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“Ask a Priest: May I Attend Protestant Services to Appease My Kin?”
Q: I converted to the Catholic faith from Protestantism, but sometimes my family wants me to attend the Protestant church with them. I feel this is wrong, since the Catholic Church is the true Church of Christ, but I don’t want to offend them, so wanted to see if it was OK to go and occasionally worship with them. – T.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: Congratulations on entering the Catholic Church. I hope that you are discovering its many treasures, among which the most valuable is the Eucharist.
The Eucharist, the very body and blood of Christ made present among us, is at the center of the Mass. That is why the Catholic Mass is a unique form of worship. It is the highest form of prayer we can offer to God.
It is also in a class by itself. This means that no Protestant service can substitute it. So if you are thinking of going to a Protestant service in lieu of Sunday Mass, the answer is no. The Protestant service would not fulfill the Sunday (or holy day) obligation.
Now, if you are thinking of accompanying a family member to a Protestant service occasionally to build family unity, but without skipping your Mass obligations, then there might be some flexibility.
Nevertheless, you would want to be aware of the possible pitfalls. You obviously shouldn’t participate in the communion that is offered; to do so would send the signal that you are in accord with that denomination’s beliefs.
You would also want to be prepared to hear things that aren’t in accord with the Catholic faith. Protestant views of the Eucharist and the papacy and the Blessed Virgin Mary could be radically from the Catholic view. How might those non-Catholic stances affect your own faith if you heard them year after year?
Then, too, you might want to ask how your attendance at Protestant services is being perceived within the family or among friends. Would a young niece or nephew get the impression that Catholic Masses and Protestant services are pretty much the same, since Uncle X goes to both? These are the kinds of issues you might want to take to prayer.
For the record, it is good to mention that you shouldn’t worry about offending your relatives by not attending a Protestant service. Witnessing to your Catholic faith is one of the best things you could do for them.
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