Non-Catholics -- dealing with heresy

This is sort of a spinoff from Ianman’s thought provoking post in which he stated:

Are those that have faith in Christ, have been made new creations, are indwelled with the Holy Spirit and worship and serve God by loving God and loving others, members of the universal church/the body of Christ? Even if they are not part of the Catholic church and worship/serve elsewhere?

Heresy has been a big deal since the beginning. Arianism, for example, nearly tore the Church apart and went on for centuries. Heck, Santa Claus (Bishop Nic) slapped Arius at Nicea for leading people down the wrong path. This goes to show us how serious heresy is and always has been treated in the Catholic Church. She has been entrusted with preserving the faith and has never taken that role lightly.

So we think about Non-Catholic Christians, they appear to be “indwelled with the Holy Spirit”. Love God and try to serve Him. But from the Catholic viewpoint, they have some heretical views. We both read and agree with the Nicene creed but we interpret it quite differently than say, a Baptist would.

So how should a Church, in particular the Catholic Church, deal with heresy? How much is too much and who decides this?

And if the litmus test for a true Christian is that they appear to be indwelled with the Holy Spirit and worship and serve God by loving God and loving other Then shouldn’t Mormonism be considered Christianity as well since they claim to believe in Jesus and they also appeared to be Spirit filled as they are truly some of the nicest people I have ever met in my life. They are also extraordinarily moral.

If you had the authority to rewrite the Catechism of the Catholic Church, what do you think it should say about those with various beliefs about core doctrines?

Thanks, everyone, in advance for your viewpoints. :slight_smile:

1 Like

Mormons are NOT Christians. They do NOT believe in the Holy Trinity.


In my purely personal opinion, if we are to ever achieve P+C+O unity, our understanding of heresy must change.

That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t combat heresy, but it is messy. I think any teaching which makes sense in the context of historical orthodox Christianity can be tolerated if it has good implications for the faith and salvation of the believer. Take Sola Fide, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do good works, but that the faith of a deathbed convert and the living, working faith of a cradle Christian can get both to heaven.

Sometimes we anathemize a strawman of a theology and that makes us unable to see how much we have in common.

Doctrine should always be partly judged on how it brings man closer to God and to salvation. Some protestants with “looser” doctrines have led fallen away, poorly catechized catholics back into the faith and many back into the Church.

“By their fruits you shall know them.” Maybe can sometimes apply to doctrine. I don’t know, it’s pure speculation on my part.

So I would divide heresies into grave and “tolerable”. Different schools of theology can try to explain why their system is better, but as long as there is some merit to the idea, I would include them as tolerable, and the denominations which adhere to them as Christian. Akin to thomism and molinism in predestination, but broader. I wouldn’t expect the CC to accept Sola Scriptura, but to find a way to tolerate Lutherans and cooperate with them.

Mormon views are largely incompatible with the historical church orthodoxy, their understanding of the Holy Trinity, the Sacraments, etc. They cannot be considered Christians, but the Holy Spirit can still operate through them if they are open to Him.

Sorry, non-native English speaker here : could you explain what it means ?

1 Like

Also a non-native speaker here.

Protestant+Catholic+Orthodox :wink:


Oh, thank you !

1 Like

So now, more to the point, I have another question :

But doesn’t doctrine precisely define what brings man closer to God and salvation ? Isn’t that why the concept of heresy exists in the first place, because some doctrinal propositions made over the course of Church history, like arianism, resulted in twisted outlines of what “God” and “salvation” are ?

To me, this is why dealing with heresies has been such an important question throughout Church history, because what is ultimately at play is not the usefulness of this or that doctrine (which could be seen as an utilitarian approach to doctrine), but its fidelity to God’s revelation, and to the path this revelation opens for our own salvation.

Thank you for a thought-provoking post, by the way :wink:

And sorry, @Lenten_ashes, for not answering directly your original question !


Neither do oneness pentecostals but many consider them Christian anyway.

Yes there needs to be a Trinitarian formula for a valid baptism.


How do you define Heresy?

"Having been made new creations " is the crux of the proposal but I fear it quickly gets read over without registering. One is not made a new creation where the old is gone by keeping the prescribed rituals and doctrines of a church but rather by a circumcision of the individual heart.

Heresy–that is, false doctrine–should always be vigorously opposed. The sin of heresy–by which a Christians chooses false doctrines–should also be preached against and repentance from it exhorted. Those who commit this sin–heretics–should be treated like any other sinner (taking into account both their well-being and that of others to which they may pose a harm).

But just because someone is wrong, doesn’t make them a heretic.

St. Augustine:

But though the doctrine which men hold be false and perverse, if they do not maintain it with passionate obstinacy, especially when they have not devised it by the rashness of their own presumption, but have accepted it from parents who had been misguided and had fallen into error, and if they are with anxiety seeking the truth, and are prepared to be set right when they have found it, such men are not to be counted heretics.

People born into separated groups who come to know Christ and be baptized there are often more like catechumens or neophytes who have not yet completed the sacraments of initiation and a deeper catechesis to dispel their false opinions.


Yes, I see my mistake here!

I meant doctrines like purgatory, the Immaculate conception, double predestination and such. Very often we are preoccupied with doctrines which don’t directly influence our own salvation and we get divided by them.

But you’re right, doctrine does define how to achieve salvation. And such doctrine which deals directly with our salvation is crucial and cannot be compromised. Baptism, the Eucharist, prayer, definition of who God is, etc. are the neccessary fundamentals of faith. Even if our explanation of them is incomplete, or our traditions put emphasis in a different place.

That would be what I meant by “grave” heresy. I don’t think God will damn us protestants for simply doubting the assumption of Mary, but denying Baptism or the Trinity surely would put one’s soul in danger. And denying those would have serious implications even for the practical faith of the common person. Eg. The mormons don’t pray to God the Son because of their understanding of God, while protestants do.

Thank you for your patience with me! :wink:

2089 Incredulity is the neglect of revealed truth or the willful refusal to assent to it.

"Heresy is the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith, or it is likewise an obstinate doubt concerning the same;

apostasy is the total repudiation of the Christian faith;

schism is the refusal of submission to the Roman Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him."

Does anyone care who judges the matter? Who has the authority to declare a teaching to be a heresy?


I was considering a broad “reunification”, in which no denominations actually reunited, but at least clarified their statements of faith, so that we see what is actually the point of division (hint: in most cases ecclesiology is).

In that case a truly “ecumenical” council should examine it. Every denomination/school of theology would state their position, and then their basic conditions for acceptance of others. (Doctrines like Trinity, and so on) This way fringe positions like Westboro Baptists’ and the Mormons’ are eliminated. Some positions could be reexamined (Miaphysitism, Sola Fide, filioque etc.), to see how much they are in conflict. It was done with Miaphysitism iirc, the JDDJ.

Maybe first real steps to eventual unity can be done without imposing Papal Supremacy on the other ecclesial communities and Churches. On the contrary, when we all realize we were catholic all along, making the last step is easy.

Doesn’t matter though, I was just daydreaming.

Then, what’s the point? Is that what Christ would want?

John 17:11And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.

Exactly that’s the point. After 500 years of protestant schism and 1000 years of orthodox schism, maybe we should sit down and think really hard why it is so instead of sitting on our asses thinking we have the truth ourselves and others have an obligation to join us.

I know Christ didn’t beg others to join him, but if we are all baptised in the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, shouldn’t we try to mend the rift between each other a little more seriously? I think Christ wants His body healed, not scarred.

I think Christ wants to see His Body united, as one. He can heal every wound and remove any scar. He wants all the heretics and schismatics to return to the Catholic Church.


I think that’s the key. What might be heretical for group A might be considered necessary by group B.

@BohemianBrother I don’t think a council or meeting or any other fact-finding mission as to what different Christian churches agree or disagree on is needed. That much is known. The key is convincing each group that they may be wrong in one or more ways.

Normally such a meeting between different groups with similar goals but different approaches can be a good thing, because it leads to compromise. But this is a thing where it’s not about compromise but what is or is not true and what is or is not heresy. It’s not one group will exchange believing in the primacy of the pope in exchange for the other group to say that salvation is by faith alone.

And from an outsider’s perspective it doesn’t seem there is a way to come to an agreement on some of the larger sticking points. Just look at any debate between them, and each will point to various scripture, other writings, events in history and neither will be able to convince the other.

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