Q: For the first time we have only Candidates and no Catechumens preparing for the sacraments at the Easter Vigil. Can we/do we celebrate the Scutinies as prescribed, and do we use the Year A readings for RCIA even if we have no Catechumens?
A: It is a little confusing as to where to find things in terms of Candidates, those baptized in another Christian tradition who want to be in full communion with the Catholic Church.
If you take your RCIA book and turn Part II, 4, it gives you information of where to go with these persons. Please note that the rites within Part II, 4, specifically the Rite of Welcoming the Candidate, Rite of Sending for Recognition, and the Penitential Rite, are optional.
Off the bat, candidates do not celebrate the Scrutinies. The Scrutinies are only for the unbaptized (see the National Statutes for the Catechumenate, 3, in the back of your United States RCIA book). Therefore, you do not need to use the readings of Year A at Mass because you would not be celebrating the Scrutinies. (Also two side notes: The Scrutinies and the optional Penitential Rite for baptized candidates on the Second Sunday of Lent are separate, distinct rituals. The RCIA makes no provision for combining these two rituals together for the elect and baptized candidates. And we do not scrutinize ourselves as an assembly.)
The optional Penitential Rite might and can be appropriate for your baptized candidates if they fit the criteria found at RCIA 400, namely that they had had no further formation in the Christian faith after their baptism. The Penitential Rite does look like a scrutiny and it encourages the candidates to look introspectively at their lives. But it is significantly different in purpose from the Scrutinies. Therefore, the Penitential Rite can be confusing for the assembly and you may need to ensure that they honor the status of these persons as baptized Christians (cf the final sentence of RCIA 477).
My pastoral recommendation, rather than celebrating the Penitential Rite, is to have the baptized candidates join in the parish’s communal Lenten Reconciliation/Penitential liturgy and celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation (RCIA 482). (If your parish isn’t scheduling one, perhaps look to another parish.) In this way, the candidates can enter and get a feel of a “typical” celebration of the Sacrament, and the parish can be present to support the candidates.
Lastly, the Rite of Reception for those baptized in another Christian tradition can take place at any time when the candidate(s) and you have discerned readiness! This is where we encounter some gray area. Whereas the Rite says that the Easter Vigil will serve as the high point of formation (RCIA 409), the National Statutes dictate that the Rite of Reception not take place at the Easter Vigil (National Statutes 33-34). So a conversation of formation and readiness needs to be ongoing for everyone involved and not just defaulting to celebrating Reception at the Easter Vigil. Here is a blog post that might be helpful.
More information than you might have expected, but to bring full circle: With candidates for reception into full communion, no need for Scrutinies, and keep to the Year C readings this Lent.