When Catholics go Episcopalian: high church or low church?


I noticed a trend of Catholics becoming Episcopalian. A couple public examples I can think of, Tony Shalhoub and Madeleine Albright. By contrast, I can’t think of any who become Presbyterian or Lutheran, though becoming Evangelical is also a big trend.

In your own observations, when they do this, do they go to high church or low church places?

I ask because I’m wondering if the Catholics-turned-Episcopalian people do it because of the less-strict doctrines or because the post-Conciliar Catholic Church unfortunately drifted away from a more majestic traditional Mass toward the touchy-feely mundane guitar-type of Mass.

It’s an interesting thing to ponder, because if it’s the latter, it really means the Catholic Church needs a wake up call to solemnize the Mass like what Pope Benedict tried to instill.


You’re asking us (Catholics) why we think they go to the Episcopalian church and what type of services they attend?

How can we have a meaningful opinion on this? ISTM the only way to get reliable data on the facts is to ask them directly.


I know Catholics who have become Lutheran–sort of broad church, to borrow the closest terms. The Catholics I know who have become Anglican and Episcopalian are more or less broad church again.


I don’t think that there is any more of a “trend” than there ever was. Far more Episcopalians and other Anglicans have become Catholic, given the somewhat self-destructive nature of Anglicanism over the past two generations, That is why we now have Anglicanorum Coetibus.


Because there are bound to be people here who know Catholics who became Episcopalian.

I seriously must wonder why there are always rude users who treat others so disrespectfully, especially on a forum devoted to religion. I don’t appreciate being talked down to and posing the question here does not lack merit.


For most, and I know many, was even one myself, it’s a combination of the 2. Which, IMHO, is an even bigger problem.

I loved the “high church” feel of the Church I attended. Beautiful vestments, glorious organ music, lots of incense, kneeling for communion, etc.

And I loved my female pastor, the fact the fact that openly gay couples could be “married”, the lack of moral teachings on sex, and the general- “so long as you are a good person and try to do good you’ll be OK’ mentality.”

So, I am thinking that you premise above is faulty, at best
In my experience, Catholics who leave for the Episcopal “high church” are those who want to “have their cake and eat it too.”. They want all the external flash and none of the internal spirituality.


Thanks, that was a very constructive addition to the conversation.

It bothers me how Episcopalianism deviates from the basic standards of Christianity. For example, they are fine with being pro-choice. So I can see what you mean.

No moral teachings on sex though? Really? I wasn’t aware of that, but it does make sense since they allow divorcees to remarry (yet another deviation from what was the standard just in the last century).


If I came across as rude I apologize, it wasn’t my intention. But my question is honest. We can only have an opinion. A convert can give us the facts. If the idea is to prevent defections, is it not better to act on fact than opinion?

I’ve only spoken to a couple of ex-Catholic Anglicans. Both converted because of the Church’s doctrine on divorce and remarriage. That’s nowhere near enough data for me to formulate a meaningful opinion in the issue. I can speculate, but it wouldn’t add anything to the debate.

Perhaps others here know of more defectors, and have more meaningful opinions. If they only know a couple like me, the sum of speculations won’t necessary add up to usable data, and could in fact lead us to carrying erroneous assumptions about such defections.

Therefore any attempts to prevent defections based on erroneous assumptions could end up being counterproductive. However if some posters do know more as the poster above, they should be the persons asked.

I do know of a convert who went the other way, an Anglican priest who is now a Benedictine monk. He was also ordained as a Catholic priest a couple of years ago, Deo gratias!


In my own personal and pastoral experience (which is only anecdotal, by no means a scientific survey):

All of the former Catholics who turned Anglican/Episcopalian did so because they are in irregular marriage situations (mostly divorced and remarried w/o annulment), and they know that they cannot be admitted to Holy Communion.

I do not know anyone who did this for either motivation of high or low church worship styles.


More anecdotes.

A relative left the Church due to divorce and remarriage.

A couple from my parish left because they felt the Episcopalians were more just in how they treated women and gays than the Catholics were. On this particular issue, though, many more left to join a church staffed by Roman Catholic Womenpriests.

I don’t know of anyone and haven’t even heard of anyone leaving due to liturgy.


Might I ask where you’re from?

My experience is that the divorced and remarried ignore the rule about not receiving Communion and go anyway, but that’s in the western United States. I find it interesting that the rule is observed with the people you know.

Another thing I could add is the Catholic priests who want to marry. There were a couple priests in television who did that. I think that Mexican Father Cutié did? The priest who baptised me did that too.


I can’t speak for father, but here in Quebec most Catholics are very liberal and simply ignore the rule as well. The only two cases I know of, who left the Church because of irregular marriage situations, we’re both Americans.

We simply don’t have that many defections. Many that simply lapse, and you hear in the media of odd cases of conversion to Protestantism due to Catholic sexual and marriage teachings (e.g. same-sex marriage).


That raises an interesting question. Do North American priests fail to catechize about marriage?

All the campaigns against gay marriage, when there have got to be statistically more remarried divorcées (if half of all marriages fail). Yet I don’t ever remember hearing any priest talk against it in his homily.

I found it a bit strange that there has been so much media coverage over the Synod in October dealing with this issue when from where you and I are, it’ll have virtually no meaning on the ground.


But now we’re discussing 2 different groups of people. Those who stay Catholic (and either keep the rules or ignore them, or don’t even know about them) are entirely different from those who leave the Church.

In my personal experience, I’ve just never known anyone who left the Church to become Anglican who did so for reasons of ritual (either direction).

I think many of them choose Anglicanism for ritual reasons, but only after they’ve already more-or-less decided to leave the Church.


The cases I know about, they clearly know what the “rule” is, they simply chose to ignore it.

I don’t criticize because though I had my marriage regularized (by convalidation) some years ago, I’m not sure I’d be any better than they if I found myself in their situation. There but for the grace of God go I… I’m just thankful I’m not in that position.


As I see it, that’s the central point of your question.

I think it’s safe to say that the vast majority of them do it because of the less strict doctrines and norms; while only a tiny minority of them do it because they find Anglicanism more majestic.

But even there, we’re still comparing two different issues.

We can say “yes, most do it for reasons of doctrine and rules.”

We can say “no, most don’t do it because they’re looking for more solemnity.”

However, those 2 issues do not always correspond to each other.


I was raised as an Episcopalian. From my observations there, the majority of Catholics-turned-Anglicans were people who did so because of divorce and remarriage issues.


What makes it tough is most people are young when getting married and may not really believe and only do it because their parents want a church wedding. If they wind up getting a divorce and then later find the faith again they are told they cannot receive the sacraments. In cases such as that I feel they should be more than welcome to receive them.


They probably leave because of divorce and remarriage issues. If their issue was the Conciliar Church and the Novus Ordo, they’d go either traditionalist or Eastern Orthodox.


Former NJ governor Jim McGreevey turned Episcopalian. He’s remarried, pro-choice, and a gay man who wants to receive holy orders.

A Catholic relative of mine turned Lutheran because she married a Presbyterian and that was the compromise.

So marriage and doctrine seem like the overwhelming reasons.

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