Summary of the discussion on: The Practical Dilemma of Confirmation in rapport with Baptism
Summary of the discussion on: The Practical Dilemma of Confirmation in rapport with Baptism: A Comparative Study of the Latin and Oriental Codes of Canon Law towards a Return to Traditional Order of Celebration
The following raised questions led the members into serious discussion on this seminar paper:
- Outside Theological – Systematic Separation which is clearly highlighted in the Paper, what ontological – Canonical Problem/s does the Author envisage?
- Does this Separation distort the practical Life of the Baptized – Confirmed Christians?
- Is there no way the Catholic Church can harmonise the two stipulations so that the practice of both the Eastern Churches and the Latin Church can give emphasis to the unity of Christian initiation as well as to express the communion of the new Christian with the bishop as guarantor and servant of the unity, catholicity and apostolicity of his Church, and hence the connection with the apostolic origins of Christ’s Church?
- The practice of the Eastern Churches gives greater emphasis to the unity of Christian initiation. That of the Latin Church more clearly expresses the communion of the new Christian with the bishop as guarantor and servant of the unity, catholicity and apostolicity of his Church, and hence the connection with the apostolic origins of Christ’s Church. This expression on Confirmation is contained in the Catechism of the Catholic Church about the practice of the Eastern Churches and Latin Church (cf. CCC 1292). This expression is somehow difficult to understand by members of the same Church not to talk of non members.
- However, the four marks of the Catholic Church are represented in both Churches (W&E) of the same single Church as a Sacrament instituted by Christ. Amongst others, the major conspicuous diversities in both Churches are that of great concern are with respect to the sacraments of Christian initiation (ref. celebrations, minister and inversion) and Holy Orders «minister and matrimony».
- The sacraments of Christian initiation were celebrated together till the late eighth century in both the Western and Eastern Churches prior to the time of separation.
- The restoration of unity among the sacraments of Christian initiation is one of the principal concerns of the Vatican II Council: «Christ the Lord founded one Church and one Church only», though, there exist some theological, liturgical, pastoral and juridical differences. Such diversities seem to contradict the unity of the one Church, scandalize the world or even create an obstacle in preaching the Gospel, thereby, creating difficulties in the religious developmental education of those seeking to know God and the Church.
- Also, we recognise that the “temporal separation” which seems to be permanent and the inversion of the sacraments of initiation have raised some critical issues of: 1) re-elaborating the teachings on the ministerial priesthood and sacerdos alter Christus, 2) receiving the sacrament of reconciliation before the First Holy Communion, 3) reassessment of the theology of the sacraments of Christian initiation process, 4) tending towards contradicting the principles of culture and inculturation, thereby, 5) entering into a discernible conflict with the rites of passage.
- All these should constitute sources of theological reflection, pastoral unification and canonical reconciliation. It is a concern to have a unified Church as Christ teaches (Jn 1721), though it will not be very easy. At least, as regards the sacraments of Christian initiation, may we be one in sequential celebration (see the proposals in page 12). This is part of the preoccupation of some members of the Church to maintain the unity (see UR, no. 1 in page 9).
- Diversities can be enriching in terms of culture, inculturation, period, particular norms that respect the universal declarations in the ONE Church, etc, but not in substantial matters like the sacraments.
- At times and for some people, the diversifications foresee certain things that may be palpably contradicting as ONE, HOLY, APOSTOLIC and CATHOLIC CHURCH of CHRIST. We have to continue to pray for the unity of the Church; only that each tradition continues to justify herself. More difficult will be the unity of all the Christian Churches in the world. The fruit of the prayer for Christian unity. Again, human interpretations and other elements exist in abundance.
- In this case, the ontological issue has to be reckoned with the spiritual essence of the human person. It is only with the spiritual eye/s (faith) that you can see it. That brings us to the concept of sacrament (see p.1). There is an inner invisible enrichment of the faithful which is expected to be lived out to the glory of God and benefit of humanity. This is the teaching of the Church. There are certain things that we have to accept with faith (1 Pet 1, 8-9). Actually, the ontological issue does not wholly belong to the discipline of Canon law to be unravelled. If the Code of Canon law has an article on this, it is only left to be implemented. Therefore, it is not the sole duty of Canon law to foresee ontological problems, even though there is an ontological justification of Canon law, unless a particular (specific) matter is raised with its surrounding elements for critical examinations by Canon law.
The discourse highlighted some noticeable problems in the ‘temporal separation’:
- While the Catholic Church acknowledges her 22 traditions (church sui iuris), Latin Church and Eastern Churches and the differences, the NCCF strongly believe that there are many areas that are still drawing her attention. This seminar paper raised one of such areas, namely, the Sacraments of Christian Initiation. The ‘temporal separation’ of the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation in the Latin Church has its consequences on some faithful. In dioceses where the diocesan bishop administers the sacrament of confirmation alone (without giving faculty to priests to assist him), some people have died without fully initiated in the Church. Others still remain without the sacrament of confirmation. The latter stopped catechism after the reception of First Holy Communion. Today, some of them are married and wedded in the same Church that encourages the reception of confirmation before the Christian marriage. Some of them are sponsors at Baptism and confirmation which the same Church discourages. It is really a serious case.
- The practice of granting faculties to priests by some diocesan bishops to confer the sacrament of confirmation to adults, at times, may equally provide theologians with an area to articulate the possibilities envisaged by this work.
There were some questions also raise on resolving the canonical problems:
Regarding the canonical problems, it is obvious that Canon law has the supreme mission of saving souls (1 Pet 1, 9; CIC, can. 1752). How? In keeping with the teachings of the Church as a guide. Is Canon law still functional in the Church and to which extent? Has it been reduced only to an academic discipline that was powerful sometime in the Church? How many Church authorities regard Canon law? Which areas does it operate, currently? Matrimonial? In the sacristy? Can the suggestion of a canonist be regarded in our local Churches and to what extent in the Universal Church? Can a canonist freely suggest? Can canonists defend the canonical teachings before certain interests like honourable posts in the Church (bishopric, superior – father or mother general)? Does it mean that when one studies Canon law instead of living true to his or her nature, he or she has to be in the first class list of the Church? What if some canonists have abandoned their mission for honour?
A clarion call:
It is not true that the canonist must govern. He can teach and sanctify in an exceptional way. Deception can make one to lose focus. So, we have to rise up and defend the doctrine of the Church. These are some impediments of the growth of Canon law. If it is the will of God and the Church that canonists be made general superiors, bishops, cardinals, popes, ‘et cetera’, it will be real at God’s own time. However, it has to be noted that the current mentality towards laws in this era has revealed that the human interpretations, sentiments and interests overshadow schemes. Only when laws are emanated and applied honestly that the fruits can be gathered (at least 83%). Canon law seems to have lost some wet on the scaling table. That is the reason why in page 8, the author calls upon Canon law to authenticate her teachings. If Canon law does not rise on her feet in defending the canonised teachings or norms of the Church’s heritage, it will lead the Church into more serious crisis.
The NCCF found the paper very interesting and challenging. It is a good and balanced attempt at drawing our attention to a gap that the inversion, for whatever reason, has caused. It was suggested that the paper be made available to the Canonical – Theological Commission of Universal Church for further appreciation and possible Implementation.
 CONCILIUM OECUMENICUM VATICANUM II, Decretum de oecumenismo: Unitatis Redintegratio, in AAS, LVII (1965), 90-112, n.1 (Abbrev. UR).