Should we confirm Lutherans?

QWe have a candidate preparing to celebrate the Reception into the Full Communion of the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil. This person was baptized and confirmed as a Lutheran. Do we recognize Lutheran Confirmations as valid sacraments? Or do we confirm him at the Easter Vigil?

AFrom John Huels’ book, The Catechumenate and the Law: A Pastoral and Canonical Commentary for the Church in the United States, Liturgy Training Publications, 1994, p 24:

Confirmation is valid only in those churches that have the valid sacrament of holy orders. Besides the separated Eastern churches, this would include the Old Catholic, Old Roman Catholic, and Polish National Churches. The Protestant denominations are not recognized as having valid orders, so persons baptized in those ecclesial communities should be confirmed during the rite of reception into full communion.

However, the other question you could also ask is: Should you celebrate the rite of reception at the Easter Vigil? Some points to ponder:

Anything that would equate candidates for reception with those who are catechumens is to be absolutely avoided. (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, 477)

The commentary on The Code of Canon Law, commenting on canon 206 regarding catechumens, makes these distinctions between candidates and catechumens:

  • “[B]aptized non-Catholics who seek full communion with the Catholic Church are not catechumens or ‘converts,’ although they are moved by the Spirit and have an explicit will to join the Church.”
  • “They are not, however, to be exorcised or to receive other elements of the liturgical rites involved in baptism, since they are already baptized.”
  • “No greater burdens are to be imposed on them than are necessary for them to come into full communion.”

Back to the initiation documents…

Those who have already been baptized in another Church or ecclesial community should not be treated as catechumens or so designated. Their doctrinal and spiritual preparation for reception into full Catholic communion should be determined according to the individual case, that is, it should depend on the extent to which the baptized person has led a Christian life within a community of faith and been appropriately catechized to deepen his or her inner adherence to the Church (“National Statutes for the Catechumenate,” 30)

This means that a baptized Christian who wants to become Catholic and has been faithfully participating in a Christian community (not necessarily a Catholic community), who lives a Christian (not necessarily Catholic) lifestyle, and who has been catechized in order to deepen his or her resolve to live as a Christian disciple in the Catholic Church is ready to celebrate the Rite of Reception into the Full Communion of the Catholic Church.

When could reception take place then?

The reception of candidates into the communion of the Catholic Church should ordinarily take place at the Sunday Eucharist of the parish community, in such a way that it is understood that they are indeed Christian believers who have already shared in the sacramental life of the Church and are now welcomed into the Catholic eucharistic community upon their profession of faith and confirmation, if they have not been confirmed, before receiving the eucharist. (“National Statutes for the Catechumenate,” 32)

Further…

It is preferable that reception into full communion not take place at the Easter Vigil lest there be any confusion of such baptized Christians with the candidates for baptism, possible misunderstanding of or even reflection upon the sacrament of baptism celebrated in another Church or ecclesial community, or any perceived triumphalism in the liturgical welcome into the Catholic eucharistic community. (“National Statutes for the Catechumenate,” 33)

In other words, if a baptized Christian is faithfully participating in the Sunday assembly of the Catholic Church, is living a Christian lifestyle, and is adhering to the Catholic teaching, they may be received into full communion as soon as possible—even at the next possible Sunday celebration. They need not wait until the Easter Vigil to be received.

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Comments

  1. I have a question about a similar case, with the exception that it is a baptized Lutheran, 8 year old. Would the candidate do the same as the post above (reception into full communion-Confirmation-1st Communion) or reception into full communion-1st Communion and age appropiate Confirmation?

  2. Hi JC,

    The age of reason is definitely an age appropriate for confirmation! And since the child has reached the age of reason, confirmation is required as part of his reception into the full communion.

    In Paul Turner’s, When Other Christians Become Catholic, he cites Canon 885.2, which says:

    “A presbyter who has this faculty [the faculty to receive non-Catholics into full communion and confirm them] must use it for those in whose favor the faculty was granted.”

    Turner then goes on to say, “Consequently, if a priest is receiving a baptized child into the Catholic Church through the rite of reception, he must confirm the child as well. This should win ready approval from the parties involved because the child will benefit from the gifts of the Spirit at a very early age.” (Page 143)

    Blessings on all your fine work.

    Nick

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