Friday, March 09, 2012

Baptism -> Confirmation -> Eucharist

"American Bishop receives kudos from the Pope for reordering sacraments" (WDTPRS, March 8, 2012). Well, Confession should go in there; but you get the idea. A badly needed re-ordering.

As the Bishop Samuel Aquila of Fargo observed, these changes have the salubrious effect of also distancing the Sacrament of Confirmation from “some false theologies that see it as being a sacrament of maturity or as a sacrament for ‘me choosing God.’" Indeed.


Cruise the Groove. said...

Confession should be mentioned, not implied.
One cannot recieve the Blessed Sacrament until one has confessed mortal sin, which 7 year olds have he culpability of.
They know.
I sure did at 7.

Also, the whole Church should agree on this.
Not just a bishop here and there.

Where is the Universal character?

I am not Spartacus said...

Obama is perfectly within his right to force his morality on everyone when it comes to contraception and he is perfectly with his right to decide to bump-off somebody if they get under his thin skin.

Back when he was running for office - back when men like Greenwald were swooning over him like a 13 y.o. girl greeting the Beatles at the airport in New York -he submitted to an interview in which he averred that, for him a sin was when he did something that was against his own nature.

I took that to mean that he was identifying his own self as the avatar of our times, a Baba Meher with close-cropped hair if you will.

Ralph Roister-Doister said...

Exactly why is this so "badly needed"? It is more nouvelle diddling, more reform for the sake of reform, more ignoring of things that matter. That a blueskying middle manager should receive an attaboy from the CEO for wrongheaded insipidity is not good news for the stockholders.

What is the purpose here? Is it to restrict the reception of the Eucharist to older children who, by dint of age and the intervening sacrament of Confirmation, presumably better understand the significance of the Eucharist? Or is it to seal the zealousness of children before they reach puberty?

A renewed emphasis on the vital necessity of the sacrament of confession, as opposed to happy talk with your priest, would better serve both purposes far better than the sacrament shuffling of the Spiritual Leader of Fargo, North Dakota. There is no way that anyone can understand the nature of the Eucharist and the surpassing importance of having access to it, without understanding the radically fallen, sinful nature of the person who has been given such access. Catholics today, whatever their ages, lack such an understanding. As a result, they place no more significance upon the reception of the Eucharist than does the protestant lad who munches on a cracker and glugs a plastic shot glass full of grape juice at his Sunday morning social gathering.

Nouvelle church leaders have nurtured such ignorance by devaluing the traditional and in fact doctrinal understanding of the Church as the shelter and means of salvation of sinners. How could it be otherwise? We are all sinners – even the greatest saints have shared an acute understanding of their sinful natures – their appalling overscrupulousness must be a profound embarrassment to modern Churchmen. Confession has been for the saints the one truly essential sacramental prelude to Holy Communion. It has only been in the age of nouvelle theology and V2 daisy-sniffing that sin and the sacrament of confession have been discounted and “whited out” (as it were) from the consciousnesses of Catholics. Such a radical altering of sacramental understanding had to be done to promote the V2 infantilized notion of sainthood: we are all saints, tra la, tra la!!

Pertinacious Papist said...

Ralph, I agree with the need for renewed attention to the sacrament of Confession before reception of the Eucharist -- agree in spades.

Now I'm not sacramental expert, and I'm not even sure of the rationale for reserving Confirmation until a later age the the order of sacraments as we find them now generally implemented.

Yet from my perspective as a quite ordinary pew peasant, it seems to me there are at least two reasons why having Confirmation introduced at a much earlier age could be a good thing.

(1) It provides the recipient with badly needed graces earlier in life, which would seem to be a plus.

(2) It avoids tempting comparisons sometimes made between Catholic Confirmation and Protestant equivalents, which stress the subject's choice to commit to Christ as the locus of the activity of grace in the sacrament.

Re #1, the Eastern Orthodox confer Confirmation and First Communion along with the Baptism of infants. I see no problem with that. The stress is on the objective efficacy of grace, not the subject's choice to "receive Christ," as important as that may be in other contexts.

Re #2, at the only group Confirmation of Catholic teens I've ever witnessed, I was reminded of Evangelical Protestant "confirmation," "dedication," or "commitment" services, where each individual came forward and stated his or her reasons for wanting to embrace the Christian life. It was all quite well-intended, I'm sure, but it came off as pretty perfunctory and lame. The kids speeches were canned, and they sounded embarrassed. I was embarrassed for them.

Of course, none of this parade of quasi-Protestant "testimonies" is essential to the sacrament of Confirmation. But my question would be: why reserve it until the teen years at all? Why not move it up to a much younger age, as Pope St. Pius X, I think, moved up First Communion to allow children to receive quite early?

I'm not saying there couldn't be good reasons for the current practice. If there are, I simply don't know them and would be happy to receive instruction in the matter.

Ralph Roister-Doister said...

It is common these days to refer to Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Eucharist as the three sacraments of initiation, and to imply that they are more important than the others, in so far as on these three, as one apologist writes, “the rest of our life as a Christian depends." One cannot deny the uniqueness and primacy of baptism, and I doubt that any genuinely Catholic priest or theologian ever has. But in speaking of Confirmation and Holy Communion, it is both inaccurate and dangerous to exclude from the conversation the importance of Confession – upon which, without question, the rest of our lives as CATHOLIC Christians depend. But few Catholics speak of confession these days, because, for a variety of political and ecumenical reasons, they do not wish to pay serious attention to the teaching of their Church on the need of man for sacramental forgiveness. I believe this to be an incredible dereliction on their part. In light of it, the shuffling of the order of initiatory sacraments is an exercise in fruitlessness.

Ralph Roister-Doister said...

I don’t think that the sacrament of Confirmation and the various protestant corruptions of it differ greatly on the point of offering witness. I suspect that the difference consists in that for protestants the entire event is a symbolic gesture to the gathered folks, whereas the Catholic sacrament offers real graces and a real stage of initiation to the Mystical Body. I too am open to instruction on this point, but I hope I am not too far off the mark.

I would not object even to the Eastern Orthodox way. I do not see the timing of the sacraments of initiation as a major concern. What concerns me is (a) the entrusting of such decisions to middle managers at the diocesan level, ensuring haphazard understandings of the significance of these sacraments, and – most importantly -- (b) a deliberate devaluation of the sacrament of confession, for insipid political and ecumenical reasons such as I have mentioned previously.

I also resent tinkering for the sake of tinkering. If a sacrament can be freely tinkered with from one diocese to the next, then it is difficult to make the case for a sacrament's sacred nature. Some bishops have decreed that children receive the sacrament of Holy Eucharist before making their first confession, which is devilishly counterintuitive, to say the least. Some experiment with the order of Confirmation and Holy Eucharist.

To put it crudely: there ought to be a single approach, and all of these collegial middle managers ought to be made to toe the line. These guys ain't half the geniuses they tend to think they are.

Pertinacious Papist said...


I couldn't agree more. Appreciate the additional clarifications. Thanks.

Clayton Orr said...

Ralph, I think you are totally wrong. A bishop is not a "middle manager" any more than the pope is a CEO. They are the source of sacramental life in their dioceses, and therefore it is entirely appropriate for him to make serious decisions about the administration of Sacraments in his diocese. Secondly, the implication that the re-ordering is somehow "new" is ridiculous, as the very elderly in this country could tell you. Bishops used to confirm whoever was ready when he came to town, whether they had all received first communion or not.