Leaders of other Denoms


How does the Catholic Church think about/deal with the spiritual experiences of leaders (or anyone for that matter) in other denominations?

I’m thinking about people like John Wesley who had a profound conversion experience and then set about reforming the Anglican church.

Does the Catholic Church just think they weren’t being led by God? That ideally their experience would have led them to the Catholic Church? Something else?

I’m not sure what to do about things like that.


It is hard to say. If people are not members and don’t ask for membership, their views and experiences aren’t really in Rome’s province, except in so far as they might claim to have a message for Catholics.

Wesley was an edifying man, not self-evidently disqualifed as a moral leader. However he didn’t reform the Anglican church, he split with it, creating further divisions. His views on alcohol, for instance, were simplistic, contrary to Jesus’ teachings and even mystical vision, and in practise confused prudence with holiness.

We don’t have to say that Wesley taught absolutely nothing of value, but ultimately the Church cannot accept him as an authority.


We can’t say whether they had some experience or not but we can surely say that they weren’t led by God to break from the Church etc.

Some time ago I created a thread asking what would be the best answer for a women who was claiming that she feels called to priesthood. The thing is that she may be called by God but at the same time it is clear that she isn’t called to priesthood. Thus she may be misinterpreting her call or adding stuff to the call that aren’t there.

I think it may work the same way with people who claim that they were led by God outside of the Church.

Of course there is also the possibility that it was not God not even in the beginning but Satan . As we know, Satan often is the Lord of Lies who may simply pretend to be a Holy Angel leading us to God. This is also one of the reasons why we need the Church - to help us distinguish truth from lie.


That isn’t quite entirely true. For the whole of Wesley’s life, his goal was to reform the Anglican church and he died an Anglican. It could be argued that he allowed others to break, but it was never his intention.


Thanks for the thoughts though both of you. I’m just trying to process all of this through my head. I’m getting closer and closer to the point of converting, but I still have lots of thoughts floating around.

I guess I have a hard time totally throwing out all these experiences of people who for many years I’ve recognized as faithful Christians. But at the same time, I’m not sure what to do with them.


I think you should re-read the section in the catechism which deals with “separated brethren”. These folks are not condemned by the Church. The Church recognizes that God works in varied ways in the lives of individuals - no one denies this. At the same time, the Church has been given the responsibility of proclaiming the full Truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It has a responsibility of pointing out errors in matters of faith and morals, but in does not usually condemn individuals who are following what they beleive to be the will of God in their lives. That is most especially true in the case of non-Catholics - they are cut some serious slack! I see no barrier in this issue for you…


gladly, but umm… where is that section? I tried looking up “separated brethren” but that didn’t work and I tried a couple of other things that didn’t work either. So can you please point me to that passage?

I did have kind of a flash of understand at Mass tonight. Something the priest said made sense, but I’m not even sure what it was, and I don’t think I can explain it now, but it made sense in that moment.

I think my thought was something along the idea people like John Wesley were already separated from the Catholic Church, not by anything they did, just by birth, and God had to speak to them where they were. And maybe ideally the reform would have brought him and his followers back to the Catholic Church, but either way it did bring them to God. He was much better off having a vibrant relationship with God than a virtually non-existent one, even if he would have been even better off in the Catholic Church.

I’m not sure that is exactly what I was thinking, but it is as close as I can out into words for now.


I know of other experiences/miracles that happen to non-Catholics. These are real and add to the faith of the individuals.
So what does this mean? Christ can work outside the Church He started just as salvation can be given by Him outside of Baptism. Christ will work in the way He wants which is many times not understandable by us. His Spirit will be with us and work with us until we are again one as the Gospel of John says. In the meantime, it is up to us to spread the truth of His message and be part of His Church He established because He knows what is best for us.


Try paragraphs 830 - 848

Here’s a tidbit from section 838 under the heading of “Who belongs to the Catholic Church?”
“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…(they) are put in a certain, although imperfect, communion with the Catholic Church.”


Very good thread–it made me think.


You don’t have to throw them out. You can still see them as faithful Christians. It is not your job to judge whether or not they fall under the “no fault of their own” clause or not.

I happen to be a huge fan of Wesley. I think he is, mostly, very compatible with Catholic teachings, with a few minor points that most don’t truly get into in the first place.

My Christian walk as an adult began with pastor who was heavily into Wesley and I am completely thankful for that fact. It could have just as easily been Calvin fan, and who knows if I would have come back to the Catholic Church if that were the case:shrug:


Whoops! At first, I read the title of this thread as “Leaders of other Demons.” And I thought, ‘Hey, that’s really uncharitable!’

But then I read it again. Heh…heh…whoops.

Sam, the Neon Orange Knight


Thanks got it. That was helpful.

And thanks to everyone who has responded, they were all helpful. I’ll admit, I was a bit nervous about asking, I was kind of afraid that I’d get a whole bunch of people telling them that all these people have been horribly deceived by the devil and there was absolutely no way God was speaking to them.

But your responses have been much more helpful and charitable, so thanks a bunch! :smiley:


Hey, I love your signature, but just remember, sometimes it is easier to get used to the water if you just jump in and start swimmning instead of dipping your toes in first;)


Ya, I’m getting closer and closer to that point. I feel like I’m *almost *on the edge of a cliff and I know pretty soon I will have gone as far as I can on my own and just have to jump and trust that God is right there to carry me the rest of the way.

But I start the Profession of Faith class on Tuesday. My parish actually has seperate classes for the already baptized Christians.
[SIGN]Only 2 more days! :smiley: [/SIGN]


As KarenElissa said, this isn’t entirely true. He did authorize the formation of a separate Methodist church in America, owing to the particular circumstances there, and even in England many have argued that by establishing such a self-dependent Methodist organization he paved the way (unwillingly) for the final break after his death. But he died in communion with the Church of England and made it clear to the end that he wanted his followers to do the same (at least those of them who were Anglicans to begin with–the basic problem was that Wesley was reaching people in areas of recent population growth where the Church of England had little presence, and many of his converts had little or no attachment to the state Church).

His views on alcohol, for instance, were simplistic, contrary to Jesus’ teachings and even mystical vision, and in practise confused prudence with holiness.

This is arguably true, although he did not promote total abstinence (an idea that did not catch on until the 19th century). He drank beer and wine in moderation, but his ideas of “moderation” were quite particular–supposedly he thought that the ideal was to drink one glass of wine (port, I think, was his favorite, so admittedly he didn’t shy away from the strong stuff) per day, divided into sevenths and distributed throughout the day. In other words, he would probably have been horrified by the view (which I’ve seen ascribed to Aquinas and which I know was held by most of the Protestant Reformers) that it was OK to drink enough to make you jolly. The real issue was not alcohol so much as relaxation and enjoyment generally. Wesley was obsessive about the use of time and had little use for social amenities, with or without alcohol (Samuel Johnson commented that Wesley was an excellent conversationalist but that it was almost impossible to get him to sit around and talk).

In the interests of full disclosure, I should say that one possible blot on Wesley’s character was the pattern of his relationships with women. There’s no evidence that he ever acted unchastely, but he had a habit throughout his life of establishing strong spiritual friendships with women which then developed romantic overtones. After his marriage, he did not of course acknowledge the possibility of these relationships becoming romantic, but he did keep up intense correspondence with various female disciples, and was never able to understand why this made his wife so jealous. I think he can be accused not of unchastity but of a deplorable lack of self-knowledge and prudence in this regard.

His polemics could also get quite sharp, but he was moderate compared to many others, and if we fault him for this we would have to fault a lot of canonized saints (such as St. Jerome or St. Cyril of Alexandria or St. Athanasius) far more.



Paragraphs 818 and 819 are actually the most germaine to your original questions. They deal specifically with the separations that occured and how the individuals who have been brought up in those separate communities are not to blame. The Church also recognizes elements of truth and sanctification found in these communities. Do yourself a favor - read the entire section of writings in Article 9 “I believe in the Holy Catholic Church” You will get an idea of the depth of wisdom contained in the 2000 year history of the Church.


God Bless! I will pray that God will give you a clear sign, so the jump won’t seem as high;)

Your sister in Christ,


Thanks, that is helpful. I especially liked this from 819:

Christ’s Spirit uses these Churches and ecclesial communities as means of salvation, whose power derives from the fullness of grace and truth that Christ has entrusted to the Catholic Church. All these blessings come from Christ and lead to him, and are in themselves calls to “Catholic unity.”


Thanks, I appreciate the prayers. Class last night went well and I’m getting more and more excited about the whole process. :smiley:

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