Membership in Catholic and Orthodox Communions at the same time

Based on the canon laws of the Roman Catholic Church and those of the Orthodox Communion, is it possible to be a member of both Communions at the same time or to be confirmed in both Communions?


Er, well…

This probably isn’t the answer you were looking for, but by Catholic Church law, someone who is baptized and chrismated (confirmed) Orthodox can receive communion in a Catholic church, although if the Orthodox bishop found out about it, he’d probably be mightily upset (unless it was an emergency situation).

Under canon 1364 of the Catholic Church’s Code of Canon Law an apostate from the faith, a heretic or a schismatic incurs a *latae sententiae * (i.e. automatic) excommunication. I don’t think it would be hard to argue that a Catholic who simultaneously was a member of an Orthodox communion (as opposed to making use of the Orthodox sacraments in an emergency) was in schism.

I’m not a canon or a priest, but, the Orthodox and Catholic Churches are two of the few that recognize all the other’s sacraments - i.e. a marriage by an Orthodox church is valid in the Catholic Church, and vice versa. Which has made for a few Catholic priests with families and children already.

It’s one of the many reasons I wish JPII would stop fighting the idea of clerical marriage. sigh

But Orthodox communion isn’t heresy - not quite.

I’m not saying Catholics and Orthodox love each other… but they are accepted as part of the body of Christ. Unlike the reports from the last ecumenical council vis-a-vis the Protestants.

But if the Catholic Church and Orthodox Communion recognize each other’s sacraments, doesn’t this mean they are de facto in communion with each other?


Orthodox consider that Catholics have valid, if irregular, sacraments, and Catholics recognize Orthodox sacraments as completely valid.

But it is impossible to be in submission to the Roman Pontiff, on the one hand, and hold to autocephalic adherence to the Orthodox faith and bishops, on the other, simultaneously. It’s a disjunct in the adherence to authority.

What you may be conceptualizing are the Uniate churches – the “Eastern Rites” of Catholicism, which engage in Orthodox practice, celebrating the Divine Liturgy as Mass, with married priests and celibate usually-monastic bishops, but in full allegiance to the Pope and adhering to the post-1054 Councils which the Eastern Orthodox reject.

(Don’t forget, by the by, that there are two Orthodox communions, only slightly “intercommunicative” (to coin a term) – the Eastern Orthodox, including the Greek and Russian churches and a large number of smaller ones, in communion with the Ecumenical Patriarch in Constantinople (yeah, Istanbul, but that’s where they call the city where he has his see – a little matter of 552 years means nothing to Orthodoxy! ;)); and the Oriental Orthodox, which comprise the Coptic Churches of Egypt and Ethiopia, the Gregorian Church of Armenia, the Jacobite Orthodox Church of Syria (and points east), and one of the several Mar Thoma Churches of Kerala, India.

BTW, on the question of intercommunion:

Just as any Catholic (or anybody else) is welcome at an Anglican altar for communion, but is forbidden by his own church from receiving there, any Orthodox is welcome at a Catholic altar, but he is forbidden by his church from receiving there, barring exceedingly extraordinary circumstances.

  1. Not to be disrespectful, but I find it funny how one Orthodox Communion is called “Eastern” and the other is called “Oriental,” which is but a fancy way of saying “Eastern.” “Here we have two Orthodox Communions: the Eastern Orthodox and the Eastern Orthodox.” Hehehehe. Ah, I am so easily amused.

Thanks for the clarification, Polycarp. Are Oriental Orthodox recognized as orthoprax by Catholics and Eastern Orthodoxy, or are they considered to have invalid sacraments (like Protestants)? I believe there are significant theological differences between Eastern and Oriental Orthodox, right?

  1. So does this mean that if someone wants to choose Catholicism or Orthodoxy, it’s simply a matter of style since both, essentially, recognize each other’s orthopraxy but disagree on orthodoxy?


To add to the above…

Both the OC and RCC view baptism and confirmation as one time sacraments, never to be repeated. Both view each other’s sacraments as valid. So, if baptized or confirmed in one Church, then you are considered baptized and confirmed in the other, and neither will rebpatize or reconfirm you, even if you switch Churches.

The RCC is is much more receptive to the OC than the other way around. Members of the OC are welcome to receive Communion in the RCC.

The OC position on RCs receiving Orthodox Communion, however, ranges from reluctant acceptance under extraordinary circumstance to downright hostility (the OC Churches aren’t as monolithic in position and policy as the RCC).

The OC would not like their members to receive Communion in the RCC, but do not excommunicate those who do.

The RCC is OK with its members receiving Communion in the OC, however, actually leaving the RCC to join the OC is a schismatic act. I’m not sure, Cunctator, that an excommunication would incur in this case since the (mutual) excommunication of the Orthodox has been lifted.

Both are similar enough in beliefs and practices that they see each other as having valid sacraments and (in extraordinary circumstances) intercommunion. However, both differ enough in both beliefs and practices that they are not united.


Well, there are significant theological differences. Ybeayf will have to emerge from the woodwork to address the problems thoroughly. But among the issues is the Filioque, which is for Orthodox a much bigger stumbling block than it sounds, since it redefines the nature of God subtly but substantively; transubstantiation as mandative dogma – Orthodox, like most Anglicans, hold to the Real Presence and refuse to authoritatively pinpoint how the mystery is accomplished (though many Orthodox agree with Aquinas as a matter of personal piety); the Marian doctrines promulgated by the Post-Schism Catholic Church; tons of stuff from the documents emerging from the Councils and virtually anything promulgated by the Pope in his teaching capacity; an assortment of praxis items of importance to Orthodox, ranging from the hand motions in making the Sign of the Cross, to how to receive Communion, to whether bread is to be leavened, to icons vs. statuary.

So, if someone wanted to be involved in both Churches, he or she would be baptized and confirmed in the Catholic Church, and then commune at and be involved with both, without specifically joining the Orthodox Communion?


Depends on where you are. We have a few Arabs in our congregation (Italo-Greek Byzantine Catholic) and a couple of them have reported that in the Middle East, there is full intercommunion. When it is a particular saint’s feast day, everybody goes to the church named for that saint, and nobody asks anybody if they’re Catholic or Orthodox. One lady was shocked when she moved to the U.S. and started taking her children to an Orthodox Church (most M.E. Catholics are Greek-rite) and they were refused communion by the priest because they were Catholic.

I guess when you’re in a part of the world where your religion is a frowned-upon minority, sectarian differences within the faith don’t matter all that much.

You’re probably right Moriah. I was only taking a non-canonist layman’s interpretation of the Code. In any case, **Polycarp’s ** earlier reponse went straight to the heart of the question. It’s not logically possible to be in communion with the sovereign Pontiff and with the bishops of one of the orthodox churches at the same time.

Technically this is correct, but it needs a little clarification. First of all, you must (of course) be baptised in your own church. There are also some Protestant churches whose baptisms my Episcopal church would not recognize. I can’t remember the specifics of it (“immersion” baptisms?) but it basically revolved around some Protestant churches whose members would never step foot in an Orthodox, Roman or Anglican church - “The Batshit Crazy Church Of Jesus Militant (Snake Holder Synod)”.

Then again, my parish was Anglo-Catholic and was so high church it would actually check up on these things if there was any doubt.

Yeah – and on this one I can speak with authority, as opposed to “it’s my understanding that…”

Rex is quasi-correct here. The official policy of the Episcopal Church is that “all baptized Christians” are welcome at their communion. In practice, the ushers or whoever don’t ask to see your baptismal certificate before they’ll let you go forward for communion – anyone who feels a call to join in our communion is welcome to do so. (As Rex noted, there are a few parish churches that are “spikes” – “so High that they’re narrow and pointy” :wink: – that may get sticky on the issue.)

We share with the Roman Catholics and several other communions the definition of a valid baptism – whatever the other church’s theology about baptism, what is required for a valid baptism is that they baptise, with water, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, intending to do as the church has historically always done.

Well, when I was confirmed, part of the process (of course) entailed confirming that you had been baptised. Two of the people in my class had gone to either one of those “snake handler churches” or one of those Primitive Baptist “baptise you once a year during revival” type of church. They had to take the “long course” to be baptised all over again. I don’t remember what the exact issue was - I could swear that it had to do with immersion or something - but although they were Christian, their baptism was invalid.

The reason I bring all this up is because one of those guys ended up getting married at the church a couple of years later. When, during the wedding, it was time to do the Eucharist, the celebrant normally invites everyone “who has been baptised with water, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” to take communion. Because most of this guy’s family were still practicing members of their church, Fr. Tanghe changed the invitation to something a bit more restrictive, like “who has been baptised with water only once, and not in a river, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit”*.

Of course, like I said, this is an extremely high church parish. You get looked at funny if you genuflect instead of bow at the wrong time (or vice-versa), forget to bow as the celebrant passes or forget to nod your head at the name of Jesus.

    • I have been wracking my brain trying to remember what the issue was and for the life of me I just can’t. He didn’t sound so… snooty as I made it out to be, but he definately changed that line for the “heathens”. My friend Jeff - who is waiting to be welcomed to the priesthood as soon as the lines die down in Ft. Worth or Eau Claire - and I even talked about it afterwards.

Yeah – I have no clue why the particular terminology was selected, but both groups agree on its usage.

The OOs are considered orthopraxic, and there’s dialogue going on between them as regards their orthodoxy – I did a recent post (in another questions-about-religion thread of yours, WRS) describing the misunderstanding of OOs as monophysite and their actual view, which is miaphysite – and the OO/EO dialogue participants are working on a common definition of Christ’s nature(s) founded in the Chalcedon statement that both groups can agree on. There is limited intercommunion in the Middle East, particularly between Antiochene Orthodox (EOs) and Syrian Orthodox (Jacobite OOs), which for them is a major step towards unity.

Yes and no. There are some strong Orthodox questions about the praxis of Catholicism as it has diverged from their standard, over and above the theological issues. (And remember that each church claims to be the original church founded by Christ and the Apostles, from which the other one has schismed. Catholic ecclesiology would make a big issue out of this; Orthodox ecclesiology almost as big a one.)

Clerical marriage is allowed in Catholicism. It’s just not allowed in the Latin Rite (or in North American Catholicism, but that’s a different issue.)

Actually, clerical marriage is now allowed for Greek-Rite priests in North America. The Edict of Baltimore was lifted a few years ago. There are, however, a few conditions.

For a married man to be ordained in North America, he must be at least forty-five years old, and he must have no dependent children- the rugrats gotta be grown and outta da house.