May 3rd, 1986


In response to the concern expressed by Episcopal Conferences throughout
the world, a study on the presence and activity of "sects," "new religious
movements," [and] "cults" has been undertaken by the Vatican Secretariat
for Promoting Christian Unity, the Secretariat for Non-Christians, the
Secretariat for Non-Believers and the Pontifical Council for Culture.
These departments, along with the Secretariat of State, have shared this
concern for quite some time.

As a first step in this study project, a questionnaire (cf. Appendix) was
sent out in February, 1984, to episcopal Conferences and similar bodies by
the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity in the name of the
forementioned departments of the Holy See, with the aim of gathering
reliable information and indications for pastoral action, and exploring
further lines of research. To date (October, 1985), many replies have been
received by Episcopal Conferences on all continents, as well as from
regional Episcopal bodies. Some replies include detailed information from
particular dioceses and were accompanied by copies of pastoral letters,
booklets, articles, and studies.

It is clearly not possible to summarize the vast documentation received,
and which will need to be constantly updated as a basis for a constructive
pastoral response to the challenge presented by the sects, new religious
movements, and groups. The present report can only attempt to give a first
overall picture, <and is based on the replies and documentation received.>

This report is divided as follows:

      1. Introduction

      2. Reasons for the spread of these movements and groups.

      3. Pastoral challenges and approaches.

      4. Conclusion.

      5. Invitation from the 1985 Synod.

      6. Questions for further study and research.

      7. Selected bibliography.

      8. Appendix

                                1. INTRODUCTION

1.1 What are "Sects"? What Does One Mean by "Cults"?

      It is important to realize that there exists difficulties in
      concepts, definitions, and terminology. The terms sect and cult are
      somewhat derogatory and seem to imply a rather negative value
      judgment. One might prefer more neutral terms such as <new religious
      movements, new religious groups>. The question of the definition of
      those movements or groups as distinct from <church> or <legitimate
      movements within a church> is a contentious matter.

      It will help to distinguish sects that find their origin in the
      Christian religion from those which come from another religious or
      humanitarian source. The matter becomes quite delicate when these
      groups are of Christian origin. Nevertheless, it is important to
      make <this distinction>. Indeed, certain sectarian mentalities and
      attitudes, i.e., attitudes of intolerance and aggressive
      proselytizing, do not necessarily constitute a sect, nor do they
      suffice to characterize a sect. One also finds these attitudes in
      groups of Christian believers within the churches and ecclesiastical
      communities. However, these groups can change positively through a
      deepening of their Christian formation and through the contact with
      other fellow Christians. In this way they can grow into an
      increasingly ecclesial mind and attitude.

      The criterion for distinguishing between <sects> of Christian
      origin, on the one hand, and <churches and ecclesial communities>,
      on the other hand, might be found in the sources of the teaching of
      these groups.  For instance, sects could be those groups, which
      apart from the Bible, have other "revealed" books or "prophetic
      messages," or groups which exclude from the Bible certain
      proto-canonical books, or radically change their content. In answer
      to Question 1 of the Questionnaire, one of the replies states:

For practical reasons, a cult or sect is sometimes defined as `any
      religious group with a distinctive worldview of its own derived
      from, but not identical with, the teachings of a major world
      religion. As we are speaking here of special groups which usually
      pose a threat to people's freedom and to society in general, cults
      and sects have also been characterized as possessing a number of
      distinctive features. These often are that they [groups] are often
      authoritarian in structure, that they exercise forms of brainwashing
      and mind control, that they cultivate group pressure and instill
      feelings of guilt and fear, etc. The basic work on these
      characteristic marks was published by an American, Dave Breese,
      <Know the Marks of Cults> (Victor Books, Wheaton, IL, 1985).

      Whatever the difficulties with regard to distinguishing between
      sects of Christian origin and churches, ecclesial communities or
      Christian movements, the responses to the Questionnaire reveal at
      times a serious lack of understanding and knowledge of other
      Christian churches and ecclesial communities. Some include among
      sects, churches and ecclesial communities which are not in full
      communion with the Roman Catholic Church. Also, adherents of major
      world religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, etc.) may find themselves
      classified as belonging to a sect.

1.2 However, and apart from the difficulties mentioned, almost all the
      local churches do see the <emergence> and rapid <proliferation> of
      all kinds of "new" religious or pseudo-religious movements, groups,
      and practices. The phenomenon is considered by almost all responses
      as a <serious matter>, by some as an alarming matter; in only a very
      few countries does there not seem to exist any problem (e.g., in
      predominantly Islamic countries).

      In some cases the phenomenon appears within the mainline churches
      themselves (<sectarian attitudes>). In other cases it occurs outside
      the churches (independent or free churches; messianic or prophetic
      movements), or against the church-like patterns.  However, not all
      are religious in their real content or ultimate purpose.

1.3 The phenomenon develops fast, and often quite successfully, and often
      poses <pastoral problems>. The most immediate pastoral problem is
      that of knowing how to deal with a member of a Catholic family who
      has been involved in a sect. The parish priest or local pastoral
      worker or advisor usually has to deal first and foremost with the
      relatives and friends of such a person. Often, the person involved
      can be approached only indirectly. In those cases when the person
      can be approached directly in order to give him or her guidance, or
      to advise an ex-member on how to reintegrate into society and the
      Church, psychological skill and expertise is required.

1.4 The Groups that are Most Affected

      The most <vulnerable> groups in the church, especially the youth,
      seem to be the most affected. When they are "footloose," unemployed,
      not active in parish life or voluntary parish work, or come from an
      unstable family background, or belong to ethnic minority groups, or
      live in places which are rather far from the Church's reach, etc.,
      they are a more likely target for the new movements and sects. Some
      sects seem to attract mainly people in the middle-age group. Others
      thrive on membership from well-to-do and highly educated families.
      In this context, mention must be made of university campuses which
      are often favorable breeding grounds for sects or places of
      recruitment.  Moreover, difficult relations with the clergy, or an
      irregular marriage situation, can lead one to break with the Church
      and join a new group.

      Very few people seem to join a sect for evil reasons. Perhaps the
      greatest opportunity of the sects is to attract good people and good
      motivation in those people. In fact, they usually succeed best when
      society or Church have failed to touch this good motivation.

1.5 <The reasons for the success> among Catholics are indeed manifold and
      can be identified on several levels. They are primarily related to
      the needs and aspirations which are seemingly not being met in the
      mainline Churches. They are also related to the recruitment and
      training techniques of the sects. They can be external either to the
      mainline Churches or to the new groups: economic advantages,
      political interest or pressure, mere curiosity, etc.

      An assessment of these reasons can be adequately done only from
      <within the very particular context> in which they emerge. However,
      the results of a general assessment (and this is what this report is
      about) can, and in this case do, reveal a whole range of
      "particular" reasons which as a matter of fact turn out to be almost
      universal. A growing interdependence in today's world might provide
      us with an explanation for this.

      The phenomenon seems to be symptomatic of the <depersonalizing
      structures> of contemporary society, largely produced in the West
      and widely exported to the rest of the world, which create multiple
      crisis situations on the individual as well as on the social level.
      These crisis situations reveal various needs, aspirations, and
      questions which, in turn, call for psychological and spiritual
      responses. The sects claim to have, and to give, these responses.
      They do this on both the effective and cognitive level, often
      responding to the affective needs in a way that deadens the
      cognitive faculties.

      These basic needs and aspirations can be described as so many
      expressions of the human search for wholeness and harmony,
      participation and realization, on all the levels of human existence
      and experience, so many attempts to meet the human quest for truth
      and meaning, for those constitutive values which at certain times in
      collective as well as individual history seem to be hidden, broken,
      or lost, especially in the case of people who are upset by rapid
      change, acute stress, fear, etc.

1.6 The responses to the Questionnaire show that the phenomenon is to be
      seen not so much as a threat to the Church (although many
      respondents do consider the aggressive proselytism of some sects a
      major problem), but rather as a pastoral challenge. Some respondents
      emphasize that, while at all times preserving our own integrity and
      honesty, we should remember that each religious group has the right
      to profess its own faith and to live according to its own
      conscience. They stress that in dealing with individual groups we
      have the duty to proceed according to the principles of religious
      dialogue which have been laid down by the Second Vatican Council and
      in later church documents. Moreover, it is imperative to remember
      the respect due to each individual, and that our <attitude> to
      sincere believers should be one of openness and understanding, not
      of condemnation.

      The responses to the Questionnaire show a great need for
      information, education of believers, and a renewed pastoral

2. Reasons for the Spread of Those Movements and Groups

      Crisis situations or general vulnerability can reveal and/or produce
      needs and aspirations which become basic motivations for turning to
      the sects. They appear on the cognitive as well as on the affective
      level, and are <relational> in character, i.e., centered upon "self"
      in relations with "others" (social), with the past, present, and
      future (cultural, existential), with the transcendent (religious).
      These levels and dimensions are <interrelated>. These needs and
      aspirations can be grouped under nine major headings, although in
      individual cases they often overlap. For each group of "aspirations"
      we indicate what the sects seem to offer. The main reasons for their
      success can be seen from that point of view, but one must also take
      into account the recruitment practices and indoctrinational
      techniques of many sects (cf. below 2.2).

2.1 Needs and Aspirations

2.1.1 Quest for Belonging (sense of community)

      The fabric of many communities has been destroyed; traditional
      lifestyles have been disrupted; homes are broken up; people feel
      uprooted and lonely. Thus the need to belong.

      Terms used in the responses: belonging, love, community,
      communication, warmth, concern, care, support, friendship,
      affection, fraternity, help, solidarity, encounter, dialogue,
      consolation, acceptance, understanding, sharing, closeness,
      mutuality, togetherness, fellowship, reconciliation, tolerance,
      roots, security, refuge, protection, safety, shelter, home.

      The sects appear to offer: human warmth, care and support in small
      and close-knit communities; sharing of purpose and fellowship;
      attention for the individual; protection and security, especially in
      crisis situations; resocialization of marginalized individuals (for
      instance, the divorced or immigrants). The sect often does the
      thinking for the individual.

2.1.2 Search for Answers

      In complex and confused situations people naturally search for
      answers and solutions.  The sects appear to offer: simple and
      ready-made answers to complicated questions and situations;
      simplified and partial versions of traditional truths and values; a
      pragmatic theology, a theology of success, a syncretistic theology
      proposed as "new revelation"; "new truth" to people who often have
      little of the "old" truth; clearcut directives; a claim to moral
      superiority; proofs from "supernatural" elements: glossolalia,
      trance, mediumship, prophecies, possession, etc.

2.1.3 Search for Wholeness (Holism)

      Many people feel that they are out of touch with themselves, with
      others, with their culture and environment. They experience
      brokenness. They have been hurt by parents or teachers, by the
      church or society.  They feel left out. They want a religious view
      that can harmonize everything and everybody; worship that leaves
      room for body and soul, for participation, spontaneity, creativity.
      They want healing, including bodily healing (African respondents
      particularly insist on this point).

      Terms used in response: healing, wholeness, integration, integrity,
      harmony, peace, reconcilation, spontaneity, creativity,
      participation. The sects appear to offer: a gratifying religious
      experience, being saved, conversion; room for feelings and emotions,
      for spontaneity (e.g., in religious celebrations); bodily and
      spiritual healing; help with drug or drink problems; relevance to
      the life situation.

2.1.4 Search for Cultural Identity

      This aspect is very closely linked with the previous one. In many
      Third World countries the society finds itself greatly dissociated
      from the traditional cultural, social, and religious values; and
      traditional believers share this feeling.

      The main terms used in the responses are: inculturation/incarnation,
      alienation, modernization.

      The sect appears to offer: plenty of room for traditional
      cultural/religious heritage, creativity, spontaneity, participation,
      a style of prayer and preaching closer to the cultural traits and
      aspirations of the people.

2.1.5 Need to be Recognized, to be Special

      People feel a need to rise out of anonymity, to build an identity,
      to feel that they are in some way special and not just a number or a
      faceless member of a crowd. Large parishes and congregations,
      administration-oriented concern and clericalism, leave little room
      for approaching every person individually and in the person's life

      Terms used in response: self-esteem, affirmation, chances,
      relevance, participation.

      The sects appear to offer: concern for the individual; equal
      opportunities for ministry and leadership, for participation, for
      witnessing, for expression; awakening to one's own potential, the
      chance to be part of an elite group.

2.1.6 Search for Transcendence

      This expresses a deeply spiritual need, a God-inspired motivation to
      seek something beyond the obvious, the immediate, the familiar, the
      controllable, and the material to find an answer to the ultimate
      questions of life and to believe in something which can change one's
      life in a significant way. It reveals a sense of mystery, of the
      mysterious; a concern about what is to come; an interest in
      messianism and prophecy. Often the people concerned are not aware of
      what the Church can offer or are put off by what they consider to be
      a one-sided emphasis on morality or by the institutional aspects of
      the Church. One respondent speaks of "privatized seekers":

      Research suggests that a surprisingly large proportion of the
      population will, if questioned, admit to having some kind of
      religious or spiritual experience, say that this has changed their
      lives in some significant way and most pertinently add that they
      have never told anyone about the experience. . . . Many young people
      say that they have frequently known difficulty in getting teachers
      or clergy to discuss, let alone answer, their most important and
      ultimate questions.

      Terms used in the responses: transcendence, sacred, mystery,
      mystical, meditation, celebration, worship, truth, faith,
      spirituality, meaning, goals, values, symbols, prayer, freedom,
      awakening, conviction.

      The sects appear to offer: the Bible and Bible education; a sense of
      salvation; gifts of the Spirit; meditation; spiritual achievement.

      Some groups not only offer permission to express and explore
      ultimate questions in a "safe" social context, but also a language
      and concepts with which to do so, as well as the presentation of a
      clear, relatively unambiguous set of answers.

2.1.7 Need of Spiritual Guidance

      There may be a lack of parental support in the seeker's family or
      lack of leadership, patience, and personal commitment on the part of
      church leaders or educators.

      Terms used: guidance, devotion, commitment, affirmation, leadership,

      The sects appear to offer: guidance and orientation through strong,
      charismatic leadership. The person of the master, leader, guru,
      plays an important role in binding the disciples. At times there is
      not only submission but emotional surrender and even an almost
      hysterical devotion to a strong spiritual leader (messiah, prophet,

2.1.8 Need of Vision

      The world of today is an interdependent world of hostility and
      conflict, violence and fear of destruction. People feel worried
      about the future; often despairing, helpless, hopeless, and
      powerless. They look for signs of hope, for a way out. Some have a
      desire, however vague, to make the world better.

      Terms used: vision, awakening, commitment, newness, a new order, a
      way out, alternatives, goals, hope.

      The sects appear to offer: a "new vision" of oneself, of humanity,
      of history, of the cosmos. They promise the beginning of a new age,
      a new era.

2.1.9 Need of Participation and Involvement

      This aspect is closely linked with the previous one. Many seekers
      not only feel the need of a vision in the present world society and
      toward the future; they also want to participate in decision making,
      in planning, in realizing.

      The main terms used are: participation, active witness, building,
      elite, social involvement.

      The sects appear to offer: a concrete mission for a better world, a

      call for total dedication, participation on most levels.

      By way of summary, one can say that the sects seem to live by what
      they believe, with powerful (often magnetic) conviction, devotion,
      and commitment; going out of their way to meet people where they
      are, warmly, personally, and directly, pulling the individual out of
      anonymity, promoting participation, spontaneity, responsibility,
      commitment. . . ., and practicing an intensive follow-up through
      multiple contacts, home visits, and continuing support and guidance.
      They help to reinterpret one's experience, to reassess one's values
      and to approach ultimate issues in an all-embracing system. They
      usually make convincing use of the word: preaching, literature, and
      mass media (for Christian groups, strong emphasis on the Bible); and
      often also of the ministry of healing. In one word, they present
      themselves as the only answer, the "good news" in a chaotic world.

      However, although all this counts mostly for the success of the
      sects, other reasons also exist, such as the recruitment and
      training techniques and indoctrination procedures used by certain

2.2 Recruitment, Training, Indoctrination

      Some recruitment, training techniques, and indoctrination procedures
      practiced by a number of the cults, which often are highly
      sophisticated, partly account for their success. Those most often
      attracted by such measures are those who, first, do not know that
      the approach is often staged and, second, who are unaware of the
      nature of the contrived conversion and training methods (the social
      and psychological manipulation) to which they are subjected. The
      sects often impose their own norms of thinking, feeling, and
      behaving. This is in contrast to the church's approach, which
      implies full-capacity informed consent.

      Young and elderly alike who are at loose ends and are easy prey to
      those techniques and methods, which are often a combination of
      affection and deception (cf. the "love bombing," the "personality
      test," or the "surrender"). These techniques proceed from a positive
      approach, but gradually achieve a kind of mind control through the
      use of abusive behavior-modification techniques.

The following elements are to be listed:

      -- Subtle process of introduction of the convert and his gradual
      discovery of the real hosts.

      -- Overpowering techniques: love bombing, offering "a free meal at
      an international center for friends," "flirty fishing" technique
      (prostitution as a method of recruitment).

      -- Ready-made answers and decisions are being almost forced upon the

      -- Flattery.

      -- Distribution of money, medicine.

      -- Requirement of unconditional surrender to the initiator, leader.

      -- Isolation: control of the rational thinking process, elimination
      of outside information and influence (family, friends, newspapers,
      magazines, television, radio, medical treatment, etc., which might
      break the spell of involvement and the process of absorption and
      feelings and attitudes and patterns of behavior.

      -- Processing recruits away from their past lives; focusing on past
      deviant behavior such as drug use, sexual misdeeds; playing upon
      psychological hang-ups, poor social relationships, etc.

      -- Consciousness-altering methods leading to cognitive disturbances
      (intellectual bombardment); use of thought-stopping cliches; closed
      system of logic; restriction of reflective thinking.

      -- Keeping the recruits constantly busy and never alone; continual
      exhortation and training in order to arrive at an exalted spiritual
      status, altered consciousness, automatic submission to directives;
      stifling resistance and negativity; response to fear in a way that
      greater fear is often aroused.

      -- Strong focus on the leader; some groups may even downgrade the
      role of Christ in favor of the founder (in the case of some
      "Christian" sects).

3. Pastoral Challenges and Approaches

      A breakdown of traditional social structures, cultural patterns and
      traditional sets of values caused by industrialization,
      urbanization, migration, rapid development of communication systems,
      all-rational technocratic systems, etc., leave many individuals
      confused, uprooted, insecure, and therefore vulnerable. In these
      situations there is naturally a search for a solution, and often the
      simpler the better. There is also the temptation to accept the
      solution as the only and final answer.

      From an analysis of the responses, some symptoms of the pathology of
      many societies today can be listed. Many people suffer from them.
      They feel anxious about themselves (identity crisis), the future
      (unemployment, the threat of nuclear war). Questions about the
      nature of truth and how it is to be found, political uncertainty and
      helplessness, economic and ideological domination, the meaning of
      life, oneself and others, events, situations, things, the

      They suffer a loss of direction, lack of orientation, lack of
      participation in decision making, lack of real answers to their real
      questions. They experience fear because of various forms of
      violence, conflict, hostility: fear of ecological disaster, war and
      nuclear holocaust; social conflicts, manipulation.

      They feel frustrated, rootless, homeless, unprotected; hopeless and
      helpless and consequently unmotivated; lonely at home, in school, at
      work, on the campus, in the city; lost in anonymity, isolation,
      marginalization, alienation, i.e., feeling that they do not belong,
      that they are misunderstood, betrayed, oppressed, deceived,
      estranged, irrelevant, not listened to, unaccepted, not taken

      They are disillusioned with technological society, the military, big
      business, labor, exploitation, educational systems, church laws and
      practices, government policies.

      They might have learned to want to see themselves as conscientious
      "doers," not worthless drifters or self-seeking opportunists, but
      often do not know what to do or how to do it.

      They are at a loss at various "in-between" times (between school and
      university, between school and work, between marriage and divorce,
      between village and city).

      They become empty, indifferent or aggressive, or they may become

      In summary, one could say that all these symptoms represent so many
      forms of alienation (from oneself, from others, from one's roots,
      culture etc.). One could say that the needs and aspirations
      expressed in the responses to the questionnaire are so many forms of
      a search for "presence" (to oneself, to others, to God). Those who
      feel lost want to be found. In other words, there is a vacu-*fj um
      crying out to be filled, which is indeed the context in which we can
      understand not only the criticisms toward the church which many
      responses contain, but foremost the pastoral concerns and proposed
      approaches. The replies to the questionnaire point out many
      deficiencies and inadequacies in the actual behavior of the church
      which can facilitate the success of the sects. However, without
      further insisting on them, we will mainly emphasize the positive
      pastoral approaches which are suggested or called for. If these are
      acted upon, the challenge of the sects may prove to have been a
      useful stimulus for spiritual and ecclesial renewal.

3.1 Sense of Community

      Almost all the responses appeal for a rethinking (at least in many
      local situations) of the traditional parish-community system; a
      search for community patterns which will be more fraternal, more "to
      the measure of man," more adapted to people's life situation; more
      basic ecclesial communities: caring communities of lively faith,
      love (warmth, acceptance, understanding, reconciliation,
      fellowship), and hope; celebrating communities; praying communities;
      missionary communities; outgoing and witnessing; communities open to
      and supporting people who have special problems: the divorced and
      remarried, the marginalized.

3.2 Formation and Ongoing Formation

      The responses put strong emphasis on the need for evangelization,
      catechesis, education and ongoing education in the faith --biblical,
      theological, ecumenical -- of the faithful at the level of the local
      communities, and of the clergy and those involved in formation. (One
      reply advocates "reflective courses" for teachers, youth leaders,
      clergy, and religious.) This ongoing process should be both
      informative, with information about our own Catholic tradition
      (beliefs, practices, spirituality, meditation, contemplation, etc.)
      about other traditions and about the new religious groups, etc., and
      formative, with guidance in personal and communal faith, a deeper
      sense of the transcendent, of the eschatological, of religious
      commitment, of community spirit, etc.  The church should not only be
      a sign of hope for people, but should also give them the reasons for
      that hope; it should help to ask questions as well as to answer
      them. In this process there is an overall emphasis on the centrality
      of Holy Scripture. Greater and better use should be made of the mass
      media of communication.

3.3 Personal and Holistic Approach

      People must be helped to know themselves as unique, loved by a
      personal God, and with a personal history from birth through death
      to resurrection. "Old truth" should continually become for them "new
      truth" through a genuine sense of renewal, but with criteria and a
      framework of thinking that will not be shaken by every "newness"
      that comes their way. Special attention should be paid to the
      experiential dimension, i.e., discovering Christ personally through
      prayer and dedication (e.g., the charismatic and "born again"
      movements). Many Christians live as if they had never been born at
      all!  Special attention must be given to the healing ministry
      through prayers, reconciliation, fellowship, and care. Our pastoral
      concern should not be one-dimensional; it should extend not only to
      the spiritual, but also to the psychological, social, cultural,
      economic, and political dimensions.

3.4 Cultural Identity

      The question of inculturation is a fundamental one. It is
      particularly stressed on the responses from Africa, which reveal a
      feeling of estrangement from Western forms of worship and ministry
      which are often quite irrelevant to people's cultural environment
      and life situation. One respondent declared:

      Africans want to be Christians. We have given them accomodation but
      no home. . . .  They want a simpler Christianity, integrated into
      all aspects of daily life, into the suffering, joys, work,
      aspirations, fear, and needs of the African. . . . The young
      recognize in the independent churches a genuine vein of the African
      tradition of doing things religious.

3.5 Prayer and Worship

      Some suggest a rethinking of the classic Saturday evening/Sunday
      morning liturgical patterns, which often remain foreign to the daily
      life situation. The word of God should be rediscovered as an
      important community-building element. "Reception" should receive as
      much attention as "conservation." There should be room for joyful
      creativity, a belief in Christian inspiration and capacity of
      "invention," and a greater sense of communal celebration. Here
      again, inculturation is a must (with due respect for the nature of
      the liturgy and for the demands of universality).

      Many respondents insist on the biblical dimension of preaching; on
      the need to speak the people's language; the need for careful
      preparation of teaching and liturgy (as far as possible done by a
      team, including lay participation). Preaching is not mere
      theorizing, intellectualizing, and moralizing, but presupposes the
      witness of the preacher's life.  Preaching, worship, and community
      prayer should not necessarily be confined to traditional places of

3.6 Participation and Leadership

      Most respondents are aware of the growing shortage of ordained
      ministers and of religious men and women. This calls for stronger
      promotion of diversified ministry and the ongoing formation of lay
      leadership.  More attention should perhaps be given to the role that
      can be played in an approach to the sects -- or at least to those
      attracted by the sects -- by lay people who, within the church and
      in collaboration with their pastors, exercise true leadership, both
      spiritually and pastorally. Priests should not be identified mainly
      as administrators, office workers, and judges, but rather as
      brothers, guides, consolers, and men of prayer. There is too often a
      distance that needs to be bridged between the faithful and the
      bishop, even between the bishop and his priests. The ministry of
      bishop and priest is a ministry of unity and communion which must
      become visible to the faithful.


      In conclusion, what is to be our attitude, our approach to the
      sects?  Clearly it is not possible to give one simple answer. The
      sects themselves are too diverse; the situations -- religious,
      cultural, social -- too different. The answer will not be the same
      when we consider the sects in relation to the "unchurched," the
      unbaptized, the unbeliever, and when we are dealing with their
      impact on baptized Christians and especially on Catholics or
      ex-Catholics. Our respondents are naturally concerned mainly with
      this last group.

      Clearly too, we cannot be naively irenical. We have sufficiently
      analyzed the action of the sects to see that the attitudes and
      methods of some of them can be destructive to personalities,
      disruptive to families and society, and their tenets far removed
      from the teachings of Christ and his church. In many countries we
      suspect, and in some cases know, that powerful ideological forces,
      as well as economic and political interests, are at work through the
      sects, which are totally foreign to a genuine concern for the
      "human" and are using the "human" for inhumane purposes.

      It is necessary to inform the faithful, especially the young, to put
      them on their guard and even to enlist professional help for
      counseling, legal protection, etc. At times we may have to recognize
      and even support appropriate measures on the part of the state
      acting in its own sphere.

      We may know too from experience that there is generally little or no
      possibility of dialogue with the sects; and that not only are they
      themselves not open to dialogue, but they can also be a serious
      obstacle to ecumenical education and effort wherever they are

      And yet, if we are to be true to our own beliefs and principles --
      respect for the human person, respect for religious freedom, faith
      in the action of the Spirit working in unfathomable ways for the
      accomplishment of God's loving will for all humankind, for each
      individual man, woman, and child, we cannot simply be satisfied with
      condemning and combating the sects, with seeing them perhaps
      outlawed or expelled and individuals "deprogrammed" against their
      will. The "challenge" of the new religous movements is to stimulate
      our own renewal for a greater pastoral efficacy.

      It is surely also to develop within ourselves and in our communities
      the mind of Christ in their regard, trying to understand "where they
      are" and, where possible, reaching out to them in Christian love.

      We have to pursue these goals, being faithful to the true teaching
      of Christ, with love for all men and women. We must not allow any
      preoccupation with the sects to diminish our zeal for true ecumenism
      among all Christians.

5. Invitation From the 1985 Synod

5.1 The extraordinary synod of 1985 called to celebrate, assess, and
      promote the Second Vatican Council, gave certain orientations
      concerning the renewal of the church today.  These orientations,
      which address themselves to the general needs of the church, are
      also a reply to the needs and aspirations which some people seek in
      the sects (3.1). They underline the pastoral challenges and the need
      for pastoral planning.

5.2 The final report of the synod notes that the world situation is
      changing and that the signs of the times be analyzed continually
      (II, D7). The church is often seen simply as an institution, perhaps
      because it gives too much importance to structures and not enough to
      drawing people to God in Christ.

5.3 As a global solution to the world's problems, the synod's invitation
      is to an integral understanding of the council, to an interior
      assimilation of it, and putting it into practice. The church must be
      understood and lived as a mystery (II, A; cf. 3.1.6) and as
      communion (II, B; cf. 4.1; 4.6). The church must commit itself to
      becoming more fully the sign and instrument of communion and
      reconciliation among men (I, A2; cf. 4.1; 3.1.6). All Christians are
      called to holiness, that is, to conversion of the heart and
      participation in the trinitarian life of God (II, A4; cf. 3.1.1;
      3.1.5). The Christian community needs people who live a realistic
      and worldly holiness. Since the church is a communion, it must
      embody participation and co-responsibility at all levels (II, C6;
      cf.  4.6; 3.1.9). Christians must accept all truly human values (II,
      D3) as well as those specifically religious (II, D5) so as to bring
      about enculturation, which is "the intimate transformation of
      authentic cultural values through their integration in Christianity
      and in the various human cultures" (II, D4; cf. 3.7.4; 4.4). "The
      Catholic Church refuses nothing of what is true and holy in
      non-Christian religions. Indeed, Catholics must recognize, preserve,
      and promote all the good spiritual and moral, as well as
      sociocultural, values that they find in their midst" (II, D5). "The
      church must prophetically denounce every form of poverty and
      oppression, and everywhere defend and promote the fundamental and
      inalienable rights of the human person" (II, D6; cf.3.2).

5.4 The synod gives some practical orientations. It stresses spiritual
      formation (II, A5; cf. 3.1.7;4.2), commitment to integral and
      systematic evangelization, and catechesis to be accompanied by
      witness which interprets it (II, Ba2; cf. 3.1.8; 3.1.3) precisely
      because the salvific mission of the church is integral (II, D6; cf.
      4.3) securing interior and spiritual participation in the liturgy
      (II B6; cf. 3.1.9; 4.5); encouraging spiritual and theological
      dialogue among Christians (II, C7) and dialogue "which may open and
      communicate interiority"; fostering concrete forms of the spiritual
      journeys such as consecrated life, spiritual movements, popular
      devotion (II, A4; cf. 3.1.7), and giving greater importance to the
      word of God (II, Ba1), realizing that the Gospel reaches people
      through witness to it (II, Ba2).

6. Questions for Further Study and Research

      N.B. Where possible, the study and research should be undertaken in
      ecumenical cooperation.

6.1 Theological Studies

      a) The different types of sect in the light of <Lumen Gentium>, No.
      16, <Unitatis Redintegratio> and <Nostra Aetate>.

      b) The "religious" content of "esoteric" and "human potential"

      c) Christian mysticism in relation to the search for religious
      experience in the sects.

      d) The use of the Bible in the sects.

6.2 Interdisciplinary Studies

      (Historical, sociological, theological, anthropological.)

      a) The sects and the early Christian communities.

      b) The ministry of healing in the early church and in the sects.

      c) The role of the prophetic and charismatic figures (during their
      lifetime and after their death).

      d) The sects and "popular religiosity."

6.3 Interdisciplinary Studies

      (It is in this field that most work seems to have been done already)

      a) Recruitment techniques and their effects.

      b) After-effects of sect membership and deprogramming.

      c) Religious needs and experiences of adolescents and young adults
      and their interaction with sexual development, in relation to the

      d) Authority patterns in the sects in relation to the lack of a need
      for authority in contemporary society.

      e) The possibility or impossiblity of "dialogue" with the sects.

6.4 Sects and the Family

      a) Reactions in the family to sect membership.

      b) Family breakups or irregular family status in reaction to the
      attraction of the sects.

      c) Sect membership and the solidity of the family; family pressures
      on children of sect members.

      d) Family patterns and conjugal morality in the sects.

6.5 Women in the Sects

      a) Opportunities for self-expression and responsiblity (cf., sects
      founded by women).

      b) Inferior position of women in different types of sect: Christian
      fundamentalist groups, Oriental sects, African sects, etc.

6.6 <Acculturation and inculturation> of sects and their evolution in
      different cultural and religious contexts: in traditional Christian
      cultures, in recently evangelized cultures, in totally secularized
      societies or those undergoing a rapid process of secularization
      (with its diverse impact on Western and "non-Western" cultures).
      Migration and the sects.

6.7 <A comparative historical and sociological study of youth movements>
      in Europe before World War II and youth membership in contemporary
      cults and sects.

6.8 <Religious freedom> in relation to the sects: ethical, legal, and
      theological aspects.  Effects of government action and other social
      pressures. Interaction between political, economic, and religious

6.9 <The images of sects in public opinion> and the effect of public
      opinion on sects.

                             SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY

General Reference Works

Bibliographies and Dictionaries

A Selected Bibliography on New Religious Movements in Western Countries,
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Barrett, David B. World Christian Encyclopedia. A comparative survey of
      churches and religious in the modern world. Oxford, 1984.

Blood, Linda Osborne. Comprehensive Bibliography on the Cult Phenomenon.
      Weston (MA): American Family Foundation, 1982.

Crim, Keith, ed. Abingdon Dictionary of Living Religions. Nashville (TN):
      Abingdon, 1981.

Foucart, Eric. Repertoire Bibliographique. Sects and marginal religious
      groups of the contemporary East (Studies and documents on the
      science of religion). Quebec, 1982.

Plume, Christian and Xavier Pasquini. Encyclopedia des sectes dans le
      monde. Nice, 1980.

Poupard, Paul. Dictionnaire des Religions. Paris, 1984, 2nd ed., 1985.
      Spanish trans.  Barcelona: Herder, 1986.

Turner, Harold W. Bibliography of New Religious Movements in Primal
      Society. Vol. I: Black Africa. Boston, 1977.

Specialized Periodicals

Aagard, Johannes, ed. New Religious Movements Up-date: A Quarterly Journal
      of New Religious Movements. Aarhus, Denmark (1977-).

Bulletin Signaletique -- Section 527, 528: Sciences Religeuses. Paris.
      Centre de Documentation du CNRS, 1970-

Missionalia. The South African Missiological Society. Pretoria (see from
      Vol. 8, No. 3, November 1980 to date).

Pontifical Library Propaganda Fide. Bibliographia Missionaria. Rome (see
      from Anno XL - 1976 to Anno XLVII - 1983).

Secretariat for Non-Believers. Ateismo e Dialogo. Vatican (see from Anno
      XIV - June 2, 1979 to date).

Valentin, Frederike. Sekten und religiose Sondergemeinschaften in
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Bartz, W. <Le Sette oggi. Dottrina, organizzazione, diffusione>.
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Batz, K. <Weltreligionen heute>. Hinduism. Zurich-Koln, 1979.

Batz, K. <L'Attrait du mysterieux. Bible et esoterisme>. Ottowa: Novalis,

Cereti, G. <I Nuovi Movimenti Religiosi, le sette e i nuovi culti>. Rome,

Cournault, Fanny. <La France des Sectes>. Paris: Tchou, 1978.

<Eggengerger, O>. Die Kirchen, Sondergruppen und religiose Vereinigungen.
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Gibon, Yves de. <Des Sectes a notre porte>. Paris, 1979.

Gregoire, M. <Histoire des sectes religieuses. Paris>: Baudouin Freres,
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Grundler, J. <Lexikon der Christlichen Kirchen und Sekten>. Vol. I-II.
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Haack, F.W. <Des Sectes pour les Jeunes>. Mame, 1980.

Hoff, Eugene von. <L'Eglise et les Sectes>. Quelques dissidences
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Hutten, K. <Scher-Grubler-Enthusiasten>. The book of traditional sects and
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Needleman, Jacob. <Understanding the New Religions>. Seabury Press, 1978.

Reller, H. <Handbuch Religiose Gemeinschaften, Freikirchen>. Special
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Rudin, James and Rudin, Marcia. <Prison or Paradise? The New Religious
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Vernette, Jean and Rene Girault. <Croire en dialogue.> -- The Christian
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Wilson, Bryan. <Contemporary Transformations of Religion>. London: Oxford
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Wilson, Bryan. <Religious Movements.> New York: The Rose of Sharon Press,

Woodrow, A. <Les Nouvelles Sectes>. Paris: Seuil, 1977.

Works on Different Parts of the World


Andersson, E. <Messianic Popular Movements in the Lower Congo>. Uppsala,

Baeta, C.G. <Prophetism in Ghana: A Study of Some Spiritual Churches>.
      London: SCM Press, 1962.

Barrett, David B. <Schism and Renewal in Africa. An Analysis of 6,000
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Barrett, David B. (ed.) <Kenya Churches Handbook> (The development of
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Batende, M. "Les perspectives dans les communautes messianiques
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Benetta, Jules-Rosette (ed.). <The New Religions of Africa>. Norwood, NJ:
      Ablex Publishing Corp., 1979.

Fashole-Luke, E.W., Gray, R., Hastings, A. and G.O.M. Tasle (eds.).
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Hebga, M. "Interpellation des mouvements mystiques." Second Annual
      Colloquium in Kinshasa, February 1983.

Holas, Bohumil. <Le Separatisme religieux en Afrique noire. L'example de
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Muanza Kalala, E. <Les sectes au diocese de Mbujimayi (Zaire)>. Rome,
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Sundkler, B. <Bantu Prophets in South Africa>. Oxford, 1961.


Bosch, J. <Iglesias, sectas y nuevas cultos>. Madrid: Ed. Bruno, 1981.

Denaux, A. <Godsdienstsekten in Vlaanderen>. Leuven, DF, 1982.

Guizzardi, Gustavo. "New Religious Phenomena in Italy. Towards a
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Haack, F.W. <Jugendreligionen>. Munich, 1979.

Hernando, J. Garcia. <Pluralismo Religioso>. Vol II. Sects and
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Hummel, R. <Indische Mission und neue Frommigkeit im Westen>. Stuttgart,

O'Cuinn, C. <Why the New Youth Religions?> Ireland, 1980.

Schreiner, L. and Mildenberger, M. <Christus und die Gurus. Asiatische
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Vernette, Jean. <Au pays de nouveau-sacre. Voyage a l'interieur de la
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Vernette, Jean. <Sectes et reveil religieux> (Salvator edition, Cedex)


Earhart, Byron H. <The New Religions of Japan: A Bibliography of
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Elwood, D. <Churches and Sects in the Philippines>. [n.d.]

Lee, Raymond L.M., and Ackerman, S.E. "Conflict and Solidarity in a
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Lacombe, Olivier. "Les `Sectes' dans l'hindouisme." <Axes, Vol. X/2> (Dec.
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Van Des Kroef, Justus M. "Mouvements religieux modernes d'acculturation en
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Latin America

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<Oliveira Filho, Jose Jeremias. Notas de Sociologia das Seitas.> Cuadernos
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Samain, Etienne. "Bibliographia Sobre Religiosidade popular." <Reli-giao e
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Schlesinger, Hugo and Porto, Humberto. <Crencas, Seitas e Simbolos
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Willems, Emilio. <Followers of a New Faith> (Brazil and Chile). Nashville
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Oceania and the Pacific Islands

<Burridge, K.O.L>. "Mouvements religieuses d'acculturation en Oceanie."
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Hodee, Paul. "Culture moderne, sectes, problems familiaux et non-croyence
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Verity, Leslie. <Dangerous Trends: An Analysis of the Social Repercussions
      of the "New" Religions and the Anti-religious Movement>. Auckland,

Worsley, Peter. <The Trumpet Shall Sound: A Study of Cargo Cults in
      Melanesia>. Schocken Books: New York, 1968.

North America

Anthony, D., et al. <The New Religious Movements: Conversions, Coercion
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Appel, W. <Cults in America: Programmed for Paradise>. New York, 1983.

Bergeron, Richard. <Le Cortege des Fous de Dieu>. Montreal, 1982.

Bird, F. and Reimer, B. "A Sociological Analysis of New Religions and
      Para-Religious Movements in the Montreal Area." <Canadian Journal>,

Clark, S.D. <Church and Sect in Canada>. Toronto, 1948.

Hill, D.C. <A Study of Mind Development Groups, Sects and Cults in
      Ontario>. Govt. Publ: Ottawa, 1980.

Stipelman, S. <Coping with Cults>. (a course for students) Jewish
      Education Council of Montreal, 1982.

Zaretsky, E.J. and Leone, M.P. (eds.). <Religious Movements in
      Contemporary America.> Princeton (NJ), 1974.

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