Can a Priest Change Rite?


Could a priest choose to change rites if he wanted to? For example could he go from the Latin Rite to the Byzantine Rite if he wanted to?


You mean “Church”. A person is canonically ascribed to a particular Church, not a Rite.

I would think offhand that it would be extremely difficult in the case of a priest. In the case of laypersons, the person in question would need to be regularly attending and worshiping in his Church of choice for at least one year before even considering a canonical transfer. Both bishops have to agree in writing to the transfer. Now in the case of an active priest, who is obligated to regularly offer Mass in his own Rite and Church, and who is canonically bound to pray the Hours of his own Rite, where is he going to find the time to adopt the spirituality of another Rite? That’s just impractical. I think that it would be impossible in practice for a priest to change canonical ascription except in extraordinary circumstances.

Now, that being said, it is certainly possible for priests to acquire biritual faculties. I know quite a few who have them. They do this when there is a genuine spiritual need for their ministry in a second particular Church, and this happens after they have some formation and education in the liturgical rites of the new Church. Then the bishop or bishops agree to grant him faculties to offer Mass and other rites by the customs of that Church and he goes at it. That’s going to be the most common form of a priest who has privileges in two or more Churches. I don’t envision that change of canonical ascription is common or even possible for clergy.


Like Fr Mitch Pacwa SJ, He is both Latin and Maronite


No, a priest cannot change his church of enrollment after ordination. A Latin priest can be granted bi-ritual from a Byzantine bishop (or vice versa) faculties and in some cases Latin priests have served our Byzantine diocese for many years, but they remain enrolled in the Latin church.


I am aware of a Byzantine priest leaving to become a traditional Roman Rite priest. In fact he is now in seminary.


Yes, it’s a matter of bi-ritual faculties which, BTW, are actually granted by Rome on the basis of request by the priest himself, and recommendation and agreement of the local Ordinaries.

While this is somewhat rare, it can happen that a bi-ritual Latin priest can be formally incardinated into an Eastern or Oriental diocese or vice-versa. This involves the agreement of both the releasing (Latin) Ordinary (local bishop or religious superior) and the receiving (Eastern or Oriental) bishop. In this type of case, the priest always retains personal faculties in his “birth-right” Church as long as he is in good standing. NB: This actually can happen within the Latin Church as well: for example, an Ambrosian Rite priest (from the Archdiocese of Milan) who transfers to, say, Boston, still has personal faculties in the Ambrosian Rite as long as he is in good standing.

Still unusual but more frequently, though, it also happens that a bi-ritual Latin priest can be “loaned” to an Eastern/Oriental Church for a specified period of time. This is essentially a 3-way contract among the priest, his Latin Ordinary, and the receiving (Eastern or Oriental) Ordinary. One sees this sort of thing on occasion with some Syro-Malabar priests from Kerala who serve in Latin diocese in the US and elsewhere.


No, he is sui Juris Latin, but with Maronite faculties.
A person can only be canonically subscribed to one Church, but a bishop may permit a priest of a different sui juris Church to conduct a Liturgy according to the prescribed Rite.

That is the case of Fr. Pacwa. He has been given permission so offer the Divine Liturgy in the Maronite Rite.


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