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Definition:   The determination by the Catholic Church of the eternal destiny of Catholics who leave the Church. Catholicism teaches that no one can be saved unless they belong to the Catholic Church. Vatican II significantly broadened the definition of who belongs to the Catholic Church. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church the following are members of the Roman Church: Catholics, Orthodox, Jews, Muslims, sincere non-Christians, and ignorant Protestants (a.k.a. “separated brethren”). Excluded from the Church (and thus destined for hell) are knowledgeable Protestants and ex-Catholics. “Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse to enter it or to remain in it” (CCC 846).

Discussion:  It is typical for religious cults to single out former members for persecution with threats of eternal punishment. This serves two purposes: 1) to keep those within the cult in fear (binding the members to the cult) and, 2) to promote the cult’s claim to be the unique source of truth. Rome displays many other attributes of a cult: an infallible leader, required submission to all teachings, extra-biblical sources of revelation, a false basis of salvation, esoteric secrets, low-paid clergy, financial exploitation, syncretism and trafficking in uncertainty.

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