Is it a sin for a Catholic to attend a protestant church?

I am a protestant who visited a Catholic church with my best friend when I was in high school many years ago. I also had the privilege of studying Spanish in Spain several years ago. While there, I traveled to Italy and had the honor of attending Christmas Eve midnight mass at the Vatican early during the papacy of Pope John Paul II with some Catholic friends of mine. I probably stood out in the crowd because I was always a step behind my friends in kneeling and standing up at the appropriate times, etc. :slight_smile:

Issue: My Catholic friend and I had made a deal back in high school that each of us would visit the other’s church together to see what it was like because our faiths were important to us. I visited his Catholic church and enjoyed the experience but he rescinded when it came time to visit mine, citing his mother’s disapproval.

Is it a sin for a Catholic to attend a protestant church with a friend, even it is a one-time event?


No, I don’t believe it would be a sin for your friend to go to your church for an event. There are some things to consider though.

  1. Going to your church should not take the place of, and therefore would not fulfill, his obligation to go to Mass on Sunday (that is, if you two were to go on a Sunday)

  2. If s/he is to go to your church, s/he should not participate in any type of “communion” in which bread and wine (or in most cases, juice) if given out. Only at the Catholic Church do we receive the true Sacrament of Jesus’ Body and Blood. To accept an imitation would be a sin.

  3. It could be somewhat dangerous for the individual if they are not strong in their faith. Some protestant churches make statements that are either in direct contradiction to Church teaching, or may otherwise be a direct attack on the Church itself. If your friend is not strong in their faith, it may not be a good idea to attend another Church’s event at this point in time.

I hope these answers make sense.

A Catholic can attend a protestant service, but they would still need to attend a Catholic Mass for that Holy Day. They wouldn’t be able to partake in a communion service.

Thanks for the info, TK421 and dje101. At the time, it hurt me deeply that my buddy didn’t attend my protestant church service with me (it was just a regular church service - nothing special). I got the impression at the time that my church somehow wasn’t “good enough” for him or something to that effect, although he said it was because his mother wouldn’t let him attend with me. It was a conservative Presbyterian church, by the way. I got over the hurt, however. I later attended a Catholic retreat for high school students with him the same year when my buddy informed me that the girl I liked at the time (also a Catholic) was going, too. The retreat was also a nice experience and I have always respected Catholicism, although there are many things that I don’t fully understand about it (my ignorance). Thanks again for your responses and understanding in this matter. :slight_smile:


I understand the hurt that you had felt. After all, it’s hurtful when someone says they’ll do something and then they don’t go through with it. A couple things stood out in your post though that might want to be considered.

You said that you went to a Catholic retreat of high school students, so I think I’m safe in assuming that you are a high school student. Maybe an explanation was that, while your friend wanted to go to your church event, he chose not to go simply out of respect for his mother. Either way, like you said, you got over it. It’s good that you aren’t letting that get in the way of your friendship.

As for anything you don’t understand about Catholicism, ask away! This website is what helped me come to the Church. Best decision I ever made. Keep looking in to the Catholic Church, you might like it too! :D;)

No, it isn’t a sin to attend a different faith’s Church or other religious service. Most likely his mother was leary about sending her young son to such a service. When I was a young boy in a 95% protestant town I was constantly assailed by some fellow pupils and even one Southern baptist Mother that the Pope was the anti-Christ and other such nonsense about Catholicism.

Hi WKW_69,
I apologize for the undeserved bad treatment you received in your town. It was truly uncalled for and reflects the prejudice and ignorance of those professing those views.
Not all protestants are like that, thank God. We are brothers and sisters in Christ, in my view.

No it isn’t a sin. However, your friend’s mother was probably concerned that you or people from your church might try to lead your friend away from the Catholic Church. She may have had reason to believe that your friend wasn’t strong in his faith, or maybe she was just going off of a previous experience with another denomination. When I was a high-schooler, there was a local Protestant church that really emphasized their young people being missionaries and encouraged them to convert their classmates by bringing them to youth group nights, which were mostly Christian rock concerts with free pizza.

Hi, according to my priest, Catholics shouldn’t visit Protestant churches, because if we sing, etc, and participate in the worship, it’s like we’re saying that we agree with the Protestant beliefs, which would be inaccurate. For example with non Catholics visiting Protestant churches, there are things they can’t do like receive Communion, and they are not forced to participate in everything if they feel uncomfortable. If they want, they can just sit there, and we’re okay with people visiting a Catholic church to pray at any time, because we want everyone to discover the Real Presence of Jesus there in the Eucharist :slight_smile: Sometimes especially in the city, people come into Catholic churches just to pray in the silence, because they’re open.

My family is non Catholic and I asked my priest if I could go to their church if I have no choice about that, while I also go to Mass on Sunday, and he said that if I have to go, then just not to participate visibly. But generally, given a choice, a Catholic would not be encouraged to attend a Protestant service because of the sharing of visible worship, also because much of the service is the sermon, and the sermon would probably contain Protestant teachings that are different, that could be confusing for Catholics who don’t know their faith very well.

I understand that this could be puzzling or even insulting to non Catholics, but this is just the logical step to us believing that the Catholic Church is the true one.

God bless!


Catholics are often in a difficult position with how to handle protestant services. We believe that just as there is only one God, there is likewise only one Church through Jesus Christ. Prior to his crucifixion, Jesus prayed with blood weeping from his skin for unity among his disciplines, and this is something we take very seriously. We believe this unity has come from the very beginning through the apostles and continues to the present day. In a sense, Catholics believe we are still living in “Biblical times” today. When we go to a Mass, we are experiencing a miraculous event through the priest and are partaking in the body of Christ.

It’s not a matter of other religious services not being “good enough”. You can - and do - run into occurrences where the reverence and dedication of other religious services surpass what you find in a particular Catholic Mass, however, the Catholic Mass is where a Catholic receives the body of Christ in an ongoing sacrifice that will continue until the end of the world. So if nothing else, a devout Catholic will still attend a Catholic Mass because of Jesus.

No it is not a sin to visit a protestant church.

A couple issues though.

  1. It is a sin to not honor your father and mother in an instance like this (especially if you are living in their home and not an adult).

  2. Protestant services do not meet our Sunday Obligation, so they can be scheduling issues potentially. It is a sin for us to miss mass, and so mass has to take priority over visiting other services. Our Sunday obligation can be met on Saturday night or anytime Sunday, but it is parish to parish as to when services are available.

As a former protestant, I always recommend that only very strong Catholics visit Protestant services. The main reason for this is that if one is not firmly grounded in the Catholic Faith, they can easily be swayed to go protestant. Protestant services are fun and entertaining. Some compete well with the local playhouse or entertainment venue. Such things can be enticing to a weak Catholic who may convert to protestantism for the wrong reasons.

It is not a sin, but I know I feel very uncomfortable whenever I attend Protestant services. They are mandatory by my college to go three times a week, so I have to go. But I stay in the back, don’t participate, and usually pray a Rosary or something. Your friend might be feeling something like that.

This from a Catholic Answers apologist might provide a guideline…


In the first place a Catholic has no business attending Protestant church services even occasionally. To participate in a heretical worship service and especially a communion service can be sinful for a Catholic because such an act is an affirmation of what we believe to be untrue. To attend an ecumenical service or a wedding or baptism is allowed, but Catholics are not allowed to attend such churches for the main reason of worship. Now if there are no Catholic churches in the vicinity on a Sunday, Catholics are allowed to participate in the Liturgy of Churches whose clergy are validly ordained such as the Eastern Orthodox Churches—including the reception of the Eucharist. Although we consider them to be in schism (not in union with the Pope) with the Catholic Church, such Churches are not heretical and share our basic beliefs.

Fr. Vincent Serpa, O.P.

Well…I learrned something new today! :smiley:

Thanks for posting this.

No, it is not a sin. But it is not as simple as that. A Catholic must attend Mass every Sunday. So going to a protestant Church can be a time issue. Because the Sunday obligation has not been filled so Mass must still be attended. Also, a Catholic cannot partake in some protestant activities. “communion” and altar calls are a big no-no. And last but certainly not least. A Catholic MUST protect their own faith. If going to a protestant Church could in some way weaken a faith, or cause some sort of scandal to others then one should not attend. If the persons parents are expressing concern I would be understanding of the faith this family shares. Perhaps they feel they could be evangelized or proselytized to. While that may not happen, it certainly does happen in some instances.

To what purpose do you wish this person to go? To leave their own faith? To gain some sort of understanding that you cannot communicate through conversation? Or just as a polite tit for tat? If I were you I would be extremely understanding and not want to pressure this person into a situation that may cause them scandal or upset their families.

And, don’t hold someone to a deal they made in high school. It is a time of exploration in life when you are just figuring life out. I made all sorts of “we will be best friends forever deals” and now that my 20 year reunion is this year it will be the first time I will have seen these people since graduation.:wink:

I love Father Serpa.

A strait shooter.

I point blank asked my priest if I had committed a sin by attending my cousin’s church when I was visiting them (it was actually the time I could see them as I came through); it was after I had attended Catholic Mass the previous evening. He told me I did not sin. I explained to what extent I participated in their service (singing the same Christian contemporary songs you hear on the radio, for example). I feel confident I did not sin.

When I was a boy in parochial school, about 70 years ago, the very strict and stern Irish Nuns said it was a sin to even walk in front of a Protestant Church! LOL
Seriously, it was many years before I realized that what I learned there was about equal amounts of religion and Irish superstition. Thus it was before Vatican II

This is the position approved for England and Wales by the Vatican:

Guidelines for Catholics responding to Declaration of Ecumenical Welcome and Commitment from other Churches
“ At the Second Vatican Council the Catholic Church committed herself irrevocably to following the path of the ecumenical venture……” (Ut Unum Sint 3.)

There is, as is well known, a serious obligation for Catholics to attend Mass on Sundays, unless they have reasonable cause not to do so, because the celebration of the Eucharist on the Lord’s Day is at the centre of our Catholic life.

At the Eucharistic celebrations of other Christians (i) Catholics, if invited, may receive a blessing at Communion time (ii), and may;
Read the lesson
Take part in intercessory prayer
Participate in music, dance and drama.

At Non-Eucharistic services of other Christians (iii) Catholics may
Participate in planning and leading the service
Read the lesson and Gospel
Give the address
Lead or take part in intercessory prayer
Participate in music, dance and drama


(i) “It is not permissible for Catholics to receive Holy Communion, or the sacraments of Reconciliation and Anointing of the Sick from ministers of the Anglican Communion, the Church of Scotland or of other faith communities rooted in the Reformation”
One Bread, One Body 117

(ii) “Reciprocal acceptance of a ‘blessing’ by Catholics and other Christians at each other’s Eucharistic celebrations is something which we encourage as a sign of the degree of unity we share”
One Bread, One Body 84

(iii) “At 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 118

(iv) Directory for the Application of Principles and Norms on Ecumenism 131,133,134,135.

March 2001

Can you link to that document please.