Greetings in Christ!
I am an Orthodox Hieromonk (a monk that has been ordained as a priest), a Russian Old Ritualist in communion with the Holy See, also called “Russian Orthodox Church in Communion with Rome”, or “Old Believers” and “Old Rite Brethren.” This page was set up to help answer questions about the Old Rite and how a priest can be “bi-ritual” (having the capacity to celebrate the sacraments in two different traditions).
I celebrate the Divine Liturgy (Mass) at my hermitage/residence. As a priest with the Old Rite Brethren, I am permitted by the Holy See to continue serving as a priest and practise Orthodoxy according to the Old Ritualist methods in its various forms, and the use of specific texts, etc. and according to the seminary from which I was graduated. St. Pope Pius X said, “Nec plus, nec minus, nec aliter,” meaning “no more, no less, no different” in response to whether Russian Orthodox Old Believers who come into communion with Rome should change to the Latin rite. I use the Aramaic Bible for scripture readings, the “Old Orthodox Prayer Book” for services, and sometimes the “Jordanville Prayer Book” for meditations. Additionally, I have adopted some observances common to Catholics in the West for my own spiritual practices such as the Rosary, certain prayers and novenas, etc. but none of these are incumbent on those from the Old Ritualist sect. Canon law makes it clear that our rite, which includes liturgy and heritage, must be maintained without compromise.
Pope Pius X Establishes a Precedent
“On May 22, 1908 Fr. Zerchaninov was appointed the Administrator of the Mission to the Russian Catholics. The decree from the Vatican Secretariat of State appointing him specifically states: ‘Therefore His Holiness commands the aforementioned priest Zerchaninov to observe the laws of the Greek-Slavonic Rite faithfully and in all their integrity, without any admixture from the Latin Rite or any other Rite; he must also see that his subjects, clergy and all other Catholics, do the same.’
Subsequently, this command to observe strictly the Russian Orthodox Church’s rituals and spirituality was confirmed during an audience with Pope Pius X attended by Mlle. Ushakova.
In response to Mlle. Ushakova’s inquiry whether the Russian Catholics should hold firmly to their Russian synodal and Old Ritualist practices, or adapt these to the more ‘latinized’ Galician liturgical forms, Pope Pius replied that the Russian Catholics should adhere to the synodal and Old Rite practices with the now famous response in Latin: ‘nec plus, nec minus, nec aliter’ (no more, no less, no different). This principle continues to be observed by the Russian Catholic communities today.” (“Nec Plus, Nec Minus, Nec Aliter: A Brief History of the Russian Byzantine Catholic Church and the Russian Catholics”, copyright 2005 by Reader Methodios Stadnik. Link.)
Priests coming from the Orthodox Church into the Roman Catholic Church retain their priesthood, but do not necessarily celebrate Mass or other sacraments in an official capacity for the Roman Catholic parishes without permission of the Bishop, but he may continue observing it in his private chapel, oratory or residence. Circumstances may vary. Canon 899 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches says that a “cleric of an Eastern non-Catholic Church entering into full communion with the Catholic Church can exercise his own sacred order according to the norms established by the competent authority;” however, it says that “a bishop cannot validly exercise the power of governance except with the consent of the Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops.” In cases of emergencies, both Catholic and Orthodox clerics may hear confessions and offer last rites. In any case, whether you are Catholic or Orthodox, you can send your name or the names of individuals in which you wish to be mentioned at one of the celebrations of Divine Liturgy (Mass) and I will add these to the list. These individuals do not have to be Catholic or Orthodox. It is my duty to pray for all peoples.
Orthodox Priests in the Catholic Church
Some have asked me about the validity of Orthodox priests within the Catholic Church and if they are accepted as “legitimate”. The following quote is from EWTN’s website where an Orthodox Hieromonk asked about the validity of his priesthood should he come into communion with Rome.
An Eastern Orthodox priest who becomes Catholic is not re-ordained. Nor must he go through seminary training again. He can continue serving as a priest in the Catholic Church, at the discretion of his Catholic bishop.
…the Catholic Church views the Orthodox Churches as true Churches with apostolic succession and a valid priesthood. Dominus Iesus is an authoritative document that gives the official position on this matter.
Any Eastern Orthodox Christian who becomes Catholic must retain his own Byzantine rite, and therefore automatically becomes Byzantine Catholic. This applies to clerics as well as to laity. Thus, an Eastern Orthodox priest who becomes Catholic automatically becomes a Byzantine Catholic priest. As to whether or not he may enter a religious order or be diocesan, this is up to the discretion of the bishop who receives him into the Catholic Church.
An Eastern Orthodox priest who desires to become Catholic should contact a Byzantine Catholic bishop to discuss possible arrangements. There are several different kinds of Byzantine Catholics in the United States, including Melkite, Ukrainian, Romanian, and Ruthenian Byzantine Catholics. Each group has their own bishops. Each bishop may handle these cases differently. Ultimately it is the bishop who makes the final decisions in such matters. (Link.)
The following quote is taken from ETWN’s website where someone asked about coming into communion with Rome.
Canon 896 specifies that for those adult Christians (beyond 14 years) “who ask of their own accord to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church, whether as individuals or as groups, no burden is to be imposed beyond what is necessary.”
Canon 897 indicates that the Christian may be received “With only the profession of faith after a doctrinal and spiritual preparation that is suited to the person’s condition.”
With respect to individual laypersons the right to receive usually pertains to the pastor although in some cases particular law might reserve this admission to a higher authority (cf. Canon 898.3).
Canon 35, however, is important because it specifies that baptized non-Catholics entering into full communion “should retain their own rite and should observe it everywhere in the world as far as humanly possible. Thus they are to be ascribed to the Church ‘sui iuris’ of the same rite.”
When the person wishes not only to become Catholic but to change to the Latin rite, the same canon recognizes the right to approach the Holy See (the Congregation for Eastern Churches) in special cases.
Therefore, in the case at hand, the simplest thing to do is to approach the Eastern eparchy most closely resembling his original rite in order to be admitted into the Catholic Church in accordance with the dispositions of the pastor.
Once admitted, he should continue to practice the faith in the corresponding Eastern rite. But he may also freely practice in the Latin rite for a just cause, for example, if there were no churches of his own rite within a reasonable distance.
In order to formally switch rites, he would need to recur to the Holy See as mentioned above. (Link.)
Nec plus, nec minus, nec aliter.
Rev. Fr. Hieromonk Seraphim Charles