QUAERITUR: Latin Rite Catholics attending Eastern Catholic Liturgy

From a reader:

If you are a Catholic of the Latin Rite in an area where there is a Latin Rite church & an Eastern Rite church, might you attend Mass & receive communion in the Eastern Rite church or must one attend the Latin Rite one?

If a Latin Rite Catholic brings up children regularly in the Eastern Rite church, can such a child, grown up, marry & be ordained in the Eastern Rite?

Can a Latin Rite Catholic join the Eastern Rite, marry & be ordained priest?

If you are Catholic, you can attend Mass or the Divine Liturgy in a Catholic church, fulfill your obligation for Sunday and receive Holy Communion.   This can be done in a Catholic church, whether Latin Rite or any of the Easter Catholic Churches with their Rites.

Children of Latin Rite parents belong to the Latin Rite.  They would have to change Churches formally.

A Latin Rite Catholic can change, through a process. 

You can marry a person of an Eastern Catholic Church even as a Latin Rite Catholic.

If you are asking whether or not you can change Churches, marry and then be ordained, yes, in theory.  However, I believe some of the Eastern Churches have restrictions on where married clergy can serve.

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  1. Subdeacon Joseph says:

    In theory eastern rite catholic priests can only be married in the land in which the rite is predominant. For example a Ruthenian catholic could not be married and then ordained in America. He would have to be living and going to serve in Slovakia. In reality it depends on the bishop. Many eastern rite catholic bishops ignore the the fact that Rome forbids married men to be ordained priests in America. For example almost all of the Ukrainian catholic bishops ignore this rule in America as does one Ruthenian. In no way do I advocate disobedience to one’s bishop, however,this is the reality at this time.

  2. JohnMa says:

    A question for you Subdeacon Joseph. The Pittsburgh Ruthenian Archeparchy is not subject to anyone except Rome because of what happened during the Cold War. Does that change anything for members of that Archeparchy?

  3. Jack Hughes says:

    As someone who has listened to recordings of the Divine Liturgy and is blown away by it, does anyone know where I might find infomation about where and when it is celebrated? (I live in the UK)

  4. Oneros says:

    No. There is no “theory” about it, Subdeacon. It was a rule imposed arbitrarily by Rome at one point in the late 1800’s to stop Latin Catholic priests from being “scandalized” by married Eastern priests in the USA. It was mostly just for the USA, where it was feared “uppity” Americans might see married priests and demand them for the Latin Rite. In Italy, for example, there are native married priests, at Rome itself, of the Eastern rites, I’ve met some.

    As for what rite children are, I believe they are technically “incardinated” (to use that term by extension) in the FATHER’S rite, regardless of what ritual church their baptism was in.

    I also dont believe a Latin is allowed to switch and then be ordained except after an extensive period of probation, to prove you didnt just “switch to get married and ordained”. If they see that’s the reason you did it, they’ll be able to tell and wont let you.

  5. Oneros says:

    Also, it is interesting to note that the Canons of certain Eastern Catholic Churches (notably the Ruthenian Catholic Church centered in Philedelphia) allow their members Sunday obligation to be met by Vespers, Matins, OR Divine Liturgy…not just the eucharistic liturgy…

    Also, at one point in the late 60’s, in a document later rescinded…Catholics were even allowed to attend Eastern ORTHODOX services to meet their Sunday obligation, even Latins. This was rather quickly rescinded.

    Now Catholics, especially Eastern Catholics of the corresponding rite, are encouraged to attend an Orthodox liturgy if there is no Catholic church in the area…but technically they dont have to, as in that case the obligation per se is simply dispensed with entirely.

  6. smad0142 says:

    Forgive me Father if this is a rabbit hole, but since it has come up I have a question.

    Would not the problem of Latins switiching to Eastern Rites to be married and ordained be solved if the Anglicans coming over would be allowed to continue a married clergy after the first generation of converts? And furthermore do you think it is possible that Rome will allow a continuance of a married clergy after the first generation among the Anglicans?

  7. Dr. K says:

    If a person is baptized in an Eastern Rite, can he become a Latin rite priest?

  8. Sliwka says:

    Re: Dr. K

    Similarly to what Oneros said, a baptized member for the Eastern Rite may be ordained in the Latin Rite, but not unconditionally. The main condition could be that the man needs to write to his local Eastern bishop and local Latin bishop and explain how reasons for wanting to be recognized as belonging to the other Rite (this is essentially the same process for the laity as well). Like Oneros said, there may be a period of probation even though there is no marriage issue on this case (but do not quote me on that).

    I have looked into this, although I was only baptized a little over a year ago, because my dad was baptized Ukrainian Orthodox (although none of my siblings nor myself were) and my logic is that if we had, in joining in full communion with Rome, I’d have joined the Byzantine rite. Since my marriage to a Latin rite Catholic, I am not as focused on it. I will occasionally attend a Divine Liturgy and love how close it is to our own EO form.

    Jack Hughes: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apostolic_Exarchate_for_Ukrainians_in_Great_Britain

  9. David2 says:

    Jack Hughes, as far as I know, the only formally errected Eastern Diocese in Britain is the Apostolic Exarchate for Ukrainians. Their cathedral is the Cathedral of the Holy Family in Exile – Mayfair. As I understand it there are also smaller groups of Lebanese Maronites, There are also and chaplains of the Eritrean, Chaldean, Syriac, Syro-Malabar and Melkite Rites.

    Your best bet is probably the Ukranians – the Exarchate could probably answer your questions.

  10. I wonder how mixed marriages work, between Latin and Eastern Catholics.

  11. DetJohn says:

    To Dr.K

    Priest of all rites can be both Eastern & Western priest… They are Called Bi-Ritual Priest.

    Special permission is needed. Mostly they are latin rite that become eastern. I do know several eastern rite priest that also serve the latin church.

    In Los Angeles there is a Coptic-Roman-Melkite Priest and a Maronite-Melkite-Roman Priest.

    The Maronite Cathedral in Los Angeles has both Maronite and Novus Ordo Sunday Masses said by the Maronite Priest.

    In the Diocese of Las Vegas, Nev., two byzantine priest also serve the diocese. One of them is an Archimandrite in the Italian-Albanian Byzantine Rite and he is the Judical Vicar for the diocese of Las Vegas. He was ordained to the Priesthood by a Latin Bishop.

    Francis Cardinal Arinze of Nigeria, who is the recently retired Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, was Himself ordained to the priesthood by an Armenian Cardinal Patriarch / Prefect of the Congregation for the Propaganda of the Faith.

    There are many more cases of inter rite situations. The main thing is to remember that the operative word is CATHOLIC.

    No one rite is superior to the other.

  12. Tim Ferguson says:

    Mark, a marriage between an Eastern Catholic and a Latin Catholic is technically not a mixed marriage (since both parties are Catholic), but is usually called an interritual marriage. The parties can be married by a priest of either Church sui iuris. The prevailing canonical opinion is that the marriage must be celebrated by a priest, not a deacon, since the Eastern Law requires the sacerdotal blessing for the validity of the marriage.

    Since both parties are Catholic, there is no need for any dispensation, though, as a courtesty, the priest who officiates at the wedding usually notifies the pastor of the other party (e.g. when a Ruthenian man and a Latin woman marry in the Latin parish of the woman, he pastor notifies the Ruthenian pastor of the impending marriage).

    According to canon 33 of the Eastern Code, at the time of the wedding, the woman can transfer her ascription to the rite of her husband – so in the above scenario, the woman can become a Ruthenian, even though they were married in the Latin Church. She doesn’t have to, of course, but it is an option available to her. When her husband dies, she is free to return to the Latin Church.

    Canon 29 of the Eastern Code establishes that any children born of the marriage are ascribed to the Church sui iuris (Rite) of the Catholic father, unless the parents, by mutual agreement, have decided to have their children ascribed to the Church sui iuris of the Catholic mother. This choice would need to be explicitly made and should be recorded in the child’s baptismal record, to allay confusion in the future.

  13. Prof. Basto says:

    I wonder how mixed marriages work, between Latin and Eastern Catholics

    Marriage between Latin and Eastern Catholics isn’t a mixed marriage at all. It is a marriage between two Catholics.

    The term “mixed marriage”, in Canon Law, refers to a marriage between a Catholic party and a party that is Christian (i.e., validly baptized) but not Catholic.

    So, a marriage between a Latin Catholic and an Eastern Catholic does not fit the definition of “mixed marriage”, just as the marriage between two Latins, two Bizantine Catholics, or two Eastern Catholics of different sui iuris Churches isn’t mixed.

  14. Prof. Basto says:

    I now see that Tim Ferguson had covered it.

  15. RichardT says:

    Will the same also apply to the proposed new Ordinariate for former Anglicans, i.e. that all Catholics can attend Mass at their churches (and it will fulfil our obligation), but that marriage and baptism will require some formal transfer into the authority of the Ordinate.

    What is the status of Confession (in normal circumstances) from an Eastern Rite priest? Isn’t there still some territorial link with the parish or diocese for a priest’s authority to hear confessions, which might not be met for a Latin Rite Catholic going to an Eastern Rite priest?

  16. Tim Ferguson says:

    Richard, with regards to fulfilling one’s Sunday obligation, the same will apply to the new Ordinariate. One can fulfill one’s Sunday obligation at any Catholic Mass, of whatever rite. Marriage requires jurisdiction, and so that tends to get a bit more complicated. The law is that the priest (or deacon) officiating at the wedding needs to have jurisdiction over at least one party, and delegation from the pastor of the place where the wedding is taking place.

    Similarly to Holy Mass, one can go to confession to any validly ordained Catholic priest, of whatever rite. As long as the priest has jurisdiction to hear confessions from his bishop (and, if he is outside the territory of his diocese, as long as the bishop of the place has not forbidden him specifically from hearing confessions). There might be an issue with some particularly grave sins that need the intervention of your own local Ordinary or even the Holy See to absolve, but reserved sins are rare and generally quite grave.

    Baptism of those under the age of 14 should take place in the Church sui iuris of one’s parents. Those over the age of 14 who are unbaptized can be baptized into any Church sui iuris, regardless of their parents’ ritual ascription.

  17. Marcin says:

    In theory eastern rite catholic priests can only be married in the land in which the rite is predominant.

    I believe Melkite bishops in the US also ignore the prohibition. I think in Poland it is also in effect, although I don’t know its exact juridical mechanics.

    Frankly, I see no reason in following that prohibition, except for obedience. The argument of ‘bad influence’ of married Eastern priests on celibate Latin ones is silly at best, unless one regards a married man who is validly ordained for the Church and lives a holy life with his family an occasion to sin. Well, we have all been equipped with a free will, a priest or a layman. If a Latin priest comes to realization that he absolutely must have family or molest children or do whatever evil, he will do that anyway. And we all know examples.

    Neither I believe that re-introducing ordination of married man in Latin rite would change anything with regard of number of ordinations. Helping in salvation of souls entrusted to him is the first and full-time job of any Eastern rite married priest anyway. Now go and ask his wife. Just imagine a situation, when (like in US) a married priest or deacon usually has to have a secular job to support his family (it’s a valid statement for Orthodox, too). Celibate or married, I see neither as easier. It’s always a sacrifice and it’s always tough to be a priest. Most Holy Theotokos, protect them.

  18. Marcin says:


    I also dont believe a Latin is allowed to switch and then be ordained except after an extensive period of probation, to prove you didn’t just “switch to get married and ordained”. If they see that’s the reason you did it, they’ll be able to tell and wont let you.

    I have heard also contrary opinions that it would be a perfect reason for juridictional transfer. After all what are the possible reasons for switching? Besides objective one like interritual marriage, they are all subjective: Eastern spirituality keeps me on the narrow path of Christ, Eastern ritual provides a noetic experience that nourishes my soul, I have always felt strongly both vocations (for marriage and priesthood/diaconate), etc. They can be easily dismissed as ‘I like it, I want it’ egotistic reasons, to the potentially great spiritual harm to an individual.
    Somehow such a dismissive treatment reminds me of dealing with ‘nostaligic’ traditionalists.

  19. Subdeacon Joseph says:


    I’m not sure I understand your question totally but I’ll do my best to answer what I think you are asking. I must first answer that I am Orthodox and not eastern rite catholic so my knowledge of the eastern catholic churches comes second hand from clergy who were once with them before converting to Orthodoxy, and what we study in seminary. During the cold war both Orthodox and eastern rite catholics were cut off, or could not neccessarily trust, the hierarchy in the old country in many instances. The question I would ask then is who did the Ruthenians answer to America before the red revolution? Also, it did not reach parts of Carpatho Russia until after WWII. Ruthenians in the transcarpathian region of the Ukraine were affected before Ruthenians in Slovakia for example. The ruthenian church in America was almost always subject to the local Latin rite bishop until 1924. In 1924 they received their own bishop who was then answerable to Rome. The ruthenian church in America has always answered to Rome and not its mother diocese.

  20. PS says:

    I think it’s also worthwhile to point out that some Eastern Rite communities, like some Orthodox communities can be very touchy about who does and does not go up for communion (this is of course more true for Orthodox communities, esp. outside of the US). It might be wise to ask for permission from the pastor.

  21. “Many eastern rite catholic bishops ignore the the fact that Rome forbids married men to be ordained priests in America.”

    I don’t believe there’s anything to ignore here. Married men in the Eastern rites can be ordained to the priesthood, as the Code of Canon Law for the Eastern Churches permits it. That being said, the Holy See does look upon the practice with some trepidation, and has encouraged the Eastern Churches, particularly in countries like the USA which do not have a long history of married Catholic priests, to consider such applications on a case-by-case basis, and not to lend them too much publicity. The Melkites and Ukrainians have done this for years, one way or the other, at least in the USA. The Ruthenians in the USA have begun this only recently. But I would stress that it is still not common practice.

    The impediment is not confusion of the faithful, some of whom are old enough to remember when it was more common. The main challenge is the ability to support both a priest and his family.

  22. Ogard says:

    Subdeacon Joseph, the attitude of the Ukrainian and (Melchite, for that matter) bishops in America is justified, I think: the time has been long overdue to dispose with the “de praestantia ritus latini”, which goes back to the days when Roman aparatchicks conceived reunion of Eastern Christians as a subtle process of latinization.

    Oneros, the rule imposed arbitrarily by Rome, applies to the Ukrainians in Poland as well (unless it has been changed very recently); although, across the border, the Poles are not scandalized by the Ukrainian married clergy, and even have their own Episcopal Conference, independent on the Ukrainian Synod.

    I understand that there are in the UK some 50.000 Malabar Catholics, who have been asking Rome for a bishop, but somebody is obstructing it; presumably, the same circles that oppose an Anglican Rite Personal Ordinariate. So, these Malabars, scattered in local NO parishes, are loosing their identity, although the Malabar Church is flourishing sui iuris Major Archdiocese with its own Synod and 4 million adherents.

    Jack Hughes, the Ukrainian Liturgy in Duke Street (near Selfridges) is at 10.00 (recommended, but come at 9.45) and 12.00. Those who are not in London should best consult the Catholic Directory: the Ukrainians have some ten churches throughout the country, and also use local parish churches in more than fifty places. Melchite Liturgy is at St. Barnabas, Anglican, Pimlico, at 11.30. But, if you want to be really “blown away”, the best is to go to the Russian Church (Orthodox), Enismore Gardens, at 9.45, and be ready to stand until 13.00; and of course, you have to fulfil Sunday obligation elsewhere.

    Also magnificent is the Armenian (“Monophysite”) Liturgy, Iverna Gardens (near Kensigton High Street UG station), at 11.00. The Catholic Armenians in London are not organized as a community.

    There are, however, organized communities of Catholic Maronites, Chaldeans, Ethiopians and Eritreans, but, sadly, they all celebrate versus populum in local parishes. Also sadly, the parish bulletins/notice boards do not include them in their Mass schedules, as if they were not Catholic Masses, although they are under the iurisdicion of the Archbishop of Westminster. The Maronites have no “schismatic” counterpart; others do, but their Liturgies are a real caricature of the Liturgies of their mother Churches.

  23. Subdeacon Joseph says:

    Ogard, I could not agree more with you more. It is time that all latinizations be purged from the eastern rites. I’m just of the opinion one should never publicly defy one’s episcopal authority accept when it comes to heresy. The eastern catholic bishops are doing this when they ordain married men to the priesthood in America. Rome is wrong in not allowing eastern rite men to marry and be priests in America, but, this is not a heresy. Obedience to one’s hierarch should always come first in areas of discipline which this is. Let me reiterate that I think all eastern rite catholic men in America who wish to marry and be priests should be given the option.

  24. mpm says:

    In theory eastern rite catholic priests can only be married in the land in which the rite is predominant.

    Perhaps one way to avoid confusion would be to say:

    In practice eastern rite catholic priests can only be married in the land in which the rite is predominant, where that principle has been agreed. In theory, however, the Eastern Catholic Churches tend to have married as well as celibate priests.

  25. rwprof says:

    Living in the Rusyn “homeland” (Pennsylvania) has changed my perspective on Eastern Rite Catholics somewhat. But that’s a tangent, so let me get back on point.

    A married man can be ordained; a priest cannot marry. We (Orthodox) have celibate priests, obviously, but it is very rare for a bishop to appoint a celibate priest as a parish rector. Married clergy are in the parishes, and celibate clergy, the monasteries, or in some cases, assigned to parishes, but not as rectors.

    The married clergy issue is an explosive one, and led to the two mass exoduses of Rusyns from Catholicism. Google Alexis Toth.

  26. Ogard says:

    Subdeacon Joseph, it isn’t clear what you think is the episcopal authority to the Eastern bishops in America, the Ukrainians, Melchites and Malabars at any rate. AFAIK it is the Pope, not the local Latin bishops. And if they are disobedient to the Pope it may well be the matter of his tacit approval, because, strictly speaking they should be under the iurisdiction of their respective Synods, not under the Rome directly. Again, the “praestantia ritus latini”.

    Below is the extract of Fr. Wiltgen’s account of a session of Vatican II during the discussion on the schema on the Church:

    The Catholic Coptic Archbishop Ghattas (I believe it was he who was later made Patriarch) said:
    “ ‘It would seem…that for many Council Fathers the Universal Church is the Latin Church, which through a separate schema concedes so called privileges to a minority group, the Eastern Churches.’ Many churchmen of the Latin Church, he said, looked upon the Eastern Churches, both Catholic and Orthodox, ‘as ecclesiastical oddities or exotic creations,’ instead of ‘as sister Churches which together with the Latin-rite Church make up the Universal Church.’ This attitude of the Latin-rite Church was resented, he said, and neither the Catholic nor the Orthodox Eastern Churches would or could accept the Latin Church’s tendency to act as though it alone were he Universal Church, dispensing privileges.” (The Rhine flows into the Tiber, p.198)

    The rwprof’s example of Rusyns is only one example of how dearly the Church has paid for this silly, but still very much viable, attitude of Latin aparatchicks.

  27. Subdeacon Joseph says:

    Yes it is the Pope as I am well aware off. I’m also aware that the eastern rite bishops in America should answer to the mother synod under there archbishop/metropolitan or respevtive patriarch in the home land. The problem in America is that the eastern rite bishops answer to the Pope. In the case of the Ukrainians and Ruthenians I pointed out in an earlier post that they were under Latin rite bishops in America before 1924. In any case there really is only one bishop in the Latin rite who has many vicar bishops under him. That bishop is the Pope of Rome. For example Rome must approve all ordinations to the priesthood. At least that was the case in my old hometown in 2004. While the Latin rite archbishop in my home town possessed a certain amount of autonomy he was not free to ordain whom he willed.

  28. rwprof says:

    “The rwprof’s example of Rusyns is only one example of how dearly the Church has paid for this silly, but still very much viable, attitude of Latin aparatchicks.”

    To be fair, Rome had little to do with Bishop Ireland’s caustic behavior toward Toth and Eastern Rite Catholics that drove whole congregations to Orthodoxy, twice. As I understand it, Rome has no official policy about refusing to ordain married men to the priesthood; the pressure comes instead from the Eparchy. I could be wrong, of course, but this is what I keep seeing on BCC sites.

    There are several families in our parish who have extended family branches that are BCC; the Eastern Rite/Orthodox split divides families to this day. However, there is very little bad blood between the BCC and the Orthodox, at least here in Pennsylvania. Where there is bad blood, it is between the BCC and the Latins — again, the local clergy, and not Rome, whose position can only be described as extremely supportive of the BCC.

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