Many commentators refer to the challenge of RCIA in parishes as “sorting fish.” You have the unbaptized. But some of them may know a fair amount about the Christian life. You also have the phenomenon of those who were baptized as infants, then let loose with no further support. You have evangelicals, Protestants, Anglicans, and maybe a few others who were raised in other traditions, but who come to Catholicism later in life. Throw in kids of all ages, people in varying states of move or pilgrimage. It’s no wonder RCIA in a parish can be a puzzling muddle.
Part 4 of the RCIA, sections numbered 400-472, covers the situation of persons baptized, but never catechized. When they come to Catholicism, they are seeking confirmation and Eucharist. Their journey may be quite similar to that of unbaptized (presumably uncatechized) people. But the rite suggests we treat them differently. Why? Because a valid baptism, regardless of the Christian tradition in which it was conferred, is honored. Let’s read:
400. The following pastoral guidelines concern adults who were baptized as infants either as Roman Catholics or as members of another Christian community but did not receive further catechetical formation nor, consequently, the sacraments of confirmation and eucharist. These suggestions may also be applied to similar cases, especially that of an adult who recovers after being baptized in danger of death or at the point of death.
Even though uncatechized adults have not yet heard the message of the mystery of Christ, their status differs from that of catechumens, since by baptism they have already become members of the Church and children of God. Hence their conversion is based on the baptism they have already received, the effects of which they must develop.
Let’s take this key section carefully.
This part of RCIA is self-referenced as “pastoral guidelines.” Are these required? No. Many of the rites are optional, as we’ll see. They are “suggestions,” as the text itself suggests. The only “requirement” for a Catholic faith community is a “catechumenate,” which the preparation of the baptized is most definitely not.
The second part of this section tells us just what we’re doing with the baptized: we’re looking to develop the effects of the initial baptism. The point of this ministry is to work from the moment of God’s grace, the baptism of infancy, and build on that moment of faith. Presumably, the uncatechized Christian would be guided along a path similar to that of a catechumen: integration into the life of the community, the initial involvement in Christian apostolates, liturgical and spiritual formation, and naturally, catechesis. All this may happen through the rites of RCIA. But not necessarily, and not always. It would be the responsibility of the pastor to ensure it does happen.