I’m curious what people believe about Proselytism in general especially in relation to non-catholic religions and the Catholic religion. I’m curious to know what non-Catholics think about and and what Catholics think about it. And I will define the term proselytize for people so that they can know just what exactly I am talking about.

Proselytize (Dictionary.Com)
-to convert or attempt to convert as a proselyte; recruit.

So Proselytism… Good or bad?

And if you believe your Religion (Catholic or Non-Catholic) to be true then wouldn’t it make since that you should try to proselytize people? Also, it seems that Christianity, namely Catholicism, is built on trying to proselytize people. The idea that there is One True Faith automatically assumes that all other Faiths are false and it would follow that we would want people to believe the same as we do…

Just for a quick scripture reference on what I think pertains to Proselytism…

Matthew 28:19-20
19 Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age."

Anyways, I’m interested in a discussion! God bless you all! :slight_smile:

Proselytism can be harmful as it attempts to compel a person to join a faith without full consent. This process is often and inaccurately the media’s description on Christian conversion, when, in fact, the charitable way of spreading the Gospel is through the process of evangelization.

An excellent example of evangelization is shown by Christ and the young rich man in Matthew 19:12. Here, the man approaches Christ, asking how he can achieve eternal life. Christ asks him if the man has held to the Commandments and the principles. The man responds in the affirmative but asks what he lacks. Christ tells the man to sell everything he has and to follow Him. But the young man leaves dejected, “for he had many possessions.”

Christ is God but wants us to follow him freely. Christ did not pressure the man, threaten or otherwise coerce the man into following the Way. Christ merely noted the choices. We never know if the young man does sell his possessions, but we do know that Christ successfully evangelized; the man left with a “seed” of information to ponder, to work into his life in hopes of furthering his closeness to God.

Catholic Answers is built on evangelization. When people call the live radio show, especially during Q&A for Non-Catholics, the host and guest do not try to “win the argument” or threaten or ridicule. As always, they defend and explain the Faith. As Tim Staples often says on this topic: “I’m in marketing, not sales.” Evangelism is not pushy.

From Pope Francis’ recent Evangelii Gaudium:

It is not by proselytizing that the Church grows, but “by attraction”.

The quotation marks there are because he is quoting a homily from Pope Benedict.

I don’t know that this has always been the case, but more recently in Catholic theology, there tends to be a distinction between proselytism (which is seen negatively as trying to force someone into faith) and evangelization (which is seen positively as trying to attract someone to the faith).

Here is a handy explanation from the 49th footnote of the CDF’s Doctrinal Note on Some Aspects of Evangelization:

[49] The term proselytism originated in the context of Judaism, in which the term proselyte referred to someone who, coming from the gentiles, had passed into the Chosen People. So too, in the Christian context, the term proselytism was often used as a synonym for missionary activity. More recently, however, the term has taken on a negative connotation, to mean the promotion of a religion by using means, and for motives, contrary to the spirit of the Gospel; that is, which do not safeguard the freedom and dignity of the human person. It is in this sense that the term proselytism is understood in the context of the ecumenical movement: cf. The Joint Working Group between the Catholic Church and the World Council of Churches, “The Challenge of Proselytism and the Calling to Common Witness” (1995).

I do worry that often people use “proselytism” when the other guy does it and “evangelism” when their guys do it.

I would say, however, that there’s a fundamental difference between proselytism, as the term is used today, and evangelization or “making disciples.” When you evangelize you are witnessing to what Jesus has done, and inviting others into a life of discipleship. You aren’t trying to manipulate people. Insofar as you manipulate people, you are no longer really evangelizing. Christians have done a lot of this “proselytism” in the bad sense, and it has had terrible effects over the centuries. We need to stop.

By “manipulation” I’m including the use of aggressive arguments to try to persuade the other people that their religion is inadequate. All posts on this forum titled “Protestants: Why do you do X,” are manipulative. They are so clumsy that they probably set people’s backs up and don’t succeed very often, but it’s the thought that counts, and the thought is proselytizing, not evangelistic. However, this is only really a problem when the person making the arguments is in a position of power. In fact, such tactics have a place if you’re up against a powerful, entrenched religious system and want to wake people up. It’s still not really evangelism, though–more a kind of prophetic protest in those circumstances.

People come to the truth when they are ready. Our task is to make sure that a witness to the truth is available when they need it.


I wouldn’t even “try to attract someone to the faith.”

Love the truth, and love people. The rest will follow naturally.

On the other hand, I am a loud-mouthed extrovert, so the worry some folks have that my approach leads to “being silent about the Gospel” just isn’t a problem for me. Talk to me for five minutes and God will probably come up in the conversation.

In college I was “recruited” to an aggressively evangelistic group. I basically felt like I was in sales. They believed there can only be one church but what determined the one church was whoever was the most productive, the least sinful, the most perfect. There was such a high level of accountability that manyof us started to fear men more than God and Christianity became a social contract to fit in and feel accepted by a group- especially for many of us who didn’t grow up in very affirming or supportive families. I am still recovering from my time in that group and give a lot of prayers to the Holy Family, Don Bosco, and Josephine Bakita for healing. In making disciples aka students of Christ, I feel the best thing I can do is be a good student of Mother Church which has so many wounded people in the Communion of Saints. I can share how nurturing and gentle the Church has been with me. Apologetics are good but the Church’s pastoral care and teachings on the value of the human person are an amazing witness to a world that values the strong but hates the weak or flawed. Btw, I’ve been very curious about Opus Dei. I’d like to see how they differ from the Protestant group I was a part of but there is no chapter in my city.

My Mother In Law, Want to bring her Sister, to her little christian church, her sister is “catholic” she don’t drive so it is hard to her to go to mass specially here in florida, one of the arguments she give her is the Images are bad and go against the Bible, so resuming she is telling her she is a sinner, and need to go to her church to be saved…I offer her that when she wants to go to mass, i will take her, also i told her if you in your heart want to go to the other church do it, do it because you want to be close to God, Because you need Jesus, not because somebody is telling you and scared you.

Close to my house they have a Church that use "no perfect people allowed’ as publicity, i found business cards all the time at the gas stations, they sell t-shirts, hoodys etc with the name of the church, for Christmas they have people giving flyers everywhere to advertised they Christmas event, I’m nobody to criticized or judge, but for me it is a little exaggerated and the priority seems to be, bring as many people we can.
as I comment on another thread, Using things like we have a big child center, Where are the 3rd mega church in U.S, Or Even as A Catholic use the saints to bring people to the church is not the Message to evangelized people…
Church is not a competition

In past centuries, Catholics engaged in a huge amount of proselytism of the Eastern Orthodox. I thank God that we have changed our policies.


I’m guessing the no proselytizing rule is for non-Catholics who come out here not to understand but bash? I’m on a lot of Christian related forums where everyone argues and feel they don’t have to have manners.

The Church’s missionary outreach example is well exemplified in Matthew also- The Sheep and the Goats.

31“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

34“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

41“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

44“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

45“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

46“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

From a Lutheran perspective, it seems counterproductive to proselytize fellow Christians, particularly those Christians in communions that offer word* and *sacrament, especially since there are so many in our world unfamiliar with or uninvited to hear the word of God, and the promises of the Gospel.


We Catholics see it that way too, nowadays. There was a time when it was considered very productive – for example, four centuries ago the Polish Kingdom was seen a great opportunity to “bring in” a large number of Eastern Orthodox.

Respectfully, though, Peter, I think some Catholics see it that way, but many—perhaps most on CAF— don’t. Maybe it doesn’t stick out as much to you because you’re not the target of the conversion efforts in the way Protestants are.

Well, let’s just say that I don’t read every single post. :wink:

That’s a wise decision. :smiley:

Well, it definitely got me out of answering your question nicely. :thumbsup:

I have been the target of conversion efforts on countless occasions, in some cases it has been specifically because of my Catholic faith. But on every occasion my faith was treated dismissively at best, not a single proselytizer felt my Catholic faith was acceptable, at the worst it was pointedly disparaged. Often Catholics like Mormons are considered in need of rescue from the “cult” they are in, so I can’t agree that Catholics are not the target of conversion.

Indeed. Oddly enough, I don’t think it would be a bad idea if all Catholic posters were to spend some time on protestant forums (and vice versa) so as to gain the other perspective.

That’s not what AbidewithMe said. Her/his point was that you may think Catholics don’t do this, but that’s because you’re not the one Catholics are doing it to. So it may seem to you that Catholics don’t proselytize the way Protestants do, but that may be a skewed perception on your part.


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