What is required for a non-Catholic with a valid baptism entering the Church without RCIA classes?

Hello,

First of all, please forgive me as I have also posted this exact question to AAA and hope for an answer at their soonest convenience. I am rather impatient (for good reason - long story!) but I can assure you I do not plan to do anything wrong, this is just something I’m trying to get my head around.

I’m wondering what the prerequisites are for a person who is not Catholic; but has a valid, recognised Trinitarian baptism; to receive first communion and enter the Church. A bishop generally receives the candidate etc, but hypothesising that the RCIA or similar scheme doesn’t exist.

I know that one must be in a state of grace, so must have taken part in the sacrament of reconciliation and that one must also believe in his heart that the the Eucharist is truly the body and blood of our Lord Jesus.

From what I understand a person is generally expected to have gone through some kind of classes within the parish, though I’m informed by several priests, priors and brothers religious that this is not strictly necessary. So my question is:

What is liturigically, sacramentally and canonically required for someone with a valid baptism outside of the Church, to enter the Church and receive communion? Not what is good practice, or what is the trend or “the done thing” but what is actually required? Not in an emergency but in an average situation what is required for that person’s salvation through entering the Church?

Thanking you in advance for your kind assistance. God Bless.

First, this is RCIA for the previously baptised. It’s not other-than-RCIA which is what often gets erroneously posted here on CAF.

What is actually required is this:

  1. The reception of adult converts is reserved to the bishop. Most bishops in the US delegate that to local pastors.

  2. Valid baptism, as you already know. Some proof of baptism is needed, which varies by circumstances. A certificate from a community with valid baptism usually suffices. You probably already know this, but the pastor must also investigate to make sure the candidate is not in an irregular marriage situation.

  3. The adult is received into the Church by the bishop, who can delegate that to pastors. There is no required time for this, it can be anytime of the year.

  4. This can happen whenever the individual person is ready. However, some parishes and some diocese have set schedules which they follow for pastoral reasons.

The pastor must be satisfied that the person truly wants to become Catholic, and knows the faith sufficiently. Exactly how that’s done will vary by individual, still it’s the pastor who decides if the candidate is ready. The candidate needs to have a qualified sponsor, who can be appointed by the pastor if necessary.

The form of receiving the person is rather brief. Confession must precede Confirmation and Communion, so should usually be done immediately before formal reception. The reception should happen during a Mass, but this is not strictly required.

The exact format here will vary slightly by diocese because very few actually follow the official rite completely. Such variations are permitted, some of them permitted in the rite itself, others by way of permission from the bishop. That is important because, since both the RCIA statutes and canon law allow for so much variation, there will almost always be variations from one diocese to the next.

The most important thing here: talk to your local Catholic pastor. Anyone can give you general answers, but only the pastor can give you the answers that will apply to your own specific situation.

I can follow up later if needed.

The minister who receives you into the Church (whether priest or bishop) will want some assurance that a valid baptism took place and that you have received appropriate formation (you know what you’re doing and are properly prepared) before you make a general confession, profession of faith, are confirmed, and receive your first Holy Communion. This is RCIA, even if not called such; the Rites are what they are, regardless of the route taken.

Also, if you are married, the validity of your marriage will need to be another thing discussed.

My RCIA took 6 weeks, but I went through all of the above. For most, the routine is 9 months or so of weekly meetings for the formation piece to be satisfied. Many who think they are well-formed and educated in the faith have only scratched the surface, and we could all benefit from doing more in this area - for ourselves and one another.

EDIT to add: I must have been writing as FrDavid was posting; no disagreement in my post is intended.

So, if someone who’s baptism is definitely valid (proven and on record) went and made a first confession with an open, honest and contrite heart - what’s to stop that person then just turning up at Mass and then receiving communion?

Would their receipt of the Blessed Sacrament be valid? If they were in a state of grace from sacrament of reconciliation?

Is it necessary in canon law and sacramentally that someone is first received by the Bishop?

Thank you again for your assistance.

I’ll leave the formal points to others, but you are supposed to be formally received into the Catholic Church prior to receiving communion.

There is nothing to stop a person other then, hopefully, their own conscience. The Church is the minister of the sacraments. So you must follow what the Church, in this case a local pastor, says. Confession is not available to non-Catholics except under extraordinary circumstances and it is, or at least I would strongly think, contingent on the confessor knowing of those circumstances. If a confessor doesn’t know you aren’t Catholic then I don’t see how the confession would be valid. So it would be a very serious sin to receive communion in this way.

The short answer is, yes, you must be received. Am I welcome in your home without first knocking on the door and being welcomed inside? No, I’m trespassing otherwise.

You’re missing the very big keys here - reception, public profession of faith (commitment to the Church), and formation.

Okay, thank you for your replies.

The thing that I’m trying to get my head around is that someone could be baptised Catholic as a baby and never set foot in church again until they were say in their 40s - they could then seek confession and receive communion. This, in spite of never having had a single second of religious or spiritual formation … just because the action of something their parents had done to them before they could even see properly.

Yet someone with a valid baptism and very similar religious and spiritual upbringing who hasn’t missed a mass in a very long time and believes deeply and in their heart everything the Church teaches must seek unnecessary (repeated) formation just because …

Please know, no disrepect is meant by this and I’m just trying to get my head around it.

Flipping the question on its head, one could say that if everything is right in the candidate’s life, his heart is sincere and his study extensive and far in advance of most cradle Catholics - is the Church right to prevent him receiving communion if it just so happens that there isn’t a facility for him to enter the Church within reasonable distance of him?

The Sacraments are for the Church to distribute. A baptized infant is Catholic, even if they’be been gone for a long time. Granted, and this might be beyond my knowledge, but I think they still would need a proper first communion ceremony and should’t just walk up if they’be never gone through that. I do sympathize if you’re in a difficult spot. Is your local parish saying you should participate in normal RCIA and be confirmed at Easter?

Let me clarify - I’m not suggesting that you need repeated or unnecessary formation; just verify your knowledge and preparation with a competent authority (priest) rather than try to circumvent the requirements of the Church. Why do you want to join a Church by not following her requirements?

I just read your AAA post; it’s a bit of a different angle than I thought we were dealing with here. It’s frustrating, I’m sure, but just because you’re dealing with a difficult situation (re: the priest) - or perhaps God is asking you to be patient - doesn’t give you any special leeway on bypassing what the Church is asking if you. There may be other avenues for you, but you still need to go through the Church rather than trying to back-door your own method.

You will be in my prayers, asking the Lord to help you find assistance through the priest you have or another.

Thank you.

Please be assured that it is not me who is rejecting the Church’s requirements for joining but the Church who potentially is, through no fault of anyone’s, rejecting me. I am, it would appear, a victim of a particular set of circumstances.

I will obey the Church’s teachings on this, however that is why I am looking for the letter of the law, when all said and done RCIA was an invented process designed by committee in the 1960s, at least according to the Vatican’s own comments on the scheme. 100 years ago one would just approach a Priest, study (or evidence sufficient knowledge), demonstrate a true and sincere devotion, seek confession and then be received. I know that many do agree that the RCIA is too much of a “one size fits all”, cookie cutter kind of system but the best way for most people.

My problem is that I must now wait 2 years, minimum. What if they don’t offer a program next year too? That would be 3 more years to wait. Now, I am assured by formally trained friends that if I cannot enter through no fault of my own, but I practice the faith and obey the Church, love and serve God, I am saved by my practice and devotion to the Catholic faith even without receiving the Eucharist or absolution. Much the same way that someone stuck on a desert island still receives salvation if their heart is true but the Church is not present.

I’ve been invested in the Brown Scapular for some years, I pray the liturgy of the hours as often as I can, the Rosary every day, every morning that I rise I kiss the floor saying “Serviam” and dip my fingers in my holy water and cross myself offering all my acheivements and sufferings alike to our Lord. I collect and read Catholic books like some kind of obssesive, what more must I do? If my friends are wrong, then I could die tomorrow and have no chance of everlasting life through no fault of my own.

The only other avenue which someone has suggested is to write the Dioceasan Bishop and explain my situation in detail and offer some proof of my formation and devotion - to kind of “throw myself on his mercy” and hope that he may provide a solution.

The article on this website linked to from my AAA question even suggests that baptised, practicing (non-Catholic) Christians should enter the Church on a normal Sunday rather than go all the way through to the Easter vigil.

Are there any last suggestions?

Apologies if I sound demanding or impatient, but I have waited six years and you may not realise what it feels like to be so close to our Lord but separated by an impenetrable barrier - it’s like losing my most precious possession or losing a sense.

Once again, thank you for your answers and assistance - they are very much appreciated.

Not exactly. Sure, a baptized but uncatechized person could “seek confession and receive communion” simply by walking into the confessional later up to receive communion and no one else would ever know the difference. But this is not what the Church asks or expects. The actual Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults in the section titled Preparation of Uncatechized Adults for Confirmation and Eucharist states:

As in the case of catechumens, the preparation of these adults requires a considerable time…, during which the faith infused in baptism must grow in them and take deep root through the pastoral formation they receive. A program of training, catechesis suited to their needs, contact with the community of the faithful, and participation in certain liturgical are needed in order to strengthen them in Christian life.”

As the custodian of the sacraments and charged with administering them for the fullest benefit of their recipients, the Church specifies the conditions for the proper reception of each sacrament. And in the case of the Eucharist, an adult is to be properly catechized before first reception even if they have been baptized in the Catholic Church.

So you see, the Church is not asking anything more of a baptized but uncatechized non-Catholic than it would of a baptized but uncatechized Catholic.

Again I say not exactly. From what you say here above, it would appear that you certainly are not in the category of uncatechized but rather are one whom the Rite is referring to in the section Reception of the Baptized Christians Into Full Communion of the Catholic Church:

“This is the liturgical rite by which a person born and baptized is a separated ecclesial Community is received, according to the Latin rite. into the full communion of the Catholic Church. The rite is so arranged that no greater burden than necessary (Acts 15:28) is required for the establishment of communion and unity.” (emphasis added)

and later

“The baptized Christian is to receive both doctrinal and spiritual preparation, adapted to individual pastoral requirements, for reception into full communion of the Catholic Church. The candidate should learn to deepen an inner adherence to the Church , where he or she will find the fullness of his or her baptism.” (emphasis added)

Noting that you are in the U.K., I mention but do not quote that in their addendum the US Catholic Bishops reinforce the language stating that this preparation should be tailored to the individual. I do not know if the bishops of the U.K. have done similar.

EDITED

Dear brother or sister. I apologize that I composed and posted the above without seeing your most recent post. I was under the impression that you simply misunderstood what would be required of an baptized non-Catholic to enter in full communion with the Church. I see now that your situation is more complicated and gather that even though catechized you are being required to undergo a lengthy preparation process, one certainly more extensive than my reading of the Rite. Not knowing the specifics, I can only suggest that at some point recourse beyond your local level might be of benefit.

I understand the concern. I had to make my own way, so to speak; I’m just cautioning you to not get too hasty and step outside the Church’s intended path, possibly making choices you’ll regret later. Short of finding another priest nearby, can you petition the Bishop directly?

I would suggest, if it’s as important to you as it seems to be from your posts, make the drive to the Dominican Priory. Ask them to assist you and between the two of you, get “permission” from your pastor to follow this route. (You don’t want to show up suddenly confirmed and communed to the surprise of your regular priest; he may feel side-stepped. Never mind that you ARE, and it’s his fault, in a sense.)

I was received by a Benedictine priest filling in while the regular pastor was on sabbatical and my formation overseen by another priest in a neighboring parish. I had to do a lot of persistent arm-twisting and sweet talking before anyone was ready to hear me out, but ultimately it paid off. (Again, 6 weeks of private instruction vs. the 2-year wait that all but one priest wanted to push me toward.) Keep trying, keep praying, and if all else fails, seek the bishop’s assistance.

Would you share with us that particular set of circumstances that remains an obstacle for you to be received into the Church? It would be easier to zoom into the problem and find out why.

The Church decides at any material time how she would receive candidates into the faith. So it is her prerogative and jurisdiction.

I am puzzled that you have to wait this long. Is there anything that makes it so that we do not know here?

If you are already well catechized, your entry into the Church would be very simple indeed provided there is no other impediment.

You would still be needed to** be received into the Church** otherwise you are just a non-Catholic interested in Catholicism.

Do not worry about everlasting life – give the Lord bigger credit for this. You can be a Catholic by desire and besides, you will be judged by your personal holiness. This is one reason why a RCIA candidate does not have to worry about when he/she will be baptized. It would be childish to let our little human wants to override the Church’s.

You should just sit down with your pastor in the parish, which I guess you already had. Take heed of what he said and abide by them. Unless they are very unreasonable and mean, you do not have to appeal to the Bishop. The other alternative is to go to the next parish though I cannot see how it can be any different.

Again, this is unreasonably long time and I feel for you. You still have to get to the root of the matter; there is no two ways about it.

May God bless you in your journey.

Hi, I also read your AAA post and I can feel how frustrating your problem is. I think Cor ad Cor advice is right on. I think that after asking three times you can be fairly confident that your current priest isn’t going to help you. He’s sick and busy and you don’t even need to look to far to find people who on this forum complaining about not being able to talk to a healthy priest who ignores emails for months.

Do what Cor ad Cor suggests, see if the Dominicans will help. And after you have all the logistics, then get your pastor’s permission. Don’t make him do anything other than say “Yes”. Make his job as easy as possible and don’t get stuck in the “I’ll get around to this paperwork on some future date that will probably be after I retire” trap.

Keep praying and remember that we only value things that are hard to get. Doing this journey will make your final reception that much more meaningful.

First, as a priest, I feel a great need to apologise to you.

What has happened as you have fallen through the cracks is truly unconscionable and it should never have happened…above all given the life circumstances that you relate.

Also, for the posters in this forum to have offered you advice predicated on American dispositions – as though they were universally dispositive – has also been gravely wrong.

Like you, I am not American and yet, when I am addressing an American poster, as a priest, I provide an answer that derives from the dispositions that are for the United States or Canada – not those of Europe and what govern me. Conversely, when I am dealing with someone from the United Kingdom or the Continent, the advice is derived from our norms and I would not even evoke the American dispositions as they are irrelevant.

I would expect an American counterpart’s answer in turn to be as entirely derived from the norms of the Liturgy Office of the Bishops Conference in the United Kingdom as when I cite the American, French, Italian or Belgian dispositive norms. I am simply gobsmacked that American responders would not be as conscientious on a fundamental point like this as we who are non-Americans.

To say I am disappointed in the various posts I have read in this thread does not begin to give expression to the sentiment.

My assignments took me all over the world in the decades of my priesthood. The Catholic Church in the United States is so statistically insignificant in the face of global Catholicism, that it is unpardonable for Americans to not be aware of the Church norms beyond one’s own borders.

To your specific problem.

Since you are Anglican – and High Church – I would encourage you not to proceed through the territorial parish at all. Rather, I would encourage you to assert the privilege of jurisdiction under the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, as an ecclesial subject of Monsignor Newton…a privilege granted to you by the Holy See.

The dispositive norms of the Personal Ordinariate are written precisely to favour reception of highly catechised and practicing Anglicans from the C of E’s status of an impaired communion with Rome to full communion with Rome as RC. Those coming into the Ordinariate, of course, require relatively minimal preparation, given their Anglican background and heritage.

As an Anglican in transition who is physically resident in the United Kingdom, you can even now already register with the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham.

Fill out this enquiry form: ordinariate.org.uk/about/join.php

Given the relationship between the RC Church and the C of E, you should be processed very quickly, with an individualised program. We have Anglican clergy who receive their rescript from the Holy See for Catholic ordination in weeks to months…far less time than what you have contended with just to be in full communion!

I am going to send to you by personal message the mobile numbers and personal contacts for two Ordinariate clergy who are in Norfolk and who should be able to assist you with the necessary arrangements. Given all that you describe, I can’t imagine it will be anything elaborate.

Once, you are in full communion and confirmed, you can see whether you wish to stay as a member of the Ordinariate or if your life situation is such that it is not convenient, you can simply make a lateral move and register in a non-ordinariate parish as a confirmed Catholic.

In answer to your more general question, the European bishops have made other provisions in many things than what the American bishops observe, including reception into full communion. I, in conjunction with my bishop, have too many times to relate done precisely what your seminarian friends have related relative to reception into full communion. We are certainly acting in keeping with the law (universal and particular) and the norms and rubrics…but we also use to the full extent that discretion which is granted to those with the care of souls to arrive at solutions that are pastoral and equitable, given particular situations. Norms, after all, are very rarely an absolute value…and dispensations exist for a reason.

Again, I am incredibly sorry that you have had this experience and were without effective pastoral care in so many trying life situations. It is truly horrific. It will be quite a tale to regale to the Ordinariate clergy, once all this has a happy resolution.

God’s blessing upon you and yours.

So as someone in RCIA, I’m a little puzzled to see some converts complaining about the process.

Coming from Mormonism, the focus there is overwhelmingly on baptism numbers on missionaries who serve proselyting missions. Some go from “tracted” to “baptized” within a month - and the subsequent year, the LDS church loses some 60-70% of these converts to inactivity.

One of the things that attracted me to the Catholic process as an ex-mormon is that it is slow. It does focus on catchesis. The process is guided. There are a lot of “decision gates.” I like the focus on exploring the faith before committing to it. I think it makes for fewer but better converts.

My apologies if my advice was in err; I was not aware of the geographical differences in possible options, but rather just wished to find you (OP) some proper help and guidance. You’ve at least succeeded in gaining the advice of a wise, experienced, and caring priest.

In either case, whether a baptised Catholic, or a non-Catholic seeking to enter the Church, the pastor decides when the person is properly prepared for First Communion. Of course, that means the person must actually be prepared and catechized.

I don’t see how that’s a problem.

Granted, anyone could simply fake being a Catholic and walk up to receive Communion at Mass. We don’t check for membership cards. But that’s not what the OP is asking about.

Yet someone with a valid baptism and very similar religious and spiritual upbringing who hasn’t missed a mass in a very long time and believes deeply and in their heart everything the Church teaches must seek unnecessary (repeated) formation just because …

No. That’s not true. You’re adding words the words “unnecessary” and “repeated.” The Church does not require that.

Please know, no disrepect is meant by this and I’m just trying to get my head around it.

Flipping the question on its head, one could say that if everything is right in the candidate’s life, his heart is sincere and his study extensive and far in advance of most cradle Catholics - is the Church right to prevent him receiving communion if it just so happens that there isn’t a facility for him to enter the Church within reasonable distance of him?

You’re creating an artificial situation here when you say “it just so happens there isn’t a facility…” The Church goes through great effort to put parishes (and mission, etc) where they are needed. Admittedly, not every single person on earth will be in walking distance. However, this isn’t some kind of contrived, intentional situation.
Again, I don’t see why you see this as some kind of fault of the Church.

That’s not true. Nothing posted here has been “gravely wrong” nor even close.

Most people have offered the advice of “talk to the priest”—that’s hardly wrong

Like you, I am not American and yet, when I am addressing an American poster, as a priest, I provide an answer that derives from the dispositions that are for the United States or Canada – not those of Europe and what govern me. Conversely, when I am dealing with someone from the United Kingdom or the Continent, the advice is derived from our norms and I would not even evoke the American dispositions as they are irrelevant.

I would expect an American counterpart’s answer in turn to be as entirely derived from the norms of the Liturgy Office of the Bishops Conference in the United Kingdom as when I cite the American, French, Italian or Belgian dispositive norms. I am simply gobsmacked that American responders would not be as conscientious on a fundamental point like this as we who are non-Americans.

To say I am disappointed in the various posts I have read in this thread does not begin to give expression to the sentiment.

My assignments took me all over the world in the decades of my priesthood. The Catholic Church in the United States is so statistically insignificant in the face of global Catholicism, that it is unpardonable for Americans to not be aware of the Church norms beyond one’s own borders.

I must say that’s truly unfair.

I’ve read the entire thread, and there is no such thing as Americans assuming that only our norms matter. All the answers were general ones (universal ones that apply to the entire Church), with the exception of one person who did quote the US RCIA statutes, but followed that by specifically mentioning that it was the US version and the OPs situation might have different norms.

I did write that “most US bishops” delegate reception of adults to pastors. I hardly see how that could inspire what you wrote above.

Truly, you’re making something out of nothing here.

To your specific problem.

Since you are Anglican – and High Church – I would encourage you not to proceed through the territorial parish at all. Rather, I would encourage you to assert the privilege of jurisdiction under the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, as an ecclesial subject of Monsignor Newton…a privilege granted to you by the Holy See.

The dispositive norms of the Personal Ordinariate are written precisely to favour reception of highly catechised and practicing Anglicans from the C of E’s status of an impaired communion with Rome to full communion with Rome as RC. Those coming into the Ordinariate, of course, require relatively minimal preparation, given their Anglican background and heritage.

As an Anglican in transition who is physically resident in the United Kingdom, you can even now already register with the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham.

Fill out this enquiry form: ordinariate.org.uk/about/join.php

Given the relationship between the RC Church and the C of E, you should be processed very quickly, with an individualised program. We have Anglican clergy who receive their rescript from the Holy See for Catholic ordination in weeks to months…far less time than what you have contended with just to be in full communion!

I am going to send to you by personal message the mobile numbers and personal contacts for two Ordinariate clergy who are in Norfolk and who should be able to assist you with the necessary arrangements. Given all that you describe, I can’t imagine it will be anything elaborate.

Once, you are in full communion and confirmed, you can see whether you wish to stay as a member of the Ordinariate or if your life situation is such that it is not convenient, you can simply make a lateral move and register in a non-ordinariate parish as a confirmed Catholic.

In answer to your more general question, the European bishops have made other provisions in many things than what the American bishops observe, including reception into full communion. I, in conjunction with my bishop, have too many times to relate done precisely what your seminarian friends have related relative to reception into full communion. We are certainly acting in keeping with the law (universal and particular) and the norms and rubrics…but we also use to the full extent that discretion which is granted to those with the care of souls to arrive at solutions that are pastoral and equitable, given particular situations. Norms, after all, are very rarely an absolute value…and dispensations exist for a reason.

Again, I am incredibly sorry that you have had this experience and were without effective pastoral care in so many trying life situations. It is truly horrific. It will be quite a tale to regale to the Ordinariate clergy, once all this has a happy resolution.

God’s blessing upon you and yours.

The OP did not mention being an Anglican, so it’s hardly anyone’s fault for not addressing that.

Knowing how often CAF posters do indeed point people towards the Ordinariates (note that I ddi use the plural, so please don’t accuse me of assuming that the US Ordinariate is the only one), it’s safe to say that if that had been posted, not a few responses would have directed the OP to contact the Anglican Ordinariate.

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