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October 03, 2006

Comments

SDG

This is a good thing considering the number of co-ed sleepovers that are being conducted as part of misguided confirmation preparation with teenagers.

Zing!

Ed Peters

Re the deacon saying that non-Catholics cannot go to Confession, I'd nuance the "This is false. The deacon did not know what he was talking about." a bit.

As a general rule, non-Catholics may not receive sacraments from Catholic ministers. 1983 CIC 844.1. No statement on validity of such receptions is being made only, only liceity.

Under certain conditions (esp. danger of death) non-Catholics may receive Confession from Catholic ministers. 1983 CIC 844.4. This exception does not apply to non-Catholic confirmandi, obviously.

To find authorization for non-Catholics going to Confession, as say prep for full reception, one at least needs to look outside the Code, and remember that the burden is on the pro-reception side to prove eligibility. I think such can be shown, as Jimmy indicated, and the deacon should have know the context of the question (assuming it was accurately reported to us) but I'd like to see cite of some sort. It's just me, but when a precise question of law and rights is raised, I always look for source besides evident good sense!

I need hardly say everything Jimmy said about Confirmation, I agree with.


SDG

As a general rule, non-Catholics may not receive sacraments from Catholic ministers. 1983 CIC 844.1.

Right. In this case, though, the deacon was telling baptized candidates for reception into the Catholic Church that they could not receive absolution until after they were received. Clearly, the deacon didn't know what he was talking about.

4ddintx

As a general rule, non-Catholics may not receive sacraments from Catholic ministers. 1983 CIC 844.1

I don't think that you're technically a "non-Catholic" while going through RCIA. When I was going through we had several rites that included us in the Church. I don't remember the name, but our sponsors had to stand up with us Mass and there were special prayers for us, were given a blessed cross to wear, etc. We were basically being presented to the Church as candidates for the sacraments of initiation. Then of course there are the scrutinies right before Easter.

Also, I think it's kind of like an engaged person not being married yet,but also not single...they are preparing for the sacrament of marriage. We weren't Catholic yet, but neither were we non-Catholics completely.

Susan

This same thing happened to me when I went through RCIA. I was even told that Confession was not necessary at all anymore, and for the first several years of my Catholic life, I did not frequent the sacrament.

When I found out about the idea that we recieve grace to the order that we are predisposed to recieve grace, I was so sad! I had recieved Confirmation and Matrimony in a state of mortal sin, and was not recieving the tremendous amount of grace available to me through those Sacraments.

Even though I had already started going to monthly Confession, I had never confessed the pre-Confirmation sins. On the advice of a great friend, I made a general confession back to the time of my Baptism, and never felt so free and loved in my life. I had a wonderful priest who guided me through the examination of conscience, and gave me great spiritual direction.

Some real problems in my marriage and my relationship with God have been healed, and I have never been happier.

Great advice, Jimmy!

Ed Peters

SDG: right (but i said that in my post, no?); 4dd, however you felt, you were not Catholic until you were received, just as a man is legally single, until he is wed; and Susan, yes you are describing very bad advice, but that's not what we are presented with in Jimmy's example. good posts, folks. interesting.

Inocencio

Ed Peters,

Not sure if this is the cite you were asking for but the Rite of Christian Intiation of Adults states:

47 "From this time on the Church embraces the catechumens as it own with a mother's love and concern."

The National Statues for the Catechumenate states:

36 "The celebration of the sacrament of reconciliation with candidates for reception into full communion is to be carried out at a time prior to and distinct from the celebration of the rite of reception. As part of the formation of such candidates, they should be encouraged in the frequent celebration of this sacrament."

Take care and God bless,
Inocencio
J+M+J

SDG

but i said that in my post, no?

Well, I thought so -- I just thought it bore repeating by a non-lawyer! :D

mary anne

Confirmation is the most confusing sacrament to me.

I am fairly certain that I am not confirmed, but I also know that you only get one bite at that apple... so I don't think I will ever be confirmed.

The reason I don't believe I am confirmed is that at the time of my confirmation I was an atheist. I rejected God and the Church. My parents insisted that no matter what I said - I was going to be confirmed. I went to my Parish priest to try convince him to not make me do it and he told me that since I didn't believe and it didn't matter I should just go through the ceremony anyway.

At 14 years old I didn't feel I had a great deal of options after that. I mean short of saying no to the Bishop in the middle of the ceremony (which I now totally realize I should have done - but I was in no way brave enough for that).

Now as an adult I have returned tot he church and I do wish I could get a do over of that incomplete sacrament.

Mark

MaryAnne,

God bless you on your earnest and heartfelt journey. I do not believe you need a "do over" for the sacrament of Confirmation. The sacraments work "ex opere operato", or objectively “from the work performed.” Confirmation imparts a true character change upon our souls (like a wax seal) and imparts to us a share in Christ's priestly, prophetic and kingly spirit.

It is true that a sacrament can be "bound" in their effects in our lives by sin or a lack of faith and so we should seek to release them through conversion and prayer. I would recommend an excellent meditation on the Letter to the Romans and the new evangelization by the Papal Preacher, Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa entitled "Life in Christ. A spiritual Commentary on the Letter to the Romans".

Ed Peters

Inocencio, that NAILS it. thx.

Mark Harden

"The celebration of the sacrament of reconciliation with candidates for reception into full communion is to be carried out at a time prior to and distinct from the celebration of the rite of reception. As part of the formation of such candidates, they should be encouraged in the frequent celebration of this sacrament" (NSC 36).

But: doesn't the reference to "part of the formation of such candidates" imply the encouragement is to frequent the confessional as often as possible AFTER they come into full Communion with the church?

Our parish RCIA practice is for candidates to go to confession on the afternoon of Holy Saturday so they are in a state of grace for the Easter Vigil that night.

Are you saying, Mr, Akin, that a current candidate, who will not come into full communion with the church until Easter 2007, can go to confession TODAY and be sacramentally absolved of his sins?

Don

Mary Anne,

You raise a very good question, and I am not certain that Mark addressed it completely. One cannot have a sacrament forced on you, so it seems you have to have at least a general intent of doing what the church wants in order for the sacrament to be valid. The analogy is a shotgun wedding -- if the bride or groom did not enter under their own free will then no marriage took place. I wonder if a decree of nullity can be obtained in your case so that you can reapproach the sacrament? Ed Peters can probably answer that better.

Mark Harden

The reason I don't believe I am confirmed is that at the time of my confirmation I was an atheist.

Mary Anne, perhaps your case might fall under Canon 845:2

Can. 845 §1. Since the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, and orders imprint a character, they cannot be repeated.

§2. If after completing a diligent inquiry a prudent doubt still exists whether the sacraments mentioned in §1 were actually or validly conferred, they are to be conferred conditionally.

I don't know if the "diligent inquiry" would result in doubt as to your confirmation or not, but it seems worth asking the question of your pastor, in the hope of your recieving an additional, "conditional" confirmation.

SDG

But: doesn't the reference to "part of the formation of such candidates" imply the encouragement is to frequent the confessional as often as possible AFTER they come into full Communion with the church?

Our parish RCIA practice is for candidates to go to confession on the afternoon of Holy Saturday so they are in a state of grace for the Easter Vigil that night.

Are you saying, Mr, Akin, that a current candidate, who will not come into full communion with the church until Easter 2007, can go to confession TODAY and be sacramentally absolved of his sins?

No, Jimmy didn't say that. The NSC text came up in the combox, not Jimmy's post; the interpretive issue you mention regarding that text is no way suggested by Jimmy's post.

What Jimmy said was: "Those who have already been baptized are expected to go to confession prior to their reception into the Catholic Church to make sure that they are in a state of grace at the time that they receive the other sacraments of initiation (confirmation and the Eucharist)."

This implies proximity between the candidate's confession and his or her reception of the other sacraments of initiation.

That said, it is true that a current candidate who will not come into full communion until Easter 2007 CAN (i.e., VALIDLY) go to confession today, and be sacramentally absolved of his sins. Whether this would be LICIT would seem to depend on what "at a time prior to and distinct from the celebration of the rite of reception" means.

Mark Harden

a current candidate who will not come into full communion until Easter 2007 CAN (i.e., VALIDLY) go to confession today, and be sacramentally absolved of his sins

Please bear with my perseverance, but I want to make sure I understand this correctly, as I will be advising candidates on this issue: what difference does it make to the candidates that the confession is only valid but not licit, if they have indeed been sacramentally absolved of their sins? Is this really a practical distinction as far as they are concerned? Sorry for my ignorance regarding the importance of validity vs. liciety!

Our practice is to encourage them to go to confession, advising the priest of their candidate status, and expecting patient counseling, but not sacramental absolution...primarily as a means of fostering their confidence and familiarity with confession.

And, yes, we certainly abide by the proximity of reception on Holy Saturday afternoon and other sacraments of initiation at the Vigil that evening.

But our candidates would be overjoyed to hear that they can, in fact, participate sacramentally in reconciliation at this stage...so thanks in advance for your continued advice!

Maureen

Um...Mark... "illicit" means "against the law". It's shady. It's under the table. It's not the way it's supposed to be.

Now, I'm sure that you're not commonly in the habit of advising people that it's okey-doke to steal food illicitly, as long as they can validly digest it. We're talking something similar.

Now, if you wanted to advise the candidates that they can go to Reconciliation if they're in danger of death, or that if there's some other special need, they could ask the pastor or bishop if they could give them special dispensation... well, that would be reasonable.

But don't advise them to break the law. True love waits for the wedding night, and your first confession is a similar milestone in a Catholic's life. Give them the chance to do it in an aboveboard way, as part of the normal catechumenate process, instead of turning it into something hole-and-corner of which they may later be ashamed.

Maureen

Though actually, the candidates wouldn't have done anything wrong. They would just have been obedient to the wrong piece of advice. :)

Man, after that rant of mine, I hope my advice isn't wrong! :)

Mark Harden

Thanks, Maureen, that clarifies things for me very well.

Mark

Don said, "One cannot have a sacrament forced on you, so it seems you have to have at least a general intent of doing what the church wants in order for the sacrament to be valid."

Don, do you play a theologian on TV or did you just sleep in a Holiday Inn Express? You are completely off base. "Ex opere operato" means it does not matter what your subjective dispositions are as a recipient for the validity of the sacrament. The minister is acting in the person of Christ and when he lays hands on you and says "Receive the seal of the Gift of the Holy Spirit" you are sacramentally "branded" with the indelible character of a priest, prophet and king in the Kingdom of God; no "ifs", "ands" or "buts".

Now, in order for the Sacrament to be "effecatious" your subjective dispositions come into play. If you do not have faith or are not in the state of grace then the Sacrament is valid, and cannot be repeated, but it is "bound" or dormant. To "release" the sacrament, you need to enliven faith with prayer, the sacraments and other sacramentals. Many find that the "laying on of hands" and prayer for the "release of the Spirit" is especially effective. MaryAnne, you do not need to be reconfirmed but I would recommend a Novena to the Holy Spirit and the laying on of hands in order to pray for the release of the "Forgotten Person of the Trinity" in your life.

I know this will have the RadTrads screaming in horror and heading for the exits but the Holy Spirit should be a welcome guest in our personal and ecclesial life.

Don

Mark,

Your ad hominem attacks aside, you are wrong. I admit I am not a theologian (are you?), and am perfectly willing to submit to someone more learned, but you are misrepresenting what "ex opere operato" means. It is true God imparts grace through a valid sacrament "by the work performed", regardless of the worthiness of either the minister or the recipient. However you did not address whether or not the sacrament in question was valid. To be valid a sacrament requires a valid minister, matter, form, and intention. In this case the intention of the recipient was missing, and so no sacrament took place.

Mark

Don,

I'm sorry if I offended you. Everyone should have the right to post his opinion without being attacked. However, I'm a little shocked by your boldness in pronouncing someone's Confirmation "invalid". I would think one would be more cautious about laying a burden upon someone else merely based upon opinion.

The fact of the matter is you are flat wrong. Subjective disposition of the recipient does not impact the VALIDITY of a sacrament only the LICEITY and EFFECTIVENESS. If subjective disposition is necessary, then why does the Eastern Church confer Confirmation upon INFANTS?

Simply scroll up to the top of the page and read what JA wrote:

"the state of grace is required for liceity but not validity. Otherwise we'd never know who was really confirmed or married or ordained, because we could never be sure who was or wasn't in a state of grace at the time."


I defy you to cite a source for your assertion that the subjective disposition of the recipient of the sacrament impacts the validity. Here's one citation to the contrary:

"Catholic teaching is that the effect of a sacrament comes ex opere operato (by the very fact of being administered), regardless of the personal holiness of the minister administering it; a recipient's own lack of proper disposition to receive the grace conveyed can block the effectiveness of the sacrament in that person; the sacraments presuppose faith and, in addition, though their words and ritual elements, nourish, strengthen and give expression to faith (Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 224)." From Wikipedia.

The fact is, there are three Sacraments which impart an indelible character: Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Orders. It would be sacriledgeous to repeat them.


Mark

Sacriled ...Sacrile .. Sacrili ... Sacriligious.

Don

Mark,

I am not talking about a state of grace. I already conceded that "ex opere operato" means the sacrament takes place without regards to the worthiness of the minister or recipient. This is not a matter of subjective disposition - it is about one's refusal to receive the sacrament.

Consider the case of baptism of an adult. If you come across an adult in danger of death and offer him baptism, yet he refuses, then he cannot be baptised. You could have valid form (the Trinitarian formula) and valid matter (water), yet because of his lack of consent no sacrament would actually be administered.

Your example of chrismation of infants in the eastern rites is a non-starter. As it is for baptism in the west, the intention of the parents is always assumed for infants.

I don't have access to any original sources to support this, but I submit the following that I was able to find, which appear to be from reputable sources:

From http://www.wandea.org.pl/validity-sacraments.htm

In adults, the valid reception of any Sacrament apart from the Eucharist requires that they have the intention of receiving it. The Sacraments impose obligations and confer grace, and Christ does not wish to impose those obligations or confer grace without the consent of man. ... The reason the Sacrament of the Eucharist is excepted from this rule is that the Eucharist is always, and always remains, the Body of Christ, regardless of the state of the recipient.

From http://www2.nd.edu/Departments//Maritain/etext/sscr31.htm

The person on whom a Sacrament is conferred is called the subject of the Sacrament. He must, in general, have some kind of intention to receive the benefit.

From http://www.catholic-forum.com/saints/ncd06116.htm

According to Trent, therefore, the term opus operatum signifies that the correct use of the sign instituted by Christ produces the grace irrespectively of the merits of either minister or recipient (ex opere operantis), though the intention of conferring the sacrament is required in the minister and the intention of receiving in the recipient, if he be an adult, for a valid and worthy reception of the sacrament.

I have no way of judging Mary Anne's original intent. I am responding to what she shared, that at the time she rejected God and only went through the motions because she was forced into it. Rather than trying to lay burdens upon her, I am trying to offer her a way to ensure that she has the graces she needs. I think the suggestion of conditional confirmation under Canon 845:2 might be the very thing. I hope she does ask her pastor about it.

mary anne

"However, I'm a little shocked by your boldness in pronouncing someone's Confirmation "invalid"."

It's not all that shocking considering I would genearlly pronounce my Confirmation to be invalid. Though I don't know if the Church views it as such.

I have never found a clear answer, and the conversation between the two of you just solidifies my belief that I never will.

I have talked to a couple of priests on the topic and I generally get a kind of dumbfounded look and then a vague "It doesn't matter, if you have gone to confession and returned to the church it's ok." response.

Which is nice I guess, but I would really rather have a solid answer with an explanation... because that is the kind of person I am.

It isn't that big of a deal (I tell myself), but I have a friend who wants me to be her sponsor for RCIA and I kind of feel like it would be wrong - seeing as I don't consider myself a confirmed Catholic... On the other hands I am 'on the books' as it were as a confirmed Catholic so I could do it.

Mark

Don,

After doing more research on the question of intention of the recipient and validity, I have to admit there appears to be some grey area here. Most commentators just asssume that anyone approaching the Sacraments is a willing participant and has enough intention for validity. Others seem to stress the objective reality and the fact that we just can't have people walking around wondering if they are validly confirmed or ordained or married (if, for example, your confirmation were invalid, you could not validly contract sacramental marriage). Other commentators say outright that subjective intent can be a factor in validity. I don't find a consensus among the theologians on the question.

Don, please accept my apologies for dismissing your views out of hand. Your position has merit.

Mary Anne, I would appeal to JA directly to address your question because it simply is not tolerable for you to be unsure about the validity of your confirmation.

As an aside, I have to say that the Holy Spirit blows where He will and I would give Him the benefit of the doubt. I remember my own Confirmation at age 14. It was actually the rehersal BEFORE the Sacrament, I was sitting in the Church listening to the music and I felt an incredible stirring in my heart. I looked around in amazement and had the distinct sense that the Holy Spirit was already active in my heart. I would still say that, in spite of your youthful obstinancy, you submitted to the rite and were validly Confirmed.

Don

Mark,

Apologies accepted. It appears that the Church sets the bar very low in matters of validity of intent to prevent this type of confusion. But it also seems clear that, however low, there IS some type of bar that must must be overcome. I would be very interested to hear JA's take on this.

JD

A divorce DOES NOT work in the catholic church, they make you have an annulment (I think this is such a joke- now they say the marriage NEVER took place and the catholic can now remarry, never mind the fact that there may be children involved), see another reason why I left the catholic church.

Growing up you had to attend mass on Sunday or it was a "sin", now you can go to mass on Saturday evening, I asked a catholic friend about this and was told "it is the celebration of Sunday mass on Saturday", pleeeeeeeeeeeeease forgive me.

I believe you can see where I am coming from, OK I will get off your site and postings, I hope you will all see the light one day!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

bill912

If what appeared to be a sacramental marriage really wasn't a valid marriage in God's eyes, then a decree of nullity is obligatory, out of respect for, and obedience to, God, which is hardly a joke.

The Acts of the Apostles reveals that the early Church celebrated the Lord's Day the way the Jews celebrated the Sabbath: starting at sundown on Saturday, just as the Jews still celebrate the Sabbath as starting at sundown on Friday evening.
But what did the Apostles know?

bill912

Of course, what all that has to do with the validity of the sacrament of Confirmation is lost on me.

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