With this post, we begin a two-week exploration of Appendix I, in which the Church presents combination rites for the baptized and the unbaptized newcomers. Many catechumenate directors decline to use these combinations. In my current parish, combined rites have not taken place in years. Great care is taken to separate the rites in both celebration and in the minds and sight of our parishioners.
There is a certain utility in lumping together all non-Catholics, but as we’ve seen in the examination of RCIA, the pastoral and spiritual needs of these people are varied. Even if rites are combined, the proper ministries will likely differ–if one is dedicated to the spirit of proper evangelization and ministry.
Unlike rites are not combined. We don’t welcome candidates as we send catechumens for election. Scrutinies are not combined with penitential rites. Only four combinations are given:
1. “Celebration of the Rite of Acceptance into the Order of Catechumens and of the Rite of Welcoming Baptized but Previously Uncatechized Adults Who Are Preparing for Confirmation and/or Eucharist or Reception into the Full Communion of the Catholic Church,” likely the longest rite title in the history of Christendom (RCIA 505-529)
2. “Parish Celebration for Sending Catechumens for Election and Candidates for Recognition by the Bishop,” an optional combination (RCIA 530-546)
3. “Celebration of the Rite of Election of Catechumens and of the Call to Contuing Conversion of Candidates Who Are Preparing for Confirmation and/or Eucharist or Reception into the Full Communion of the Catholic Church” (RCIA 547-565)
4. The combined sacramental celebrations at the Easter Vigil (another long title that encompasses RCIA 566 through 594)
Let’s take a quick peek at the two instructional paragraphs for CotRoAitOoCaotRoWBbPUAWAPfCaoEoRitFCotCC (the longest Catholic acronym, to be sure, but better-abbreviated by a simple: Acceptance/Welcoming):
505. This rite is for use in communities where catechumens are pareparing for initiation and where baptized but previously uncatechized adults are beginning catechetical formation either prior to completing their Christian initiation in the sacraments of confirmation and eucharist or prior to being received into the full Communion of the Catholic Church.
What’s the difference between the latter two groups? Those baptized into the Catholic Church but never catechized are technically not being received into the Church. Those baptized in another Church or Communion might also be confirmed and receive the Eucharist, but as we’ve seen before, the most usual term is that they will be welcomed into full communion, as that also covers their profession immediately prior to confirmation (see RCIA 491). Note that there is no proper option to include baptized but catechized non-Catholics in this rite. It happens, mind you, but it was not foreseen by the framers of RCIA, nor is it considered a proper liturgical practice.
When the combined rite is used, one might think a certain utility is operating. The Church cautions:
506. In the catechesis of the community and in the celebration of these rites, care must be taken to maintain the distinction between the catechumens and the baptized candidates.
It’s more than a general liturgical rule: catechumens/elect first, the baptized second. Not only must the rites be carefully celebrated, and the newcomers properly sorted, but the community must also know the distinctions and, I presume, why we make distinctions and why we don’t lump all non-Catholics into the same boat. All my readers here know, right? Not only do the rites speak of Christian initiation, but the accompanying rites all allude to the values, celebrations, and rituals of Christian life. There is nothing exclusively Roman Catholic about the RCIA. The Roman Catholic distinction comes largely outside of the print on the liturgical page: in the particular catechesis and in the religious-cultural distinctiveness of the rites as celebrated in Catholic parishes.