From a reader…
I recently moved quite a distance and found a home that was, unbeknownst to me, within the territory of another diocese. My territorial parish is, sadly, less than faithful to the liturgy and for a variety of reasons related to that I opted to attend the next closest parish, which is in my old diocese. I know parish registration is a bit meaningless from a canonical perspective, so my question is: who is my bishop? Should I participate in a parish in my territorial diocese? For the sake of which holy days are moved/abrogated, which diocese to I follow? Thank you!
It’s a great line of questioning. There aren’t easy answers right now.
Canonically, your parish and your diocese are decided by your domicile (or quasi-domicile, which I won’t get into here). That is, where you physically, geographically, live. If you live on the edge of one diocese, and regularly attend a parish in another diocese, you are a member of the diocese where you live. You are bound by the rules of the diocese where you live, where you have domicile.
However, since we are mindful that one is not bound to the impossible, if, say, you live in the Diocese of Pollywoggle, in which the Solemnity of St. Christina the Astonishing is a Holy Day of Obligation, but you work at your office from 8 – 4 in the Archdiocese of Metropolis (which doesn’t recognize the holy day of St. Christina and does not have Mass to accommodate you), then you are not bound by the obligation which you cannot reasonably fulfill.
Most of the laws of diocesan and parochial (parish) boundaries and domicile were written when people were born, lived, worked, married, and died in the same village, many of which had one church. Figuring out who had jurisdiction and where you belonged was relatively easy then.
As far as these USA is concerned – and other countries too, of course, with immigration and the development of ethnic parishes, some confusion developed. For example, Meriasek MacPenzance, the son of a Scotch-Irish father and a Cornish-French-German mother: does he belong to St. Mungo’s, St. Kerwin’s, St. Tudwal’s, St. Clodoald’s, or St. Amalburga’s?
Furthermore, as many of the ethnic differences were being extinguished in the melting pot, the variety of – how to put this diplomatically – liturgical styles…? … were proliferating. People regularly cross parish and diocesan boundaries for good reasons and not-so-good reasons. Arguments for and against this “voting with your feet” can be compelling. Eventually, the Church will have an answer. In the meantime, we live in the middle.
Can one family with traditional tastes and orthodox sensibilities help to move the local but heretofore heterodox parish back to the center? Can they help support the young pastor who is trying to re-impress Catholicism on a church that’s been wreckovated while he struggles with a parish staff that has been entrenched for years by the “empowering” they received by the now-retired Fr. Lovebeads?
Or should they travel ten miles for Mass each Sunday, down the road to the parish that has the more beautiful church, an active men’s group for dad to join, regular confession times through the week, decent liturgical music and inspiring preaching?
Or should they drive 30 miles each Sunday to the downtown parish that has weekly celebrations of the Extraordinary Form, a homeschooling support group, a great food shelf apostolate, but with an older ethnic priest who is hard to understand when he preaches?
Every case must be considered on its own merits.
Meanwhile, we live in a Catholic world that is still divided up into geographical territories. There are personal parishes, too. And the Latin Code also describes a parish as a “portion” of the people of God, which opens up new possibilities in an ever more mobile world.
Sooner or later this will get sorted out.