Different Rites

Can a Catholic change rites?

Yes, if you get special permission from your bishop.
I was confirmed into the latin (or Roman) rite this past year, however, I can still receive communion in the byzantine rite, or the Maronite rite because they are in full communion. Excuse me for my ignorance of Eastern Churches :o)

I know we can receive Communion, but I want to know if one can change rites. Can a male be raised Roman/Latin and change to an Eastern Rite and become a priest?

First of all, you need to understand the distinction between a Rite and a Church. You can change your Church through a canonical transfer. This typically involves a change of Rite, but not necessarily. There are 23 sui iuris (self-governing) Catholic Churches in communion with Rome. 22 of them are Eastern Catholic Churches. Many of these Churches practice the Byzantine Rite, but some use the Alexandrian, Armenian, West Syrian, East Syrian, etc. traditions; while the Latin Church is composed of several Rites and Uses, each Eastern Catholic Church is identified with a single Rite. This structure exists because of the way many of the Churches came into being, by separating from their Orthodox counterpart and coming into communion with Rome. An Orthodox Christian joining the Catholic Church would automatically be enrolled in the corresponding Eastern Catholic Church.

Now that you have that background, please understand that a canonical transfer is a serious matter. It usually requires the permission of two bishops, one of the Latin Church bishop who is releasing you under the omophor of the Eastern bishop who receives you. It is generally seen as a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence; you may at least find it harder to come back than it was to leave, and canonical transfers from East to West are discouraged just because all of the Eastern Churches are so small, they cannot withstand an exodus.

A man who is considering a canonical transfer or who has recently made a canonical transfer will not be accepted to the seminary. Vocations come to men in stable situations, and much the same as the newly baptized or received into the Church, those who have made a canonical transfer need to find their footing first. If the bishop understands that a man only wants to make a canonical transfer so that he can bypass the discipline of clerical celibacy, it will be denied. (Note that there is a lot of controversy in the United States about clerical celibacy in the Eastern Churches as well, so the grass isn’t necessarily greener on that side of the fence.) The way I understand vocations in the East, the priest candidate is frequently chosen by acclamation in his community, rather than accepting individual volunteers.

With all that being said, I can also tell you that a canonical transfer is not necessary for day-to-day worship. It may become an issue when you wish to be married or have children baptized, or of course ordained, but many people freely worship in an Eastern Church without undergoing a canonical transfer at all. It is certainly necessary before even considering a transfer that you have been worshipping and practicing as an Eastern Catholic for at least a year.

Hope this helps!

It is certainly possible, and happens with some regularity. If a man were trying to circumvent his own church’s rules on clerical celibacy, it is very unlikely that he would be ordained.


Yes, but I heard it’s a pain in the butt and they’d really rather you stayed in your own rite, the one you were baptized into. You need special permission and I think you can only switch once. So there’s no coming back, no going to another different one, etc.

But I’d also question why you need to switch? You can attend Mass and receive Communion at any Catholic Church in Communion with the Pope.

If it’s because you want to both get married and become a priest, I think you should re-examine your motives. Both Matrimony and the Priesthood are sacred vocations, gifts from God. And both require that you give yourself 100% to the vocation to which you are called.

I’ve known quite a number of people who’ve switched because they are on the path to ordination. Of course this is after attending the parish of the Eastern Church for a number of years. Its not like you can show up at their door and offer to be a seminarian.

Say a Latin Catholic man wanted to be a Byzantine priest so change canonical enrollment to the Byzantine Catholic Church USA.

Become a member of a Byzantine Catholic parish, active for two years, then with letter of recommendation from the priest, request canonical membership through the Byzantine Catholic Eparch of your parish. Sacramental records are submitted, you write a letter of request also, and the Eparch gets your Latin Bishop to approve first, if the happens, then he may approve next, then notify the candidate, and official declaration must be witnessed for the change of enrollment. Then apply for seminary, assuming a college degree and no impediments exist. They may require parish membership for five years first (they do for deacons). It takes about seven to nine years to become a priest (including college degree).

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