Is there an American Eastern Catholic Church?
Eastern Catholic Churches are, by definition, from Eastern countries such as Romania and Ukraine. The US is a Western country, so it has no indigenous Eastern Catholic Church. Many Eastern Catholic Churches have eparchies and parishes in the US to serve immigrant communities here, but these do not actually constitute an “American Eastern Catholic Church”.
The closest thing we have to that is the Ruthenian Catholic Church in America. Though still part of the Ruthenian Catholic Church, it has become so ethnically mixed that it now just calls itself “The Byzantine Catholic Church in America”. Its Liturgy is celebrated in English, and it is basically as close as any Eastern Catholic Church in America gets to being an “American Eastern Catholic Church”.
Do Eastern Catholics pray the Rosary?
Some do. The Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary is a Western Catholic prayer, but some Eastern Catholics choose to include it in their personal devotions.
Eastern Christians also have their own rosary, sometimes called the “Byzantine Rosary”. This devotion involves the meditative recitation of the Jesus Prayer (Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner!) one hundred times, along with some other prayers. The Jesus Prayers are counted on a prayer rope, called a komboschoinia in Greek or a chotki in Russian. It is made out of wool and has either 33, 50 or 100 special knots in it, each tied in a cross-like form. Sometimes, the prayers are said on a string of 100 beads.
The Byzantine Rosary is much older than the Western Rosary, dating back to the fourth century A.D.! It is an ancient and venerable Christian practice.
I’m a Roman Catholic; can I attend an Eastern Catholic Divine Liturgy?
Absolutely! We are all the same Catholic Church, so we have complete intercommunion with them.
I recently I visited a “Byzantine Catholic” church. Their Liturgy is so different; how can they be Catholic?
They are! Many Roman Catholics grew up with little exposure to other aspects of Catholicism. When they discover the Eastern Catholic Churches, it causes a kind of “culture shock”, since they are so used to only one kind of Catholicism. But these Churches are just as Catholic as the Roman Rite: no more, no less! And worshiping with ones Eastern brothers and sisters can be a wonderful way to expand ones understanding of the universality of the Catholic Church.
But the priest there is married, and the Catholic Church doesn’t allow that!
The Roman Catholic Church generally doesn’t allow it, except by special dispensation for some converts from Anglicanism. But most of the Eastern Catholic Churches do ordain married men to the priesthood (but not to the episcopacy; only celibate priests can become bishops). That’s their ancient tradition, and it is perfectly legitimate and valid for them. The tradition of a celibate clergy in the West is also legitimate for the Roman Rite.
We have to broaden our understanding of what is “Catholic”. Married Catholic priests do exist, mainly in the Eastern Catholic Churches, and they are just as “Catholic” as their celibate counterparts!
What is Latinization and why is it wrong?
Latinization is the wrongheaded practice of forcing Eastern Catholics to conform to the practices of the Roman Rite. It is rooted in a certain cultural arrogance; the attitude that “My form of Catholicism is the only ‘correct’ form”. Latinizers have a lack of respect for the ancient Eastern rituals.They can neither appreciate their beauty and uniqueness, nor perceive how the Holy Spirit has formed them, distinct from the Roman Rite in policy and practice yet united to it in the one Mystical Body of Christ!
Latinization is rare today, but has had tragic results in the past. It has caused resentment among Eastern Catholics, who (understandably) don’t like being told that their Catholicism is “wrong” or “deficient” - when it isn’t! This has sadly led to schisms and defections to Eastern Orthodoxy, where the Eastern ways are always preserved.
The irony is that this foolish attempt to enforce unity through conformity just leads to more disunity! If a tree is known by its fruits (Matthew 7:16-20) then the bad fruits of Latinization are a strong testimony against it! The Vatican officially condemns Latinization and encourages Eastern Catholics to preserve their own traditions and customs.
So if an Eastern Catholic adopts a Western practice like the Rosary (as you mentioned above), is that Latinization?
Latinization is essentially coercive, and it is usually forced on Eastern Catholics by Roman Catholics. If an individual Eastern Catholic feels an affinity with a certain Western devotion, and freely chooses to include it in his personal devotions, he may do so - though he should not completely abandon the practices of his own Christian tradition. The Vatican encourages Eastern Catholics to maintain and appreciate their own unique and beautiful customs.
Now, if a Roman Catholic tried to force Eastern Catholics to pray the Western Rosary and throw away their Eastern forms of devotion, that would be Latinization! See the difference? Choice -vs- coercion.
Can Roman Catholics adopt some of the customs and practices of their Eastern brothers and sisters?
Certainly! Many Roman Catholics have discovered the spiritual benefits of icons and the Jesus Prayer.
Can a Catholic switch from one rite to another, and how is that done?
Yes, a Catholic can transfer from one ritual Church to another, but it can only be done once in someone’s life, so it should be preceded by much prayer. The Canon Law regulations on that can be found here.
I converted to Roman Catholicism, but now I’m considering transferring to an Eastern Catholic Church. Am I allowed to do so?
Yes; the process would be the same as for a “cradle” Roman Catholic. Incidentally, a catechumen can choose to join any Catholic rite when entering the Church.
Can a married man from the Roman Rite transfer to an Eastern Catholic Church and become a priest?
It could be done, but is discouraged. The Church does not want her children fleeing to another ritual Church just to avoid the disciplines of the Church of their birth!
It would also entail a lot. One would have to learn the sacred language of the rite one joins, in order to celebrate the Liturgy in that language. Also, if you live in the US or Canada, the Eastern Rite bishop would have to send you to his homeland for your ordination, because of an old law which forbids Eastern Rites from ordaining married men in the US or Canada.
So let’s say a married Roman Catholic man in the US switches to the Ukrainian Catholic Church with the intention of becoming a priest. After studying for years in the Ukrainian Catholic seminary, learning Ukrainian and the Divine Liturgy in Old Slavonic (the liturgical language of that rite), he and his family would have to move to the Ukraine. After his ordination he would most likely have to live there for a few years, serving the Ukrainian people. After that, he and his family could be transferred back to the US.
So it’s not easy, but it could be done. Yet the Church discourages men from transferring to an Eastern Catholic Church just to get around the Roman requirement that priests be celibate.
I see there are lots of Eastern Catholic Churches, but is the Roman rite the only Western rite in the Catholic Church?
This isn’t exactly a question about Eastern Catholicism, but I guess it’s related. So here goes:
The Roman rite has been the primary rite in the Western Church for a long time. During the Middle Ages, the Church had numerous smaller “sub-rites”, which were essentially local alternate liturgies, not full-blown cultural expressions of Catholicism with their own canon law, traditions, etc. Most of these disappeared during the time of the Protestant revolt. Among the few that still exist are the Ambrosian rite, celebrated in Milan, Italy, and the Mozarabic rite in Toledo, Spain. But these are part of the Roman rite, not distinct like the Melkites, Maronites, or other Eastern Catholic Churches.
Some Western religious orders have also had distinct liturgies, but I forget which ones or whether any still use them. I believe some of them adopted the the Paul VI Mass (the so-called “Novus Ordo”) after Vatican II.
In recent years, two more sub-rites (of sorts) have arisen in the Roman rite. The first is called “Anglican-Usage”. In 1980, Pope John Paul II issued a Pastoral Provision, allowing Episcopalian converts to use modified portions of the Book of Common Prayer as their liturgy. (For any who might not know, the Book of Common Prayer contains the liturgy of the Anglican and Episcopalian churches). Last I heard, there were only six Anglican-Usage parishes in the United States. They are each under the jurisdiction of the local Roman Catholic bishop, and so do not constitute a distinct “Anglican Catholic Rite”. Thus they more resemble a “sub-rite”, like the Mozarabic.
The second “sub-rite” is the Indult Tridentine Mass. Once the primary Mass of the Roman rite, it was replaced by the Paul VI Mass in 1969. Yet many traditionalist Catholics remained loyal to the Tridentine Mass, so the Holy Father gave special permission for its celebration in the encyclical Ecclesia Dei. Many bishops have established regular Indult Masses in their dioceses, and entire orders like the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter are dedicated to celebrating it, making the Indult Tridentine Mass perhaps the most widespread sub-rite in the Roman Catholic Church.
Will any of these sub-rites ever become distinct Western Catholic Churches, like the various Eastern Catholic Churches? It is highly doubtful, since that would involve a “splitting” of the Roman rite. I don’t believe the Vatican wants that to occur, even if the resulting new rite remains within the fold. Some traditionalists wish the Indult Masses would develop into a “Latin Rite” distinct from the Roman Rite, but this is unlikely to happen. I don’t know enough about the Anglican-Usage to say whether it has the potential to become a distinct rite.