Is it correct that when we are Baptised into the Catholic Church we become members of the Christian Faith, and even though we may make our First Holy Communion we don’t actually become full members of the Catholic Church until we receive the Sacrament of Confirmation?
By Baptism we are incorporated into the Church and become members of the body of Christ. There is only one Church, founded by Our Lord on the rock which is Peter. In a case of genuine necessity, anyone, even a pagan, can baptise validly, as long as they use water, say “I baptise you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”, and intend to do what the Church does. Any person who is thus baptised becomes a member of the Catholic Church.
Someone who is baptised validly by a non-Catholic minister becomes a member of the Catholic Church and does not become separated from full communion with the Church until they have begun consciously to adhere to a separated ecclesial community. Hence there is no rite for receiving a young child, below the age of reason, into full communion with the Church. The rite of reception only applies to children who have reached “catechetical age.” In the older form of reception into the Church, the candidate formally repudiated heresy and schism. Although this is not done in the modern rite, the profession of faith that is made implies that the person no longer adheres to a separated ecclesial community.
Confirmation is sometimes referred to as the “perfection” of the grace of baptism. In an effort to explain the word “perfection” in its theological sense, it is sometimes explained as the “completion” of Baptism. Hence the false impression can be given that the incorporation into the Church at Baptism is imperfect or incomplete in some way. In fact, by Confirmation “we are bound more perfectly to the Church” (Lumen Gentium 11) and given the grace of the Holy Spirit to strengthening us to bear witness to the faith. We are, by Baptism, made fully members of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.
Catholic Dilemmas column published in the Catholic Herald
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