Let’s not give the impression that any “exceptional circumstances” situation in RCIA is wholly dependent on the bishop’s direct oversight. As with other rites, the pastor does have certain adaptations he can make, as we read in RCIA 334:
1. supplementing the abbreviated form: for example, adding rites belonging to the period of the catechumenate (nos. 81-103) or adding the presentations (nos. 157-162, 178-182);
2. making the rite of “Receiving the Candidate” or the “liturgy of the Word” in the abbreviated rite separate or expanded celebrations. As to “Receiving the Candidate” (nos. 340-345), this can be expanded by replacing no. 342 and using elements from the rite of acceptance into the order of catechumens (nos. 48-74); or, depending on the candidate’s state of preparation, by celebrating the rite of election (nos. 129-137) in place of nos. 343-344. As to the “Liturgy of the Word,” after the readings, the intercessions, penitential rite, and prayer of exorcism (nos. 349-351, can be adapted by use of elements in the scrutinies (nos. 152-154, 166-168, 173-175).
3. replacing elements of the complete rite with elements of the abbreviated form; or combining the rite of acceptance into the order of catechumens (nos. 48-74) and the rite of election (nos. 129-137) at the time of receiving a properly disposed candidate (which is comparable to the time of receiving interested inquirers in the period of the precatechumenate; see no. 39.3).
Whew! If your head isn’t spinning with all those numbers, mine sure is. In essence, the rite advocates the parish pastor to make sensible substitutions where the state of preparation and/or disposition of the candidate is taken into account. Some examples:
- An unbaptized person might arrive on the church doorstep, but have a fair awareness and practice of the Christian way. A welcoming ritual into the catechumenate (ie the parish community) might make sense.
An even more “advanced” person might be the non-Christian spouse of a parishioner, well aware of Catholic practices in morality, the apostolate, and knowledgeable of aspects of the faith. Perhaps even a long experience of Sunday liturgy. In such a case a rite of acceptance might make less sense than the adaptation of the more involved spiritual examinations of the scrutinies.
Some cautions for the pastor:
335. When this expanded form of initiation is arranged, care should be taken to ensure that:
1. the candidate has received a full catechesis;
2. the rite is celebrated with the active participation of an assembly;
3. after receiving the sacraments the neophyte has the benefit of a period of postbaptismal catechesis, if at all possible.
Any comments on this?