Latin Rite Catholics and Eastern Rite Sacraments?

I am a Latin (Roman) Rite Catholic, and was raised as such. I don’t have any ethnic connection to them, but I attended a Maronite Catholic Mass (Liturgy) today. I was very impressed with the liturgy, and I’m considering attending more often. It seemed deeply spiritual and satisfied my need for tradition and reverence (while allowing me to remain in communion with the Holy Father).

They have slightly different disciplines, and are yet in full communion with the Holy Father. One of their rules is that children, even infants, can receive the Eucharist (assuming that children below the age of reason are de facto in a state of grace).

So here’s my question…

  1. Can my daughter, who is too young for her first communion, recieve the Eucharist in a Maronite Liturgy? Would that be her “First Communion”?
  2. Is there any formal process of becoming a “member” of a rite, or is membership in a rite (Latin, Maronite, or otherwise) defined by the parish you go to?
  3. If the child we are expecting was to be baptised at that church, is there any risk that he would be invalidly baptised?

I’m looking forward to your help and collective wisdom!

Philip

My understanding is no, your daughter should not receive her first communion there unless she is ready to receive it in the Roman rite (gone through preparation), and, I assume, you have made it known to the pastor of the Maronite rite.

Yes, there is a formal process, although I don’t know what it is; my understanding is that it is not just a simple process, and permission is not quickly given. The Church doesn’t want people changing rites willy nilly.

There can’t be any risk. The Church is Catholic. Period. It is not Roman Catholic; that is just one of the rites; it happens to be the largest, and is part of the See of Rome. But it is just one of the rites. The Maronite rite is also part of the Catholic Church, in union with Rome, but, as I understand it, having its own Code of Canon Law, and its own particular rules of sacraments (e.g. Communion and how it is distributed).

I could be wrong; howver, it is not my understanding that infants receive communion in the Maronite rite, but they do in the Byzantine rite. We have one of Each in our Archdiocese (both in Portland), and I have taken our RCIA classes to Mass (or the Holy Mysteries, as it is properly called).

Hope that helps. :tiphat:

Hi, Philip!

  1. Technically - yes… but I emphasize the word “technically.” The sacraments, or Holy Mysteries, as conferred by the Maronite Catholic Church are fully “Catholic” and, as such, are available to any Catholic faithful who is otherwise properly disposed to receive them. The Eastern Churches, however, confer these Holy Mysteries in a different order than the Western Church. I assume that your daughter was baptized as a Roman Catholic… as you are no doubt aware, the normal progression for the Sacraments of Initiation in the Roman Catholic Church is Baptism-Reconciliation-Eucharist-Confirmation. In the East, that progression is Baptism-Confirmation-Eucharist-Reconciliation, with the first three usually conferred during infancy at the same ceremony.

As a Roman Catholic, your daughter is expected to follow the progression as laid out by her Church (the Roman Catholic Church) - to receive the Eucharist “out of order” (that is, prior to her having first received the Sacrament of Reconciliation) would violate (if that’s the proper term) the accepted procedures of her Church, the Roman Catholic Church.

  1. As a Catholic, you are free to participate in the Sacraments and Liturgies of any Catholic Church, West or East. Since you were initiated into the Roman Catholic Church, however, you will always be a Roman Catholic - even if you were to attend the Maronite Church from this point forward until the day you die. You can certainly “join” the Maronite parish, contribute to it financially, etc. - it is, after all, a Catholic parish.

There is an exception - the Church allows for a once-per-lifetime “official” change of Churches (I believe Rome still uses the term “Change of Rite”) wherein you actually file the necessary paperwork with the Holy See. This procedure can be rather lengthy, however, and is not to be entered into lightly, especially since there’s no turning back after changing!

  1. The baptism would, indeed, be a valid Catholic baptism. Keep in mind, however, that the child would be a Maronite Catholic (for life!) with Roman Catholic parents and, I assume, sibling(s)… something to consider with regard to family spirituality, theology, sacraments, etc., as mentioned earlier. This would certainly be something to discuss with both your Roman Catholic priest and the Maronite Catholic priest.

This is what’s so great about the Catholic Church, though - all the riches of all the Churches that make up the “Catholic Church” (all 23 of them!) are available for all Catholics to participate in! If the Maronite Church is filling a spiritual need within you and your family, you can freely participate there without needing to exercise any official changes… just do it!

a pilgrim

Thanks for the responses!!! That definitely clarifies things for me. I was confused about the equality of validity but difference in disciplines. Since the decision to change rites is so weighty, I think I will put that off for consideration until some point far into the future. I can understand why it is not good to switch back and forth “willy nilly.”

If you have time for a follow-up question… Do you need to be a Maronite Catholic to register at their parish, or could a Roman Catholic do that?

Philip,

I’d like to elaborate a bit on a couple of the points that have been made in reply to your post.

[quote=Philip]Can my daughter, who is too young for her first communion, recieve the Eucharist in a Maronite Liturgy? Would that be her “First Communion”?
[/quote]

I agree with my brother, Pilgrim, that she “can” but. like him, I’m hesitant to recommend that you have her do so. I’m not convinced that there would be a “violation” involved but, from the experience of acquaintances at the Byzantine Forum who have been in similar situations, there is likely to be subsequent confusion. Among those likely to be confused may be your daughter, her peers with whom she would otherwise be receiving “First Communion”, and (unfortunately, but likely) your fellow Latin Catholics who are involved in preparing the children for “First Communion”. Until you know better what course your future and that of your family will take vis-a-vis the Maronite Catholic Church, you would be better advised to hold off on having your daughter receive the Holy Mystery of the Eucharist.

The situation would be different and, likely, my advice would be also, if you had been participating in the Maronite parish for some protracted period. As it is, your exposure to and involvement in the Maronite Catholic Church is very new and a period of thoughtful discernment is in order before you and your family go further than attending and participating in the Service of the Holy Mysteries in the communicated (you and your wife) and uncommunicated status (your daughter) that you have in your own Latin Church.

(continued)

[quote=Philip] Is there any formal process of becoming a “member” of a rite, or is membership in a rite (Latin, Maronite, or otherwise) defined by the parish you go to?
[/quote]

The Code of Canon Law of the Latin Church (to which you, as a Latin Catholic are subject) in Canon 112 §2 states

The practice, however long standing, of receiving the sacraments according to the rite of an autonomous ritual Church, does not bring with it membership of that Church.

Note: the term “autonomous ritual Church” includes any Eastern Catholic Church, such as the Maronite Catholic Church, that is in communion with Rome.

Pilgrim made a point to you, but subtly. I’d like to explain it more directly, because it’s an important part of learning about and understanding Eastern Catholicism and its relationship to Western (or Latin) Catholicism.

[list]
*]Persons are not “members” of a “Rite”;
*]Persons are “members” of Churches sui iuris; and,
*]Churches sui iuris (i.e., self-governing Churches) “belong to” or use a “Rite”.
[/list]

There are 23 Churches sui iuris: the Latin Catholic Church and 22 Eastern Catholic Churches; together, they comprise the Communion which we refer to as the Catholic Church. There are 6 Rites that are used within the Catholic Church: 3 of those are used only by a single Church sui iuris; the remaining 3 are each used by more than one Church sui iuris.

In the case of the 3 Rites that are each used by a single Church, the name of the Rite and the Church using it are identical (which sometimes adds a measure of confusion). The 3 are:

[list]
*]the Latin Rite, used by the Latin Catholic Church;
*]the Armenian Rite, used by the Armenian Catholic Church; and,
*] the Maronite Rite, used by the Maronite Catholic Church.
[/list]

If you’d like to know about the other Rites and the Churches sui iuris that use each, including a description of what is meant by a “Rite”, see:

Rites & Churches: Part 1 and

Rites & Churches: Part 2

(continued)

The formal phrase for the process by which one changes from one Church sui iuris to another is a “Change (or Transfer) of Canonical Enrollment” (although Pilgrim is correct in that the forms still use the now obsolete phrase “Change of Rite” - prior to Vatican II, each of the Eastern Catholic Churches was referred to as a “Rite”, an incorrect and offensive usage that reflected a second-class status in relation to the Latin Church).

The lengthiness of the process to which Pilgrim refers can vary significantly. In fact, Rome is no longer directly involved in most cases. The authority to approve such a Change is now formally delegated to the discretion of the ordinaries involved (the bishop or eparch of the Church from which the petitioner is originating and that of the Church to which the petitioner seeks to join).

In brief, the process begins when a person believes that his or her spiritual well-being would best be served by fully participating in the life of a sui iuris Church other than the one of which he or she is then a member. How soon after becoming acquainted with another Church sui iuris can one legitimately claim such discernment? It varies from individual to individual, but at least one Eastern Catholic jurisdiction has quantified it from their perspective, formally requiring participation by the petitioner in the parish’s life for 3 years before approval will be granted. (To the best of my knowledge, neither of the US Maronite Eparchies imposes a defined period of involvement prior to granting a petition.) I think it’s safe to say that a minimum of two years should/would be expected.

The petitioner addresses the request to both his/her existing ordinary and the ordinary into whose jurisdiction he/she seeks to transfer, explaining the motivation for seeking transfer. Petitions espousing traditionalist viewpoints that result in an antagonistic view toward the NO and post-VII reforms are not ordinarily deemed an appropriate basis for granting a Change. Why? Among other reasons are the fact that the Eastern Church one sees today may not be the one of tomorrow, as the Eastern Churches undergo their own reforms, intended to remove latinizations and restore our own traditions. Will the transplanted Latin still like us when we look less like the Church they’ve romanticized us to be? Or will they be disenchanted and want to move on? And to where? In most instances, as Pilgrim has indicated, only a single Change of Canonical Enrollment is permitted.

The extent to which one encounters this kind of situation (disenchantment with one’s new liturgical environment) will vary. Some Eastern Churches are much further along in achieving a return to their historical liturgical origins than others - so, WYSIWYG, to use a computer analogy (What You See Is What You Get). In others, what you see may not be what you’ll ultimately have.

(continued)

In assessing a petitioner’s motivation for a Change, one consideration on the part of the receiving ordinary is commonly the extent to which he perceives that the requestor truly understands and is drawn to the Church for reasons related to his/her theological development and spiritual well-being.

A Change of Canonical Enrollment is a decision that should not be lightly made. For many, it is not only a change of parish and rite, but also a whole process of inculturation, particularly given the ethnicity of our parishes. We tend to be a ‘family’ and ‘family’ is more than liking the pirohi, the fataya, or the lahmajun at the annual food fair weekend. Anyone intending to make a change should feel certain that they feel comfortable not only with the spirituality, but with the community with whom they will share and explore and develop that spirituality. You are often entering into a community whose ties to one another stretch back generations - sometimes back to a single village in the Levant, the Ukraine, or elsewhere. Our parishes are either very welcoming to outsiders who come among us or incredibly closed - there is no in-between. (And we need, so very badly, to be welcoming. 30+ years ago I heard my then newly appointed Exarch, Archbishop Joseph Tawil, of thrice-blessed memory, warn that the seemingly conflicting dangers to our continued existence were assimilation and a ghetto mentality. The truth of that statement has not changed.)

(continued)

[quote=Philip]If the child we are expecting was to be baptised at that church, is there any risk that he would be invalidly baptised?
[/quote]

Here, I have to disagree with Pilgrim, who wrote:

[quote=Pilgrim]The baptism would, indeed, be a valid Catholic baptism. Keep in mind, however, that the child would be a Maronite Catholic (for life!) with Roman Catholic parents and, I assume, sibling(s)…
[/quote]

In actual fact, the Maronite priest should decline to baptize your child, as the Latin Code specifies in Canon 857 §2 that:

As a rule and unless a just reason suggests otherwise, an adult is to be baptised in his or her proper parish church, and an infant in the proper parish church of the parents.

but, experience suggests that this provision is not infrequently overlooked. However, regardless of the fact that the baptism is performed in the Maronite parish, by the Maronite priest, according to the form for the Holy Mystery of Baptism according to the Maronite ritual texts, the baby will NOT be a Maronite Catholic

Canon 111 §1 of the Code of Canon Law states:

Through the reception of baptism a child becomes a member of the Latin Church if the parents belong to that Church or, should one of them not belong to it, if they have both by common consent chosen that the child be baptised in the Latin Church: if that common consent is lacking, the child becomes a member of the ritual Church to which the father belongs.

The corresponding clause of the Code of Canons for the Oriental (Eastern) Churches is Canon 29 §1, which reads:

By virtue of baptism, a child who has not yet completed his
fourteenth year of age is enrolled in the Church sui iuris of the
Catholic father; or the Church sui iuris of the mother if only
the mother is Catholic or if both parents by agreement freely request it, with due regard for particular law established by the Apostolic See.

That said, I wouldn’t hesitate to have the child baptized there provided that, by the time of the baby’s birth, you have a sense that this may well be where you intend to pursue your spiritual parish life - even if you are not yet certain that you will formally petition for a Change of Caonical Enrollment.

(continued)

Finally, you asked:

[quote=Philip]Do you need to be a Maronite Catholic to register at their parish, or could a Roman Catholic do that?
[/quote]

Yes, you can do so. But, keep in mind Canon 112 §2, which I cited at the beginning of my first post here, registering will not bring you into membership in the Maronite Church. However, should you later decide to petition Change, it will offer you documentation of the time you’ve spent involved with the Church to which you seek transfer. I would offer a similar caveat as before though; wait until you’ve been in attendance a bit longer before registering, so that you have more sense of certainty that this is where you want to be.

As a reference, I’d suggest you might want to seek out:

Captivated by Your Teachings: a Resource Book for Adult Maronite Catholics, by Fr. Anthony J. Salim

I’d also invite you to visit and register at the Byzantine Forum, an online message board populated by Eastern Catholics, both Eastern and Oriental Orthodox, Latin Catholics with an interest in the East, and Protestants with similar interests. Neither membership nor discussion is limited to those whose Churches are of the Byzantine Rite, name notwithstanding. We have several Maronite members and are always welcoming to inquirers, regardless of from whence they come. It’s at:

Byzantine Forum

May God grant you many years and bless your search for the Church in which you and your family can best come to further know and more fervently worship Him.

Neil

Once again, Neil, thank you for your clarifications and corrections! Y’know, I used to think how great it would be to sit down with the Pope over a cup of coffee and just “talk Church.” If I were to bring my wish into the realm of that which might actually be possible, you’d be my guy! Maybe someday…

I’m both humbled and awed by the amazing storehouse of knowledge you possess and so freely share. This Forum (and others!) are truly fortunate to have you around, my friend!

a pilgrim (BTW - coffee’s on me!) :slight_smile:

Irish Melkite is a walking resource center!
Just reading his posts about Eastern Catholicism helps me learn more everyday!
Returned to Byzantine almost 2 years ago and didn’t realize how much wealth there is in my Rite!

About coffee, forget it, a whole dinner would be deserved here!

Go with God!
Edwin

Niel,

I can only say that I thank God for your response. You are a truly gifted and grace-filled individual. Your help has been invaluable. I didn’t actually know that you were supposed to have baptisms done in your home parish, but assumed that that was always a custom. Interesting fact.

How can I learn more about Canon Law, as you have? Are there some good books that you would recommend?

I will register on the Byzantine forum and will read the book that you mentioned.

Philip

[quote=Philip]I didn’t actually know that you were supposed to have baptisms done in your home parish, but assumed that that was always a custom.

How can I learn more about Canon Law, as you have? Are there some good books that you would recommend?

I will register on the Byzantine forum and will read the book that you mentioned.
[/quote]

Philip,

I’m glad you found the information helpful and hope that, if you continue to feel as you do now, you find the Maronite Church to be as wonderful a place in which to worship as I know it is. About 35 years ago, at Christmas, I was a young soldier away from home for the first time. I had been a member of the Melkite Church for just a few years and found that there were no Melkite or other Byzantine parishes near where I was stationed. I will always fondly remember the kindnesses shown to me by Father Wladimir Akeekee, of blessed memory, and his parishoners at St. George’s Maronite Church in San Antonio.

As to baptisms in your home parish, there are exceptions. For almost a century, my Latin relatives, regardless of where they lived, have returned to the Latin parish in which my grandparents lived to have their own children baptised. Each time, it requires obtaining consent of their own pastor and that the baptism be registered in their home parish, as well as at the parish in which the sacrament is being administered.

As to Canon Law, the full texts of both the Latin and Eastern Codes are available online:

Code of Canon Law (Latin Church)

Code of Canon Law of the Oriental (Eastern) Churches

I can’t offhand recommend any particular book on Canon Law; some of the hard copy texts include commentary, which can be useful. But, truthfully, for the average Catholic, Latin or Eastern, a detailed knowledge of Canon Law isn’t really necessary.

You might want to consider the online Maronite groups on yahoo:

The e-mail list is for those who wish to make a connection with other Maronites:

Maronite E-Mail List

The online e-mail discussion and sharing list is for members of the Maronite Catholic Church and those interested in it. The Maronite members are prepared to discuss and respond to questions and issues on the list. Non-Maronites are welcome to join and raise any questions or discuss whatever issues they wish concerning the Maronite Church and community. The only criteria for joining is interest in the Maronite Church and community.

Maronite Friends E-Mail Discussion Group

Should you join either, tell my friend Yuhannon that Irish Melkite sent you.

Many years,

Neil

Edwin and Pilgrim,

Thanks for the kind words :slight_smile:

I had the advantage of growing up as a Catholic in a Latin diocese where Eastern Catholic churches were plentiful and the then- Archbishop, Richard Cardinal Cushing, of blessed memory, had a tremendous love of and was a great friend to what were then the Eastern Catholic “Rites”, a man ahead of his time.

After I became involved with the Melkite Cathedral parish in my late teens, I learned more, both to satisfy my own curiousity and to answer the queries of my Irish Catholic relatives, who wanted to know why I was attending “one of those Greek churches, where the priests wear funny hats, instead of a Catholic church”. :smiley:

Soon, I noticed that visitors to the Cathedral gravitated to me to ask questions. We finally deduced that since (back then) I was one of the few parishoners who obviously wasn’t of Arabic heritage (think the reddish-blonde hair was what gave me away :wink: ), visitors made a connection with me. To answer their questions, I had to keep learning.

It’s been almost 4 decades now that I’ve been a Melkite Catholic. I’ve had the honor of meeting His Beatitude Maximos IV Saigh, of thrice-blessed memory, who was the voice of the East at Vatican II, and of knowing his successors, His Beatitude Maximos V Hakim, of blessed memory, and His Beatitude Gregorios III Laham. I’ve seen my Church’s US jurisdiction raised from an Exarchate to an Eparchy and had both the pleasure and the honor of knowing every bishop who has served the US Melkite community.

I can’t count the number of wonderful clergy with whom I’ve prayed and the people of my parish, who welcomed a reddish-haired Irish kid with smiles, handshakes, hugs, and kisses on both cheeks (how un-Irish :o ) back then have shown me nothing but love in the years since. The hair is less red and there’s less of it, I’ve long since ceased to be poster child for parish diversity, and my Arabic is still pretty much limited to that needed to successfully navigate the food fair. I wouldn’t be anywhere else :slight_smile: .

Many years,

Neil

Neil - Re I had the advantage of growing up as a Catholic in a Latin diocese where Eastern Catholic churches were plentiful and the then- Archbishop, Richard Cardinal Cushing, of blessed memory, had a tremendous love of and was a great friend to what were then the Eastern Catholic “Rites”, a man ahead of his time. In the 60’s I had the pleasure of attending the consecration of an Eastern rite Bishop by Cardinal Cushing as the Cardinal’s guest. Regret that I don’t remember the Bishop’s name. It was a most impressive ceremony.

I received Communion “Eastern” fashion for the first time under the eye of a TV camera. :slight_smile:

[quote=Joe Kelley]In the 60’s, I had the pleasure of attending the consecration of an Eastern rite Bishop by Cardinal Cushing as the Cardinal’s guest. Regret that I don’t remember the Bishop’s name. It was a most impressive ceremony. I received Communion “Eastern” fashion for the first time under the eye of a TV camera. :slight_smile:
[/quote]

Joe,

It can have been only one of two occasions, I believe.

On 28 April 1962, Right Reverend Archimandrite John Bassoul, BSO, of blessed memory, then-pastor of Our Lady of the Annunciation in Boston’s South End, was ordained to the Melkite episcopacy at the (Latin) Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston. Archbishop John was consecrated to serve the Melkite Archeparchy of Homs (Syria).

On 29 May 1966, Right Reverend Archimandrite Justin Najmy, BAO, also of blessed memory, then-pastor of Saint Basil the Great in Central Falls, RI, was ordained to be first bishop of the newly-created Apostolic Exarchate for the Melkites in the US. His episcopal ordination was also served at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. A week later, he was enthroned at the newly-constructed Our Lady of the Annunciation (Melkite) Cathedral in Roslindale.

Cardinal Cushing, of thrice-blessed memory, wasn’t the principal consecrator on either occasion, but presided at both, as was his right as the ordinary to whom Melkites in Boston were subject prior to Bishop Justin’s installation. Both times, the Cardinal vested in full Byzantine pontifical regalia.

To the best of my knowledge, these two occasions were the only times during his tenure on which Eastern Catholic hierarchs were consecrated in Boston. The only similar event that I remember would have been the enthronement of our beloved Archbishop Joseph (Tawil), of blessed memory, as successor to Bishop Justin in the position of Apostolic Exarch. That, however, occurred in 1970 and I seem to recollect that the Cardinal, who reposed shortly thereafter, was not well enough to attend, to his dismay.

He was very good to Eastern Catholics, in an era when Latin hierarchs didn’t pay us a lot of attention. He was instrumental in procuring the prime real estate parcels on which both our Basilian Salvatorian Seminary in Methuen and our Cathedral in Roslindale are situated and donated significant sums, from his personal funds, toward the purchases and construction of both. A large mosaic iconic portrait of the Cardinal hangs in a place of prominence in the vestibule of our Cathedral, above a plaque that, rightfully describes him as “our beloved benefactor”.

Archbishop Joseph, in his first Pastoral Letter, at Christmas 1970, a few months after the Cardinal’s repose, said of him:

We cannot be grateful enough to those Roman Catholic bishops of this country who took the steps necessary to preserve our heritage while we had no hierarchy of our own on these shores. We think most of all of the late Cardinal Richard Cushing, of thrice-blessed memory, undoubtedly the greatest benefactor of our church in the United States. Thanks to his apostolic openness and love, he worked for the establishment of our Exarchate and generously endowed it with his psychological and financial support once it had been erected. For this reason we have directed that a solemn Liturgy be celebrated annually in our cathedral to perpetuate his memory.

Many years,

Neil

Neil - Thanks. I think it must have been 1966. - Joe

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.