Simple reception into the Faith of a baptized non-Catholic


#1

Are there any circumstances when this ritual, when done outside of Mass, and when administration of Confirmation is deferred until the Easter Vigil, could be presided over by a deacon? The statement of faith and recitation of the Creed would not seem to be sacramental actions, but unsure if a priest, or more specifically the pastor, would be required.


#2

The reception must be done by a priest. I checked the RCIA texts, and there’s no provision made for a deacon to do this.

Having said that, I think there might be a possibility for the bishop to dispense from the rubrics to allow this to happen in very unusual circumstances, such as mission territory or other extreme situations. Even if possible, it would require a dispensation from the bishop. I say “dispensation” because the bishop cannot simply delegate that function to a deacon.

The RCIA norms (paragraph 481) reminds us that it is reserved to the bishop himself to receive already-baptized, but that he can delegate this to a priest. It specifically says priest, not priest or deacon.

We all know that deacons can baptize. There’s a principle in law that says that whoever can do “the greater” can also do “the lesser” or to put that another way, whoever can do “the whole” can do “any part of the whole.” So, for example, if a visiting priest has been delegated by the pastor to perform a baptism, he does not need the specific permission to do the anointing with Chrism which is a part of the baptism rite. He can do the whole, so he can do all the parts.

As far as the theology is concerned, I think it’s possible for a deacon to receive converts into the Church, based on the fact that it’s possible for him to baptize adults. He can do the greater, therefore he can do the lesser.

When it comes to receiving previously baptized adults, it comes down to the simple fact that there’s no provision in canon law, nor in the RCIA statutes for this to actually happen. Just because it’s possible, that doesn’t make it licit.

Again, I think that the bishop can grant a dispensation to allow this to happen, but it would have to be very unusual circumstances.

That’s a long way of saying that it’s possible, but not very likely.


#3

RCIA U.S.

394 It is the office of the bishop to receive baptised Christians into the full communion of the Catholic Church. But a priest to whom the bishop entrusts the celebration of the rite has the faculty of confirming the candidate within the rite of reception, 6 unless the person
received has already been validly confirmed. [R8]

6 See Rite of Confirmation, Introduction, no. 7, b.


#4

I was received ibto the church by a priest in a private ceremony.


#5

Thanks for your research, Father. Very helpful.


#6

I always thought this too, in fact recently I questioned the fact that a deacon received one of our CCD kids into the faith. But just last week my husband, a deacon who is transferring to another parish, received his new faculties, and one of the faculties was to receive baptized Christians into the faith.

I am still arguing the point with my husband and I even thought of contacting the chancellor. I am quite familiar with RCIA as I am on our diocesan committee, and I know it states that when a person is received they are also confirmed, which a deacon cannot do. Unless I guess the bishop is separating the sacraments, which our bishop is doing for children received into the Church.


#7

If the pagella of faculties signed by the bishop (or chancellor on behalf of the bishop) states that he can do it, then he can do it.

Normally, he cannot. Those pagellas sometimes reflect special dispensations or special permissions that the bishop has already decided to do, without actually mentioning the specifics of “how” or “why” the bishop made that decision. In other words, it might be particular law for that diocese.

It’s not absolutely necessary that a previously-baptized person be confirmed when received into the Church. It’s normative, but that’s not an absolute. As I mentioned earlier, in mission territories, it is easy to envision circumstances where a deacon can indeed receive them.

It’s also possible that the pagella itself contains a typing error. Someone at the chancery might have taken the template for a parochial vicar and modified it to reflect the faculties for a deacon, then saved it as the template for deacons. It could actually be a mistake.

If it is a mistake (instead of particular law for the diocese) then it’s a good example of canon 144.


#8

Does that mean its not absolutely necessary that confirmation for a previously baptised person be done at the time of being received into the Church or at all?


#9

Eastern non-Catholics coming into full communion with the Catholic Church already, as a norm, have valid Confirmation (Chrysmation): it is given along with Baptism even as an infant.

CCEOCanon 897

A member of the Christian faithful of an Eastern non-Catholic Church is to be received into the Catholic Church with only the profession of the Catholic faith, after doctrinal and spiritual preparation according to each one’s condition.


#10

Yes. That’s exactly what it means (except that I don’t know why you added “or at all.”)

I’ll write it again:

It’s not absolutely necessary that a previously-baptized person be confirmed when received into the Church. It’s normative, but that’s not an absolute.


#11

It might sound silly but I wasn’t sure if you meant an already baptised non-Catholic need not be confirmed at the time of being received into the Church or need not be confirmed at all. I just wanted to be sure.

As for myself, a former Methodist, when I was received into the Church at Easter 1992 after going through RCIA the Confirmation of everyone in the RCIA group (both those baptised that Easter and those like me who were already baptised and received into the Church) took place in October 1992.


#12

That’s why I repeated the whole paragraph from earlier.

A baptized non-Catholic who is received into the Church should be Confirmed when received. That is the normative practice.

Please don’t misunderstand me by thinking that I’m saying that Confirmation is merely optional. That’s not what I mean.

What I do mean is that in unusual circumstances, one may be received into the Church without necessarily being Confirmed. Two examples I can imagine are mission territories (where a priest might not be available) and certainly danger-of-death when it might not be possible (if the priest does not have the Sacred Chrism available).

Before the current RCIA program, it was the norm to receive the already-baptized without Confirmation. The Confirmation came later.

The point is that the absence of Confirmation does not nullify the reception into the Church. It is possible, but it is not the normal way of doing things.


#13

Thanks. I became Catholic when I lived in Singapore. Of course being confirmed 6 months after being received into the Church was normal to me because I din’t know any better. All the RCIA groups that year (1992) totalled around 500 people so the Confirmation by the Bishop was a big occasion.


#14

Fr. David,

There seems to be a trend to delegate responsibilities of this sort to vicars or to deacons or even to allow “pastoral administrators” to assume parts of the initiation rituals which they are not entitled to perform. At times it seems that it is simply laziness on the part of the pastor – or an attempt to seem “with it.” You are right in the way you expressed all of this. With the bishop’s permission, I can also see where prison ministry might be a place where deacons might be delegated to preside at a full reception since there are many deacons in prison ministry and some prisons might see a priest very rarely. Reception at the vigil is often not possible because there isn’t one at most prisons. Also, a prisoner might be transferred at any time. I remember, in my role in prison ministry, awaiting the bishop’s arrival one night for Confirmation. It happens about once every ten years. There was a Russian Orthodox young man ready to enter the Church that night. The poor fellow was transferred a few hours before the bishop’s arrival. A pity for sure.


#15

I’m not sure where you’re located.

In the U.S. we have a problem that the previously-baptized are usually (not normatively, that’s different) received at the Easter Vigil. This is actually NOT the way it’s supposed to work. The unbaptized are received (baptized, confirmed, Communion) at the Easter Vigil.

The fact that it’s the most common practice in the US to receive the baptized* at the Vigil causes a lot of confusion because people often think that it’s “supposed” to be done that way. At my first parish, I had such a candidate. I called the chancery to ask permission to receive her at a time other than the Vigil. The response was “you don’t need permission, because that’s how you’re supposed to do it.” Even the seminary formation teaches it the wrong way.

But to the topic at hand: yes, prison ministry might also be another example of the bishop dispensing to allow a deacon to receive someone into the Church.


  • by the way, pardon my spelling. I have this habit of using both baptized and baptised (different spellings). Just a bad habit of mine. I know, I need to just pick one.

#16

Hello,

I have seen it said that while it is possible for a deacon to be delegated to receive the person’s profession of faith, a deacon cannot carry out this action within the Rite of Reception, as the celebration of the Rite is reserved to the bishop/priest (source referenced earlier).

I guess this makes sense to me. The reception into the faith is simply the recitation of the proper words of the convert before the person who is authorized to witness the profession and record it. Even a lay person should be able to witness/record this. That would be exceptional, though…as well as having a deacon do it.

Dan


#17

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