Being Confirmed in a State of Mortal Sin

Hello

Most people are confirmed while they are teenagers in the Church today. For many during that period of their life, that means dealing with a lot of habitual mortal sin and, a lot of the times, not being very into the faith. I know so many people, myself included, who only received that Sacrament because it was just what everyone else did at Catholic school. My question is, did someone actually receive the graces of the Sacrament of Confirmation if they were in the state of mortal sin on the day of their Confirmation? I recognize that many people converted/reverted to the faith later on in their lives and they might look back on the day of their Confirmation and remember not being in a worthy state of soul. How should this dilemma be approached and are there any solutions?

Let us pray for one another,
Matthew

If you receive any sacrament while in a state of mortal sin, you do not then receive the graces of that sacrament. If you later repent and make a good confession, you will be restored to a state of sanctifying grace and will immediately receive the previously withheld graces of the sacrament at that time.

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Most teens have several months of preparation before being confirmed. Part of that prep is having them receive the sacrament of reconciliation in the weeks before the confirmation Mass.

This is true, but anyone who is in mortal sin — or simply does not want to receive the sacrament, for whatever reason — should not be confirmed. I can anticipate a scenario where there might be no time or opportunity to go to confession, especially if it is a class or some group being confirmed together, and in that case, I have to think the same thing would apply, as applies when someone has a grave reason to receive communion before having gone to confession — make an act of perfect contrition, then go to confession at your earliest opportunity. But someone who is entrenched in a mortally sinful habit, and is unable to have a firm purpose of amendment, needs to postpone their confirmation until they are able to make the changes in their life that would allow them to receive the sacraments, including this one, worthily.

I would like to see an open-minded enough catechetical environment to where a young person could say “no, I really don’t wish to be confirmed right now, I’m just ‘not quite there yet’, maybe somewhere down the road, but now’s not the time”which would not necessarily have to indicate a question of sin — and have that decision respected as a matter of conscience and one’s unique spiritual journey. I will just say, without getting into too much detail, that my son is nowhere near ready to be confirmed yet, and I do not want him to be confirmed, until it’s something he truly wishes to do. We have the confirmation materials (Angelus Press) and will be using them in our religion class this year and the next, but just when he will be ready and willing to receive the sacrament, there’s no way to say right now. Confirmation is by no means necessary for salvation.

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I understand what you’re saying and would support that for as long as the Confirmation age remains as it does in the Latin Church. I would argue strongly for a much Confirmation than the teen years, however. If the Latin church would rather not move Confirmation to infancy, like we have in the East, I understand. But why not equip kids with the strengthening Grace of Confirmation well before the tumultuous teen years? Why send them into battle without armor?

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I thought of that, but — and I mean absolutely no disrespect by saying this — to administer baptism and then confirmation immediately on the heels of it, where infant baptism is concerned, seems like saying “baptism isn’t sufficient, it needs a boost”. I know that is not the intent of the East, and if it is a practice that goes back to the earliest history of the Eastern Church, I defer to it just as much as I would defer to practices of the West that are equally ancient.

All this said, though, I am a Latin, I am a Westerner, and I would not want to see “our half of the Church” radically change her practices. If a teenager isn’t ready to be confirmed, I say let them wait until young adulthood, or whenever they get to the point where they say “I want this, I’m ready now”.

I hope no one will misinterpret my comments as being dismissive of the many benefits of having been confirmed and thus having received the Holy Spirit. I simply mean that it should not be forced on anyone, and that they should not be forced (by social expectation, etc.) to receive a sacrament that they’re not spiritually disposed to receive, when that sacrament is not mandatory for salvation or by Church precept.

I’ve often thought about this and heard Confirmation described as a sacrament in search of a theology. Doesn’t the entire existence of the sacrament of Confirmation kind of say that anyway? Confirmation is necessary for the completion of baptismal grace, to increase (boost?) the gifts of the Holy Spirit, to more perfectly bind an individual to the Church. Why aren’t these things accomplished in just one sacrament? And if that “boost” is needed, why go around with an incomplete baptism for years and years? Why does it only strike you this way with infant baptism, but not adult baptism.

The default age in (western) canon law is the age of discretion. I think that giving the sacrament at that age, rather than waiting until the tumultuous teen years, would greatly increase the chances of a young person being well disposed to receiving the sacrament of their own accord. I also think it would put to rest the misunderstanding that Confirmation is our own confirmation of our faith, as “adults”. Primarily, though, I think that children should receive the sacrament to prepare them spiritually for the difficult teen years.

I agree that nobody should receive any sacrament that they are not spiritually disposed to receive, but I’m not sure that I would agree that Confirmation is not mandatory by Church precept. The Church does expect to the faithful to receive the Sacrament. Those in danger of death, even infants, should be confirmed. Confirmation is required before marriage (often dispensed).

Can. 890 The faithful are obliged to receive this sacrament at the proper time. Parents and pastors of souls, especially pastors of parishes, are to take care that the faithful are properly instructed to receive the sacrament and come to it at the appropriate time.

Can. 891 The sacrament of confirmation is to be conferred on the faithful at about the age of discretion unless the conference of bishops has determined another age, or there is danger of death, or in the judgment of the minister a grave cause suggests otherwise.

If that person without sanctifying grace was not making an explicit act of the will against receiving the sacrament of Confirmation, then it was received without an increase of sanctifying grace. Receiving sacraments of the living, in a state of mortal sin, is at least objectively sacrilegious so it should be confessed if that was known.

Very well put.

I speak of it this way, with regard to infant baptism (and chrismation), because adults have free will and can make their own decisions, and if they are converting, it’s reasonable to assume that they want to take on all the obligations of adult Catholics, and to receive all the “helps” they have coming to them, of which the gifts of the Holy Spirit are just one part. It might — might — behoove the entire Church to do as the East does, and to treat Christian initiation as essentially “one big and inseparable mystery with three components, viz. baptism, confirmation, and first reception of the Eucharist”. One objection to this might be, that a layperson can baptize in an emergency, but a layman cannot administer confirmation or the Eucharist.

Not a bad idea in the least. Perhaps administer confirmation and first communion at the same time?

I suppose I am looking at it through the Western Latin goggles of “not absolutely necessary for salvation”.

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