QUAERITUR: Sacraments for children at some different parish?

From a reader:

Can I arrange for my daughter to eventually attend catechism classes, and have First Communion and Confirmation in a parish outside of our geographical parish?

Or is she required to receive the sacraments in our geographical parish unless the parish priest will give written permission for her to have them elsewhere?

What does Canon Law permit/prohibit in this case?

There may be particular law on this in your diocese.

In the Church’s universal law, there is no requirement to receive these sacraments in one’s proper parish.

There could be good reasons for going outside one’s parish for First Communion and Confirmation.

Ordinarily you should seek your pastor’s (parish priest’s) permission to do so, but that is not required in the universal law.  However, there may be a diocesan or national law that requires such permission. Even that would not affect the validity of the sacrament.

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  1. Michael_Thoma says:

    A somewhat loosely related question:

    Would a Extraordinary Form Mass priest allow a baptism, chrismated and Communed baby (in our case, Eastern Catholics) to receive? What permission is needed?

  2. NoraLee9 says:

    We were attending the EF at St. Agnes Church at Manhattan when it became time for Catherine to be confirmed. The FSSP Pequannock said that we needed a letter from the pastor of St. Agnes. The pastor, Fr. Adams, was very gracious. He gave me two letters: one granting. Catherine permission to be confirmed, and another certifying that the woman who was to be her sponsor was a Roman Catholic in good standing.
    All’s well that ends well. Catherine attends Mass whether she’s home with us or not. (We have moved out of the City and she often stays with family in Manhattan to cut her commute). She starts college next year. She is thinking of Fordham. Pray she doesn’t lose her faith there!

  3. mamajen says:

    Circumstances led us to go outside our geographical parish for our youngest son’s baptism. Although I think the priest would have agreed to do it in any case, we decided to formally join his parish since I didn’t like the idea of just “using” him for the sacrament, and we wanted our boys to have a more traditional experience as they grow. As far as I know there aren’t any rules in our area, and we didn’t need a letter or anything. I’m really glad that we’re able to choose where we go, but I wish that the various parishes were more alike so that we don’t have different “flavors” of Catholicism depending on who goes where. I really didn’t want to contribute to that even more, but our geographic parish just became untenable for us. I still do go to my geographic parish for confession, though.

  4. Rita_mar says:

    Thank you, Father Z! I’m the reader who sent in the question. I believe that there may be such a law either on the national level or in our diocese, because I know that people getting confirmed and married outside of their geographical parish have to get written consent from their parish priest. However, I’m going to check into this. It is a good thing that my daughter is still a baby…I have a few years to work out a solution!

  5. mrshopey says:

    The rules in the dioceses are policies, not laws, although they are supposed to be based on the law.

    You will need permission from your Bishop to travel to another diocese for this or we did. Once we got permission we then had to request permission of the Bishop in the diocese where we were going. After we got that, then we followed up w a priest and deacon w parish where we would celebrate the sacraments – for our children of course.

    That part wasn’t hard and I wish you well!

  6. mrshopey says:

    I just realized the op meant in same diocese but different parish! Mea culpa!
    That should be easier !
    But, if you were traveling outside of your diocese…

  7. Deirdre Mundy says:

    We had this come up last year. I found out that our geographic parish did First Communion in 2nd grade, but held off on First Confession until 5th grade. When I talked to the pastor, he recommended a religious ed/ sacrament prep program more in line with what I consider ‘normal.’

    So… always try talking to the pastor first— he knows the different area parishes and may be able to recommend one that’s a better ‘fit.’ You have to be a savvy parishioner when your kids’ catechesis is on the line….

  8. One of those TNCs says:

    @ Deirdre Mundy:
    Just curious: Why in the world did your parish not offer First Confession until 5th grade?!
    5th graders are 9 or 10 years old, well beyond the 7-year-old “age of reason.”

  9. Deirdre Mundy says:

    As far as I can tell it’s the “70-something-nun has been DRE for 30 years” issue. She claims kids can’t sin until they’re 10. She and I also have irreconcilable differences on children’s liturgy, the proper age for confirmation, and Pelagianism. (I.e. she seems to think you need to ‘earn’ sacraments.) So… switching parishes for religious ed (and then, later, totally switching) seemed to be the easiest solution.

    Honestly, whenever you see weird things with confession, it’s aging liberals. Heck– the Vatican website says delaying confession is a form of spiritual abuse. And canon law says you need to make it before your first communion…….

    But… aging nun. From a community known to be completely off the deep end. So….what are you going to do?

    (Well, I’m saying my St. Jude Novena for that community… and for a sudden influx of young Dominicans…. but other than prayer, it’s easier just to switch.)

  10. Deirdre Mundy says:

    I think the big issue, actually, is that a lot of nuns of that generation see confession as a punishment and a relic of patriarchal power rather than as a beautiful gift! So there was no way I could leave my kids in that program, since I want them to love and look forward to the Sacraments.

    I don’t really understand what happened in the 70s, but…. apparently this particular group of Benedictines went from being steadfast and orthodox to crystal freaks, Reiki-practitioners, and lovers of heresy. At this point, given the new agey/ occult stuff that they’ve done at their monastery, I really think the place probably needs an exorcism. You don’t MESS with that sort of stuff…

    So… the wackiness about confession is really just a symptom of greater ills….

    The other issue is, of course, that pastors come and go every 5 years or so, but the nuns? They’re in the community forever. It really limits the pastors’ ability to try to bring things back in line with what the Church teaches….. (Hence, the desperate need for a Dominican invasion! Michigan or Nashville! I’m not picky!)

  11. Nan says:

    @Michael Thoma, I’d contact the pastor a few days ahead of time and explain that your Eastern Catholic baby is a full member of the Church so should be able to receive Communion but you’re wondering about the logistics of it in the EF. I think the altar rail and host would both be impediments for this.

  12. Rita_mar says:

    I would like to expand on my original question…what can a parent do if they cannot find a faithful, orthodox parish anywhere near their home? Can they simply prepare their children at home for the sacraments? What if their parish priest insists that they attend catechism and mass regularly at their parish? Does anyone have suggestions on how to handle such a situation?

    I actually rarely attend Sunday mass at my parish because the situation has always been bad. I usually attend mass at two churches run by religious communities, depending on which mass time is easier for me that day and whether or not I need to go to Confession. (One of the churches offers confession during mass, with a screen and everything…I’m so grateful for that!) Since they are not parishes, they are not allowed to perform baptisms, marriages and confirmations. I did see one little girl receive her First Communion at one of these churches…I’m not sure why, since they don’t typically do those.

    These churches aren’t perfect…the one with Confession is a very modernist structure, no holy water, a banal liturgical style, and the priests are a mixed bag in terms of orthodoxy, but it is ok. The other church is a historical church, not on the level of a cathedral but beautiful art and statues, mixed bag in terms of orthodoxy and banal liturgy but has some good points. Again, the situation is ok…one that I can live with. I bring my Tridentine missal with me, and I usually pray through that on my own. I can sit and pray silently and enjoy being in the presence of Christ.

    However, on Sunday morning I decided that it would be quicker and easier to attend mass at my parish church. We have a new priest…I was actually hopeful for some positive changes at the beginning, but it looks like things are going to get much worse. There was guitar music, and the mass felt loud and chaotic…I could barely think, let alone pray. About 25 children (those preparing for First Communion) were sitting on the altar. Some of them were helping with the serving, but obviously, 25 people are not needed. (This practise has been going on for quite some time at my parish and seems to be fairly common around here, including in other parishes. I forget about it because I usually attend mass at sanctuaries where they are no catechism groups.) I don’t plan on allowing my daughter to be a girl altar boy, nor to sit on the altar during mass. What I saw during that mass told me everything that I need to know about his level of orthodoxy. However, he is making some changes and requiring that children preparing for catechism must attend mass and the classes regularly. (In the past, the priests were generally apathetic about this.)

    I left this mass feeling…kind of sick inside. I realised that in the future, I could be faced with either exposing my daughter to a form of Catholicism that will probably destroy her faith, not allowing her to receive the sacraments, or trying to work out some kind of alternative solution with another parish or sanctuary. What will she learn at such our parish? That mass is a loud, chaotic event that we are forced to endure so that we don’t go to Hell? (That is the reason that I didn’t just walk out…I knew that I had to fulfil my Sunday obligation.) That the mass is some kind of theatre, with all kinds of people on the altar, like a stage? If the religious instruction is comparable to the mass, what will she learn?

    I’ve built my own Catholic world as well as I can. I know a grand total of ZERO orthodox, faithful lay Catholics anywhere near my home, so I have done the best that I can…lots of prayer, daily rosary, the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary (using a version printed in the 1950’s), daily Bible reading, spiritual reading, studying the saints’ lives, faithful Catholic blogs/videos/internet groups, confraternities and other groups in which I can participate from a distance, the best masses that I can realistically attend, etc…it is not an ideal situation, but it keeps me moving forward in the faith, more or less. I thought that I would be able to raise my children in this way…to teach them to be as faithful as I could. I thought that I would be able to protect them from, at least, the worst excesses of “modern” Catholicism. On Sunday morning, I realised that I may not be able to isolate myself from the terrible situation in my parish forever…

    This priest will be gone by the time my daughter is ready for all of this, but there are no guarantees that his eventual replacement will be any better. Now I just hope and pray that whoever that is will be apathetic, and will allow me to educate her on the faith at home, continue to take her to mass at the churches of the religious communities and if required, sign the form authorising her to make her First Communion elsewhere…

    I hope that this post was not too long and incoherent. I really welcome any advice that anyone can give! And to those who have solid, faithful parishes near their homes, please don’t ever take that for granted. You have something that so many Catholics around the world are only praying for…

  13. ReginaMarie says:

    Michael_Thoma: As Eastern Catholics, we generally do not run into problems in having our younger children receive the Holy Eucharist in Roman Catholic parishes (I know this is not always the case for other ECs). We do our best to give the priest a heads-up before Mass if possible & always make sure that we are in the priest’s line for receiving. When we had an infant who was receiving in the Extraordinary Form, I simply knelt at the altar rail with the child as the priest placed a tiny fragment of the Host in the child’s mouth.

    Rita_mar: Both Canon Law & the CCC are clear on the fact that it is the parents, first & foremost, who have the responsibility to educate their child, especially in matters pertaining to the Faith. That being said…parents do sometimes encounter opposition on this. While no one can prevent you from doing sacramental preparation at home with your children, unfortunately the priest or DRE may be unfriendly towards this. I will pray for you!

  14. Deirdre Mundy says:

    It sounds like the new priest IS trying to make some positive changes, but is going slowly. That happens a lot, because when ‘traditions’ are ingrained from ‘time immemorial’ (Which seems to be about 10-15 years), it’s really hard to dislodge them. A lot of priests try to catechize first, THEN change things.

    So, I’d still say… make an appointment with the pastor once your child hits Kindergarten. Talk to him, explain that you’d like to homeschool for religion. Bring the books you’re using (I like Faith and Life, myself) See if you can work out something where you child makes the sacraments during a daily Mass.

    Heck, first confession doesn’t need to be a big deal or a group thing. You just have to prepare well ahead of time. And first communion can happen at a daily Mass, not with the crowd.

    But talk to the priest in private and give him a chance. You shouldn’t be praying for an ‘apathetic priest.’ You should be praying for one who sees the problems and is working to change them. The problem is that changes take time. This new priest is taking some baby steps, but he’s up against an institutional culture of crazy. So pray for him!

    Also, it sounds like you DO have some decent Church options– an ugly church with a good confessor is, IMO, a gift– because you have access to the sacraments, and there are many pretty churches where the confessionals are used as storage closets. And… ‘banal liturgy’ may not be the most exciting thing in the world, but… boring and normal is a LOT better than “You never know what Father is going to do next!!” I mean, sure, we’d all like to live near one of those parishes that people are willing to drive 2 hours for….. but most of the world is…normal.

    And from what I’ve been told, back in the days of Tridentine everywhere, some parishes did have completely terrible Tridentine Masses…. so…. be happy when you find an orthodox priest who makes it easy to get to confession and who’s trying to slowly bring his parishioners to something better! They’re a gift, even when things don’t happen as quickly as we would like them to…. but sometimes, from the pews, it’s hard to figure out all the politics……

  15. mamajen says:

    I feel for you, Deirdre. It’s one thing to suffer through subpar liturgy as an adult, but having kids changes everything. I have worried about the same things. I’m very lucky to have a good option in my area, but who knows how long it will last.

    No matter what, NOBODY can prevent you from teaching at home, even if they make you jump through hoops and do parish/classes activities as well. And you can pass on a valuable lesson that we can be good Catholics and do the right thing no matter what circumstances we find ourselves in, or what other people do. That is such an important thing for a child to learn.

    Even though our parish is very good, I am teaching religious ed at home because the class schedule doesn’t work for our family. We do religion every day after school, and I’ve been delighted to see how well my son (age 5) “gets” it. He enjoys it so much that he pesters me about when we are going to do religion. It’s very rewarding. Use your imagination so your at-home educating is more fun and interesting than the goofy stuff your parish comes up with. We do a lot of coloring, crafts and stories.

    Maybe you should also find out for certain what the rules are and whether there is really no way your child could receive sacraments at the churches you like better. Good luck!

  16. mamajen says:

    Oops…just realized that I was trying to reply to Rita_mar, not Deirdre. Sorry! That’s what I get trying to comment before I’ve had my coffee :)

  17. Rita_mar says:


    Thank you for your long response and suggestions.

    Considering that the guitar music has started with the new priest, I’m concerned about some of the other changes that are going to be coming along. Before, while we never had great music, what we had was again, ok.

    Normally, I would be inclined to strongly support a priest that enforces rules such as attending mass and catechism classes in order to receive sacraments, but when I have my doubts about what is going to be taught there, I start to get concerned about it. We are in a country where there is still a very strong cultural Catholic current, so most children still are baptised, have their First Communion and many are also eventually confirmed, but too many families (probably the vast majority) simply treat these as rites of passage and excuses to have a party, while completely ignoring the sacramental aspect. (Which should really be the only aspect!) While priests share part of the responsibility for allowing this to happen, ultimately, parents are to blame. Plenty, probably the vast majority of Catholics born in the past 50 years have had a mediocre formation. However, once we become adults, we are capable of getting past that and learning about the faith on our own, especially with the internet available. (Without the internet, this may not be possible, or very difficult.)

    Up until Sunday, I was praying for a strong priest that would come in and start to resolve the problems. However, I now realise that an apathetic priest would be easier to deal with in my situation rather than an “aggressive” modernist priest. (Aggressive is too strong of a word, but I can’t think of another good one.)

    My parish is not an easy one to deal with and I don’t envy any priest that takes over. Some people are involved on the parish level because they hope to earn some extra cash that way. We are on our sixth or seventh parish priest in about five years. Each priest kind of does his own thing for awhile and then gets transferred out.

    And perhaps I’m too critical of the priests…to tell the truth, I haven’t seen any indication that anyone in the parish besides myself wants to see a more orthodox orientation. Most of the parish seems to place no importance on confession, wants to hear jokes during mass, talks during and before mass, doesn’t care about attending mass regularly, etc…It is painful for me to admit this to myself, but if a real orthodox, faithful priest (the kind that I was praying for) would show up in our parish, there would probably be a mutiny.

    I think that most people (assuming that there are more than a handful) who think like me either attend Sunday mass elsewhere, or have given up and abandoned the Church. I left this out of my long previous comment, but I realised on Sunday that I need to pray and sacrifice more for my parish and priest, diocese and bishop.

    You’re also right that banal liturgies are better than liturgical abuse. We’re fairly fortunate that that doesn’t seem to be a huge problem in my area (I’m in southern Italy), at least now. I only know of one priest (in a nearby parish) who basically invented his own mass, and he was transferred to another parish quite some time ago. However, we seem to be about a generation behind the US in this. I see more worrying signs in young priests (unless they have come out of a seminary such as one of the FSSP or Christ the King) rather than in older ones, so I’m concerned that we are going to go down the same path.

    I also agree with your statements on the TLM. The TLM is my personal preference, as I find the NO mass difficult to pray. I like the Latin language (not so hard to deal with for Italian speakers). I find, in general, the prayers in the VO to be superior to the prayers in the NO mass.

    However, I think that one reason that virtually all VO masses today are celebrated in a way that is superior to so many NO masses is that the VO is not the norm. If a priest wants to say the VO, he has to go to quite a bit of trouble to do so. He has to learn Latin if he doesn’t already know it, has to learn the VO mass in addition to the NO mass if he didn’t go to a specific seminary, etc…A priest who just wants to get by with doing the bare minimum is not going to bother to learn the VO. I’m not saying that the only faithful and dedicated priests are those who celebrate the VO – that’s not the case. But its fairly certain that if a priest does celebrate the VO, then he is almost certainly faithful and dedicated, because he would have had to go to so much extra work to do so. If you go to a NO mass, you might get a faithful and dedicated priest, or you might not get one who is just trying to get by without much effort. I have heard that there are priests who celebrate the NO very reverently, although I have never seen this. This is almost certainly another reason that I prefer the VO mass.

  18. Rita_mar says:

    Mamajen – Maybe I will email you in a few years to get some suggestions! ;)

    I’m also going to try to get in touch with my diocese and see what I can find out. Our diocese is not always very “user-friendly” (probably like most!) – things can take awhile and it can be hard to get definite answers, which is why I’m starting to look into all of this so early.

  19. Nan says:

    @Rita, priests tread lightly at the beginning. At my parish, the last pastor made tiny incremental changes over several years. One at a time. The new one has made what he thinks are tiny incremental changes, some of which drive me mad. They’re not necessarily bad, per se, just thinks I don’t personally appreciate; closing time is now earlier so those who work during the day, can’t stay and pray, or sit and talk after Mass. Adoration on Sat. afternoon is gone.

    Think of all the people in places where the Church is being actively persecuted; in China, the Church is underground; in the middle east, Chrsitians are killed and their Churches burned.

    I wouldn’t worry so much about the catechesis at the church; I know plenty of devout catholics who had watered-down catechesis all the way through. My catechesis was solid, but ended at age 7. I don’t think you have anything to worry about on that front.
    @Deirdre, umm, all you really need for First Communion is a priest and communion.

  20. Deirdre Mundy says:

    Well, except you also need someone to record it on the baptismal certificate….

    Because when your kid enters confirmation prep, they want proof of sacraments received. So, yes, you can just randomly show up and get the kid First Communion, but that can cause problems down the pike if you don’t have everything recorded properly…..

    And, in general, it’s better to try to work within the rules than to go solo. For instance, I homeschool. My kids don’t really NEED CCD– we’re using a Catholic program and they’re getting religion class every day….. BUT we’ve always lived in dioceses where they really, really prefer you to complete CCD as a homeschooler. So rather than throwing a hissy fit over something that’s not a big deal, I just find CCD programs that are decent and enroll my kids in those.

    I think it’s really important to pick your battles. Some day, there will be something that you really need to fight—- until that day, it’s better to go along, so that when the battle does come, you’re not immediately pegged as ‘that crazy lady who goes running o the bishop all the time…’

  21. Joseph-Mary says:

    We had our sons confirmed in another diocese (a faithful one) from the one where we were living in. I did let my pastor know. At that time confirmation was at age 18 and some years there were no confirmandi and besides, the teaching was poor. I took catechist courses and taught then at home for a year to prepare them and along with a number of homeschooling families, we all went to this other diocese with the permission of that archbishop and pastor of that parish.

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