11 or 16 – What’s The Best Age To Receive The Sacrament of Confirmation?

11 or 16 – What’s The Best Age To Receive The Sacrament of Confirmation?

ImageMy   dear brothers and sisters in Christ

I   have decided that, from now on in the Archdiocese of Glasgow, the   Confirmation of baptised children will take place around age 11 when children   are in P7, their final year of Primary School.

This   decision was motivated principally by pastoral concerns. It seemed sensible   to prolong the period of sacramental initiation of baptized children to give   parents a longer time to accompany their children through the reception of   the sacraments and to make the best of the efforts of Catholic teachers and   parish catechists. I felt too that Confirmation will mean more to children   who are a little older. And I imagine that most people would agree that it   will be spiritually more satisfying to celebrate Confirmation at Mass when   the newly-confirmed children can receive our Lord in Holy Communion as the   centre and high-point of their sacramental life.

It   is also very helpful that the new RE Syllabus for our Catholic schools, This   is Our Faith, fully allows for children to receive the Sacrament of   Confirmation at P7, P6 and P4, with age-appropriate learning. In fact, the   material on Confirmation for P7 in This is Our Faith is of a very high   order. Our P7 Children and their teachers will thus be able to access the   appropriate material within the very syllabus which is currently being used   in our schools.

So,   I would envisage that the Mass of Confirmation will be celebrated each year   in P7 in the time from Easter until around the Feast of the Sacred Heart   (usually mid-June). Since the bishop is the ordinary minister of Confirmation   (and since I love doing Confirmations!), I will celebrate as many of these   Confirmation Masses as I can. Since at the moment we have 90+ parishes, I   certainly will not be able to do them all, and Parish Priests will obviously   be delegated to celebrate Masses of Confirmation, as they are now for the   Rite of Confirmation.

So   the next “season” for the Confirmation of baptized children in the   Archdiocese of Glasgow will be in the final term of school year 2017-18,   which gives us 4 years to prepare for this small change to our sacramental   practice for baptised children, and we should be able to put all the   practical arrangements in place in that time.

The   timings of First Confession at P3 and of First Holy Communion at P4 remain   unchanged.

Having   heard the Council of Priests on this matter, and having consulted many people   – priests, parents and teachers – I am confident that this new arrangement   for Confirmation, which I have seen in practice, will enhance our efforts to   transmit the faith to our children and young people, and to evangelize   families, parishes and school communities.

Yours   devotedly in the Lord,

†Philip Tartaglia
Archbishop of Glasgow  (Click on photo of the Archbishop for source).

Comment: this is a welcome restoration of the “older” age for Confirmation – but would 16 be even better? If young people had to opt to be confirmed at 16, would not that put paid to the criticism that they are only following the religion “imposed” by their parents? Or are there other – more important – considerations to be taken into account? 

Comments (59)

  • Thurifer

    What is important, in my opinion, is that Confirmation gives the soul the graces of the Holy Ghost. Shouldn’t that be done as soon as someone is ready?

    February 2, 2014 at 10:15 pm
    • Margaret Mary


      I agree. I think Archbishop Tartaglia has got it about right at 11 years. I think the young people today need all the graces they can get and the strengthening of the Holy Spirit at Confirmation is something that should not be delayed.

      February 3, 2014 at 1:27 pm
  • Josephine


    That’s what we’ve always thought in the Church but there’s another side to it. Our godparents speak for us at our Baptism but at Confirmation the young person is supposed to be “confirming” that they want to practise their faith. I think Anglicans are teens before they are confirmed and that’s the reason. They are making a personal choice to be Christians. So, there is an argument to be had there.

    I’m not really sure of my position on this, as I can see both arguments, so I’m looking forward to reading what others say on this.

    February 2, 2014 at 10:43 pm
    • Margaret Mary


      I think the young people can still be taught about commitment and that they are helped by the Holy Spirit to be strong in their faith. I think delaying it until 16 would be a mistake as they would be subjected to all the temptations of atheism etc without the strengthening that comes with the Sacrament of Confirmation. I don’t think the Anglican churches are full of young people because they are not confirmed until their teen years.

      February 3, 2014 at 1:29 pm
  • Nicky

    In the early Church the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist were all received at the same time, and I’m surprised at the Archbishop’s decision because I’ve heard Glasgow priests arguing for that to be re-instated. However, they forget that in the early Church the converts were adults, that’s why all three went together.

    I’m with Thurifer on this – I think the argument for making the graces and gifts of the Holy Spirit available to young people as soon as possible, trumps the “choice” argument. Nobody’s forced to attend Mass etc. so it won’t affect their freedom to choose to leave the Church if they wish later on.

    February 2, 2014 at 10:51 pm
  • Eileenanne

    The age for Confirmation has varied considerably in Glasgow in my lifetime. I was confirmed aged almost ten, my sister just before her First Communion at seven. The rule fifty and more years ago seems to have been not so much a particular age, but when the bishop came around to do it! For most children it was usually in the year or two following First Communion, but there was quite a bit of variation. I imagine it was Cardinal Winning who regularised the system so that it was conferred in P6 or P7*, until the change he made later which brought it forward to before First Communion.

    I used to think 10 – 12 was rather young for the Sacrament until I said as much to another Catholic mother, who replied quite forcefully that she believed it was necessary to have young people Confirmed before the difficult teenage years came along. It struck me that she was right, and that I had only thought otherwise because, maybe, I didn’t really expect the Sacrament to have an effect… I began to think I was wrong.

    What we see as the best age for Confirmation depends on what we think it is for. If it is an outpouring of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which it is, then it doesn’t much matter when it is given. It could even be administered along with Baptism and explained later – as is Baptism. I can also see that First Communion should be the “crowning” of our initiation into the Church, which would mean it should be preceded by Confirmation. As has already been said, however, if we see Confirmation as a formal acceptance of the promises made on our behalf at Baptism, and a public declaration of our commitment to the Faith, then the age could vary from person to person. That may have implications for the proximate preparation, but these should not be insurmountable. I have heard it said – with tongue in cheek – that what we need is an eighth Sacrament – a kind of Catholic Bar Mitzvah. I no longer have any strong feeling on the subject. I can see the arguments for and against earlier or later Confirmation and therefore accepy quite easily the Archbishop’s decision on the most appropriate age, and would not be too upset if a future bishop changed the age again.

    I hope this is not too far off topic, but where I think Archbishop Tartaglia has missed an opportunity to make an improvement is in his decision to leave the age for First Confession and Communion unchanged. First Confession currently takes place in P3, usually in Lent, when the children are between 7 and 8 and they then have to wait over a year for First Communion by which time all will be at least eight and some will be nine. This has always struck me as wrong, for two main reasons. The first is that as far as I know, Canon Law still says First Communion should be celebrated around the age of seven. The second is that I do not believe there should be such a long gap between the two Sacraments. I would not like to see a return to what I experienced, namely First Confession one day and First Communion the next, but there is no need for a gap of over a year either. After all, if children are capable of sin at 7/8, we have no right to deny them the Eucharist, and if they are not capable of sin, then why are we introducing them to Confession? It would be much better, IMHO, to have First Confession in Lent – for seven year olds – followed by First Communion in May or June of the same year..

    *For simplicity I have used the terminology common in Glasgow, of referring to the age for Sacraments as a school year, even though I strongly object to this practice. I firmly believe that if we treat all our children’s religious experiences as school events, we can hardly be surprised if they throw religion away with the school uniform. This is a particular hobbyhorse of mine, but more of that on another day!

    February 3, 2014 at 10:21 am
    • Lily


      I could not agree more with you about Confirmation. I especially agree with your asterisked footnote. I would only add that if Confirmation was moved to say 16, the preparation could still take place in the school years a part of their RE lessons.

      About the receiving of First Confession being close to First Communion. There we disagree a bit. There has been a move away from the importance of receiving Holy Communion in a state of grace and if we want children to know that they cannot, e.g. miss Mass for no good reason or commit other mortal sins and just go to Communion without first confessing, just getting up and going to Communion at their next Mass then I think it is important to make First Communion happen soon after their First Confession. Most Confession times are on a Saturday so it would be quite usual for even adults to go to Confession on Saturday to prepare for Communion on Sunday. I don’t see a problem with that.

      February 3, 2014 at 10:47 am
      • Eileenanne


        I think it should still be possible to teach children that Communion must be received in a state of Grace-and I totally agree that that lesson must be taught – even if the Sacrament of Confession is first celebrated a few weeks in advance of First Communion.

        My reasons for wanting a bit of a gap – but not the 14 months or so we have at present – are twofold. Firstly, although I believe I was well prepared for the Sacraments, I picked up just a just a whiff of Confession being something nor very pleasant to be endured for the privilege of receiving Holy Communion. I was well into adulthood before I began to have some appreciation of Penance as a wonderful and important Sacrament in its own right. I think a bit of breathing space, 6-8 weeks, say – between the two first Sacraments might make it a bit easier to instil in children the idea that Confession has its own special graces to offer. First Communion is such a major affair in a child’s life, both spiritually and socially, that it is possible for Confession not to be given sufficient importance if they are being taught at exactly the same time.

        My second reason, is that I would not like to see a return to the attitude, fairly common among my parents’ generation, that one could not receive Communion on Sunday unless one had been to Confession on Saturday night. I am sure many good people in that generation denied themselves the grace of frequent Communion quite unnecessarily.

        February 3, 2014 at 12:39 pm
      • Lily


        I see what you mean and your points are very worthy of consideration.

        However, don’t you think there has been an attitude grown up in recent times, that we can receive Holy Communion even after grave sin without Confession?

        I also would like your view on the last paragraph – I think you’re probably right that some people did deny themselves frequent Communion unnecessarily but is that not better than receiving Communion unworthily? This is something a lot of people wonder about since we now hear that the Eucharist forgives sins, so we should go, but then on the other hand, we need to confess mortal sins, so it can be a bit confusing.

        February 3, 2014 at 12:58 pm
      • Eileenanne


        I think we are in complete agreement that children must be taught – and some adults need reminders – that we should only receive Communion when in a state of Grace. That should obviously be taught in preparation for both Sacraments. I don’t think that issue is directly related to the gap between the first reception of both Sacraments.

        The Eucharist does of course forgive venial sins, and sadly,many of those who denied themselves the Sacraments would probably only have committed venial sin.

        … some people did deny themselves frequent Communion unnecessarily but is that not better than receiving Communion unworthily?

        Well, ideally, people would understand when they should and should not receive Communion. If a person has committed a mortal sin, he/she would be aware of the fact – by definition, mortal sin has to be conscious and deliberate. It all comes down to the necessity for sound and thorough religious education, for both children and adults.

        Would Jeus prefer some people in mortal sin to receive if it meant others who had only venial sins did not? Interesting question about which I can only speculate. While people receiving the Eucharist in mortal sin will surely displease Him, so would people in a state of grace staying away from the Sacrament. I suggest He might prefer a few “unworthy” Communions to having good people separate themselves from Him. But then I’m not a theologian, that’s just a gut feeling.

        February 3, 2014 at 2:20 pm
      • Eileenanne

        Correction to first sentence of last paragraph:

        Would Jeus prefer some people in mortal sin to receive if it meant others who had only venial sins did not hold back from Communion?

        February 3, 2014 at 2:22 pm
      • Frankier

        I don’t remember any rule that stated one could not receive communion on a Sunday unless one had been to confession on the Saturday night.

        The rule was that it was critical to be in a state of grace (which I would assume is still the rule) on receiving communion, so the
        sensible and easiest way to fulfil this was to have as little a time gap as possible between confessing and receiving.

        I know in my case it was a struggle to keep in a state of grace even for that short time.

        As for there being a gap of a year between first confession and First Holy Communion, I would have thought that even the children of Fatima would have struggled with that one.

        And by the way, it is not only children who should be taught that you should be in a state of grace on receiving communion, I think the adults, including the clergy, are needing a crash course there too.

        February 3, 2014 at 1:45 pm
      • Eileenanne


        Of course there was never a rule, but there was a fairly common practice amongst an older generation that they would not receive Communion on Sunday if they had not been to Confession on saturday.

        February 3, 2014 at 2:07 pm
      • Frankier


        Was this not better than what happens now, everybody trooping up like zombies, putting their hand out for the host and walking away giving an Alex Ferguson (chewing) impersonation?

        Personally, I don’t receive now unless I think I am worthy. I try to get to regular confessions to attain this but nobody can be certain they are in a state of grace. Least of all me with my quick temper.

        February 3, 2014 at 2:32 pm
      • Eileenanne

        None of us can ever be worthy of the Eucharist. I think that sometimes in the past it was seen almost as a reward for being good, rather than as an aid to being better.

        I disagree about whether we can be sure of being in a state of Grace. I do not believe that someone with a conscience that is even reasonably well-formed will be in any doubt about whether a sin is mortal or venial. A rough rule of thumb is that if you are genuinely unsure, then the sin is not mortal. A sincere act of Contrtion before receiving the Eucharist is the right thing to do. A person like yourself who obviously takes his spiritual life seriously would not be able to sleep at night if he had actually committed a mortal sin.

        Sorry – I do seem to have taken this thread off topic.

        February 3, 2014 at 3:05 pm
      • gabriel syme

        I enjoyed reading the discussion about taking communion, grace and confession.

        At my primary school, (1980s), we were not taught anything about these concepts. Accordingly, many times in my earlier life – perhaps even most times – I had been receiving communion when I really should not have been.

        (Upon finally realising this, several decades after my first communion, I included this in a confession.)

        The only thing we were taught at primary regarding confession was that “receiving in the hand is just the same as on your tongue. Just the same“. This was drummed into us, so all the kids naturally started off receiving via the hand. It wsa portrayed as the modern / new / dare I say “cool” thing to do. I can remember the announcement by the teacher, very vividly, who also went on to state that “no one can stop you” if you wanted to receive in the hand.

        Most people today are wholly ignorant of any concept of being fit to receive communion. This is painfully obvious to see, if you examine the attitude and dispositions of the que trudging up to receive at any novus ordo mass.

        February 4, 2014 at 10:20 am
      • Eileenanne

        Gabriel Syme,
        I wonder why you chose the word “trudge” to describe the demeanour of people going to receive Communion? I usually try to focus on my own preparation for Communion rather than examining the attitude and dispositions of others, so I am curious about what I’m missing.

        February 4, 2014 at 11:07 am
      • Eileenanne

        Also, if you didn’t KNOW you should not be receiving Communion, you did nothing wrong by receiving. If you didn’t KNOW your sins were potentially mortal then they were not. Laxity and scrupolisity are both to be avoided.

        February 4, 2014 at 11:09 am
      • gabriel syme

        I used the word “trudge” because that is accurate.

        It reflects the lax, casual, irreverent and unthinking manner in which the vast majority of novus ordo attendees receive communion.

        February 4, 2014 at 11:56 am
      • gabriel syme

        Also, if you didn’t KNOW you should not be receiving Communion, you did nothing wrong by receiving

        That’s a fair point, but I remain resentful at how badly I was let down by my Catholic School and Parish priest of the time.

        Years later, I discovered that – around the same time as my first communion – Pope John Paul II issued a statement forbidding lay people from touching the Eucharist.

        Yet my “Catholic” teachers were actively promoting the complete opposite to Papal teaching.

        Its a disgrace and now wonder things are in the state which they are in.

        February 4, 2014 at 11:59 am
  • Frankier


    Re. you parents’ generation.

    I remember at that time my brother and his wife went faithfully every Saturday night to confession and the parish priest virtually told them that it was unnecessary. Didn’t want to hear the same old sins every week. If they had been going to the local pub instead I don’t suppose the priest would have seen anything wrong with that.

    I blame this attitude from the clergy for the rot starting in the Church.

    If I remember correctly, the norm in those days was confessions once a month with one week especially for the children, where you would go to confession (in the church next door) on the Friday during school hours.

    I remember one Friday when two of my schoolmates, God rest them now, started playing cowboys and Indians as soon as they came out of confession and finished up breaking a pane of stained glass with their six-shooter. The parish priest came searching for them later on so they took refuge in a toilet, thinking that a priest wouldn’t go into a toilet. They soon found out different when they got their lugs skelped.

    I wonder if they were still in a state of grace after five minutes never mind a year.

    February 3, 2014 at 2:09 pm
    • Eileenanne

      Children playing cowboys and Indians and breaking a pane of glass accidentally could never constutute mortal sin. But for a priest to skelp the lugs of children, now that’s a different matter…

      BTw, there is no reason to suppose that children would not go to Confession many times in the year bewteen the two sacraments. My point is that if they are capable of sin, they must not be denied the Grace of the Eucharist.

      February 3, 2014 at 2:27 pm
  • Frankier


    I was really only joking when I questioned whether they would be in a state of grace after accidentally breaking a window nor did I even hint at it being a mortal sin. I do like to try and lighten things up occasionally

    If someone is CAPABLE of sin they must obviously not be denied the eucharist because of that but,
    in my opinion, anyone who feels they are not in a state of grace shouldn’t go near the altar.

    As for their lugs getting skelped. These same two “sinners” used to enjoy a laugh about it in later life and said it was the best thing that could have happened to them at that particular time. Those were the days when elders were allowed to discipline unruly children and when you read about the real abuses in the Church I don’t think that a minor chastisement merits the “that’s a different matter comment.”

    February 3, 2014 at 2:50 pm
    • Nicky


      “Those were the days when elders were allowed to discipline unruly children and when you read about the real abuses in the Church I don’t think that a minor chastisement merits the “that’s a different matter comment.”

      The news yesterday and today about Gove trying to introduce “traditional” punishments for badly behaved pupils, and he names writing lines and picking up litter (not corporal punishment) has already brought talk of lack of co-operation from parents. “Society” has gone from “protecting” children from the belt (England, cane) to not being able to punish them at all. I doubt many former pupils and teachers will be “enjoying a laugh” in later life about the discipline in today’s schools. It’s more likely that former pupils will take out law suits against schools that cost them their education due to not doing enough to stop bad behaviour in lessons.

      Sorry if that’s off topic but I did comment on the top above, but would it be on topic to ask if Catholic pupils who badly disturb lessons would be committing a venial or a mortal sin. If they set out to deliberately upset the teacher and spoil the lesson, that surely is grave matter (if it’s on-going, not just a one-off). If any child of mine told me that he’d done that, I’d definitely say he had to confess before going to Holy Communion. If he was due to be Confirmed, I’d also threaten to cancel until he learned how to behave himself.

      I await the flack!

      February 3, 2014 at 7:00 pm
      • Nicky

        Oops! “I did comment on the top above” should be “I did comment on the topic above”. Sorry for careless mistake.

        February 3, 2014 at 7:01 pm
      • Eileenanne


        Saying your child could be confirmed once he learned to behave is a bit like saying he can go in the water after he has learned to swim. The Sacraments are not meant to be rewards for being good. They are meant to be sources of Grace to help us become better.

        February 3, 2014 at 7:35 pm
      • Nicky


        I didn’t say he could be confirmed once he learned to behave, but that I would threaten to cancel his Confirmation – that would be to drive home the fact that Confirmation is about committing to live a proper Christian life, not just a ceremony and excuse for a party. That’s all I meant. You are right that the Sacraments are not meant to be rewards for being good etc, but they are not meant to be taken lightly either.

        February 3, 2014 at 8:06 pm
  • WurdeSmythe

    In the Eastern Rite, Confirmation is administered promptly after Baptism. In the west we do this only when there is grave risk of death, but that hasn’t always been the case” Confirmation used to be administered at an earlier age than it is now. Given the post-Christian nature of our age, I think a sensible case could be made for returning to the older custom so that youngsters are better fortified with the graces received by the Sacrament.

    February 3, 2014 at 3:38 pm
    • editor


      Great to hear from you again – and a good point about the “post-Christian nature of our age” being a reason to administer the Sacrament of Confirmation as early as possible – if not earlier 😀

      February 3, 2014 at 11:49 pm
  • Eileenanne

    I can see the sense in administering Confirmation along with Baptism.
    I once heard someone say that the western Church will never take on that practice becaue it would look like an admission that those in the Eastern Rite were right all along!!

    February 3, 2014 at 3:50 pm
  • Miles Immaculatae

    I believe that children should receive the grace of confirmation as early as possible. I do not think seven years old is too early. I also don’t believe a particular age should be set, because this restricts the amount of confirmations the bishop can do, as he admits. The bishop should cycle parishes and children/adults of any age should be presented to him when he is available. That way everyone is confirmed by the proper minister of the sacrament… a bishop!

    February 4, 2014 at 7:10 am
  • crofterlady

    Agreed, Miles. One of my sisters was confirmed at 6 years old because, being a Down’s Syndrome child, she was considered at risk of a heart defect by the nuns. She later made her first Holy Communion. What I do think is that all frippery and glamour should be ousted from such events. In France, all Confirmands wear plain white robes. I mean have you ever seen Irish Gypsy religious events? Unbelievable.

    February 4, 2014 at 12:19 pm
    • Eileenanne

      I think it is of little importance what children wear for any of the Sacraments so long as the outfit is modest and decent, but would refuse point blank to dress my child in school uniform or any other uniform for the events, including the white robes or albs you mention and which have been introduced in some Scottish parishes in recent years.

      In the RE programme, children are taught that each of us is an individual, unique creation, so it seems inconsistent to say when it come to Confirmation “Just to keep everyone the same, this is what you will wear.”

      I have said this in many conversations with fellow Catholics and the usual response is “But think of what they would wear!!” That reply usually reflects a fear that children would turn up in football tops or something inappropriately fashionable. I was involved in parish-based preparation of children for the Sacraments in a place with no Catholic schools for many years. The dress code for the Sacaraments was just “neat and tidy”. I never saw any Confirmand in anything unsuitable. Most of our young folk were in the first or second year of secondary school.

      Especially when Confirmation is conferred on teenagers, I think it is very important that we consider the underlying message we give them if we insist on a particular style of dress. It is vitally important that young people realise that it is OK to be interested in fashion as well as Faith, and that it is fine to go to a match on Saturday as well as Mass on Sunday. The subliminal message if we put them in something they would never wear for any other occasion is that there is a conflict between the interests of a normal young person and a faithful Catholic. The implied disapproval of what they might otherwise wear reinforces the notion that the Church is for fuddy duddy old folk, and once they get that idea there is little hope of keeping them in the Church.

      I assume the “frippery and glamour” you want ousted refers to excessively fancy and expensive dresses and large parties. I think it would make sense to encourage simplicity in such matters, but really it is up to the families concerned, and as long as there is no pressure to overspend, there is not much else anyone can do. No-one can forbid such things. However, I do think some parents go over the top on these things because for many years the Sacraments were school affairs in which parents had little involvement, beyond providing the outfit and turning up on time. Thankfully this has begun to change in most Glasgow parishes, but it is an area in which there is still room for improvement.

      February 4, 2014 at 1:35 pm
  • Eileenanne

    Gabriel Syme,

    The replies seem to have run out above, so this is in reply to your post of 11,59am today.

    I queried your use of the word “trudge” because my undersatnding was that the word implies some weariness or reluctance. After reading your reply, I checked with an online dictionary which defines “trudge” thus:
    to walk, especially laboriously or wearily

    Since Jesus specifically invited the weary to come to Him, trudging to Communion seems fine.

    It reflects the lax, casual, irreverent and unthinking manner in which the vast majority of novus ordo attendees receive communion.

    Well, given the definition of the word, clearly it doesn’t – and I can’t imagine how you know in what state ANYONE other than yourself receives Communion, and unless you are referring to children for whom you are responsible, it really is none of your business.

    Pope John Paul II issued a statement forbidding lay people from touching the Eucharist.

    Have you a link to that statment please? If not, if you give me the year I can probably find it – if it exists, which I doubt.

    February 4, 2014 at 1:12 pm
    • editor


      Here’s what Pope John Paul II said about Communion in the hand (all his attempts to curb the abuse of Communion in the hand, failed – the spirit of rebellion is now too deeply embedded in the “Catholic” psyche for a papal instruction to make any difference):

      This unlawful abuse is so well established as local custom that even Pope John Paul II, who made at least a paper attempt to curb the abuse was completely unsuccessful. In his letter Domincae Cenae of February 24, 1980, the Pope restated the Church’s teaching that “to touch the sacred species and to administer them with their own hands is a privilege of the ordained.” But, for whatever reason, this 1980 document contained no threat of penalty to any laymen, priest or bishop who ignored the Pope’s plea. A law without a penalty is not a law, it̓s a suggestion. And this 15-year-old letter of Pope John Paul II has been taken as an unwelcome and unheeded suggestion by the hierarchy and clergy of Western countries. Read more

      It really underlines the truth of the above linked article, when an abuse of this nature and gravity could become the norm, despite the various attempts by pontiffs to put an end to it. Of course, as the extract from the article I’ve quoted above states in effect, the fact that the popes won’t enforce their own authority, isn’t helping. Even way back, Pope Paul VI, in Memoriale Domini tried to end the abuse of Communion in the hand, saying that it was to be tolerated only where it had become established by May 1969 – again that was ignored by all the same “obedient” Catholics who scream “disobedient” at the SSPX so the Vatican eventually gave way and ended up approving it whenever requested. It’s all part of the scandal of the diabolical disorientation. If you support it, Eileenanne, if you actively receive in that way, or encourage others to do so, then you are, lamentably, part of that disorientation.

      I recommend that you read Pope Paul’s New Mass by Michael Davies (lay convert to the Faith) now deceased, because he covers everything, including Communion in the hand, in the most academic, historical and scholarly manner. A must-read for anyone who wishes to be truly informed about the teaching of the Catholic Church on the Mass and related issues.

      N O T I C E

      When I first tried to post this comment, it disappeared and a notice read “sorry, this comment could not be posted”. I’ve no idea why and will check it out, but I thought I ought to suggest that we all type our comments in Word first, saving them in case we have a similar experience. This comment is a fair bit shorter than my original response. Life it too short!

      February 4, 2014 at 2:10 pm
      • Eileenanne

        Oh editor! I’m surprised at you. Here is the full quote from Domincae Cenae, which says something rather different: (Emphasis added)

        In some countries the practice of receiving Communion in the hand has been introduced. This practice has been requested by individual episcopal conferences and has received approval from the Apostolic See. However, cases of a deplorable lack of respect towards the eucharistic species have been reported, cases which are imputable not only to the individuals guilty of such behavior but also to the pastors of the church who have not been vigilant enough regarding the attitude of the faithful towards the Eucharist. It also happens, on occasion, that the free choice of those who prefer to continue the practice of receiving the Eucharist on the tongue is not taken into account in those places where the distribution of Communion in the hand has been authorized. It is therefore difficult in the context of this present letter not to mention the sad phenomena previously referred to. This is in no way meant to refer to those who, receiving the Lord Jesus in the hand, do so with profound reverence and devotion, in those countries where this practice has been authorized.

        But one must not forget the primary office of priests, who have been consecrated by their ordination to represent Christ the Priest: for this reason their hands, like their words and their will, have become the direct instruments of Christ. Through this fact, that is, as ministers of the Holy Eucharist, they have a primary responsibility for the sacred species, because it is a total responsibility: they offer the bread and wine, they consecrate it, and then distribute the sacred species to the participants in the assembly who wish to receive them. Deacons can only bring to the altar the offerings of the faithful and, once they have been consecrated by the priest, distribute them. How eloquent therefore, even if not of ancient custom, is the rite of the anointing of the hands in our Latin ordination, as though precisely for these hands a special grace and power of the Holy Spirit is necessary!

        To touch the sacred species and to distribute them with their own hands is a privilege of the ordained, one which indicates an active participation in the ministry of the Eucharist. It is obvious that the Church can grant this faculty to those who are neither priests nor deacons, as is the case with acolytes in the exercise of their ministry, especially if they are destined for future ordination, or with other lay people who are chosen f this to meet a just need, but always after an adequate preparation.

        There is nothing there forbidding Communion in the hand – merely a plea for it to be done appropriately and reverently, with which I whioleheartedly concur.

        I have said before on this blog that I agree Extraordinary Ministers of Hoy Communion are often used unnecessarily, but I have never seen one of them fail to carry out the role reverently.

        You are perfectly free to dislike the practice of Communion in the hand and the existence of EMHCs, but whether you like it or not, both ARE permitted.

        February 4, 2014 at 3:06 pm
      • gabriel syme

        You are perfectly free to dislike the practice of Communion in the hand and the existence of EMHCs, but whether you like it or not, both ARE permitted.

        In my understanding, the history of how that permission was gained is quite inglorious (I understand that permission was given retrospectively after certain Catholics started to do as they pleased while ignoring Papal instructions).

        You say you have never seen a EMHC fail to be suitably reverent: not long ago, I was confronted by a uniformed school-girl distributing communion. I do not know how old. She didn’t say “Body of Christ” and was clearly appalled at having to place the host on my tongue.

        Its not good enough – this kind of thing (above) is just pure self-indulgence by the parish community.

        February 4, 2014 at 4:23 pm
      • editor


        I selected the key part of the statement in response to your question as to where does Pope John Paul II “forbid” Communion in the hand. The Church has forbidden Communion in the hand consistently – including in post- Vatican II times, while, in post-Vatican II times, allowing concessions due to the widespread disobedience of bishops and priests. I realised that you would know there were plenty of quotes to support this disobedience and deceit, so I selected the part reflecting Catholic Tradition. I could have added that Pope John Paul II refused to allow the practice in Rome, and would only distribute on the tongue himself. Pope Benedict went a step further and would only distribute to those kneeling. When ill, Pope John Paul II received on the tongue from Cardinal Ratzinger. I mean, talk about take the hint.

        But never mind about Pope John Paul II or any other negligent post-Vatican II pontiff. Here’s what the Angelic Doctor of the Church, St Thomas Aquinas has to say on the matter:

        “Out of Reverence for this Sacrament, nothing Touches It but what is Consecrated” .

        End of discussion. Anyone with a solid Catholic sense, even if they have gone along with this institutionalised abuse until now, would stop, knowing that it is not the mind of the Church, merely a deviation, a deviation which is but one more piece of evidence of the “diabolical disorientation” afflicting the Church today. Nobody with an informed conscience could dismiss this abuse as acceptable because it is “permitted”. It came about as a result of disobedience and is kept in place due to the many lies and misrepresentations about the practice in the history of the Church. I suggest you read Pope Paul’s New Mass by Michael Davies (layman and convert, now deceased) which covers this subject in the most academic, historical and scholarly manner – if, that is, you really want to know the truth about a practise which is, unquestionably, displeasing to God.

        February 4, 2014 at 4:44 pm
    • gabriel syme


      Congratulations on your technical, petty victory over the meaning of the word “trudge”. You must be so proud. Well done. What a good Catholic you are.

      Regarding the John Paul II statement, I was refering to INAESTIMABILE DONUM (Feb 1980).

      I would have thought that you would have been aware of that.

      I did not appreciate having my honesty called in question; I am very capable of making a mistake, but I would never lie about what a Pope said.

      “9. Eucharistic Communion. Communion is a gift of the Lord, given to the faithful through the minister appointed for this purpose. It is not permitted that the faithful should themselves pick up the consecrated bread and the sacred chalice, still less that they should hand them from one to another.”

      The same document notes Extraordinary ministers (religious or lay) should only ever be used if the priest is somehow impeded, or there are far too many people for one priest. The conditions laid out would prohibit probably ever single instance of Extraordinary ministers I have ever seen. (Its most commonly used as a way of “including” people, not because it is necessary)


      The Popes are very consistent on this matter – that lay people should not be handling the Eucharist – and people are often refused and corrected if they attempt to receive in the hand at Papal events.

      And as the behaviour and demeanour of others at mass directly impinges on my own experience, then I feel it is my business and I am certainly entitled to my opinion – whether you like it or not.

      Once I was at mass and the person receiving (in the hand) in front of me dropped the host on the floor. It was an accident, but it was born of the inferior practice of communion in the hand. Things like that do not happen when communion is distributed and received properly.

      February 4, 2014 at 4:13 pm
      • editor

        Gabriel Syme,

        Like you, I’ve had the most unfortunate experiences of lay people giving out Holy Communion. I’ve even had, not one, but two of them try to force me to receive from the chalice – after I’d returned to my seat, having received the Host kneeling and on the tongue, having obtained permission from the priest to go up last and kneel. Because I was at the front, on two different occasions, two different Masses, two different EMHC approached me, disturbed my thanksgiving to proffer the chalice. I was horrified. Afterwards, when I approached them politely (believe it or not) saying I ought to explain why I wouldn’t receive from the chalice (having reflected that this was an opportunity to do some educating on the subject) one of them pushed past me saying “you’re weird”.

        As for dressing modestly as someone (? Eileenanne) mentioned above, I once had a phone call from a parishioner who had been appalled to see one of these EHMCs dressed very scantily indeed ( will spare you the details, except to say she wouldn’t have looked out of place on a beach) up at the Tabernacle, standing beside the priest. Disgraceful.

        I keep thinking about the “disobedience” of Archbishop Lefebvre: what if he’d been as “obedient” as the rest of the world’s bishops, Gabriel? We’d still be suffering the scandalous sight of laypeople handling the Blessed Sacrament and insulting Our Lord by their casual dress and attitude to His Presence.

        You just gotta LOVE Archbishop Lefebvre’s “disobedience” 😀

        February 4, 2014 at 4:53 pm
    • Frankier


      The people Gabriel Syme is talking about are not weary, they are, and look, disinterested.

      If they were in an army parade they would be hauled up in front of the CO and given detention and the “parade” for holy communion is far more important than a march to celebrate a (probably) illegal war.

      February 4, 2014 at 11:32 pm
  • Eileenanne

    Editor and Gabriel Syme,

    You are both guilty of selective quoting, which is reminiscent of theatre billboards which say of their production “GREAT!!” says the Daily Bugle, when waht the reviewer actually said was ” A GREAT BORE!”

    The fact that you both dislike the practice of Communion in the hand, the fact that you both exercise you right not to receive in the and, the fact that recent Popes don’t seem keen, does NOT change the fact that both ARE allowed. EMHCs should be appointed only under specific circumstances and should be properly trained in their duties – I could not agree more. Sometimes these two conditions are not met and they are used inappropriately – I agree. But it is absolutely wrong to twist the words of Pope John Paul II to make it appear that he forbade lay people to touch the host. He did not, or at least you have not yet produced any evidence that he did. I will be surprised if you do.

    Gabriel, the instruction about lay people not picking up the host and chalice is repeated,I think, in Redemptionis Sacramentum, which was supposed to correct some wrongful practices that had arisen. Taken in the context of the whole document it clearly means thameans is that the EMHC must be given the chalice or ciborium by the priests and take the chalice back from each communicant. Self-service Communion is forbidden.

    This is not the first time I have participated in just this debate on this blog. I hope everyone is now clear that whether they like it or not, Communion in the hand and the use of EMHCs iare NOT forbidden.

    February 4, 2014 at 7:47 pm
    • editor


      You are confusing “permission” with “legitimate”. That the popes have permitted various liturgical abuses, including Communion in the hand is – as I’m tired of pointing out – evidence of the diabolical disorientation in the Church foretold at Fatima, it is not proof that Communion in the hand is legitimate and pleasing to God. It is neither.

      As you say yourself, you have participated in plenty of debates on the subject on this blog, (and it has been made very clear to you in this latest discussion) so you really ought to know that the traditional teaching of the Church on Communion in the hand REMAINS IN FORCE. That certain abuses have been “permitted” after failed attempts to stop them, is not exactly a persuasive argument in favour of either EMHC or laity in general receiving Communion in the hand. It remains the case that the liturgical norm is to receive Holy Communion on the tongue, kneeling.

      The “selective” quotes to which you refer are those which are making clear the traditional teaching of the Church. That modern popes have gone on to then accept the liturgical abuses prevalent today including Communion in the hand (in their weakness of character and refusal to enforce their authority) is lamentable but it is not proof that Communion in the hand is acceptable. Why do so many Catholics recoil from the very thought of it and refuse to participate in what is an outrage against the Blessed Sacrament, if it is a legitimate permission? The fact that – due to Modernist popes and prelates – it has not been condemned and prohibited (as it will be in future when normality is restored, I have no doubt) does not prevent informed Catholics from refusing to participate in what is undoubtedly and objectively a sacrilege. In times of crisis, the great saints and Doctors of the Church have always counselled, we must adhere to Catholic Tradition. Communion in the hand is a break with Catholic Tradition – it is not, as its proponents pretend, a return to the earliest practices. Not at all. Again, I recommend you read Michael Davies if you really want to know the truth about the lies spread abroad to achieve this particular liturgical abuse. It makes riveting reading.

      It is a Protestant custom to receive their “bread” in the hand and standing. It has never been the Catholic tradition. Far from it. That there are Catholics who now prefer it, on the grounds that it is “permitted” (most of them unaware of the deception used to get that “permission”) speaks volumes about the success of the Vatican II revolutionary spirit (especially since the subject was not even mentioned at Vatican II).

      A reader once sent me a very interesting essay entitled “Protestant Catholics”. It is my considered opinion that there are at least two key issues which reveal the Protestant spirit now abroad within Catholicism: (1) Communion in the hand and (2) Birth Control. Ask any Catholic for their opinion on these two and the Protestant Catholics are quickly revealed. The very fact that you could dismiss the two most recent examples – of Pope John Paul II not permitting Communion in the hand in Rome/himself receiving on the tongue from Cardinal Ratzinger, and Pope Benedict’s refusal to administer Holy Communion except to communicants kneeling and on the tongue – speaks volumes. If Communion in the hand were a legitimate “permission” neither of those popes would have refused to administer in that manner.

      I’d love to discuss this with you again, Eileenanne, after you read Pope Paul’s New Mass by Michael Davies (or any of Michael’s writings on the subject).

      February 4, 2014 at 9:15 pm
  • Eileenanne

    I’m in the middle of a rather good Jodi Picoult at the moment so it won’t be this week. Do I have to read the whole book or just the bits that fit with my already formed opinions?

    February 4, 2014 at 11:42 pm
    • editor


      You can jump to the section on Communion in the hand – no problem. But I guarantee you wont’ be able to help yourself; you’ll want to read the whole thing and THEN you’ll want to read the other volumes (there are three – I’ve only got # 3 but intend to beg, borrow or steal volumes 1 & 2 asap) and then you’ll want to read Pope John’s Council – anything on the liturgy by Michael Davies is a must-read.

      February 4, 2014 at 11:59 pm
  • Frankier


    We will soon be at the stage where if we go into the local library to read the daily newspaper we’ll be required to wear a pair of rubber gloves, a hard hat and a high vis jacket and yet you are quite happy to see the Blessed Sacrament handled like a bus ticket.

    No wonder some say that there is nowt as queer as (catholic?) folk.

    February 4, 2014 at 11:56 pm
    • editor

      That’s an excellent point, Frankier. Look at the extreme care taken in libraries with literary treasures and artefacts. I remember once, in the Mitchell Library, when I had to check some ancient documents, and was doing my best to keep them on the allotted cloth, that every time an employee passed by, care was taken to check that my document was where it should be and on one occasion that I noticed, the librarian gently moved the paper I was reading which, I presume, had moved slightly askew.

      You are right – that is a very good example of the way – as Our Lord put it – the children of this world could teach the alleged children of light something.

      Not absolutely sure that Our Lord said “alleged” but you’ll get my drift… 😀

      February 5, 2014 at 12:03 am
      • Frankier


        I remember when I did my National Service you had to salute old torn flags commemorating past battles (the colours) where many innocent people lost their lives and these banners had only to be carried on brass poles with NCOs wearing large white gloves.

        I think of this every time I see the Blessed Sacrament being treated like dirt.

        February 5, 2014 at 12:16 am
  • Frankier


    You should try putting Jodi aside for a moment and read what Archbishop Athanasius Schneider said about communion in the hand in 2011.

    February 5, 2014 at 12:06 am
    • editor


      Or maybe Eileenanne missed the video we’ve posted many times, where Archbishop Schneider speaks about Communion in the hand, so here it is again, just in case…

      February 5, 2014 at 12:09 am
  • Frankier


    I will finish by serenading Eileenanne.

    Eileen, goodnight Eileen, Eileen goodnight, good night Eileen, goodnight Eileen, I’ll see you in my dreams. Last Saturday night I got married, me and my wife settled down zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

    February 5, 2014 at 12:22 am
    • editor


      Now I’m jealous – you never serenade me 🙄

      February 5, 2014 at 12:29 am
      • Frankier


        I was going to do you next but, as you see, I fell asleep.

        Eileenanne is a good tonic to help you to sleep.

        However, maybe some day! 🙂

        February 5, 2014 at 9:39 am
      • editor


        I’ll hold you to that!

        On topic: thinking about the deviation from Confirmation age into Communion in the hand, perhaps those instructing candidates for Confirmation should first of all have to read Michael Davies’ on the Mass and Communion in the hand, in order to properly instruct those preparing for Confirmation.

        Do we all see the connection? Confirmation = Soldiers of Christ = to defend the Faith = which Faith = traditional Catholic Faith…..

        You get my drift?

        February 5, 2014 at 10:25 am
  • Frankier

    Definitely agree. The Faith, if you could call it that, that we have at present is hardly worth defending.

    I don’t know whether the saints Margaret Clitheroe or John Ogilvie would fancy the heavy door or the noose to defend what we have got at present.

    The shambles we have at the moment is a betrayal of martyrs like them.

    February 5, 2014 at 11:04 am
    • Crofterlady

      Frankier, it’s IRENE goodnight Irene etc., not Eileen. Just for the record 🙂

      February 5, 2014 at 2:17 pm
      • Eileenanne

        Crofter Lady,
        Please allow Frankier a bit of poetic licence. It’s a long time since I’ve been sung to sleep. 🙂

        February 5, 2014 at 7:55 pm
      • Frankier


        But it was Eileen I was serenading, why should I be singing about Irene?

        The Irene you talk about will be long gone by now I would think.

        February 5, 2014 at 11:08 pm
  • Graeme Taylor

    3 or 4 weeks ago i was driving family members back from a large family celebration in Nottingham, it had gone on later than expected and we had missed Mass, so we drove to Edinburgh and were just in time to assist at the Cathedral evening Mass. there were perhaps 150 people.
    Ten “ministers” then joined the priest on the Sanctuary and proceeded to assist in distributing Holy Communion. What a farce!
    Eileanne, Our Lord forbids receiving Communion on the hand. Get real.
    Cardinal O’Brien forced that one through with his pals. They were not in Our Lord’s service, stop kidding yourself.

    February 22, 2014 at 11:32 pm

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