My question comes from what my professor said in class and it doesn’t seem correct.
In class, we were told that if a Catholic was in Russia [and there being no Catholic Church; either Latin or Eastern] that the Catholic is bound [under pain of mortal sin] to fulfill his Sunday obligation in the Orthodox Church. The instructor points to C. 844 §2. saying that because the Orthodox have valid sacraments, including the Eucharist, it is this which necessitates the obligation of C. 1247.
Could you please help clarify as to whether the Code can actually bind a person to fulfill their Sunday obligation outside of the Catholic Church?
There has been some confusion on this issue, owing, in part, to an earlier permission. In 1967, the Directory on Ecumenism permitted Catholics to fulfill their Sunday obligation “occasionally” by attending an Eastern non-Catholic Divine Liturgy.
When the 1983 Code was promulgated, Catholics were obliged by can. 1248 to fulfill their obligation “in a Catholic rite.” This law abrogated the practice since 1967 permitting the fulfillment of the obligation in a non-Catholic, but certainly valid, rite.
Any doubt was further removed by the publication of the 1993 Directory for the Application of Principles and Norms on Ecumenism, which states that “even when Catholics participate in ecumenical services, or in services of other Churches and ecclesial communities, the obligation of participating at Mass on these days remains.”
It is true that the Orthodox have valid sacraments. It is true that, in the very special circumstances laid out in can. 844, Catholics can approach the Orthodox for the sacraments of Penance, Holy Eucharist, and Anointing. If one finds oneself in a location where there are no Catholic Masses on a Sunday, one’s obligation is lifted. If there is an Orthodox Divine Liturgy nearby, it would be salubrious to attend and worship the Lord. One is not obliged, however, to do so.