Dissent, disposition, and Confirmation

A furor has erupted over the past week over the sacrament of confirmation and a confirmand’s worthiness to receive the sacrament. According to a number of print and internet sources,[1] the pastor of a teenaged Minnesota confirmand, Lennon Cihak, has denied the sacrament to the young man. Previously, Cihak defaced an anti-same-sex-marriage referendum yard sign to demonstrate his support of same-sex-marriage. Cihak also distributed a photo of the sign on Facebook to the overwhelming approval of his fellow confirmands (none of whom were similarly reprimanded). The pastor of his parish, Rev. Gary LaMoine, has not only refused Cihak the sacrament of confirmation, but has also placed his entire family under an interdict by denying the entire family the Eucharist.

Dr. Ed Peters, the noted canonist, contends on his blog In Light of the Law [”Confirmation and advocacy of ‘gay marriage’”, 16 November 2012]
that “proper disposition”, and not just internal assent or resolve, is necessary for a licit[2] confirmation. Dr. Peters writes, basing his opinion on Canon 889 § 2, writes,

Generally “proper disposition” is not a question of internal disposition (such as interior faith, fervor, or grace) but rather of external disposition (public demeanor, dress, and conduct). The state of a would-be recipient’s soul is not determinable, of course, but his or her attitudes and conduct are observable (we’re talking Facebook, no?), and potentially actionable. If a pastor, charged with the custody and celebration of the sacraments left to the Church by Christ, has solid reason to doubt the liceity of his conferral of a sacrament on a given individual, he is within his authority to delay, or even to deny, that sacrament for so long as that sad situation lasts. His decision is, of course, reviewable by ecclesiastical authority (not by the media) and such authority (with access to all the facts) might reach a different conclusion. But one starts any review with the above canons clearly in mind.

It’s not difficult to see the complications of Dr. Peter’s understanding of “proper disposition” for an assembly and for liturgy. For example, could a priest place a person under an eucharistic interdict for having a bumper sticker on her car which supports a recently re-elected center-left president whose policies often do not align with the policies of some bishops? “External disposition” then, is not only a subjective metric but also a way for clergy to control the thoughts and opinions of their parishioners. As Cihak has experienced, the mere challenge of a priest’s political position can spur many ramifications. One should ask: will the pastor’s decisions rend the Body of the assembly, or strengthen the assembly by protecting a putative orthodoxy or orthopraxis?

At the outset, I must state that I have no training as a canonist. I will read
canons as a philologist, as if only for the internal logic of the canon and not its sociocultural or religious import. Granted, this separation is not truly possible. Nevertheless, I will make a worthy attempt. All English translations are mine unless otherwise noted; please criticize my translations!

The question: are clergy, both priests and bishops, able to bar certain persons from the sacrament of confirmation based on “external disposition”?

Consider canon 889 §2, under the heading CAPUT III: DE CONFIRMANDIS (“Chapter 3: About Confirmands”)

889 § 2. Extra periculum mortis, ut quis licite confirmationem recipiat, requiritur, si rationis usu polleat, ut sit apte institutus, rite dispositus et promissiones baptismales renovare valeat.

889 § 2. “Outside of the danger of death, that any person might receive confirmation validly, it is necessary if a person exercises the use of reason that she should have been prepared correctly [and] solemnly disposed, and able to renew baptismal promises.” [my addition]

My translation is necessarily stilted in order to demonstrate the use of the subjunctive for conditionality. Note that rite dispositus belongs with ut sit apte institutus and not promissiones baptismales renovare valeatdispositus is actually dispositus sit. A comma is missing between dispositus and et.

Here is the polished Vatican English translation for comparison.

889 §2. “To receive confirmation licitly outside the danger of death requires that a person who has the use of reason be suitably instructed, properly disposed, and able to renew the baptismal promises.”

I have translated the rite in rite dispositus as “solemnly”; the Vatican English translators chose “properly”. Neither choice illustrates the obligations of preparation for the sacrament well.

Tertullian, ad uxorem 3.1 offers one example of rite in a moral and sacramental theological context.

3.1 – Haec cum ita sint, fideles gentilium matrimonia subeuntes stupri reos esse constat et arcendos ab omni communicatione fraternitatis, ex litteris Apostoli dicentis, cum ejusmodi nec cibum sumendum aut numquid tabulas nuptiales de illo apud tribunal Domini proferemus? et matrimonium rite contractum allegabimus? quod vetuit ipse, non adulterium est? [3]

3.1 – “Things as they are, all agree that the faithful who partake of pagan nuptials are guilty of fornication and should be shielded from all communication within the community nor food shared with such persons, as stated per the letters of the Apostle. In fact, could we bring forth marriage licenses on that day before the tribunal of the Lord? Will we allege that we have contracted marriage rite? That which one forbids is not adultery?”

I have intentionally left rite untranslated so that the reader of this essay might consider the word in context. I would propose that rite connotes activities related to ritual preparation, and not actions denoting political or ideological views not connected to either the theology or ritual performance of a sacrament or liturgy. Tertullian would likely agree that one could easily prepare herself for the ritual performance of either a pagan or Christian wedding. Preparation, in that case, would include conformity to external ritual. The espousal of a pro-same-sex-marriage bears no relationship with preparation for ritual performance. In other words, it is unlikely that Cihak would have carried the sign with him in procession with his confirmation class to the sanctuary. Even if he did, the sign would not have been pertinent to the ritual.

Instead, rite in a Tertullian context suggests that the internal disposition for Christian marriage as well as external ritual preparation are inseparable. Certainly, God will see all of our deeds, both implicit and explicit, thought and external deed, at judgment. I agree with Dr. Peters that both intention and comportment should be considered when advancing a confirmand to the sacrament, but disagree that the internal and external dispositions can be separated or discerned individually.

I also disagree with Dr. Peter’s very broad definition of rite or “properly”. Canon 889 §2 provides no context for the interpretation of rite. I have chosen “solemnly” instead of “properly”, as I consider rite to refer specifically to ritual performance and not political sentiment or other activities outside of the sacramental ritual and preparation for this ritual. In the case of the aforementioned Tertullian excerpt, rite means “proper” in the sense of the liceity of the Christian sacrament and illicit nature of the pagan sacrament. rite applies to preparation within the Christian and pagan ritual spheres, and not a second or third century Christian’s purchase of lentils at a town bazaar. Because of the secular nature of his sign defacement, I would argue that Cihak’s rather moderate demonstration in favor of same-sex-marriage should not have impeded his progress to confirmation. His intentional lawn sign deformation does not oppose preparation for the confirmation ritual, but rather challenges a social question not directly pertinent to the sacramental theology or
liturgical theology of confirmation.

[1] Erik Burgess, “Barnesville teen denied Catholic confirmation after Facebook post supporting gay marriage”, INFORUM: the Forum of Fargo-Morehead14 November 2012; c.f. “Minn. gay-marriage supporter denied confirmation” (AP)San Francisco Chronicle, 15 November 2012); [both sources courtesy Thomas Peters, “Was the Pro-Gay Marriage 17-Year-Old Denied Confirmation For “Not Being 100% Catholic”? [Updated x2], American Papist, 14 November 2012]

[2] I have replaced the word “valid” with “illicit” in order to reflect Dr. Ed Peter’s blog post. I have done this at the suggestion of Sam Howard. see Samuel J. Howard, November 19, 2012 (1:36 pm), comment on Jordan Zarembo, “Dissent, disposition, and Confirmation”, Pray Tell Blog, November 19, 2012, http://www.praytellblog.com/index.php/2012/11/19/dissent-disposition-and-confirmation/

[3] Tertullian. ad uxorem 3.1 Patrologia Latina, [Col.1292C]. Accessed 19 November 2012.

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39 comments

  1. Jordan – another viewpoint and interpretation via canon law:

    http://www.americamagazine.org/blog/entry.cfm?blog_id=2&entry_id=5499

    Relevant sections:

    – The canon law of the Church says that good Catholics ( Lennon went to weekly mass and did volunteer work as part of his confirmation preparation) should have access to communion and the other sacraments ( indeed, they have a right to them), provided they have not committed a mortal sin or are under excommunication or an ecclesiastical censure and, also, that they accept the real presence of Jesus in the eucharist ( cf. canon # 905).

    – The point in canon law on this is that canon law assumes that in cases of any kind of punitive penalty, the interpretation of a claimed wrong-doing must be ‘ strictly’ ( i.e., very narrowly) interpreted before any penalties are imposed. That did not happen in this Minnesota case. The second irony is that in a different Minnesota diocese, Duluth, Father Peter Lambert of Saint Louis parish in Floodwood gave $1,000 to oppose the amendment the Minnesota bishops were supporting. He did not know that this act would become public. When it did become public, he suffered no reprimand from his bishop.

    End with:

    Code of canon law # 212 states that Catholics ( including the laity)” have the right and, sometimes, the duty to give to their sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful.” It is to that canon I appeal in saying that the new slippery slope by which bishops and others declare, on their own mistaken ‘claimed authority’, things to be mortal sins, introduce loyalty oaths into parish life and talk about a more widespread refusing of communion is doing serious pastoral harm in the church. It is time for our canon lawyers ( and is it too much to hope: some of our, alas too silent, fellow bishops?) to remind them that they are brazenly overstepping their pastoral authority and doing harm to the church on many of these issues.”

    Note commenters in this link:
    One quotes from the pastor’s letter read at the parish this week-end in which he states that the 17 yr. old decided not to be confirmed and that he had met with the family on occasions because of his concerns. They made the decisions and choices that resulted in these *public* outcomes. Who knows what the truth is in terms of chronology, timeline, events happening, etc.

    1. @Bill deHaas – comment #1:

      Thanks Bill for bringing up the America article. I agree with you that the current trend towards imposing penalties on Catholics merely perceived to be disloyal to certain non-theological or non-dogmatic positions is troubling, to say the least. I also strongly agree with you that the conflation of partisan politics with liturgy and religious instruction is a surefire way to divide parishes and dioceses. I often wonder if my iconoclastic life will result in a “communion denial” somewhere along the line.

      As I’ve noted, I am not a canonist but a religious studies student who is interested in Latin philology. I’ve often found that canon law and English translations of canon law often overlook certain semantic nuances. I’ll admit that my essay is not directly related to the canonical argument. I will contend, however, that the application of canon law might not always be rooted in patristics and a broader theological heritage.

  2. The pastor’s letter: http://www.kfgo.com/on-air-details.php?ID=1498

    As Bill notes @1, there are facts in dispute as to whether the teen was refused confirmation or freely chose not to be confirmed. But leaving that aside, there’s something very troubling to me at the end of that letter, which hits upon the question posed in the post here:

    It is to my dismay that what should have been kept an internal Church matter has now become a public controversy. To place this controversy into the public forum was the decision of the young man and his family; it was not my intention or the intention of Bishop Hoeppner who was informed about the situation shortly after the young man withdrew from candidacy. . . Agreeing to disagree and leaving it at that is not acceptable to the young man and his family. What this family hopes to gain is beyond my present comprehension.

    I apologize to the parish for the actions of this family. I have personally spent much time talking to them face to face about their unwillingness to accept the teaching of the Church on marriage but to no avail. I can only say that I am willing to continuing the conversation, but not in the public forum. This I will not do.

    For the priest to say this “should have been kept an internal Church matter” seems to miss the confessional aspect of the sacraments. All sacraments are public confessions of faith, both on the part of the candidate and on the part of the church.

    To blame the family for continuing to make their witness, and for denying him and his bishop the privilege of keeping silent compounds the problem. On the one hand, the priest is saying that the candidate’s public statement on a pending ballot proposition is not appropriate for a Catholic; on the other, he wants to keep his statement on the matter out of public sight. So which is it: should people talk publicly or not?

    Finally, though, how can he apologize to his parish for what the family did? He can apologize for his responses to their actions, but not for theirs.

    1. @Peter Rehwaldt – comment #3:
      For the priest to say this “should have been kept an internal Church matter” seems to miss the confessional aspect of the sacraments. All sacraments are public confessions of faith, both on the part of the candidate and on the part of the church.

      I don’t think the priest was speaking against the public, confessional aspect of Confirmation. I think he was saying that a person’s decision to receive or not receive a sacrament is not a public matter, not that the act of reception of a sacrament is not a public matter.

      1. @Jeffrey Pinyan – comment #5:

        I don’t think the priest was speaking against the public, confessional aspect of Confirmation, either. He was engaged in damage control and blame-avoidance.

        If someone wants to talk publicly about their reasons for not receiving the sacrament, who is the priest to say “you shouldn’t talk about that outside the church”? On what possible basis could he say that?

        Because of the size limit of the number of characters in our comments here, I cut out part of the letter’s penultimate paragraph: “The Bishop and I now find ourselves harassed by the media, coming to my door at 9:30 PM last Wednesday for a newspaper interview and being called to give comment on a KFGO radio program. All this activity originated from the young man and his family.”

        In other words, he’s upset that he and the bishop have been asked to comment about it by the media. He’s saying “Why couldn’t these disgruntled people simply kept quiet? Why couldn’t they have kept the dispute within the church? Why are they making a public spectacle out of this? All this attention making me very uncomfortable.”

        I’ll bet it did. It also made the teen rather uncomfortable as well. Difficult questions do that.

        But what is the teen to do, when after he’s gone through almost all of whatever catechetical process was in place, he suddenly isn’t there when the sacrament is given? What does he tell his family, friends, and schoolmates?

        That flies in the face of what this whole thing is about. The question Jordan posed in the post boils down to control and who has it. The priest specifically (via his acts) and the church generally (via canon law) have a justifiable concern about properly representing the faith of the church to the world. But when challenged by a teen to engage the discussion — in public — the priest wants to demur. He’s fine with pastorally engaging the teen in private to examine his faith, but gets upset when the engagement becomes (a) public and (b) with others.

      2. @Peter Rehwaldt – comment #7:
        Peter,

        I am sure you are familiar with the term “media circus.” Publicity can be cruel, disruptive, unfair, and foreclose better outcomes. It does not necessarily do so, but often enough it does harm.

        I think we have to be very careful when assigning someone “victim status” that we don’t move too quickly to the position that it’s fine to “set the dogs” of the media on the pastoral minister regarded as the perpetrator of an injustice. The resulting negative publicity can indeed be a form of bullying, not just inconvenience. Perhaps I am misreading you, but you seem very sure that the pastor deserves whatever he gets. I do not think that’s the proper attitude. Two wrongs never make a right. Justice and pastoral outcomes are not always served by negotiating a conflict in the glare of national publicity.

      3. @Rita Ferrone – comment #22:
        Having been pastor of a church regularly picketed by Fred Phelps, yes, I’m familiar with the term “media circus.” But dealing with publicity – good, bad, and otherwise – is part of being a public minister of the church. In that sense, I am sure that any pastor gets whatever comes his way because of the actions and positions of the church he serves and his own actions as a leader of that church. It comes with the collar.

        And just as publicity can be cruel, disruptive, unfair, and foreclose better outcomes, so can efforts to sweep things aside, under the rug, or quietly out the back door. That’s what I see going on in the priest’s letter, which is what bothers me most about this story. Reread the last paragraph. It doesn’t sound like he’s looking for justice and a pastoral outcome, nor to regain a brother or sister (per Matthew 18), but instead simply obedience and silence.

        Earlier in the letter, he attempts to blame the young man first for causing the problem, and then for making it worse by continuing to talk about it publicly. The priest is the one who claims the status of victim, and he names the source of his victimization: “All this activity originated from the young man and his family.”

        I disagree.

        It originated in a discussion between the priest and the young man and rolled on from there. It took place during a close election campaign over a volatile issue, and the entire state was under the watch of the national media, both secular and religious. Whatever may have transpired between the two – and it’s not at all clear exactly what that was – it is the priest who (a) wants the teaching of the church to be crystal clear, but then (b) doesn’t want to talk about that very same teaching when challenged on it, first by the youth and then by the press.

        This is a story of power (that’s the question posed in the post here) and those with power should not be surprised when people who believe they have been hurt object to its use.

  3. This post from the Women In Theology blog offers some thoughts on the topic – I liked it; I found some good food for thought.

    The entire event seems so tragic to me. I work with roomfuls of teenagers readying themselves for confirmation. When I ask how often they go to mass, this year I have found shockingly low levels. Yet, do we refuse? Or do we teach? Do we gather? Or do we scatter? Do we act with mercy and charity, hospitality? Or with a rule book in hand?

    It is always about the questions for me. And in this case, I have many questions all the way around.

  4. Dr. Ed Peters, the noted canonist, contends on his blog In Light of the Law [”Confirmation and advocacy of ‘gay marriage’”, 16 November 2012] that “proper disposition”, and not just internal assent or resolve, is necessary for a valid confirmation.

    He didn’t write that. He wrote (my emphasis), “Canon 889 § 2 states that to receive Confirmation licitly one must, among other things, be “properly disposed” for the sacrament.”

    It’s not about validity, it’s about licity.

    Having a contrary intention (“I will not receive the sacrament.”) would, for example, prevent one from receiving it at all (as with Baptism, marriage, and Holy Orders), but that’s not what’s being discussed here (except when Dr. Peters references his CLSA article.)

    “External disposition” then, is not only a subjective metric but also a way for clergy to control the thoughts and opinions of their parishioners.

    No, it’s not subjective. He explicitly said that he supported gay marriage (and on his blog he adds that he disagrees with the Church on pre-marital sex, living together before marriage, contraception, and the universal prohibition of abortion.) This is not a subjective thing; proclaining your dissent from Church teaching is gravely sinful. (It may not be mortally sinful if the guilt of the actions is not imputable to him, but that is not something that can be determined externally.)

    I agree with Dr. Peters that both intention and comportment should be considered when advancing a confirmand to the sacrament, but disagree that the internal and external dispositions can be separated or discerned individually.

    Well, OK, but Dr. Peters views reflect the teaching of the Catholic Church and yours don’t on this as on many other subjects. That makes the whole post a bit dog bites man.

    1. @Samuel J. Howard – comment #6:

      Sam: He didn’t write that. He wrote (my emphasis), “Canon 889 § 2 states that to receive Confirmation licitly one must, among other things, be “properly disposed” for the sacrament.”

      It’s not about validity, it’s about licity.

      Thank you Sam for the correction. I have gone back and emended my post with a footnote.

      Sam: This is not a subjective thing; proclaining your dissent from Church teaching is gravely sinful. (It may not be mortally sinful if the guilt of the actions is not imputable to him, but that is not something that can be determined externally.)

      Sam, were you ever seventeen? Or, were you born from a rock as a fully formed adult as was Mithras? I remember my high school years fondly as a time of intellectual exploration and of self-discovery. I certainly did not understand many of the positions I championed then. I’m not exactly sure that any teen has thought out the nth canonical and theological degrees of her positions. All the more reason, then, to confirm teens! The comments of all the participants in this combox painfully illustrate the great peril of holding minors responsible for adult positions they might not fully understand. What happened to Lennon Cihak is nothing less than gross pastoral malpractice.

      Well, OK, but Dr. Peters views reflect the teaching of the Catholic Church and yours don’t on this as on many other subjects. That makes the whole post a bit dog bites man.

      Probably. I am not a canonist or theologian, I am interested in Christian Latin philology. This post was really a two-in-one: thoughts on the pastoral crisis and a philological piece. Dr. Peter’s piece piqued my interest in the meaning of the word rite (“properly”, suitable for ritual, etc.). I included Tertullian to demonstrate the way in which patristic-era authors conceived of rite. I was to include an example from Cicero, but I knew that would bore many PTB to tears or worse. The invitation for you or any reader to tear apart the Latin of canon 889 stands. The canon, and subsequently the questions at hand, do not bear only pastoral import, but wonderful problems of semantics and syntax.

  5. I was confirmed in the 4th grade in 1962 and I don’t recall any grandstanding or dissent amongst us at the time. I recommend Confirmation and First Holy Communion at the same Mass for second graders, should be even less politization of the sacraments by that age group.

    1. @Father Allan J. McDonald – comment #8:
      I’ve found myself thinking the same thought as Fr. Allan – just confirm them where it belongs, before First Communion, doing things in the right order, and the question will be avoided.

      But that’s not a good reason to restore BCE order – it should be about the initiatory nature of the sacraments, not avoiding the fact that lots and lots of young Catholics don’t buy what the Church teaches.

      I still favor confirming and communing in 2nd grade, but avoiding the controversy is merely a side benefit.

      The controversy will eventually come up. In fact, – gear up for it, everybody – I expect the next couple decades to be increasingly painful because this issue will keep on exploding, louder and louder, right before our eyes, and it will tear our Church apart. No avoiding it, as I see.

      Sigh.

      awr

      1. @Anthony Ruff, OSB – comment #9:

        I still favor confirming and communing in 2nd grade

        Forgive a trivial digression, but I was stumped by your parochial definition of the pertinent age range. (I had to look it up. You mean, of course, Year 3. :-)) Age 7-8 might have been the friendlier way of putting it in a forum with international participants.

  6. Aside from our personal beliefs or feelings about the right-ness or wrong-ness of canonical, liturgical, or pastoral actions, everything a person does has consequences. Some of them may be just. Some of those consequences may be unfair, in reality or perception. It’s part of adult life to be aware of potential consequences, and avoid or accept as needed.

    The pastor and the family have each escalated this conflict to something way beyond a parish scuffle. It all strikes me as very pyrrhic. And it all has consequences in the larger Church, mostly negative. That is the realm for a bishop’s leadership: unity and reconciliation.

  7. I now personally know 2 young people (with parents in agreement) who have chosen not to be confirmed because of the opposition to marriage equality (a decision they’d reached before this current situation was made known in the papers); a few RCIA directors I know have told me of people (both unbaptized and baptized) dropping out of the program because of the same thing. As others have noted, integration of the initiatory sacraments – either in childhood or in adulthood – would have, as a side benefit, the avoidance of these matters.
    In the one instance where my counsel was sought, I felt compelled to point out that while the Roman rite had no place for this point of view, there are places in the Church, the Body of Christ, where those who support marriage equality will be joyfully welcomed.

    1. @Alan Hommerding – comment #11:
      I can relate to the picture you paint.

      I was confirmed in the mid-70s, in the midst of a vicious theological battle that divided the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. At the national level, a seminary president was ousted, as were seminary and college faculty members, and efforts were made to remove several district presidents (the LCMS counterparts to bishops). The fight boiled down to two principal issues: how to read scripture and who gets to decide. The conservative majority viewed the moderates’ use of such tools as the historical-critical method of biblical interpretation to be improper, and they used (and at times misused) various procedures to enforce their will on the moderates.

      Some of those faculty members who were hounded from their positions were my uncles and others were family friends, so this often talked about in our family. When I was ready for confirmation instruction, my family and I faced a dilemma. We lived in a college town (my parents were grad students at the time) and attended worship at the Lutheran Student Center, but since this campus ministry was not structured as a congregation, our membership resided with the local congregation led by a very conservative pastor.

      As was expected of all young people in that congregation, I signed up for confirmation instruction, but after the first session, I told my folks that if angry legalistic fingerwagging was what confirmation was about, I’m not going. They completely understood and approached the campus pastor for advice. He told them that he had been contacted by the parents of four others with the same complaint, and had agreed to teach us.

      Because of the larger conflict, we ended up learning about historical criticism, JEDP and the pentateuch, and authority in the history of the church. Only when I got to college and seminary myself did I realize how different my confirmation instruction was, because of the battles raging around me.

  8. Pace Fr Ruff, I don’t expect this to be a bang, but a whimper. Confirmation has been a sacrament searching for a place for a century. For many parishes, it’s was the most eminent carrot that kept kids in CCD.

    In the future, not so much. Small Church, Getting Smaller. Even when I was confirmed in the early 1970s, there were kids whose families did not participate; that has only increased as decades have rolled on.

    I am curious how late this parish/diocese tends to administer the sacrament, given the age of the young man here. One might argue against the cohort-by-cohort approach that has long dominated US praxis, in favor of an individual approach, but I don’t know if the latter was really involved here.

    As for me, the longer I live the more I see the better wisdom in the Eastern practice of administering all the sacraments of initiation at baptism. It’s a prudential judgment about which reasonable people may differ, but I am more persuaded by that tradition over what has prevailed in US Roman Catholic practice.

    1. @Karl Liam Saur – comment #13:
      Karl Liam,

      Thanks for your comment, and I think you’re probably right that it will be more of a whimper than a bang.

      Not to be too irenic, but maybe it will be both. Lots of little poofs and minor explosions here and there, but mostly people quietly walking away as the Great Shrinkage proceeds apace.

      I don’t know which is worse, the peace of quiet but steady decline, or the confrontation that forces the question and maybe provokes some answers.

      awr


  9. Give them the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
    the spirit of right judgment and courage,
    the spirit of knowledge and reverence.
    Fill them with the spirit of wonder and awe in your presence.

    This prayer from the Confirmation rite seems perfect for Lennon. Should we only pray it over those who do not need it?

  10. Here’s an example of the use of “licite” from another source, this is a rubric from the Rituale Romano-Seraphicum Ordinis Minorum, editio tertia (Rome: Schola Typographica “Pax et Bonum”, 1955). It’s found in the Appendix (because it’s the book of a group of religious, not secular clergy), Caput II, De Sacramento Confirmationis, Articulus I, De Sacramento Confirmationis Rite Administrando:

    9. Aquis Baptismi non ablutus valide confirmari nequit; praeterea, ut quis licite et fructuose confirmetur, debet esse in statu gratiae constitutus et, si usu rationis polleat, sufficienter instructus. … [The remainder of 9 is about what to do if someone is critically ill and if they recover after being confirmed.]

    I don’t have a regular Roman Ritual handy, but it looks like it matches the text in Weller’s translation:

    One who is not yet baptized cannot be confirmed validly. Besides, one must be in the state of grace in order to receive confirmation licitly and with spiritual profit. If the recipient has the use of reason, he should be properly instructed.

    A similar rubric is found in the Introduction to the Rite of Confirmation (DOL 2521):

    “12. Persons who are to receive confirmation must have already received baptism. Moreover, those possessing the use of reason must be in the state of grace, properly instructed, and capable of renewing the baptismal promises. …”

  11. On the whole a canon law shows charity when a canon is used in balance with other canons within the context of a community of Christians in union with the Archbishop of Rome. Thus canon law is a tool and as such it can not then be the delimiter of questions pertaining to Christian life.

    Pastoral praxis is much more than canon law. To whit the scandal of episcopal secrecy subsequent to the sexual abuse of children and molestation of young people by clerics. That is, even the exercise of the appropriate canons related to this issue and particular to the regional church in the USA is is proven insufficient for the pastoral task of punishing bishops, and healing communities and persons.

    Additionally, canon law is not written with a focus on growing children and developing young people. Rather it is written with expectations for mature adults with well formed consciences. In this regard, canon law is a flawed tool in dealing with children and young people.

    In the end, were the aforementioned event to become the norm, then the only ones allowed to receive any sacrament will be only those with well formed consciences; should there be any.

    Fortunately, confirmation is only necessary for those who seek the clerical state; somewhere in canon law this is written.

  12. Perhaps many readers people wish to avoid the discussion of a huge and looming conflict which this particular crisis represents. Yet, I must speak on this point. The time has come when, sadly, some clergy will try to leverage the private lives of parishoners against the administration of sacraments.

    The way in which the marriage equality question has played out in some dioceses is merely a proxy front for a theology and religious culture which would rather ignore issues of sexual identity. Certainly, both the feigned ignorance and hostility of some clergy and laypersons will not ameliorate the problem but simply magnify its destructive capability. Even so, I believe that we are beginning to see a point where persons who do not fit an idealized metric of “Catholic behavior”, and especially for reasons of personal conscience, will be forced from assemblies. Where have you gone, “Come follow me?”

    I do not know the sexual orientations of the confirmand, the pastor, or indeed any person involved. This information is not relevant and should never be relevant for any sacrament. Also, while it is inappropriate to demand personal information from any person, it is doubly so for young adults. And yet, I suspect that some clergy will trample over privacy in order to assure “orthodoxy”, even when their questions are not necessary and moreover require no answers.

    The “smaller church” will resemble Pravda more than the Pauline epistles. No more the possibility of a radical reshaping of social order to usher in the Body of Christ; rather, an order will be cemented which values party credentials more than pilgrimage.

  13. Even so, I believe that we are beginning to see a point where persons who do not fit an idealized metric of “Catholic behavior”, and especially for reasons of personal conscience, will be forced from assemblies. Where have you gone, “Come follow me?”

    It was ever so. “Come follow me” but also “On hearing it, many of his disciples said, ‘This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?’ … From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.”

    The time has come when, sadly, some clergy will try to leverage the private lives of parishoners against the administration of sacraments.

    Perhaps, but not in this case. There seems to be more than enough to discuss about this particular case.

    The “smaller church” will resemble Pravda more than the Pauline epistles. No more the possibility of a radical reshaping of social order to usher in the Body of Christ; rather, an order will be cemented which values party credentials more than pilgrimage.

    It’s not radical reshaping for its own sake. If something about society is ordered to reflect the Christian ideal that thing should not be changed, even if society as a whole needs reshaping. In reality, opposition to gay marriage, extramarital sex, etc. stands against the current movement of social mores if not the current balance of opinion. The orthodox teaching of the Church is not a “party credential”.

    1. @Samuel J. Howard – comment #19:
      But citing the “hard saying… who can accept it” raises the question of the correct understanding of “follow me.” The magisterium doesn’t have a monopoly (or a 100% track record) on getting that right. Neither does SJH. Nor AWR.

      The magisterium has defended slavery (and also condemned it), condemned religious liberty (and also supported it), and so forth. I suppose one could have said to those 19th century Italian Catholics who voted in elections, back when the Pope forebade them to because he condemned elected democracy and wanted the Papal States back, “Follow me,” and those who defied the Pope turned their back and no longer followed Jesus. I suppose every time Catholics have gone against the hierarchy, where it later turned out that the hierarchy was wrong, one could have said initially that those Catholics were failing to follow Jesus.

      I’m not claiming that the magisterium is wrong on homosexuality, nor claiming to know that the magisterium will change its position someday. Like Archbishop Nichols when asked whether Church teaching on homosexuality will ever change, I would say “I don’t know.”

      The point is: not every “hard saying” from the magisterium is correct just because it’s “hard” and just because some people walk away from it. It could be that. Or it could be another case where the magisterium was both “hard” and wrong.

      awr

      1. @Anthony Ruff, OSB – comment #20:
        The point is: not every “hard saying” from the magisterium is correct just because it’s “hard” and just because some people walk away from it. It could be that. Or it could be another case where the magisterium was both “hard” and wrong.

        Well, of course, not every hard saying is correct just because it’s hard. But it’s not wrong just because it’s hard either, and its not wrong just because it’s unpopular, and it’s not wrong just because some people choose to leave the Church over it.

        But when someone says, “we are beginning to see a point where persons who do not fit an idealized metric of ‘Catholic behavior’, and especially for reasons of personal conscience, will be forced from assemblies” we have to point out that it was always so. That there may be some particular case in which this happened in response to false teaching by Church leaders doesn’t mean that every case where people leave is the fault of false teaching or that particular modern cases are the result of such false teaching that will later be repudiated.

  14. I have translated the rite in rite dispositus as “solemnly”; the Vatican English translators chose “properly”.

    This seems entirely unfounded. “Rite dispositus” is commonly translated “properly disposed” for instance in the 1967 Ecumenical Directory:

    Qui accessus permitti potest in periculo mortis vel in urgente necessitate (in persecutione, in carceribus), si frater seiunctus ad suae Communionis ministrum accedere non potest et sponte sua a sacerdote catholico sacramenta postulat, dummodo fidem consentaneam fidei Ecclesiae quoad haec sacramenta exprimat et rite dispositus sit”

    Or the Code of Canon Law of the Eastern Churches Canon 721§1. There’s also a stack of moral theology textbooks apparently using it that way, including St. Alphonsus.

    Canon 785 §1 of the “old” Code of Canon Law says “Episcopus obligatione tenetur sacramentum hoc subditis rite et rationabiliter petentibus conferendi, praesertim tempore visitationis diocesis.” Here, discussing the duty of bishops to administer confirmation, “solemnly” doesn’t work… Charles Augustine in his A Commentary On the New Code of Canon Law, Vol. 4, renders it, “Every bishop is in duty bound to administer this Sacrament to those of his subjects who becomingly and reasonably ask for it, especially at the time of the canonical visitation.”

    Here’s a related one, that’s not verbatim from the1983 Code:Can. 844 §4. Si adsit periculum mortis aut, iudicio Episcopi dioecesani aut Episcoporum conferentiae, alia urgeat gravis necessitas, ministri catholici licite eadem sacramenta administrant ceteris quoque christianis plenam communionem cum Ecclesia non habentibus, qui ad suae communitatis ministrum accedere nequeant atque sponte id petant, dummodo quoad eadem sacramenta fidem catholicam manifestent et rite sint dispositi.”

    This widely used moral theology concept of “rite dispositus” is clearly not limited to “conformity to external ritual.”

  15. Charles Jordan : Fortunately, confirmation is only necessary for those who seek the clerical state; somewhere in canon law this is written.

    As a point of information, Confirmation is also necessary for those who wish to receive the sacrament of marriage.

    1. @Paul Inwood – comment #26:

      Not quite that simple (emphasis in the following is mine):

      Catholics who have not yet received the sacrament of confirmation are to receive it before being admitted to marriage, if this can be done without grave inconvenience. (Can. 1065, §1)

      Compare with:

      Only one who has received the sacrament of sacred confirmation may lawfully be promoted to orders. (Can. 1033)

      So the validity or licitness of marriage doesn’t depend on having received confirmation in the same way that it does for the licitness of holy orders. And it is worth noting that, for the purposes of validity, the only sacrament canon law requires as an absolute prerequisite for holy orders is baptism (cf. can. 1024) – at least as far as I understand it… not being a canon lawyer I’m obviously open to correction on this! 🙂

      1. @Matthew Hazell – comment #29:
        Indeed, someone who has been admitted to the catechumenate but not yet been baptized can also be marriage in the Catholic rite (though maybe it only get’s considered a sacrament retroactively, once the catechumen is baptized — I find the theology on these matters puzzling).

      2. @Fritz Bauerschmidt – comment #31:
        Also a Catholic who marries a non-baptized person has a valid marriage in the Church that is simply a “bond” but not a sacrament and the ritual for these nuptials nowhere indicates that the marriage is a sacrament. But I too have been puzzled about just exactly when does that kind of marriage become sacramental when the non-baptized spouse is baptized. At the time of the baptism? At the time of a “consummation” after baptism? Anyone know?

    2. @Paul Inwood – comment #27:
      Thank you for the observation.
      The appropriate canon (1065) states that the reception of confirmation is expected before marriage if there is no serious inconvenience. The commentary states that confirmation is not necessary for the sacrament of marriage to be valid.

      If this were not so, many couples will not have received the sacrament of marriage in a timely manner. Even in the USA early bishops while riding circuit could not have confirmed everyone prior to their marriage.

  16. Jordan, you asked for comments on your translation, so I offer these with respect and appreciation for what you are doing here. I have little sympathy for the priest’s acting as he did, even less so for the young man who seems to have made it into an Internet scandal. But the passage from Tertullian isn’t useful to make the case.

    It looks like there are errors in the Latin text and in the translation – and, most important, in the context for the passage. It is from Book II of Ad uxorem, §3.1, where he has just argued for a very strict reading of 1 Cor 7.12-14. Tertullian explains why he thinks that a Christian who marries an unbelieving wife commits adultery. And then we come to the passage you cite:

    If what I have just argued is so [haec si ita sunt] it is certain that believers contracting marriages with Gentiles are guilty of fornication and are to be excluded from all communication with the brotherhood. This accords with the letter of the apostle, who says that “you must not even eat with persons of that kind.” [1 Cor 5.11]

    Now, shall we “in that day” produce our marriage certificates before the Lord’s tribunal, and allege that a marriage such as he himself has forbidden has been duly [rite] contracted?  Is such a marriage not adultery? Is it not fornication? … In hurting this flesh of ours, therefore, we hurt the Lord directly.  …  For, to the extent that we had the ability to avoid it, such a sin is burdened with the charge of contumacy.

    If I read him correctly, he is saying that the marriage must be not only rite in civil law, but also in divine law, or it is adulterous. The commentator in Migne seems to agree: even though such a marriage may be legal, it is worse than adultery [turpius quam adultera].

    I think Tertullian is entirely wrong here, as I think the priest was wrong to exclude the teenager from Confirmation. But I would guess Tertullian would weigh in on the side of the priest.

    1. @Jonathan Day – comment #28:

      I value your criticism and observations Jonathan. My translations are always in need of work. Yes, I have mistranslated ipse in the following portion of ad uxorem 3.1. I had translated this portion as follows:

      et matrimonium rite contractum allegabimus? quod vetuit ipse, non adulterium est?

      Will we allege that we have contracted marriage solemnly? That which one forbids is not adultery?”

      ipse is better translated “he” or even better “God”, not “one”. It appears that most translators place the quod vetuit ipse into the previous phrase. I do not see a difference in meaning. Certainly, punctuation means little or nothing in patristic Latin, as these marks were introduced well after the compositions of the patristic era.

      I agree with you on your second point. I am fairly certain that Tertullian would forbid the young man from Confirmation, probably on the account of scandal. I interpret Dr. Peter’s interpretation of Canon 889.2 and rite as an admonition against scandal in some sense (i.e. one is not “properly disposed” if he has knowingly disseminated a position contrary to the political will of some leaders of the Church). Would Tertullian also consider the confirmand’s actions contumacious, similar to a Christian who has contracted pagan marriage knowingly and even eagerly? I would suspect so, given that persons of this confirmand’s age were certainly considered adults in Tertullian’s period.

  17. For heaven’s sake,it is downright embarrassing. Where is Jesus Christ in all these canonical gymnastics. To “interdict” a family ? One wonders how many priests might be “interdicted” if we exercise strict canon law? There must be a better way…Paul says” I will show you a better way…”

  18. Matthew Hazell : @Paul Inwood – comment #26: Not quite that simple (emphasis in the following is mine): Catholics who have not yet received the sacrament of confirmation are to receive it before being admitted to marriage, if this can be done without grave inconvenience. (Can. 1065, §1) Compare with: Only one who has received the sacrament of sacred confirmation may lawfully be promoted to orders. (Can. 1033) So the validity or licitness of marriage doesn’t depend on having received confirmation in the same way that it does for the licitness of holy orders. And it is worth noting that, for the purposes of validity, the only sacrament canon law requires as an absolute prerequisite for holy orders is baptism (cf. can. 1024) – at least as far as I understand it… not being a canon lawyer I’m obviously open to correction on this!

    Matthew, I agree with you. But it doesn’t work like that at grass roots level. Try getting married without being able to produce a certificate of Confirmation — the pastor will simply not process your papers. 🙁

  19. #33: “For heaven’s sake, it is downright embarrassing. Where is Jesus Christ in all these canonical gymnastics?”

    He was interdicted until He takes Canon Law 101…

  20. Dear, dear, dear. Let’s get down to the real brass tacks here. Everyone, including confirmandi, pastors, and confirming bishops, knows that for the vast majority of recipients, confirmation is their graduation from church. The renewal of baptismal promises is regularly perjured by those who at the same time they renounce sin also renounce any participation in the life of the church, including the Eucharist. And no one apparently seeks to redress these sacramental charades — except for some kid who can’t see his way to oppose same-sex marriage. Puh-lease. This is another instance of selective orthodoxy, if not outright scapegoating.

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