Protestants = Heretics?

I know what the Church teaches on the matter. I still have to wonder about it though.

I’m a recent convert to the Church from a protestant denomination and was thinking about this one day. I know it was considered heretical in the past and it fits all definitions of a heretical movement. Did Church teaching change simply because of ecumenical reasons and the sheer number of them?

I was just reading a book on the crusades and it included sections on crusades in Europe against heretical groups. I also know about the suppression of early weird movements like Gnostics and others like them.

I don’t mean any ill will to anyone on this. Heck, I’m married to a heretic if this is the case!
I’m just curious what others think on the matter.

To my knowledge, for one to be a heretic you have to know the Truth and reject it. If you’re born into a religion/denomination, I’m pretty sure that isn’t considered heresy.

Someone please correct me if I’m wrong! :slight_smile:


Wounds to unity

817 In fact, "in this one and only Church of God from its very beginnings there arose certain rifts, which the Apostle strongly censures as damnable. But in subsequent centuries much more serious dissensions appeared and large communities became separated from full communion with the Catholic Church - for which, often enough, men of both sides were to blame."269 The ruptures that wound the unity of Christ’s Body - here we must distinguish heresy, apostasy, and schism270 - do not occur without human sin:

Where there are sins, there are also divisions, schisms, heresies, and disputes. Where there is virtue, however, there also are harmony and unity, from which arise the one heart and one soul of all believers.271

818 "However, one cannot charge with the sin of the separation those who at present are born into these communities [that resulted from such separation] and in them are brought up in the faith of Christ, and the Catholic Church accepts them with respect and affection as brothers . . . . All who have been justified by faith in Baptism are incorporated into Christ; they therefore have a right to be called Christians, and with good reason are accepted as brothers in the Lord by the children of the Catholic Church."272

819 "Furthermore, many elements of sanctification and of truth"273 are found outside the visible confines 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, as well as visible elements."274 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,275 and are in themselves calls to "Catholic unity."276


Canon Law:

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

One should note too that to be guilty of formal heresy …this is when a person willing embraces what they know to be contrary to revealed truth…in some obstinate way as the code notes…

Materially of course many beliefs of various protestants are ‘heresy’ …“materially” that is what is believed is wrong…(but we do not normally use this language with them…about these errors…but we will of course bring to the table the entirety of the Faith and discuss what we hold in common as well as those things which we do not accept in their beliefs)

If a particular protestant holds that one cannot sin after becoming a Christian…well that is *materially *heresy…for it is simply not the case. But if that person for example grew up with this belief and never knew differently…well they are certainly not a formal heretic for believing this…

I have studied Catholicism, believe I understand it pretty well, and simply and without reservation reject enough of it that I do not see there ever being a time I would become Catholic as I feel my current status to revealed truth is much closer than what I would have as a Catholic. — and I would fully expect any Catholic to feel just as strongly the opposite.

Still, I hate the word heretic. It’s like using the word retarded, imbecile, moron, etc. It’s a term with a definition that is legitimate. But, would you like someone to tell you they’ve tested your child and he’s an imbecile or moron? — not likely you are going to listen to that person for long.

I think the term heresy/heretics is only confined nowadays to ecclesiastical courts which evaluate certain cases within the physical boundaries of the Catholic Church. I understand the material heresy from the technical viewpoint, although no one refers to non-Catholic brethren as heretics (ouch) anymore. The PC term is “separated brethren” although I am not sure if everyone will be satisfied with this. At any rate, Papa Benedict says “We must guard against any temptation to view doctrine as divisive and hence an impediment to the seemingly more pressing and immediate task of improving the world in which we live.”. There’s more to the Pope’s message here, but I guess that one point is well appreciated.

Incredulity, heresy, apostasy, schism, are all very clearly and simply defined in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition #2089.

Martin Luther was a heretic and schismatic. So is Nancy Polosi.
Martin Luther was excommunicated from Catholic Church. Nancy needs to be :smiley:

In all honesty, and in a spirit of education, - using the CCC, Second Edition - so you will have the true facts of the teachings of the Catholic Church, which do you disagree with as a Lutheran ?
Please use paragraph numbers so that we can all follow along, and so nothing will be taken out of context. Thank you.
The reason I’m asking is because many times I think alot between Christians is merely misunderstanding.
If you do not have a copy of the CCC, you can use USCCB web site then to to Catechism. If you have never read the CCC (like some Catholics) you don’t know what the Catholic Church teaches.

Protestantism calls some of those old Gnostics Heretics too. Whch should be funny I suppose because they then left the same Church which the Gnostics left and which fact had caused them to be termed heretics.
Even on the other side if Catholicism left the Church as some protestants say they do not call Catholics heretics for leaving the Church as they call Gnostics heretics for the same act of leaving the Church.

Actually, the word heresy originally meant a doctrine or doctrinal attitude contrary to the common doctrine of the faith. It gave, thus, the concept of an elite, adjusting doctrine to its own will. In the New Testament, the word is used several times: St. Peter aptly determines the sense of heresy, saying that through it the path of truth is desecrated, men are perverted and the Lord denied (2 Peter 2:1).

Tertullian (De praescript., c.6) explains heresy as an abitrary choice of doctrines, without taking account of the common rule of faith of the Church. St. Thomas reduces heresy to a type of positive infidelity, by which some have a certain faith in Christ without accepting integrally all the dogmas (Summa Theol., II-II).

Limiting our consideration to the objective standpoint, heresy is a teaching which is directly contradictory to a truth revealed by God and proposed to the faithful as such by the Church. In this definition two essential characteristics of heresy are brought out: (a) opposition to a revealed truth; (b) opposition to the definition of the Church magisterium. If a truth is contained in the deposit of revelation, but has not been proposed to the faithful by the Church, it is called a truth of divine faith; if the revealed truth is also defined and proposed for belief by the ordinary or the extraordinry magisterium of the Church, it is called a truth of divine-Catholic faith. Heresy in the full sense of the word is opposed to a truth of divine-Catholic faith. If the denial concerns a revealed truth which is clear and commonly admitted as such, but has not been defined by the Church, the one who denies such a truth is called proximus haeresi (very close to heresy).

I agree with you. Would you also agree with me that, even though the term “anti-christ” has a legitimate definition, its use in regard to the papacy and/or the Pope is, today equally offensive, and limits our ability to work on unity? I frankly cannot accept the term in when related to great Christian men like John Paul II and Benedict XVI, or a number of their predecessors.


Here is a start. By no means is it complete, and my disagreement with these paragraphs varies in degree:



Whoah. That long list looks like a repost of the 95 theses on the door of Wittenberg. I’m trying to find Pope Leo X’s Exsurge Domine to cut and paste here but that would be too long. But seriously if you have studied the Catechism that much to find fault with each one of them, I guess at least you are a cut above some Catholics who haven’t even gone beyond the foreword. Reading with an intellectual tendency to disagree though, would be a miles different from reading so as learn more about the love of God and neighbor. Maybe you should read those Catechism sections again, but this time take off your Lutheran lenses. Whatever comes out of it, I will still pray for you.

This is far too simplistic for an absolute yes/no answer.
I think it partly depends on how you define “Protestant”.

One who protests and makes their own version of Christianity?
Well an orthodox Anglican isn’t the same as Sun Myung Moon’s group. He claims to be Jesus come back. They claim to be Christian (Clearly they’re not.) But again, depending on how you define it… Any non Catholic/Orthodox who align themselves with Christianity? Then yeah some definitely are… Then again if you reign it in a bit and are talking more mainstream, then no… the Catechism is pretty clear on this… there are a lot of factors. Some Protestant groups refuse to baptize the the “Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit” (Which is what our Lord very clearly says to do.) some baptize in the name of “Lord Jesus Christ” instead… I think it’s very difficult to answer this…

But I will say this: Growing up I did hear a few very nasty intolerant and incorrect things about Catholicism visiting friends churches that would have a Catholic Priest ex-communicated if he said the same kind of things about Protestants. I find Catholics to be more tolerant than Protestants (And in my experience some Eastern Orthodox.)

I am tru;y sorry you experienced this kind of treatement. It is not the way Christ expects His people to talk or act toward each other.


Let me clarify: I was raised Protestant so these remarks were not aimed at me. I also want to be very clear that the majority of Protestant churches I went to didn’t get nasty about the Catholic Church… the ones that did: Baptist, Four Square and Pentecostal all did.

I converted 6-7 years ago to Catholicism and it was the best move I ever made.
Let me say this (I mentioned it in another thread,but I’ll repeat) when I was 15 I gave up on Christianity altogether because having been to so many different churches hearing so many different variations on what was important and what wasn’t I gave up. Christianity seemed like the tower of Babel to me. Nobody could agree on anything…The most amazing thing about finally looking at the Catholic church after slogging through looking at pretty much every other religion around the world for 35 years was how perfectly the Catholic faith fit together and how every element of the Bible made sense.

It all fits!

I have never been happier.

Having said all that my parents were devout Christians (Protestant) and I have no ill-will towards Protestantism, though having seen what I’ve seen I do have to say some are closer to original Christianity than others. I am very fond of Lutherans and (The more orthodox) Anglicans in particular. (Though I feel the American Episcopal church is too wishy washy theologically, most Anglicans aren’t that far away.)

I read them before I became Lutheran, not after and continue to look at them from time to time to see if my mind or heart has changed…just as I also read the Book of Concord

Speaking in general, rather than saying Protestants = Heretics, it would probably be more accurate to say, Protestantism = Heresy. It’s hard for us to assign personal culpability. We don’t know what any particular person knows or chooses in their heart and mind. :slight_smile:

Well, it looks like you are where you really want to be right now. That is good for you because Catholicism maintains that one should always follow the dictates of one’s conscience. However, the teaching has more nuances to this main principle but I am sure you already have come across CCC sections 1776-1794. I hope you review those again as the journey to the truth takes a never-ending, lifelong process and we never stop searching…wherever it leads us.

Now that I’ve mentioned #s 1776-1794, I looked back at your list and found out that you have included there item# 1789 wherein you have, I quote - “disagreement with these paragraphs varies in degree”. Said CCC section 1789 says in verbatim:

*Some rules apply in every case:

  • One may never do evil so that good may result from it;

  • the Golden Rule: “Whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them.”

  • charity always proceeds by way of respect for one’s neighbor and his conscience: “Thus sinning against your brethren and wounding their conscience . . . you sin against Christ.” Therefore “it is right not to . . . do anything that makes your brother stumble.”

I hope you would oblige in explaining your disagreement with this particular paragraph. Thank you.

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