Catholic attending Coptic Orthodox Church...still Catholic?

My wife and her younger sister were raised Coptic Orthodox and converted to Catholicism as adults. My question concerns my sister-in-law. After converting to Catholicism, she married a practicing Catholic man. She became pregnant with twins. Her pregnancy had problems that culminated in her doctor asking her which child to keep and which to abort. She was told that if she did not abort one of the babies, that both would die or that one would surely die and the other would be deformed.

She said “heck” no and bore the twins. Neither were deformed but both had to be incubated for five months and were in dire straits for most of that time.

During this incubation, my sister-in-law solicited her former Coptic priest to administer communion to the child every week. (I have no problem with this as it was a valid sacrament) Thanks be to God both children survived and are healthy five-year-old girls.

However, now, out of a sense of gratitude and perhaps obligation, to both the priest and to God, they are now only attending the coptic church and are raising their four children in that faith.

If you ask them, they would say that they are Catholic, but they have a soft idea of the subtle differences between the two churches whereby they think its ok. They don’t realize that they are not allowed to substitue the Latin Mass for the Coptic Mass.

My wife sides with them on this and begs me not to discuss my feeling about this with them as it could offend them. She says that God isn’t “legalistic” and so I shouldn’t be either. I am not interested in “being right” but concerned about the state of their souls. I want them to return to the one true Church. Although they lack culpability due to their ignorance, should they not still be told that leaving the Catholic Mass is illicit?

On top of this, they attend Catholic Mass at Christmas and Easter since they are different dates than ours - and receive holy communion as well.

They have spoken to two priest friends who said it was okay to go to the Coptic Mass instead of the Catholic Mass; I know this is wrong advice. I have spoken to two priests who said they were wrong with one saying to just be patient and bring it up one day when you gain their trust and get the opportunity and that having a riff with my wife is not in my best interests.

Can you please confirm if my understanding of Canon Law and Church teaching regarding this and the objective state of their souls?

Can you address the “legalistic” charge my wife has on God and me?

Should I discuss this issue with my them despite my wife’s admonition in doing so?

Thank you!


There are Coptic Catholics and I believe Coptic Orthodox have valid Sacraments anyway.

Coptic Orthodox (not in full communion with the Church) are not Coptic Catholic (are in full communion with the Church). A Catholic cannot replace the Catholic Mass for the Coptic Mass, despite the fact that they have the sacraments.

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They are receiving the Eucharist and going to confession.
I come from being a Ukrainian Catholic so I guess you could call me soft on this as well. I see them as my brothers and sisters in the faith. I also agree that they as husband and wife have made a decision, I would leave it be.


I posted this on another thread but here goes:

Once St. Teresa of Avila was overwhelmed by the goodness of God and asked Our Lord: “How can I ever thank You?” He replied: “ATTEND ONE MASS.”

The Divine Liturgy is not excluded because the word Mass is used.


However, they are still Catholic and could attend the Divine Liturgy/Qorbono in an Eastern Catholic Church which is in full communion with the Holy See.

What are the details of their conversion? Technically speaking they should have been ascribed to the sui iuris church that coincides with their Orthodox Church.

Canon 35 of the CCEO (Eastern Catholic Canon law) states: “Baptized non-Catholics coming into full communion with the Catholic Church should retain and practice their own rite everywhere in the world and should observe it as much as humanly possible. Thus, they are to be enrolled in the Church sui iuris of the same rite with due regard for the right of approaching the Apostolic See in special cases of persons, communities or regions.”

Therefore by Canon law they should be canonically Coptic Catholic, regardless of what church they presented themselves to for conversion.

If that’s the case, they are subject to the CCEO, not the CIC, and the CCEO makes exceptions for Eastern Catholics to attend Orthodox liturgy and receive Orthodox sacraments. Such exceptions do not exists in the CIC.

They should listen to their respective priests (both the Catholic and Orthodox).


This is your wife’s sister, not yours. You should follow her wishes.


I once had a difficult question like you do. I went to a mentor of mine that was a very prayerful Catholic to ask him for guidance…

Instead of answering, he asked me a question: What did God tell you to do?
I replied: I don’t know

He said: Why don’t you go ask Him. Go to your room and sit quietly and talk to Him about the situation. Ask Him what you should do. THEN SIT QUIETLY WITH HIM FOR FIFTEEN MINUTES OR SO JUST LISTENING TO HIS ANSWER.

I had never done that before.

When I tried this, I got a Very Clear Answer, and immediately knew what to do!
It was life-changing.

Hope this helps❤️

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Thanks. Indeed Orthodox Christians are our brothers and sisters in Christ as are Protestants. But leaving the Catholic Church knowing it is the one true Church is problematic to say the least. A Catholic is not allowed to replace the Catholic mass with an Orthodox mass so by Canon Law they are objectively in a state of mortal sin. We follow the Magesterium and Canon Law, not by our own feelings on the matter.

The fact the she is my wife’s sister should not prohibit me from loving her by advising her and her husband of the wrong they are doing. I too am part of this family and concerned about the state of their souls - they should not live in ignorance.

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I’m sorry, but this makes little sense. What does Eastern Catholic Canon Law have to do with Western Catholic Canon Law? The Western Latin Church is guided by its own particular Canons. Unless someone can guide me to where it states that Catholics can leave the Church to attend only Orthodox masses then I have to conclude that they are doing something illicit.

Good advice, but I feel God is asking me to research this more and to solicit more opinions, preferrably from priests and apologists, so I know what is what. This post was on a whim. Perhaps a call to the Patrick Madrid Show is in order. :grinning:

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Because THEY ARE SUBJECT TO EASTERN CANON LAW, not Western Canon law!

Baptized Orthodox who convert to Catholicism MUST be enrolled in the Eastern Catholic church that corresponds to their Orthodox Church. Therefore, Coptic Orthodox converts become canonically Coptic Catholic, regardless of which church they converted in or attend.

Quite simply, canonically they are Eastern Catholic and subject to Eastern Canon law.

It doesn’t matter where they converted, which parish they registered in, what Catholic parish they received the sacraments in, they are, by Canon law, Coptic Catholic.

They would have to formally request a change of ascription to the Latin church after converting and have it approved by the respective Bishops.

An Orthodox who presents themselves to a Roman Catholic parish does not become a member of the Roman Catholic/Latin rite by default.


So you are saying that Eastern Rite Canon Law is the law of the land for Eastern Orthodox converting to Catholicism? So they have to hop, skip, and jump to be considered a Latin Rite Catholic? Bizarre.
I’ll have to look into this more.

Irregardless…my sister-in-law and her husband haven’t done any of what you suggested. He is a Latin Rite Catholic who no longer goes to Catholic mass and she was raised Coptic Orthodox, converted to Catholicism, but no longer goes to Catholic mass, and is back to the Orthodox mass, yet still believes the Catholic Church is the one true church. Very confusing. Time for Patrick Madrid to weigh in.

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You are the spiritual head of your family. Jesus gave us the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy for a reason. I would take the priest’s advice who said to find a good time to bring it up but you are correct to be concerned because it involves their salvation.


Correct. An Orthodox who converts to Catholicism, by canon law, is automatically an Eastern Catholic and ascribed to the Eastern Catholic Church that corresponds to the Orthodox church they came from.

To become a Latin Rite Catholic, they would have to then petition (basically write a letter asking, with a pastor’s approval) the Latin Rite bishop in their jurisdiction, who would then (if approving it) forward it to their Eastern Catholic bishop approving the transfer. Pope Francis has streamlined this process so that permissions are presumed and it need not go further than the two Bishops. It used to have to go to either the nuncio or all the way to Rome, I don’t recall which, and was much more tedious.

It’s not so bizarre. The church recognized that it is important to maintain the dignity and tradition of the Eastern Churches, and did not want them eventually losing members or dying off due to conversions. It is also easier for someone to maintain the traditions that they were raised with, than learn new spirituality and liturgy.

Now all that said, this is a horse of a different color. You brought up some variables that make this much more complicated. I didn’t realize one of them was Latin rite, I apologize if you mentioned that earlier and I missed it.

When an Eastern Catholic marries a Latin Rite Catholic, they can transfer ascription upon marriage without having to petition the Bishops. So what the canonical ascription is in this situation would have to be determined by the parish where they were married. There may or may not have been notations parish records, where change of ascriptions are normally noted. If there aren’t any notations, it might have to be straightened out by the chancery.

Him being a Latin Rite Catholic…well I am pretty sure you are correct. He is not meeting his Sunday obligation. There is an exception in CIC 844.2 for attending orthodox liturgy, but it is extremely narrow and stringent and would almost certainly not apply. Her, if she is subject to Eastern canon law, that’s different, but now there are other variables here and it could be hard to say which canon law she is subject to.

This is a tough one. This would best be handled by someone who is a canon lawyer first to determine what sui iuris church she is canonically ascribed to. Then, if she really is Eastern Catholic, consult a canon lawyer who handles CCEO.

Sorry there isn’t a simple answer!


Interesting. Do you know where does it do so? I would like to just check under which conditions etc… not doubting validity of your information. I just want to research into it further.

I’ll have to look it up. I don’t remember the particular canon, I just know I’ve researched this before.

I will search for it too then. Thank you for providing me with yet another interesting thing to get information on :smiley:

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