QUAERITUR: RCIA in “traditional” parishes

From a reader:

I’m curious about traditional parishes (both those which exclusively use the 1962 liturgical books and those which would self-identify as a traditional parish) and adult converts in the US. I don’t have the official documents ready at hand, but it would seem that, as of September 1, 1988, the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults with American adaptations has, by particular law, become mandated. Yet, anecdotally, it doesn’t seem that many traditional parishes have implemented the RCIA.
 
I’m well aware of many of the liturgical arguments against the RCIA – and I’m not quite sure how the liturgical rites of the RCIA would be implements within the structure of the Tridentine Mass. I’m also aware that the RCIA itself is not to be used for the reception of adult converts who are already baptized, even though many parishes do so. We all know full well that in many places, the people involved in the RCIA are heterodox at best, and I’d hate to open the door to endless griping about how bad this program was, or that director was
 
What I’m really curious about is what canonical arguments parishes have used for failing to implement the RCIA, and how adult catechumens are handled in traditional parishes.
 
Is this something that might, perchance, be blogworthy? It would seem that making people aware of the issues surrounding adult converts at traditional parishes might open the door to discussion of how our traditional parishes are (hopefully) evangelizing the culture, and not just serving as refuges for disgruntled Catholics.

Interesting questions.

I think there could be a way to integrate the main points of RCIA together with the older form of Mass, especially since in the texts of Masses for Sundays of Lent there are vestiges of the very ancient Roman formularies used at the time when the Roman Church was bringing in converts.

I think whatever would be done, care should be taken to recognize that many adult converts are actually already baptized.

Surely some RCIA program could be developed in conjunction with the celebration of the older forms of sacraments whereby converts could get a good and healthy grounding both in the faith in which we believe and a sound approach to the mainstream Church.

I think my Rules of Engagement apply to this question, especially #4:

4) Be engaged in the whole life of your parishes, especially in works of mercy organized by the same.  If you want the whole Church to benefit from the use of the older liturgy, then you who are shaped by the older form of Mass should be of benefit to the whole Church in concrete terms.

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42 Responses to QUAERITUR: RCIA in “traditional” parishes

  1. F C Bauerschmidt says:

    My 1964 Collectio Rituum contains an Ordo Baptismi Adultorum per Gradus Catechumenatus Dispositus, which was the first stab at the restoration of the adult catechumenate. It is basically the traditional rite of adult baptism disaggregated into seven distinct rites that can be spread over time. Perhaps communities that use the 62 Missal could use this for the catechumenate.

  2. Joshua says:

    Insofar as RCIA is liturgical, does not the force of legislation apply only to the new rite?

    Also, I am fairly certain that priests can choose, for good reason, to give private instruction and bypass RCIA. I know at my college it worked that way.

  3. J. Basil Damukaitis says:

    At the Oratory of Ss. Gregory & Augustine we had a Calvinist family convert in fact, the father was a minister. He ASKED FOR the old formulary that renounced his previous heretical ways and such! So did his son, who is now training to be a server.

    By the way, we were founded by Archbishop Burke a 1.5 years ago, and we’re already packed, with 40 confirmations last week! There’s only a handful of older folks, but they are just as welcome as the 90% of young families who make up the parish.

    BTW, we have 40 kids in the CCD, with 50 families, compared to St. Anselm’s Parish whose facilities we use, who have 1,000 families and only 80 in PSR. Hmmmmmm… what does THAT say!!!

  4. JoyfulMom7 says:

    Last September I contacted the FSSP chaplain of a Traditional Latin Mass Community about wanting to convert. He was very kind to help me, meeting with me one on one for my instruction, He used the book, My Catholic Faith, but supplemented with his own lectures as well as answered my many questions. Finding out at our first meeting that I had five children still under the age of 18, he enthusiastically set up a class for their instruction. All six of us had been previously baptized. We all made our Profession of Faith, had our First Penance and were confirmed on April 11th at the Easter Vigil Service.

    Our kind chaplain made arrangements for us to meet our Bishop and we met him on Good Friday. He spoke with us for a few minutes and then blessed us, both in English and then Latin.

    Our TLM is growing. It started with one Low Mass less than two years ago, now has both a Low Mass on Sundays and a High Sung Mass, plus daily Mass. By Advent of this year, we will most likely have an additional Mass on Sundays.

    Our community is filled with people of all ages, but has many large young families. It is surely not “just serving as refuges for disgruntled Catholics”.

  5. Houghton G. says:

    It seems to me that private instruction (or classes) for baptized Christians converting from other denominations who are well informed about the Catholic faith (and that would include the vast majority of those gravitating toward TLM parishes ought to be the norm. RCIA is for the unbaptized. Turning it into a general Catholic religious education program is foolish. For Ordinary Form parishes, if the parish needs and wants a general adult RE program, fine, create one. Liturgically the RCIA is a series of rites–one can offer those to unbaptized converts and arrange for instruction over a period of months at whatever scale the number of unbaptized converts or baptized but totally uninstructed (usually marriage) converts requires–regular group sessions or virtually private instruction.

    The confusion of the rites of the RCIA with a general religious education program is not healthy for the Church. But baptized converts who have decided to become Catholic after a period of study and searching do not need the same instruction as someone seeking to convert because he’s marrying a Catholic and knows nothing at all about Catholicism.

  6. Sean says:

    I was brought into the Church 4 years ago through a “reform of the reform” parish. The NO liturgy they celebrated was highly reverent (Latin, chant, communion rail, real vestments, altar BOYS, etc.). My family and I attended RCIA classes led by the pastor. He simply used “Catholicism for Dummies” and some stuff from Fr. Hardon, and supplemented it with his own material. There were absolutely no RCIA liturgical rites used in the mass. We simply went to instruction, then made out profession of faith and received confirmation at the Easter Vigil.

    A little while back I went to a mass where the RCIA liturgical rites were used. . . man, am I glad we didn’t have to go through that!! It seemed so hokey, sentimental, and Sunday Schoolish!

  7. Mitch_WA says:

    While the RCIA program fosters community among incoming converts it doesn’t spend as much time working through the individual concerns of the incoming person(s). My fiance came into the Church in February, she was getting private instruction from our parish priest at the same time an older gentleman was, this older guy’s nephew is a FSSP priest somewhere in the plains and he has two nieces in traditional orders, he however could not get past some issues like Mary and the Saints. He is still working on and off with my parish priest, I think he will come around, he wants to be Catholic, but he needs the extra time and work with a priest before he is ready, my fiance did not have hesitations she was ready to jump strait in once she was convinced, she wished the classes could be done sooner so that she could be confirmed sooner.
    RCIA is fine, I think that one-on-one instruction, especially for those already baptized, may be better because it gives time for each person to work through the issues they may have. Also it keeps the instruction of converts out the Religious Ed Directoress Susan McPriestess’ hands. Not that all Religious Ed Directors are crazy, but some can be and they love indoctrinating new converts because well new converts tend to be especially intense members of the Church in their first few years and that may be useful to your local Susan McPriestess for her own agenda.
    RCIA and other methods of bringing people into the church should not be a time for religious/political agendas. Teach the faith purely, use the Catechism, use sound books like Catholicism for Dummies (great book by they way, it was a instrumental book in both my fiance’s and one of my good friend’s conversion expiriences.

  8. BLC says:

    I’m not baptised yet but my priest (FSSP) is giving me private instruction. It suits me because I fancy myself a bit of an academic and I like to discuss things in depth, which you often can’t do in a group setting. My priest is also very lively and intellectual, and so some of the discussions I have with him are very enlightening.

    I also find that I really look forward to my classes because I know I’m getting a really orthodox understanding of the faith, and I’m able to go at my own pace. Before I officially started lessons, I’d been reading about the faith quite in depth for about three years, so to start from scratch would have been painful. I also would have got disillusioned with the process and dropped out if, as Mitch says in the comment above mine, I had Susan McPriestess as a teacher.

  9. David2 says:

    As a convert, I think that private instruction outside the RCIA process is essential, particularly wherea baptised person has informed him or herself about Catholic teaching, and decided that he wants to convert.

    I would have never made it through the “hokiness” of the RCIA – and it never would have addressed my personal questions about certain aspects of Catholic doctrine and devotions.

    At my traditional parish, it’s private instruction and the traditional formulations. As far as I know, it’s always been private instruction and the traditional abjurations of heresy.

    Liturgically, is not the RCIA a creature of the Novus Ordo; does not Summorum Pontificum permit the priest to use the liturgical books as they were in 1962 – that is, the RCI simply does not apply where a person is being received into a TLM coummunity?

  10. Matt says:

    I was brought in a few years ago into my FSSP parish without RCIA but given private instruction for about an hour or so each week. That went on for about 6 or 7 months. We used the priest’s own lessons and also Fr. John Laux’s books (TAN Publishers).

    I would really like to know why RCIA is necessary. I have heard so many awful stories and so few really good ones.

  11. james says:

    Isn’t it interesting that in many FSSP apostolates and
    parishes the priest is the one education the convert, not
    the “Religious Education” professional. The former makes
    more sense, for the reasons highlighted below, courtesy of
    Mitch:

    “Also it keeps the instruction of converts out the Religious Ed Directoress Susan McPriestess’ hands. Not that all Religious Ed Directors are crazy, but some can be and they love indoctrinating new converts because well new converts tend to be especially intense members of the Church in their first few years and that may be useful to your local Susan McPriestess for her own agenda.

    We have learned so much in our FSSP parish from our priest.
    He leads apologietics. He leads education. Confirmation and
    Communion classes. And so on. He leads.He makes himself
    available.

    To me, the modern approach (RCIA) is, well… modern. One
    must beware of anything “modern”. Particularly with both
    converts and children. My opinion, of course, but one I
    get a sense is shared by many who follow this blog.

  12. Ken says:

    This is why many more personal parishes are needed. The same situation applies to pre-nuptial instruction. I would never send a family member or friend to an RCIA class or a diocesan nuptial class, instead opting to find the nearest F.S.S.P. parish and arranging private sessions. Have you ever tried to un-do the nonsense a friend or family member learns in the diocesan-run classes? Not worth it.

  13. David Andrew says:

    It has been my understanding that according to Canon Law (and I’m not a canonist by any stretch!) any adult validly baptised in another Christian denomination recognized by the Holy See is not to be impeded in their desire to be instructed in the Faith and received through the sacraments of confirmation and first reception of the Holy Eucharist.

    I suppose the snag is in the fact that apart from the Great Vigil of Easter, a priest is not permitted to perform the rites of confirmation, therefore it becomes necessary for the bishop to be called upon to perform the rite, which is typically conducted in larger groups, mostly teenagers outside of the RCIA “programs” with their rites connected to the Vigil.

    If I were an adult, otherwise well-formed in the Faith by having regularly attended a TLM parish and having received private instruction, I would want to be received into the church without unduly burdensome impediment. And it seems to me as well that charity demands that an adult who approaches the Church for reception should not be denied their request unless there is good cause. It also seems to me that the RCIA “program” and its attending “rites” is more about the “building up of community” (Newchurch lingo) rather than the proper instruction and reception of the Faithful into the Church.

  14. ED says:

    Believe me the converts in the traditional parishes will know the faith better in one year than even many of the poorly trained Novus Ordo priests, forget the parishoners.Words like RCIA are beauracratic words that just make bad Catholic book publishers happy. Any Trad priest can take a small catechism and teach the faith thoroughly to a convert, then give then a list of some of those oldtime TAN books on Bible History and other subjects that are clear and excellent. When he’s fully trained then he’s ready to stomach the Documents of Vatican 2 and those “orthodox” post Vatican 2 books which try to put a good light on a bad situation.

  15. Tim Ferguson says:

    The RCIA is NOT meant for those who are already validly baptized. It is for the unbaptized seeking to enter into the faith.

    I think we can all share stories about this or that bad RCIA program (I’ve also encountered more than a few that are quite good at what they do). It may be ideal for converts to receive instructions directly and one-on-one with the pastor, and in parishes where there are only five or six converts a year, that’s feasable. But when a parish has (God grant it so!) 20, 40, 50 is it realistic to expect one priest to do that entirely by himself?

    It would seem that the solution is not to castigate the RCIA program based on bad experiences with its implementation in many areas, but to ensure that lay catechists and directors are soliddly rooted within the Catholic faith and not grinding some ideological axe. Having orthodox volunteers from the parish assisting with the process would also be a good thing, as Fr. Z points out in his 4th rule of engagement, posted above.

    Whether we like it or not, the RCIA is particular law for the United States. It would be nice to hear from some traditional-minded parish that has implemented the RCIA, or from some pastors who have either tried and failed to do so, or have solid canonical reasons for not implementing it in their parish.

  16. I am an RCIA director who teaches doctrine, not pablum. If you look at the RCIA rites themselves, you’ll notice the rite has several sections: one for the unbaptized, one for the baptized, a “combined rites” sections which is only to be used for groups of mixed baptized and unbaptized persons, along with several appendices, one of which contains particular law for the US.

    According to the rite, baptized and unbaptized persons are NEVER to be mixed together. Even in the combined rites, the rite technically treats them separately, although that’s almost impossible to figure out if you are just a spectator an “active participant.” The combined rites are really only supposed to be used when there is no way to have separate liturgical celebrations for the baptized versus the unbaptized. In fact, most RCIA processes ignore the ability to separate the groups liturgically and they instead use the combined rites because it’s easier – only one Sunday Mass is affected instead of two.

    Furthermore, the rites for each group are DIFFERENT. For instance, even in the combined rites, baptized persons are NOT supposed to be led out of the church for study of the Scriptures before the consecration. There isn’t even a rubric for doing such a crazy thing. But again, in practice, this is largely ignored, either through a false ecclesiology or just because the person running RCIA doesn’t like how small the unbaptized group is and they want to “plump it up,” thereby destroying the ontology of the rite.

    There is NOTHING in RCIA which dictates how the actual teaching sessions are supposed to be done. As a previous poster pointed out, this is the RITE of Christian Initiation, not a handbook for how to do instruction. There are a few general guidelines, but Father Smith Instructs Jackson (personal instruction) could be done in conjunction with the rites and no rubric, liturgical or non-liturgical, will have been violated.

    Furthermore, almost all of the rites are OPTIONAL, especially those for the baptized. The amount of personal discretion available to the priest during almost all of the introductory rites is ENORMOUS. I’ve often had the feeling that there’s barely any there there when it comes to a lot of the RCIA liturgy. But, this is what Rome gave us, so we muddle along with it.

    As for the quality of most RCIA programs, I agree that most are execrable, but on the other hand, nothing happens in a parish unless the pastor is willing to let it happen. When it comes to adult formation, many priests just aren’t very interested. In my experience (four different dioceses), priests spend most of their time interacting with youth, especially teens. Adults are largely ignored. Teaching adults is much harder than teaching children, if only because adults walk out if they don’t like what they here.

    Worse, when adults start learning things, they can become a pain in the rear to priests as they ask why liturgy isn’t being done according to the rubrics or why the homilies are so content-free (at best. Sometimes the questions are much more pointed about the quality of specific doctrinal teachings). Why stir up trouble? It’s easier just to leave adults ignorant.

    Children are a different matter. Parents complain if their kids aren’t treated “well.” So numbers rule. The number of annual converts into a parish compared to the number of children in a parish RE program determines whether anyone cares about the quality of the RCIA.

  17. Mitch_WA says:

    Mr. Ferguson,

    I do know of some real good RCIA programs. The program at the University of Washington’s Neuman Center is great. It is run by the Dominican’s and lay assistants at Blessed Sacrament Parish (their parish has great RCIA as well, they are also slowly working on implimenting a weekly Dominican Usus Antiquior Low Mass. Last summer they had a Dominican Solemn High Mass.) When my parish had an RCIA program it was quite good, it was run by a lay person with good supervision and involvement from the parish priest. Lately we have only had already baptized people joining the Church so we have just had one-on-one stuff with the priest.

    However, no matter the size of the parish and the size of the RCIA group, such a thing as RCIA has to be one of the priest’s top priorities. They should be a regular visitor to the RCIA classes if they are not leading them. It is such an important period of insturction it should not just be handed off to the DRE and fogotten about until lent by the pastor. I know pastors are very very very busy, but even if it means they have to spend a little less time on the Seniors Lunch-in or working on the upcoming Parish Carnival so be it, instruction of converts should be a priority. Many of the bad cases of RCIA come from the pastor just handing it off to the DRE or another lay person and then the pastor not being involved. Another problem is that many parishes require both baptized and unbaptized converts to do RCIA which should not be done. Personal one on one attention should be part of the process of bringing a person into the church even if it is an addendum to the RCIA process.

    Just my two cents

  18. Several people say the baptized are not supposed to go through RCIA.

    This is an error.

    The rites contain an entire section devoted ENTIRELY to those already baptized by another Christian denomination. If you say “baptized shouldn’t go through RCIA” you are saying that an entire section of the liturgical rubrics are invalid.

    The only people who shouldn’t go through RCIA (unless they want to), are the Eastern Orthodox, as that would be an insult to the sacramental and liturgical knowledge they already bring with them. The typical Baptist or Lutheran doesn’t know any more about Catholic theology than an unbaptized person.

  19. And, being an idiot, I forgot to make the most important point: the RCIA rites are meant to complete the initiation of those already baptized.

    Baptism IS NOT COMPLETE INITIATION.
    Even an Episcopalian still needs to be confirmed and receive valid Eucharist for the first time.

    So, saying that “baptized persons shouldn’t go through RCIA” displays an incomplete understanding in regards to Christ’s sacramental system of initiation.

  20. Papabile says:

    My understanding is that the disaggregation of the Rite for conversion occurred in 1961, and much of what was substituted by the Congregation followed the path that RCIA eventually took.

    With that said, I would have no hesitancy about using the older rite in the Ritual.

  21. “Liturgically, is not the RCIA a creature of the Novus Ordo; does not Summorum Pontificum permit the priest to use the liturgical books as they were in 1962 – that is, the RCI[A] simply does not apply where a person is being received into a TLM coummunity?

    “Comment by David2 — 10 June 2009 @ 9:32 am”

    Actually, it is a “creature” of the Second Vatican Council, where the Sacred Constitution of the Liturgy calls for a restoration of the catechumate. It therefore exists independently of a particular set of books. It is also a part of our history. As to the books of 1962 eliminating such a possibility, you will find remnants of the ancient Scrutinies in the weekday Masses at some point during Lent, I can’t remember where, so at least there is a hint of provision. I imagine the 1964 “Ordo Baptismi Adultorum per Gradus Catechumenatus Dispositus” would be a starting point, but the whole matter of the catechumate would probably come up in the future.

  22. maynardus says:

    My wife is a convert and I’ve been Godfather or sponsor to other converts so I have some experience with the dreaded R.C.I.A. In commenting on the program in general we should remember to separate the actual “rites” of “initiation”, which I found as lamentable (my wife said “hokey”) as the rest of our modern liturgy, and the instruction itself which will of course vary widely.

    The parish which we attend was the “indult” Mass location from 1994 onward, and remains the most prominent T.L.M. location in the diocese although the Ordinary Form is also celebrated there. However for at least the past 2-3 years Father has used the rituals mentioned above by “F C Bauerschmidt” during Lenten weeknight T.L.M.s in preference to the hootenanny at the Cathedral. Even the converts who attend the new Mass have found them dignified and moving. The course of instruction is homegrown and orthodox, and none of the books have glossy pages filled with color photos of people “being church” or “doing liturgy” or otherwise emoting!

    What is the “particular law” by which parishes are supposedly enjoined to use the R.C.I.A.? (I’m asking out of genuine curiosity, not sarcasm!) It would be useful to know what the source is and what the text actually says.

  23. Joe Magarac says:

    Mr. Kellermeyer explains that the baptized must go through RCIA, but he also says that most of the RCIA rites are optional and that “there’s barely any there there.” He’s right on both counts.

    The USCCB has clearly distinguished training for the unbaptized from training for the baptized. It has also distinguished the training that for baptized but non-practicing people (e.g., someone who was baptized but never taken to church again and is now an adult) from training for baptized and practicing people (e.g., someone like the late Fr. Neuhaus, who was baptzied Lutheran and trained as a Lutheran priest before becoming Catholic).

    This last group of “educated baptized” people does NOT have to go through the RCIA process as it is generally understood; they can skip the weekly classes and they don’t have to be received into the Church at Easter Vigil. From the documents:

    1. “[B]aptized persons who have lived as Christians … should not be asked to undergo a full program parallel to the catechumenate.” U.S. Conference of Bishops, National Statues for the Catechumenate, Nov. 11, 1986, at ¶31

    2. “In regard to the manner of celebrating the rite of reception: Any appearance of triumphalism should be carefully avoided …. Often it will be preferable to celebrate the Mass with only a few close relatives and friends …. The person to be received into full communion should be consulted about the form of reception.” “Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults: Reception of Baptized Christians into the Full Communion of the Catholic Church” at ¶475.2.

    An “educated baptized” person could meet a few times with a priest and get the sacraments privately within a month or two and still fully comply with RCIA. I would argue that most people coming into the Church these days fit this description and should be received in this way. Instead, a popular misperception about what RCIA is forces lots of people to sit through classes and be part of an Easter Vigil spectacle even when the USCCB itself has said that neither is necessary.

  24. supertradmom says:

    Steve Kellmeyer, thanks for saying so clearly what I would offer. I teach RCIA, (especially in the Mystagogia), thinking it is important for traditional Catholics to be involved in orthodox presentations of the Faith as much as possible. This means that I volunteer in the NO parish and go to Mass later in the day, attending the EF Mass. The priests do not mind. However, if people prefer to have private instruction with a priest, I encourage them to find a priest who will do so. Some priests do not want to be engaged in private instruction. Where I live, it is almost impossible to find a priest who has time to do that. We cannot leave the RCIA in the hands of very radical presenters, who I have met in the past, who are blatantly anti-clerical and in some cases heretical, mostly out of ignorance or laziness. If this is the rite through which most converts enter the Church, we need to be involved. In my experience, in several parishes over a twenty-year span, most baptized adults who have fallen away or never been involved in the Church because of family, need catechesis. I have met very few “baptized persons who have lived as Christians”. Most people coming into the Church in my experience do not fit that category, as the vast majority have been not been raised in any religion, or were baptized into a family where one of the parents was not Catholic and the children were, ergo, raised with no religion at all. This is more common that one would think, a good reason not to encourage “mixed marriages” as many parents do not implement the promise to raise children Catholic. RCIA provides, if done well, an important evangelization format. Many sponsors have said that they learned more about their Faith when they have accompanied their people sitting in the classes.

  25. Ohio Annie says:

    Unfortunately, in practice, most parishes insist on everyone going through RCIA, regardless of their level of education or previous experience practicing as Christians. And most parishes receive previously baptized people into the Church at the Easter Vigil along with the unbaptized. This is a further example of priests and bishops doing whatever they want to regardless of so-called rules. They use the busyness of priests as an excuse for not doing individual catechesis.

    I almost was unable to get into the Church because I couldn’t attend RCIA classes on a regular basis due to my health problems. I actually had to shop around and look for a priest who would catechize me. I had already read the catechism from cover to cover (twice) and settled all the big issues and was ready to make a profession of faith. I was told by a priest at a typical suburban parish that I had to go through RCIA in order to become part of the “parish community.” The whole process had a very communal Protestant feel to it. And their RCIA program was run by lay people who were not very well informed.

    Ironically, the priest who was willing to catechize me was a very unfaithful and modernistic one. He was very kind though and I was received into the Church on a September afternoon with my best friend from work as my sponsor.

    Also, please note, priests can confirm people outside the Easter season.

  26. moon1234 says:

    Also, please note, priests can confirm people outside the Easter season.

    This is only possible with special permission from the local Bishop. This is really the exception rather than the norm.

  27. supertradmom says:

    Ohio Annie,

    If you check out the Rite, there are conditions for baptized, practicing Christians and baptized non-practicing Christians. It is very important that the people are catechized in the Faith of the Catholic Church before entrance, although, of course, it is impossible to cover all topics. However, concepts regarding the sacraments, the nature of the Church, authority, salvation, justification, etc. are so varied in the Protestant denominations, that catechesis in the Catholic Faith is essential. In a well-run RCIA program, you would have been accommodated, as I have done, with private meetings because of ill health. I am sorry you have had a poor experience.

  28. supertradmom says:

    Another thought as to RCIA and traditional parishes-most of the TLMs I have attended have been in NO parishes, but with the one added Latin Mass. The RCIA does not occur at the Latin Mass, but at the NO Mass. As to completely traditional parishes, in my one experience of belonging to a FSSP parish, there was no RCIA, only private instruction. This may be a norm. I do not know, but I do not think there were many converts at that parish.

  29. Anthony in TX says:

    Supertradmom,

    You wrote exactly what I was thinking when I read through some of the comments. I have volunteered for the RCIA program over the past two years in an OF parish.

    Folks, many of the local parishes need people like us. We need to be involved (see Fr. Z’s rule #4 in his 5 rules of Engagement). We cannot complain about the catechesis in RCIA and other programs when there are opportunities for us to present the faith clearly in these volunteer roles.

    Instruct the ignorant!

    I was able to create an RCIA blog for those being instructed. After the week’s lesson (for example, the Sacrament of Baptism), I would post sections of the Baltimore Catechism and other invaluable resources throughout the week for them to read and ask questions online. This gave them a chance to read and consider these truths during the week and ask more questions when we met the following week too. Sure, its a bit of a time commitment, but these converts want to learn. Plus, they need to see and hear orthodox faithful lay people.

  30. supertradmom says:

    May I throw out a challenge? All those traditional Catholics who love and know the teaching of the Catholic Church, seize the day and get involved in catechesis in a local parish. We can complain all we want about inadequate teaching and uninvolved priests, but evangelization is a call, a duty for all of us. Judging from the comments here, there needs to be a sense of responsibility to those who are coming into the Catholic Church and are hungry for the Truth. None of the priests in the last two dioceses I have lived in have associates. They are truly overworked and stressed because of the large numbers in their parishes and the priest shortage. Until we have more priests, and that is the job of us parents to encourage vocations, we need to step in and help out. In prayer one time, I heard “Do no criticize someone; you pray for them.” I add, do not criticize, unless you act.

  31. supertradmom says:

    Thanks, Anthony. It is a difficult job, but necessary. I love your blog idea. I had to give up my blog because of time constraints, but it is a great idea to have an RCIA blog.

  32. Ohio Annie says:

    Unfortunately, RCIA is yet another case in the modern American Church where things are contradictory. The National Statutes for the Catechumenate state that people such as myself (educated in the catechism, practicing Christian, previous seminary study, etc.) are not to be put through RCIA, for reasons given above. Yet there are rites in place for those exceptions.

    This process varies by diocese very greatly. Around here the RCIA classes are generally taught by well-intentioned but ignorant people. I sat in on RCIA classes this year at a parish where they are taught by priests and the classes were excellent.

    Interestingly, after lecturing a whole lot on the catechism text we were using, the first question Father asked me was to explain the dogma of the Immaculate Conception which I did, beginning, “In order to fulfill her role as Theotokos…” Father smiled.

    I think the first thing to do is always implement step one of the National Statutes, priests are supposed to interview previously baptized people to determine how much catechesis they need and then act accordingly. If this one step were done the process would be a lot better.

    It seems to me that traditional parishes shouldn’t be using RCIA at all since the rites themselves seem very childish and dumbed down to me, compared with the other parts of the extraordinary form. The class format also isn’t that conducive to transferring a lot of hard information unless the instructor is both an experienced instructor and thoroughly knowledgeable about the Faith. And it seems as if people entering the Church at a traditional parish might already be more educated and not require a year of classes.

  33. Ohio Annie says:

    And this also is another case of the contradiction of a document telling people they should do something that priests don’t have normal permission to do (receive people into the Church outside the Easter Season)? Oh well, the ways of the Church are inscrutible.

  34. Ohio Annie says:

    Okay, I found references citing the NSFC and canon law which says priests do not need permission to bring previously baptized adults into the Church outside the Easter Season. Google “confirmation outside the Easter Season” (no quotes though, not a string search)

    I sort of wish things could be done as they were before there were so few priests though, it seems like individual catechesis is the way to go in most adult cases.

  35. Clara says:

    Can I just insert one little note about a little pet peeve of mine? I understand the need for distinguishing between the rites intended for baptized and unbaptized Christians, but when it comes to instruction, there’s no reason to assume anything on the basis of whether or not a person is baptized. It’s already been pointed out that baptized persons may know little or nothing about the faith. Well, the reverse is also true; unbaptized persons can sometimes know quite a lot. While there are good reasons for having different *rites* for each group, it doesn’t seem sensible to divide *classes* on this basis.

    This was a bit of a sore point for me when I was in the process of converting. Because I had been raised Mormon, I was officially unbaptized, and while I had come to terms with this, it bugged me how people sometimes seemed to think this automatically relegated me to kindergarten-level instruction, as though I had never touched a Bible before or heard of the Apostolic Succession. Actually I had been going to Mass regularly for the past six or seven years, had completed a theology degree at Notre Dame, and was probably more familiar with the Bible than my catechist. Of course I don’t mean that I had nothing to learn, but on the other hand, I already knew more than a majority of the cradle Catholics that I knew, and I didn’t appreciate feeling patronized intellectually.

    And the thing about it is, I don’t think I was anything extraordinarily rare or special. A lot of converts, particularly if they’re of an intellectual bent, will do extensive reading and study (sometimes for years!) before taking the plunge. Whether or not they were baptized in childhood, or whether or not their baptism was deemed valid, doesn’t have much to do with it. So it’s unfortunate if their reception, when they do finally get up the gumption, is along the lines of, “Oh, you’re UNBAPTIZED. Well, we’ll just start you out with the beginners then!”

  36. Romulus says:

    I am the DRE at a parish where both OF and EF are celebrated. I’m sure most there would self-identify as trad. We observe the prescribed liturgical norms for RCIA (observed in the context of our OF liturgy), even though I don’t care much for them. This includes participation in the Diocesan Rite of Election, which always comes off as a silly and sentimental spectacle.

    I agree with supertradmom that very few baptized persons seeking to enter into full communion possess the knowledge and understanding needed to live the full Christian life. This goes especially in the case of persons converting for the sake of an impending marriage, where consent and good will are present but the subject is rarely on fire with joyous enthusiasm. I hate to put roadblocks in the way of people wishing to be joined to the Church, but flatter myself that the instruction they receive is worth 90 minutes of their time every week from Labor Day till Easter. I have had candidates who could have done with much less, but they are extremely rare — and to be frank, I am glad for their classroom contributions, which can edify their ignorant and confused colleagues.

    Our chief text is the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I hand out a copy of the Compendium as well, along with the New Testament. I can’t say we cover every page, but we certainly touch on almost every article. My goal is to teach them what the Catholic Church believes and professes — including, to the best of my ability, the reasonableness of those beliefs. I avoid speculation and novelties, and strive to conceal my personal sentiments.

  37. Romulus says:

    As for the matter of separate classes for the baptized and unbaptized — have mercy on your poor catechist! I already give up two weekday evenings for my parish. I love what I do, but it takes a lot out of me.

  38. Jerry says:

    I belong to a parish that is a part of the Diocese of St. Petersburg. I am a convert, a product of the RCIA program and now a catechist and member of the RCIA Team. I regularly attend diocesan RCIA functions.

    RCIA is a product of Vatican II, (I realize that’s not a badge of honor around here). It was initially promulgated in this country in 1974 and later finalized in 1988 by THE National Conference of Catholic Bishops.

    All of the methodology and the Rites associated with RCIA are detailed in a 375 page book, available on Amazon,”Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults”, Study Edition published by Liturgy Training Publications and authorized by the Bishops Committee on the Liturgy. Of course it is tied to Novus Ordo given the authority being the decree from Vatican II. I haven’t a clue how it would be integrated with TLM, because I’m just not familiar with TLM. I visit this site to learn more about my faith, and I think FR. Z is a trip and a wondrous soul.

    Though the RCIA is primarily oriented to the unbaptized, it has procedures and Rites for receiving baptized Christians into Full Communion, Initiation of a person in danger of death and adults in exceptional circumstances which can be any number of things, which must be approved by the Bishop.

    I do know that most Pastors in this diocese haven’t a clue about the details of the RCIA as they rely on Deacons occasionally, but primarily the lay RCIA ministry to tell them what to do. So most Catholics , in my experience don’t have a clue about RCIA and I’m sure that’s how goofy stuff happens. We have a Deacon who has been doing this for 20 years and he does it by the book. Most parishes do what is called a “school year model” where they start the process in August and end in Easter. That’s not the way it’s supposed to be done. If someone comes in February and says “I want to be Catholic”, how do you say Great! come back in August! We run a year round program, initiating baptized Christians in the Spring and Fall and of course only at the Easter Vigil do we have adult baptisms. Most candidates, previously baptized, spend 6 months to a year in the process, one session two hours a week, while the catechumens are in a minimum of one year sometimes two. Time in the process is primarily influenced by the degree and level of catechesis they bring into the program from their previous Christian experience as well as previous marriages, need for annulments , etc.

    We do not focus on Catholic “stuff”. Not that it’s not a part of it, but we are more interested in “transformation not information”. We emphasize and try to nurture the spiritual transformation of the individual and their relationship with God.

  39. Fr. F says:

    Could I throw a monkey wrench into the mix.

    Maybe it is more appropriate that we have RCIA with the Extraordinary Form and we should not have it with the Ordinary Form. In the Extraordinary Form, we have the Mass of the Catechumens and the Mass of the Faithful, while in the Ordinary Form, we threw that out and now have the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

    Something is wrong here! Why did we restore RCIA and come up with a new Mass, when the EF was made for RCIA and RCIA for EF!

  40. Fr. Z, I was pleased to read Rule of Engagement #4. My own humble blog, Lavare Pedes, is devoted to that point: http://lavarepedes.blogspot.com.

  41. Precentrix says:

    Last post made me want to shout “Doors! Doors!”

    hehe

  42. Argon says:

    Regardless of the content of the program of instruction, which can be as orthodox or heterodox as the director of said program makes it, it is teh RITES associated with RCIA which really have no place in the TLM milieu.

    In a specifically Traditional Parish, all rites and ceremonies are to be in the traditional form and style – nothing post-dating 1962 should ever be seen there

    It seems that most objections to the content of RCIA instruction occur when the Priest delegates the supervision and delivery of the program to the type of people who are sometimes referred to as “Litbags”. You know the type: never misses a meal and frequently talks to her cats…. The earlier comment about such people wishing to recruit new converts to their agenda is very apropos.