was spit out of their mouth like cuss word:

“You filthy son of a PREACHER!!!” (spittle everywhere, back up several feet.:eek: )
:smiley: :smiley:

Good point and post.


Amen. :thumbsup:

I think you’ll notice, that most of the claims about “this” or “that” being “protestant” comes from the Holier-than-the-Pope traditionalist Catholic crowd. I think they use the “protestant” label, mostly as a dig toward Catholics that they don’t perceive to be ‘as Catholic’ as they are… :rolleyes:


Not quite so, :rolleyes: I am a former Protestant and I use the label as such it applies


I have no problem with the label in general, it’s just the way I’ve seen it (mis)used. When someone is using it as a catch-all term for all non-Catholic, non-Orthodox Christians, I have no problem with that. Strictly speaking, it may not be the most accurate, but it’s the shortest, most convenient, and most easily recognizeable term (particularly when the conversation is taking place in a largely Catholic crowd).

Where I take issue is when people start labeling specific things and practices rather than people. (Boy does that sound backward! I’m more offended to see a thing labelled rather than a person ;)). This seems to be when the term is most frequently misused.

For example, when someone describes a hymn as a “Protestant hymn”, simply because it’s theologically “lite”, even if nothing in the song explicitly contradicts Church teaching, it seems a bit unfair. Rather than being descriptive, it seems to be used as a logical shortcut to say “If you think this hymn is okay, then you’re not really Catholic. You’re actually more Protestant.” That seems to me to be more of an implicit insult rather than an attempt to engage in thoughtful discussion.


Exactly. That is why you will see the term “protestant” used in this sub-forum as a derisive, descriptive term more than anywhere else.

It is clearly a “dig” at something to be viewed as “not Catholic enough” for some here.


I think all of us, including me, need to be more careful about using the term “Protestant.”

To many Protestants, this term has become offensive, much like African Americans are often offended if someone refers to them as “colored people.”

The word Protestant is becoming hate language in this day and age.

I know a lot of people find these kinds of labels and the offense taken over them silly. But to those who are the “labelled ones,” it isn’t so silly. We can’t just snub our nose up at linguistic changes in culture.

I think we ought to strive to be considerate of people’s feelings. Even if we can’t see a reason to be offended over the term “Protestant,” we need to realize that others are offended and go out of our way (give them our coat and walk a second mile with them, etc.) to protect their dignity.


Bulls-Eye! I recently left a traditional forum because I was constantly being accused of thinking like a “Protestant” – mostly because I said the Pauline Mass was valid. We all know what a Catholic is supposed to believe, doctrinally speaking. What is not so easily identifiable is how we’re supposed to worship, sing, and dress. You can travel from country to country and see how diverse we Catholics really are.

But some would have us all fit a mold to their making. Some would rather label a hymn “Protestant” instead of explaining to us why they don’t like the hymn, or better still, why *every *hymn *has *to emphasize a Catholic dogma. They could simply say “I prefer Gregorian chant…or hymns that always emphasize Catholic dogma.” But it’s easier to mark those who disagree with a big Scarlet “P” … It’s a deceitful way of gathering points for their side.

  • Westy


Thanks for emphasizing that. I mistook you for arguing that “Protestant” ought to be dispensed with in toto.

I agree with you that Protestant as a perjorative rather than a noun doesn’t have much value.

I will however take the opportunity to note the awfulness of the praise band. I don’t care what theological construct the concept came from, it was spawned in the mosh pit of Hell.


Some Catholics sound like those who are sometimes listed as members of the MCTTB - the More-Catholic-Than-Thou-Brotherhood. :wink:

I didn’t know HTTP had more than one meaning :stuck_out_tongue:




How about non-Catholic Ecclesial Community? NCEC for short?

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