RCIA 32-33: Adaptations by Bishops’ Conferences

img_6803This long-awaited return (I’m sure) to RCIA is a substantial post. Hang with us.

Subsidiarity, though you may not know it by looking around the Catholic Church these days, was once a valued principle, permitting decisions, discernments, and determinations to be made at the lowest appropriate level. Bishops’ conferences are entrusted as we read in these two sections:

32. In addition to the adaptations envisioned in Christian Initiation, General Introduction (nos. 30-33), the rite of Christian initiation of adults allows for other adaptations that will be decided by the conference of bishops.

33. The conference of bishops has discretionary power to make the following decisions: 

Eight categories follow, and in the US “white book,” adaptations the USCCB has adopted follow in American-published texts. For here, I’ll just give the text in the usual blue with the summary of American adaptation in the comment that follows. ‘Course I’ll add my comments too.

1. to establish for the precatechumenate, where it seems advisable, some way of receiving inquirers who are interested in the catechumenate (see RCIA 39);

No USCCB adaptation. A few–not many–of my colleagues probably wish for something like this. I don’t see the need for ritualizing the beginning of the inquiry period. The rite of acceptance is really the newcomer’s welcome to the local community.

2. to insert into the rite of acceptance into the order of catechumens a first exorcism and a renunciation of false worship, in regions where paganism is widespread (see RCIA 69-72);

The USCCB leaves this discernment to the local bishop. I will say this seems prejudiced against paganism compared to other non-Christian religions.

3. to decide that in the same rite the tracing of the sign of the cross upon the firehead (RCIA 54-55) be replaced by making that sign of the cross in front of the forehead, in regions where the act of touching may not seem proper;

The US norm is for touching. The local bishop may determine otherwise if the culture of a prospective catechumen might render this touching a pastoral obstacle.

4. to decide that in the same rite candidates receive a new name in regions where it is the practice of non-Christian religions to give a new name to initiates immediately (RCIA 73);

The US norm, again, is for no new name to be given at this rite. But again, a local bishop may determine giving a new name is apporpriate and beneficial for pastoral reasons.

5. to allow within the same rite, according to local customs, additional rites that symbolize reception into the community (RCIA 74);

In the US, the Rite of Acceptance includes an optional presentation of the cross, and leaves to the local bishop any other additional symbols. I don’t know that the presentation of the cross is an association of the community as much as it is Christ. And the rite provides for a substantial signing as it is–that seems very adequate. Please note that RCIA 33.5 speaks of a possible additional rite that symbolizes reception into the local community. I don’t think the cross suffices here. This symbol may be as much for the parish community: are rank and file Catholics aware that catechumens are now parishioners? Are pastors and catechumenate directors aware they should be treated as such?

6. to establish during the period of the catechumenate, in addition to the usual rites (RCIA 81-97), “rites of passage”: for example, early celebrations of the presentations (RCIA 157-163, 178-184), the ephphetha rite, the catechumens’ recitation of the Creed, or even an anointing of catechumens (RCIA 98-103);

The USCCB has approved of all of these …

7. to decide on the omission of the anointing with the oil of catechumens or its transferral to the preparation rites for Holy Saturday or its use during the period of the catechumenate as a kind of “rite of passage” (RCIA 98-103);

… as it has this possibility.

8. to make more specific and detailed the formularies of renunciation for the rite of acceptance into the order of catechumens (RCIA 70-72) and for the celebration of baptism (RCIA 224).

This last adaptation was not adopted by the USCCB, but again, for certain catechumens where this is an important issue, the diocesan bishop may provide formularies “more specific and detailed” for use when and where “false worship” is an issue. I’m not aware of any location in the US where this is a practice. There might be more private concerns on the part of an occasional pastor. For the public rite, it would seem that a person noted for blatant anti-Christian religious practices might need to reassure the local community and the diocese of true intentions. But the situation is rare in the US. As for other countries, perhaps not.


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in post-conciliar liturgy documents, RCIA, Rites. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to RCIA 32-33: Adaptations by Bishops’ Conferences

  1. Claudia St says:

    I, for one, was awaiting further RCIA entries: they are what drew my attention to C.S. because I wanted to compare other information to my own recent experiences in RCIA. The series has been a great way to see the official structure. Thanks!

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