Confirmation, it's indelible mark and trent

When I became a Catholic, my baptism as Lutheran was accepted, but not Lutheran Confirmation.
It is because of the nature of the events. In Baptism we are granted a new birth into the people of God, in virtue of the water and the word, not in virtue of the person baptizing. In Confirmation we are given the fullness of the Holy Spirit in virtue of the authority of the one who holds that Gift to give - the Bishop. (and the Bishop may grant this authority to a Priest) If there is one who is not in authority who (supposedly) would confirm us, he does not have the Spirit to grant to us. In other words, you cannot give what you do not have in the rite of Confirmation.

That might be a point there…

If the Church did not regard heretical (not schismatic) confirmation as valid.

I don’t know that the church accepting heretical baptism could fairly be extended to them probably accepting heretical confirmation. I think if they accepted heretical orders in the early church (and I think that they might have), that then a much stronger case could be made to say that they probably accepted heretical confirmation as well.Is there evidence that the church rejected heretical or unauthorized confirmation?

Perhaps I’m wrong, but in the absence of other proof, maybe these councils are “proofs” that the church did not accept heretical confirmation. We know that heretics were not rebaptized, but that they were confirmed. Since maybe of the heretical sects performed confirmation as the church did, It would seem that there are two possibilities:

  1. That the church did not reconfirm these sects that came back, because they did not view the first confirmation as valid.

  2. they viewed the first confirmation as valid, yet the did it anyway?

I am once again in a rush and have not put too much thought into this, but quickly off the cuff, it seems to be reasonable. If #1 is true, it does not constitute a proof that re-confirmation was condemned, it would mearly illustrate that these councils were not cases where we could gain insight into our initial inquiry.

Finally even in the case that heretical orders were accepted, if we then state that heretical confirmation was accepted, what would be the reason for reconfirming, if the original was accepted to begin with?

To the one poster, Perhaps I could have phrase my initial question in a manner less harsh. I do apologize.

In regards to Ephesus, I was beginning to have doubts as to whether it was confused with constantinople as well.

The Church, in defining whether to confirm one returning from (or turning from) heresy, was not seeking restrict bishops, but to guarantee the “stature” of the one coming into union with the Catholic Church (Orthodox or Roman).

If one is coming in who has not been granted the fullness of the Holy Spirit, they cannot be expected to live out that fullness as a Catholic. They therefore must be Confirmed to make them a full and vital part of the Body of Christ.

If one were legitimately Confirmed and returning to union, they did not wish to imply a negation of an actual work of God that already had happened, and there still would be (due to that legitimate Confirmation) a full and vital member of the Body of Christ.

Validity is not for legalistic concerns, but for the life of the one being confirmed, actually receiving the Spirit, and for the life of the Church, having vitality in all members with no uncertainty that would lead to failure to live in that Spirit or trying to live fully apart from the fullness of the Spirit.

In other words, following Trent, “don’t listen to someone who tells you his Lutheran Confirmation is valid Confirmation - he needs the fullness of the Spirit from the Bishop so that he can be a complete witness to Christ with power.” Trent guaranteed that I would have this which I enjoy and live in now as a Catholic. I know this power that was not there in the past.

You are right. I had my councils mixed up. It’s from the Second Ecumenical Council not the Third. I suppose the point I was making is the idea of faculties as understood today didn’t exist. Either way the real inconsistency seems to be the acceptance of confirmations of those outside the Church. I mean in reality the Quarto-decimans were absolutely identical to the Church in every way except the celebration of Easter. Certainly closer than the Orthodox are to Catholics today. And the Catholic Church doesn’t confirm converts from Orthodoxy.

I said “off the cuff” last time, and after I posted a thought occured to me

we dont know how many people were validly confirmed in the church then became heretics. It is reasonable to assume that there were a significant amount. In light of that the canon from Constantinople must be in my opinion interpreted to mean confirmation of everyone, including those validly confirmed in the church who left it, then came back to it.

I don’t think the lutheran parallel is appropriate here, because Lutherans are not considered to have valid apostolic succession, where as these heretics did I believe.

The bishops leaving with Luther retained their apostolic succession. Yet anyone they confirmed would require Confirmation if re-uniting with the Catholic Church.

I view the Councils differently, it seems. I come from the understanding that none of the Councils are in disagreement in any way, shape, or form. Instead if something seems odd, I ask the question “where is my understanding lacking, in that I do not recognize the agreement?” My understanding is in question to me, not the Councils. They are, in a way, Jesus speaking on different days of the week, and he is not confused.

I think I did hear that before actually about Lutherans, I had forgotten, forgive me.

I suppose that *technically *speaking, trent is not guilty of an innovation, because there were different opinions about what the sacramental character was. Trent aside from saying that it was spiritual and indelible as well as being imprinted in the soul, did not define the nature of this character. The phrasing of the canon would leave one free to adopt a view similar to Durandus who believed that it was a mere relation that the church established with an individual. He thought of it as similar to the way we assign a value to a currency. In this manner one could simply view the indelible mark as a permanent relationship. This no one would deny, As chrismation does most definately create a new relationship that was not previously there, and whether one stays Christian or not, the dynamic between the individual and the church is forever changed, because they will always be viewed as distinct from people that have never been chrismated.

interpreting the canon in this manner is not to say that Chrismation does not create an indelible character the way other scholastics viewed it, it simply does not commit one to their view alone, and requires only acknowledgement that there is some unspecified form of a permanent mark on the person.

Councils and their Canons are wisely precise and the opposite of verbose. I admire their few words.

There is one thing I was able to find, that would seem to confirm Trents canon. We have already stated that many western fathers received heretics by the imposition of hands, and that the council of Constantinople received them by anointing them with chrism. Furthermore we stated that in these cases it stands to reason that these cases include not only people that were heretically confirmed, but also those who were validly confirmed and then later returned to the church. To top everything off we have the instructions from Methodius I of Constantinople who states that Apostaes, that is those who were legitimatly confrimed and left the church are to be anointed with Chrism again. The instructions from Methodius seem to galvinize and confirm our suspision of the council of constantinople and also how various fathers received heretics with the confirmation of hands.

Finally there was evidence from the council of tarracon that semms to say that we should not reconfirm people for the same reason that we do not re-baptize them.

are these things in as stark a contrast as they seem?

If we look to the instructions given by Methodius, he mandates that prayers must be performed. and list several. the text for the third prayer states:

illuminate his spirit by the virtue and action of your Holy Spirit, so that the spark of Salutory Baptism, that smolders in his soul, is by the breeze of grace, reignitied, and let the seal that was imprinted in him manifest itself in a more expressive way. by the sign of the cross, Imprint in his heart and in his thoughts, hope in you and and understanding of truth.

Thus it would appear that this “re-chrismation” is not a denial of the first, nor a denial that there is still a seal on the individual from the first. It would appear that its purpose is to re-seal in the sense of strengthening the seal that is already there.

I am aware that occasionally baptism is spoken of as a seal, but i believe most commonly the term seal is refers to chrismation. Furthermore it is after the prayers that the person is annoited, thus one of the last things mentioned in the third prayer before the annoiting is the seal.

This view seems to harmonize all the different teaching of the first 1000 years.

Wow, great research. I had a suspicion at the beginning that not every instance where you are anointed with oil is necessarily the conferring of the Sacrament. Earlier I quoted the only thing I could find by Methodius on the matter. Can I have a link to wherever you are getting the information you are presenting, and the context?

I think the first argument is a more valid argument. I say this because the the entire procedure outlined by methodius quite possibly had nothing to do with re-chrismation, because he explicitly states that these people still have a mark on their soul and unlike constantinople he does not say to say “seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit” in the rubrics. it is only in later manuscripts that I believe we find the term “seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit” the entire ceremony is in reference to people who were abducted as children and through fear or ignorance apostacize, or people that were abducted irregardless of age and apostacized out of torture. for this reason one can argue and say that the seal is unbroken in these types of cases, as is manifest by the ceremony, but in other cases such as heresy, the seal is broken, because we use the words “seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit”. granted the later byzantine texts include these words in the same ceremony , and one could infer from this that it is it’s true meaning, but I do not think that a text exists from the first 1000 years. and even if they did one could argue and say that just because there is proof that people who apostacized in this manner didn’t lose the seal but were resealed anyway, that doesnt mean that other didnt lose the seal. all it would mean is that it is possible to use the words “seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit” without meaning that the person has lost the seal.

in he same ceremony methodius writes that people that have apostacized voluntarily should only receive the sacraments right before they die. There is some evidence to suggest that they too were read the prayers, but only in modern texts i believe.

you can find informaion about this here:

and here:

the historical information about the ceremony, especially the third prayer, does open the door to debate. I have tried to present aspects from both sides of what that debate could possibly look like. Personally, while I think it is tempting to look at the third prayer and right away say “apostates didnt lose the seal, and if they don’t nobody should”, I think that there is room for the counter argument of “but theses were specific cases of apostacy, probably exclusively for cases where people were abducted.” It is known that in the early Church people who apostacized even under torture were most often, never even fully allowed back in the Church if they were let back in to begin with. So there is something to be said of the fact that irregardless if it was under torture or not it was apostacy. Yet distinction can still be made between forced apostacy and that done voluntarily…

it would be an interesting debate.I think it would center on when you lose the seal?

is it only through voluntary apostacy or heresy?

if so, does one have to be of age?

is it through excommunication?


and then finally a big question, is this whole episode a case in point that you only lose the seal by being of age through voluntary apostacy or heresy. I have a suspicion that this may be the case.

I would like to post a final comment. Perhaps I was premature in my initial statement. It would appear as though it would not be fair to assume that the canons in questions include those properly Chrismated in the Church, as they refer also to re-baptizing heretics. Furthermore, other quotes from Augustine indicate that the “imposition of hands” for him was not equal to chrismation. A good survey of all the fathers seems to reveals only one adversary of Augustine that expressed a different view point. In light of these findings in conjunction with the council of Tarracon, which appears to vindicate Augustines view point, I would like to retract my initial statement, and once again apologize if it was harshly phrased.


I have not read all the posts and perhaps this has already been answered for you.

I am just responding to your original post Re. The Council of Trent.

CANON IX.-If any one saith, that, in the three sacraments, Baptism, to wit, Confirmation, and Order, there is not imprinted in the soul a character, that is, a certain spiritual and indelible Sign, on account of which they cannot be repeated; let him be anathema.

You said:

I would like to call attention to confirmation alone, as I believe there is ample proof in patristics for Baptism and Orders providing an indelible mark.

So your question is basically:

WHY is there not more explicit discussion of Confirmation apart from Baptism (or for that matter Holy Orders) in the early Church?

The early Church lumped Confirmation in with Baptism frequently.

Confirmation is the completion of Baptism.

The Church still practices Baptism along with Confirmation in the East and sometimes even here in the West. These two Sacraments have a special unity.

The CCC still just matter of factly talks about this.

CCC 1285a Baptism, the Eucharist, and the sacrament of Confirmation together constitute the “sacraments of Christian initiation,” whose unity must be safeguarded. It must be explained to the faithful that the reception of the sacrament of Confirmation is necessary for the completion of baptismal grace.89 . . . .

**Two traditions: East and West **

CCC 1290 In the first centuries Confirmation generally comprised one single celebration with Baptism, forming with it a “double sacrament,” according to the expression of St. Cyprian. Among other reasons, the multiplication of infant baptisms all through the year, the increase of rural parishes, and the growth of dioceses often prevented the bishop from being present at all baptismal celebrations. In the West the desire to reserve the completion of Baptism to the bishop caused the temporal separation of the two sacraments. The East has kept them united, so that Confirmation is conferred by the priest who baptizes. But he can do so only with the “myron” consecrated by a bishop.101

I have discussed this Baptism/Confirmation relation but only tangentially Re: Acts 10, Cornelius elsewhere (here for example).

Hope this is enough info. to help you sort things out.

God bless.


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