Can Catholics attend a Protestant service?

Sorry if this is in the wrong area. :blush:

So, before I ever became a Christian I was non-religious. I believed in God, belonged to a Episcopal family and everything but rarely went to church or practiced my faith. Then a friend of mine started taking me to his church which was a Baptist Church that didn’t belong to any particular Baptist denomination, and they also were fundamentalist in theology. I became a member and got baptized there, but then after two years of studying I decided the Catholic faith was the true faith and got received into the Church about a year ago. Thing is, I had become friends with these people and the only time I could ever see them was at church. I also didn’t want to be that person who just got up and left… they are a small church and have had people just leave and never come back. I couldn’t do that. So, every few months I go to their church (on Wednesday) and talk with them and maybe stay for the service. They aren’t anti-Catholic (to my amazement) which is good, and are generally accepting of Catholics, considering us faithful brothers and sisters in Christ. The Pastor of that church actually understands Catholic theology really well. These people are loving people and like I said, I couldn’t just get up, leave, and never come back. I love these people! So, I was planing on going tonight just to say hi to everyone, maybe stay for the service, then hang with them a little bit after, and then leave. Is this okay for a Catholic to do? Can I do this every few months?

Hi Bradthecatholic,
I am not Catholic but from having been on CAF since May, my understanding is that Catholics can attend a Protestant worship service provided the Catholic doesn’t take communion (if they offer it) and don’t attend the Protestant service ***in place of *** their weekly Mass obligation, which is usually Saturday or Sunday (I think). I’m still learning about Catholicism so don’t quote me on that.

My best guess is that it’s ok to attend a Wednesday Protestant service provided you still attend Catholic Mass on the weekend and don’t partake in communion at the Baptist Church if it is offered.

I’m not sure what the Catholic position is on singing Protestant hymns/worship songs but I haven’t heard anyone say it wasn’t allowed. From my experience, I’ve heard some of the same hymns sung in both places.

I will defer to the good Catholics on CAF to correct me if I made a mistake.

Follow up question:
Are you concerned that your friends might try to persuade you to return permanently to their church? That might be the only concern I would have if I were in your shoes.

As long as they are doctrinally sound there should be no problem.


There is a wonderful “Protestant” song called “Mary Did You Know”. We wanted to sing it during the Christmas season however I found one verse that does not comport with Catholic teaching:

“The child that you delivered, will soon deliver you.”

We believe that Mary was preserved from sin through the sacrifice of her Son, prior to her being conceived. Christ’s sacrifice is eternal and is not subject to time.

So we changed the words in this verse to read “The child that you delivered, had first delivered you.” and went on our way.

That’s called Ecumenism. Catholicism considers it rather good. You may take some flak for it from certain types of folks in the EF catholic community though. IMO, they’re just being snobs.

You DO need to keep your active mental filters up more diligently than you would listening to a homily at your parish (which sadly isn’t always safe either). Expect to catch some bad theology in those filters from time to time and make sure your participation / visits there don’t take the place of ongoing learning from reliable catholic sources. The Holy Spirit is powerful, but he only gives you the Grace to become holy. He doesn’t use that power to force you into it. So keep up your studies from reliable catholic sources.

Also, don’t try to debate them on their own turf. You can be conversational if dividing issues come up, but settle for articulating catholic beliefs, not defending them in their own house. If criticized further, just acknowledge the difference and tell them that you respect their beliefs enough not to tear them down in their own congregation.

As for hymns, go ahead and sing but keep the filters up there too. Most of theirs aren’t any worse than the hymns in our Gather books these days…

Ok, thanks!

You can (as long as you don’t receive communion or miss Mass) but I wouldn’t recommend it.

Let me add this… a Catholic should not be attending a Protestant service for the sake of attending one. Example: “I really like Pastor Dan, his preaching is energizing.”

However, if there is a family reason, then the Catholic could attend as long as it’s not in place of a Catholic service. A Catholic can also accompany a friend or family member (as a “one off”) without issue.

In regards to the “Wednesday” service comment, the Catholic Church has Mass every day. So we shouldn’t be rotinely attending a “Wednesday” vs a Catholic Mass or prayer group, unless its to maintain order in a marriage or something.

In regarding to hymns and prayers, it’s OK to participate if they are not against Church teaching.

But all in all, unless it to keep a marriage intact, the not many valid reasons for a Catholic to be attending a non-Catholic service on a routine basis.

“Ecumenism” does not consist of Catholics attending Protestant services. All these warnings about “keeping up filters” and whatnot is sketchy. Why even put yourself in that situation. My advice is to have dialogue with your Protestant friends outside of their service - that’s ecumenism too but without the risk of scandal. When Sunday comes around just go to Mass.

Exactly. Honestly, though, the only time I would attend a Protestant worship service is if it’s a wedding of a non-Catholic friend or family member. Though, I can see a Catholic going to a Protestant service for his/her spouse, as long as that spouse has no qualms attending the Catholic Mass, as well.

Be on guard, though. Many (though not all) Protestant sects are virulently anti-Catholic, often believing all sorts of misconceptions about the Catholic faith. If you hear such anti-Catholic preaching, just leave, and politely refuse to go back. And, as stated before, it’s no substitute for your Sunday obligation!

Well, you can go to the Protestant church.

However, I don’t see why you can’t keep in touch with your friends outside of the church building. :confused:

People go their different ways and that’s okay.

Some people are only meant to be in our lives for a season, but then we (or they) learn the lessons we (or they) need to learn and move on.

As a former Baptist, I tend to be leery about doing religion with them because I know that a lot of them are just waiting for that right moment to try to save my soul even if they’ve “accepted” me. As a result, breakfast or coffee is something I can do with my religious friends, but not church. I don’t want a hard sell when I just want to hang out with my friends.

You are 100% correct. And some of those Victorian Protestant hymns are the best around. Notice how they are written in a singing range that is comfortable for all and almost everyone participates.

The Vatican’s Principles and Norms on Ecumenism seem to say otherwise.

From where I sit, the “scandal” is caused by Catholic contempt for Protestants, which belies the teaching of Vatican II that the Church rejects nothing true and good in other religious traditions and that many elements of sanctification are found in non-Catholic Christian churches. Most Protestants, in my experience, do not understand that this teaching exists, because the practice of Catholics seems to indicate that there is nothing of value in Protestantism.

Why are Catholics not more worried about this very serious scandal?


Much good is found in most religions (including Protestantism) but so is much error and evil. How many Protestant communions council their members to use birth control? I’ve been so counseled myself by a Protestant pastor. Ecumenism isn’t indifferentism. Ecumenism (and apologetics) are ultimately at the service of Evangelization - which is at the service of saving souls from eternal damnation. If one is attending a Prot service with a particular friend so that he will then come to Mass, then we have true ecumenism (ordered to conversion). If we are going just to make those outside the Church feel good about being outside the Church, then we might have a case of false ecumenism. I recommend reading Mortalium Animos in addition to the Principals and Norms to better understand the mind of the Church on this issue.

Mortalium Animos - part one
Mortalium Animos - part two

Hi PietroPaolo,
I’m a lifelong protestant Christian and have never ever heard birth control preached or taught from the pulpit or in Bible studies. I’m not questioning your experience and I know some protestants who say they’ve used birth control – but it’s a personal choice and not something that is taught or encouraged from the pulpit in any protestant church that I’ve attended, and I’ve attended them for over 50 years.

For the most part, most evangelical protestant churches are much more concerned with applying biblical teachings to everyday life to help and strengthen the believer spiritually in living their life than delving into issues like birth control.

So you are saying that the Vatican wants Catholics to attend Protestant services and that this is the best form of ecumenism???

I’m only echoing the sentiment of many other posters. Ecumenism is good. But this doesn’t necessarily mean we need / should attend the Sunday service of a Protestant denomination. I can’t believe I even have to argue this on a Catholic forum. I have no contempt for Protestants whatsoever. What I don’t like to see are people who claim that the best way to show Protestants how “tolerant” and “inclusive” Catholics are is by attending their services. What message does this send a Protestant about what Catholics believe about Mass? They see a Catholic at their service and think to themselves, “Oh, look a Catholic is here instead of at Mass. Looks like they finally warmed up to us and understand that our liturgies are the same”. That’s counterproductive for the Catholic mission and does absolutely nothing to forward ecumenical dialogue. Ecumenism does not take place in the pews of a Protestant church.

I can only speak for myself, but if a Catholic were to attend a worship service in my church I would be more apt to listen and have an open mind to what they had to say in return because I knew they at least respected my beliefs enough to attend my church and experience it for themselves instead of having preconceived notions about it.

For example, I joined CAF in May to learn more about Catholicism and I have learned a lot from where I began. I was even invited in a friendly way by someone on CAF to attend a Catholic Mass, which I did out of respect for that person. In keeping with the subject of this thread, I attended the Mass on a Saturday night so that I wouldn’t miss *my Sunday obligation. I am an usher at my church. :slight_smile:

I went to Mass with an open mind and heart and liked it and felt God’s presence there. I may go back some day but I also like my church and feel God’s presence there, too, and see God touching and working in the lives of many people at my local church.

While there are many nice, respectful and decent Catholics on this site, I also run into my share of those who think that it’s only Protestants who should do the bending and go to Catholic worship services but Catholics shouldn’t ever attend a Protestant church unless it is for the sake of a protestant family member or spouse.

Otherwise, they contend, (even on this thread) if you go you should wear your “filters” or wear a proverbial closepin on your nose because there’s going to be a lot of “errors” to sift through. I find very that very disrespectful.

While some protestants have misconceptions of Catholicism and are prejudiced against it, it is obvious to me that some Catholics are prejudiced about protestant beliefs and churches and paint all of them with the same brush. Regardless of whether it is Catholics or Protestants doing the talking, it is wrong to lump every member of a group or a faith tradition together.

Personally, I don’t like it when protestants do that to Catholics and I don’t like it the other way around, either.

You know as well as I do that (aside from disagreeing with the Catholic Church) there is pretty much nothing Protestants agree on. I was counseled by a UMC minister to have pre-marital sex, to use birth control, and to get myself a copy of the karma sutra (all before I was Catholic, of course). As you might know, the UMC also supports abortion. Other Protestant communities support other evils (gay marriage is increasingly popular, e.g.) And, of course, theological errors abound. Thus, while elements of truth are found in other religions, I personally can’t recommend a Catholic regularly attending a non-Catholic Church.

Honestly, elements of truth are found in Islam and Hinduism, would you (in the name of inter-religious dialog) recommend a Catholic attend Mosque each Friday? If not, why not? Probably for the same reasons I can’t, in good conscience, recommend regular attendance at a Prot. service.

Let’s not overstate. They support abortion in cases of the baby threatening the mother’s life. They do not support for your everyday “oops” pregnancy. While this is a different view than the Catholic Church, it’s not exactly a pro-choice position either.

I’m not overstating it, you’ve understated it. They support abortion in more than just situations where the life of the mother is at risk. They are a member of the “Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice” which describes itself as follows

We are a national community of religious organizations and faithful individuals dedicated to achieving reproductive justice. Through education, organizing and advocacy, we seek to elevate religious voices wherever faith, policy and our reproductive lives intersect.

They also state, on their own website, the following about their abortion stance
Our belief in the sanctity of unborn human life makes us reluctant to approve abortion. But we are equally bound to respect the sacredness of the life and well-being of the mother, for whom devastating damage may result from an unacceptable pregnancy.* (emphasis added)

Ask yourself, is being “reluctant” to approve murder enough? and What exactly is an “unacceptable pregnancy?” You’ll also note, not just the life of the mother, but her “well-being” is grounds for abortion, as is “devastating damage” (whatever that amounts to is left undefined).

I can’t speak for UMC (United Methodist, I assume) although I’ve heard they tend to be very liberal. Like I said earlier, your experience is not typical of any protestant church I’ve ever attended, although my experience is limited to Assembly of God most of my life and Presbyterian in my formative years. Assembly of God churches are very pro-Life, but I have also attended Southern Baptist services at a point earlier in life when my kids went to elementary school at a Baptist-affiliated school and my wife taught at the school and church attendance was required. They were very conservative on social matters, too.

By the way, I don’t encourage Catholics to attend protestant churches on a regular basis, either, but if people like the OP want to do so once in a while, I don’t see any evil in it, either.

I just find it very disingenuous to paint all protestants with the same brush or that Catholics are going to find abundant errors when they attend a protestant service. I trust that is not what you are doing. Otherwise, it makes me dig in my heels and make me less receptive to Catholicism, especially if your viewpoint is shared by a majority of Catholics.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit