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Judy Knauf wrote:

Hi, guys —

  • I would like to know where — in the Catholic Church — it says you have to be a member to participate in the Church activities [and/or] the sacraments?

My church says I have to be a member to do anything.

  • Is this right?

Please let me know. Somehow I don't think this is right.

Thank you,

Judy Knauf

  { Where in the teachings of the Church does it say you have to be a member to do anything? }

Mike replied:

Dear Judy,

Thanks for the question.

I think part of your misunderstanding comes from a lack of recognition between various bodies of beliefs.

  • If I have worked for IBM for 25 years do you think Hewlett Packard would have any problems with me crashing their Christmas party this year?

Sure they would. I'm not an Hewlett Packard employee.

  • I don't know the company.
  • I don't know the rules.
  • I don't know the work environment.
  • I don't know their products or services.

  • If I have always celebrated Christmas with my family, would total strangers have a problem with me crashing their Christmas party?

Sure, for the same reason. A similar question can be asked another various body of faiths.

  • Do Methodists believe what Baptists believe?
  • Do Catholics believe what Methodists believe?
  • Do Baptists believe what Mormons believe?

No. Each has their own body of beliefs that one must accept to participate in certain services rooted in their main body of beliefs.

This doesn't stop Methodists, Baptists, Catholics, and Mormons from participating ecumenically together in social and public forums upholding faith issues they mutually believe in but when it comes to issues of their core faith, morals, and worship, if ones claims to be a Catholic, the Church expects him or her to follow the tenets of the Church's faith by word and outward deeds.

Granted it is scandalous that we have many in our Church who publicly give the name Catholic, a bad name by their actions or lack of actions, but that doesn't change what the Church and the Lord, who founded this Church, expects from them.

There also may be a misunderstanding between our different views of Communion. The Catholic Church's view of Communion is much deeper than what you will find in Protestants congregations.

When a Catholic receives Holy Communion every Sunday at Mass, they are publicly saying they are in a Common Union with the Teachings of the Catholic Church. Sadly, very few people were taught this in CCD.

The sacraments are uniquely Catholic. The word sacrament comes from a word which means to swear a covenant oath, meaning the Lord is promising, by His Oath, to do what the sacraments say they will do.

  • Does this make sense?
  • Does this clarify things?
  • Why haven't you thought about becoming a Catholic? — it's great!

I hope this helps,


John replied:

Hi Judy,

Thanks for your question.

I'm curious as to what you mean by your church and do anything. I don't know if you are Catholic and I also don't know you are referring to your local congregation.

In the Catholic Church, one must be Catholic (with few exceptions) to receive the Sacraments. Quite simply, because what we believe Sacraments are. You would also need to be a Catholic in order to participate in certain ministries, like being an Extra-ordinary Minister of the Eucharist, or being a CCD Teacher. If you were not a Catholic, you could still be allowed to participate in non-sacramental . . . non-teaching roles, such as helping at the Parish Food Pantry but again, something like that would be at the Pastor's discretion.

Many Parishes require you to be a member of the Parish in addition to being a Catholic before you can serve in a ministry.

This isn't for doctrinal reasons. It's for practical reasons. Taking membership in a local parish shows that you are committed to it. You will feel that God has called you there and you want to serve the community. By taking membership, the parish has a certain degree of assurance that you're going to show up and that you will follow through.


Judy replied:

OK Mike and John,

I'm not trying to be funny. In the bulletin it says:

Parish Registration

Welcome — It is a joy for us to welcome new members to our parish community. Please register in order to participate in our various programs, ministries and activities. Forms are available in the vestibule or you may stop by the rectory. Registration and regular attendance is required for baptism, marriage, or sacraments and attendance at formation classes.

  • Now, how would you interrupt that?


Mike replied:

Hi Judy,

  • Who said you were trying to be funny?

When a couple brings their child to the Church to be baptized, She has to have a good hope the child will be raised as a Catholic. If there is no good hope, the priest cannot baptize them.

  • How does the Church know the child won't be brought up as an Atheist?
  • Doesn't it make sense to know the beliefs of the faith you are joining before you join it?

If you want the benefits of the faith you are joining, you would surely want to ensure you are properly registered so your community identifies you as a:

  • Methodist
  • Baptist
  • Lutheran, or
  • Catholic

of that community.

  • Make sense?


John replied:

Judy —

The sacraments are sacred. The Church is not a supermarket that you can just show up as you please and take what you want off the shelf.

While I might take a slightly different approach, when it comes to faith formation classes, your pastor, (who is more than likely doing this with the consent of his bishop) has good reason for requiring Church attendance to enroll the kids in faith formation.

The Catholic Church holds that it is an obligation to attend Mass on Sundays (or the respective Saturday vigil). To skip this obligation without a valid reason is disobedience to Holy Mother Church and is on the books as a mortal sin which must be confessed.

Too many parents:

  • just dump their kids off at Faith Formation or CCD classes without bringing them to Church, or
  • they make them go to Church without attending themselves.

So this begs the question:

  • Why?
  • Are they putting their kids through faith formation just so they can receive First
    Holy Communion and Confirmation:
    • as though they were rites of passage, or
    • as an excuse to have party with the family?

We participate in the sacraments because we believe all the Church teaches in the area of faith and morals. If we don't, we are not in full communion with the Church and shouldn't be receiving the Sacraments.


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