The title’s footnote reads: Report of the Secretariat for Christian Unity, the Secretariat for non-Christians and the Secretariat for non-believers and the Pontifical Council for Culture The Phenomenon of Sects or new religious movements: pastoral challenge, L’Osservatore Romano, 7 May 1986.
201. In a climate of cultural and religious relativism, and sometime because of the inappropriate conduct of Christians, a proliferation of “new religious movements” has occurred. These are sometimes called sects or cults but, because of the abundance of names and tendencies, are difficult to categorize in a comprehensive and precise framework. From available data, movements of Christian origin can be identified, while others derive from oriental religions, and others again appear to be connected with esoteric traditions. Their doctrines and their practices are of concern because they are alien to the content of the Christian faith. It is therefore necessary to promote among Christians exposed to such risks “a commitment to evangelization and integral systematic catechesis which must be accompanied by a witness which translates these into life”. (The Phenomenon of Sects or new religious movements: pastoral challenge, cit., n. 5. 4) Thus it is necessary to overcome the danger of ignorance and prejudice, to assist the faithful in engaging correctly with the Scriptures, to awaken in them a lively experience of prayer, to defend them from error, to educate them in responsibility for the faith which they have received, confronting dangerous situations of loneliness, poverty and suffering with the love of the Gospel. Because of the religious yearning which these movements can express, they should be considered “a market place to be evangelized”, in which some of the most pressing questions can find answers. “The Church has an immense spiritual patrimony to offer mankind, a heritage in Christ, who called himself ‘the way, and the truth, and the life’ (Jn 14:6)”. (Redemptoris Missio 38)
Some of these “new religious movements” are probably less religious and more spiritual. They possess an attraction because they appeal to the Western poverty for the deeper levels of yearning for God, for meaning. It’s not a surprise that the past few centuries have seen organized religion more and more powerless in the face of violence, war, and corruption. A weak response to these grave challenges has turned millions of believers out of churches to search for people who have answers. A recovery of the mystical and artistic aspects of Catholicism, and a more skeptical view of rationalism would do wonders.