Council of Trent and Infant Communion

Good evening,

In the Eastern Churches (I’m Melkite), we give communion to the infants after they are baptized (in addition to Chrismation/Confirmation) since it’s an ancient practice of the universal church. We view it as being apart of being incorporated into the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Christ as a result of being members of His Body.

Yet, the council of Trent states the following:

“CANON IV.–If any one saith, that the communion of the Eucharist is necessary for little children, before they have arrived at years of discretion; let him be anathema.”

How does this canon not condemn the Eastern Churches (and the early fathers that taught it), the Code of Canons for Eastern Churches, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church that point out how we Eastern Catholics commune our infants? (Which is traditionally viewed as a necessity).

Thank you.

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The RCC simply teaches that it’s not a necessity. Does a traditional view necessarily mean dogma?

“Does a traditional view necessarily mean dogma?”

Elaborate. Do you mean in the Western or Eastern context?

Thank you.

It doesn’t condemn infant communion; it condemns the teaching that infant communion is necessary for the child’s salvation.


Well, in the Eastern in this instance. You stated that such was the case in the east. I mean, in the west there’s capital “T” Tradtion, and lowercase tradition. And not all teachings or practices are considered to be de fide either way. I’m meaning to ask if the tradition you speak of is necessarily an article of faith, or just a traditional practice.

Thank you for clarifying.

To my knowledge, yes, it is a necessity since it is apart of our tradition. (Lowercase t), and to abandon this practice would be a Latinization and innovation foreign to our customs. (Rome also calls us to stay faithful to these traditions).

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Thank you.

I personally see that to be quite confusing because the church also taught (and still does) that it’s necessary to baptize a baby as soon as possible to bring forth salvation by removing original sin. (Even though it’s before the age of reason). Yet, why would it condemn the notion that a child must also receive communion for salvation?

Thank you.

If I may, I’m not really sure to be honest, only that baptism gains entrance to the kingdom, to relationship with God, while the Eucharist nurtures that relationship. I guess the RCC just believes that the one is necessary at that age while the other is not. I don’t know the history on it, or for how long infant communion has been practiced, but perhaps it was seen as optional from the beginning? And if there’s no official teaching on its necessity in the East, then the difference may be irrelevant anyway. There’s certainly no reason to give it up.

Thank you for your honesty.

In regards to the history of Infant communion, it was the practice of the early church in which the East has maintained. (St. Augustine and Pope. St Innocent speak of it also, in addition to the Apostolic Constitution).

“First communion” is something that began in the 1300’s, as confirmed by Pope Benedict the 14th. Though, this is a topic for another forum.

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The Tridentine condemnation was with regard to a heresy (for a change, not a variety of Arianism! :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye::scream::roll_eyes:), which is the reason the disciplinary practice of the Roman Church of single species communion came about (it flushed the heretics out, as they wouldn’t receive). Not restoring the Cup until the twentieth was one of those seven-century Vatican bureaucracy things (and it’s not alone).

Given the byzantine use of the spoon since the third or fourth century (save for the Melkite switch to intincted strips a couple of centuries ago, for reasons noone seems able to find), the practice of offering one or the other just isn’t an issue, and the impossibility of just receiving one wouldn’t really be popping up to idle minds that way . . .


The Council of Trent itself answers your question:

The same holy council teaches that little children who have not attained the use of reason are not by any necessity bound to the sacramental communion of the Eucharist; for having been regenerated by the laver of baptism and thereby incorporated with Christ, they cannot at that age lose the grace of the sons of God already acquired. Antiquity is not therefore to be condemned, however, if in some places it at one time observed that custom. For just as those most holy Fathers had acceptable ground for what they did under the circumstances, so it is certainly to be accepted without controversy that they regarded it as not necessary to salvation.

— Council of Trent, Sess. XXI, chap. iv


Thank you.

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Just as a general point because it is a common source of misunderstanding and misinterpretation: the condemnation of a proposition does not necessarily imply the affirmation of its contrary, which often might be another error; but only of its contradictory.

The contradictory proposition is that which simply excludes the condemned proposition. The contrary is that which goes beyond this simple exclusion.

For example, in this case, the contradictory is “communion of the Eucharist is not necessary for little children, before they have arrived at years of discretion.” That is true.

The contrary is “communion of the Eucharist is prohibited for little children, before they have arrived at years of discretion.” That is of course another error.

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Remember, also, the original practice of keeping Initiation Sacraments together was also observed in the West.

They were separated over time, and then restored to unity recently through the RCIA.

In the West, bishops have recently been experimenting with various ages of Confirmation, including before First Communion, and closer to Baptism.

Deacon Christopher


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