SPLIT: Attending Protestant services wrong?

I’m not throwing stones but just wondering. As Catholics when we visit Protestant churches for funeral wedding baptism or just worship and there is a cross without the corpus do we feel God is not present?

I have been to such occasions, and I have noticed and felt like something was not there. One this is for certain. Jesus is not there in the Tabernacle.

As Catholics we’re not to be attending protestant worship buildings for “worship”.

Wow! Really? Well, I asked!

Peace and all good

It’s listed right in examinations of conscience. Mine it’s listed under mortal sins,

  1. Have I taken in part in a Protestant Church Service?

I think you’ll find that it means instead of going to Mass. Otherwise, how could it be that His Holiness attended a service in Westminster Abbey while he was here in England? The Pope is highly unlikely to set us the example of mortal sin, is he?

Just so I’m getting this right…
The Catholic Church teaches that attending a protestant worship service is a mortal sin?
I am learning something new seemingly every day here on this forum.


No, it’s not. You might be interested in this recent Ask an Apologist answer, from May 13th (I think).

" it is not a sin for a Catholic to occasionally attend another Christian church for just cause (e.g., as a guest, for an ecumenical service), so long as the Catholic meets the Mass obligation at a Catholic church and does not receive Protestant communion, "

As I said in a previous post. to say it was a sin would be to say the Pope and many Cardinals had publicly led us to believe it was OK to sin like this, given that they so often attend non-RC services.

I don’t know if it was taught it was a sin pre-Vat. 11. I suspect it was, but those were different times. Then, the emphasis was on avoiding scandal and the danger of implying that there was nothing special about being a Catholic, and weakening the faith of poorly-educated Catholics. Different times, different emphases. I presume the previous poster who quoted an examination of conscience as saying it was a mortal sin was using a pre-Vatican 11 resource. Things have moved on.

I am disappointed in Michelle Arnold’s answer, to be honest, in that she does not quote a document. I started to plough through the Catechism, but there was too much of it, sorry.

No, that’s not correct. Now, attending a Protestant service instead of meeting your Sunday Mass obligation would be sinful; but that would be due to missing Mass, not due to attending a Protestant service.

No that is not right - this used to be the case but no longer. One cannot attend a non-Catholic service *instead of *mass, but it’s perfectly permissable to attend a non-catholic service. As Paperwright says above the Pope attended Evening Prayer at Westminster Abbey, and was a regular visitor at Evensong services (which he loved) when he stayed at Cambridge. Our Archbishop precahed last week at St Albans Abbey.

I fail to see how:

“Oh you know I just want to attend a Baptist service just to experiment/try it out”

is not mortally sinful.

If it is for a real reason like a wedding, funeral, or family expectation, then okay. But just, “I want to, therefore I will,” seems to be mortally sinful.

Well, let me give you an example of a non-Catholic service that I occasionally chose to attend (and I think I am in good company with Pope Benedict:D)

I always fulfil my obligation at a Catholic church at the Saturday Vigil or Sunday morning. I sometimes feel in need to spiritual nourishment but don’t always want to go to mass on a Sunday evening or a weekday. Sadly Catholic Vespers or Benediction is as rare as hen’s tooth even in a large city like London I have to travel some way to attend, something I am not always able to do.

So I ocassionally attend choral evensong at one of the local anglican churches - it is a beautiful service, a conflation of vespers and compline, the magnificat and nunc dimitis are sung to superb settings, the Psalm is chanted beautifully by choir and congregation and there are three traditional hymns, normally also a Latin Office hymn translated. It is a perfect service for prayer and meditation at the end of a busy week. I rotate my attendance and have since discovered other Catholics who also attend. And I have also discussed with my Parish priest and Bishop and both have confirmed it’s fine for me to attend. I was also at the event a couple of weeks ago when our Archbishop Vincent Nichols preached at St Albans Abbey.


liturgyluver, I sometimes get the impression that we have better ecumenical relationships in the UK with the Churches Together program. We (CofE) host the nearby Catholic church to Evensong two or three times per year. Last time round we welcomed the new Catholic Priest who gave the homily. There is generally such an event on a monthly basis here.

That’s interesting Symphorian. We tend to have events every other month here and they take a different form. Our Catholic church hosted a lovely service of Taize a few months back that everyone loved. It seems from my travels in France and Germany that there are similar arrangements there too.

Here it is from Rome. Cardinal Arinze Prefect for the Congregation of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.



“Wherever two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them”. Jesus may not be sacramentally present, but He surely is present among those who gather for prayer in His name. There is no Church teaching that says otherwise, and indeed the Church calls those believing non-Catholics who are baptized, Christians. This is covered very well in the Catechism . While we believe we have the fullness of truth, we acknowledge that our Protestant brothers and sisters have the Truth, although not in it’s fullness, and the Church considers them in imperfect union with the Catholic Church.

So we can never say that God is not present among them in their services, or that we Catholics somehow have exclusive rights to His Holy Presence. They just do not have that special Sacramental Presence found in the Tabernacles of the Catholic (and Orthodox) Churches.

I’d be interested in seeing how this meets the requirements for mortal sin.

"Oh you know I just want to attend a Baptist service just to experiment/try it out"

I would say that this would not necessarily be a mortal sin, but it is putting yourself in the near occasion of sin. Why would anyone want to experiment with or “try out” a non-Catholic religious service? This indicates to me that the person doing this is not a true Catholic. Nothing, absolutely nothing, can surpass Holy Mass. Anything else falls far short.

You’re right. New ecumenism.

It sure would be good to have some consistent guidelines.

You need to read the Directory for the Applications of Principles and Norms on Ecumenism.

Sharing in Non-Sacramental Liturgical Worship
116. By liturgical worship is meant worship carried out according to books, prescriptions and customs of a Church or ecclesial Community, presided over by a minister or delegate of that Church or Community. This liturgical worship may be of a non-sacramental kind, or may be the celebration of one or more of the Christian sacraments. The concern here is non-sacramental worship.
117. In some situations, the official prayer of a Church may be preferred to ecumenical services specially prepared for the occasion. Participation in such celebrations as Morning or Evening Prayer, special vigils, etc., will enable people of different liturgical traditions—Catholic, Eastern, Anglican and Protestant—to understand each other’s community prayer better and to share more deeply in traditions which often have developed from common roots.
118. 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.

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