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I agree with Jon, it is a loaded term. As each individual has a reason why they may follow a church or sect that does not have the fullness of the faith, so too God and not us have the full knowledge of why. Even prior to Vatican II, the use of the term by the Church was technically applied to someone like Luther who started the Lutheran Movement, but those born into the Lutheran Faith where not termed as heretics, as they themselves did not start out as Catholics, and then reject the Faith. Most day to day people, Catholic or not, just go about their days with God as a part of it, (at least for an hour on Sunday) but not the focus of their day. They would not know what one Church teaches and how it differs from the next. There are some who do dedicate more time to God, and the Study of Scripture and the doctrines of their creed.
One of the unfortunate things we are seeing is a resurgence of Anti-Catholic polemics. There are quite a few individuals who make a good living off of writing Anti-Catholic tracts, books, speaking tours, and videos. They stir up some good church going people to believe that Catholics are not Christians, and need to be saved. They misquote the Catechism, and distort Catholic and Biblical teachings, recruiting there followers who buy their books, and videos, and pay for them to speak in their churches.
As an example there was an Anti-Catholic who used to quote John Henry Cardinal Newman, a former Anglican priest who became a Catholic, and as his name reveals became a Cardinal. Well Bottiner told people that Newman in his book. “Apologia pro vita sua” a book explaining why he became Catholic, that Newman wrote there was no reason for anyone to believe in the authority of the Pope, and the Catholic Bishops and priests where all corrupt. If someone had read the book they would have understood that what Cardinal Newman had really written was something like this. “When I was an Anglican I used to believe and wrote, “There is no reason for anyone to believe in the authority of the Pope, and the Catholic Bishops and priests where all corrupt.” But after investigating the issues myself, I now understand it to be the wrong position and recant what I have written in the past. Bottiner did not quote the entire text, just what supported his anti-Catholic position. This has caused many people in the past 80 or so years to believe that Cardinal Newman held a position that he did not. As they where misled, and don’t know it, they can hardly be held liable if nobody was around to correct their misconception.
All in all we have to be careful about judging other people when we don’t know the full extent of what they know, and how they learned it. What we can do is 1. Pray that all of us will one day be united, as our Lord seeing the divisions that would come prayed, “Ut unum sint” That they may all be one (united). 2. Do what you are doing here. Look for the answers, don’t just take an attack on the Catholic Church as being the correct position, but find out what the response is, or in the case of the Cardinal Newman quote, verify that something said is true. 3. Study the Faith, there are any number of good books, you may want to look at [url:1csuwlnk]http://www.scotthahn.com/[/url:1csuwlnk] He was an Anti-Catholic Protestant minister, one of a large group who became Catholic after they studied Catholic sources, in an effort to refute the Catholic Church. They where originally prompted by Anti-Catholic Liturature. Start with his “Apologia” Rome Sweet Home.