Can I attend a Protestant ordination?


My brother-in-law is being ordained as a Protestant pastor – he is, unfortunately, Presbyterian – and I was unsure whether it was okay to attend. What do you think?


In most Protestant churches, the only valid sacraments they have are baptism and marriage (even if they do not recognize one or both to be sacraments), which is why it is generally okay to attend Protestant baptisms and marriages. A funeral is not considered to be a sacrament by the Church – although the sacrament of the Eucharist may be celebrated during a funeral – and so there is no problem attending Protestant funerals.

Ordination, however, is a Catholic sacrament that is not found in Protestant churches. Although your brother-in-law will be elevated to a position of leadership in his Presbyterian community, according to the Catholic understanding he won’t be ordained. As a courtesy Catholics usually grant Protestant clergy the dignity of the titles they expect, but the Catholic Church does not recognize Protestant ordinations as valid.

Thus, I cannot recommend attending this Presbyterian ordination. However, you might write a letter to your brother-in-law and his wife, wishing them well and letting them know that they will be in your thoughts and prayers on this day for which they have been in preparation for so long. In other words, acknowledge the importance of the day to them and offer your prayers and best wishes, but do not directly congratulate them on an ordination that you cannot recognize as valid.

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