I RECENTLY ASKED TOM NORRIS THIS AND WOULD LIKE TO KNOW YOUR ANSWER. IS THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH A CULT, AND IF SO, WHAT MAKES IT SO?
Hello Sister Penny:
I don't believe that the Catholic Church is a cult. Cults have certain characteristics that help to identify them as cults. One of these is that cults usually have a charismatic leader who claims to speak for God for its members to rally around. The Catholic Church does have a pope, but this does not fit this characteristic. When the pope dies another pope is elected. Catholics do not generally hold to the past pope's teachings over the new pope. SDAs, for example, still hold to the teachings and visions of Ellen G. White who died nearly 100 years ago.
Cults often have a fortress mentality. They believe that they are the only truly Christian Church and are persecuted by all other Christian Churches. While the Catholic Church believes it is the true church it doesn't teach that all other churches are persecuting it. So it doesn't fit this characteristic of a cult.
Cults usually have a unique doctrine particular to them alone of all Christian churches. The Mormons have their proxy baptism of the dead in order to make dead non-Mormons into Mormons. The SDA Church has the Investigative Judgment which adds a second phase to Christ’s Atonement. The Catholic Church does have the doctrine of the papacy. However, the Orthodox Church does accept the idea of the papacy, but they do not believe that the pope is the supreme leader of the Church. So it is questionable whether the Catholic Church fits this characteristic of a cult.
Cults often resort to producing their own “Bible” when it becomes apparent that the traditional Bible will not give support to their doctrines. For example, the Mormons have the Book of Mormon and the Jehovah’s Witnesses have the New World Translation. The Catholic Church does not have its own version of the Bible. Most Catholics use the New American Bible or the Revised Standard Version. So this characteristic doesn't apply.
Cults are often very legalistic and works oriented. The Catholic Church is legalistic in many ways; therefore, this characteristic does fit.
In conclusion, I will say that the Catholic Church is not a cult.
Have A Blessed Week,