Can a Catholic attend non-catholic services in good conscience?


#1

Hi,

I have seen many posts on this issue, but most seem to have some kind of presupposition of foul play.

Assuming that:
1. You are attending for the sake of a friend or loved one.
2. You are not looking for truth outside of the Catholic Church.
3. You do not receive protestant "communion".
4. There are no ulterior motives from your friend or loved one to convert you.
5. This is not replacing Mass.

Can a Catholic attend non-catholic services such as worship, choir concerts, plays etc. in good conscience?

Thank you


#2

I am not a theologian, but I don’t think it should be all that much of a problem. I mean I wouldn’t routinely go to bible studies at a protestant church, but going to a non-catholic church for prayer services, concerts, plays, and even lenten devotions? Well that’s sort of different. After all in the diocese I’m in, at least back in the 90s, our Cathedral parish has done music concerts and even lenten devotions with the congregation at the Episcopalian cathedral down the block from it. I personally would not go to a worship service or bible study at a protestant church of any kind, but a concert or a play? I don’t all too much of an issue in that.


#3

Yes. I just heard that Catholics cannot receive communion at non-Catholic Christian churches but they are allowed to attend. I would not recommend this for people who don’t know their faith well, but it is a good opportunity to learn what other denominations teach and then to go to the Catechism and learn why the Catholic Church teaches something different, to become a better apologist.


#4

[quote="Joda_Muto, post:1, topic:326373"]
Hi,

I have seen many posts on this issue, but most seem to have some kind of presupposition of foul play.

Assuming that:
1. You are attending for the sake of a friend or loved one.
2. You are not looking for truth outside of the Catholic Church.
3. You do not receive protestant "communion".
4. There are no ulterior motives from your friend or loved one to convert you.
5. This is not replacing Mass.

Can a Catholic attend non-catholic services such as worship, choir concerts, plays etc. in good conscience?

Thank you

[/quote]

If you meet all five of those, I think it is. You can be an observer, just can't actively participate in their worship. And certainly we can't replace the Mass with it. But no we're not forbidden absolutely from attending. Just make sure you are well grounded in your faith.

Plays and concerts are no issue at all though.


#5

You can. I've attended weddings of friends, occasionally attend my Lutheran husband's church services on holidays, and have gone to hear an old neighbor who was an Episcopal priest preach on a couple of social justice issues. I attended an ecumenical 9-11 memorial service since I lived in NY at the time of the attacks.

I did not communicate, but maintained a respectful attitude which I would do in any house of prayer.


#6

My own understanding of the current situation is that Catholics may indeed attend other Christian services, BUT require special permission before any officiating.

The Duke of Norfolk [trad. Catholic family - survivour of the Reformation - Henry VIII died of syphilis the day before the then Duke of Norfolk was due to be executed] is considered as the ‘premier’ Duke in the UK and has to recieve ‘special permission’ from the Church before officiating at Church of England services. These are usually to do with royal events.


#7

The above responses seem reasonable. I also think it is worth considering this list of mortal sins from An Examination of Conscience for Adults by Rev. Donald F. Miller, C.S.S.R (Imprimatur: Joseph E. Ritter St. Louis, April 7, 1959).

I know this is pre-Vatican II… and yet I can imagine that what was a mortal sin in 1959 no longer is…

I. Mortal Sins

  1. Have I denied that I was a Catholic, or openly expressed my disbelief in any doctrine of the Catholic faith?

2.** Have I affiliated myself, even for a short time, with a non-Catholic sect or religious body?**

  1. Have I suggested or encouraged doubts about the Catholic faith in the minds of others?

  2. Have I seriously expressed the opinion that all religions are equally good or equally true or equally pleasing to God?

  3. Have I neglected to settle, by reading, studying, consulting, etc., serious doubts about my faith, when such neglect was evidently leading to a loss of faith?

  4. Have I, without the necessary permission, read or kept or given to others forbidden books, such as Protestant Bibles, books on the Index of Prohibited Publications, books that pretend or profess to disprove the truth of the Catholic faith or that profess to prove the truth of a religion contrary to my faith?

  5. Have I, without a serious reason, associated with persons who tried to destroy my faith?

  6. **Have I attended meetings or listened to speeches or sermons, which I knew would destroy or seriously weaken my faith?
    **

  7. Have I joined a secret society forbidden by the laws of the Church, such as the Masons, the Oddfellows, etc?

10.** Have I taken part in a Protestant church service?**

  1. Have I contributed to the advancement of a non-Catholic religious sect or movement as such?

#8

Yes, why not. In fact, we do so many times in our life. All friends are not Catholics, yet we attend weddings and funerals. It is just not "our" Church but as Christ did say, "those who are with us are not against us".


#9

As well as the conditions already given I would add.

  1. It is an important event eg a wedding, funeral etc or a specifically ecumenical event in which the Church is involved.
    7.Youre own faith is robust and you feel no weakness at all for the herasys etc you are likely to hear.
  2. You do not intend to attend regularily.
  3. It is not a denomination you were a member of in the last decade or so, or that you feel attached to.

I would change #3 to not receiving protestant/false Sacraments or Sacramentals including blessings.

One also must not act in a way that supprots them. To be honest it seems like an unnesacary minefield with severe risks.


#10

It used to be forbidden explicitly for Catholics to attend non-Catholic religious ceremonies. My understanding is that at this point it is only explicitly allowed for specific ecumenical events organized with or by the Church. However.......I will add that as far as I know there is a detail called communicatio in sacris which is what is truly off limits for us...so for instance here Fr. John Trigilio states:

Catholics MAY attend Protestant services and may sing, pray, etc. but they CANNOT and SHOULD NOT ever receive communion in a non-Catholic church. That is considered COMMUNICATIO IN SACRIS and is still forbidden by canon law (#1365). ...] Attending non-Catholic prayer services is not forbidden. Receiving any sacrament or alleged sacrament in a non-Catholic church is forbidden.

That being said, I will add a personal remark...it better be worth it...I understand if it is a loved one (obviously) or a very good friend, but in general it is better not to attend.


#11

Can one say visit a non- Catholic Christian community for a good reason?

It is yes possible. (For example attending a presumptively valid wedding etc.)

But one needs to not participate in way contrary to the Faith --one needs to not receive any communion…one needs to avoid acceptance of any errors, harm to the unity of the Church or any danger to ones faith (or others like ones children…), and one needs to avoid scandal or that it appear that “it does not matter” what Church one goes to (indifferentism) --or other participation that is not in keeping with sound ecumenism etc…(and of course one needs to attend Mass)

We love our fellow Christian brothers – but with love comes truth and we need to avoid that which is contrary to either.


#12

Yes.


#13

Thanks for all the replies, they have been very helpful.

I know that it is permissible to attend weddings funerals etc. (assuming that the person I would go for was not a Catholic previously so I don't give the impression that I condone their leaving the Church to join another church.) So this was more for ordinary services.

The idea I had in mind was in the case of someone who practiced no faith at all and needed support in starting a christ-centered life. Obviously as a Catholic I would hope that they would start considering Catholicism but would still like to offer support in the baby steps.

Thanks again everyone.


#14

Well I would say with youre situation it would not be a good idea to go as it may lead to the person getting the impression that “denomination does not really matter” support them as much as you can without getting personally involved with whatever group he chooses to afilliate with. Try as much as you can to combat any herasy he starts spouting and guide him towards The Church. Of course you must pray for him to a large extent and offer sacrafices for him.


#15

Catholics should not attend non-catholic services. However, in the situation where it would be offensive to a friend or relative not to, it is OK. Still, it might be a good idea to clear it with your pastor first :wink: He would be able to give you the best insight.


#16

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