I am a Roman Catholic, baptised when I was a child and later confirmed and have received communion. The Roman Catholic Church is the “default” church in my home country.

I have now moved to the United Kingdom and find myself attending mass in a parish of the Church of England — quite “High Church”, although I don't think it matters. (I could reasonably attend mass in a Catholic Church, but the community + practical reasons make me feel better in the Anglican church.)

I would like to take an active part in the parochial church council. For this, I shall enroll in the church's electoral roll, and declare that:

I am a member in good standing of a Church (not in communion with the Church of England) […] and also declare myself to be a member of the Church of England […]

What does the Roman Catholic Church say on its members declaring themselves (also) members of another Church?

  • Like any library, Christianity Stack Exchange offers great information, but does not offer personalized advice, and does not take the place of seeking such advice from your pastor, priest, or other trustworthy counselor..
    – Nigel J
    Commented Jan 16 at 11:53
  • @NigelJ thank you for your comment — I understand this, and I'm here looking for objective reference in the canon law about this situation (can someone declare themselves member of 2 churches at the same time?); not a personal advice indeed. I have rephrased my question accordingly. Commented Jan 16 at 11:56
  • Welcome to C.SE. I agree with you that this is not a personal advice question, so it should be okay here. Commented Jan 16 at 13:37
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    I asked a similar question to a Roman Catholic priest, and his answer was that while it is okay to participate in a non-Catholic church, Catholics need to 1) "fly their flag" and declare themselves as Roman Catholic to relevant people in matters of church activities (so in your case, to other parish council members) and 2) "don't take part in non-Catholic communion" (but I'm not sure whether they make an exception for Anglicans because I was asking about my present church where communion is largely memorial, not sacramental). Commented Jan 16 at 14:04
  • I also didn't ask specifically about membership. He also said that Catholics need to keep fulfilling mass obligations to be in good standing and in the state of grace, so need to go to both churches on Sunday. Final point: there may be minor variations of the policy for various countries; I was asking in Canada, so the relevant authority there is the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops. Maybe the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales is more flexible because the Anglican communion is "close cousin"? Commented Jan 16 at 14:04

1 Answer 1


What would the Roman Catholic Church position be, should I declare myself “member of the Church of England”?

If you were to declare yourself a member of the Church of England, you would be declared in a state of schism and as such you would be considered to be self excommunicated from the Catholic Church. You cannot be Protestant and Catholic at the same time! When one leaves the Catholic Church, one may be rejecting the Catholic Church and her teachings altogether, or (as seems more likely in the case you mention) simply rejecting certain of her truths and her ability to authoritatively speak the Truth. The former is technically known as apostasy; the latter may be either schism, heresy, or both. Canon 751 of the Code of Canon Law of the Latin Church states:

Can. 751 Heresy is the obstinate denial or obstinate doubt after the reception of baptism of some truth which is to be believed by divine and Catholic faith; apostasy is the total repudiation of the Christian faith; schism is the refusal of submission to the Supreme Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him.

You cannot remain on the fence here. You are either Catholic or Protestant. Catholics may occasionally visit other Christian services, but may not take an active role in their parochial services.

The Church does not forbid visiting Protestant Churches or their services, but I would say don’t become a participant in the service. In other words, don’t be a reader or take up the collection or something like that. You can be present at it for the purposes of family issues or marriages, etc. What I am describing here, and I think that in itself would be a fine thing, but that is it.

We have to remember that Anglican sacraments are not regarded as valid in the eyes of Catholicism, (except baptism and marriage), and as such there is a lot at stake. See: Apostolicae curae

Let us consider the case Dr. Rod Dreher who publicly announced that he had left the Catholic Church and joined the Russian Orthodox Church. According to Church Law, he was excommunicated.

A few days ago, Dreher publicly announced that he had left the Catholic Church and joined the Russian Orthodox Church, this, apparently, being at some level his reaction to the clergy sex abuse crisis and its associated scandals. See also his Clarifying and Gratitude posts. On the whole, I found Dreher's arguments for leaving the Church unoriginal and unconvincing, but then, I don't think there are any original arguments for leaving the Church (sub sole nihil novum) and I wouldn't find any of them convincing anyway (Domine, ad quem ibimus?), however much I might sympathize with what I was hearing.

If I may rephrase him in canonical terms, it seems that one of Dreher's deepest disappointments in the Catholic Church was the reprehensible failure of so many bishops to take effective action against priests who were gravely violating Church law. Now, every legal system knows that, when authority allows laws to be broken with impunity, it becomes harder to enforce them in the future. No doubt some bishops today feel compromised in their duty to hold the faithful accountable under canon law (1983 CIC 392) after so many terrible failures to do so in the past.

In any case, here I highlight some of the canonical issues I think might be raised by Dreher's actions. Of course, Dreher and those who agree with him might find little of interest in my remarks, but I offer them as evidence that, if nothing else, canonical laws do correspond to real life situations.

  1. By all accounts Dreher has committed a formal act of schism; according to 1983 CIC 1364, he is liable to latae sententiae excommunication. But, as I and others have often said, the provisions of 1983 CIC 1323-1324 render very complicated, often nugatory, one's confidence regarding automatic censures in a particular case; it is tiresome to have to stop every time and debate the intricacies of the canonical penal process at the expense of focusing on the offensive behavoir that needs correcting. I repeat: it is time to abandon the latae sententiae operation of sanctions, and to restrict the application of penalties to ferendae sententiae procedures.

  2. Dreher brought his wife and, more to the point, his young children with him into the Orthodox Church. Even assuming that parents can remove their children from the Church (at least in a way that such children would later need to be readmitted formally to enjoy the benefits of full communion), the "sincerity" of a parental decision to deprive a Catholic child of his or her religious heritage does not rehabilitate that decision. 1983 CIC 1366 authorizes "a censure or other just penalty" against parents who "hand over their children to be . . . educated in a non-Catholic religion." - Some canonical thoughts on Rod Dreher's case

  • Anglican baptism is accepted by the RCC. FWIW. (Sacrerments wise) Commented Jan 18 at 20:08
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    Dr Dreher, in your quote, specifically stated he had left the Catholic Church. OP on the other hand is considering specifically stating that he has not left the Catholic Church, but that he remains a member of it while stating himself also to being a member of the C of E. Nothing in his proposed statement implies that he believes the doctrine of the Church of Engalnd, and as a lay member of the Church of England he is not require to do so. So long as he claims (also) to be RC your answer seems to give no clear proof of schism, unless the Pope has specifically forbidden joint membership.
    – davidlol
    Commented Jan 19 at 12:55
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    @davidlol You can not be both Catholic and Anglican (Protestant).
    – Ken Graham
    Commented Jan 19 at 13:21
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    @KorvinStarmast that’s true but Anglican communion is not. All trinitarian baptism is valid on the Catholic view, but to be in good standing with the church you have to be in full communion.
    – Luke Hill
    Commented Jan 19 at 13:55
  • @KenGraham It seemed obvious to me that you are right, but then I wondered is there any proof that says so. As far as the C of E is concerned a Roman Catholic can, in fact, declare himself a member of the C of E without accepting Protestant doctrine nor repudiating any part of Roman Catholic doctrine. (This is due to C of E being nationalised). Also clear that an RC can join lots of other organisations. So, is there a specific rule in the RCC forbidding membership in another organisation provided one continues to believe and argue for RC doctrine? Not quite as obvious as first seems.
    – davidlol
    Commented Jan 19 at 15:40

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