Is Catholicism really a cult?
On her recent exchange with Angie, commenter Suzanne offered this helpful link:
There is an excellent Christian apologetics site I use often www.carm.org. On the sidebar is listed "cults" and there is info on the different movements with testimonies of those that have left their churches. He is thorough and his information is accurate and reliable.CARM is a well-respected organization among evangelicals and fundamentalists. CARM does has a section on Roman Catholicism, however, Catholicism is not on their list of cults. Regarding Catholicism, CARM writes:
It is necessary to write a page on Roman Catholicism because there are significant differences between Protestant and Roman Catholic doctrines. Protestants accuse the Catholics of being unscriptural, and the Catholics state that the Protestants do not have the true faith carried through the centuries by the Catholic Church. Which ever side you fall on, the real issue is whether or not the Roman Catholic Church is representing true Christianity.I did not read through the large section on Catholicism completely, but I would say that they seem to be really trying to be fair. For example, read this section on the sacrifice of the Mass:
Roman Catholics are quick to say that the Eucharist is not a re-sacrifice of Christ. They want to make it clear that Christ was offered once for all and that the Mass is not a re-sacrifice but a "re-presentation" of the sacrifice. We certainly do not want to misrepresent Roman Catholic theology, but we must ask how it is possible for the Mass to not be a re-sacrifice of Christ when the Mass is called a divine sacrifice (CCC 1068) that is done over and over again. We are told that "the sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice" (CCC 1367); that it is an unbloody offering that is propitiatory (CCC 1367); that it can make reparation of sins (CCC 1414); and is to be considered a true and proper sacrifice (The Catholic Encyclopedia, topic of 'Sacrifice of the Mass'). We must conclude that it is a sacrifice that occurs over and over again; and since it is said to be a true and proper sacrifice that is propitiatory, then logically it must be a re-sacrifice of Christ.
On various pages that I viewed, the Catholic Catechism was the primary source which they used for stating Catholic doctrine, but I also saw Catholic Encyclopedia, the Baltimore Catechism, and the Council of Trent quoted. While they clearly don't understand the finer points of Catholic theology, I applaud them for making a real effort to represent our doctrines.
There are secular cult related organizations, such as the Cult Awareness and Information Centre. CARM uses similar criteria as secular organizations to determine whether or not a religious system is a cult. While I didn't find the same exact list of criteria on every site I checked, here is a general list:
1. Charismatic leader which claims special revelation.
Well, we certainly have a leader who is recognized world-wide and draws huge crowds. However, unlike the Mormon prophet, our Pope wouldn't be able to suddenly announce that polygamy is allowed. The Pope is limited in the changes he is able to make.
For answers to common questions about the papacy (infallibility, anyone?) read here.
2. Very controlling of their members, using psychological manipulation and dire consequences for leaving.
Considering the huge number of ex-Catholics, we can hardly be accused of making is difficult to leave. Unlike the Amish, we don't even automatically excommunicate people who leave. Candy has said that they are still in contact with her Catholic father-in-law, so her husband hasn't been shunned for leaving. I would say this is a no.
3. Demanding members to give a considerable amount financially.
Catholics are notoriously bad tithers. I think we are innocent on this charge.
4. Claims to exclusively hold the complete truth.
Okay, we're guilty there. But we think other Christians can have parts of the Truth!
CARM elaborates here: "often considers traditional religious systems to be apostate and it alone possess the complete truth." Of course, we ARE the traditional Christian religious system!
We do look for the second coming of Jesus, but considering most Catholics don't know what the Rapture is, I would say no to this one.
Some Catholics do socialize primarily with Catholics, but the same can be said for other church groups. There have been no accusations that I'm aware of that when a person becomes Catholic, they are forced to leave their previous family and friends behind.
In conclusion, while Candy is free to disagree with us theologically, I do not think she can objectively say that we are a cult. We do not meet the criteria of either secular or Christian based cult awareness organizations.
Read a follow-up to this post, Catholic Cult Revisited.
If you are new to our website, you can find links to some of our other posts about Catholicism here.