Why do we let Anglicans and Episcopalians use Catholic Churches?


As I understand it, we allow Anglicans and Episcopalians to use Catholic parishes as an ecumenical gesture. (And no, I’m not referring to Anglican-Use or Episcopalian-Use Catholics.)

Why is this done? It feels wrong to me. We are so strict about what we allow on an altar – even relics of saints may not be put on top of an altar – yet we let a denomination with Orders we do not recognise celebrate on our altars, so their communion (which is a mere symbol for Christ since it isn’t validly consecrated) is placed on a Catholic altar.

One could argue that it also hints that the Catholic Church recognises their Orders, which of course we do not. It would be even more problematic if a female Anglican/Episcopalian priest were celebrating. Couldn’t that send an unwanted mixed message?


I believe this is a very very very limited case with permission from the local Bishop and strict rules followed (for example, the Blessed Sacrament is removed from the Tabernacle). In these very limited cases (e.g. when a neighboring congregation loses their church due to fire and needs a temporary place to worship) welcoming our separated brothers and sisters is an act of ecumenism and charity.

Bottom line, as long as the Bishop approves I would not personally worry about it.

Do you have some specific examples that you want to share or just a general thought?


No specific example, I just found it to be strange. Still do. Seems to me at the very least they should order that another table – and not the altar – be used.


Seems a nice gesture to me. I am sure the bishop might have addressed the issues you brought up.

When I was taking a discovering judaism class years ago s mormon temple allowed the synagogue to use their place of worship for their High Holiday services - Yom Kippur and Rosh Hsshanah.


when i was in rcia, the priest told us that they let another denomination use the church for a service for a teenager who had died and there was such a massive turnout expected no other building in town would hold it. as the doctor said above, the blessed sacrament was removed. i think he asked us when are the only times it is not in the tabernacle.


You’re right. It could send a mixed message. These things are permitted, but only for very good reasons; and this has to be done very carefully, and under the supervision of the bishop.

We can also send mixed signals the other way around. If the local Episcopal building burns to the ground on Friday and they ask to hold their services at a Catholic church for the weekend, would Christian charity not compel us to open our doors? What message would refusing them send?

We have to go about this the right way, and we cannot fall into the trap of indifferentism, but sometimes the laws of hospitality and charity take precedence.


I suppose my story goes at it from the opposite direction. When St Elizabeth Seton was just getting on it’s feet. We had no church and we shared quarters with St Barnabas Episcopal. We had our respective Masses at different times, but we used the same altar and separate tabernacles. Neither was ever emptied.

Episcopalians and Catholics have always gotten on very well in that city, Odessa Texas and prior to that St Mary’s gave St Johns a thurible, and the Episcopalians gave St Mary’s a pulpit.

Of course that was before the Episcopalians began ‘ordaining’ women. I don’t know what has happened since. I moved away and have lost touch.


I believe in some european countries other than england where small episcopal or anglican communities exist many catholic churches have made themselves available. I read that somewhere.


I don’t see how that is more problematic. You would still have a non-Catholic cleric whose orders we don’t recognize leading the service.


Interesting thread. I’m reminded that King Henry VIII confiscated all Church property and some of it is slowly coming back “Catholic.” For instance Westminster Abbey was used to celebrate the Papal Mass last time the Pope visited London. I understand the resentment, though.


I don’t think you need to worry about it. Most colleges I’ve been to have multi-denominational chapels that are used for everyone and everything due to space constraints – same with hospitals. And I read somewhere that when Christianity first started the people went to the Jewish temple to hear the Old Testament readings and then went home to discuss the New Testament stuff in private. Seems like there’s a longstanding tradition of sharing space.


I think you mean Westminster Cathdedral.


You’re right. And I only lived near it for seven years. :o


My church did it but they used the chapel. They didn’t use the main altar and sanctuary and the bishop allowed it.


Who is “we”? AFAIK, my bishop has not permitted this.

No, Pope Benedict visited Westminster Abbey for an Evensong service. He did not celebrate Mass there. He celebrated Mass in Westminster Cathedral, which is a separate place, and is the Catholic cathedral in that diocese.


My mistake. And I used a poor example to demonstrate my point.

Carry on.




The Catholic Church as a whole (that sense of the word “we”) do allow for the possibility of other religions using our church buildings. This possibility is universal.

How this is concretely implemented on a local level, to a lesser or greater degree, depends on many different factors and circumstances.


The ecumenical gesture also goes both ways.


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.