Mass outside of diocese of domicile


This is something more that I’ve been wondering about for a while rather than a matter of pressing urgency, but it is something that I ought to consider and about which my understanding of canon is unclear.

I live about a mile away from the border between two states and thus two dioceses, with my the see of my diocese being well over an hour’s journey away. My usual practice over the last few years is to travel into the neighbouring diocese on Sunday, along with a few others who live in my general vicinity, to hear the Traditional Latin Mass there, where there has been a stable TLM community since the indult days. In my own diocese, we have a few priests who have recently begun to say the Traditional Latin Mass, but irregularly, often at difficult times for me, and (except for once a month when one does so nearer to my home) at a much further distance away than the parish hosting the TLM community in the neighbouring diocese.

I often wonder about such issues as baptisms, weddings, funerals, and the like, which I understand a parish pastor has a right to conduct for his subjects. In many areas (not mine, unfortunately), I know that bishops established personal parishes for those faithful who prefer the TLM and have invited FSSP priests in to man them. In the absence of that, however, would one who prefers the TLM have any option to receive such sacraments or services said according to the 1962 Missal?

And canonically, what would be the state of persons like me who generally fulfill their Sunday obligations outside not just their parish, but their diocese of domicile?


One can ask permission to be married by another priest and in another parish.

You are not required to attend the mass at the parish within your geographic boundaries. That is still your parish, but you can go to mass wherever it is convenient, or if you prefer the EF, at a church that offers it.

There is nothing in canon law about where you can or cannot attend mass.


Yes, one can ask about marriage, I know. But what about such matters as baptism and confirmation? Particularly as these would be happening not simply in another parish of the same diocese, but in another diocese and under another bishop’s jurisdiction.

Ideally, I’d think it best in this case that one contact the other priests in the home diocese and ask them to make arrangements for these within the diocese (which experience tells me is generally no problem), but if that is not possible, what then? Is the parish pastor contacted? Because it’s an issue between two dioceses, is the bishop’s leave needed? Or is such a thing even licit?


For Latin Catholics, the ordinary minister of confirmation is the bishop. Any delegation must come from one’s proper ordinary. The ordinary minister of baptism is a bishop, a presbyter, or a deacon. (CIC 861) The adult baptism (14 years) is deferred to the bishop. Except in a case of necessity, no one is permitted to confer baptism in the territory of another without the required permission, not even upon his own subjects. (CIC 862). See CIC 861, 862, 863.


While a priest cannot baptize his parishioner in another parish, in practice I’ve seen priests baptize other priests’ parisioners upon request. I didn’t know I was supposed to have my pastor’s permission to take my children back to my baptismal parish to be baptized.

My dad just called the priest, told him we were going to be home and would he baptize the kids (2 separate occasions) and he said “no problem.” Asked the kids’ date and place of birth but never asked what parish we were from and there were several in the area where we were living.


My pastor has done baptisms, first communions, confirmations and weddings in both rites at our parish, sometimes I believe even on the same day (on Sundays OF Masses are in the morning and the EF Mass is in the afternoon). It seems to me parish priests are able to do what you’re asking even if few do. There’s far too few priests out there quite like my pastor.


My pastor has done baptisms, first communions, confirmations and weddings in both rites at our parish, sometimes I believe even on the same day (on Sundays OF Masses are in the morning and the EF Mass is in the afternoon). It seems to me parish priests are able to do what you’re asking even if few do. There’s far too few priests out there quite like my pastor.


My pastor has done baptisms, first communions, confirmations and weddings in both rites at our parish, sometimes I believe even on the same day (on Sundays OF Masses are in the morning and the EF Mass is in the afternoon). It seems to me parish priests are able to do what you’re asking even if few do.



If the priest offers those Sacraments to you, you can receive them. I think most pastors are pretty flexible and if you are a regular attendee, he will offer whatever Sacraments he can, even if you are not a canonical subject/member. Your “canonical state” is fine. You are not doing anything wrong.

That being said, “personal parishes” can only include as much territory as the diocese encompasses. A diocesan bishop cannot set up a parish for people who are not subject to him. So, it’s impossible for you to be a member of a parish in another diocese or the subject of the parish priest in that parish.

That is the normal state of affairs. Is it possible for two bishops to get together and say that people in the border region, such as you, can be a member of the parish in the other bishop’s diocese? That would be odd–I’ve never heard of it–but, thinking about this off the top of my head, it might be possible. I might be wrong about that, though.



According to CIC 857.2 parents requesting Baptism of their child “as a rule and unless a just reason suggests otherwise” should be members of the parish. There are exceptions for distance and grave necessity (CIC 859-860).

The pastor of the place of baptism handles the recording of the baptism. (CIC 877, 878)

It is because of this that the proper pastor is involved:Can. 515 §1 A parish is a certain community of Christ’s faithful stably established within a particular Church, whose pastoral care, under the authority of the diocesan Bishop, is entrusted to a parish priest as its proper pastor.

Can. 517 §1 Where circumstances so require, the pastoral care of a parish, or of a number of parishes together, can be entrusted to several priests jointly, but with the stipulation that one of the priests is to be the moderator of the pastoral care to be exercised. This moderator is to direct the joint action and to be responsible for it to the Bishop.

Can. 519 The parish priest is the proper pastor of the parish entrusted to him. He exercises the pastoral care of the community entrusted to him under the authority of the diocesan Bishop, whose ministry of Christ he is called to share, so that for this community he may carry out the offices of teaching, sanctifying and ruling with the cooperation of other priests or deacons and with the assistance of lay members of Christ’s faithful, in accordance with the law.


In my Archdiocese, the Archbishop just reinforced (in 2013) that the Sacraments of Initiation (Baptism, Confirmation & First Communion) must take place in the person’s home parish, even if their catechesis takes place at another parish.

Now one thing that I’m not 100% sure of is this: if one is granted official permission to join a different parish, my they receive the Sacraments there? I think the answer is yes, but I’m not sure.

In regards to receiving the Sacraments of Initiation in a different Diocese, I would think the answer would be generally “no” unless you (or the pastors) received permission from both Bishops. Depending on the dioceses and Bishops, this might be simple. For example, in the Diocese of Wilmington - the Bishop as allowed the pastors to ignore geographic parish boundaries for the Sacraments. So permission has already been given. But here we are talking about a different diocese. So the Bishops will need to discuss (unless they already have a standing agreement regarding border issues between them).

The easiest thing is to ask the Pastor of the EF Parish first. If he says yes, then speak to your home parish priest.

HOWEVER: I want to note the following: Sacraments in the EF are no more valid than Sacraments in the OF. If you want to attend Mass at that EF parish each week, that’s fine. But if the answer is “receive the Sacraments of Initiation” in your geographic parish or diocese, then please respect it. Geographic pastors and Bishops are responsible for all souls (Catholic and non) in their geographic territory.

I hope this makes sense.


Some Bishops in North America have granted a universal dispensation regarding parish boundaries (or made the process very easy). If this is the case, the pastor would simply say “no problem.”

For example: in my Diocese of Wilmington (at least in the southern part of the diocese) the parish boundaries are only used in regards to Extraordinary Misters of Holy Communion taking communion to the sick and shut-ins. They will only bring Communion to people who are within the geographic boundaries. Otherwise, they ignore the boundaries.

However, in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, all Sacraments of Initiation must take place in your official parish, regardless of where the catechesis is received. So in dioceses like the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, you must receive in the home/geographic diocese unless you qualify to join a Personal Parish or Chapel (like one for Italians, Pols, college communities, military bases, etc.).


Not, at least, in regards to Confirmation. A bishop within his own diocese, may lawfully confirm anyone, unless the other bishop has expressly forbidden it

Can. 886 §1. A bishop in his diocese legitimately administers the sacrament of confirmation even to faithful who are not his subjects, unless their own ordinary expressly prohibits it.

So if a person who lives in diocese A seeks to be Confirmed in diocese B, the Bishop of Diocese B does not need to seek permission, but if the bishop of Diocese A informs him ahead of time that the person is not to be Confirmed, then Bishop of Diocese B must respect that.


So by this account, it would seem best that if an initiatory sacrament were ever needed, the best course of action would be to contact one of the priests from my diocese who says the TLM, and to arrange for the sacrament when he makes his monthly visit to my area.

I remember a few years ago, when the C of E was starting to have its troubles, that certain “flying bishops” were appointed to travel about England ministering to the needs of those few remaining Anglicans who refused to accept the liberalization of their church. Now it seems as though in some dioceses we’re starting to have “flying pastors.” O tempora, O mores.


While a Catholic may attend any Catholic Mass anywhere, no matter how often one might do this, it has no effect on ones diocese or parish of membership.

A Catholic is a member of the parish where he lives* and likewise is a member of the diocese where he lives.

Attending a different parish or diocese does not make one a member of that parish/diocese.

Registering (which is meaningless in the Church’s laws) does not make one a member of a parish or diocese.

If you leave your home diocese or home parish for a short period of time, your canonical status (since that’s what you asked) is that of “traveler.” (In Latin, peregrinus)

Once you leave your own parish* territory, you are a traveler in that other parish.
Once you leave your own diocese territory, you are a traveler in that diocese.

The fact that one might do this often (even every Sunday) does not change the status of “traveler.” The only way to change ones parish* or diocese is to move and establish a new residence in that parish or diocese.

This is the universal canon law for the entire Latin Rite.
Parish policies (which might or might not conflict with the law) do not change this because they cannot change it.
Please note that personal comments or personal anecdotes posted on CAF do not change canon law.

  • Personal parishes are the exception to the above.


Fr. David, is there truth to this? Is particular law a possible explanation for why some parishes disregard boundaries so readily? It could explain the situation in my diocese. I can’t find another way to explain it rationally.


First, the direct answer to your question:
It’s a possible explanation. The bishop is the pastor of his entire diocese. As such, he can delegate faculties to any priest within his diocese. If the pastor of A goes to the territory of parish B, he would need delegation* from pastor B; however, if he has delegation directly from the bishop (to go outside of parish A) then it’s legitimate.

Please note that saying it’s a “possible explanation” is very different from saying that any particular bishop actually does this.

Now, the extended answer:
The real issue here-and-now is the general tone of the CAF posts which imply that there is some widespread disregard for parish boundaries in the US. Not necessarily on this particular thread, but on CAF in general. It’s reasonable to think that a person who has this question will also be reading other threads with similar questions.

Personal anecdotes simply do not change the code of canon law—and yet, there are posters who try to imply that it does; when someone posts a question about boundaries.

Often, people don’t see what happens behind the scenes (so to speak) with regard to parish boundaries. A priest might mention that he’s going to get delegation from the proper pastor, but they don’t remember hearing it. Maybe a priest doesn’t even mention that he’s getting delegation, because even though it’s necessary to have it, it’s not always necessary to speak about it. People don’t always understand what canon law says, nor do they always understand the subtleties of what happens in a particular diocese (even ones own), but they rush to post information based on assumptions and incomplete information. In a context like this, that’s simply not helpful.

Let’s get back to the OP’s question here. The question is summarized in the closing line:
And canonically, what would be the state of persons like me who generally fulfill their Sunday obligations outside not just their parish, but their diocese of domicile?

The OP asked about the canonical status of such a person. Canonical status. Not anecdotal information. Not “despite the code of canon law, that’s how we do things here.” Not “my pastor doesn’t care about boundaries.”

When a person asks about canonical status, the source of information for that answer should be the Code of Canon Law, should it not?

Now, having said all that: most of the answers the OP has received have been answers from canon law. Overall, the responses here have been correct.

The reason why I personally make an issue out of this topic when questions are posted is because wrong or incomplete or inapplicable answers don’t help people who ask such questions.

  • assuming, for the sake of discussion, that it’s an issue that requires such delegation.


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