ASK FATHER: No Catholic Mass on Sunday. Are we obliged to attend Orthodox Divine Liturgy?

divine liturgyFrom a reader…

QUAERITUR:

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.

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21 Responses to ASK FATHER: No Catholic Mass on Sunday. Are we obliged to attend Orthodox Divine Liturgy?

  1. Sixupman says:

    Commonsense would take me there! It would also prove educational into the bargain.

  2. I’ll take giant Russian chalices for 600, Alex.

  3. EoinOBolguidhir says:

    Be respectful and polite, and ask prior to presenting yourself at the Church – and definitely speak with the Priest before approaching him for Communion. You may find that the Orthodox are not so keen on having Latins at their services as the Schwarmerei of Western Ecumenists would lead you to expect. . They would very likely refuse you Communion (as is reasonable), and might even ask you to leave after the Mass of the Catechumens.

  4. Father G says:

    Better yet! If you happen to be in Russia, go and attend Divine Liturgy at one of the Russian and Ukrainian Byzantine Catholic parishes that have formed since the collapse of communism: http://www.rkcvo.ru/node/53
    They are under the jurisdiction of Bishop Joseph Werth, SJ, who is the Bishop of the Latin Diocese of the Transfiguration at Novosibirsk and the Ordinary for Catholics of the Byzantine rite in the Russian Federation.
    website: http://www.rkcvo.ru/
    Photo of the bishop and clergy: http://sib-catholic.ru/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/1216.jpg
    Video from their 2014 pastoral meeting in Moscow: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=18&v=LyrLbLqFu_I

  5. cwillia1 says:

    Canon law for the Eastern churches does not specify “in a Catholic Rite.” The 1993 Directory is unclear about non-Latin Catholics.

    Eoin, an Orthodox should speak with the priest before approaching for communion if he is visiting an Orthodox parish. I have never heard of an Orthodox church in this millennium dismissing visitors at the creed.

  6. leon says:

    Not to rehash past discussions, but if Orthodox sacraments are valid, why would SSPX sacraments not be valid?

  7. William Tighe says:

    “Not to rehash past discussions, but if Orthodox sacraments are valid, why would SSPX sacraments not be valid?”

    The question is not whether they are “valid,” but whether it is licit for faithful Catholics to receive them from SSPX priests (or bishops). I have never heard their validity impugned by any informed Catholic.

  8. Daniel W says:

    I enjoy and am edified looking up words I have forgotten the meaning of, i.e. salubrious! As is the case Nine times out of ten when reading FrZ – thank you. What a pity the authors of c.1248 weren’t as eloquent, specifying “strongly recommended as salubrious…” or “salutory,” (as someone did write at can.981).

    Actually whereas can. 1248.1 specifies Caaaaatholic, can 1248.2 does not specify that the Liturgy of the Word one is strongly recommended to attend be Caaaaatholic, so keeping in mind the abrogated directive, attending any episcopally approved Liturgy of the Word seems to be strongly recommended (if we read diocesan bishop and parish very broadly).

  9. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    Great minds run alike.

  10. Ages says:

    cwilla1 says: “I have never heard of an Orthodox church in this millennium dismissing visitors at the creed.”

    I have been to a parish that enforced the dismissal of the catechumens, but it is quite rare. However, with the rampant godlessness about these days, I’ve heard people more and more talking about restoring this ancient practice—even some relatively moderate theologians. This is on the grounds of: what is the point of being present to offer Gifts that you will not partake of? One could even say we are lying to God if we say “receive me today as a communicant” if we are not going to do so. “The holy things are for the holy”—those in a state of grace to receive.

    But leaving that aside, you’re right to point out that anyone who is not a member of the parish should talk to the priest before attempting to commune. Most priests take their responsibility of guarding the chalice seriously, and to clear things beforehand saves the potential embarrassment of being turned away at the chalice. This is uncomfortable for everyone involved.

    But hearing the gospel proclaimed and being nourished through instruction? That is most certainly for everyone. As to the rest, in the words of the Divine Liturgy: “…make the schisms of the churches to cease…”

  11. pledbet424 says:

    I’ve had discussions with 3 Orthodox priests regarding whether they would administer the sacraments to Catholics, and to a man, they said they would not. I asked about absolution if I was dying, and they said no. They don’t mind if you attend the Liturgy, but I believe they would only allow you to attend the first part of it.

  12. Well done Father. Thank you for this.

  13. Ps. I do mental prayer at the Romanian Orthodoc church by my home. The Eucharist is there (not in a broom closet) and the church is beautiful compared to the local Catholic parish.

  14. TWF says:

    I’ve been to an OCA Parish a number of times. Some of my relatives converted from Evangelical Protestantism to Orthodoxy. I’ve always been made to feel very welcome at the liturgy (which of course is breathtaking transcendent awesomeness that puts 99.9% of Catholic parishes to utter beyond embarrassing shame)…but of course don’t receive. The priest is a convert to Orthodoxy from Pentecostalism. He seemed very appreciative when I said I adored our Eucharistic Lord during the liturgy.

  15. The situation may vary depending upon the location. I imagine that if one went into a small rural church where everyone knows everyone else, questions might be asked of a visitor. I remember going into a parish in Jersey City, New Jersey once and hearing someone say, “there’s a stranger in our midst.” (I got uncomfortable and left to look for another church.) On the other hand, if one were to go into a giant cathedral-sized church with lots of nooks and crannies, I doubt that anyone is going to be sweeping the building for visitors, apostates, and heretics. A bit of discretion and common sense is advisable.

  16. everett says:

    In regards to the questions about validity of Orthodox vs SSPX sacraments, it’s important to remember that confession required jurisdiction and faculties. The SSPX lack faculties in most instances, and thus, confession is invalid.

  17. robtbrown says:

    everett says:

    In regards to the questions about validity of Orthodox vs SSPX sacraments, it’s important to remember that confession required jurisdiction and faculties. The SSPX lack faculties in most instances, and thus, confession is invalid.

    Do the Orthodox Churches have jurisdiction?

  18. Gabriel Syme says:

    As schismatics, how can all Orthodox sacraments be valid?

    To play devils advocate – if some SSPX-administered sacraments are invalid, but all Orthodox sacraments are valid, then the obvious implication is that the SSPX should formally schism in order to be able to conduct valid Christian marriages and absolutions. But this is obviously nonsense.

    As William Tighe says above, the issues is about lawfulness, not validity. But given the vast amount of heretics acting today as Catholic priests in good standing, what is canon law really worth at present (?) thanks to the way it is largely ignored / abused, except when it comes to trying to undermine the SSPX?

    Fortunately, I think all these questions/debates will soon be behind us, as – given the trend of recent developments – a regularisation of the SSPX looks to be set for the near future.

    As regards the Orthodox Churches; In many ways I admire them and I long for unity with them. But I note they are not really united amongst themselves, and I dislike how they are often bound up with nationalism and politics.

    I often think preserving a strong national identity is more important to them, than is unity with the Catholic Church. They like to have the name of their nation in the title of their church.

    Finally, the least they could do would be to accept Catholics at their services (including communion), if they are asked, just like we accept them at our services (including communion) if asked. We are brothers and sisters, after all.

    I have vague memories of attending a Greek Orthodox Service as a child, when on holiday with my family. I am pretty sure we went to communion, and I dont *think* we asked if it was OK – though, if we didnt ask, it would have been through ignorance rather than deception or disrespect.

  19. The Masked Chicken says:

    “They would very likely refuse you Communion (as is reasonable), and might even ask you to leave after the Mass of the Catechumens.”

    Except that you are NOT a catechumen, I wouldn’t think, because there is no separate Orthodox and Latin baptisms, so if you are baptized you are not a catechumen. This matter was settled at an ecumenical Council recognized by both Orthodox and Latin Churches. Do they consider Confirmation a necessity for full inclusion and, if so, do they not recognize Latin Rite Confirmation? I am confused why they think they would have the right to dismiss a Latin Rite Catholic. I know little of the Orthodox. May I be enlightened as to their thinking?

    The Chicken

  20. sergius says:

    But really there are latin catholic parishes in all the principal russian city’s. And in many of them we have also the Masses in english.

  21. e.e. says:

    “But really there are latin catholic parishes in all the principal russian city’s. And in many of them we have also the Masses in english.”

    I was thinking the same thing. I’ve traveled in Russia several times and have found Catholic parishes (Latin ones) in all the major cities I’ve been to. Perhaps if you’re in a smaller city or a small town you might not be able to find one, but in the larger cities in Russia there definitely are Catholic churches.