Instead of the notions "sects" and "cults" which sound pejorative and have a narrow meaning and "new religious movements" which also concerns a smaller circle we use "new religious phenomena", and it refers to the following:
-the old  and the new  the already institutionalized  and Christian sects  being in the state of movement ;
-new religious movements  originating from the sixties combining elements of different religions
-the ancient oriental religions that appeared in the post-communist countries in the latest decades and their authentic or deformed movements that are evangelizing in the West or their deformed (non-authentic) versions
-syncretist movements which are just appearing in these countries but were founded formerly 
-quasi religious and spiritual (ideological) movements (psycho-cults, neo-pagan cults, healing communities and organizations promising self-redemption and releasing spiritual powers) belonging to New Age.
These are new phenomena both for the average believer and the leaders of the church in general since most of them gained ground and publicity after the political changes in the democratic era and appeared as alternatives for the traditional, official, institutionalized religions.  These phenomena are "religious" in different senses but their common feature is that they offer a vision of the religious or holy world with the answer to the basic questions of the human existence.
This summary is based on 400 pages of (revealing, interpreting) research reports done in different post-communist countries (Czech Republic, Croatia, Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, Slovenia ) within the framework of an comparative empirical survey (named Aufbruch ) managed by A. Máté-Tóth, M. Tomka and P. Zulhehner. As far as the discussed topics, the monitored period, the attitude towards the topic, the methods, the factual knowledge and the categories used, the depth of the evaluation and the recommendations for the pastoral practice are concerned, these essays are very different. Some of them are factual and characterized by sociological and social-psychological reflections, while others are featured by pragmatic and pastoral approach, yet others contain biassed apologetical attitudes too.
2. In the period of the controlled religious freedom (1945-1989)
The communist system tried to limit every spiritual value not only the official religions but also those that belonged to the new religious phenomena. Back in the eighties during the so-called soft dictatorship  there were reports like the Croatian "Review of the clerical and anarchical activity of some members of small religious communities, movements and sects." In the decade before the political changes in most of the examined countries alternative religious phenomena (that were new compared to the official religions) have appeared mainly concealed  but sometimes in public.
Besides the ubiquitous repression the following differences can be found in some of the countries:
-In most of the countries different sects and new religious movements were not dealt with equally. The few privileged ones had controlled freedom and others were more persecuted. Since most of the believers of the new sects and religious movements were more committed, educated and conscious, these movements experienced a lot of hatred and repression (especially in the Soviet Union) from the state authorities.
-To balance the Catholic (and the other "official" ) churches (following the theory divide et impera) certain freedom was given to some groups  (considered as sects even by the governing powers).
-Self-seeking young people living in non-religious (in most of the cases communist and atheist) surroundings and interested in spirituality orientated themselves to spiritual, religious and pseudo-religious and mainly New Age movements .
-Leaders of quasi-religions gained publicity as the representatives of new sciences (especially parapsychology) not only in scientific magazines but also on television .
3. The situation after the fall of the communist regime
The new situation (after 1989) gave a great opportunity of developing and spreading of new religious phenomena.
3.1. What has appeared at the new religious market?
In the examined countries 30 to 70 religion sect or movement registered as association, cultural organization or church have
-emerged and gained publicity,
-arrived from mainly western countries,
-been formed (as new religious phenomena with a national character) .
And there are lots of unregistered groups. The average people and the majority of the catholic believers call them "sects" .
In every examined country all types enlisted in the introduction can be found with a variable number and ratio. We have few and not unreliable data  concerning the approximate number of the believers, followers, members, clients, supporters and the casual visitors of the communities and organizations devoted to the new religious phenomena. It seems that only 1-3 per cent  of the adult population which is religious in any sense is tied to the examined religious communities and organizations. With looser ties up to 4-5 per cent is connected. In the countries of the analysis the spread of the new religious forms reached its peak in 1993-94. There was a period of stagnation and a slight fall.
In Poland Jehovah's Witnesses are in leading position and only some of the Christian sects can approach or outnumber them: the Adventists, Mormons and the nation speciality, the Catholic Mariaviten Church with its 39,000 membership. The dozen of communities belonging to Hinduism and Buddhism have a membership of a couple of hundreds and the New Age-type groups having not only casual clientele but permanent membership are not more populous either.
The New Age-type movements and organizations are represented in Croatia with a fairly significant membership. The majority of them are registered as humanitarian, pedagogical, medical, charity, feminist and other civil associations, many of them are members of humanitarian organizations and universities. Certain movements have their own political party as well . This is more characteristic of Slovenia where besides the classical theosophy and antroposophy the Spiritual University (which had a dynamic overture in 1989/90 but is loosing its popularity) and other movements spread the theories of the different trends of New Age.
In Hungary the Congregation of Faith (which was founded in Hungary and belongs to the Pentecostal Christianity) with its 40,000 members has grown up to the 4th or 5th biggest church overtaking the Catholics, Lutherans, Calvinists and the dozen of 50-100 years old neo-protestant  churches catching up with the Baptists. Scores of other Pentecostal congregations are active (with a membership of 200 to 5,000). The Mormons were growing the fastest in the latest years and have 3-4,000 members. The ratio of the Krishna believers is the highest in Hungary compared to the number of population .
Pentecostal communities and Jehovah's Witnesses have a high population in Lithuania but in this country -as a national feature -the old and new New Apostolic Church  has the highest population which was growing the most intensely in the nineties. Typical Lithuanian phenomenon is the small-scale Association of Ancient Baltic Faith, the Visarionas and the White Brotherhood movement.
3.2. What do they offer?
As well as in the western countries the main reasons for their spread are the followings:
-feeling of belonging somewhere
-finding answers to basic questions
-seeking cultural identity
-holism and seeking the unity of body-soul-spirit
-need for recognition and individuality
-need for spiritual conduct
-need for a vision, a new world
-need for commitment
-need for comprehensible, clear answers and safe faith
Many of the authors of the research papers admit that the traditional churches cannot satisfy these needs even in their countries. In post communist countries an additional important factor is the curiosity of the forbidden fruit and the western import goods. It is a common experience that the need for novelty does not exclude the fundamentalist answers required by many.
Some of the authors of the researches do not find the supply-and-demand theory satisfactory. They find the success not only in the intelligent and efficient missionary activity but also in brain wash and other methods violating human freedom and dignity. But the confirmative reference to the psychological and sociopsychological researches are missing.
The solution to the secret of the success of the dynamically developing Lithuanian New Apostolic Church is informative which can be of general validity. The most sympathetic attraction for the joiners is the similarity of the God-services to the Catholic ones and the lack of Catholic practices and requirements which were less acceptable for the former believers. The most important motivations in the case of the New Apostolic Church are the communication which provides access for the simple people and radiating love, always available, simple and warm-hearted priests, easily and clear-cut liturgy and feeling of safety.
3.3. Who are the followers?
In every examined country (but in different ratios) the followers are:
-believers in God or God seeking anti-clerical people who do not belong to traditional churches, are estranged from them or having a bad relation with them.
-unemployed, immigrant and ethnical minorities who are not integrated in the society properly or belong to lower layers 
-mainly young people belonging to middle or upper layers, having an average education, open for spiritual experiences
-psychically and/or spiritually wounded ones.
In the examined countries -apart from double membership -few of the practicing believers of the traditional churches are becoming members of the communities of new religious phenomena. It is more characteristic that the loosely connected believers or those who practice their religion formally or in their own way go over. Many non-believers join too. Upon this basis the theories of "soul fishing", which is emphasized by the churches is to be criticized.
As a national feature, it has to be mentioned that in Slovenia the believers of the New Age come from atheist families and their parents were in high positions in the former era and now they turn to occultism and ezoterics to answer their basic questions.
In opposition to the mainstream the Lithuanian trait is that the majority of the members of the New Apostolic Church were formerly Catholics and they still consider themselves Catholic. At the same time it is characteristic also in Lithuania that the majority of those who are joining the new Christian communities were not involved in religious communities or were not religious at all .
According to Hungarian data the membership of the new religious movements is younger than the average while -apart from the Pentecostal movement -the average age of many neo-protestant congregations is fairly high. Being younger than the average usually means urban life and higher social-cultural positions too. The majority of the examined new religious communities are women. Male majority is only characteristic of Buddhist groups only.
3.4. Catholics in the seductions of new religious communities
Only Hungarian data are available but we can suppose that the situation is similar in other post-communist countries too.
The number of the Hungarian Catholics who have got into the gravity of the new religious communities and remained the members of the Catholic Church can be estimated at least ten thousand (but this figure may be triple). Nevertheless most of them have weaker relationship with their church.
-Many of them have got into temporal or permanent client-relationship with religious communities that do not require membership from them or abandonment of their former community. In this case the new religious movement does not mean a community but a sort of psycho-therapeutical service for the clients.
-Few Catholics who were practicing their religion on a more or less regular basis have became members in communities that allow parallel membership. 
-Those who have borrowed only certain elements from the new religious community 
Those who have got into the circle of a new religious community, they are still in the phase of familiarization, have not decided yet, have not quitted with their own church.
-Those who have got acquainted with a new religious community for a certain reason and -however they do not want to join -they respect it for some of its values, meet them occasionally, participate in their religious and other events.
4. The new religious phenomena represents a challenge and competition of the church
4.1. The relation of the Catholic Church to the new religious phenomena
However there were some militant anti-catholic organizations, most of the communities of the new religious phenomena were not formed against the Catholic Church. Nevertheless even the friendly communities represent a challenge and competition for the Catholic Church. On the other hand -either expressed or not -they mean a mirror and a criticism for the Catholic Church, since in many cases they satisfy needs unsatisfied by the Catholic Church.
The situation is special in the post-communist countries, because
-some of the religious communities became competitions, enemies or the means of the Satan that shared the same lot or were allies against the oppressive powers.
-the knowledge and competence is a lot below the required  because of being behind the iron curtain, delayed reforms of the synod, low level of theology and religious sciences, weakness of the Catholic intellectuals.
-ecumenicity, which was flourishing in the seventies and eighties, has now set back in these countries. Even the related churches have got into a competitive situation.
-the new religious phenomena, especially New Age-like movements , have entered the spiritual space left behind the communist ideology more successfully than the traditional churches.
-for most of the victims of the social instability  caused by the political changes emotional protection and feeling of belonging was not provided by the traditional churches but the new religious communities.
-in many countries the new religious competitors have appeared as civil societies and the ecclesiastical resistance may suggest the image of the "politicizing church".
The clerical answers to the challenges are contradictory in all the examined countries. The frequently occurring elements are:
-the "diabolical communism" and the "diabolical west"  have become the bogeyman and its agents or advance bases are the "sects" against which the old militant apologetical methods can be used.
-borrowing the weak arguments or sometimes slanders of the scientific theories and western anti-cult movements without criticism
-the sects are warning signs of God which stimulate the church for a stronger renovation
-passive, and at the same time irrelevant, superior attitude: "the church will survive"
-however they represent different religious visions, the new religious phenomena stand on the same side as the Catholic Church. They also emphasize the need for religious and intellectual renewal of the modern, secular world.
-first of all, we must get familiar with them. Only then can we find a strategy against them.
-it is recognised that the Catholic pastoration can learn a lot from the new religious communities.
-at different levels and details they find dialogue and ecumeny possible with the new religious communities.
It seems that in the examined countries the first four elements (punishment and warning, finding a scapegoat, apology, condescency) are much more characteristic of the attitude of the leaders, priests and believers of the Catholic Church. While the other four (which emphasize the orientation, dialogue, recognition of the values and the possible partnership.
4.2. The relationship of the new religious communities with the Catholic Church
In this aspect, we have only Hungarian, Croatian and Slovenian results . According to Slovenian experiences, the policy of the sects and the religious movements towards the Catholic Church is different: some of them are ready for the dialogue, while others are aggressive. According to the Croatian results, the Christian sects are not so dangerous for the believers of the Catholic Church as the non-christian sects, but New Age works against the church. The Hungarian survey supports it only in some aspects. On one hand there are religious communities (including Christian ones ) which do not want their converts to leave their own religion and church. Apart from churches that allow double membership, the Krishna believers declare that they want to build a friendly relationship with the Catholics . The scientologists also want to have a "normal" relationship with the biggest Hungarian church. Three Pentecostal churches  have a friendly relationship with the Catholic charismatics. The biggest new religious community, the Congregation of Faith, the Nazarenes and the Rosicrucians are hostile to the Catholic Church. Dozens of Christian sects and movements are also rather hostile than neutral towards the Christians, some of which refers to old and new insults received from the Christians .
5. The social and the spiritual impact of the new religious phenomena on the society
5.1. Presence in the society and impact
Their presence in the society is mainly influenced by the law controlling their status. There are fairly big differences between the legal governance . The difference between religious and civil statuses does not mean a negative discrimination, in addition the new religious communities working as non-religious civil organizations can forge a political power from their civilian status especially by winning the sympathy of the liberal and anti-clerical layers.
It is generally characteristic of every examined countries that the social and political power of a new religious community is not directly proportional to the number of their members. A more important factor can be:
-important and beneficial social and cultural activity
-inclusion of important personalities (politicians, artists, sportsman, scientists)
-intertwining with political parties
-successful economic activity
-efficient public relation activity, and as a result, presence in the media (not in proportion with the number of members)
-harsh mission with significant externals
In the post-communist countries many people (including the majority of the leaders, priests and believers of the traditional churches) tend to believe that all the new religious phenomena are negative, however as the analyzed researches showed, the social impacts of the different new religious communities are very different. This phenomena is so complicated that it should be distinguished in many ways, since a new religious community which is positive at micro level (e. g. helps the poor in its surroundings) can face the society, the commonwealth, can hurt the feelings and values of the majority . At the same time the new religious movements can be counterweights, criticists and prophets of positive utopia -with H. Büchele's words: contrast societies -to certain material, pragmatic, egoistic and consumer society processes. In this aspect they can be examples to follow for the Catholics.
There is little evidence that the new religious communities, which are usually called sects by the average people and the representatives of the traditional churches, have a destructive effect. No legal decision was made against them.  There are new religious communities that play a positive, integrative role at macro level too. 
5.2. How society and the Catholic Church react to the new religious phenomena
However they are still called "sects" by the public opinion, in many countries (in Hungary and Slovenia) there are lots of citizens (especially non-religious or not too much religious people) who find the new religious communities oppressed minorities which deserve sympathy and support against the retrograde, emptied, too clerical and triumphalist traditional churches which are in co-operation with the political power. They find the new religious communities sympathetic that do not require governmental support and help the poor from their own sources. They consider them the enemies of nationalism, a democratic opposition to the conservative policy, representatives of the modernization (or the romantic anti-modernization).
In some countries (especially where the power is held by the Christian democratic parties) the new religious phenomena are attacked in the media. In other countries (especially where the leadership is socialist or liberal) the reputation of the new religious communities is fairly positive. Sometimes it can be connected to the anti-catholic affects of the liberal policy (as in Slovenia). At the same time the view about the new religious phenomena is more factual in these countries. In the rest of the countries the informative activity of the anti-sect organizations substitutes the scientific diagnosis.
6. The pastoral perspectives
Almost in all of the countries there are prominent Catholics who would like to ban or limit the "sects" by the state law. Others focus on the assistance of those violated by the sects. A third group keeps the exact diagnosis the most important step. A fourth group thinks an ecumenic dialogue and co-operation is possible with the appropriate new religious communities. It is a minority which says that new religious phenomena should not be dealt with but the church should be made attractive for the believers, especially those who are connected with loose ties and the young people. The positive strategies are quite weak and not relevant to the historical time. However we can learn a lot from the sects, the view "copy the ways of the sects but fill them with Christian stuff" is rather naive. Many people think that it is enough to resurrect the religious tradition.  Others presume that the personal and the community religious experience can only be the central element of the really successful strategy. The opinion according to which the sects should encounter a lot of evangelical love and apostolic courage is doubtful because they can feel a controversy between the two, even some threat in the apostolic courage.
In many cases the apologetical pastoral programs may see danger in what they should learn and borrow. When the excellent Jesuits combined the St. Ignatian and the oriental meditations and deepened thousands in spirituality,  the charge of syncretism seems unestablished. Identifying the new religious phenomena with the presence of the Evil is similar to the witch-hunt of the Middle Ages. The strategy is not successful which if the emotional experiences suppress rationality in the new religious communities then rationality should be highlighted.
There are few strategies that are characterized by the harmony of the rationality and emotionality, social activity and the art of giving, the warmth of the community and the elevation of the liturgy or in which the incentive is represented for charity work both in the local and the national society.
"The Christians have to listen to the words of the times and think about intensely: how to live in the teeming post-modern world full of controversies without loosing the mind and the desire for God. This question cannot be answered by imitating the old schemes because it requires a great creative effort to find the new. (...) A system is in lethal danger if it is not eligible to give appropriate answers to the questions of its environment because its domain is narrowing. Many of us hold on to the schemes of old behaviour and sustain anti-intellectualism, idillism and collectivism. Many think that it is the detested communism to be blamed for everything, however they know that the crisis of the faith and the church is the deepest in the countries of the democratic west..." Vinko - kafar, the author of the Slovenian research report summarizes the situation. They are well complemented by the Lithuanian authors Donatas Glodenis and Dalé - merauskaité adding that the greatest competitors of all the Christian churches are not the new religious phenomena, nor the Protestant movements but the dechristianized mind of the society. They also see clearly that the over-reacted sect-phobia is not directed against the new religious communities only but they may be dangerous for every form of authentic religiosity.
We can also add that most of the militant anti-sect Catholic personalities have preoccupations about the renewal and spiritual movements within the church. Of course, the rightful self defence is not an attack, the factual information is not accusation, apologetics is not a crusade. We can state the extent to what each new religious community differs from the authentic Christian disciplines (even if they call themselves real Christians) but we cannot declare that in direct ratio to the difference they are far from God or the possibility of salvation
Correct information and dialogue is essential to create a fair coexistence of the Catholic Church and the new religious communities. Especially when -and probably it is not characteristic of Hungary only -the majority of the "sects" and "cults" are more friendly to the Catholic Church and the Catholics than the other way round.  Among the Catholics the charismatics are the most open-minded with the new religious differences.
Most of the Catholics see an enemy for strengthening their identity in the new religious phenomena, nevertheless a new view is coming into being -and has appeared at Hungarian diocesan synods too -which says that the appearance of the new churches can be regarded as a reaction to the incapacity of the historical churches. The shortages are the personal relations (in opposition to the dominant liturgical and official relations), the emotional manifestation (in opposition to the dominance of the intellectual culture), the warmth of home, the all-inclusive cast, active participation in the life of the church, strong praying atmosphere (in opposition to over-emphasizing the cultural-public life priorities), simplicity of the teaching (in opposition to the Biblical foundations, ecclesiastical authority or the catechism-like summaries), spontaneous inspirations of the individual or appreciation of their initiatives, the respect of the individual (in opposition to the respect of the status).
There are very few people who consider the "non-traditional" Christian communities as the self-conscience of the universal Christian church and, the same way, the members of the non-christian religious movements as the chosen children of God, however truth has many field of which Jesus's opinion was not preserved. Answers to these mid-scale questions cannot be found in these religions since the human existence is wider than the comprehensible truth. It cannot be excluded that in some cases these new religious communities bear some secondary prophecies, i. e. the message of the Soul, not in authentic teaching but rather in symbolic acts, behaviour, achieved or attested values, new forms of organizations.
 e. g. the Jehova's Witnesses
 e. g. the Family
 e. g. The Mormons
 The term "sect" is not used in a qualificatory but in a descriptive, sociological way
 e. g. the different groups of the new-pentecostal movement
 e. g. the Unification Church
 e. g. Baha'i
 The research reports in different countries classify them into different categories: e. g. sects, psycho-religions, Pseudo-Christian sanctifying groups, messianistic movements, end-of-the-world movements, Asian groups. In certain countries even the Neo-Protestant churches that have been working for at least one hundread years (Methodist, Baptist, Pentecostal) and the classical Protestant churches (Reformed, Evangelical) are classified as alternative religions.
 The survey of the Hungarians living in Romania dealt with the movements only within the Catholic Church
 The Hungarian terminology for the period
 Such as UFO clubs, yoga club, natural healing, parapsychology
 E. g. Jehova's Witnesses in Poland
 This tendency was the strongest in Slovenia. The "Workgroup of Spiritual Movements" was at the same time a political movement striving for democratization, free atmosphere and the possibility to satisfy immaterial needs.
 In Lithuania besdides parapsychology neo-pagan communities had appeared from the sixties disguised as cultural -especially folkloristic -movements.
 Mainly healers and neo-pagan movements with a national character (e. g. the urbanized version of the Lithuanian Ancient-Baltic or the Hungarian ancient shamanism)
 Even Jehova's Witnesses, Mormons, Krishna believers, members of the Pentecostal movement or the spiritual movements within the Catholic Church are considered as sects.
 Sometimes the data of the religious communities themselves or the data of state authorities, researchers, churches, media.
 In Hungary their percentage is less than 1 %. In Croatia apart from Catholic, Orthodox and Muslims the ratio of all te other religions is 7 % but its minor proportion belongs to the followers of the new religious phenomena.
 The Stranka navarog zakona (Party of Natural Law)
 Including Jehova's Witnesses which is growing but not so rapidly
 With a core membership of 1,000 and 2-3,000 supporters
 Which were working in Klaipeda before the world war but could not keep up continuity during the soviet regime
 In Hungary not only the minor neo-protestant communities are doing a successful missionary work among gypsies but also the Baha'i movement.
 An exception is the ethnically organized Pentecostal movement formed partly by Russian and partly by Belarus immigrant believers which did not attract the Lithuanians because of the "foreigners".
 There are many believers -mainly elderly village people including very enthusiastic ones too -who go to both places. The double or multiple committment can last for a longer period. This usually occurs in the case of married couples who go to the community of their spouse.
 Tecniques of meditation, dianethical courses, reading habits and interpretation of the Bible, prayers, chants.
 According to a Hungarian survey, even the most well-informed Catholic students and intellectuals know hardly anything about the new religious communities, however they classify them into negative categories with a great confidence.
 A typical example is the attempt of the Transcendental Meditation to establish a university in whose overthrow the Catholic Church took part in a strong ally with the political power.
 The suddenly growing unemployment, growing number of homeless people, civil war.
 Synonyms: America, globalization, capitalism, liberalism.
 In Hungary we had the opportunity to gathe the opinion of the leaders of fifty religious groups about how they think the Catholic Church is related to them and how they are related to the Catholic Church.
 Baha'i, Sound of Silence, The family, the scientology, the Buddhist Gate of the Doctrine, the Salvation Army.
 Which -by favour of the Krishna believers -has been achieved in several cases. They produced a very honest and friendly dialogue with the monastic orders.
 The Manahaim Congregation, the Svedish Pentecostal Mission and the Congregation of Christ's Love.
 E. g. the cooperation with the Christian democratic governing parties.
 In Lithuania, communities other than the nine traditional churches (at least 300 years of Lithuanian history), can only gain governmental approval after 25 years of trial.. In Hungary since 1991 it has been possible to register a church with 100 members. This very liberal law is being changed stricter but not with increasing the minimal number of the members but with sharpening the criteria of "religion".
 While the Hungarian Congregation of Faith has invited hundreads of severely injured, self-destructive youths with an excellent communication technology, saved and cured them in their community homes, it attacks Christian values agressively that are of social interest and part of the national tradition.
 A Hungarian Christian sect declared as public enemy has proved harmless -apart from choosing different Christian events as mission fields - after a sociological research.
 Communities belonging to the Pentecostal movement have organized ecumenical meetings both in Hungary and in Lithuania.
 Pilgrimage, Mary adoration, rosaries, calvaries.
 just like the Hungarian Ferenc Jálics.
 Of course we have to take different practices and tactics into consideration. Some new religious communities pretend openness, their approach is just a trick of public relation.
The Spiritual Supermarket: Religious Pluralism in the 21st Century
April 19-22, 2001
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