Etymologically the word sect seems to come from the verb secare (to cut), and in this case, it would mean currency ab aliis (separated from the others), or from the verb sequi (follow ), in which case it would signify adherence to the teachings of some teacher or from some institution.

In both senses, it can be applied to numerous groups that, following the theories of some singular person, are organized with more or less fanaticism for political, religious, etc. issues.

Its use is more frequent in the religious field, and in this sense, it is spoken of a sect, like of groups that separate of the traditional feeling to follow the doctrine of some innovator. In this way, you can find sects that have split off from Christianity or from other religions. In the Christian camp, the sect supposes its dismemberment of one of the Protestant confessions

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Algermissen describes them as follows: “A sect is a religious community considered as Christian because of its faith in Christ and its acceptance of the Bible as a source of revealed truth, but at the same time, it lacks certain inseparable characteristics of the true Church of Christ”. Strictly speaking, the great majority of so-called “Christian” sects accept neither the Trinity of Persons in God nor the divinity of Jesus Christ, so they are not Christian.


In the first place and taking into account the general meaning of the word sect, we can divide these groups into two main branches: sects of Christian origin and sects of pagan origin.

The following chart helps to clarify the various ramifications that have arisen subsequently:

1. Groups of Christian Origin
1.1. Fundamentalist Sects Assemblies of God
Evangelical Groups Pentecostal Groups
1.2. Groups for Christians Mormons Jehovah Witnesses
2. Groups of Pagan Origin
2.1. Esoteric groups Rosicrucians
2.2. Groups of Hindu origin Hare Krishna
Mission of the Divine Light
Ananda Marga
2.3. Groups derived from other Eastern religions Baha’i
Seicho No IĆ©
2.4. Syncretic groups Afro-Brazilian religions Secta Moon

We find other classifications such as ETClark, which divides them into:

  1. Adventists or pessimists(Adventism, Jehovah’s Witnesses)
  2. Subjective perfectionists(Methodism, Nazarenes, sects of holiness).
  3. Charismatic (the whole range of Pentecostals).
  4. Communitarian (sometimes called communists for their attempt to return to what they believe to be primitive Christianity (Shakers).
  5. Objectivists or jurists (Mormons).
  6. Egocentric(the Christian Center)
  7. Esoteric and mystical, in general non-Christians Rosicrucian, Masonic.

Peter Berg distinguishes them from the point of view of religious experience:

  1. Sects of a prophetic nature, with a message that must be proclaimed to the world (Adventists, witnesses).
  2. Sects of enthusiastic type or lived experience (Pentecostals).
  3. Sects of Gnostic character with a message to reveal, what would happen between organizations that preach health or those influenced by Hindu and spiritualistic theories

General Thought Line

Although it is difficult to discover a line of common contents in all of them, it is possible to trace their general trend.

  •  In these movements, salvation is usually considered as something exclusive of a minority group, guided by superior personalities, who believe they have a privileged relationship with a God, whose secrets they only want to know. The search for the sacred also presents ambiguous contours. For some it is a higher value, towards which man tends without ever being able to reach it; for others, however, it is located in the world of magic, and they seek to attract it to their own sphere to manipulate it and reduce it to their own service. ( Message of His Holiness John Paul II, in the World Day of the Emigrant, 1990).
  •  Expectation of an imminent wonderful change, whether collective or individual: collective change or that affects humanity, such as the “New Order” of Freemasonry, for example; or catastrophic nuclear war, the end of each cosmic cycle (Hindu, Buddhist sects) and, more frequently, the apocalyptic end of the world: Jehovah’s Witnesses ( 1914 , 1925 , 1975;), Seventh-day Adventists (1843; March, April 18 and October 22, 1884), the Children of God, now called The Family, (1993), Rama Mission (between 1975 and the year 2000), Edelweis (1992), Universal Church of God (1936, 1947, 1972, 1975), etc. The wonderful individual change is usually the aspiration of the sects cataloged as “desacralized, esoteric, etc. “: Freemasonry, New Acropolis, New Age, Gnosticism, etc. The transformation of” man “into” Superman “is the express objective of some sects, like New Acropolis, of its doctrinal deficiencies. is that, as each one must act in accordance with his conscience, whoever believes himself to be ” Superman ” cannot look with commiseration at the mere ” men “, to whom he will force to accept his desires of giftedness, of degree or force.

Regarding the sects of Christian origin:

  •  They completely ignore the Tradition and the Magisterium of the Church in the interpretation of the Sacred Scriptures. Hence, its reading is fundamentalist and they argue with the biblical text in a clearly literal way, totally ignoring the intimate relationship between the Church as the recipient of Revelation and the Sacred Text.
  • They are totally unaware of the existence of the apostolic succession, and therefore of a hierarchical Church of divine institution, rejecting the Primate of the Pope. Simultaneously they lack a sacramental structure, an ordained priesthood of Divine Institution, and therefore of the Eucharist as the Real Presence of Christ. They reject the existence of the sacrament of Penance with confession, and if in some cases they admit a “forgiveness of sins”, this is given to the Protestant style, in the subjectivity of personal prayer.
  •  El Baptism is reduced to a simple ritual of public acceptance of Christ as Savior and joining the group; they reject the Baptism of children, and in general, they repeat the Baptism to all those who have been baptized outside the group.
  •  They reject the Virginity of the Blessed Mother of God and the veneration of the Saints.
  •  For fear of being contaminated by ideas or customs, they make island groups.
  •  An obsessive attack on the Catholic Church and its representatives.

The confessions that have generated the greatest number of sects have been the Methodist, Anglican, Presbyterian, Baptist and Congregationalist.

Causes of the origin of the sects

Perhaps the most important is that which comes from one of the most important principles of Protestantism and is the principle of Scripture alone, and, above all, its anthropocentric radicalization in a free examination. The free interpretation of doubts to different ideologies or points of view without a central axis that coordinates or bases the movement.

            We can also say that the sects are the result of the opposition of the dissenting groups, the antagonism can have different roots: either the official confession deals with hardness and abandons large sectors of the community, or it is some particular groups of this which, accusing it of deviations, in this way cause the split.

On other occasions the origin is in some enlightened, sometimes impostor, sometimes with a willingness to live a sincere religiousness, that lacking information and knowledge of Revelation creates groups of followers who do not know anything else better. Its founders were baptized and were active members of some of them. By separating these groups take many beliefs and liturgical practices that will then be transformed.

Advancement of the sects

  •  The weak points on which the new religious movements are based are instability and uncertainty.

 They base their approach strategy on them. It is a set of attention and services provided to make, for example, the emigrant abandon his faith and adhere to a new religious proposal. Presenting themselves as the sole holders of the truth, they affirm the falsehood of the religion that the emigrant professes and they ask him to give a brusque and immediate change of route. It is, of course, a true moral aggression, from which it is not easy to escape with good manners because their ardor and insistence are oppressive.

  •  Another cause is a stagnation in reception within the ecclesial communities and failures in appropriate catechesis, especially for adults and in preference in the poorest and most forgotten sectors of society.
  •  Another reason that can lead to accepting the propositions of these new religious movements is the lack of coherence with which some baptized live their Christian commitment, and also the desire for a more fervent religious life, which is expected to be experienced in a certain sect when the community that is frequented is not very committed

It is precisely these multitudes that preserve the faith of their baptism but probably weakened by the ignorance of religious truths and by a certain ecclesial ‘marginality’, the most vulnerable to the fight against secularism and the proselytism of sects.

Words of the Holy Father, the Shepherd of the sheep …

No one, like the Holy Father John Paul II, has been able to openly denounce the danger of these groups, above all, it is the voice of the neediest, who is the target of attack by the sects:

“The teachings of the sects and new religious movements are opposed to the doctrine of the Catholic Church, therefore, adherence to them means denying the faith in which you have been baptized and educated.” The Gospel, while exhorting us To be simple like doves, he also invites us to be prudent and clever as serpents, the same vigilance that you put when your material affairs are at stake, in order not to be victims of the deceptions of those who want to take advantage of you, must guide you to Do not fall into the network of the snares of those who attempt against your faith.

“See that no one deceives you,” the Lord warns us. Many will come by usurping my name and saying ‘I am’, and will deceive many … If anyone says to you, ‘Look, the Christ here.’ ‘Look at him there’, do not believe him. For false prophets will arise “(Mk 13: 6, 21-22), and he also tells us:” Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inside they are ravenous wolves. By their fruits, you will know them “(Mt 7, 15-16).

‘Stand firm in faith, be men, be strong’ (1 Cor 16,13). The exhortation of the Apostle Paul is an echo of the Lord’s words that invite us to build our own existence on the solid rock that is himself. Jesus, Son of God, assures us salvation. Only those who are firmly rooted in it can bear fruit that resists the erosion of all fashions, including those of religious sects.

Gratitude towards the gift of God manifested through the response of a coherent Christian life, draws upon you other gifts of communion with him and of perseverance in your faithful Christian commitment. ‘He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him ‘(Jn 14,21) and’ everyone who has will be given and will have plenty ‘(Mt 25,29).

We Christians have to be able to denounce and uncover the deceptions of these groups, certainly an active and committed participation in our ecclesial communities will help enormously, but above all the testimony of a Christian Life will bring back those who left Mother Church and it will be a break for those who think to leave it, the words convince … It says a famous saying but the example drags.