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Archbishop puts Confirmation before Communion

By on Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Liverpool's Metropolitan Cathedral (Mazur/CCN)

Liverpool's Metropolitan Cathedral (Mazur/CCN)

From next year children in the Archdiocese of Liverpool will be confirmed before receiving their First Communion, reversing the usual order of sacraments in the Catholic Church.

A leaflet being sent to all parishes in the archdiocese next week explains the changes. It says: “These three sacraments make up the process of belonging to the Church (called Christian Initiation). The sacraments weren’t always in that order, and adults preparing for initiation have always received them in the original order: Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist (Communion).”

From September 2012 children in the archdiocese who have been baptised will follow this order.

“Those aged eight by September 1 2012 will be invited to receive Confirmation and First Communion in the days between Ascension Sunday and the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi) in 2013, and the same pattern will be followed each year after that,” the leaflet said.

The details are also on both the archdiocesan and Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral websites. The decision to restore the order of the sacraments of initiation and to introduce a family catechesis approach, supported by parishes and schools, was made by Archbishop Patrick Kelly of Liverpool, with the encouragement of the Council of Priests, at the end of 2008.

The new procedure will involve families far more in the way children are prepared for the sacraments.

“Instead of teachers, catechists and priests teaching children and parents about the sacraments, they will help the parents to hand on their own faith to their children, fulfilling the privileges and responsibilities expressed in the Rite of Baptism. New resources will help parents to prepare their own children for these sacraments with the support of the local church community,” the leaflet says.

“These changes are meant to help us understand that sacraments are gifts of God’s grace, that parents are the first teachers of their children in the ways of faith, and that we are all called to get to know Jesus better throughout our life’s journey.”

The families of these children will be invited to explore and celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation with them during Advent each year, while teenagers and their families will be invited to explore and celebrate Reconciliation during Lent each year.

The next two years will be a transition period from the old process to the new. In 2011 there will be no First Communions in most parishes. Children in Year 6 (aged 10-11) should be confirmed; in 2012 this will be children aged 8 to 11. From 2013 onwards the norm will be that children aged eight will receive Confirmation and Holy Communion during the same celebration.

  • Amfortas

    Brilliant. Now can the rules be changed so that the minimum age for confirmation and first communion is twelve? If you want to know why then watch Gypsy Wedding on C4.

  • Clare86

    Age 8 seems very young to me

  • Anonymous

    I was in a diocese several years back when the bishop instituted the same change in the order of sacraments; when he retired, the new bishop put them back in the traditional Western order.

    Also, I haven’t seen anything in the several reports I’ve read that indicates the Liverpool Archdiocese will still administer Sacramental Confession BEFORE First Communion. If they do not, they are in violation of Canon Law (Canon 914), The Catechism of the Catholic Church (para 1457), and the mind of the Church (Sacred Congregations for the Sacraments and Divine Worship and the Clergy with the approval of Pope Paul Vl, 20 May 1977: “That mind is that a year from promulgation of the Declaration [Sanctus Pontifex, 1973] there be an end to all experiments in which first communion is received without prior reception of the sacrament of penance and that the discipline of the Church return to the spirit of the decree Quam Singulari.”)

  • Horace Zagreus

    Have you seen anything to suggest that they will flip the order of First Holy Communion and Confession?

  • Vinipux81

    Actually, this is ancient order of sacraments and it is preserved in exactly same form in the Orthodoxy. So well done bishop.!

  • Fr Gerard

    This was introduced, with the permission of Rome, in Salford Diocese many years ago by the then Bishop Kelly. With some variation, it remains the practise and works fine. The Sacrament of Confession takes place before First Holy Communion while Confirmation returns to its original order in the Sacraments of Initiation. I have presided at many of these services over the years and they are greatly enhanced by a much better prepared set of parents who are more closely involved in the preparation of their children.

  • Anonymous

    Well, since I made my original post, Fr Gerard has commented above to indicate that in Salford [and presumably] in Liverpool that Confession precedes First Communion, so that allays my concern.

    The several published articles that I’ve read (and the diocesian video I viewed) on the matter are ambiguous on this point (perhaps it’s been better explained in other venues). But even the article above describes the change in the order of reception of the sacraments and then goes on to treat Confession in another paragraph almost as if it is somehow disconnected from First Communion (i.e. do the children receive First Confession on the Advent before or sometime after their First Communion?). Given that there are patches in the Church where First Confession is put off until after First Communion, a short sentence to in the press release/pamphlet saying the sacrament of Confession/Reconciliation will still precede First Communion would make things crystal clear.

  • Christopher

    It’s about time that the Latin Rite branch of the Catholic Church returned to the ancient way of offering the Sacraments of Initiation; it is something Eastern Rite Catholics have never changed in 2000 years. The offering of First Communion before Chrismation/Confirmation is not, as some think, a long established tradition in the West. It happened when Pius X encouraged the practice of giving Communion to children as means to combat the sad reality that many Catholics at the turn of the 20th century had such an exaggerated sense of being unworthy that they received only once as year. St Terese of Lisieux lamented the situation of so many not receiving Communion and ‘prophesied’ that soon a pope would change things, and she was correct.

    I personally believe that the Latin Church should do what it used to do, and what the Eastern Rite Catholics, Orthodox and Copts have always done: Baptise, Confirm and give Communion to babies in the one ceremony. That is the true ancient practice.

  • Anonymous

    It’s a great pity that Archbishop Kelly, or any other modern prelate for that matter, should think himself more prudent than the Popes from Pius IX through Pius XII in respect to the order of “sacramental initiation.”

    It’s also a great pity that he did not read Pius XII’s condemnation of the error of ‘Antiquarianism’ before deciding to swing the axe once more at the root of the great tree in his quest to rediscover the mustard seed.

    But even had he done so, His Grace would have discovered rather quickly that Confirmation at age 8, as he proposes, is a novelty that has no precedent even in the early Church.

    Referring to the sacramental order established by the above Popes, he states: “…The sacraments weren’t always in that order, and adults preparing for initiation have always received them in the original order: Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist (Communion),”

    Is His Grace here confusing adults in nature with adults in grace? It would certainly appear so given his additional comments about getting to know Jesus better throughout our life’s journey.

    This is what the CCC declares in the matter: “Although Confirmation is sometimes called the sacrament of Christian maturity, we must not confuse adult faith with the adult age of natural growth, nor forget that the baptismal grace is a grace of free, unmerited election and does not need ratification to become effective.”(CCC 1308).

    At any rate, I copy here from a lengthy treatise on the subject by Bishop Anthony Fisher: “It is commonly thought that it was Pope Pius X who upset the traditional sequence. In fact, however, a series of synods in France and elsewhere during the post-Napoleonic recovery of the Church in Europe proposed lowering the age of First Holy Communion in order to counter Jansenism, to promote greater Eucharistic devotion and especially to encourage more frequent reception of the Sacrament. It was argued in these Synods and by various scholars that delaying Confirmation was less serious than delaying Eucharist, which should be the daily bread of Christians, and that this would allow appropriate catechesis at least for Confirmation. Those who favoured this ‘new’ sequence of SOI pointed to the apostolic precedent of the Last Supper preceding Pentecost. The practice of First Holy Communion before Confirmation became widespread in Europe during the reign of Pope Pius IX.”

    I can’t help wondering if Archbishop Kelly is fully aware that infant Baptism washes away all sin up to the age of reason (age 7), upon the dawn of which culpability for actual sins becomes present. That’s why Confession and Holy Communion are established as more essential at that age and beyond than Confirmation, which, incidentally, must also be received in a state of grace.

    So, Baptism wipes away sin, as does Confession, while Holy Communion helps the soul to stay in God’s grace. These are absolutely essential for the immediate salvation of souls. Confirmation, whilst vitally important, will not deprive a soul of heaven in the event of premature death. What, then, should the priority be?

    I suggest that Archbishop Kelly would have done better for the souls under his care had he paid less attention to Confirmation and concentrated more on eradicating the scandalous, and illicitly introduced, practice of Communion in the hand.

  • http://www.roman-catholic-catechism.com/audio-catechism-story.html Mary

    My mother received her First Communion on the very day of her Confirmation, too. That was 70 some years ago here in the USA. It makes me wonder if she had received her First Communion from her bishop. I am very certain that she had received the sacrament of Penance before these sacraments because she demanded it for my younger sister in the 70s who was to receive Communion without Confession! No one else in the parish had complained, but the pastor arranged the First Confession for my sister because of my mother’s efforts. May God rest her good soul.

    I have seen older First Communion catechism books that have three or four questions about Confirmation so I wonder if this was a widespread practice back then.

    I love Fr. Gerard’s comments about the parents being better involved. This has been a treasure to us in our family since we have spent many years teaching our own children their catechism answers. We have learned many things about the Catholic Faith that we were not required to learn. The first time that I memorized the Ten Commandments was with my own children!

    I sure hope that the notes that I have seen about youngsters being invited to Confession during Advent and teenagers during Lent mean that they will be able to confess and have the best disposition possible before the reception of Confirmation and the Holy Eucharist. Thanks for the note about the Canon Law 914 mentioning prior reception of the sacrament of Penance. I agree that it would be good to post a note that this will be the protocol.

  • Tiggy

    I think this is a wise move. For once I find myself agreeing with the actions of a modern Bishop.

  • Jro3693

    The Diocese of Greensburg, Pennsylvania, USA did the same thing 15-20 years ago. The result was the collapse of the religious education system outside of Catholic Schools which are themselves in heavy decline. I undestand the Theology that pushes the change, but the pastoral application needs more than a decree for change. The practical effect was very few continued religious education after completing Christian Initiation at 8 years, and now a whole generation has grown up with little knowledge of the faith. Vocations to the priesthood which were never strong there are now very few. The one suggestion of moving the Sacraments to 12 is one way to approach this. It is when First Communion was given before Pope Pius X. It is disheartening to think we need a carrot and stick to make people educate their children in the faith, but it is the practical lesson of Greensburg.

  • Anonymous

    Mary, You may rest assured that it was, and remains, an absolute requirement of the Church that children receive First Confession before their First Holy Communion. The law of the Church was vigorously adhered to in your mother’s day, and even in mine (my First Confession/Communion was 1969), but now it seems to depend on the individual bent of the local bishop or priest. The law of the Church, however, remains unchanged. God bless your mother for her fidelity, and God rest her soul.

  • Nic_walshuk

    As a parent I am very happy that I will be able to take a bigger role in the religious education of my daughter. At our presentation Mass the children were given the book ‘My Book ABout Forgiveness,’ only to be told it had to be given in at school the following morning. There were pages of information to be filled in … baptism dates, God parent details etc. I felt robbed of the chance to work through the book with my daughter in a personal guided way instead of in school, where there may be little chance of questions or debate. I welcome the changes which will affect my younger daughter in the future.

  • Bernadette

    It was tried in Salford , and failed it was queitly forgotten for a few years ,now Liverpool is trying this change. At eight years old , the child is not aware of the depth of the promises they are being asked to make, this from mother of 3 chioldren. This smacks of desperation in an attempt to ‘retain’ children who at sixteen have develpoed there own thinking on religion.

  • Jdekrub

    Penance for a seven year-old is MEANINGLESS.  The bishops were convinced that little children should confess their monstrous sins in a laundry list format and thus be scarred for life after experiencing a rite better left to adults (as it was orginally established) who must come to terms with grievous sin and alienation and struggle to learn Christ’s way to forgiveness and reconciliation.  And, yes, this inane rule is the reason that adults today no longer receive the grace of forgiveness that God offers through the sacrament.  After all, you cannot do penance when you have no idea what it means to sin because you are operating from a seven year-old framework! 

    Oh, and what is this “traidtional western order?”  What a risible statement!   Is that like a “traditional British Christmas?”  And what, praytell, is that?

  • Margiemrgn

    It is young but remember it used to be when you was born so now at least the children do know what is happening to them and can be gratefull for knowing what it was like to recieve these special sacraments

  • Margiemrgn

    I myself am from Liverpool .The parents in my parish are not at all happy with this there are a lot of questions we want answering but no one will answer such as why do the children have to receive the sacraments during the week  thats just one and thats why iam on here looking for somewhere to get some information from . why are the parents not asked an opinion but yet they want us to be involved how can we when were not asked in the first place .the Catholic Religion is becoming a joke 

  • Margiemrgn

    Totally agree .I myself am from Liverpool ive come on this website to look for infomation trying to find out how and if we can do something about this .In my parish the childrens parents including myself are not at all happy about this but some people are scared to say anything so ive decided iam going to try all of the mothers agreed but just dont like saying anything thimking the priest will be vexed and they will get into trouble ,me i dont care i want to have my say and stand up for the parents and children.I was going to EMail Archbishop Kelly but looking on this page i think i would be wasting my time .We have been told in my parish that our children will make there Holy Communion and confirmation on the same day or maybe night and in school uniform we want to know why we wasnt asked what we would prefare seen as its supposed to be a community thing as we were told by the priest “its a comunnity affair ha seems thee only community was the church priest and yet they want us to go and participate with the children. i told my priest i and all the parents wished for the children to receive t5he sacraments at a weekend as a lot of people’s family’s work and would not be abnle to attend during the wee he smirked and said it was the Archbishops decision . I could go on forever at what went on at the meeting for the parents and children but i wont .iam considering not letting my 3 children participate at all iam disgusted with all this and think something needs to be done 
    As for us The Parents of Liverpool Children WERE NOT HAPPY  
    The Catholic Religeon is becoming a joke .

  • No name Jane

    Yes baptism is important for ALL.
    Catholics believe baptism is necessary for salvation.
    VATICAN II declared this in #7 of it’s decree Ad Gentes:
    “Therefore,
    all must be converted to Him, made known by the Church’s preaching, and
    all must be incorporated into Him by baptism and into the Church which
    is His body. For Christ Himself “by stressing in express language the
    necessity of faith and baptism (cf. Mark 16:16; John 3:5), at the same
    time confirmed the necessity of the Church, into which men enter by
    baptism, as by a door. Therefore those men cannot be saved, who though
    aware that God, through Jesus Christ founded the Church as something
    necessary, still do not wish to enter into it, or to persevere in it.”
    (Dogmatic constitution by Vatican II: Lumen Gentium 14) Therefore though
    God in ways known to Himself can lead those inculpably ignorant of the
    Gospel to find that faith without which it is impossible to please Him
    (Heb. 11:6), yet a necessity lies upon the Church (1 Cor. 9:16), and at
    the same time a sacred duty, to preach the Gospel. And hence missionary
    activity today as always retains its power and necessity.”