CESNUR - Centro Studi sulle Nuove Religioni diretto da Massimo Introvigne

The Labelling of Certain Catholic and "Fringe Catholic" Movements as ''Cults''

by Massimo Introvigne (1999)


A translation (sent by a reader of the French text) of “La stigmatisation de certains groupes comme sectes au sein du catholicisme" by Massimo Introvigne, in  FRANÇOISE CHAMPION - MARTINE COHEN (eds.), Sectes et démocratie, Éditions du Seuil, Paris 1999, pp. 277-289. The publication of this text (which was published during the most heated phase of the French controversy) is intended as a contribution to the history of the debate between academic scholars of religious movements and anti-cultists. The translation does not include any update. Obviously the founder of Opus Dei has now been canonized, the Army of Mary has been the subject of further canonical sanctions, John Paul II is the former rather than the present Pope, TFP has split into different groups after the founder’s death, Bill Clinton and Al Gore are no longer in office, Opus Angelorum has somewhat settled its problems with Rome, and many additional pieces, unpublished and partially unknown in 1994, have been added to the debate on brainwashing. 


1. Should the word ''cult'' be avoided?

The use of the word ''secte" (in French) and its homologous English word “cult” by sociologists of religion poses, in our current day (1996), serious problems of an ethical and scientific nature. Experts like Weber or Troeltsch could indeed legitimately speak of a ''type-sect'' to distinguish it from a ''type-Church'' and, as I have shown elsewhere, the history of the use of the word ''sect'' is not without scientific or typological value[1]. But today, one must bear in mind that in our interactions with the press, television and even churches, when we are asked if such and such a group is ''une secte'' (a cult), the questioner is unlikely to have Troeltsch in mind. What he or she wants to learn from us, in a clear and succinct way, is if that group is legitimate, ''truly'' religious, ''good'' or if, on the other hand, it is ''pseudo-religious'', ''destructive'', in a word ''bad''. If we speak of a ''cult'', the matter is settled. When we try to qualify our statement or quote the typologies of Troeltsch or Weber, the journalist has already stopped listening. There is then, a heavy responsibility weighing on researchers and sociologists when they accept to use the French word ''secte'' or the English “cult” in a media-dominated environment which sociology has surely not created but which it cannot ignore. In defining a group as a ''cult'' we contribute to creating a secondary reality whereby the group will be abandoned into the hands of a media lynch-mob (if not to police harassment).

J. Gordon Melton remarked recently - concerning the word ''cult'', which as mentioned earlier plays the same role in the English language as the word ''secte'' in French - that the university community should marshal its resources, as a sort of pressure group, so that the word ''cult'' (''secte'') be regarded in a few years time as unacceptable, as is the case of ''nigger'' for ''Afro-American'' or ''black'', or ''faggot'' for ''gay'' or ''homosexual''2. Just as one says ''black'' or “African American” rather than ''negro'' - not to do so would be to lay oneself open to the charge of not being politically correct - one should then say ''new religious movements'' rather than ''cults''. We have in fact been doing this habitually for several years3. I am firmly convinced that the battle to substitute ''new religious movements'' for ''cults'' has a lot in its favour. It is a battle that is far from being won.  What we are asking is perhaps too much for the media and too little for the new religious groups themselves. Too much for the media, for they need a quick term to define groups which attract people's interest precisely because they are different and ''strange''. Too little for the movements, which still fear that the label ''new religious movements'' is only a more polite version of ''sect'' or ''cult'', and that it will continue to promote stigmatization and division between ''legitimate'' religions (the churches) and non-legitimate ones (the new religious movements). Besides, there is not full agreement on the notion itself of new religious movements. For some, it would only refer to groups of recent origin, while others would like to include in the concept the ''alternative'' religions born in the 19th century in the USA such as the Mormons and the Jehovah's Witnesses (realities which are so structured and long-standing that one could really speak in this case of ''new religions''). But two points are, however, fairly clear. Firstly, that the label ''cult'' is a weapon to legitimise social hatred against certain groups; and secondly, that there are all the same some religious movements which are ''alternative'' or ''non-traditional'' and there is a need either for a name to designate them (''new religious movements'' being at present the most used expression in the academia) or criteria to distinguish them from more traditional groups.

When it comes to trying to establish distinctive criteria, one could think of dozens of them4, but here I will limit myself to underlining the difference between quantitative and qualitative criteria. On the one hand, anti-cult movements propose purely quantitative criteria: new religious movements (of course, they would say ''cults'') are those groups which offer a religious experience that, from the point of view of quantity, is of an intensity superior to that which is usually considered as ''normal''. To ''measure'' the intensity of the religious experience one can have recourse to various indicators: the degree of engagement within the movement (particularly when it is full-time), obedience to the leaders, rule of life, economic contributions, absence of democratic debate within the movement, charismatic and emotional phenomena. If, under each one of these profiles, the movements show a ''quantity'' of religious experience over and above the average, or superior to that which is considered acceptable in the modern world, one categorizes them as sectes or ''cults'' (or as ''new religious movements''). It must be emphasized that this is clearly about quantity and not quality. The fact is, in whatever religious group one is looking at there will always be a certain degree of investment of time by the follower, of obedience to his or her leaders, of faith (that is, of adherence to ideas which are beyond discussion), of financial contribution, and normally also of charismatic or emotional manifestations. It would be very hard to find a religious group which functions according to the modern rules of democracy, rationality and science. In the arguments of anti-cult movements it is not always clear where normal obedience to one's leaders in religious organisations (which rarely corresponds to the models of modern democracy) ends, and where begins ''destructive'' submission or spiritual slavery; where normal financial contribution (the tithe is for example normal in several Evangelical movements) ends and where starts exploitation.

On the other hand, ''counter-cult'' movements of religious, and especially Christian, origin - which must not be confused with anti-cult movements of more secular origin 5 - put forward criteria which one can call qualitative. They try to define the most basic elements of a common doctrinal consensus among Christian churches in order to call ''cults'' (or ''new religious movements'') those groups which do not fit within this consensus. This criterion, of course, can only apply to those movements which make use of Christian symbology (for example, counter-cultists would call the Jehovah's Witnesses a ''cult'' because they do not accept points of doctrine which are regarded as forming part of the Christian consensus). And then, following more or less complicated processes of analogy, one tries to propose distinctions within other traditional religions, for example between ''traditional'' Buddhism and certain other movements of Buddhist origin, or which use Buddhist symbology, categorized as ''new religious movements'' or ''cults''.

Counter-cult movements often accuse sociologists of making the same mistake as the anti-cult movements, that is, ignoring the qualitative elements. Here there is a misunderstanding. Certainly, the sociologist - as such - has no right to make judgements of a theological order. But she or he is not at all uninterested in the doctrine of the movements, and can rightly use the doctrine (together with other factors) to put forward typologies. In fact, almost all typologies of a sociological order, in order to distinguish the ''new religious movements'' from the traditional Churches and religious currents, consider doctrinal elements as having primary importance. Without passing judgement on the theological value of the content, sociologists are also interested in the content of the doctrinal consensus within a certain tradition (for example, Christianity) to categorize as ''new religious movements'' those groups which fall outside of this consensus. All this does not at all mean that sociologists are in agreement on whether a particular group should be included or excluded from the category of ''new  religious movements''. If the point of reference is the consensus of Christian tradition, it is certain that the Unification Church, for example, is a ''new religious movement'' (even though ''a new religious movement of Christian origin''). But what about Pentecostalism? Or indeed, should one distinguish several different currents within Pentecostalism?

The official documents of the Catholic Church show, on this point, an interesting evolution. In the provisional report of 1986 of four secretariats of the Vatican the word ''cult'' was used quite often, and the typical quantitative criteria of the anti-cult movements were also mentioned (alongside, it must be said, some qualitative elements). After five years, in the General Report, signed by Cardinal Arinze, to the Extraordinary Consistory of 1991, one could see a preference for the expression ''new religious movements'' rather than ''cults'', and for qualitative criteria. To evaluate these latter, a somewhat elaborate typology was proposed, making a distinction between the ''new religious movements of Christian origin'' (like the Jehovah's Witnesses or the Mormons) and the ''new religious movements of Protestant origin'', closer to the Protestant consensus but corresponding to the later historical waves of Protestantism, still in a state of flux (for example, Pentecostal movements - especially of latter generations - and neo-fundamentalists)6. The document of 1991 also seemed to acknowledge the fact that the movements, not surprisingly, move, and can evolve from one generation to the next and even modify important points of doctrine, for example by changing from ''new religious movements of Christian origin'' to ''new religious movements of Protestant origin'' and even to denominations. The history of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church would be interesting to study, for example, from this point of view.

One must also realise that we are witnessing here fairly important new developments in the Catholic world. For several decades - before and after the Second Vatican Council - one continued to call all non-Catholic religions ''cults'', including for example Islam or Hinduism. It is still common to hear used in Catholic circles, especially in Latin America, the expression ''Protestant cult'' referring not only to Pentecostalism but also to any other form of Protestantism. In that same Consistory of 1991, a Mexican Cardinal could be heard categorising Baptists as a ''cult'', though they form the largest relative majority within classical Protestantism (i.e. not Pentecostal) in North America, and include among their members the current President and Vice-President of the United States7. At the same time, the Catholic Church suffers from the same terminology among Evangelical Protestants (by ''Evangelical Protestantism'' I mean, following the current usage in the USA, the ensemble of denominations which do not belong to the Ecumenical Council of Churches and which consider this organism as too ''liberal''; a minority in Europe, Evangelical Protestantism is very much the majority compared to ''ecumenical'' Protestantism in both North and Latin America). And as Evangelicals and Catholics have several common positions - notably in moral matters and in their opposition to abortion - in 1994 several Evangelical leaders and certain Catholic intellectuals signed a common document (Evangelicals and Catholics Together), which caused quite a stir in the United States8. This document provoked some very strong reactions, and certain leaders of the Evangelical world felt obliged to publish a statement explaining that their signing of it did not mean that their historical differences with Roman Catholicism had subsided. It caused a lively debate within certain Fundamentalist fringes of the Evangelical world on the question whether the Catholic Church is really a genuine Christian Church or a “cult”, and - in this latter case - if it is a Christian cult or rather a non-Christian one. I o read this debate within the Evangelical world  by adopting the distinction - equally common in the USA - between a more moderate Evangelical current, and a Fundamentalist, more extremist one: in this latter case, for many there is almost no doubt that the Catholic Church is a cult. The debate which followed the 1994 document showed that, while there are leaders in the Evangelical world who are ready to begin a dialogue with the Church of Rome, for many others the Catholic Church remains a ''cult'', and for some the Church of Rome does not even form part of Christianity. These are not necessarily fanatics or tele-evangelists armed with a doubtful theology, some of whom are known for their anti-Catholic tirades. A normally moderate and influential Evangelical, John MacArthur, insisted after the 1994 document that the Church of Rome is truly a non-Christian ''cult'', or at least “sect”, and that there are all sorts of theological reasons for not even considering it a Church or a legitimate part of Christianity9. While in France a debate to clarify whether the Catholic Church is in fact a Church or a cult (“une secte”), and if it is Christian or non-Christian, might force a smile, things are very much different in certain American circles, which only goes to show the somewhat geographical relativisation of the use of the word ''cult''.


2. ''Catholic cults"?

Especially recently the word ''cult'' has been used to refer to certain groups and movements which are to be found - or at least said to be found - inside the Catholic Church. The use of the word ''cult'' could come either from opponents within the Catholic Church, or from the secular anti-cult movement (in the latter case, the Catholic Church or ''the Vatican'' would easily be attacked for ''tolerating'' cults within its ranks). The phenomenon is more important than it might seem at first sight. One can, in fact, distinguish three types of movements which claim to be within the bosom of the Catholic Church, and which are classed by some others as ''cults'' (or, more rarely, as ''new religious movements'').

a) There are, first of all, some schismatic groups which have established their own parallel hierarchy and which have been denounced by the authorities of Rome. On the ''right'', there is the Society of St Pius X founded by Mgr Marcel Lefebvre, and the ''Sedevacantist'' groups (even more ''to the right'', so to speak). The latter do not recognize John Paul II as ''true'' Pope (differing in this from the Society of St Pius X which, allowing for nuances of opinion within this group, recognizes him as Pope while maintaining that he is currently leading or keeping the Church along heretical lines). These groups do not consider themselves at all schismatic - they think, on the contrary, that they make up the ''faithful remnant'' of the true Catholic Church - but from a sociological point of view, their parallel hierarchy and the split from Rome allows one to distinguish them clearly from the world of Catholic organisations. The same applies, on the left, to certain ''homosexual churches'' in the USA where priests who have been suspended a divinis for their avowed and proclaimed homosexuality continue to celebrate Mass (or ''alternative'' rites), and to the ''Creation Spirituality'' movement founded by the ex-Dominican priest Matthew Fox. Although, in 1994, he formally left the Roman Catholic Church, several of his followers continue to consider themselves Catholics, although denounced by Rome. The rituals of this group - while having some elements in common with the Catholic Mass - are yet somewhat original. Even among the followers of certain private revelations or apparitions not recognized by the hierarchy, there are some cases where the rupture with Rome is manifest, and a parallel hierarchy has been created: such is the case of the Church of the New Jerusalem (later Church Universal Soul), founded in Leini (near Turin) by Roberto Casarin, who teaches, for example, the doctrine of reincarnation and confers the priesthood on women. In all these cases, there is at least one clear point: there has been a break with Rome, a creation of an alternative hierarchy, and therefore a distinction on the administrative and sociological level with regards to the organisation of the Catholic Church, to which these groups do not belong (whether they declare it very openly, like Roberto Casarin of the Universal Soul, or whether they do not admit it, like the Sedevacantists, does not really matter). Even some conservative Catholic authors10 consider these groups as ''cults'' and willingly group them with movements like the Reverend Moon's Unification Church. In the works which attack these movements there is often a sliding from qualitative criteria (which would in this case, in fact, suffice to recognize them as being outside the Catholic fold) to the quantitative criteria typical of the anti-cult movement (some would speak, for example, of the submission to leaders and of the importance of the economic contributions demanded). It is obvious that here one is outside of the administrative and sociological structure of the Catholic Church. Especially for the most ardent defenders of tradition it seems paradoxical to speak of ''new religious movements''. Yet - if one understands this phrase in its widest sense, and always prefers to avoid the derogatory word ''cult'' - just as the Consistory of 1991 speaks of ''new religious movements of Protestant origin'' one could perhaps speak of ''new religious movements of Catholic origin''. Of Catholic origin, but in the end having left the Church as a result of a schism, avowed or not. 

b) A second and different category covers those groups which are attacked as ''cults'' by a certain literature, and perhaps by some Bishops as well, but have not clearly been declared as non-Catholics by Rome. One could talk here of a situation of marginalisation, in the sense that these groups have been denounced by the authorities of the Catholic Church, at a diocesan level or even from Rome, for particular stances, or have lost (or never received) an official canonical status, but their leaders have never been excommunicated (as has often been the case for the groups of the first category). They have not created a parallel hierarchy and have not introduced doctrines which are substantially different from contemporary Catholic consensus (which clearly allows for important differences of opinion, as is shown by disagreements between theologians). In this second category fall, for example: the Opus Angelorum, very important in German speaking countries (which has been the object of Vatican censure for its somewhat esoteric doctrines about angels, without however being condemned in any global way); the Army of Mary in Quebec and elsewhere (which has lost its status as a formally recognised pious association in Canada, but which after this measure by the Canadian church authorities, has seen its seminarians ordained as priests and take up various ministries in Italy: two works by a lay member of this movement have been declared by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to contain certain errors, and have been withdrawn from sale by the movement, but the fundamental texts of the foundress Marie-Paule Giguère have not been condemned so far). At a more political level, there is the case of the Brazilian and international movement Tradition Family Property (TFP), often attacked as a ''cult'' in France - following some very complicated affair in connection with its private school - whose main difference with the Brazilian hierarchy is however political. The Brazilian Catholic hierarchy has been systematically in favour of projects of agrarian reform which the TFP has violently condemned as going against the social teaching of the Church (and added to this the very anti-communist general attitude of TFP has led it into very strong confrontation with Bishops favourable to Liberation Theology). In these cases the critics who speak of ''cults'' refer once again to criteria of a quantitative order (''cult'' of the leaders, financial contributions, non-democratic structure), without realising that dozens of movements with similar ''quantitative'' characteristics are not however in a situation of marginalisation having had no reason to enter into confrontation with particular church authorities either in matters of private revelations (as happened with the Army of Mary and the Opus Angelorum and dozens of other organisations born from private revelations denounced by the ecclesiastical authorities) or of politics (as occurs with TFP, whose future is however hard to foresee after the death of its founder Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira in 1995). From a qualitative point of view, one could not speak of ''new religious movements''. These are not movements located outside of the administrative structure of the Catholic Church (whose services their members in the main continue to frequent, unless they have been excluded by a particular local authority) and no alternative hierarchy has been created. To classify a particular movement, the sociologist has no need to accept the decisions and even less the simple opinions of certain authorities within the Church: a whole examination of the psychological and sociological state of the members of the movement (without forgetting, obviously, its doctrine) is required. Rather than ''new religious movements'' it would seem preferable to speak here of Catholic movements in a situation of marginalisation. Of course, this situation of marginalisation could evolve in two directions: either into full integration within the socio-administrative structure of the Catholic Church, or into a rupture and creation of a genuine ''new religious movement of Catholic origin''. The attitude of the second generation, after the death of the founder or foundress, is normally very significant in this regard. 

c) Finally, there is the case where movements (or organisations which are not technically movements) are attacked as ''cults'' by circles within or outside of the Catholic Church, though the hierarchy recognises them as perfectly legitimate organisations and even defends them (while recommending perhaps certain corrections or additions to their way of acting to reduce the possibility of controversy). The most interesting examples here are Charismatic Renewal (and in particular some large “Covenant” communities born within the Renewal, especially in the United States and in France) and Opus Dei. It is interesting to note that these two Catholic realities - which are beyond any shadow of a doubt approved by the hierarchy and fully integrated within the socio-administrative structure of Catholicism - are attacked as ''cults' both from the ''right'' and from the ''left''.  Originally attacks on Charismatic communities - and on the Renewal in general - came from a conservative Catholic sector which characterised them as ''cults'' drawing their spirituality from Pentecostal Protestantism. This attitude is still common among the St Pius X Society, the Army of Mary, and other groups which - using more or less widely the word ''cult'' - have strongly attacked Charismatic communities11. Very recently, groups linked to Monsignor Lefbvre - and also to Sedevacantism - in France and Italy have begun to attack Opus Dei using arguments drawn from sociological literature (of quite a different origin) - for example the works of J. Estruch - which propose neoWweberian analyses of the work ethic of Opus Dei approximating it more or less to the ascetical Protestant work ethic studied by Max Weber12. In these circles one quotes Max Weber, normally without having read too much of him. Otherwise one would realise that for the German sociologist the spirit of capitalism is in a situation of ''elective affinity'' with a puritan ethic which stems from anguish in the face of the doctrine of predestination and interprets success in work as a sign of positive predestination. But the work ethic of Opus Dei is quite the opposite - and its theology particularly anti-Protestant, as Estruch himself points out - since it is obviously unaffected by the anguish of a belief in predestination, and links sanctification to serious commitment to work and not to its success as does Weber's Puritans. The difference is considerable. More recently, the attack using the label of “cults” against the Charismatic communities and Opus Dei comes especially from the ''left'', and principally from non-Catholic ''anti-cult'' movements. To limit ourselves for the moment to Opus Dei, its characterisation as a ''cult'' seems to arise - if one does not want to go back to early opposition in Spain among Jesuit circles only a few years after its foundation - to the writings of the American journalist Penny Lernoux (1940-1989), specialist in Latin-American affairs and known for her militant support of Liberation Theology, to the Spanish sociologist Alberto Moncada and to Maria del Carmen Tapia, who works in the administration of the University of California at Santa Barbara (the two latter are former members of Opus Dei) 13. One could add in France Father Jacques Trouslard - who works often with anti-cult organisations -, in England the writer (and ex-Jesuit) Michael Walsh14, and in the USA the anti-cult activist Joseph Garvey and the Dominican father Kent Burtner. What is interesting is that these people, from the end of 1986, have made contact with anti-cult movements such as the Cult Awareness Network (CAN) in the USA (the world's largest anti-cult organisation, but now threatened with bankruptcy after a legal defeat following the ''deprogramming'' of a member of a Pentecostal church), the ADFI in France, the AIS and the CROAS in Spain. In the wake of these contacts one can notice an interesting shift in the language of the attacks made against Opus Dei as a ''cult''. In a first moment authors such as Walsh, Lernoux, Moncada attack Opus Dei on the basis of totally different political, theological and spiritual options (therefore of qualitative criteria). After their contact with (or one could say integration into) the anti-cult movement, the language changes. In a work distributed by ADFI Father Trouslard affirms for example that ''it is not a question of doctrines or beliefs'' but only of behaviour (the very mark of the secular anti-cult movements) and that the ''cultic characteristics'' of Opus Dei are, for example, ''indoctrination by intensive courses'', ''infiltration into all spheres of social life'', ''exaggerated proselytization'', ''the presence of screens common to cults such as camps, trips away, spectacles, schools'' 15. One could find similar examples in the language of other enemies of Opus Dei, with particular violence in Spain. For example to denounce Opus Dei as a ''Catholic cult'', Alberto Moncada speaks no less of ''spiritual molesting'' for the way young students within Opus Dei are formed by older teachers and he repeats that Opus Dei is a ''cult'' because it practises ''indoctrination'' and the manipulation of the personality of its ''adherents'' ''to the point of schizophrenia''. Opus Dei merits then ''to be included on the list of dangerous cults, also for children''16. They do not seem to fear ridicule when - in a book divulged by the Spanish anti-cult movements AIS and CROAS - Javier Ropero accuses Opus Dei of being able to practise long-distance ''brain-washing'' without direct contact with the ''victim'', by a type of ''telepathic suggestion''. The ''secret'' of this long-distance mental manipulation would seem to be in the use of the discipline: according to Ropero the Opus Dei member ''when he flagellates himself, enters into a state of adrenaline favourable to telepathic emission''17. In the face of such texts it is no surprise that the Archbishopric of Barcelona decided, by an official note of 2nd June 1995, to distance itself from AIS and CROAS and their anti-cult campaigns, mentioning specifically its attacks on Opus Dei, ''an institution which is fully recognised and approved by the ecclesiastical hierarchy''18. Many of those who take part in this polemic do not appreciate the structure of Opus Dei, whose present configuration has been approved by the Church after a complex canonical process. Opus Dei is neither a movement nor a religious congregation. In 1982 - after it had been sheltered, not without problems, within the framework of a secular institute - it became the first (and for the moment the only) personal prelature of the Catholic Church. The personal prelature is a type of non-territorial diocese, to which its members associate themselves to receive spiritual guidance, while in all other aspects they remain under the jurisdiction of the diocesan bishop. One enters Opus Dei - which is presented as a ''vocation'' within the Church - by means of a contract, which unites each of the faithful to the Prelature, and which cannot be confused with the vows of a religious. It is normal that - taking into account the great variety of theological, spiritual and socio-political outlooks within the modern Church - there will be people who are not in agreement with the approach of Opus Dei - or of the Charismatic Renewal or of any other group, be it classified as ''integrist'' or ''progressive'', as ''right'' or ''left''. In the case of Opus Dei the structure of personal prelature places it at the very heart of the socio-administrative organisation of the Catholic Church. Even for Charismatic Renewal, approval by the Roman hierarchy (which gives at times directives to correct certain tendencies or to make important points) is not substantially in doubt. The application of the label ''cult'' comes then either from the simple use of quantitative criteria, or from the purely political desire to use a particularly derogatory classification against an adversary considered as dangerous. But it is obvious that - if one uses quantitative elements or if one labels as ''cults'' groups whose spirituality one does not like - one can find ''cults'' basically everywhere (and one could include among them the Catholic Church in its totality, a view commonly held, as we have already seen, among some Evangelical Protestant authors, even of non-Fundamentalist tendency).

In conclusion, we can perhaps draw some lessons from the use of the word ''cult'' to stigmatise certain movements found undoubtedly within the bosom of the Catholic Church (or, in other cases, groups in a situation of marginalisation):

- first of all, the bitterness of the polemic underscores once more the importance, especially in academic circles, of not using the word ''cult'' or of substituting it with some less emotionally charged expression, such as ''new religious movements'';

- one should also be very suspicious of using quantitative criteria to distinguish between ''legitimate'' religious groups and ''cults''; the fact is that, by adopting quantitative criteria, one can, according to one's personal preferences, categorise just about any religious group as a ''cult'';

- the sociologist is obviously not obliged to accept the decisions of the Church authorities to classify a group or movement which presents itself as Catholic as a ''new religious movement''; a group which the Church has sanctioned can continue to exist within the Church, even if in a state of marginalisation. However, the sociologist cannot completely ignore - in the case of groups within Catholicism - the decisions of the Church authorities, because very often they determine the subsequent manner of acting of the groups in question;

- even when applying qualitative criteria in order to classify certain groups into the category of ''new religious movements'', one must be very wary of second-hand accounts of their doctrine (often produced by opponents of the group) and together with an examination of their beliefs one should study the psychological, sociological and administrative situation of the members. When a group is fully integrated within the normal and day-to-day socio-administrative structure of a denomination or church (be it Catholic, Orthodox or Protestant), one can certainly point out any unpleasant aspects it might have, or explain what, for whatever reason, one does not like about the movement, but to speak of ''new religious movements'' or of ''cults'' only serves to exacerbate the controversy, and to make a mockery of concepts such as ''new religious movement'', which deserve to be limited to a precise scientific and sociological usage.

[1] See my ''Nel paese del punto esclamativo: 'sette', 'culti', 'pseudo-religioni', 'nuove religioni'?'',      Studia Missionalia 41 (1992), pp. 1-26.

2 Remarks (unpublished) to 1995 conference of the ASR, Washington, D.C

3 See, for these problems, Eileen Barker, ''The Scientific Study of Religion? You Must Be Joking!'', Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, vol. 34, no.3, September 1995, pp.287-310.

4 See, again, my ''Nel paese del punto esclamativo''.

5 See my ''L'évolution du mouvement 'contre les sectes' chrétien. 1978-1993'', Social Compass, vol.42, no.2, June 1995, pp.237-247.

6 Francis Arinze, La sfida delle Sette o nuovi movimenti religiosi: un approccio pastorale, Pontificio Consiglio per il Dialogo Inter-Religioso, Roma 1991. Regarding Card. Arinze's text it is important to refer back to the complete text, rather than to the summary published in the Osservatore Romano of 6th April 1991, which is normally quoted and which is not enough to get across the document's general approach.

7 Remark by Card. Ernesto Corripio Ahumada, ''North America'', L'Osservatore Romano, 6th April 1991, p. 5.

8  See Keith A. Fournier - William D. Watkins, A House United? Evangelicals and Catholics Together, Navpress, Colorado Springs (Colorado), 1994.

9  See John F. MacArthur, Reckless Faith: When the Church Loses its Will to Discern, Crossway, Wheaton (Illinois) 1995. 

10 See for example Thomas W. Case, Mind-Forged Manacles: Cults and Spiritual Bondage, Fidelity Press, South Bend (Indiana) 1993.

11 As has a conservative Catholic author: T.W. Case, op. cit., pp.253-264.

12 The neo-Weberian analysis of Opus Dei is found especially in Joan Estruch, Saints and Sinners. Opus Dei and its Paradoxes, English edition, Oxford University Press, Oxford-New York 1995, where the approximation with the ascetical Protestant ethic is put forward in a prudent manner taking into account obvious differences. A certain Catholic traditionalism has taken up the theme in a violent and aggressive way: see for example Arnaud de Lassus, L'Opus Dei. Textes et documents, L'Action Familiale et Scolaire, Paris s.d.; Nicolas Dehan, ''Un étrange phenomène pastoral: l'Opus Dei, in Jean-Jacques Marziac (dir.), Un grand convertisseur du xxe siècle. Le Père Francois de Paule Vallet, Fondateur des Pères C.P.C.R., Maisons d'Exercises Spirituels St Joseph, Caussade 1995, pp.333-361; Giulio Maria Tam, La Pseudo-Restauration, Les Amis de saint François de Sales, Sion 1995. On the dangers of neo-Weberian analyses which do not take into account the most recent historiography of Puritanism and Calvinism see Hartmut-Lehmann - Guenter Roth (dirs.), Weber's Protestant Ethic. Origins, Evidence, Contexts, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge-New York 1993.

13 Cfr. Penny Lernoux, People of God. The Struggle for World Catholicism, Viking, New York 1989; Alberto Moncada, Historia oral del Opus Dei, Plaza & Janes, Barcelona 1986; Maria del Carmen Tapia, Tras el umbral. Una vida en el Opus Dei, 2nd ed., Ediciones B, Barcelona 1994.

14 Cfr. Michael Walsh, The Secret World of Opus Dei, Grafton Books, London 1989.

15 Statement by Father Trouslard in Bernard Fillaire, Le Grand Décervelage, Plon, Paris 1993, pp.189-190.

16 Alberto Moncada, Sectas católicas, el Opus Dei, communication to the International Congress Totalitarian Groups and Cultism, Barcelona, 23-24 April 1993, typed copy, p.5.

17 Javier Ropero, Hijos en el Opus Dei, Ediciones B, Barcelona 1993, p.226 and 256.

18 Nota de l'Arquebisbat de Barcelona, 2nd June 1995. The note criticizes particularly the volume of AIS and CROAS, Totalitarismo y voracidad, una aproximación interdisciplinar al ''fénomeno sectario'' en Cataluña, directed by Aurelio Diaz, Editorial AIS, Barcelona 1994.