What are we supposed to call Protestant churches?


Hello all!

I’ve heard this before, that we are not to call Protestant churches, “churches,” but something else. I’m pretty sure it was something along the lines of a “Christian Gathering” or something of that nature. I’m also fairly certain that it’s in the Catechism as well.

If this is the case, meaning this is within the Catechism, why do we continue to use the term “church” in regards to a Protestant Christian community? I mean no offense by this to Protestant Christians reading this. I am just trying to do what the Church teaches to the best of my ability, considering I will be entering the Catholic Church this Easter.

In Pax Christi


How about “ecclesial communities”?

From Dominus Iesus:

  1. Therefore, there exists a single Church of Christ, which subsists in the Catholic Church, governed by the Successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him.58 The Churches which, while not existing in perfect communion with the Catholic Church, remain united to her by means of the closest bonds, that is, by apostolic succession and a valid Eucharist, are true particular Churches.59 Therefore, the Church of Christ is present and operative also in these Churches, even though they lack full communion with the Catholic Church, since they do not accept the Catholic doctrine of the Primacy, which, according to the will of God, the Bishop of Rome objectively has and exercises over the entire Church.60

On the other hand, the ecclesial communities which have not preserved the valid Episcopate and the genuine and integral substance of the Eucharistic mystery,61 are not Churches in the proper sense; however, those who are baptized in these communities are, by Baptism, incorporated in Christ and thus are in a certain communion, albeit imperfect, with the Church.62 Baptism in fact tends per se toward the full development of life in Christ, through the integral profession of faith, the Eucharist, and full communion in the Church.63
[FONT=Arial]“The Christian faithful are therefore not permitted to imagine that the Church of Christ is nothing more than a collection — divided, yet in some way one — of Churches and ecclesial communities; nor are they free to hold that today the Church of Christ nowhere really exists, and must be considered only as a goal which all Churches and ecclesial communities must strive to reach”.64 In fact, “the elements of this already-given Church exist, joined together in their fullness in the Catholic Church and, without this fullness, in the other communities”.65 [/FONT]


Actually I refer to them by their denomination, “baptists”, “lutherans” “fundamentalists”, etc. I never refer to them as a “Church” when in conversation.

However when passing their buildings I do refer to the buildings as “churches”, as used in the sense of the word in English to refer to a specific type of building, “That is a Lutheran church.” I would never capitalize “C” in referring to their buildings.



Randy is quite right from the strictly theological standpoint, as this is the term used Dominus Iesus, and through it in the Catechism. Personally, I usually refer to them by their particular denomination and “congregation.”


I usually refer to the denomination by name but never call it a church.

God Bless

Ad Jesu per Mariam


Would the term “faith community” be allowed? Like the Lutheran faith community, or Baptist faith community???


I’d like to call it a church. However, once in awhile, some non-Catholics say “I don’t need a church”.


Depends on the denomination…“My friend attends the Catholic Church”…or “my aunt attends the Lutheran Church”… or “my brother is a United Methodist, he is a member of the Methodist Church.”


St. Paul says the union of Christ and the Church is a great mystery, for they form a supernatural organism which has no parallel in the universe. The organism lives by divine life which is in Christ and which flows from Him to vitalize and sanctify the Church. It is like a vine into which men are engrafted by baptism. As branches, they are to partake more and more of divine life and bring forth more everlasting fruit. Those are living branches who have sanctifying grace. Those are dead branches who are in mortal sin but are still united to Christ by faith and hope. Those who are guilty of apostasy, heresy, or schism fall from the vine and whither. “If anyone does not abide in me, he shall be cast outside as the branch and whither; and they shall gather them up and cast them into the fire.” (John 15:5)

St. Paul illustrates this organism by calling it the Body of Christ. Today we add the qualification “mystical” to distinguish “the Body of Christ” from a moral body like the State, from the physical body He received from the Blessed Virgin Mary, and from the sacrament of the Eucharist.


The dogmatic constitution on the church - Lumem Gentum, calls us Christian Churches.

“The Catholic Church professes that it is the one, holy catholic and apostolic Church of Christ; this it does not and could not deny. But in its Constitution the Church now solemnly acknowledges that the Holy Ghost is truly active in the churches and communities separated from itself. To these **other Christian Churches **the Catholic Church is bound in many ways: through reverence for God’s word in the Scriptures; through the fact of baptism; through other sacraments which they recognize.”


Sure that is not simply a reference to the Orthodox? Elsewhere the Catholic teaching seems pretty set on not acknowledging the Protestant Churches as being actual Churches but, instead, as “ecclesial communities”.


Isn’t “church” the English translation of “ecclesia”?


What is this?

Political correctness gone amuck again? LOL

The only Protestant body with a head that could be called a church is the Anglican or Church of England afaik.

Presbyterian 's (as I am right now until I switch to Catholicism) take pride in the fact that we don’t some guy in Rome with a pointy hat 5000 miles away telling us what to do…that is the position. So there is no “head” of the church so to speak.

Some English King broke away from the Catholic Church a few hundred years ago for this same reason.


When speaking of the church – as in, the United Methodist Church in general – you could use “denomination.”

When speaking of the church building, you would use “church”.


It depends what you mean by the c-word:

All churches or Churches are expressions of the mystery of the Church, & all are Christian. This is true of
*]Anglicans in a parish
*]of the parishes which form Anglican dioceses
*]of the Anglican Church & Communion world-wide
*]& of that Church as a part of the Church Universal in time & space[/LIST]And the same goes for other Protestant bodies - *the people in them *are the Church; just as in any other Church. The canonical arrangements are of secondary or tertiary importance.

Besides, the Popes have for some time referred to the office-holders in these bodies by the titles they bear in those bodies: they don’t refer to “the pseudo-Archbishop of Canterbury” but to “the Archbishop of Canterbury”, & also to “the Moderator of the Church of Scotland”. By giving them the titles they are known by - however unjustified these might be, from some POVs - the Popes are implying that in some sense at least these titles are justified. At the very least, the Popes are using titles that are customary & intelligible: this is not insincere, even if such titles are not justified, for customary usage of such titles is not a confession of faith.

Similarly, for a Catholic to refer to “the prophet” is not an admission that Mohammed was any such thing; it’s a convention, which no would mistake as any anything but a convention: like talk of “sun-rise” - no-one supposes that such language implies an interior commitment to the validity of pre-Copernican astronomy.

And all of this applies to a phrase such as “Protestant churches” - you use it yourself, despite your question :).


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