ASK FATHER: Convert from Orthodoxy or Protestantism: Which Catholic Church would I belong to?

From a reader…


If I’m not mistaken, a Russian Orthodox Christian, who converts to Catholicism, is juridically Russian Catholic regardless of which particular Church brings them in. (PLEASE CORRECT ME IF I’M WRONG).

In the case of a validly baptized Protestant, do they automatically become Latin? Or if a baptized Lutheran was brought into the Church via Melkite channels, would they be Melkite?

Example: a gentleman on a forum I read who was originally Anglican, became Orthodox, then became Catholic and is under (I believe) Ruthenian jurisdiction despite praticing as though he was a Latin.

What if he had skipped Orthodoxy but entered the Church by way of an Eastern Catholic Church directly from Anglicanism?

Russian Orthodox Christian would become Russian Catholic. A Greek Orthodox Christian would become Greek Catholic. An Armenian Orthodox would become Armenian Catholic.

This would be the case even if they became Catholic at a Latin parish.

A validly baptized Protestant, upon becoming Catholic, can choose which Catholic Church sui iuris he or she wishes to belong to: Latin, Maronite, Melkite, Coptic Catholic, Armenian Catholic, etc. However, that would best be done via a parish and a sacred minister of that Catholic Church sui iuris, whichever ritual Church sui iuris the convert chooses.

NB: It’s not so much who “brings in” a non-Catholic, but rather which Catholic Church sui iuris the convert intends to belong to as per…

Can. 111 §1. Through the reception of baptism, the child of parents who belong to the Latin Church is enrolled in it, or, if one or the other does not belong to it, both parents have chosen by mutual agreement to have the offspring baptized in the Latin Church. If there is no mutual agreement, however, the child is enrolled in the ritual Church to which the father belongs.

§2. Anyone to be baptized who has completed the fourteenth year of age can freely choose to be baptized in the Latin Church or in another ritual Church sui iuris; in that case, the person belongs to the Church which he or she has chosen.

Can. 112 §1. After the reception of baptism, the following are enrolled in another ritual Church sui iuris:

1/ a person who has obtained permission from the Apostolic See;

2/ a spouse who, at the time of or during marriage, has declared that he or she is transferring to the ritual Church sui iuris of the other spouse; when the marriage has ended, however, the person can freely return to the Latin Church;

3/ before the completion of the fourteenth year of age, the children of those mentioned in nn. 1 and 2 as well as, in a mixed marriage, the children of the Catholic party who has legitimately transferred to another ritual Church; on completion of their fourteenth year, however, they can return to the Latin Church.

§2. The practice, however prolonged, of receiving the sacraments according to the rite of another ritual Church sui iuris does not entail enrollment in that Church.

That last point is important in this time of confusion when lots of people are saying, in the face of persecution of Tradition, “Just go to an Eastern Catholic Rite!”   You don’t become Eastern Catholic by attending Divine Liturgy, even for a long time.  Similarly, if you start going to some parish across town, instead of your territorial parish (leaving personal parishes aside for the moment) you don’t become a member of that other, “destination” parish by going there or registering there.  Registration means nothing in that matter, other than the parish has some record of you for services you might need or donations received.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. redneckpride4ever says:

    I actually went to a Melkite Divine Liturgy for the first time this past weekend. Found out the Archpriest was originally a Latin layman who transferred with permission from Rome and subsequently became a Melkite priest.

    Beautiful liturgy to say the least! I know some Latins attend Divine Litugies because they have rigid bishops who sew division by snuffing out the TLM. But these Eastern Churches should truly be appreciated for what they are: beautiful expressions of the Faith!

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  3. Rev. Paul L. Vasquez says:

    What a headache for marriage law, now that I think about it. Any subject of the CCEO who converts in their local Latin church, with clergy who have no clue there’s an issue there, and whose children are subsequently married by a deacon in Church are invalidly married, despite following Latin form. Ugh.

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