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Are we holding the Sacraments hostage?

Pope Francis seems to think so:

 The child has no responsibility for the marital state of its parents. And then, the baptism of children often becomes a new beginning for parents. Usually there is a little catechesis before baptism, about an hour, then a mystagogic catechesis during liturgy. Then, the priests and laity go to visit these families to continue with their post-baptismal pastoral. And it often happens that parents, who were not married in Church, maybe ask to come before the altar to celebrate the sacrament of marriage. 

Blogger Taylor Marshall goes on to say that he himself has "become discouraged how in the United States, the sacraments are 'held hostage' by local parish hierarchies." Our family has had a taste of this ourselves.

Dark-haired daughter has wanted to become confirmed. Bear in mind that, at the age of 17, she functions at about the 8-10 year old range cognitively, and has bipolar disorder. This, combined with many hospitalizations, made her formal catechetical training spotty. Despite this, we taught her as well as we could at home, formally and informally, and she loves her church and her faith. She desires to be a full member of the Catholic Church. Something stood in the way: a set of arbitrary rules mandated by a person wielding far more power than they should have.

We were told that Daughter would have to go through the 2 year Confirmation prep. program with the 7th and 8th graders in our parish. Besides being embarrassing and demeaning to her, Daughter really would not be able to keep up with and comprehend the work at that level. It was not a good solution, but we were told it was the only one.

So, I got creative. Let's just say that next week, Dark-Haired Daughter will be confirmed in the Catholic Church, with great joy on her part and a bit of sleight-of-hand on mine. It's not the way I would have liked to do it, as she will not be confirmed with our parish, but another one....but I think Pope Francis would approve. No one should have the sacraments held hostage from them.


  1. Yes, one finds impatience, presumption, deception, and disobedience to be the cornerstones of saintly parenting...well done...pride's a damned thing... Jason Jerome

  2. Dear Jason, We worked, as parents, very hard to work out a program with our current DRE. However, given our daughter's abilities, it was clearly burdensome to her to go through a two year program with students seven years younger than she. Unless there are SEVERE reasons, one cannot be denied a sacrament - that doesn't mean arbitrary hoops to jump through

    16. All baptized, unconfirmed Catholics who possess the use of reason may receive the sacrament of confirmation if they are suitably instructed, properly disposed and able to renew their baptismal promises (Canon 889). Persons who because of developmental or mental disabilities may never attain the use of reason are to be encouraged either directly or, if necessary, through their parents or guardian, to receive the sacrament of confirmation at the appropriate time.

    As for disobedience, we consulted our spiritual directors regarding this, along with the Director of Faith Formation of our diocese. We told our parish DRE what was happening. I am a sinner, and I know it, but my post stands: are we - as Pope Francis states - holding certain sacraments "hostage" due to arbitrary rules?

  3. It would appear that perhaps ones life might be as sleight of hand as is clearly evident in this logic, but to which sleight of hand should one address first. Well, let us deal with the most basic of problems, namely, truth. The truth is "Pope Francis" has issued no such thing, so acting like one is sure that the weight of papal authority follows behind a sleight of hand is a delusion from the inception of that thought process. The truth is that the man who became Pope Francis gave an interview several years back in which he discussed the concept of not withholding Baptism from children due to the failings of their parents, pointing out that the children who would be receiving Baptism could not be held accountable for their parents. However, the man who became Pope Francis did not discuss Confirmation or any other of the Sacraments, and to treat his comment as a general principle as opposed to a specific topic is a logical fallacy and highly presumptuous. It smacks of a will guided by selfishness and feelings, as opposed to one guided by reason. Perhaps, we should call all conditions that one might be born with a disability, and using this formula of generalization, presume that Pope Francis somehow sees a need to extend the Sacrament of Marriage to those disabled by homosexuality. Obviously, an exaggeration of this logic, but still demonstrates the error of this thought process none the less. However, I digress.

    The second sleight of hand is the truth that there is far more written in the Bishops' statement than this argument seem willing to acknowledge and a certain self-centered pride seems to be at the root. Throughout this pastoral letter it is noted that instruction proper to the Sacrament must take place, and here, obviously, neither this aspect of the writing nor the timely manner of the Sacrament seem to carry very much weight to this thought process. It would seem that instead of bringing the matter before the DRE in a timely fashion, it was sought in neglect of the child to haphazardly push a guilt ridden will through at the last second. It brings back images of families of old that neglected their children and sent their disabled children to institutions, but would visit them for a few hours every so often with a stuffed animal and a candy bar. Perhaps the DRE knew well enough that guilt drove the impatience, and felt the child could understand more than was given credit. Yes, indeed, highly presumptuous of me to go out on a limb, but as a father of two sons with Down's Syndrome who completed their confirmation process despite their "disabilities", I have to question the real commitment to the child a parent has when they write that they have waited until the child is 17 to approach the DRE. The fact that a parent would at the last minute after neglecting the issue and therefore the child herself for years and using sleight of hand and creativeness as it was called here, shows at best an immaturity of spirit and need for new spiritual direction, and at worst, points to a life guided by sloth, pride, gluttony, lust, greed, envy, and wrath. Rather than go on with my presumptions in the mold of this blog's construct, I will here, suggest that one meditate on Pope Francis' recent thoughts on rosewater faith and the path that follows. One might find it more helpful to the cause. My post also stands, and would be happy to convey my thoughts on many other aspects of this faulty logic.

  4. Dear Jason, You are right: I should have been more clear that the thoughts written were by Cardinal Bergoglione.

    You are unaware of many of the circumstances surrounding this, and I won't burden you with most of them. Let me say that my daughter has been hospitalized numerous times over the past 5 years due to her mental illness. This has disrupted any continuity in formal religious education. We did not "wait" until she was 17 to seek Confirmation, but those circumstances were thrust upon us by her illness. This was not a last minute arrangement but rather an on-going process of trying to make the best arrangements under difficult circumstances.

    I am slothful, proud, gluttonous, lustful, greedy, envious and wrathful. Thank you for your carefully constructed criticism and your equally dead-to-rights assessment of the state of my soul. Mea culpa.

  5. I, for one, am glad that I had "impatient, presumptuous, decietful, disobedient, prideful" parents who ensured my reception of the sacrament of Confirmation when circumstances did not make this possible at our home parish.

    I'm sure that your dark-haired daughter's godfather is very proud of her and will be praying for her on her Confirmation Day and always. I'm sure that he finds her perseverance inspiring! I'm sure he wishes he could be there, but he has to put the kiddos to bed on time (school night) because Mrs. godfather has some special "sponsoring" to do.

    I can't help but think that many of these problems step from an almost complete over-emphasis on sacramental preparation and almost no empasis on sacramental mystagogy. Sacramental prep in some places becomes a series of hoops to jump through to get your "ticket" to the sacrament, with little to no flexibility or follow-up. A more balanced approach might alleviate some of these issues.


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