Mentally disabled people and the church

I was recently watching the news and there was a mother talking about being Catholic and how she wanted her son to be confirmed into the church, she was saying that she spoke to the Priest at her local church and was told that it wasn’t possible for her son to be confirmed because he had something wrong with him which meant that he wouldn’t be able to fully understand what was going on so that would mean that he couldn’t understand what he was agreeing to. She spoke about how her son was active in the church as much as he was able and liked going to church even though he didn’t fully understand what was going on.

So I wondering, are people who struggle to understand Confrimation and church doctrine weather mentally disabled or not able to still enter the church and be accepted?


Was her local Priest wrong to turn her son away?

Thanks for your help

Not knowing the full situation, the only think I can contribute is this–my husband was confirmed at the age of 3, and many people are confirmed as infants right after baptism. They are not able to understand what they are agreeing to either, so I’m not sure why the priest used that as his reason.

I always believe that people who are mentally disabled are the purest forms free from sin. So, maybe the priest knew that and didn’t see the reason to have him confirmed into the Church. But on the other hand, deep down inside, his soul would want to be fully involved and like the others. And the priest should not turn anyone away regardless of their disability. Anyways, they are still accepted cuz of their state of mind being free from sin.

I think some elements require the ability to understand. One can receive Holy Communion only if he or she can discern the body and blood of Christ - “to discern the Eucharistic from ordinary bread, to realize in some measure the dignity and excellence of the Sacrament of the Altar, to believe in the Real Presence, and adore Christ under the sacramental veils”.

Thus the Eucharist, in which Our Lord is truly present, can only be given to those who “can distinguish the body of Christ from ordinary food and receive communion reverently”.

Pastors are encouraged to consult with parents, those who take the place of parents, diocesan personnel involved with disability issues, psychologists, religious educators, and other experts in making their judgment. If it is determined that a parishioner who is disabled is not ready to receive the sacrament, great care is to be taken in explaining the reasons for this decision. Cases of doubt should be resolved in favor of the right of the baptized person to receive the sacrament.

Regarding Confirmation, it is available to “all baptized, unconfirmed Catholics who possess the use of reason …] if they are suitably instructed, properly disposed and able to renew their baptismal promises”. However: “Persons who because of developmental or mental disabilities may never attain the use of reason are to be encouraged either directly or, if necessary, through their parents or guardian, to receive the sacrament of confirmation at the appropriate time.

Confession is different: “Only those who have the use of reason are capable of committing serious sin. Nevertheless, even young children and persons with mental disabilities often are conscious of committing acts that are sinful to some degree and may experience a sense of guilt and sorrow. As long as the individual is capable of having a sense of contrition for having committed sin, even if he or she cannot describe the sin precisely in words, the person may receive sacramental absolution.

Here you can read more about the position of the Church.

In short: there is a possibility that the priest, who is not perfect and all-knowing, could have done more. I am certain that if she pursues the matter she will be able to have her son receive the Sacrament of Confirmation and work with experts to discern whether he can discern the Eucharist or not.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit