Rite of Election and Scrutinies

In Paul Turner's Blog by Paul Turner

Q: As we inch closer toward Lent, I have some issues popping up regarding upcoming preparatory rites for folks participating in our RCIA program. 

Rite of Election: I have an adult Catechumen who cannot get off from work on February 29th. Does it make more sense to omit that rite for him or to ask for delegation from my bishop pursuant to RCIA Nos 12 & 121 to elect this Catechumen at Mass?  

There is also a child of catechetical age (who is scheduled to be admitted to the catechumenate in two weeks) who will be out of town on the 29th. I am presuming that since the Rite of Election is optional for child catechumens (RCIA № 256) that we can omit it for this youngster even if other child catechumens will be coming for election. Am I correct? 

Scrutinies: I have a nice handful of children of catechetical age being admitted into the catechumenate in 2 weeks. I was about to schedule a liturgy for Penitential Rites: Scrutinies for children (Nos 257 & 291ff), but my catechists are insisting that they should participate in the Scrutinies with the adult catechumens. Even if I concur that makes sense (which I have not yet determined), would that be something that we would be permitted to do based on № 257?


A: Ask your bishop about absentees from the Rite of Election. He may delegate a priest to preside in a parish. I suggest you write a letter and see how he responds.

Regarding the child, I think you have a legitimate option to enroll or not to enroll. The Rite of Election for Children beginning at 277 is an addition to the RCIA in the USA. It’s not in the editio typica. Even 256, which calls it optional, does so in a phrase that was added in the USA. The typical edition does not call it optional for children. But these changes were approved for the USA in 1988 and remain in force. I think it was the mind of the framers to have children participate in the same Rite of Election with adults, but we have a different permission in the US. I’ve only heard of one diocese in the US where the bishop actually celebrates a separate rite of election for children.

RCIA 257 calls the children’s penitential rites preferable, not required. I’ve done it both ways. I’ve included children in the scrutinies for adults, and especially in years when I had children but no adults in the catechumenate, we just used the penitential rite.