Catholic Musicians in Protestant Churches
  • Can anyone tell me whether it was considered acceptable BEFORE VATICAN II for a Catholic to work as an organist, choirmaster, singer, or other instrumentalist for a Protestant church? Was it considered sinful to be involved in non-Catholic worship in a purely professional capacity? If so, was a dispensation by the pastor or bishop possible, either to hold a permanent position or for individual services? Are there any official Church documents addressing this situation?
  • Thanks, Liam. This link is extremely helpful and is exactly the sort of thing I was looking for.

    It is active participation in a non-Catholic religious service which is forbidden by the traditional teaching on communicatio in sacris, for example joining in with psalms and hymns in the course of a Lutheran Eucharist. . . . It is important to notice that this prohibition is not presented by these theologians as an ecclesiastical ban. It is not the law of the Church which is traditionally understood to exclude Catholics from taking part in non-Catholic services; it is the divine law, which requires that outward acts of worship be expressive of inward faith. Nor is common worship only forbidden when the prayers or scriptural translations used by the non-Catholic group have an heretical sense: the mere act of sharing the worship of a non-Catholic group, according to the teaching of the theologians cited above, implies a community of religion with that group, and hence constitutes a sin against the faith.

    If singing psalms or reciting the Our Father or Apostles' Creed is forbidden even for a Catholic who happens to be present for some good reason, then logically it would be forbidden to perform Catholic music, e.g. Renaissance polyphony or French organ music, for Protestant worship even as "hired help." If this is, in fact, a matter of divine law, then it cannot be dispensed by any ecclesiastical authority.
    Thanked by 1francis
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,451
    If this is, in fact, a matter of divine law, then it cannot be dispensed by any ecclesiastical authority.

    That's a pretty big IF.
    Thanked by 1moderntrad
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    "It is active participation in a non-Catholic religious service which is forbidden by the traditional teaching on communicatio in sacris, for example joining in with psalms and hymns"

    Wait, I thought according to the trads on the page that sitting in the pew silently is actively participating?
  • Touché, Gavin! In all seriousness though, singing in the choir or playing the organ is hardly comparable to merely sitting in the pew silently.
    Thanked by 1melofluent
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,934
    When I worked for the Protestants, I made sure they understood I could not receive communion with them and why. They understood and had no problems with it.

    I think the objections to praying with Protestants is straining at gnats. Your local Catholic bishop probably prayed with them before you did.
    Thanked by 2ryand moderntrad
  • Just because the bishop did it doesn't make it ok! I personally don't want to follow my bishop's lead in many areas. The Catholic faith is a pearl of great price that has been handed down to us from the apostles themselves, not the cult of a personality, be it pope, bishop, pastor, or otherwise. Just like the laity, clergy break commandments all the time.
    Thanked by 2Ben francis
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,934
    Taking nothing away from the Catholic faith, but I would hope none of us are so fragile our faith would be damaged by a simple prayer with others. All I can say to those considering working for Protestants is either don't do it if it bothers you, or take the job and shut up about it. Worship is one thing, work is another. If you are fortunate to be able to do both in the same place, great. Many are not that fortunate and are just trying to make a living.
  • The issue is not praying together, but rather taking part in non-Catholic worship—whether or not there is any serious risk of endangering one's faith. Even with the mentality of work and worship remaining separate, the musician is still actively supporting or facilitating non-Catholic worship, although he may not himself intend to take part in it as a worshiper. The article Liam linked to above discusses the difference between private prayer and public worship in the mind of the Church and the unanimous consent of preconciliar theologians. I encourage you to take a few minutes to read it for a better understanding.
  • I encourage you to take a few minutes to read it for a better understanding.

    No, your understanding is not my understanding...if a person's faith is threatened, it's not the fault of the Catholic church or a Protestant church where one lays bricks, cooks, plays the organ....whatever.

    If you work in a power generating station, do you feel that you have to shut off the transformers that feed Protestant church with electricity on Sunday morning?

    Have to go, it's the last week for the class in counting angels on the head of a pin. If I don't get there on time, CharlesW will make sure that they lock the door and not let me in. And he will NOT share his notes!

    Years ago I knew an organist that was studying at Juilliard. He joined a church and then quit playing the organ for money since it was working on Sunday. Couldn't pay his bills and rent anymore.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,934
    I am hearing a Tridentine mindset at work in all this. There has been a Council since then. They changed things. Didn't say it was a great thing, just reality. Councils have the right to do such things. But if all the points you mentioned bother you, I don't see you being happy working in a Protestant church. It's not for everyone.

    Noel, I will be standing at the door with Swiss Army watch in hand waiting for you. I realized in first grade that sharing is vastly overrated.
  • francis
    Posts: 10,668
    Catholics cannot worship (or work) in a Protestant (that includes Episcopal) church. It is a cause for scandal. Especially as a musician.
  • Noel Jones:
    No, your understanding is not my understanding...if a person's faith is threatened, it's not the fault of the Catholic church or a Protestant church where one lays bricks, cooks, plays the organ....whatever.

    Clearly not. Laying bricks, cooking, or providing electrical power cannot reasonably be construed as active participation in an act of worship. Playing the organ can. Even if the organist's religious affiliation is known to everyone in the congregation, a visitor could reasonably assume the organist was actively taking part in worship.
    Years ago I knew an organist that was studying at Juilliard. He joined a church and then quit playing the organ for money since it was working on Sunday.

    Surely this wasn't a Catholic church! In our theology, it is only the kind of work done that matters, not whether or not one is paid to do it. But the topic of this thread concerns the lawfulness of the work itself, not whether it's done on the day of rest.

    I am hearing a Tridentine mindset at work in all this.

    My question was specifically about pre-Vatican II practice, but I wouldn't say Tridentine, per se. I worked for a Protestant church for many years. They were very good to me and I never had a single problem there, largely because I was able to set aside my own convictions and comply with any and every request, the strangest being to accompany "Jingle Bells" on the organ on the first Sunday of Advent. Despite an excellent employment experience, I always felt that my identity as a Catholic was compromised because of it, even though everyone knew it was "just a job" for me. During that period, I was once referred to as "being in the ministry" by a fellow Catholic who certainly should have known better. That being said, I've had FAR unhappier experiences working in Catholic churches, e.g. being insulted and cursed at by a priest, gossiped about by choir members, and endless complaints about music that would be considered quite excellent by anyone on this forum, I daresay.

    The question is not about the quality of a work environment or experience, but whether or not it is pleasing to God for a Catholic to take part in non-Catholic worship. The organist might not consider the accompaniment of hymns an act of worship, but those who are singing them do. A singer might consider an anthem or motet nothing more than a musical performance, but the clergy and congregation view it as worship.
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 5,150
    And yet we have Catholic churches and even Cathedrals that employ Protestant (if Christian at all) organists, choir directors, and DoMs. The Catholic viewpoint on music and musicians seems to be (or have been) a one-way osmosis sieve.
    Thanked by 3BruceL ryand moderntrad
  • What would Francis say?

    (I mean the one in Rome!)
  • I might be coming at this wrong, being Irish and all but...there is 0nly worship of God; worship by protestants and worship by Catholics of the one god. All protestants who are baptised are part of, though in imperfect communion with, the Catholic church, by virtue of the one sacrament of baptism which makes us members of the one church, which is the one body of Christ. Surely an act of not worshipping with protestants , which led to the scandal of not understanding these things should also be avoided, as well as the scandal of participating in those parts of a protestant service, which cut off from genuine orders of apostolic origin, are no longer acts of genuine worship (this is not to impute a lack of genuine sincerity to the protestants participating).
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,934
    I suspect that as a Byzantine, I have a more detached view of both Protestant and Roman Catholic worship. It wasn't/isn't my own model of worship so it became a job in both places. I always tell everyone that since Christ ate with sinners, I can work with the Latins. LOL. Not serious about that at all.

    When I worked with the Protestants, I realized Catholic priests, other clergy, and laity could learn a great deal about Christian behavior from them.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    "I always felt that my identity as a Catholic was compromised because of it"

    Then there's your answer, madorganist. You don't need a document to tell you something your conscience will decide for you.
  • Thanks to everyone who has responded. CHGiffen: This is correct. The article Liam linked to explains why it's unobjectionable for non-Catholics to take part in Catholic worship but not vice versa.

    bonniebede: You shared some good thoughts and your sentiments are appreciated. I learned back when I was in RCIA that the Catholic Church does not accept the proposition that there are both visible and invisible true Churches, but rather only one visible Church, although it is possible for some souls outside the visible Church to be united to it. We also have to bear in mind that not all Protestants have been validly baptized. Some of the Protestant churches use a defective form, and in the churches that reject infant baptism, there are always some who make it to adulthood and never get baptized even though they continue going to church. If there is "only worship of God; worship by protestants and worship by Catholics of the one god [sic]," why limit common worship to Christians? Vatican II taught that Muslims "adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all-powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to men" (Nostra aetate). Of course I don't advocate participation in Muslim worship, but it would follow logically if you hadn't mentioned baptism. In any case, those without the Catholic faith accept only the parts of it that agree with their own personal opinions (see also the Summa). For example, no Protestant means the same thing as a Catholic when professing belief in "the holy Catholic Church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins" in the Apostles' Creed. When this creed is recited in the context of Catholic worship, it has one meaning, even if non-Catholics happen to join in; within Protestant worship, it has a very different meaning, even if Catholics happen to join in. The fundamental questions remains: Is this pleasing to God? Even when no heretical or insufficient meaning is attached to the words themselves, as in the Our Father, there are still at least two acts of worship taking place, which essentially express two different religions. When Catholics pray the Our Father, it is an expression of everything we believe, not just the parts we believe in common with other denominations.

    Gavin: That's a great point. Actually, I asked the question not for strictly personal reasons, but because of a discussion I had with an organist who plays for an SSPX chapel. My own conscience is valid for me, but not for anyone else (fortunately, most of the time!). The article by Fr. Thomas Crean seems to corroborate everything my friend's priest said. Although there are probably some instances of Catholics being encouraged to take part in ecumenical services, nobody has provided anything official documentation yet of Catholics being encouraged to participate in Protestant worship.
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,943
    I would just add that the column I linked is NOT definitive guidance. It's an opinion. From a specific perspective. I chose it because it appeared to be from a perspective the OP valued. But folks should realize it's not a final word by any means.
  • a visitor could reasonably assume

    Most Protestant churches have a sign prominently displayed:

    If you are a Visitor, please do not assume that the organist playing today is actively taking part in worship.

    Really, you've got to be kidding me if you think what Protestants think about all the time, or even part of the time, is if the organist is Catholic.

    If anything, they think: "Wow, he's really good for a Catholic organist!" or "Well, she's awful, but after all she's Catholic."

    Of course, I went four years with Catholics asking me why I was working in a Catholic church...all due to the pastor being asked, 6 weeks after I was hired, by the bishop: "Is he Catholic?" and the priest: "I don't know, I never asked him, I just needed a director of music." This same parish also hired an elementary school counselor without asking and they had an Atheist counseling the good Catholic children and the bad ones.
  • Reval
    Posts: 180
    As a string player, I have had similar thoughts, madorganist, about the many weddings I have played at Protestant churches, as well as parks, backyards, etc. Come to think of it, I certainly have played at my share of Methodist Christmas services, etc. It doesn't shake my faith in any way, but it does occasionally cause me to think uncharitable thoughts about the lack of decorum, odd church services, etc. (not like Catholic churches are perfect, ha ha).
    Although, I might soon be limiting my wedding gigs to Catholic weddings only, due to certain recent court decisions...

  • ryandryand
    Posts: 1,640
    Really, you've got to be kidding me if you think what Protestants think about all the time, or even part of the time, is if the organist is Catholic.

    It was an issue with some at a church I worked for. I was not fired for it, the pastor wanted me there, but I was told to at least feign participation in non-musical parts of their services to keep the whisperers at bay.
  • Both the DM and myself are Catholic and we work at a Presbyterian church. No one has ever said a word to us about it either way, but perhaps we are simply fortunate to work in a place where people don't bicker so much about this stuff. We show up, do our job, the Presbys are happy and they get their music, they thank us and they appreciate our efforts. We pray with them, it doesn't bother us. I am thankful to have a job and even more thankful to work with people who are kind, welcoming, and non-judgmental with regard to how anyone chooses to worship God. But that's just me.
    @Reval: greetings from a fellow string player, I haven't received any calls yet for civil unions but I do know that I am shielded from having to deal with it in my position at the church. I wouldn't stop performing Protestant services altogether (that would be a huge loss of income, for me at least), but if that call happens to come in just say you are already booked and give them the numbers of other people who might be willing to do it.
    Thanked by 1Reval
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 3,177
    No sacraments involved there.

    No, but the mocking of a sacrament is taking place. If I were in that position, I'd excuse myself ("sorry, I have a conflict on that day."), allow another organist to take my place, and donate the bench fee to a Catholic charity - particularly one that supports traditional marriage.
    Thanked by 1Reval
  • But change the mass times by 15 minutes, and watch how quickly they change parishes.

    I believe that's also a liturgical abuse (changing parishes for non-territorial/location reasons).
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,943
    The 1983 Code of Canon Law got rid of the obligation to receive the sacraments at one's parish of domicile. That change is also what allowed TLM devotees to seek liturgies elsewhere.
    Thanked by 2Gavin MatthewRoth
  • Back to the original topic, still being discussed in the midst of all this: I'm not sure what the position was PRIOR to Vatican II; but today, there is no issue with working in a Protestant church.

    I happen to believe it should be avoided; As discussed here before, I truly believe in what Vatican II taught: that lay ministry really is legitimate. As such, this isn't just a "job." It is a real ministry. Would a priest take a job at the local Lutheran church? I hope not!

    But - real life gets in the way of ideals sometimes. People do what they have to do. And yes, I have taken the odd wedding/funeral at a Protestant church, but I would try to avoid working at one permanently.
    Thanked by 2Gavin CharlesW
  • Reval
    Posts: 180
    The Six Precepts of The Church

    1. To attend Holy Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation and to refrain from servile work
    2. To Confess our sins at least once a year (traditionally done during Lent)
    3. To receive Holy Communion at least once a year during the Easter Season (known as the "Easter duty")
    4. To observe the days of fasting and abstinence
    5. To help contribute to the support of our pastors and provide for the needs of the Church according to one's abilities and station in life
    6. To obey the marriage laws of the Church

    Sorry if this is too off-topic. The question for me is how do we express precept #6 (as a parish, as a Church)?
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,934
    Now that I have worked in a Catholic church for 15 years, I have stopped being concerned about the years I spent working in Protestant churches. When I did work for them we had an understanding that I couldn't receive communion with them and they accepted that. It was a liberal denomination which allowed multiple baptisms. It wasn't uncommon for an adult to decide to be baptized again. Christian Church - Disciples of Christ in case you wondered. Even the Protestants are no longer sure what the Reformation meant or means today. I will leave the heretic burnings to the Trads and die-hard Calvinists. They seem to delight in such things.
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 3,177
    I will leave the heretic burnings to the Trads

    As a Catholic who self-identifies with the Traditionalist movement more than any other Catholic group, I highly resent that comment.

    I believe all the teachings and laws of the Church, form the Gospels until the present day, and I try to follow them, though, being human, I often fail. I do not, however, follow the half-baked, politically correct, ramblings of certain religious and prelates. What was true in 33, was true in 415, was true in 1570, was true in 1908, was true in 1964, and is true in 2014.

    Christ is the Way, theTruth, and the Life, and he has left us His Church, outside of which there is no salvation, guided infallibly by the Holy Ghost, and led visibly by the Successors of St Peter and the Blessed Apostles, to show us the Way, protect and proclaim the Truth, that we might gain the Life in beatitude with Christ in eternity. It is our bounden duty as members of His Church to do this, which is why we must 'preach the Gospel to all nations', that they 'might all be one', that all might share eternal life in Christ who is Love: Love does not allow one in error or on the path to eternal death continue in that path because the world sees it as intolerant to correct him (thus the error of religious pluralism). Love behoves us all to bring all men to the true Faith of Christ held by the Holy Catholic Church since the time of Christ. If that is not the sole purpose of the Church, to bring men to salvation, then all the blessed martyrs have died for naught, and all the sacrifices of the saints to bring the Faith to all men are in vain.

    That all nations may come under the sway of Christ the King, and all men into the bosom of Mother Church.

    If this makes me a heretic burner, so be it.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,934
    Doctrines have not changed and can not change. How we present them to the world can change. We need better marketing.
    Thanked by 1ryand
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    The original discussion was boring, anyway. There is no injunction against employment in a protestant church. If it harms your conscience, anyway, then don't.

    Now let's fight about politics like we all want to.
    Thanked by 2Adam Wood CharlesW
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,934

    Now let's fight about politics like we all want to.

    Too late, I have already early voted. I voted for my crooked SOB's instead of that other party's crooked SOB's. ;-)

  • Too late, I have already early voted. I voted for my crooked SOB's instead of that other party's crooked SOB's. ;-)

    Again. This is why I am a monarchist. Because democracy is stupid.

    Yeah, I just went there. :P
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,934
    Monarchy can work until a drooling, demented, inbred fool gets on the throne. Wait - that can happen to us, too.
  • WendiWendi
    Posts: 638
    I prefer a Constitutional Republic, I wish we lived in one. Oh, wait...
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    Monarchy can work until a drooling, demented, inbred fool gets on the throne.

    I am available, at a KMart price.

    I prefer a Constitutional Republic, I wish we lived in one. Oh, wait...

    Dearest, I thought you, JR, the progeny and Aristotle lived in the Peoples Republic of (Madison) WisCONson, oui?
  • WendiWendi
    Posts: 638
    Michigan Dearest. Although I believe Aristotle does live in Wisconsin. or Minnesota. Or something.
  • Dave
    Posts: 64
    Having worked for Episcopal, Methodist and Congregational churches in the northeast, I've encountered clergy and congregations with theological views opposite mine. However, they knew about my Catholic background and there was only civility and charity in our exchanges. Some of the best musical experiences I've had have been at Episcopal funerals and Christmas Eucharists.

    One should keep in mind praying to the Holy Spirit for guidance to remember the differences between denominations and to keep the truths of the Catholic faith alive in our hearts.
    Thanked by 1moderntrad
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 5,150
    As with Ben and me, Aristotle lives in the state of wisconSIN (as some people put it). :)
  • Am I the only Indiana boy around here, other than Stimson?
  • TCJ
    Posts: 966
    Motyka is Indiana, I think, unless he's moved in the past few months.
  • TCJ
    Posts: 966
    MadOrganist wrote:

    The Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church only lists five precepts:
    1. You shall attend Mass on Sundays and on holy days of obligation and remain free from work or activity that could impede the sanctification of such days.
    2. You shall confess your sins at least once a year.
    3. You shall receive the sacrament of the Eucharist at least during the Easter season.
    4. You shall observe the days of fasting and abstinence established by the Church.
    5. You shall help to provide for the needs of the Church.

    Find a TLM if you want to hear no. 6 expressed.

    I've found two dioceses (I'm sure there are more) in the United States that still mention SIX precepts. I highly doubt they are 100% TLM there!
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 9,158
    The Balimore Catechism lists them slightly differently, and -- with regard to marriage -- more specifically:
    A. The chief commandments of the Church are six:
    1. To hear Mass on Sundays and holydays of obligation.
    2. To fast and abstain on the days appointed.
    3. To confess at least once a year.
    4. To receive the Holy Eucharist during the Easter time.
    5. To contribute to the support of our pastors.
    6. Not to marry persons who are not Catholics, or who are related to us within the third degree of kindred, nor privately without witnesses, nor to solemnize marriage at forbidden times.

    According to the old Catholic Encyclopedia, the number of these precepts has varied through the ages, so don't read too much into it if the list in the new Catechism has five points instead of six.
    Thanked by 1Reval
  • MatthewRoth
    Posts: 1,955
    Back to the OP: I disagree with the manualists on the psalm-singing at Protestant churches. Those are inherited by Protestants from the Catholics who received them from the Jews, who of course wrote them under divine inspiration. The same goes for the Our Father and the Creeds. I'm also willing to say that we can pray at services like Anglican Evensong in good conscience without committing a sin. The initial objection would be that at least in the Anglican case, it was derived from Catholic worship (Sarum especially) but deliberately changed, but we are nearly 5 centuries from that original circumstance.
    Personally I find that this is something on which theological opinion might legitimately change, and that the Popes might even promote one over another but without specifically binding the faithful to any teaching infallibly. Moreover, I think he accused Pope Benedict of a specific sin, ( as well as everyone who went to the 2014 Colloquium and the Evensong service. Of course, they packed Pope Leo XIII's stole for that one!

    In the Name of the Most Holy Trinity, from Whom
    is all authority and to Whom, as our final end, all
    actions both of men and States must be referred,
    We, the people of Éire,
    Humbly acknowledging all our obligations to our
    Divine Lord, Jesus Christ, Who sustained our fathers
    through centuries of trial,
    Gratefully remembering their heroic and
    unremitting struggle to regain the rightful
    independence of our Nation,
    And seeking to promote the common good, with
    due observance of Prudence, Justice and Charity, so
    that the dignity and freedom of the individual may be
    assured, true social order attained, the unity of our
    country restored, and concord established with other
    Do hereby adopt, enact, and give to ourselves this

    There are times I would be inclined to being a monarchist, but then we did not have a great experience of kings, and I sort of like our constitution.
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen MatthewRoth
  • Adam,

    Since the OP asked about whether Protestants and Catholics could work in each other's houses of worship, and since this past Sunday was the Feast of Christ the King, it surely is absolutely important to know where the lines can (and should) be drawn. It's an extension of the question, "Which music by heretics can we use at Mass?"


  • Protestant services may now be held in Roman Catholic churches.

    138. Because of developments in society, the rapid growth of population and urbanization, and for financial motives, where there is a good ecumenical relationship and understanding between the communities, the shared ownership or use of church premises over an extended period of time may become a matter of practical interest.

    139. When authorization for such ownership or use is given by the diocesan Bishop, according to any norms which may be established by the Episcopal Conference or the Holy See, judicious consideration should be given to the reservation of the Blessed Sacrament, so that this question is resolved on the basis of a sound sacramental theology with the respect that is due, while also taking account of the sensitivities of those who will use the building, e.g., by constructing a separate room or chapel.

    140. Before making plans for a shared building, the authorities of the communities concerned should first reach agreement as to how their various disciplines will be observed, particularly in regard to the sacraments. Furthermore, a written agreement should be made which will clearly and adequately take care of all questions which may arise concerning financial matters and the obligations arising from church and civil law.

    Protestants may now have Roman Catholic funeral Masses.

    Canon Law states: “In the prudent judgment of the local ordinary, ecclesiastical funeral rites can be granted to baptized members of some non-Catholic church or ecclesial community unless it is evidently contrary to their will and provided their own minister is unavailable.” it permitted for a Roman Catholic organist to play for a Protestant service or a Catholic Mass funeral of a Protestant when held in a Catholic church?

    ADDED: I apologize for interrupting this discussion with a comment that is on topic. I will try, try, try to not make this a habit.

    Also, having been on staff in Germany at a Post WWII Simultankirchen myself, I am quite aware of them - so "The question remains whether Catholics can actively take part in non-Catholic worship without 1) breaking the first commandment of God, or 2) compromising their Catholic identity." my question remains - can a Catholic play for a Protestant service that is held in a Roman Catholic church without compromising their Catholic identity? Has the church building changed its identity as a Catholic church when it houses an Protestant service? Must it be shriven of sin for doing this before it may be used for Mass again?

    Thanked by 2chonak CHGiffen
  • Noel,

    GIRM, or Canon Law? (# 138-140), or the opinion of the Tubingen School