Saturday, July 14, 2012


There is something about using the term false religion that I find offensive especially when it was directed to me as a young person growing up in the south and from my Protestant friends. Couldn't they have been a bit more sensitive and "politically correct" about what they believed to be the case about Catholicism?

Yet, we as Catholics rightly believe that our Faith is the true faith, the fullness of faith. We believe that outside the Church there is no salvation. For example in heaven is the Church Triumphant, and if there are Buddhists there they are former Buddhists who have been saved through Jesus Christ and His ministry through the Church He founded, especially the Church's ministry of the Word and evangelization, but more importantly of prayer and sacrifice for the living and the dead.

But are Protestant denominations false religions? Is Judaism a false religion? Is Buddhism a false religion and the like?

The Second Vatican Council couched this discussion in Christian, Catholic charity. For Protestants we acknowledge now that if they have a valid Baptism, they are a part of the Catholic Church in so far as that Sacrament and what they hold in common with the Catholic Church as it concerns their beliefs and ministry. We would not call them a false religion, but a religion that needs to be purified and brought into the full communion of the true Church, the true religion.

As it concerns Judaism we would not call them a false religion since Jews are our elder brothers and sisters in the faith and from their many covenants, the new and eternal Covenant was established by Jesus Christ and in and through His ministry and most importantly is sacrificial passion, death and resurrection. Catholicism is the fulfillment of Judaism and Judaism in light of Jesus Christ prefigures Christianity and foretells the coming of the Messiah.

But are there false religions? Certainly and we can name them as Mormons, Church of Scientology,Jehovah's Witnesses and the whole array of neo-pagan religions of the past and present.

But even some of these have a kernel of God's truth in them that could lead their followers to the true faith. Do we have to insult them and push them away by calling the religion a false religion or do we simply say, we are the true religion and let sleeping dogs lie?


Danny Haszard said...

Most Jehovah's Witnesses are decent folk who are trapped in an oppressive cult like organization the Watchtower society.
The Watchtower core dogma is Jesus 'invisible' return or second coming October 1914,this is a false doctrine.
Matthew 7:15-16 "Be on the watch for the false prophets,who come to you in sheep's clothing....."
God bless-Danny Haszard

Anonymous 2 said...

I believe you underscore a critical point in this post. To others we Catholics are a false religion (to some Protestants the Catholic Church, or the Pope, is even the Antichrist – and isn’t it terrible just to hear those words?). We are not going to get very far in persuading others to our side if the conversation in which we have to do that is debased by offensive slurs (and we do have to persuade, do we not, since the sword is no longer an option thank God).

But, as you say, this absolutely does not mean we should relinquish our claims to the Truth, or our trust that in the conversation among the religions the Truth will be revealed to all in the fullness of time or in eternity.

ytc said...

oh to be a fly on the wall in fr. m's rectory

Gene said...

I don't know, ytc, I don't imagine the flies get any better treatment than the rats...LOL!

Marc said...

Sorry, Father, modern day Judaism is a false religion that has little to nothing to do with the religion of our Lord and our Blessed Mother. The Old Testament Jews were our elder brothers in the faith - modern Jews are not.

Protestantism is likewise false because it is not true. It is an error because it teaches false doctrine. That might explain why Protestant heretics were formerly put to death for their false belief.

There is little to no difference between those religions you agree to be false and those you claim we should not call false. They err in some way - just as does the Jewish and Protestant "religions." More importantly, their religions are not salvific - they need to convert.

Just because a religion might have a kernel of truth does not make it not false (in fact, that proves it is false). Sure, we should look at the glass half full in our public relations with those of false religions and we can point out the commonalities between the true faith and their false religion. That is an exercise in ecumenism when done in a way that might lead them to drop their false religion and embrace the true faith. Anything else lacks charity because it allows people to wallow in their false belief and risks the salvation of their soul.

Anon2 - you keep mentioning this idea that others religions think they are right and we are wrong. Who cares what they think? We know they are wrong - their religions are created by man while our religion is the religion of our Lord!

At any rate, I will continue to refer to these other religions as false when I am commenting on a Catholic blog or when I write on my own Catholic blog. Would I make statements like that when having a discussion with a Protestant or Mormon over lunch (which I do quite often) or when teaching RCIA? Of course not! Truth goes hand in hand with tact - particularly in the lay apostolate!

Disclaimer - I believed in false religion(s) and no religion at all before God gave me the unmerited grace of conversion.

WSquared said...

I think the key term is "fullness of the truth" as opposed to the more simplistic view that "we're right and everybody else is totally wrong." It's one thing to possess elements of the truth, wherein one does not possess it fully, which is not the same as not possessing any of it at all.

Robert Kumpel said...

Would it not be more accurate to call Protestant sects and Judaism INCOMPLETE religions?

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

RK that would be superior to calling them a false religion which is incendiary, not to mention quite incorrect. Someone may be stupid through no fault of their own, but what good is it to call them "stupid" why not just say they have some ignorance?

Anonymous 2 said...

Marc, I believe_we Catholics_should care what they think. In particular, we should care if they regard Catholicism as a false religion. If they do that, they are not likely to be very open to what we have to say. But they are more likely to do that if we do the same to them.

I do not believe you persuade people about religion, or anything else for that matter, if you start by telling them they are wrong, false, in error, etc. The natural human reaction is to become defensive because of a perceived attack. They are likely to shut you out and turn the charge back on you. I believe this is basic human psychology.

I assume we do want to persuade non-Catholics for the reasons of charity you suggest. We create better conditions, and prospects, for doing that if the ecumenical and inter-faith conversations proceed in a positive manner, emphasizing the Truth we do share rather than emphasizing the Untruth we do not.

If the Church visibly changes its current position and officially adopts a “high and mighty” attitude, and that becomes widely known, you may find that your one-on-one conversations become a little more difficult and drive people further away because of perceived arrogance. And that is self-defeating. I have some experience with something analogous, and it has saddened me because it means that someone who is very close to me will most likely never become Catholic now.

Claiming to have the fullness of Truth is different. Non-Catholics do that too. And it can be heard much more positively, although even here one might want to exercise prudence regarding just exactly when, how, and to whom such a claim is made. Perhaps it is only best raised once a basic trust has been established, for example.

Isn’t this another (legitimate) variant on Paul’s wisdom in becoming all things to all men, so that he could win them over – not compromising his own convictions or engaging in sin – but speaking to them in such a way that they could hear and receive what he was saying?

Templar said...

Spin and Nuance. Pffffftttt!!

The only guarantee for Salvation is thorough the Church that Christ founded upon St Peter. Period.

Therefore yes, all other Churches, Religions, Movements, Cults, etc are FALSE.

Can non-Catholics achieve Salvation? Sure they can, through the infinite Mercy and Grace of God, but I don't need to worry about that at all. I need to stay focused on working out my own salvation in fear and trembling.

To call other religions in any way as equal, or valid choices, is to deny the One True Faith, and if you deny Our Lord, he will Deny You. I could give a hoot what followers of these false religions think of that or me,

ytc said...

Btw that picture attached makes me sick.

Gene said...

Lordy, Lordy... *sigh*...
I ponder this issue often and pray for understanding...
Marc and Templar are hard tails and I like that; however, I do not consign Protestants to Hell. Let me begin by saying, 1) I believe the Catholic Church to be the one true Church, and 2) I do not count Mormons, Christian Scientists,Jehova's Witnesses, or Unitarians as Christian. They are openly heretical, non-Trinitarian cults.

The Catholic Church recognizes Protestant Baptisms, confirming them rather than re-Baptizing them. So, to say that Protestant churches are false religions is to say that the Catholic Church, the Pope, and the Magisterium are condoning and affirming heresy and false belief. There is a logical contradiction here.

Protestant churches are Trinitarian, Creedal, and Biblical. They baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. That makes them Christian both doctrinally and theologically.

Pope Benedict has called them "ecclesial communities," that is, "called out" by Christ to follow Him. I believe his choice of words is a good one. This indicates that, while professing Christ and seeking Him, they do not possess the full Truth of the Catholic Church. However, there is continuity between them and the Church both doctrinally and theologically.

I have come to view the Protestant churches as stepping stones to the true Church. Those born and raised in Protestant churches must somehow be led to see the greater Truth of Catholicism and brought into the Church. That, to me, is true ecumenicism.

I distinguish between doctrinal/theological heresy and what I might call a "heresy of polity." Protestant churches are not guilty of doctrinal heresy as regards the Trinity, the Person of Christ, Doctrine of God, means of Salvation, etc. They do reject Papal authority and the Magisterium, but these things are more easily corrected and educated out of them than, say, a knowing denial of the Trinity or the Virgin Birth, or a theology that is Pelagian or Arian. I believe this is significant. So, perhaps prots will spend a longer time being re-educated in Purgatory...unless we get off our butts and practice real ecumenism and stop playing silly feel-good games...oh, and stop telling them they are false religions in the same bucket with Buddhism, Islam, and Shinto. AAAAARRRRGGGGHHHH!!

Gene said...

ytc, I, too, find that attached picture disgusting. It reminds me of that dumb hippie "Coexist" bumper sticker...