A reader puzzles about Byzantine vs. Latin rites and obligations

He writes:

Hi Mark, I was wondering if you might be able to help me with a question. I was baptized as a baby in the Byzantine Catholic rite. I never lived in a country where the Byzantine rite was widely practiced (I’ve only lived in Switzerland and the US) and growing up, I attended Latin rite masses 95% of the time. My parents would take me to a Byzantine rite mass maybe twice a year. Today, I only attend Latin rite masses. Given this information, am I bound by the Byzantine rite rules (such as no meat on Fridays year round, as well as their special dietary requirements during Lent) or does the Latin rite rules apply to me? I’ve asked several priests about this but none of them could tell me. I would appreciate any information you might have on this.

St. Ambrose remarked that in Milan they fasted on Thursdays and Saturday, but in Rome they fasted on Wednesday and Friday. So when in Rome he followed local custom and when in Milan he followed Milanese customs. If you are typically going to a Latin rite Church, just follow Latin custom. Your baptism was into the Catholic Church, not into a particular rite.

Hope that helps!

Thank you very much, Mark! That does help. I made sure to baptize my daughter in the Latin rite to avoid her this confusion haha!

Any baptism by anybody that uses the Trinitarian formula and sufficient water to flow (including by an atheist) is reckoned as valid by the Catholic Church (since, by doing what the Church asks, the baptizer is reckoned as trying to be obedient to the will of Christ). So there is no such thing as Catholic/protestant/Byzantine/Evangelical/Orthodox/insert 31 flavors here Baptism. There’s just Baptism. Period.

That is why we “profess one baptism for the forgiveness of sins” in the Creed and that is why people joining the Catholic Church from other Christian traditions are not re-baptized. Valid Baptism is a powerful link of unity between the various Christian traditions. Every validly baptized person is already in a real bond of communion with the Church.


4 Responses

  1. Yes. Membership in a Particular Church should not be seen too much like civil citizenship or what passport documents you have. It is a patrimony. Not that there is not a purpose to good order within the Church, but one should follow the ritual patrimony that one has been enculturated within.

    1. I’m not sure about following a particular ritual patrimony, especially if you’re somewhere where your particular rite is unavailable.
      When I was in Egypt in 2009, we went to a Mass at a local Catholic Coptic chapel on 8th of December.
      I’m curious about Amrosian, Mozarabic and Byzantine rites and I’d definitely attend Mass in those rites if I have the opportunity to do so.

  2. Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches:

    Can. 882 – On the days of penance the Christian faithful are obliged to observe fast or abstinence in the manner established by the particular law of their Church sui juris.

    Can. 883 – 1. The Christian faithful who are outside the territorial boundaries of their own Church sui juris can adopt fully for themselves the feast days and days of penance which are in force where they are staying.

    2. In families in which the parents are enrolled in different Church sui juris, it is permitted to observe the norms of one or the other Church, in regard to feast days and days of penance.

    Pope Paul VI, Apostolic Constitution Paenitemini:

    Chatper III – II. 1. The time of Lent preserves its penitential character. The days of penitence to be observed under obligation throughout the Church are all Fridays and Ash Wednesday, that is to say the first days of “Grande Quaresima” (Great Lent), according to the diversity of the rites. Their substantial observance binds gravely.

    2. Apart from the faculties referred to in VI and VIII regarding the manner of fulfilling the precept of penitence on such days, abstinence is to be observed on every Friday which does not fall on a day of obligation, while abstinence and fast is to be observed on Ash Wednesday or, according to the various practices of the rites, on the first day of “Grande Quaresima” (Great Lent) and on Good Friday.

  3. I wasn’t aware that the Byzantine Catholic Church retained abstention from meat on Fridays where the Latin Rite did not. Very interesting to know that.

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