Separated brethren

Other Names:
Separated religious brethren

Separated brethren is a term sometimes used by the Roman Catholic Church and its clergy and members to refer to baptized members of other Christian traditions.Also applied to Christians of the Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox churches. The phrase is a translation of the Latin phrase fratres seiuncti.

Before the Second Vatican Council, per the pronouncements of the Council of Trent, the Roman Catholic Church officially referred to Protestants and other non-Roman Catholic Christians as "heretics" likely not having hope of salvation outside of the "Church of Rome". However, Biblical passages like Romans 2:12-16 point to the importance of conscience in Catholic soteriology, which the Church has always recognized. In c. 1960 – c. 1962 preparation work for draft texts of Second Vatican Council documents, a "report urged respectful use of the terms dissidents or separated brethren, in place of heretics and schismatics." After the Second Vatican Council, however, "that habit of unthinkingly hurling accusations of heresy at Protestants pretty much died out". Since at least the mid-1990s, the term has often been replaced by Roman Catholic officials with phrases such as "other Christians".

At least one Roman Catholic writer does not consider Mormons and members of some other religious groups to be separated brethren. Among the groups not considered to be separated brethren are "Jews, Mormons, Christian Scientists, Muslims, Buddhists, and other groups." By the 21st century, within the Roman Catholic faith, Jews are described as and considered elder brothers in the faith.

It follows that these separated Churches and Communities, though we believe that they suffer from defects, have by no means been deprived of significance and value in the mystery of salvation. For the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as means of salvation which derive their efficacy from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Catholic Church". Even so, the Catholic Church does not forget that many among her members cause God's plan to be discernible only with difficulty. Speaking of the lack of unity among Christians, the Decree on Ecumenism does not ignore the fact that "people of both sides were to blame",13 and acknowledges that responsibility cannot be attributed only to the "other side". By God's grace, however, neither what belongs to the structure of the Church of Christ nor that communion which still exists with the other Churches and Ecclesial Communities has been destroyed. (Papal Encyclical, Ut Unum Sint, 25 May 1995).
Broader Problems:
Religious schism
Related Problems:
Separation of family members
Problem Type:
F: Fuzzy exceptional problems
Date of last update
28.04.1999 – 00:00 CEST