German Bishop Suspends Confirmation For Four Years

Similar to the bishop of Bozen-Brixen, now Bishop Stefan Oster of Passau (Germany) – a member of the Salesian Order – has announced that he will suspend any confirmation in his diocese, beginning around 2019. In a period of four years the diocese should find a new model for confirmation of young people.

In Passau the confirmation usually takes place at the age of 11 or 12 (which is younger than in most other German speaking dioceses). According to the Passauer Neue Presse, Bishop Oster aims at a minimum age of 16 for the future and has already discussed this topic with diocesan priests and lay ministers over several months.

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14 comments

  1. Interesting. My bishop has begun a consultation process to move the moment–not age–of confirmation from junior year of high school to 7th grade. I observe that bishops who move the confirmation age to and fro either make a lot of work for themselves or get a vacation from parish visits.

    The sacrament that needs a new model for living it in the world is baptism. Maybe we’ll get to that someday.

  2. Confirmation is a sacrament, not a graduation ceremony for completing religious education. The canonical age is the age of reason. It is unwise to delay it into adolescence. Find another carrot to keep the children in religious ed.

    1. Amen to that Fr. Anthony! I totally agree.
      But, I’m pretty sure that delaying Confirmation for four years probably won’t cause a back up in Germany.

    2. Church history shows that Confirmation was born out of necessity. As the early Church grew, the availability at time of Baptism of a bishop for the final sealing with the Holy Spirit could not always be guaranteed. Hence, “Confiirmation” took on a life of it’s own, and the final “sealing” by the bishop postponed until one could arrive. Over the decades and centuries additional rubrics were associated . . .such as the “age of reason”. “What to do about Confirmation?” is a lively question
      that remains to be answered with a variety of positions .. . some contentious.

      My personal opinion is that the case for Confirmation as a sacrament is quite thin, contrived, and does not emerge smoothly from reflecting on Scripture, Tradition, Reason, or Lived Experience.

  3. This at first makes it sound as if the bishops is pausing for four years so that people can engage in prayer and study so as to discern how best to celebrate the sacrament. Upon closer inspection, it seems more likely that he’s already decided to move the age to 16, and the four years is simply the time it will take for the 12-year-olds to become 16-year-olds. It would be nice if they dropped the fig leaf of not having already made up their minds about the issue.

    1. At first I had the same thought: The four-year-period looks like all the girls and boys shall turn 16, so that the current procedure is just shifted four years into the future.
      But this is just one single aspect. It seems that the bishops definitely wants a new confirmation age of at least (!) 16, so the four-year-period comes naturally. If I understand the news correctly, the entire procedure of preparation for confirmation etc. is not yet clear and will be discussed. All the bishop said is that 16 should be the absolute minimum age, but everything else is open to discussion.

  4. The traditional order for the sacraments of initiation, still observed in the Eastern churches (and at the Easter Vigil) is Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist.

  5. I have never really understood confirmation “as a sacrament”. We are visited by the Holy Spirit in baptism + chrismation, for most (for how much longer?) of us at an age when we can’t comprehend it in a way we might be able to later. So “confirmation” is a confirmation of what has already happened (time really being irrelevant) and our commitment to it, and valuable as a commitment (as it was for me growing up as an Anglican). Then there is the question of when, having been first visited by the Holy Spirit, can we participate in (“receive”) the Eucharist: should this only be a question of understanding (at first communion, confirmation?), or do we believe that God becomes known to us before we can comprehend, including in the Eucharist?

    1. You offer a good summary of Anglican thinking on Confirmation. They have a broader range of thinking on it as sacrament than Roman Catholics do, though rc is catching up to their confusion, er diversity.
      One characteristic of confirmation is that it is given by a bishop. The apostolic succession of Orders is manifest then in a ‘someone from Jesus’ kind of way. Someone from Jesus accepts you in the Church! There is a sacramental value to that.
      Another element is the Chrism, the oil used to anoint confirmands. It is from chrism that Christ gets his name, the anointed, the Messiah. Like Christ, you have been anointed with the Holy Spirit. You are part of the body of the Anointed.
      Unfortunately, chrism became associated with royalty in a way that led it to be rejected by many reformers, vigorously rejected by some. It was a sign of the corruption of bishops and royals, their involvement with riches in a negative way. That carries over into Anglican thought in some ways and creates more difficulty for seeing it as from God.
      That leaves us with confirmation “in search of a theology” or as you put it, not really understanding. Aspects of it do signify Christ’s presence in it, but history obscures the power and beauty of it somewhat. Jesus has sent someone to you, to make you a part of his body, the body of the anointed.

      1. As far as I am aware, the Church of England does not think of Confirmation as a sacrament. So its role as a sort of ‘Christian Barmitzvah’ makes more sense.

        I remember Aelred Kavanagh OSB referring to Confirmation as having become ‘adolescent therapy.’ Scornful but correct, was my assessment.

        AG.

      2. As with many issues, Anglican theology is a mixed bag on this. Early on, Luther’s position that there are only 2 sacraments prevailed, but more recently high church types have embraced the other sacraments. I tried to approach it differently, that confirmation is a spiritual sign of our life with Christ without caring if we call it a sacrament or not.

  6. In the Confirmations in which I have prepared young parishioners I have usually met with the Bishop before Mass and said “just remember, you are Confirming 9th graders.” That gets a chuckle but it is the truth. I was confirmed as a fifth grader and all I remember was the fear of being slapped.

    If the Church wants to Confirm 7th and 8th graders, then let it do so. Please don’t act surprised when these kids are young adults and the Holy Spirit makes no sense to them. Trade the age requirement for a recipient’s desire and see what happens.

  7. Contemporary High School schedules are so log jammed that a lot of kids who would otherwise be interested in it, just don’t have the time to do it. I don’t like having to compel good kids into making a choice for confirmation class or sports, drama or choir. It’s not fair, and it only makes the young people resentful

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