Former Catholics who become evangelicals



I’d like to know more about what the Church teaches regarding persons who were baptized into the Church but at some point became evangelical Protestants. My understanding is that if such a person sincerely believes that what he has embraced is the truth, the Catholic Church views him as still a Christian, albeit one in error. Only if a person knew that the Catholic Church was the true faith and left it for sinful reasons would he be guilty of a mortal sin and on his way to Hell (unless he repents, of course). Is this correct?


The CCC states something to the effect that anyone, through no fault of their own, who does not know of God’s full plan of salvation (through the Catholic Church) has the ability to achieve salvation through non-normative means.

The key is that phrase, “through no fault of their own”. Does pride and willful ignorance constitute “no fault of their own”?

God will be the judge.


…it’s better to be safe



In most cases, a Catholic who goes to an evangelical church and stops going to a Catholic church is still regarded as Christian. In fact, it is to my understanding that all a person needs to do to return to the Catholic Church in such a case is simply to go to confession and confess that one mingled with Protestantism. A baptized Catholic who falls away is not baptized again. In some more serious cases, a Catholic who becomes Protestant and then decides to return to the Catholic faith may be required to go through Rome.

In order for a sin to be “mortal,” three considerations must be met. Firstly, the matter has to be grave. Secondly, the person must have the full knowledge that what is being done is wrong. Thirdly, there must be consent on the part of the acting person. Apostasy is a grave matter. On the second consideration, the person likely thinks that what he is doing is for the Good, even though he is going against the Good in many respects by denying certain truths of the Faith. The person in most cases would convert with consent. So, it’s really the second consideration that is sticky. Does the person have enough true knowledge of the Catholic Faith to be considered culpable? If the person knows that the Pope is the Supreme Pontiff, the Vicar of Christ on earth, and yet says “I know this to be true, but I like Protestantism better because I feel better there,” then yes I would think the person morally culpable. However, if the person thinks “well, I’m not really sure about what the Catholic Church teaches, and while I see certain truths in it, I see greater truths in Protestantism,” then culpability would be less.

Of course, ignorance of God’s commandments does not make a person completely free from moral blame. There is a duty to strive to learn and know the commandments of God as revealed through the Gospel and instructed by the Church.


Can anyone direct me to an authoritative source in which the Church states its teaching on this matter of the salvation of Catholics who become (and remain) evangelical Protestants? I am dealing with a situation in which a convert to evangelicalism is being told by Catholic family members that he is going to Hell. The man who is converting sincerely believes he is following Christ. Thus, as I understand it and others here have affirmed, such a person is not consigned to Hell. However, it would be very helpful to be able to cite some recognized source that makes this point.

Thanks for your help.


The pertinent references from the CCC can be found all over the internet. Here it is from the Vatican


Sincerity really is not the issue here. I have a friend who left the Catholic Church because she sincerely felt called to be Mormon.

We can not judge this man’s eternal destination based on his sincerity. We KNOW he is sincerely wrong. He MAY be sincerely on the way to hell.

It sounds as if you are trying to convince family members to stop telling him he is going to hell. I question stopping them since he MAY in fact be in danger of hell and we do know that it will be harder for him to find his way to heaven even if he is at this time ignorant of what he is doing and is still heaven bound as of this time.

It would be better if you educated the family to start saying you MAY be on your way to hell instead of making it a definitive statement but would not advise them to stop saying it all together. It MAY in fact be true.


The man who is converting may or may not go to hell, but he certainly is putting his soul in danger by leaving the Church, especially Sacraments of the Eucharist and Reconciliation. His family has good cause to be concerned and grieved.

Christ established his Church and the Sacraments for good reason. They cannot be simply brushed aside for something that looks and feels more enticing. There’s a real danger in doing that for it leads to even more dependence on what attracts and feels good that can lead a person farther and farther away from the harder teachings of Christ into indifferentism and indifferentism can lead to despair,and it is despair that will send such a person’s soul to hell.


Della said better what I was trying to convey.

He IS in danger.


I don’t think anyone who converts to another faith does so because they choose to be hell bound, and I doubt anyone would leave IF they truely believe that the faith they were leaving behind was in fact the true faith.

People leave usually because they somehow come to the belief that the faith they are going to, is the true faith, or because they have some problem(s) with the faith that they were in and they hope the next one will be more accomodating to what they want.

I have neighbors who stopped going to my parish because they felt more at home in another church down the road. They felt our parish was a bit too impersonal. I doubt they originally believed the Catholic Church was the one true Church, and I doubt they fully understood what Catholicism was really all about. They were probably not even Catholic.

No one can determine where anyone else’s eternal destiny lies. Leaving the Church does not automatically mean you are toast.


A Catholic who left for an evangelical faith would be committing the sins of heresy and schism. These sins are grave matters. Whether they are mortal or not is for God to judge–but, the fact remains that such a person is putting their salvation in grave, grave danger.

Likewise, the Frist Vatican Council declared this:

"14. To this witness is added the effective help of power from on high. For, the kind Lord stirs up those who go astray and helps them by his grace so that they may come to the knowledge of the truth [23] ; and also confirms by his grace those whom he has translated into his admirable light [24], so that they may persevere in this light, not abandoning them unless he is first abandoned.

  1. Consequently, the situation of those, who by the heavenly gift of faith have embraced the Catholic truth, is by no means the same as that of those who, led by human opinions, follow a false religion; for those who have accepted the faith under the guidance of the Church can never have any just cause for changing this faith or for calling it into question."

Again, only God knows if that person had truly accepted the Catholic truth to begin with, but it doesn’t bode well for the salvation of someone who leaves the faith.


People commit mortal sins for all kinds of reasons. Tragically, people even persist in mortal sin unto death. Nobody does so out of a desire to be hellbound, but that is the end result. The mortal sins of heresy and schism are no different.


Exactly. Which is why even though a person is “sincere” family should not stop warning him of the danger he is in.

Although, I am not sure how much good it would have done me. But truth does not become false just because someone doesn’t want to believe it or hear it.

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