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Confirmation and advocacy of ‘gay marriage’

November 16, 2012

Those trying to figure out exactly what happened to a teenage Catholic scheduled for Confirmation consequent to his posting a pro ‘gay marriage’ photo of himself on Facebook will not, I fear, find in secular press reports (amid their hyperboles and irrelevancies) much useful information about the incident, but it seems like something along those lines happened in Minnesota. So let’s set out some points.

Catholics have a basic right to access the sacraments (Canon 213). The burden is on ministers to justify withholding sacraments from Catholics who seek them “at appropriate times, properly disposed, and not prohibited by law from receiving them” (Canon 843). Hmm . . . “properly disposed.” Canon 889 § 2 states that to receive Confirmation licitly one must, among other things, be “properly disposed” for the sacrament. Hmm.

Well, what about this “proper disposition” requirement?

Generally “proper disposition” is not a question of internal disposition (such as interior faith, fervor, or grace) but rather of external disposition (public demeanor, dress, and conduct). The state of a would-be recipient’s soul is not determinable, of course, but his or her attitudes and conduct are observable (we’re talking Facebook, no?), and potentially actionable. If a pastor, charged with the custody and celebration of the sacraments left to the Church by Christ, has solid reason to doubt the liceity of his conferral of a sacrament on a given individual, he is within his authority to delay, or even to deny, that sacrament for so long as that sad situation lasts. His decision is, of course, reviewable by ecclesiastical authority (not by the media) and such authority (with access to all the facts) might reach a different conclusion. But one starts any review with the above canons clearly in mind.

In another context I wrote about the risk of invalid (not just illicit) Confirmation on rebellious teenagers. See my “Invalid confirmation due to contrary intention of the recipient”, 2007 CLSA Advisory Opinions at 68-70. Such concerns should be assessed here as well.

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