Participating in Non-Catholic services/liturgies

From this:
“It is not permitted to be present at the sacred rites of infidels and heretics in such a way that you would be judged to be in communion with them” --St Alphonsus Liguori

“Active participation in the sacred things of a [non-Catholic] public cult is illicit, since it implies approval of the worship and a recognition of the sect.” – Fr. B. Merkelbach OP in his Summa Theologiæ Moralis

“[the] Apostolic See has never allowed its subjects to take part in the assemblies of non-Catholics.” --Pope Pius XI, Mortalium Animus

To this:

“In liturgical celebrations taking place in other Churches and ecclesial Communities, Catholics are encouraged to take part in the psalms, responses, hymns and common actions of the Church in which they are guests. If invited by their hosts, they may read a lesson or preach.” – DIRECTORY FOR THE APPLICATION OF PRINCIPLES AND NORMS ON ECUMENISM

“We encourage attendance at each other’s Eucharists, respecting the different disciplines of our churches. This is particularly appropriate during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity and other festive occasions in the life of our local communities. This would provide opportunities for experiencing each other’s eucharistic life, thereby serving both to deepen our communion and our desire for full communion. While this would take the form of non-communicating attendance in each other’s churches, it would nonetheless initiate a renewed awareness of the value of spiritual communion. We commend the offering of a blessing which has become a regular practice in some places for those who may not receive holy communion.” – GROWING TOGETHER IN UNITY AND MISSION: Building on 40 years of Anglican – Roman Catholic Dialogue

These are just a few examples. How can we say that Catholic Teaching hasn’t changed? Or does this fall under the category of ‘discipline’ or whatever, which my change? And no, I’m not trying to start a fight. Just want (need) clarification.


I have the same confusion. I made a similar post but questioning the people who stay in ‘traditionalism’ and not accept the new.

Disciplines change. It is no sin to pray with Protestants.


The key is not to join with unbelievers! The notion that Catholics shouldn’t associate with Protestants is missing the point. There are plenty of unbelieving Catholics and misguided Protestants. The body of Christ is not dependent on church membership. It represents the body of believers referred to by the Apostle Paul in Cor 12.

It has not changed. We do not fulfill our obligation for Sundays and Holy Days of obligation in non-Catholic churches or ecclessial communities nor may we receive their sacraments. [Edit: note in a later post that there are some exceceptions to Catholic’s receiving penance, Eucharist, and anointing of the sick when indifferentism is avoided, in non-Catholic churches with valid sacraments.] Note that you quoted from the 1993 Norms on Ecumenism under the section: Sharing in Non-Sacramental Liturgical Worship

Also in that document is the instruction to avoid indifferentism:

*6. … In our day there exists here and there a certain tendency to doctrinal confusion. Also it is very important in the ecumenical sphere, as in other spheres, to avoid abuses which could either contribute to or entail doctrinal indifferentism. The non-observance of the Church’s directives on this matter creates an obstacle to progress in the authentic search for full unity among Christians. …

2007 Growing Together. This document references the same Norms, but the referenced item is:

b) Sharing Sacramental Life with Christians of Other Churches and Ecclesial Communities
129. … the Catholic Church permits access to its Eucharistic communion and to the sacraments of penance and anointing of the sick, only to those who share its oneness in faith, worship and ecclesial life.

There is limited permission for some non-Catholics to receive the Catholic sacraments under specific conditions when the belief it the same as Catholic belief.


So a Roman Catholic living in Siberia working for Exxon, cannot receive confession from an Orthodox priest when there is no Catholic priest nearby?

Big difference between ROC/EOC and Anglican or other Protestant sects. One is schismatic with valid sacraments, the other is heretical.

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Indifferentism must be avoided.


Can. 844 §1. Catholic ministers administer the sacraments licitly to Catholic members of the Christian faithful alone, who likewise receive them licitly from Catholic ministers alone, without prejudice to the prescripts of §§2, 3, and 4 of this canon, and can. 861, §2.
Can. 844 §2. Whenever necessity requires it or true spiritual advantage suggests it, and provided that danger of error or of indifferentism is avoided, the Christian faithful for whom it is physically or morally impossible to approach a Catholic minister are permitted to receive the sacraments of penance, Eucharist, and anointing of the sick from non-Catholic ministers in whose Churches these sacraments are valid.


Can. 671 §1. Catholic ministers licitly administer the sacraments only toCatholic Christian faithful, who, likewise, licitly receive the sacraments only from Catholic ministers.
Can. 671 §2. If necessity requires it or genuine spiritual advantage suggests it and provided that the danger of error or indifferentism is avoided, it is permitted for Catholic Christian faithful, for whom it is physically or morally impossible to approach a Catholic minister, to receive the sacraments of penance, the Eucharist and anointing of the sick from non-Catholic ministers, in whose Churches these sacraments are valid.

That change would fall under the category of discipline.

Basically you may attend non-Catholic Christian churches for baptisms, weddings, and funerals but you may not attend for the purpose of worship or receive Communion.

I have no problems in praying with non-Catholic Christians , as Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict didn’t .

Pope John Paul II praying with the Archbishop of Canterbury and other Christians in Canterbury Cathedral .




Pope Benedict praying with the Archbishop of Canterbury and other Christians in Westminster Abbey .



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In previous eras, the Church had worries, probably legitimate, that Catholics who went to non-Catholic churches, married non-Catholics etc would end up joining the non-Catholic church or fall prey to indifferentism (thinking one church was as good as the other). This drove a lot of the moral teaching on avoiding services of other churches, not marrying outside the faith, etc.

These days there is more emphasis on the commonalities that Catholics have with Protestants, particularly certain mainline sects like Anglicans, and also an emphasis on building bridges with people of all religions. In part this is a recognition that we Catholics cannot live our lives in a Catholic bubble, need to get along with neighbors of varying faiths and a certain amount of intermarriage is going to happen. The Church also wants to discourage anti-semitism and religious-based animus.

I personally am not comfortable going to a Protestant church, so if it’s not a wedding or a funeral, I don’t go. But if somebody felt they had to go for some reason, or wanted to go once in a while from an ecumenical standpoint, they can go without needing to worry they are sinning or having to get a special permission from their priest, as long as they don’t partake of any Protestant communion. This isn’t really a change in teaching as I see it, since the Catholic Church didn’t say it was okay to just go convert to Protestantism. It’s just an attitude shift. And probably for the better, since we can’t really evangelize people unless we get to know them.

It may be unwise if you are weak of faith, but there is nothing wrong with ecumenticalism in fellowship and prayer, as long as one does not forsake the dogmatic and doctrinal truth of the Church…Christ spoke of this in the Gospel of Mark (chapter 9):

38 John said to him, “Teacher, we saw a man casting out demons in your name,[a] and we forbade him, because he was not following us.” 39 But Jesus said, “Do not forbid him; for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon after to speak evil of me. 40 For he that is not against us is for us. 41 For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ, will by no means lose his reward.

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Thanks for the answers, everyone. I still have a somewhat tough time accepting all this, though. It just seems like such a radical departure from traditional Catholic teaching. I used to be quite a hardcore “traditionalist,” almost sedevacantist, so maybe that explains my tough time. But now I have another question, if you don’t mind. I see that attending protestant services isn’t ‘bad,’ as long as we keep the true faith and don’t partake in any of their sacraments (their communion or altar calls, etc) and don’t consider such services as a replacement or addition to Holy Mass. But are there any documents that speak of when and how often we may go to these services? The Second Vatican Council states that we must not “worship in common indiscriminately.” This, however, seems to speak of indifferentism. That is all I could find. I’ve seen Catholics online say that we should only attend if its a wedding or a funeral; or if we have protestant spouses/family members, or if we want to know what their service is like, without compromising, of course.

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