Q&A: What do we do if the pastor won’t celebrate the scrutinies?

Q. Hello! I am the director of our initiation ministry in my parish. We do not have a deacon, and my pastor does not get involved, so it’s just me and my team. My pastor does not like to do the scrutinies at this time of year. He usually encourages me to do a simplified version in our RCIA gatherings. Of course we can do the liturgy of the word part, but the other parts need to be done by a priest. How would you recommend handling this situation? There’s not much I can do to change his mind, but I also don’t want my catechumens to miss out on these beautiful and rich rites.

A. I’m sorry to hear that your pastor is unwilling to celebrate the scrutinies with your elect. As I’m sure you know (but perhaps your pastor does not know?), only the bishop can dispense the elect from the obligation to celebrate the scrutinies. See paragraph 20 in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults.

Free resource: The history of the Scrutinies

What options are available?

If it is not possible to get your pastor to celebrate the scrutinies with the elect, one simple solution might be to invite a deacon or priest from another parish to come and celebrate the rites with your elect. The scrutinies do not need to include the celebration of the eucharist. You could do all the planning and preparation to make things as easy as possible for the visiting presider.

Another option is to take your elect to a neighboring parish that is celebrating the scrutinies. If you are close enough to the cathedral, that might be the ideal choice, especially if the bishop will be presiding at any of the scrutinies.

Another suggestion is to celebrate the minor exorcisms, which you or another parish catechist can preside at. It is not required that a deacon or priest preside at a minor exorcism. You can see an outline for a liturgy of the word service with a minor exorcism at paragraphs 85-89 of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. There are eleven prayers of exorcism to choose from, starting at paragraph 94. (Note that none of these prayers include the word “exorcism,” just in case you’re concerned about that.)

You could celebrate three minor exorcisms, spaced a week apart, using the readings from the scrutiny rites. You could have the elect kneel for the exorcism prayer, and you could lay hands on them just as is done in the scrutiny rites. You could celebrate these in the church and invite parishioners and different parish groups to join with you in support of the elect. Maybe even have a soup supper after.

These minor exorcisms would not meet the requirement that the elect celebrate three scrutinies, but they would give your elect a great deal of spiritual support during this important time in the faith journey.

You might even invite your pastor to come, just to pray as part of the community. Perhaps once he experiences the beauty of this kind of prayer, he might change his mind about celebrating the scrutinies.

Your turn

Have you experienced resistance to the scrutinies in your parish? How did you invite conversation around them and share about them with your community? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Free resource: The history of the Scrutinies

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  1. So sad to see apparent lack of interest by pastor. Our past three pastors have placed a priority on RCIA activities…especially our current pastor. We have planning sessions with him as he wants to ensure all Rites are implemented “by the book” as he states. Perhaps we are just lucky or perhaps the fact that we welcome, on average, 20-25 folks into Church each year increases the visibility. Regardless, clergy support has not been an issue in our Archdioese. Good luck to you!

  2. We had a priest who celebrated scrutinies beautifully and powerfully. Then we had a priest who didn’t like it but was willing to do the scrutinies in the sacristy after Mass (which was SO weird) and he stopped doing those after a couple of years. Now we have priests who seem to love doing them according to the Rite, thanks be to God!
    It is so hard to experience these powerful, meaningful, effective prayers and then have a priest who denies them or reduces them. I tell myself the new Elect don’t know what they are missing, but I know and it’s hurtful.
    Your suggestions for alternatives are helpful. Thank you for taking this question on.

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