Is it a sin to try to convert others to Catholicism


How can it be considered a “grave sin” to try to convince someone who is Orthodox of the truth of Catholicism in the hope that they will convert? Or, likewise, how can it be considered “illicit” to do the same with respect to Protestants. I understand the need to be charitable and avoid giving offense, but this seems to go beyond that. I admit, I just don’t get it.


Evangelization is not a sin. It is the central Gospel message. It is the great commission to make disciples of all nations.

When it comes to those who are already disciples, we must be respectful and careful not to damage their faith. There is a difference between evangelization and proselytizing.


It is not a sin, but a core concept of the faith.

What would give you the idea it is a sin?


“Ite, Missa est” is said by the Priest at the conclusion of the Latin mass - “Go, you are sent on mission.” This is our mini-version of Matthew 28:19-20 in which our Lord sent the Apostles forth. By its very definition, the European ‘reform’ diluted and/or fundamentally changed the ancient faith and thus, places its adherents in a position of spiritual jeopardy. It is an act of human kindness, and our responsibility to God to expose the unlimited beauty of our faith to the entire world.


Pope Francis.

It is a “very grave sin against ecumenism” for Catholics to try to convert Orthodox Christians, Pope Francis said during the second day of his trip to the Eurasian country of Georgia. “Let the theologians study the abstract realities of theology,” the pontiff said. “But what should I do with a friend, neighbor, an Orthodox person? Be open, be a friend. ‘But should I make efforts to convert him or her?’ There is a very grave sin against ecumenism: proselytism. We should never proselytize the Orthodox! They are our brothers and sisters, disciples of Jesus Christ.”


It’s not a sin–you can read Acts of the Apostles for proof that it’s not a sin.


No, in and of itself, it is not.


Holy Father is not infallible, and the context of that quote is probably different than thought.
The Pope himself has the office of St Peter the Apostle meaning that he is sent to spread the gospel, that he is bound to help convert non Catholics to the faith, and shepard the Church.


I would have to read the whole talk in context but maybe what he means is that we shouldnt force anyone to the faith but be brothers and sisters in Christ. That doesnt mean we shouldnt preach to them or gently show them the way or show them the way by our example.


Since the Pope has said this, I myself would suspend discernment over actively converting this person, and instead focus on others. I don’t agree or disagree with the Holy Father, but he has much more knowledge of these things, than do I.

Does this mean that the individual you are talking about can’t convert? Of course not. If he or she wants to join the Roman rite then by all means they should themselves discern this and follow through with their decision.


If I were you, I would focus more on bringing the gospel to those who have never heard it.


Your answer is in your quote.

The word proselytism or proselytize is your key.

Here from Jimmy Akin of Catholic Answers:


Pope Francis is exactly correct.

There should be no place today for proselytism.


How do you define proselytism?

Here are the standard definitions:

  1. OXFORD: “to convert or attempt to convert (someone) from one religion, belief, or opinion to another.”
  2. MIRRIAM-WEBSTER: “to try to persuade people to join a religion, cause, or group.”

I have heard it said that it may be referring to attempts to force or extract conversion through an imbalanced power relationship, but that doesn’t seem to be the context in which Pope Francis has used it. For example, here he uses the word in response to the rhetorical question he puts to himself: ‘But should I make efforts to convert him or her?’


Father, how would you define proselytism?

And how would you answer the question: ‘But should I make efforts to convert him or her?’ Obviously, the Holy Father has answered it by saying “Don’t proselytize!” But what does that mean? What is legitimate and what is not? Is it licit to present arguments for conversion to the Catholic faith (with charity and being careful not to offend) or would that constitute proselytism and thus be a grave sin against ecumenism?

I truly do not understand what he is saying. I have heard it said by some commentators that he must be using “proselytism” in the sense of extracting conversion by browbeating or through some kind of imbalanced power relationship, but that is not the common definition of the term and he has never used it in a context that suggests that is what he means, as far as I have seen.



Read his article. Your answer to your question is there.


I believe what would most likely happen, if we were to try and analyze just what type of "conversion" would be in order regarding our Orthodox brothers and sisters, we would begin drawing a lot of blanks right from the outset because they already have all seven valid sacraments - a fellow CAF member PaulfromIowa - posted a contribution on that particular aspect here back in April of this year. This reference to the CCC was part of it:

“The Church knows that she is joined in many ways to the baptized who are honored by the name of Christian, but do not profess the Catholic faith in its entirety or have not preserved unity or communion under the successor of Peter.” Those “who believe in Christ and have been properly baptized are put in a certain, although imperfect, communion with the Catholic Church.” With the Orthodox Churches, this communion is so profound “that it lacks little to attain the fullness that would permit a common celebration of the Lord’s Eucharist.”

As much of a mountain of help as Jimmy Akin has been to our Catholic faith, his article which is necessary and quite thorough in its definition of “proselytization” has a slight tendency to cover over- just a little bit, one very important fact as it pertains to the current topic:

We don’t convert anyone. Neither do we “get anyone to convert.”

Only God can convert a soul.

If we would wish to pray for a particular soul’s conversion, our own personal holiness has to come first ; which goes hand in hand with LittleFlower 378’s (Matt O.F.S.) post about showing them the way by example. We thereby participate and intercede for that soul.

But this idea, this wording - literally the “forcing” or “coercing” or “manipulating” someone to convert or into conversion is largely a theological fallacy because it alludes to a desired result which actually falls outside the definition of conversion. One could no more force a person to convert than they could force someone to love them.


Having now gone back and read every statement that I can find from Pope Francis on this subject, it seems rather clear to me that he thinks it is “illicit” to attempt to convert anyone from Protestantism or Orthodoxy to Catholicism by use of rational argument.

He says we should proclaim the Gospel, yes. He says we should lead lives that make Catholicism attractive, yes. If these things happen to lead to conversions, great. But he seems to categorically rule out the use of argumentation or apologetics as a means to seek someone’s conversion. I am now thoroughly convinced that he does not believe we should actively seek the conversion of other Christians to the Catholic faith.

There is much anectodal evidence to support this view, as with his statement that he does not want evangelicals to convert but prefers they remain where they are and simply be good evangelicals, as well as his reported discouragement of a prominent Anglican from converting.

I would happily accept correction.


Jimmy Akin of Catholic Answers:


Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith Document: titled Instruction on Some Aspects of Evangelization Notes:

"The term proselytism originated in the context of Judaism, in which the term proselyte referred to someone who, coming from the gentiles, had passed into the Chosen People.

So too, in the Christian context, the term proselytism was often used as a synonym for missionary activity.

More recently, however, the term has taken on a negative connotation, to mean the promotion of a religion by using means, and for motives, contrary to the spirit of the Gospel; that is, which do not safeguard the freedom and dignity of the human person."

So that’s what Pope Francis means when he says that the Church grows by our witness, in words and deeds—rather than through proselytization.

~ Jimmy Akin in link above.

"The inappropriate tactics can take a number of forms, including deception, coercion, emotional manipulation, threats, and even bribery. – Jimmy Akin

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