How does the Roman Catholic Church View Baptized Protestants? Heretics? or Separated Brethren?


This is an honest question…

I am aware that the Council of Trent anathematized the doctrines of the Protestant Reformation.

My understanding of being anathematized is to be damned. Is my understanding incorrect? If so, what does it mean?

Related to the above… Does the Roman Catholic Church believe the Protestant Reformers are in hell? in purgatory? in heaven? I had assumed that according to Trent, the RCC believes the Protestant Reformers are in hell or suffering immensely in purgatory.

However, when I read about Vatican II. It seems as if the Roman Catholic Church refers to Protestants, who have received a Trinitarian baptism as “Unitatis redintegratio” or separated brethren? Is this true?

If this is true, how can Protestants, who hold to anathematized beliefs regarding baptism and justification be regarded as “brethren”?

I am not trying to bait anyone… and I’m not trying to reignite the dark religious wars that followed the Reformation…

I am just wanting to know your view of this… Thanks!

"Trail of Blood" Baptist

My humble opinion is Catholics are too busy to think about it much. To me protestants are such a small amount of Christians who seem to feel their churches are “so big” (as toddlers do), because they have so much more work to do maintaining their little spaces. I do respect them and we work together as Chaplains, but really they are always so worried and need so much Bible hearing to light up, why don’t they just give up and get real.


I coordinate the R.C.I.A. program at our Parish. We have two types of folks that come into the Church. Catechumens are those who have never been baptized…they will receive the Sacraments of Initiation at Easter Vigil. Candidates are those who have been baptized in the proper matter and form. They must be Baptized in a Christian faith the recognizes the Trinity and baptizes by pouring or immersion in water. The form must be “I baptize you in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit”. Given that the proper matter (poured or immersed water) and form (the words noted above) then the Church considers them baptized and brethren. They provide us with a baptismal certificate if possible and they will not be re-baptized at Easter Vigil. They will partake of the Sacraments of Reconciliation, Eucharist and Confirmation.


Thanks for posting your opinion based on your experience. However, I don’t believe that the facts will support your view that “protestants are such a small amount of Christians.”

I am pretty confidant that someone in here can provide a good answer to my question. Thanks!


Thanks for sharing this… Do you know how this relates to my question regarding Trent anathematizing Protestants? Thanks again!


The Church damns no one. Anathema means to be cut off from the life-giving unity of the Church.

The Church has no position on this. The reformers are left to the mercy of God.

Anyone can Baptize as long as they use proper form an matter. The reason for this is because the Holy Spirit is the one that Baptizes not the person who performs the Sacrament.

They are considered our separated Brethen. As Tim Staples usually says sometimes it is important to talk about what we have in common before we start hashing out what our differences are.

Hope this helps,

God Bless


The Council of Trent set a standard for that time. Council declarations stand until/if they are updated. In this case, since a Vatican II declaration was made regarding the same subject, it is generally assumed that the VII verbiage takes precedent. There are some Catholics who refer to Trent without checking for the current Vatican II updates, if any. There are also some who don’t recognize the validity of the VII council. Nevertheless, VII wording is what is germane today


It means, roughly, “outside the Church”. This is not necessarily the same as “damned”, as Catholics don’t claim to know how God will judge a particular soul.

Only God knows. And the children of schism (like you or me when I was a Reformed Baptist) are not as culpable of the sin as the originators of it (like Luther or Calvin).

Yup, if validly baptized.

They’re qualified as “separated”, as you identified. They don’t have the fullness of the faith as they are outside the Church that Christ established, but they’re obviously trying to orient toward Christ (in most cases).

As to how this affects their “salvation”, it’s in the hands of the judge.


Yes, good additional input


The attitude today is completely different from in past eras.

The Council Fathers at Vatican II recognised the ecumenical movement as the work of God – and a divine imperative to be embraced by the hierarchy and all Catholics.

We have just experienced a year of joint commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation with Catholic and Reform Clerics co-presiding at Joint Services of Common Prayer

I suggest you read the encyclical of Pope Saint John Paul II, Ut Unum Sint.

In it, for example, you will read:

…Christians of one confession no longer consider other Christians as enemies or strangers but see them as brothers and sisters. Again, the very expression separated brethren tends to be replaced today by expressions which more readily evoke the deep communion — linked to the baptismal character — which the Spirit fosters in spite of historical and canonical divisions. Today we speak of “other Christians”, “others who have received Baptism”, and “Christians of other Communities”. The Directory for the Application of Principles and Norms on Ecumenism refers to the Communities to which these Christians belong as “Churches and Ecclesial Communities that are not in full communion with the Catholic Church”. This broadening of vocabulary is indicative of a significant change in attitudes. There is an increased awareness that we all belong to Christ. I have personally been able many times to observe this during the ecumenical celebrations which are an important part of my Apostolic Visits to various parts of the world, and also in the meetings and ecumenical celebrations which have taken place in Rome. The “universal brotherhood” of Christians has become a firm ecumenical conviction. Consigning to oblivion the excommunications of the past /…/

In a word, Christians have been converted to a fraternal charity which embraces all Christ’s disciples. /…/

It needs be reaffirmed in this regard that acknowledging our brotherhood is not the consequence of a large-hearted philanthropy or a vague family spirit. It is rooted in recognition of the oneness of Baptism and the subsequent duty to glorify God in his work. The Directory for the Application of Principles and Norms on Ecumenism expresses the hope that Baptisms will be mutually and officially recognized. This is something much more than an act of ecumenical courtesy; it constitutes a basic ecclesiological statement.

It is fitting to recall that the fundamental role of Baptism in building up the Church has been clearly brought out thanks also to multilateral dialogues.


As long as the form and matter are what the Catholic Church recognizes, (form = trinitarian formula, matter = water) the baptism is considered valid, thus separated brethren.


The other document important to read is Unitatis Redintegratio, the document of Vatican II on ecumenism. It also is a masterpiece which properly orients the position of the Church. In it, one reads, for example:

  1. Even in the beginnings of this one and only Church of God there arose certain rifts, which the Apostle strongly condemned. But in subsequent centuries much more serious dissensions made their appearance and quite large communities came to be separated from full communion with the Catholic Church - for which, often enough, men of both sides were to blame The children who are born into these Communities and who grow up believing in Christ cannot be accused of the sin involved in the separation, and the Catholic Church embraces upon them as brothers, with respect and affection… For men who believe in Christ and have been truly baptized are in communion with the Catholic Church even though this communion is imperfect. The differences that exist in varying degrees between them and the Catholic Church - whether in doctrine and sometimes in discipline, or concerning the structure of the Church - do indeed create many obstacles, sometimes serious ones, to full ecclesiastical communion. The ecumenical movement is striving to overcome these obstacles. But even in spite of them it remains true that all who have been justified by faith in Baptism are members of Christ’s body,(21) and have a right to be called Christian, and so are correctly accepted as brothers by the children of the Catholic Church.(22)

Moreover, some and even very many of the significant elements and endowments which together go to build up and give life to the Church itself, can exist outside the visible boundaries of the Catholic Church: the written word of God; the life of grace; faith, hope and charity, with the other interior gifts of the Holy Spirit, and visible elements too. All of these, which come from Christ and lead back to Christ, belong by right to the one Church of Christ.

The brethren divided from us also use many liturgical actions of the Christian religion. These most certainly can truly engender a life of grace in ways that vary according to the condition of each Church or Community. These liturgical actions must be regarded as capable of giving access to the community of salvation.

It follows that the separated Churches and Communities as such, though we believe them to be deficient in some respects, have been by no means deprived of significance and importance in the mystery of salvation. For the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as means of salvation which derive their efficacy from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Church.


My point exactly


Protestants are a small minority.

First they are disorganized amongst at least 10,000 different church-sects.

Second, of the worlds approximately 2,400,000,000 Christians, only about 600,000 are Protestant. 1.8 billion of the worlds 2.4 billion Christians are CATHOLIC Christians - 1.3 billion total Catholics in communion with the Holy See of Rome, plus about 500 million total Eastern, Oriental, and Assyrian Orthodox/Catholic Christians.

So a 25% minority of the worlds Christians belong to one of 10,000 varying and contrary sects.

The 75% vast majority of Christians on Earth belong to one of four different Apostolic, catholic, holy Christian Churches.

Of that 1.8 billion 75% majority, about 1.3 billion are part of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic orthodox Christian Church - the Latin-Roman Churches, and the various Eastern Catholic Churches centered around peace and communion with the Holy Apostolic See of St. Peter.

The other half a billion Christians in the 75% Apostolic Christian majority are split between basically only two Communions of Churches - the Eastern Orthodox Catholic Christian Church, whos Primacy is in the Holy Apostolic and Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, the See of St. Andrew, and the Oriental Orthodox Catholic Christian Church, whos Primacy is in the Holy Apostolic See of Sts. Mark and Peter, His Holiness Pope Tawadros II. There is also the Assyrian Apostolic Catholic Churches, whos Primacy resides in the Holy Apostolic See of Sts. Thomas and Bartholomew, the Patriarch of Babylon and the East, currently His Holiness Patriarch Mar Gewargis III (one which calls itself the Ancient Assyrian Church of the East, the other, smaller sect called the Ancient Church of the East) - but these are relatively minor, with less than 1 million total, mostly in the Middle East around Syria and Iraq.

How glorious would it be to see a revived Catholic Church, and all Catholic Christians to be in communion under a Heptarchy:

+The Holy See of Sts. Peter and Paul in Old Rome and the Holy Father Pope Francis
+The Ecumenical Patriarchate and See of St. Andrew in Constantinople, the New Rome, and His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I
+The Holy See of Sts. Mark and Peter in Alexandria, and the Coptic Pope, His Holiness Pope Tawadros II
+The Holy See of St. Peter in Antioch and the Patriarch of Antioch
+The Holy See of Sts. Peter and James in Jerusalem, and the Patriarch of Jerusalem
+The Holy See of Sts. Thomas and Bartholomew in Babylon and the Patriarch of Babylon
+The Holy See of St. Andrew in Moscow, the Patriarchate of Moscow and All Russia, and His Holiness Patriarch Kirill.

What a glorious thought imagining each of these ancient Apostolic seats of Christianity once again dwelling in peace, unity, and full communion and charity. I FERVENTLY pray for that to happen as Christ Himself prayed.

So just remember that - Protestants: a mere 25% minority of the worlds Christians who exist amongst the 99% of Christian sects.



Then you have the Catholics - the vast 75% majority of the worlds Christians in only 4 Apostolic Churches. Most Catholics are Roman or Eastern, but there exist significant numbers of Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, and Assyrian Catholic Christians.


Anathema = condemned

Re: Anathema A person can always change their position before they die

The Church teaches what scripture teaches. Scripture teaches that if one dies in mortal sin they go to hell.

the Catholic principles of ecumenism, the Decree Unitatis Redintegratio recalls above all the teaching on the Church set forth in the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium in its chapter on the People of God.8 At the same time, it takes into account everything affirmed in the Council’s Declaration on Religious Freedom Dignitatis Humanae.9

Re: Footnotes 8 & 9 mentioned above: from Lumen Gentium & Dignitatis Humanae

8 Cf. SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, 14. #14. “This Sacred Council wishes to turn its attention firstly to the Catholic faithful. Basing itself upon Sacred Scripture and Tradition, it teaches that the Church, now sojourning on earth as an exile, is necessary for salvation. Christ, present to us in His Body, which is the Church, is the one Mediator and the unique way of salvation. In explicit terms He Himself affirmed the necessity of faith and baptism(124) and thereby affirmed also the necessity of the Church, for through baptism as through a door men enter the Church. Whosoever, therefore, knowing that the Catholic Church was made necessary by Christ, would refuse to enter or to remain in it, could not be saved.”

9 Cf. SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Declaration on Religious Freedom Dignitatis Humanae, 1 and 2.

Due to space limits, footnote 9 link sections 1& 2, needs to be opened and read

Did this answer your questions


I believe, don’t quote me on this, but as long as a person is Baptized with water and the words “I baptize you in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit” are said while doing so then it is a Baptism recognized by the Catholic Church and the baptized person is a Christian brother/sister of ours.


The RCC does NOT presume to know; for every sin; even apostasy is forgivable right up to the moment the soul is separated from the body.

What we can know from Heb 6:4-8 testifies to the merits of Apostasy

[4] For it is impossible for those who were once illuminated, have tasted also the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, [5] Have moreover tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come,

[1] “The word of the beginning”: The first rudiments of the Christian doctrine.

Douay Bible explanation: “It is impossible”: The meaning is, that it is impossible for such as have fallen after baptism, to be again baptized; and very hard for such as have apostatized from the faith, after having received many graces, to return again to the happy state from which they fell. [6] And are fallen away: to be renewed again to penance, crucifying again to themselves the Son of God, and making him a mockery. [7] For the earth that drinketh in the rain which cometh often upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is tilled, receiveth blessing from God. [8] But that which bringeth forth thorns and briers, is reprobate, and very near unto a curse, whose end is to be burnt.**

So we can recognize the seriousness of their actions; but unable and unwilling to pass final judgment upon them

God Bless you,


This is helpful. Thanks!


Thanks! Very informative and helpful.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit