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Attending Protestant services
Question from Ellen on 6/9/2005:

Dear Fr. Trijilio, I hope you can help me with the following dilemna. I read with interest the question from Jason E. dated 3-26-05 and answered 4-23-05, topic label: "different religions", regarding attending a Protestant service, as my friends and I have been debating this very question. I understand from the catechism that the Church no longer calls the Protestant non-belief in the Real Presence an actual heresy but my understanding is that it is not permitted for a Catholic to partake in the Protestant "communion" service. I am not clear on simply attending a non-Catholic service. My friends do not see the harm in either practice. We are all baptized and practicing Catholics and our past attendance at Protestant services have served to strengthen our belief in our Catholic faith, though I understand that is not an excuse for attending those services now. I am a returning Catholic and one of my friends attended both faiths for quite some time and so have missed some of the reasoning for the Church's changes during the years missed. Would you be so kind as to clear up some of these questions? Thank you for your kind attention to this matter, Ellen A.

Answer by Fr. John Trigilio on 6/11/2005:

Catholics MAY attend Protestant services and may sing, pray, etc. but they CANNOT and SHOULD NOT ever receive communion in a non-Catholic church. That is considered COMMUNICATIO IN SACRIS and is still forbidden by canon law (#1365). However, one can still be very devout, loyal, obedient and an orthodox Roman Catholic and at the same time be ecumenical. Attending non-Catholic prayer services is not forbidden. Receiving any sacrament or alleged sacrament in a non-Catholic church is forbidden. Catholics cannot consider a Protestant worship service as fulfilling their Sunday obligation, however, and must still attend a Catholic Mass. Only absolute necessity can a Catholic go to an Eastern Orthodox church for their Sunday obligation when there is no Catholic Church (Latin or Byzantine) in a reasonable distance.

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