Confirmation: What can be required?

Concerning these passages of canon law:

***Can. 885 §1. **The diocesan bishop is obliged to take care that the sacrament of confirmation is conferred on subjects who properly and reasonably seek it.

**§2. *A presbyter who possesses this faculty must use it for the sake of those in whose favor the faculty was granted.


*Can. 889 §1. Every baptized person not yet confirmed and only such a person is capable of receiving confirmation.

§2. To receive confirmation licitly outside the danger of death requires that a person who has the use of reason be suitably instructed, properly disposed, and able to renew the baptismal promises.

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.*

How is it possible that a parish or a diocese can proscribe a certain bunch of hoops to jumped through before confirmation, over and above what is necessary to demonstrate that those seeking it have been suitably instructed and are properly disposed?

For instance, if someone knows all of the subject matter that is going to be taught in an academic preparation, how can they be required to take the class as a condition on top of that, a class in which they can only miss four classes out of thirty or so that are only offered at limited times? If they can demonstrate that they’ve performed a hundred hours of service a year for the past three years, how can they be denied the sacrament because they didn’t meet a service requirement? Why, if the diocesan bishop is obliged to take care that the sacrament be conferred on those who are properly disposed and reasonably seek it, can there be such a limited way to demonstrate that?

I’m wondering if the limited means of demonstrating readiness for the sacrament don’t amount to denying the sacrament, and not to a small number of Catholics. Can anyone comment on this?

While I wonder whether your post is more of a statement than a question…

This notitiae from the Congregation for Diving Worship answers your question (in my opinion).

My comment is that it is not possible. It is a violation of one’s canon law rights.

It ought not be possible, but I think it is happening, because the faithful do not know they have a right to the sacraments. They know there are a year of classes involved where you can’t miss more than X number of classes, and the high school students don’t want to do it. It’s like having to go through RCIA.

Of course, it could also be argued that the candidates in question are not properly educated, but that highlights another pet question of mine: How is it possible that students capable enough to get into prestigious colleges four years later got through eight years of parochial school without being properly educated for confirmation by the time they’re 14? It doesn’t take a degree in canon law to have the education necessary for confirmation. What is going on? Why don’t at least the kids in the parochial schools that successfully put students on the fast-track to college know more about their faith?

In our parish, we have roughly 40 kids a year receiving their First Holy Communion and about 12-15 being confirmed…this has been the pattern for at least five or six years. As nearly as I can tell, that is not unusual in the Western US. Something is very wrong here. It seems to me that meeting a 30 or 40% confirmation rate with more rigorous classes is like meeting a 30-40% vaccination rate with a great new vaccine that requires 3 shots six months apart instead of just one. It might be a great regime, but I think it makes the problem worse, and the ones who “don’t get vaccinated” aren’t the only ones who suffer.

At any rate, I wanted to talk to our pastor about it, and maybe the archbishop, and I wanted to be sure I wasn’t missing something. If someone can tell me that I am, please speak up. If I’m going to make myself an irritant, I’d not like it to be out of sheer ignorance. (The clergy get enough of that, as it is.)

Just to clarify, are you talking about the service hours that are required to be fulfilled to be able to be confirmed? Because I’ve questioned that policy myself.

This could all be fixed if we chrismated people at their baptism like the apostles did.

How is it possible that they can require certain things to be done before one is confirmed?
Easy. They make it policy and one they won’t budge on.
Is it in line with Canon Law and what we believe?
On the one hand, one can see that it could be beneficial for you people to attend certain things to learn about their faith, etc .
When I was younger, it wasn’t mandatory - retreats, etc. I wonder if some kids just skipped it and that is how it became mandatory.
It reminds me of the HHS mandate. It is unconstitutional. The Church and businesses could forever be in court over this.
It is unlike the HHS mandate in that, we hope, not all are forcing kids to do something they hold as wrong/evil.
But the being forced is similar.
If you were asking if you were reading it correctly, understanding Canon Law and how they apply it; yes.

It isn’t challenged that often for several reason one being, I suspect, is the parents don’t know enough about their faith to challenge it. When they encounter the DRE or pastor about it, they receive “no exceptions” answer. I do wonder if most just shrug and stop proceeding all together. It doesn’t take much to be able to figure out you will not have enough time to do all the service hours if you haven’t been able.
Right now, if a child meets the requirements (age of discretion/wants it/state of grace/can renew baptismal promises) they are not supposed to be denied.

I forget the drop out rate but it gets steadily higher as the children age - like 15 - 30% high school age.

When I was battling this, I found I had three options.

  1. hire a canon lawyer to try and persuade the Bishop to change/make exception to his policy. I determined this wasn’t best as those lawyers here were most unhelpful, support Bishop, so I would spend X amount of money I didn’t have to convince a Bishop who didn’t want to hear it in first place.
  2. Ask permission for your child to travel to another diocese to be confirmed. You would need to know what they require - speak with them also. Some have good material available for free online. This is the route we took.
  3. After requesting this for your child and getting a “no” from priest and Bishop, you proceed to the Holy See. You write the Papal Nuncio. You can bet it could take a year to get a response. Those who have gone this route have gotten the permission.

Would it just be easier to have had the child go throught the parish instruction, and does this also theach the child that they only have to give obediance to the church when it suites them?

I think the issue here is that the child was asking for Confirmation several years before the age set by her Bishop.

Our children were not allowed in the classes as they were not 16. Parish insisted 16 and above only. Does it teach them obedience when it suites them? No, as requesting a sacrament or desiring it early is not wrong or disobedience.

Perhaps they were not allowed in confirmation classes but they were allowed to go to Faith Formation Classes, which they should have been attending.
The idea is not to get the sacrament as some kind of gold ring. It is also to grow and understand in ones faith. The wisdom of our bishops recognize that with age comes understanding and since they have set to rule for 16, yes it is disrepectful to them as the shepherds of the church and disobediant.
You decided that for whatever the rule should not apply to you or your children.

And in obediance to her ordinary, she should have waited.

Obedience doesn’t preclude a person making her needs and desires known or of seeking redress with appropriate authorities.

Obedience requires American Roman Catholic bishops to set a standard Confirmation between the age of discretion and age 16. Meaning the child’s 16th birthday is the upper limit and any time in the 16th year is outside the bounds of obedience.

Rome says that the norm is the age of discretion, but it makes an exception for the US to allow the wide range of ages. The education Rome expects is the basics that a child around age 7 requires. Time is not needed for years of service and high-level formation in the teen and adult years to meet this requirement.

While benefit might come from the extra service and learning for those who stick it out, it is not a greater benefit or a substitute for the sacramental grace that’s being deferred in favor of learning and service.

There are also graces to be gained from obedience.

My children requested it earlier than the policy established by bishop. We were granted permission to go to another diocese by our bishop.
Do you think those cases, in which the child is younger than what is set out, but get permission from th holy see are acting in disobedience? Would that be the holy see encouraging disobedience? The answers that have been given should provide you w enough information to know you are off base in your accusation as they state that denying a requested sacrament for a long time, when requested, could be harmful to the child. Plus, we are supposed to be able to go to our bishops w requests.

We can hope in the mercy of God in every situation. We should not rely on the extraordinary to take the place of the ordinary. We have a way of participating in God’s grace in the Sacraments of Initiation. That’s the beginning, initiation, of the journey. We should be doing what God told us to do before we add extra burdens on people.

Like Padre Pio and many other saints, one can be obedient while making one’s needs and desires known or while seeking redress with appropriate authorities.

When the canons and Rome say one is to receive around the age of discretion and bishops may set normative ages but may not preclude candidates based on age, it isn’t disobedient to ask for the canons and Rome to be obeyed.

These two sections should answer your question about preparation. Most Archdiocese set the min guidlines and pastors may add to them.
Having given Confirmation classes to both adults and teens, the prepartion and service are necessesary components.
You could ask what is it means to be “suitably instructed” but that is left to the pastors to decide.

Deacon Frank

Well, no, I don’t see how a bishop, let alone a pastor, can require a person to take classes to learn what they can already demonstrate that they know, that is the issue. It is also difficult to see how a pastor can have had a student in his parish school for eight years, have that student earn straight-As in religion all eight years, and yet say the student isn’t prepared for a sacrament that is meant to be received at the age of discretion. That doesn’t add up!

I can see requiring classes of those who cannot demonstrate the needed knowledge, but it does not take a year of classes to ascertain whether a candidate is prepared in an academic sense. Worse yet, it is hardly to be assumed that the student will have greatly added to his or her foundational knowledge in that year!

It is surely impossible to show that a candidate can only be prepared for confirmation by going on a particular retreat on a particular weekend. It is hard to argue with a straight face that a candidate who has done over 100 hours of service every year since 6th grade has to do more in order to prove they are prepared! How is that possible?

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