Children and initiation

In Paul Turner's Blog by Paul Turner

I guess you sent out some canon law quotes relating to RCIA recently, and they seem to say that any child of the age of reason should receive all the sacraments of initiation.

In the past when we have asked about this, you have said that it is a pastoral call on whether the child is ready to be prepared.

My pastor would like some clarification – we currently have a child in 3rd grade that we were going to only do Baptism to allow her more time to learn about the faith. You had advised us in the past that this was ok.

This new information seems to say otherwise.

Could you please clarify for us – thanks.


Sure. Sorry if I wasn’t clear on this in the past. The code of canon law 883 §2 and 885 §2 says that a priest has the faculty to confirm a child of catechetical age whom he baptizes and that he must use the faculty for the sake of the child.

I can think of two factors that might adjust the confirmation of this child. One is that the child is around the age of the use of reason, but just needs more time in formation—which means that, no matter the numerical age, the child does not have sufficient use of reason. Another is that the child is the oldest of, say, three children in the same family, all of whom need baptism, and for the sake of family life, the parents may voice a preference to have the confirmation of the oldest child deferred.

However, in both those cases, not only is confirmation deferred: First communion is also deferred. The child is simply baptized. We don’t have the option of doing baptism + first communion for a child of catechetical age. If the child is old enough for first communion catechesis, then the child is old enough to be confirmed, and, in fact, must be confirmed.

The underlying principle is that confirmation will benefit this child. It is a gift of the Holy Spirit. To receive the three sacraments of initiation at catechetical age equips the child in the best way possible for living as a Christian.