Friday, January 23, 2009

An Open Discussion On Roman Catholicism

I've been wondering lately if the accusation that Roman Catholicism is a cult is accurate or not. I haven't made a decision, but I thought I'd bring it up for discussion here. And if others do think it is a cult, I'm sure we can agree that that doesn't mean that everyone within the Roman Catholic Church is a godless reprobate, but that some people are devoutly secured in the love of Christ.

So, anyway, what are your opinions?


Timothy said...

Nope, not a cult. The majority of Christians are Catholic (1.2 billion). The majority/mainstream is never the cult. The cult is usually the out of the mainstream organization.

There are also more formal definitions of ults by sociologists. Most anti-Catholics really strain to make any of the Catholic Churches fit the sociological definitions.

One warning regarding name calling and false charges, which the charge of "cult" falls under, by G.K. Chesterton:

I could not understand why these romancers never took the trouble to find out a few elementary facts about the thing they denounced. The facts might easily have helped the denunciation, where the fictions discredited it. There were any number of real Catholic doctrines I should then have thought disgraceful to the Church . . . But the enemies of the Church never found these real rocks of offence. They never looked for them. They never looked for anything . . . Boundless freedom reigned; it was not treated as if it were a question of fact at all . . . It puzzled me very much, even at that early stage, to imagine why people bringing controversial charges against a powerful and prominent institution should thus neglect to test their own case, and should draw in this random way on their own imagination . . . I never dreamed that the Roman religion was true; but I knew that its accusers, for some reason or other, were curiously inaccurate.
(The Catholic Church and Conversion, NY: Macmillan, 1926, 36-38)

God bless... +Timothy

Christopher said...


Thanks for coming by and leaving a comment. I love that you used Chesterton as part of your answer; he is probably the greatest author of the 20th century, and a man of profound impact.

I've added a link to your Apologetics Society under the 'Theoblogy' section of my sidebar. Please feel free to drop by and comment some more on whatever you'd like.

One question: how did you find this blog?

Cheers, and God bless you, too!

Craig said...

I've never really liked the word "cult" to describe anything. It's a word too mutated by history and emotion to accurately describe something.
I guess that I think Catholicism is as much a cult as golfing, fishing, the grunge movement and coupon savers.

Christopher said...


I think that my own thoughts move more in the direction you have gone. But to expand, I think the term 'cult' is too loose a term to be an effective description of a group that could legitimately be labelled a 'cult'. It would seem more fitting to call what most people would identify as a 'cult' more as 'the occult' (the hidden).

Besides that, the notion of a cult usually includes non-normative doctrines, which, as we already know, is not the case with Catholicism. In fact, they have historically set the norms for doctrine. So most definitely not cultish.


Craig said...

See the problem for me with the word is that I learned it not by its definition but by it's day to day usage, so when I hear cult, I imagine a group of people who don't want you to know about the demonic undead alien who lives in a secret dark cave and gives them evil powers and gold in exchange for the souls of children.
I have a weird suspicion that it's more often the devil who wants us to see cults as cults (using this word in the emotional rather than literal sense) because the devil loves to create situations of disharmony, division and ungrace.
When we approach other belief systems and cults, I think we need to take pauls example and search for God's grace within their CULTure. God drives us towards radical reconciliation through Christ rather than division and fear of the unknown. In every cultural narative, including our own, there is that which points towards the grace of christ and that which points away. We, like paul in his discovery of the unknown God, need to search cults and cultures for that which points towards Christ.
In my opinion, the use of the word cult most often points away from Christs agenda and is more a word that would be pleasing to the spiritual leaders who he spoke out against at the time as it creates division and power differential and can in extreme cases cause ungracious treatment of alienated cults and cultures.