GCSPD 15-20: Confirmation

The bishops devote six paragraphs of their Guidelines for the Celebration of the Sacraments with Persons with Disabilities, to Confirmation. Why confirm, one might ask, especially if the diocese and parish have delayed this sacrament to adolescence?

The Rite itself tells it:

Those who have been baptized continue on the path of Christian Initiation through the Sacrament of Confirmation.

The Christian life is an experience of movement, of continuation. Not stasis. The aim is a more “perfect” conformity to Christ, and presumably, his mandatum of evangelization and spreading the faith.

Parents, caregivers, and “especially pastors” are charged to bring people to the sacrament (Cf. GCSPD 16) and the local ordinary will “take care” to confer Confirmation, somewhere between the ages of approximately seven and sixteen (Cf. 17, and whatever the local practice might be). When there is a danger of death or other significant cause the “minister” (presumably priest, catechist, or pastoral person) people may move beyond the local standard. (Ibid.)

Canon law 889 gives three conditions for the conferral of Confirmation:

  • suitably instruction
  • properly disposition
  • ability to renew the baptismal promises.

Often, “use of reason” is cited as a possible obstacle, but the bishops dismiss this:

Persons who because of intellectual or developmental disabilities may never attain the use of reason can receive the Sacrament of Confirmation and should be encouraged either directly or, if necessary, through their parents, to receive it. (18)

The faith community’s involvement is urged through welcome of all, integration into existing Confirmation preparation when possible (Ibid.), and the assistance of a sponsor, possibly a Baptism godparent (19).

Good sense suggests that the preparation process and liturgy might need to be adapted, but I’d think that would be a less frequent situation than an integration.

The issue of Confirmation also arises when a person baptized in another Christian tradition expresses a desire to become Catholic, or is presented by parents. In this instance, pastors and others should consult the Rite of Reception of Baptized Christians into the Full Communion of the Catholic Church. (20)

Since the 1990s I’ve noticed a lot of care going into the pastoral needs in this sacrament. Prior to that decade, a lot of misunderstanding and many misconceptions. Some might still persist here and there. Confirmation is important enough in the prayer of the Church and in our trust in the mission of Jesus that we need vigilance in rooting out poor notions and damaging practices.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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