Is it wrong for a Catholic to objectively attend services for other religions?

So, I’ve always been fascinated by culture, and in my opinion religion is one of the most important shapers of culture. I was thinking about whether it would be wrong to observes the services of other religions simply out of curiosity (assuming it doesn’t interfere with mass). For instance, if I attended a Seventh-Day Adventist service on Saturday morning just to observe, is that sinful?

I know it is not recommended that Catholics do so, but is that a matter of the contradicting words potentially weakening someone spiritually, or is the act inherently sinful?

Thank you

It is not inherently sinful.

Welcome to the forums.

You answered your own question, and yes and yes.

Certainly, your intentions would not likely yield any ecumenical purpose. If you’re thinking of an informational gathering session for debunking purposes, you’ll likely be disappointed and it’s not very charitable anyway. If others saw you attending, it would lead to an implication of scandal. If you believe that the Catholic Church holds the fullness of truth, there is nothing to gain anywhere else that can only attempt to sow seeds of discord.

Look at your diocese for information about biblical studies or other groups and invest time in that. Some neighboring parishes put on some pretty great things.

You’re allowed to sit in on any religious service. You must not participate in acts that go against your faith (if an SDA service had communion, which AFAIK they only do quarterly, you must not take it. This is standard procedure with protestant services). Kind of off topic but of course you also shouldn’t be going just for the sake of spiritual nourishment; that’s what parishes are for.

I think some people start going to a church out of curiosity and end up liking it, continuing, as well.

In the sense you seem to mean, it is quite obvious to any reasonable person that the Catholic Church does not have the fullness of the Faith.

As I understand it, this claim means simply that no formal teaching of the Church compromises the fullness of the Faith. Actual possession of the fullness is obviously left fo the eschaton.

If you believe something else, you believe a lie. Period.

There is obviously much that Catholics can benefit from, spiritually, in exposing themselves to other churches and even non-Christian religions. If you say otherwise, you are serving a lie. Period.

Edwin

CCC 868 The Church is catholic: she proclaims the fullness of the faith.

That’s we believe, it is not a lie.

As to the OP I would not recommend going to SA because they are very anti catholic. Personally, I would not support that kind of thing. I don’t think it is a sin anymore to go to another service…apparently…but I still would not recommend it. The person who said do not participate if you go is right.

Indeed. The Church has not compromised the deposit of faith in its official teaching. That doesn’t mean that Catholics can’t learn from non-Catholics many things about how to understand and live out the Faith, which was the point I was addressing.

Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa has pointed out, for instance, that Protestants have for centuries done a better job of proclaiming God’s free forgiveness of sin than Catholics. That doesn’t mean that Catholic teaching is wrong, nor does it contradict the fact that Protestant teaching on salvation is one-sided and partial at best.

Edwin

Hi Edwin

I understand the intent of your message on the whole (and in fact agree with the overlaying premise to an extent), however, I might suggest prudence with your assertions that I believe in and serve lies. Your presumptions are based on what you think that I believe apart from what I really do.

During all of my teenage years as a Methodist, I was excitedly active about the youth group, that sent much time during charitable shut-in work, as an example. The fellowship and charity was certainly unmatched by anything my own children witnessed in the Catholic Church youth group that occupied itself with movies, pizza, paintball, etc. My children left the youth group stating that their experiences (largely self-edifying) did not match my own stories (charity).

I could give you many such examples, although I realize you didn’t ask for any clarification before you started blasting my beliefs as disingenuous. However, there are many individual parishes within the Catholic Church and while one may not excel at a particular aspect of ministry (such as RCIA, Biblical studies, charitable groups, etc), there are other parishes that do. Hence my suggestion to look at the Diocese for parishes with particular programs of interest to the OP. Catholicism embraces all aspects of Christianity; certain parishes are a bit more exemplary than others at certain ones.

As a Catholic believing in 7 sacraments in their reality of providing efficacious grave, I would consider any faith community that rejects any number of these (or considers them empty symbols) as being “less than full”. Certainly this is true of denials of Trinity, etc. I stand by my statement that it is not healthy to invest oneself within these environments when there are healthier uses of time available; furthermore, it is not advisable to risk implications of scandal to the Catholic community (the one we profess communion with) to act publicly in contrary manners. It makes no sense to complain about Pelosi’s scandalous policies and attendance of gay unions and then turn around and attend services at churches that deny (or redefine) the Trinity, for example.

Hope this helps to clarify.
-jeff

You’re right. I stayed up too late and was too punchy, and I apologize. My language was unwarranted and outrageous, and your response was extremely charitable and restrained. Class act on your part:D:o:thumbsup:

This is a very sensitive issue for me for personal reasons. At this point my only real hesitation about becoming Catholic is the way that this would divide me from other Christians (and yes, the fact that this includes my family makes it particularly difficult). Therefore, the question of how far Catholics can and should participate in other churches and recognize the goodness and truth found there is an extremely important and sensitive point with me. I have been round and round this issue on these forums before, and have seen people post things that seemed completely unwarranted given current Catholic discipline and that seemed to completely ignore the Vatican’s own Principles and Norms for Ecumenism. Hence, I’m at a point where this subject tends to make me go ballistic. I say this to explain my reaction, not to excuse it.

During all of my teenage years as a Methodist, I was excitedly active about the youth group, that sent much time during charitable shut-in work, as an example. The fellowship and charity was certainly unmatched by anything my own children witnessed in the Catholic Church youth group that occupied itself with movies, pizza, paintball, etc. My children left the youth group stating that their experiences (largely self-edifying) did not match my own stories (charity).

Disturbing. My former colleague Tom Bergler has written an excellent book on the rise of youth groups and the way they have shaped American Christianity: it’s called The Juvenilization of American Christianity. I don’t want to get into the details of Tom’s argument, but to summarize it looks as if the Catholic youth group you describe is imitating (rather badly) what has been a successful strategy for evangelical Protestants–successful, that is, in terms of retaining young people and making them think that church is “fun,” not necessarily successful in terms of forming them into mature disciples of Jesus!

Catholicism embraces all aspects of Christianity; certain parishes are a bit more exemplary than others at certain ones.

I would say that Catholicism potentially embraces all these aspects. I’m not as optimistic as you are that they can be found at the diocesan level.

As a Catholic believing in 7 sacraments in their reality of providing efficacious grave, I would consider any faith community that rejects any number of these (or considers them empty symbols) as being “less than full”.

And I entirely agree with you.

It makes no sense to complain about Pelosi’s scandalous policies and attendance of gay unions and then turn around and attend services at churches that deny the trinity, for example.

Well, that isn’t a real issue for me, since I have no relationship with such communities (unless you count Muslims–I have taken students to the local mosque and would like to continue engaging in dialogue and engagement with the Muslim community after I move). I certainly agree that there’s a big difference between Protestant churches that profess the Trinity and communities that reject it. But one can attend people’s worship services and join in with those things with which one agrees.

Insofar as we have a real disagreement here, it has to do I think with the nature of “scandal.” My experience is that very few people are confused about the fact that the Catholic Church makes unique claims for itself. Lots of people are confused about the fact that the Catholic Church accepts what is true and good in other churches/religions. That is the point that has not gotten through very well at all. Some of it is just a lack of patience with Catholic theological distinctions. Future-Pope-Emeritus-Benedict’s document Dominus Iesus was widely interpreted, even by learned Protestants who should have known better, as rejecting Vatican II and saying that non-Catholics had nothing of value to offer and could not be saved. I’m not saying that Ratzinger or the Catholic Church in general was to blame for this misunderstanding. I’m just saying that orthodox/conservative Catholics seem to me to be far too worried about the hypothetical danger that non-Catholics might not understand that Catholics think other churches lack the fullness of the Faith, given that most non-Catholics fall into the opposite misunderstanding. (Ironically, I think that this first problem is really an intra-Catholic issue. It’s mostly, in my experience, liberal Catholics who “misunderstand” Catholic teaching this way.)

But in the end, I think what matters is that we do not turn our backs on anything true and good.

Edwin

No worries. Just between us, I don’t think that you and I are the only two humans in the world that get punchy at night.:smiley: Actually, I’ve read many, many of your postings over the last couple of years and find them to be both insightful and intelligent.:yup:

There is a good point to be made about geography, though. I am very spoiled and blessed in that I can pass a Catholic parish by car every 10 minutes where I live. So within the 59 parishes in my diocese, I can find much variety in programs and can target exemplary ones. So, I need to remember that other areas are not as fortunate. My youth group story was not meant to be unfair to other parishes that have great programs (there are some that do) but this is not as consistent as we would like. Of course, this is also true for other aspects of discipleship.

I also know what you mean about sensitive issues. I experience many of the “build my own faith out of the Bible” types (yes, family too) that seek to require me to abandon my faith to have conversation with them, not always ecumenically, sometimes just about pot roast! I find greater amounts of exclusivity in my interactions with those that maintain an ownership of what they will believe than among those that conform themselves to a faith given them. On that note, I tend not to consider high-churchers as protestant, per se, meaning the scope of the term is too broad. Yes, I am aware of history but I consider it a disservice to cast the same blanket over Lutherans or Episcopalians and those of the SBC, for example, that embrace their independent autonomy. But this is not to say we should not learn to embrace whatever is fruitful, regardless of the source.

I think we would agree that we feel sadness over scandal when it presents itself in the headlines. Intellectually, we can say, “Of course, the Catholic Church doesn’t teach abuse, this is just a sinful act.” We know this, but it doesn’t stop it from being hurtful for us when it is broadcast over a large venue. But in the same way, I am a member of a society and local community. I wouldn’t go to kingdom hall, because there, they deny my Lord as Savior and Redeemer of the World, and I would personally not hope for spiritual growth. Further, if I went, I might encounter people I know and they might then say, “Guess who I saw at service last week” to others and pretty soon there is a story that I’ve rejected the Catholic faith. So I cannot say that the priests and bishops need to avoid implications of scandal in their conduct but that I can do as I wish. The scope may not be as large as clerics, but my actions can still have edifying or destructive capacity within my community. However, JWs do strive admirably toward “their form of great commission” which we could and should learn from.

A very kind statement, thank you.

I agree whole-heartedly.:thumbsup:

I went to different churches in order to understand what they believed. I had a strong desire to employ ecumenical efforts , agree where I could and disagree where I must. I looked for areas where I could agree, and participated in those areas. I knew my own Faith and was grounded in it, so my Faith was not compromised. I saw good, and I saw things I could not agree with. I believe the Catholic church warns that we be strong in our faith before taking on the desire to ecumenize. Of course this has to be done in the spirit of love. Jesus desires that we be "One Fold, One Shepherd. The Holy Spirit unites, the devil divides. I had many chances to make witness to my Catholic faith, and I hope by Gods’ grace we all benefited. I love it when I see other faiths manifest the same things I believe in. I like to emphasize the positive, and eliminate the negative ( sounds like an old song) If every faith acknowledges One God, we have that in common. If some faiths acknowledge Jesus, as God and Saviour I am more than delighted. Agree where we can, disagree where we must, all in the spirit of love. They enrich us and we in turn enrich them. I believe this was one of the teachings found in Vatican II I have seen strong evangelization among my Baptist brothers, I have seen the use of Charisms used very effectively among my Penticostal brothers and I have seen true worship of God. Even the Popes acknowledge the strong missionary work of our separated brothers, yet united in spirit with our love for humanity, and God. We must break down barriers that separate us. Satan has done much to harm humanity, but Jesus came to change this by giving us His Spirit Faith, Hope, and Love.:slight_smile:

It is not inherently sinful unless you participate in any shape or form to the extent that it is contrary to Catholic teaching, affirms beliefs that contradict the Catholic Church or might be viewed by anyone that you are somehow affirming beliefs contrary to the Catholic faith.

It seems t me that this last phrase is way too stringent. You can’t possibly prevent the possibility that someone might possibly misinterpret what you are doing. In fact, if we have an unhealthy situation, attempts to right it are going to be misunderstood.

If indeed the division of Christians is scandalous, then we need to be willing to risk scandal in order to end it. If it’s commonly believed that only people who are weak in their Catholic faith attend services of other churches, and you attend such services, then people may indeed think you are weak in your faith. But that’s the only way that the stereotype is going to be changed.

Edwin

For example, if it is known in a parish that a boyfriend and girlfriend are living together that in itself is sufficient cause for scandal even if in reality they are not having a sexual relationship.
Likewise, attending a non-Catholic Christian worship service could be construed as scandalous because there is no reason to be there apart from baptisms, weddings and funerals.

Which reasonable person do you speak of? Speak for yourself. Reasonable people who disagree with you are constantly being received into the church as new converts. The church has the fullness of faith. We did not receive a quarter of the deposit or three quarters but the whole of the deposit of faith. We received God the Holy Spirit who is ever present in the church. You don’t have to believe that. But neither do we have to accept your attacks on our belief in our own faith as “serving lies”. Some nerve you got! Our faith tells us we have the fullness of truth. I believe the church more than an episcopalian or non-catholic lay person about the church.

Hey
Ok, so I have a kind of follow-up question. The example of a Seventh-Day Adventist church was just hypothetical since they have service on Saturday. Truthfully, I understand the danger of attending a service like that.

But a different example might be an Orthodox church. There is a Greek Orthodox church near my house, and from what I have heard on here, the Orthodox and Catholic churches are exceptionally similar - I have heard many people even hoping for a reunification of Orthodoxy and Catholicism. Perhaps attending a service there could be beneficial; the Schism, after all, was a huge moment in Catholic history, and it would be interesting to see the result in person.

My motivations for attending any other service would be almost entirely secular (understanding more of human history), but I can think of a few spiritual benefits with certain churches.

I hope it doesn’t sound like I’m pushing to observe anything but the Catholic church. I’m truly not. I’m just curious, and truth be told, chances are I won’t ever really attend any of these services. Just wondering.

You seem to have missed both my apology for my intemperate language (which is no more than I deserve–the post is there and I can’t expect you to read the rest of the thread before responding) and the qualification to my statement (which is your fault). My point was that the Catholic Church clearly does not have the fullness of the faith either

  1. in such a manner that no further development is needed to give greater clarity and fullness, or

  2. in such a manner that there is nothing to be learned from other churches.

I was not denying that the Church has the fullness of the Faith in the sense it actually claims, which as far as I can see is

  1. that the Church has not lost or abandoned any part of the deposit of faith, and that its definitive doctrinal developments create no barrier to the full enjoyment of revealed truth

I think that the phrase “the fullness of the faith” can be misleading, because it can easily be understood in senses 1 or 2.

I am myself seeking to enter the Church. You have misunderstood my post, although for the most part I have only myself to blame for that.

Edwin

No reason to be there?

So when the Church says that non-Catholic Christians have a real though imperfect union with the Church, that doesn’t actually mean anything in terms of how Catholics act toward those Christians?

It’s empty language if it doesn’t mean that you can celebrate that real though imperfect union with those fellow Christians.

The Principles and Norms for Ecumenism, to which I have linked repeatedly over the past year or two (but am too cranky to do so yet again tonight–Google them for yourself) do not envisage such limited participation.

The scandal, it seems to me, is in your attitude and that of those who think like you. You are putting immense stumbling blocks in the path of your Protestant brothers and sisters by acting in such a way as to convince them that you think they aren’t really Christians and that their faith has no value. You are in this contradicting the teaching of the Church, not affirming it.

Edwin

I am not contradicting the teachings of the Church.
Apart from baptisms, weddings and funerals Catholics should not be attending Protestant churches. Attending such a worship service may be seen as an affirmation of their form of worship including the heretical Communion.

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