A Mariavite priestess

A cult or sect is not to be confused with cultus (worship),[1] such as the cult of the Virgin Mary.[2] Cults or sects are "sociological phenomenon",[3] and it is these groups which the Catechism of the Catholic Church refers to when it says: ...also in certain recent sects which base themselves on such "revelations".[4]



An example of a cult is the Mariavites or Mystical Priests of Poland. This cult started as a group of priests who followed Maria Francesca, an alleged seer who claimed to be the Virgin Mary and who commanded her followers to spread piety and denounce anyone that doubted her holiness and divine election.[5] Eventually, the Mariavites committed schism.[6]

Legion of ChristEdit

Another example of a cult is the Legion of Christ or Legionaries of Christ. This cult centered around Fr. Marcial Maciel, who founded a congregation (the Legion)[7] to fund his extravagance and to keep his sexual abuse of minors a secret from the Catholic Church. He used Bl. John Paul II and his approval of the Legion[8] to disprove those who called him a false prophet, to win favor in the Church, and to make himself appear like a living saint. At the hour of Maciel's death, when he refused to receive the sacraments, everything about his life was made known to the Church, and a number of priests left the congregation.[9]

Religious EducationEdit

The Church teaches that, in the absence of religious education and knowledge of certain parts of the Faith, superstitions, magical tendencies, sects and false prophets can arise.[10]

Superstition and MagicEdit

Some examples of superstitions and magical tendencies include the belief that the Nine First Fridays guarantee salvation[11] and the practice of wearing a scapular to ward off evil.[12]

Sects and False ProphetsEdit

Besides the aforementioned sects and false prophets, other examples of sects and false prophets include Jonestown[13] and Marshall Applewhite.[14]


  2. Marialis Cultus
  3. A Christian Reflection on the New Age Cf. Michel Lacroix, L'Ideologia della New Age, Milano (il Saggiatore) 1998, p. 86. The word “sect” is used here not in any pejorative sense, but rather to denote a sociological phenomenon.
  4. Catechism: There will be no further Revelation Christian faith cannot accept "revelations" that claim to surpass or correct the Revelation of which Christ is the fulfillment, as is the case in certain non-Christian religions and also in certain recent sects which base themselves on such "revelations".
  5. Tribus Circiter "That Maria Francesca (the woman mentioned above) has been made most holy by God, that she is the mother of mercy for all men called and elected to salvation by God in these days; and that all Mariavite priests are commanded by God to promote throughout the world devotion to the Most Holy Sacrament and to the Blessed Virgin Mary of Perpetual Succor, free from all restriction of ecclesiastical or human law or custom, and from all ecclesiastical and human power whatsoever. . ."
  6. Mariavite Church
  7. The Legion of Christ
  9. Marcial Maciel
  10. Where is Your God? Superstition and magical tendencies are the result of a lack of education. Ignorance of the essential contents of the faith favour the growth of sects and the appearance of false prophets. The differences between eternal life and the spirit world, transcendental meditation and Christian contemplation, miracles and faith-healing, the liturgical year and the ecological cycle need to be clearly explained and clearly grasped.
  11. Twelve Promises of the Sacred Heart "It must be borne in mind that this Promise does not afford an absolute certainty of salvation. It merely gives that confidence, which amounts to moral certainty." (Father Joseph McDonnell, S.J.)
  12. The Green Scapular (Note: This is an example of giving the Green Scapular magical tendencies) The devil has no power over whoever makes it, wears it or spreads devotion to it. All who wear the Green Scapular confirm to the evil one, that they are agents of the Mother of God and the devil knows he is powerless to hurt them. God wills the Green Scapular to become a badge . . . a most sure barrier to the evil one's assault upon the soul.
  13. Jonestown
  14. Marshall Applewhite