The use of the term "Protestant Sects" by Catholics

I’ve always viewed both the Catholic Church and most protestant denominations as Christians, believers of equal standing in the eyes of God. Of course, there are individuals in both groups who are undoubtedly more serious about their faith than others, but I am speaking in general terms here.
On threads such as, there are Catholics who refer to "protestant sects’.

What is meant by that and why is that term chosen instead of “denomination”, “faith tradition”, or “communion”, as I’ve also seen used by other Catholics on CAF?

To some Catholics, this distinction may be little to do about nothing and merely semantics, but not to me.

To me, the word ‘sect’ carries a negative connotation as if suggesting illegitimacy or heresy, as in the definition 1a listed below taken from the Merriam online dictionary.

Full Definition of SECT (per Merriam online dictionary – full definition section)
*1a : a dissenting or schismatic religious body; especially : one regarded as extreme or heretical
1b : a religious denomination *

When I think of a sect, I think of Jim Jones and his group that committed mass suicide in South America or the Branch Davidians under David Koresh, not Southern Baptists, Assembly of God, or Methodists, for example.

However, the word ‘Sect’ can also be defined as “a religious denomination”, which is how I would describe most protestant churches.

If you use the term “Protestant Sect”, what meaning are you applying to it, the 1a or 1b definition above, or neither?

Why does it matter?
Your use of the term offers a window into how you view non-Catholic Christians.

For example, are protestants like me considered lesser Christians or perhaps heretics, or are we what the CCC describes as brothers in Christ who "the Catholic Church accepts them with respect and affection" in CCC 818?

I apologize if I am being overly sensitive or if this issue doesn’t apply to you. If that is the case, please disregard this whole thread and thank you for being my brother or sister in Christ.

If it does apply, I hope you will give it a little closer examination in the future to the terms you use when describing other Christians who may not belong to your faith tradition.

Your friend in Christ,

I think it might just be a semantic thing. A large percentage of American Protestants prefer to self-identify as “non-denominational”, so it would be weird to call them a “denomination”. Such groups are often against the Eucharist, so it’s strange to call them a “communion”. “High Protestant” groups are actually rare in much of the US and in many places, Protestant groups really aren’t in a communion with any other group. They’re more independent worship communities. Finally, many Catholics are hesitant to use the word “Church” to describe such communities as we believe that there is only one Church that Christ established and not thousands of separate “churches”.

In my view protestants are people who believe in being saved by faith and believe that they must live by everything the bible says.

Catholics go according to the bible. The difference is that Catholics interpret it differently.

Unfortunately protestants don’t agree on the most important parts on how to live holy.

I’ m not a fan of Protestants and Catholics having the same goal of salvation. The Catholic Church is the only true Body of Christ.

I hear you Tommy. I’ve always dislike the term “cult” for the same reason, as in the “cult” of Padre Pio.
It’s the way our current culture defines a word. As we know, words have different meanings in different ages. What is modest now, was something totally different and extreme in the Victorian era.
Now, whether or not people here tend it to use the word sect disparagingly, I can’t say.
Maybe they do. :shrug:
People who are passionate about their faith sometimes forget their audience. Or, perhaps in their zeal, they intend to say such, to make the other party consider a different path.
At any rate, if it offends, I don’t think people intend it.
Just look at all the translations of the New Testament, for example. If you study Koine Greek, you quickly see that also learning the “sense” of the Greek helps to make sense of the passages on the page. Knowing the context is everything.
Again, sorry if it sounds awkward. You’re a welcome addition here, IMHO.
Peace, friend!

I usually call them protestant communities. I can’t see calling them churches because Jesus founded One True Church.

I think some communities might be cult like though. I have heard of people that left calvary chapel that had bad experiences with losing friends and not being talked to.

I think it’s a semantic thing and no one means anything by it.

Notice definition 1b in your example.

"1a : a dissenting or schismatic religious body; especially : one regarded as extreme or heretical
1b : a religious denomination "

That said, Protestants by definition dissented and schismed from the Catholic Church. Granted that today there is enough water under the bridge that most Protestants don’t even see themselves as protesting anything anymore.

Anyway, I hope you aren’t offended by it as I don’t think anyone means anything by it.

Thanks, Clare. You’ve been very welcoming to me and one of the nicest Catholics I’ve ever communicated with. :slight_smile:

By the way, I’m glad that you mentioned the word “cult”. I forgot to mention that when I studied Spanish in Spain for a year a long time ago at the University of Valencia, the Catholic family I stayed with kept using the word “culto” when they referred to my church affiliation and religious beliefs, which I assumed was derogatory on their part. However, I took it in stride because I liked them and they treated me well otherwise. I did my best to show my appreciation to them by treating them well and with respect in return. We got along well.

At the end of the school year when it was time to return home to the USA, my Spanish mother told me with tears in her eyes that she was going to miss me and that even though I was protestant, she considered me more Catholic than her whole family, which I took as a compliment.

I can empathize with anyone being labeled in such a demeaning way: sect and cult both have negative connotations. I became Protestant for 20 years, from the age of 18, though born and raised Catholic.

While I was out of the Church, I was called a heretic by my family, which really hurt. They denied I was even Christian and worse, told me that since I knew the truth and rejected it, I’d not be going to heaven.

I really like and prefer the term “Separated Brethren”. I think it’s charitable and true.

Thanks, Jon. I was hoping that was the case. As a former protestant, are you treated any differently or looked down upon in your local parish than the cradle Catholics? Just curious if there is any differentiation made in that regards.

I like that term also, Sandraaustin. I was aware of that term and have seen it used by come Catholics on CAF, also, but overlooked it when I did post #1. Thanks for mentioning that.

We agree on so much with Protestants that I believe unwise to finger point and argue over insignificant details causing division -

Merry Christmas to all !

Both words, sect and cult, have come to have negative definitions but that was not so originally.

A sect is merely a portion of believers who are separate from the main body in some way. One could stretch the definition to include religious orders since not all Catholics are bound by their discipline/obedience. It can also mean a religious group that sprang up with no particular leader, which is the case of the Assemblies of God. :tiphat: It doesn’t point any one person as its founder such as Luther or Calvin.

Cult in the Catholic Church denotes a group that follows a particular devotion or person’s spirituality, such a devotees of St. Francis. Oftentimes a local diocese has to squelch a “cult of personality” when a priest or other religious leader becomes so popular people will follow him rather than listening to/obeying their bishop. So, really it has both a positive and a negative meaning depending on how it is applied/the situation involved.

Well just for starters if you call the Church and the Sacraments (especially Baptism and the Eucharist) insignificant details then I have to wonder about catachesis. Proclaiming the Truth and defending the Faith is not finger pointing and does not have to be done in and argumentative manner.

Happy Advent!

Actually if anything it’s the opposite. People seem really drawn to converts and often comment along the lines of “converts know the faith so much better than most cradle catholics”. I don’t know if it’s true, but I hear it a lot.

I’ve never heard disrespect for Protestants in any way in my parish. In fact we do different ecumenical service projects with them, refer to them as Christian brothers etc.

We often pray for unity in the church and for divisions to cease. This of course refers to our separated Protestant and orthodox brothers. We have so much respect for them that we want them back

Thanks for putting things in perspective, Jon S. I feel better about it now. I will move on to more important topics now. Thanks for helping me get over another small hurdle in my faith journey.

Thanks for explaining how the meaning of the words have changed over time, Della.

Well the Protestants sects separated from the Catholic Church in the 1500s with Luther. A lot of Protestants do not agree with things like the Eucharist, male only priests, purgatory, etc. like Catholics so we would say they are heretics. Popes like Leo XIII have condemned heresies saying Protestantism is the same as Catholicism or that we should tolerate it.

. Who can have God for Father and not accept the Church for Mother? (Pope Pius IX, Singulari quidem of March 17, 1856) Who can accept the spouse Christ, and not his mystical bride the Church? Who can separate the Head, the only begotten Son of God, from the body, which is His Church? (Pope Leo XIII, Satis cognitum of June 29, 1896). It is not possible.
If you do not like these terms what do you suggest we use instead?

99.9% of Protestants are material heretics who have no more idea what Catholicism is than someone living in a non-Christian country might have. They were brought up in their faith traditions, as the Church teaches us, and so are not formal heretics who knowingly and willingly rejected the Church and her teachings. Let’s keep our definitions straight so we don’t accuse innocent people of sins they haven’t, indeed could not, have committed.

Yes, they are material heretics. Not every Protestant is a formal heretic. It’s only a sin if they knowingly do it, which means being a formal heretic. Thanks for making the distinction clear.


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