I've been wondering for a while if there is a word (or concise phrase) that can be used to mean someone who is not Protestant. Something that specifically groups Catholics, and Eastern Rite followers (Orthodox churches). But hopefully that does not include such groups as the Mormons or Jehovah's Witnesses for example (which are not Protestant nor even trinitarian/monotheistic). Is there such a term? Is there one that does include these last two groups?

The obvious choice would be "non-Protestant", but is there a better term than this? Since, technically, atheists and Muslims are also non-Protestants.


In the comments, I propose a term that could convey that message, but that seems to be getting a different usage:

  • Patriarchal Churches

Which then makes me wonder if something like

  • Patriarchal Rite Churches

would be a good candidate to describe this grouping. I don't think I've ever heard of a Protestant denomination having a Pope or Patriarch. Even the hierarchical ones.

  • Good one. You couldn't even use "apostolic succession church" since some Protestant denominations claim to have valid apostolic succession. Jun 30, 2015 at 18:53
  • Would a definition of the group you're trying to find a word for be churches that claim an unbroken continuation of authority from the original Church? Jun 30, 2015 at 19:02
  • No. There is no such church or organization in existence. The term should describe churches that changed little to nothing in terms of belief and practice from those of the Roman Catholic Church. ie, you walk into a Baptist Church and you know you are not in a Catholic Church, but walk into a Greek Orthodox one, and you might not be able to tell the difference at all. Jun 30, 2015 at 19:09
  • Technically the word "Catholic" includes Orthodox churches and other tradition-based churches, but most people use the term casually to refer to the Roman Catholic Church. Jun 30, 2015 at 19:13
  • @Samuel it does? I've only ever seen it used to refer to the Catholic Church (of which the Latin Church is part). Jun 30, 2015 at 19:20

3 Answers 3


I believe the correct answer is that there is no such term that has attained any significant level of recognition.

That said, the largely unrecognised terms Ancient-rite Christians / Ancient-rite Churches may be suitable for what you are seeking although they wouldn't exclude Oriental Orthodoxy if that is an important distinction.

We could no doubt multiply potential alternatives eg. Pre-Reformation Churches, Apostolic Successionists, 7-Council Churches (Adherants of the Seven widely recognised Ecumenical Councils); but they are, in the main, no less problematic and considerably clumsier, including your suggestions of Patriarchal Churches / Patriarchal Rite Churches which could perhaps be viewed as technically descriptive, but are more likely to be confusing given the very different roles Patriarchates now play within the Traditions in question.

For almost any term you select, there will most likely be Traditions, sects or denominations that will challenge it's validity - eg. considering where the Czechoslovak Hussite Church fits in is always going to be problematic.


Orthodox Christian is the closest I can think of, but wouldnt necessarily include Catholics. Orthodox Christians differ from Protestants in a number of ways including Salvation.


  • 3
    Orthodox as used normally either applies to any subscriber of the Nicene creed (includes most Protestants as well as Catholics and Eastern Orthodox); or as shorthand for Eastern Orthodox (ie. not including Catholics) - either way, it doesn't fit what the OP is asking for. Jul 1, 2015 at 1:04

Protestants are those who protest the Catholic Church

In course of time the original connotation of "no toleration for Catholics" was lost sight of, and the term is now applied to, and accepted by, members of those Western Churches and sects which, in the sixteenth century, were set up by the Reformers in direct opposition to the Catholic Church. The same man may call himself Protestant or Reformed: the term Protestant lays more stress on antagonism to Rome; the term Reformed emphasizes adherence to any of the Reformers. Where religious indifference is prevalent, many will say they are Protestants, merely to signify that they are not Catholics. In some such vague, negative sense, the word stands in the new formula of the Declaration of Faith to be made by the King of England at his coronation; viz.: "I declare that I am a faithful Protestant". During the debates in Parliament it was observed that the proposed formula effectively debarred Catholics from the throne, whilst it committed the king to no particular creed, as no man knows what the creed of a faithful Protestant is or should be.

Catholic Encyclopedia - Protestantism

If a "faithful Protestant" like the Queen Elizabeth dropped her protest, she'd be dropping her protest not against Hinduism or Islam or the Orthodox Church, but the Pope and Catholicism.

So, I think, the question either means, a person who is not a Protestant is a Catholic or the question is kind of meaninglessness.

Also, the part about "reformed" from the Old Catholic Encyclopedia is apparently dated. Either that definition only applied to Catholic perceptions or it isn't true and only ever referred to Calvinists (or 5 people on this website are wrong, which hardly seems likely)

  • Well, I don't know - would one say that the Orthodox churches protest in any sense against the Catholic Church? It seems that's what was behind the Great Schism. Jul 1, 2015 at 18:11
  • 1
    Within Protestantism, "Reformed" means (basically) the same thing as "Calvinist" which is the complement to (ie, opposite of) "Arminian". So "Unreformed" would not mean what you think it should. Jul 1, 2015 at 23:51

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