Stop Press! Bishop of Bunbury calls for Radical Reconsideration Confirmation!

Well, this is the strangest “press release” I have ever read. It is a most unusual way to communicate episcopal instruction. Whatever happened to a good, old fashioned pastoral letter? Or a column in the diocesan paper?

That aside, we applaud Bishop Gerard Holohan for raising the question of the practice of Confirmation in our Australian schools.

He is spot on in calling Confirmation (as it is currently practiced) a “Sacrament of Farewell”. It reminds one of the old joke about how the parish priest got rid of the pigeons in the bell tower. “I just baptised and confirmed them, and I never saw them again”, he said.

And his analogy of catechesis to a trade apprenticeship in contrast to religious education as a TAFE course in that trade is spot on.

As is his call for us to return to the original and proper order of initation: Baptism, CONFIRMATION, first eucharist. The Orthodox have been looking at us sideways ever since we brought in the novelty of first eucharist BEFORE confirmation.

He is calling for:

– a new and focussed catechesis programme,
– a new level of parish and school collaboration,
– a catechesis strategy that draws in parents and even other family members so that families can offer catechesis and
– the raising of the Confirmation age.

This four-pronged approach is just what we need, but it’s going to take a hell of a lot of education and hard work and debate before we can see this level of reformation across the board.

Perhaps the next Synod of Bishops in Rome should be on the sacrament of Confirmation and the effective catechesis and initiation of the young…

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

0 Responses to Stop Press! Bishop of Bunbury calls for Radical Reconsideration Confirmation!

  1. Past Elder says:

    God bless me, he’s on to something allright; even with practicing Confirmation after the Lord’s intent without the illusion of a sacrament, it STILL remains the “Sacrament of Farewell” for our youth no less than yours!

    I would add to Pastor Holohan’s list continuing catechesis AFTER Confirmation, with the character of a beginning rather than an end. And again for us no less than you. It ain’t like you’re Cain all done with training, finally got the stuff from your master’s hand, moved the bucket of coals with your bare arms and are now ready to leave the Shao-Lin monastery guided by recollections at critical moments!

  2. Schütz says:

    Quite right, PE. This isn’t completely unknown in the Catholic community, where it has been called “Whole of Life Catechesis”. I might just nip off a note to his Lordship in this regard…

  3. Joshua says:

    Yes, the good bishop is absolutely right.

    I heard from a Geraldton priest that, hearing confessions at a school, he asked the students whether they believed in God: their typical answer was No, or Maybe. As he told his bishop, “We’re giving Sacraments to pagans.”

    So, how about conferring Confirmation upon those who are actually practising the Faith – and not otherwise?


    This also links in with a peculiarly Australian phenomenon. Now, in Australia about 1/3 of all students are educated in the private system, either in Catholic schools or indepedent schools (Anglican, Lutheran, whatever) – all of which are government funded, but also charge fees (there being a sliding scale whereby my own high school obtained 80% of its funding from the Government, having fees in the lowest bracket, while exclusive schools charging many thousands get less funding).

    For many parents, the objective is to get their child into cheap private education, otherwise known as the Catholic education system – since Catholic schools have just about the lowest fees, and yet still have such conservative features as compulsory uniforms, better discipline, etc. Of course, Catholics get first right to attend Catholic schools; hence, to get one’s child in, one must get one’s child “done” (Sacraments as sheepdip), so as to demonstrate one’s Catholic credentials. It’s an open secret and a notorious abuse of the Sacraments…

  4. Joshua says:

    Something over at Et clamor meus ad te veniat is very relevant to this discussion:

  5. Victoria says:

    When I was a confirmation catechist all but one of the students [her parents were Faithful Poles] told me that they had to come to Confirmation class so that they could go to a Catholic secondary school.

  6. Clara says:

    I have no problem with Confirmation preceding First Communion – it is the proper order – but I do have a problem with raising the age of Confirmation. At what age will children receive First Communion? Already in our diocese it is in Grade 4 when they are 9 or 10. Check out the story of Blessed Imelda She was named partoness of First Communicants by Pius X when he lowered the age of reception of the Eucharist to age seven.

    I will be so radical as to suggest that we adopt the Orthodox practice of Baptism, Chrismation, Eucharist in infancy for children of PRACTICING Catholic families . Children who have been baptised and are nurtured in faith by their families often earnestly desire to receive Jesus – and we deny it to them. If your child asks or bread, would you give them as stone?

  7. Louise says:

    I will be so radical as to suggest that we adopt the Orthodox practice of Baptism, Chrismation, Eucharist in infancy for children of PRACTICING Catholic families.

    Clara, I’m of the same opinion, currently. (My opinion shifts around on this issue).

    I mentioned this to Fr A once and he said he used to think so too, but has changed his mind. I’m wondering what his current thoughts are.

    11 children of catechetical age will be baptised at our parish next weekend. I hope it’s not just because of the Archdiocese’s policy that 75% of students in Catholic schools must be Catholic.

  8. Schütz says:

    Lutherans in Australia and elsewhere have been mucking about with ideas of infant communion for at least the last thirty years – and in the end, I think they have decided against it, although it fits their theology of sacraments (as in all else) depending upon the grace of God and not upon the worthiness of the recipient.

    The fact is that the Western practice of delayed confirmation for children baptised in infancy does allow for a period of simple catechesis. I too, would not be wanting the confirmation age to be raised. The reason, I believe, that Pope Pius allowed first communion before confirmation is that Catholics (and Protestants) in Europe at the time had adopted the practice of extremely late confirmations (often aged 18 or so), and this ridiculously delayed first communion.

    The difficulty, as I see it, is that by doing the “sacramental program” in schools, kids are put through in batches dependant upon their age and year level at school rather than their spiritual readiness to receive the sacrament. However, canon law states that a person must be given the sacraments if they ask for them and have the required dispositions to receive them beneficially.

    Were homes and parishes (rather than schools) once again to take responsibility for preparing children to receive the sacraments of initiation, then children could be enrolled in the program of preparation at a time when both pastor and family deem them ready.

    Following the necessary catechesis, their readiness would again be assessed by family and pastor together, and they would both be confirmed and receive first eucharist on the same occasion.

    As for age, this could occur at 6 years of age or 16 years of age – the situation would depend entirely upon the individual, and not upon the school program.

  9. Joshua says:

    Your last point is essential, David:

    I reckon that many many Aussie children of Catholic background are FORCED to receive Confirmation and so forth, rather than really wanting it – the proof being their non-showing at church afterwards, except when forced to attend school Masses, etc.

    This is completely against just about everything, and must be firmly stamped out.

    Note that the main reason they are forced into the Sacraments is not because of parental piety (would that it were, but their parents are most likely not practising) but in order to undergo the sacramental sheepdip needed to get them into Catholic schools. This is a wicked abuse and must be rooted out.

  10. Past Elder says:

    Short of just saying Yes, the Orthodox have been right about this all along and we need to get with it too, there doesn’t seem to be any easy solution to the “Sacrament of Farewell” problem for us in the West, Catholic or Protestant.

    However, a key difference is that for us, it’s not a matter of sacramental theology, Confirmation not being seen as a sacrament. The farewell issues remain regardless of sacramental theology, and I think likewise regardless of whether Confirmation is a sacrament or not, whether it is administered to babies, youths of 7, 9 or 10, 13, or whenever, the farewell issues will remain for us all unless the broader concern of religious and spiritual formation being a lifelong endeavour are not also at the core of efforts made.

  11. Schütz says:

    PE, as you (half) point out, the point re whether Confirmation is a sacrament or not is actually rather beside the point in this discussion.

    We all (ie. all institutional Christian bodies) practice confirmation in one way or another as a way of confirming baptismal faith and full intitiation into the (read: our) Christian community. Early Lutherans might have desired that “Since Confirmation is not a sacrament” it be discontinued, but remarkably, Confirmation survived “de jure humano”, and was seen to be a “good thing” of which Christ would approve even if he didn’t institute it.

    So the question which all Christians can positively discuss together is how to properly initiate new Christians, young and old. And this is a recipe which no Christian community seems to have gotten entirely right today.

    Which is what makes the discussion worth having.

  12. Past Elder says:

    Did I say anything different? Oy.

    Quite apart from considerations of whether it is a sacrament or de jure humano, and quite apart from our various considerations depending upon our answers to that, it is indeed a rite of full initiation into our various communities. It’s our bar mitzvah, for God’s sake, so how does it happen that that by which one takes ones place as an adult member of the community become the act by which one leaves it? (Which btw is no less of a problem with Bar Mitzvah itself!)

    Here is something which may be involved. There being no verse of Scripture saying something like Confirmation is to be administered at the age of x for those who have grown up in the community, perhaps we all of us under the Abrahamic promise and covenant have affixed that age according to standards drawn from the world about at what age a person becomes an adult member of the community and/or has acquired the use of reason, which is not of itself bad, however, that age has changed in the world whereas we continue to observe Confirmation according to prior standards.

    Huh? OK, there’s a commonplace about seven being the “age of reason”, on the basis of which some argue that age. More directly than that, up until relatively recently in view of the whole story of Man, on entering the teen years one was not entering a troubled time of sorting things out eventually to emerge in one’s 20s as an adult with a degree and a career and family and ready to embark on life, but rather, one had already lived somewhere between one quarter to one half of one’s life expectancy if one survived bith and childhood at all, and was about to take one’s place as an adult in one’s community, so somewhere in the “pre-teen” years became customary for the rite of passage in the church community too.

    So perhaps — and God bless me I mean perhaps, I propose this as part of the discussion, not as something which is right and now if only you bleeders would see that — if we do not accept the Orthodox as right about this and practise Baptism, First Communion and Confirmation to-gether regardless of age, then we may need to re-examine at what age we later “confirm” as the later age at which one attains ones majority and becomes an adult member of the community has changed from what it was when we in the West have confirmed for centuries, and would now be located, in fact is legally defined, somewhere between 18 and 21 (here in the US, maybe earlier elsewhere).

    IOW, our Western ideas about the proper time for rites of passage into the adult community have shifted whereas our age of Confirmation remains tied to what it was before the shift, and maybe that is part of the problem or at least worth considering re appropriate catechesis for ongoing spiritual life and formation.

  13. Schütz says:

    And the problem with that is that it is tied to the matter of first communion, which should not be delayed, but which should not preceed full initiation into the community.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *