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Is it alright for an Orthodox christian to go into a Catholic church and vice versa? That is:

Does either Eastern Orthodox or Catholic teaching object to occasional participation of an Eastern Orthodox Christian in a Catholic service (Mass)? What about occasional participation of a Catholic in an Eastern Orthodox service (Divine Liturgy)?

  • Questions like "Is X a sin? Is X right or wrong?" are too subjective and are usually closed on this site. – LCIII Jul 15 '15 at 13:54
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    Your question's fine. – fredsbend Jul 15 '15 at 20:37
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From a Catholic point of view, there is no problem with (a) a Roman Catholic attending an Orthodox Divine Liturgy and receiving communion or (b) an Orthodox attending a Roman Catholic mass and receiving communion. This is, however, restricted to circumstances when a Roman Catholic mass is unavailable.

The Orthodox position is different; Roman Catholics would not be permitted to receive communion in an Orthodox church and Orthodox would not be permitted to receive in a Roman Catholic church.

I've had surprising difficulty finding documentation for this, but here's an EWTN article explaining the Catholic position and here's an Orthodox Church of America page explaining the Orthodox position. They aren't exactly the best sources imaginable, but they are accurate in my experience.

  • So I take it that means neither can legitimately happen as the Roman Catholic is allowed by his church but not by the Orthodox Church they are visiting and while the Orthodox person is welcome to the Roman Catholic Church they are not allowed by their own? – neil Jul 15 '15 at 22:24
  • The Orthodox position is as stated - the Orthodox consider the Catholic Church as holding to some serious heresies and therefore do not consider them a jurisdiction of the Church that Christ founded. As such, the Orthodox have excommunicated the Catholic Church, meaning may not commune in Orthodox Churches, and Orthodox may not participate in Catholic worship,let alone commune. The Catholic position is more fuzzy. They seem to think the Orthodox are just unaware of the legitimacy of Rome. It's a moot point though, because an Orthodox priest could be defocked for unrepentantly communing RC ppl. – Josiah Jul 16 '15 at 3:18
  • From a Catholic point of view, there is no problem with (a) a Roman Catholic attending an Orthodox Divine Liturgy and receiving communion or (b) an Orthodox attending a Roman Catholic mass and receiving communion. That's an unsubstantiated opinion. – Geremia Jul 16 '15 at 4:49
  • @JAGAnalyst Read the whole page. Specifically the the paragraphs above the asterisks. – lonesomeday Jul 16 '15 at 7:26
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    You are correct though, I should have said that part of your answer may not be correct in some instances. I am still upvoting your answer, I just wanted to clarify the point. – JAGAnalyst Jul 16 '15 at 14:34
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The Eastern Orthodox church and the Catholic church are two separate churches. The Eastern Orthodox church is not the same as the Eastern Rite Catholic churches, whose bishops are in union with the bishop of Rome.

The Catholic church views the leadership and the sacraments as valid, since they derive from apostolic authority and the Eastern Orthodox church can trace a valid succession all the way back to the Apostles (unlike Anglicanism, where at one point Anglicans clearly intended to no longer make Catholic priests and bishops, but to make Anglican priests and Bishops). As such, they are considered a true "Church", not a schismatic or heretical community.

A member of the Catholic church would be allowed to participate in all ways that would be considered honest ecumenism. There is no reason why one could not join with them to pray, sing, read scripture, attend a wedding or baptism, etc.

However, even though their sacraments are valid, it is not licit, or allowed, for a Catholic to participate in the sacraments of the Eastern Orthodox church. Primarily, this is because they are not a member of that community, and in the true spirit of ecumenism, a Catholic would not want to present themselves for Eucharist, for example, because the Eastern Orthodox churches may not always not intend to provide its sacraments to non-members.

Additionally, when Catholics receive Communion, they are expressing unity both with Christ and with the Catholic church. As a result, when a Catholic liturgy is available, this is understood as the proper place for Catholics to worship and receive.

However, when a Catholic liturgy is unavailable, a Catholic is permitted to attend services and receive in an Orthodox church. Ideally, the parishioner would seek the permission of both priests, to avoid any confusion, especially if the situation is not a one-time event.

So it depends on the nature of the participation. For example, if a Catholic is married to an Orthodox spouse, the Catholic would be allowed to attend and participate, but not communicate, in an Orthodox liturgy on a regular basis.

  • "If a Catholic is married to an Orthodox spouse, the Catholic would be allowed to attend and participate, but not communicate, in an Orthodox liturgy on a regular basis." ANYONE is allowed to attend and participate in an Orthodox Liturgy without communicating. – guest37 Dec 2 '17 at 1:26
  • "It is not licit, or allowed, for a Catholic to participate in the sacraments of the Eastern Orthodox church." This is not true. Catholics are permitted (by the Roman Catholic Church) to receive Communion at an Orthodox Liturgy under Canon 844.2. You are correct, however, that such an individual would not be knowingly permitted to receive Communion by Orthodox clergy. – guest37 Dec 2 '17 at 1:30

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