Monday, February 19, 2018

Reactions To Yesterday's Post

I've had a great deal of reaction to the news in yesterday's post. First, my wife asked, in reference to my view (and the view of at least one visitor) that Fr Phillips is behind the Church Militant "archbishop punishes children" story, "What purpose could Fr Phillips serve by leaking to Church Militant?" I think he's out for revenge against Abp Garcia-Siller, pure and simple. The archbishop ended his career, however one might interpret the face-saving "Pastor Emeritus" role he now has. Not many people other than Mr Voris take him seriously now, after all, and I'm still mooting whether I should tell Mr Voris about Dcn Orr, whether Voris listens or not.

This does raise an overall policy question. A visitor pointed out that, while Abp Garcia-Siller was still the OLA ordinary, he did in fact confirm children at the parish and school at age seven. Clearly there's been a change in the archbishop's policy regarding the parish. This says relations between the archdiocese and the OCSP are not as good as they might be. As the same visitor noted earlier, Fr Phillips's series of leaks to Church Militant -- and let's not forget that those leaks apparently include photos; they're practically press releases -- are not helping matters. Bp Lopes needs to address this, not least because of the impression it almost certainly gives Bp Lopes's colleagues, that allowing an OCSP community in their territories opens the door to this sort of disruption for them as well.

Two other visitors make a different point. One says,

It seems that if Fr. Lewis was informed of Abp. Garcia-Siller’s stance in October, the children and their parents could have had their expectations set accordingly, avoiding the need for a letter which unnecessarily bares a sense of contention between the dioceses. Second, I’ve never heard of confirmation as early as seven. But I believe waiting for high school is too late. Twelve should be the age and I thought that was what the OCSP was aiming for.
My tentative view continues to be that what the OCSP was aiming for at the school was giving the kids the final rites of initiation early to beat out the archdiocese and thus count the kids and their families as OCSP members, purely for the purpose of reporting a better number to the CDF. But a different visitor in passing suggests this may not be in accordance with canon law:
I had heard about the controversy at OLA regarding the sacraments of initiation and remembered this was known to Fr. Phillips & Company when the excardination and incardination of the parish took place. This is not necessarily the result of Archdiocesan capriciousness the people of OLA want to pretend. I read the letter on your blog from Fr. Lewis and it conspicuously states that the issue discussed with Archbishop Gustavo was for Confirmation (not Holy Communion), however at OLA and the Atonement Academy, the tradition is to administer First Communion and Confirmation concurrently in the same Mass when the children are in the second or third grade. The Archdiocese sees High School age as more appropriate for Confirmation and that is the rule in the diocese. First Communion and Confirmation are different animals in the eyes of the Church. They are different but are tied inexorably with the sacrament of Baptism as Rites of Initiation into the Catholic Church. The Church where you begin your Rites of Initiation are where you must normally complete them unless you formally transfer into another Rite. So in this case, people who are baptized in the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church should receive the rest of their initiation sacraments in the Latin Rite unless they formally request transfer into another Rite (i.e. the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter).
My best understanding is that Anglicanorum coetibus does not create a new rite, and the ordinariates are still in the Latin rite, though someone may be able to correct or clarify this. But in that case, the parental consent mentioned below may not be needed. The visitor continues,
The children in question have all been baptized in the Latin Church and as minors are not eligible to transfer into the Ordinariate unless their parents also formally transfer into the Ordinariate and declare their children be transferred. That is canon law and the Archbishop cannot make an exception about their membership status in any Rite. (here is the link, read the whole page, the pertinent parts are in the beginning and towards the end). What is happening is a situation where lots of people seem to want to have their cake and eat it too. The parents of the Latin Rite kids want the ease of the school providing the sacraments but they don’t want to join the Ordinariate or leave their home parishes. The clergy of the Ordinariate want the Archbishop to make exceptions for their flock that he does not even make for his own sheep, all the while painting the Archbishop as the new-age antichrist (OK, maybe that’s a little too strong but some might actually agree…) This whole thing is a sad little mess. It makes me want to shake my head while exclaiming, “Really?”

It should be incumbent on the parents sending their children to the Atonement Academy to understand these differences when they enroll their kids. It should be incumbent on the faculty and clergy at OLA to be honest about these impediments BEFORE they cash those enrollment checks. Really.

As you can see, this really chaps my hide.

I do get the impression that the OCSP and the Atonement Academy aren't making some of these issues clear, and they apparently feel it's to their benefit not to clarify them. Regarding the wider issue of age of confirmation, a visitor points out,
The Orthodox view holds that confirmation, also called “chrismation,” is an integral part of baptism, so a priest who baptizes a child confirms the child at the same time, and I believe that some of the sui juris ritual churches also adhere to this practice. I’m not aware of advocates of that practice within the Roman Catholic Church, but canon law does require a priest who ministers to a child in extremis who has not reached the age of reason to confirm that child.

Many sacramental theologians advocate that the sacraments of initiation should occur in the proper order — baptism, confirmation, and first communion — for those baptized as infants as well as for those baptized through the RCIA. Generally, this means that those baptized as infants receive confirmation and first communion at the same mass, usually at the age of seven.

Many pastoral theologians, on the other hand, advocate that confirmation should be a time when those baptized as infants embrace Christian faith as their own and take on full responsibility to live as adult Christians, reflecting Protestant practice rooted in a radically different theology of the act. There unquestionably is a need for those baptized as infants to make this commitment of faith, but the question is whether it should be tied to confirmation.

The relevant provision of the Codex Juris Canonici (Code of Canon Law) is Canon 891, which gives the conference of bishops the authority to make the decision for each country.

Can. 891 The sacrament of confirmation is to be conferred on the faithful at about the age of discretion unless the conference of bishops has determined another age, or there is danger of death, or in the judgment of the minister a grave cause suggests otherwise.

The bishops of the United States have been divided between the second and third of these viewpoints for decades, and have yet to reach the 2/3 majority required to set a specific age. Thus, years ago, the former National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB) compromised on a decree stating that confirmation of those baptized as infants should occur at an age of seven and sixteen years, to be further determined by the diocesan bishop — thus delegating to each bishop the right to regulate the age of confirmation in his own diocese. The Vatican has not been pleased with this and has been pressuring the present United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), but the most recent effort reached the same impasse, again resolved with a decree with different wording but similar effect that the Vatican ratified ad experimentum, undoubtedly out of frustration, for five years. Since the ordinary of an ordinariate is canonically equivalent to a diocesan bishop, he has the same authority to make that determination for his ordinariate.

This status quo obviously creates some issues when children who have domicile in one diocese go to a Catholic school or to catechetical classes at a parish in another diocese that has a lower age for confirmation than the diocese in which they reside. In such cases, their own pastor normally must give consent for their confirmation in another place — but such consent is rarely withheld if the pastor overseeing their formation states in writing that they have completed the required formation satisfactorily. I’m also aware of instances in which the abbots of a Benedictine abbeys that run boarding schools confirmed all of the students in the school — and this is legitimate because the canonical authority of the major superior of a religious order extends to “all who remain day and night in the houses of the order” (including resident students, retreatants, and sometimes lay staff) even if they are not members of the order.

The issues posed by children from diocesan parishes receiving religious instruction in an ordinariate congregation or school is no different from that posed by the above situations. Normally, the children’s proper pastors would give permission for their confirmations and the confirmations would then be deemed to occur within the jurisdiction of their diocese rather than within the jurisdiction of the ordinariate, even though celebrated within the ordinariate’s parish church and administered by the ordinary — and the diocesan bishop and his pastors would have no fear of losing parishioners to the ordinariate. Canons 111 and 112 suggest that a child who is fourteen years or older could freely choose to be confirmed in the jurisdiction of the ordinariate, and then join it, but a seven-year-old would not meet that qualification.

Now, do you want to know the real royal pastoral headache? In my archdiocese, like many others, our archbishop has decided to confirm those baptized in the Catholic Church as infants when they are in tenth grade. However…

  1. The Catholic sacramental rites explicitly require that baptism of children of catechetical age occur via the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, adapted to their age. There’s provision to celebrate the sacraments of initiation at a time other than the Easter Vigil in this situation, but there is no provision to baptize children of catechetical age without confirming them and admitting them to communion at the same service.
  2. The Rite of Reception of Baptized Christians into the Full Communion of the Catholic Church requires confirmation of children of catechetical age and admission to communion at the time of reception unless the candidate is already validly confirmed — and there is no provision whatsoever to receive baptized children who have not yet reached catechetical age into the full communion of the Catholic Church.
A couple decades ago, a friend who was (and still is) the “Administrator” of a small parish discovered that one of the girls in the parish’s “first communion” class had not been baptized. He indicated that he was planning to baptize her, so I pointed out to him that there was no provision to do so apart from the RCIA. His look of disbelief was priceless, but he also knew me well enough to decide that he better check with the chancery — where he got exactly the same answer. When I saw him a week later, he had the RCIA [book] out and was shaking his head saying that, in his view, she was not ready for confirmation.

But, when she completed the RCIA, how do you explain to the other parents why she is confirmed at the age of, say, eight or nine and their children have to wait to the age of sixteen for confirmation? Or, for that matter, how do you explain to the same parents why a peer who was baptized in another denomination is confirmed upon reception into full communion at the age of eight or nine, but their children have to wait until the age of sixteen for confirmation?

Among other things, this explains why, in our parish, there are adolescent kids in the current RCIA class!