We are active Catholics and our 15-year-old son doesn’t want to be confirmed this year. He is questioning his belief in God, and we are having open discussions with him, but he refuses to participate in this sacrament. We have several friends whose children are participating, and they say we should force him to do so. Should we?
No, you should not force your son to be confirmed. Although confirmation can be received by infants, as is done in Eastern Catholic churches, when the person to receive the sacrament is old enough to make his own decision, he should be allowed to decide for himself whether or not he will receive it. As your son has passed the traditional age of reason (age seven), he is of an age to decide for himself whether or not he will be confirmed.
From the Code of Canon Law (please note the emphasized passage):
§1 Every baptized person who is not confirmed, and only such a person, is capable of receiving confirmation.
§2 Apart from the danger of death, to receive confirmation lawfully a person who has the use of reason must be suitably instructed, properly disposed, and able to renew the baptismal promises (canon 889, emphasis added).
Because your son is questioning his beliefs in God and because he is opposed to receiving the sacrament, he cannot yet renew the baptismal promises you made on his behalf and he is not properly disposed to receive the sacrament. Thus, his confirmation should be deferred until he is ready.
If you force your son to receive the sacrament now, it is possible that his legitimate upset with you over such a situation may color his relationship with the Church for years to come, long after you can no longer compel him to observe his religious obligations. On the other hand, if you respect his decision now, it is more likely that he in turn will be more open to resolving his difficulties with his faith.
As disappointing as this no doubt is, this is in reality something to rejoice over. Your son is taking his faith seriously. He is quite rightly treating confirmation as a serious occasion and is not merely receiving it unthinkingly. If and when he is ready to receive confirmation, his conscious, careful preparation of his mind and heart to receive the sacrament will open him to receiving the maximum benefits from the graces offered by confirmation.
Handbook of Christian Apologetics** by Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli, S.J.
Pocket Handbook of Christian Apologetics by Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli, S.J.
Yes or No? Straight Answers to Tough Questions about Christianity by Peter Kreeft