Leaving the Church and returning

In Paul Turner's Blog by Paul Turner

Q:  Two women (one who will be getting married and the other someone who wants to become active again in the Catholic Church) came to us with very similar stories.  The first was baptized and received Eucharist in the Catholic Church; was never confirmed.  The second was baptized, confirmed and received Eucharist in the Catholic Church.  At some point in their adult lives, they explored the Lutheran Church and were confirmed in the Lutheran Church.

The question is “now what?”  My read on this is that through the confirmation ritual in the Lutheran Church, they became members of the Lutheran communion and that to become active members once again in the Catholic communion, we need to treat them as candidates for full communion — in essence, that they need to be returned to the full communion of the Catholic Church.  I have not encountered this situation until now (and now, twice!), so I would appreciate your input on whether my thinking on this is correct or whether I need to handle their return differently.

Also, one of the priests at my parish asked how many times can someone leave the Catholic communion for another (and act on that through formal membership ritual) and return.  I don’t know that this is a frequent occurrence, but given that some of my baptized candidates for full communion have participated in 2 or 3 Christian communions prior to seeking communion with the Catholic Church, it’s not an inconceivable scenario.

A:  To return to the practice of the Catholic Church, these people need the rite of reconciliation, not the rite of reception. Being confirmed a Lutheran does not undo their canonical attachment to the Catholic Church that they acquired at baptism.

There is a provision for an unconfirmed Catholic who becomes an apostate and then wants to return to the Catholic faith. In that case, the priest may confirm. But an apostate is someone who repudiates Christianity. Become a Lutheran is remaining a Christian. So the person in question is not an apostate.

People who leave the Catholic Church more than once in order to join different Christian Churches are treated the same: confession each time.