Are Protestants part of other Religions?

This question comes up from the name of this part of the forum, “Non-Catholic Religions”. I am curious, do Catholics think that Protestants are part of a different religion from Catholics? If so, what makes them part of a different religion?

Finally, what does the Catholic Church teach about the validity of other religions, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and possibility of salvation for those not of the Catholic religion?

Citations of respected Catholic teaching supporting your answers would be great, but I’m interested in what you think, whether or not you have the citations.

Thank you for your help with these questions.

Really Main Line Protestant churches are pretty much interchangaible. So they can easily move from Methodist to Presbyterian to Congregational.

They do not see this as changing religions but as switching from one denomination to another in their invisible Body of Christ.

All who have been validly baptized, such as protestants, are Christians just as Catholics are also Christians.

Protestants are Christians, but are not Catholics. Christianity is comprised, sadly, of many
different divisions, each one claiming to be the true one. Some Christians don’t even care a-
bout the schisms, “EVERYONE’S OKAY!” Oy Vey. I’m not saying that Protestants are not
Christians like Catholics are, but only the Roman Catholic Church is the correct Church.

Now as for the “validity of other religions” which you speak, I believe that it is of Catholic
opinion that God saves who he wills, even if some people are found in strange places. It
is indeed a mystery, all we can do is understand the GENERAL rules, but God of course
is above these rules, but we can’t say how in SURETY. Some Jews could be saved, even
som Muslims could be saved, and of course some Protestants as well, BUT WE DON’T

I’m afraid I can’t offer citations, only what I’ve heard,
perhaps someone here can cite for or correct me if
I am wrong anywhere.

First, I am just a regular church go-er, trying to educate myself, and continue to “faith build”. I do not have an advanced degree, nor have I been able to devote a lot of time to theological study, though I do look forward to one day. That said, I can (as of now) just give answers on what I have seen and experienced first hand.

It is not quite that easy or common to just float between denominations. The theology between various denominations is not so similar that our churches are interchangeable; that is offensive to say, though I’m not sure it was meant to be. I hope it was not. That said, you are correct that it would not be seen as changing religions. Someone who would leave the Methodist church to become Presbyterian (or vice versa) would still be Christian. That is the most important thing.

No, the Church doesn’t consider Protestants apart of a different religion. That is why the Church recognizes the validity of Prot. Baptism (as long as proper matter and form are used). When a Catholic marries a Protestant, the Church considers this a classed as a “mixed marriage” by the Church. When a Catholic marries a non-Christian it is considered a case with a “disparity of cult” (see CCC 1633). The Church also distinguishes between “ecumenism” (dialog with Protestants) and “inter-religious” dialog.

The Church teaches that the Catholic Church is the one true Church and that it contains all that is true and all that is necessary for salvation - it has God’s full revelation. Other religions contain parts of the truth (where they agree with Catholicism) mixed with error (where they disagree with Catholicism).

The Church also teaches that extra ecclesiam nulla salus, outside the Church there is no salvation, just as there can be no salvation apart from Jesus Christ. This, however, doesn’t mean every non-Catholic automatically is damned. Those who are outside of the Church through no fault of their own (i.e. they are invincibly ignorant of the truth of Catholicism) can still be saved if they cooperate with the graces God gives them and repent of any sins they commit. This salvation is still accomplished because of and through Christ and the Church even if the person isn’t formally a part of the Church. God doesn’t require the impossible of us. If someone couldn’t have known the truth of the Church, that will not be held against them. This is all treated in Lumen Gentium -

Protestants are in a different religion from Catholics. That’s not subjectively, but objectively true. It’s not something for opinion but fact. However, our commonality is that we are Christian.

What makes them part of a different religion? Well, they do not adhere to the rules set out be the Magisterium, believe in the creed or 7 sacraments, obey the pope, priests, etc. In order to be Catholic, they need to at least strive to believe in, and adhere to, the rules set out by the Church.

As to salvation of non-Catholics, or even Catholics for that matter, we leave that completely up to God. God alone can judge a person’s soul. We believe that some people may receive mercy for being “invincibly ignorant”.

However, when one knowingly and deliberately places himself outside the one true Church, then it is a difficult matter, without a belief in God, Christ, the Church, or receiving the sacraments, to get to heaven. It places these people at a tremendous disadvantage, but nothing is impossible for God.

Again, we leave this matter of judgement completely up to God. We are told we are not supposed to judge. We really are not to reject the Church or God’s representatives (the pope, priests, etc.). When we reject them, we reject Christ, we reject the one who sent him. We leave the matter up to God and his mercy.

Relevant paragraphs from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which can be accessed online here:


What does “catholic” mean?**

830 The word “catholic” means “universal,” in the sense of “according to the totality” or “in keeping with the whole.” The Church is catholic in a double sense:

First, the Church is catholic because Christ is present in her. "Where there is Christ Jesus, there is the Catholic Church."307 In her subsists the fullness of Christ’s body united with its head; this implies that she receives from him "the fullness of the means of salvation"308 which he has willed: correct and complete confession of faith, full sacramental life, and ordained ministry in apostolic succession. The Church was, in this fundamental sense, catholic on the day of Pentecost309 and will always be so until the day of the Parousia.

831 Secondly, the Church is catholic because she has been sent out by Christ on a mission to the whole of the human race:310

All men are called to belong to the new People of God. This People, therefore, while remaining one and only one, is to be spread throughout the whole world and to all ages in order that the design of God's will may be fulfilled: he made human nature one in the beginning and has decreed that all his children who were scattered should be finally gathered together as one. . . . The character of universality which adorns the People of God is a gift from the Lord himself whereby the Catholic Church ceaselessly and efficaciously seeks for the return of all humanity and all its goods, under Christ the Head in the unity of his Spirit.311

Each particular Church is "catholic"

832 "The Church of Christ is really present in all legitimately organized local groups of the faithful, which, in so far as they are united to their pastors, are also quite appropriately called Churches in the New Testament. . . . In them the faithful are gathered together through the preaching of the Gospel of Christ, and the mystery of the Lord’s Supper is celebrated. . . . In these communities, though they may often be small and poor, or existing in the diaspora, Christ is present, through whose power and influence the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church is constituted."312

833 The phrase “particular Church,” which is first of all the diocese (or eparchy), refers to a community of the Christian faithful in communion of faith and sacraments with their bishop ordained in apostolic succession.313 These particular Churches "are constituted after the model of the universal Church; it is in these and formed out of them that the one and unique Catholic Church exists."314

834 Particular Churches are fully catholic through their communion with one of them, the Church of Rome "which presides in charity."315 "For with this church, by reason of its pre-eminence, the whole Church, that is the faithful everywhere, must necessarily be in accord."316 Indeed, "from the incarnate Word’s descent to us, all Christian churches everywhere have held and hold the great Church that is here [at Rome] to be their only basis and foundation since, according to the Savior’s promise, the gates of hell have never prevailed against her."317

835 "Let us be very careful not to conceive of the universal Church as the simple sum, or . . . the more or less anomalous federation of essentially different particular churches. In the mind of the Lord the Church is universal by vocation and mission, but when she put down her roots in a variety of cultural, social, and human terrains, she takes on different external expressions and appearances in each part of the world."318 The rich variety of ecclesiastical disciplines, liturgical rites, and theological and spiritual heritages proper to the local churches "unified in a common effort, shows all the more resplendently the catholicity of the undivided Church."319

Who belongs to the Catholic Church?

836 "All men are called to this catholic unity of the People of God. . . . And to it, in different ways, belong or are ordered: the Catholic faithful, others who believe in Christ, and finally all mankind, called by God’s grace to salvation."320

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837 "Fully incorporated into the society of the Church are those who, possessing the Spirit of Christ, accept all the means of salvation given to the Church together with her entire organization, and who - by the bonds constituted by the profession of faith, the sacraments, ecclesiastical government, and communion - are joined in the visible structure of the Church of Christ, who rules her through the Supreme Pontiff and the bishops. Even though incorporated into the Church, one who does not however persevere in charity is not saved. He remains indeed in the bosom of the Church, but ‘in body’ not ‘in heart.’"321

838 "The Church knows that she is joined in many ways to the baptized who are honored by the name of Christian, but do not profess the Catholic faith in its entirety or have not preserved unity or communion under the successor of Peter."322 Those "who believe in Christ and have been properly baptized are put in a certain, although imperfect, communion with the Catholic Church."323 With the Orthodox Churches, this communion is so profound "that it lacks little to attain the fullness that would permit a common celebration of the Lord’s Eucharist."324

The Church and non-Christians

839 "Those who have not yet received the Gospel are related to the People of God in various ways."325

The relationship of the Church with the Jewish People. When she delves into her own mystery, the Church, the People of God in the New Covenant, discovers her link with the Jewish People,326 "the first to hear the Word of God."327 The Jewish faith, unlike other non-Christian religions, is already a response to God’s revelation in the Old Covenant. To the Jews “belong the sonship, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and of their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ”,328 "for the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable."329

840 And when one considers the future, God’s People of the Old Covenant and the new People of God tend towards similar goals: expectation of the coming (or the return) of the Messiah. But one awaits the return of the Messiah who died and rose from the dead and is recognized as Lord and Son of God; the other awaits the coming of a Messiah, whose features remain hidden till the end of time; and the latter waiting is accompanied by the drama of not knowing or of misunderstanding Christ Jesus.

841 The Church’s relationship with the Muslims. "The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind’s judge on the last day."330

842 The Church’s bond with non-Christian religions is in the first place the common origin and end of the human race:

All nations form but one community. This is so because all stem from the one stock which God created to people the entire earth, and also because all share a common destiny, namely God. His providence, evident goodness, and saving designs extend to all against the day when the elect are gathered together in the holy city. . .331

843 The Catholic Church recognizes in other religions that search, among shadows and images, for the God who is unknown yet near since he gives life and breath and all things and wants all men to be saved. Thus, the Church considers all goodness and truth found in these religions as "a preparation for the Gospel and given by him who enlightens all men that they may at length have life."332

844 In their religious behavior, however, men also display the limits and errors that disfigure the image of God in them:

Very often, deceived by the Evil One, men have become vain in their reasonings, and have exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and served the creature rather than the Creator. Or else, living and dying in this world without God, they are exposed to ultimate despair.333

845 To reunite all his children, scattered and led astray by sin, the Father willed to call the whole of humanity together into his Son’s Church. The Church is the place where humanity must rediscover its unity and salvation. The Church is “the world reconciled.” She is that bark which “in the full sail of the Lord’s cross, by the breath of the Holy Spirit, navigates safely in this world.” According to another image dear to the Church Fathers, she is prefigured by Noah’s ark, which alone saves from the flood.334

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"Outside the Church there is no salvation"

846 How are we to understand this affirmation, often repeated by the Church Fathers?335 Re-formulated positively, it means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body:

Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and Baptism, and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through Baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it.336

847 This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church:

Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience - those too may achieve eternal salvation.337

848 "Although in ways known to himself God can lead those who, through no fault of their own, are ignorant of the Gospel, to that faith without which it is impossible to please him, the Church still has the obligation and also the sacred right to evangelize all men."338

They are not part of a different religion, but they are part of a different Church.

Catholicism is not a religion, it is a Church. Christianity is a religion of which all baptised Christians are part of.

Protestants are part of the same religion as Catholics, the religion of Christianity.

Protestants are Christians, but they lack the fullness of Christianity, which is only found in the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. They are our “separated brethren,” as Unitatis Redintegratio, the Vatican II document on ecumenism, puts it.

This issue is a bit tricky. If someone asks me “What’s your religion?” then technically the answer is “Christianity”. However, practically speaking, I would assume that they’d want to know what kind of Christian I am.

(A few years ago, my profile read:
*Religion: Christianity
Location: Catholic Church
*and a few other posters had similar profiles.)

As far as your question about the title of this forum, Non-Catholic Religions, I can’t really say. I do know that there are many “traditionalist” Catholics here … perhaps one of them came up with the title.

I’ve noticed some people seem to be conceptualizing “Catholicism” as a species of the larger genus “Christianity” which misleadingly leads to the idea the Catholicism, Methodism, Lutheranism, Anglicanism, etc are all equally valid “types” of “Christians.” This is neither true, nor representative of what the Church teaches (see the paragraphs from LG that I posted above). Perhaps the great Hilaire Belloc can provide the antidote to such relativistic thinking (from “The Great Heresies”) emphases mine:

“There is no such thing as a religion called “Christianity” there never has been such a religion.
There is and always has been the Church, and various heresies proceeding from a rejection of some of the Church’s doctrines by men who still desire to retain the rest of her teaching and morals. But there never has been and **never can be **or will be a general Christian religion professed by men who all accept some central important doctrines, while agreeing to differ about others. There has always been, from the beginning, and will always be, the Church, and sundry heresies either doomed to decay, or, like Mohammedanism, to grow into a separate religion. Of a common Christianity there has never been and never can be a definition, for it has never existed.

Would it be appropriate to say that non-Catholics simply lack the fullness of Christianity, as I did in post #12?

I’d say that, although, to be more precise, they also tend to not just lack the fullness of the Catholic faith, but also to have errors mingled with the truth they have.

If you’re really interested in ecumenism and you are already familiar with Nostra Aetate and Unitatis Redintegratio, you might want to check out Mortalium Animos, Pius XI encyclical on Religious Unity from 1939. I look at it on my blog, you can check it out if you are interested:



Mortalium provides a nice balance when read with Unitatis and Nostra and vice versa.

Best answer to the original question. :thumbsup:

Personally, I happen to use the word Faith instead of religion much of the time.

Thanks for the recommendation! I’ll check it out. :slight_smile:

Per the quote [below] of the Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue it appears we are in the same Catholic Church.

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