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Sacramental Policy: Children and the Sacraments

THIS POLICY HAS BEEN REVISED AND IS NOW IN ITS THIRD EDITION.

YOU CAN VIEW THE LATEST SACRAMENTAL POLICY: CHRISTIAN INITIATION FOR CHILDREN ON THE BRISBANE DOCUMENTS PAGE OR AT
http://liturgybrisbane.net.au/doctypes/christian-initiation-for-children/

Children and the Sacraments Confirmation, Eucharist, and Penance.
Archdiocese of Brisbane Sacramental Policy, May 1997.

FOREWORD

It is now eight years since my predecessor, Archbishop Francis Rush, issued new guidelines for the Archdiocese of Brisbane on the celebration of the sacraments of confirmation, eucharist and penance with children. Over these years the pattern established by these guidelines has been found to be pastorally sound and helpful for families.

During the last two years, an extensive consultation and review process has been undertaken and this has suggested some changes of emphasis. For example, it would seem to be helpful to focus more attention on introducing older children to the first rite of reconciliation when they are better able to deal with concepts of sin, responsibility and forgiveness. Also, I would like to reaffirm the role of the bishop in the diocese as the first minister of confirmation. In initiation, the bishop links the local Church with the universal Church and thus, whenever it is possible and convenient, the bishops would welcome the opportunity to participate in the celebration of confirmation and first communion.

In general, however, I gladly take this opportunity to express my support for the way in which children are introduced to these sacraments in the Archdiocese of Brisbane and my gratitude to all those who prepare them for the celebration of these rites.

I promulgate in this document a revised and simplified statement of the official archdiocesan policy on the sacraments of confirmation, eucharist and penance with children, and recommend to parishes the ideas contained in the pastoral commentary on this policy.

Yours sincerely in Christ,
† John Bathersby Archbishop of Brisbane.

INTRODUCTION

Initiation into the community of the faithful is celebrated in three sacramental moments: baptism, confirmation and the first reception of eucharist. In the discipline of the Western Church, this initiation process is, in the case of children, extended over a number of years and is accompanied by appropriate catechesis and pastoral formation.

A child is born into the family of believers through the parents’ faith and baptism. The child’s faith is nurtured both within the domestic church of the family and the parish. When old enough, the child is introduced to formal catechesis and is prepared for the sacraments of confirmation and eucharist which complete the initiation process, and for the first reception of the sacrament of penance.

The process of Christian initiation is subject to the universal law of the Church, and the particular discipline of each diocese. The bishop, taking account of the particular circumstances of the local Church, establishes appropriate policies.

FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES

The following considerations are basic in arriving at and understand­ing the policy outlined below.

  • Sacramental initiation is parish-oriented. Introduction to the Church’s sacramental life is the means through which one enters more fully into the life of the faith community. It is therefore proper that the faith community, expressed in the parish, be responsible for and intimately involved in the sacramental preparation and presentation of children.
  • The progressive introduction of children to the sacraments includes discernment of their readiness, which is not simply a matter of age. Pastor, parents, and catechist all have a role in ascertaining that the child has achieved appropriate faith development, and that adequate faith support is assured.
  • Eucharist is the climax of the initiation process. Hence, in order to respect our theological and liturgical tradition, confirmation is celebrated prior to the first reception of eucharist.
  • Catechesis and sacramental preparation are related though distinct activities. Catechesis is the continuing process of faith education and development; its goal is growth in and maturity of faith. Sacramental preparation is the specific pastoral activity, involving family and parish community, that precedes and accompanies celebration of the sacraments.
  • The norm for first reception of the sacrament of penance is that it precedes admission to eucharist. In this way children will become familiar with the sacrament from an early age, even though it is an obligation only for the child who is conscious of grave sin.

OVERVIEW

Sacramental Policy Overview | Liturgy Brisbane

SACRAMENTAL POLICY

Arrangement of the Sacraments of Initiation

1. Children from about the age of seven years who are not baptised are enrolled in a modified catechumenate and are baptised, confirmed and admitted to eucharist in a single ceremony, usually at the Easter Vigil.

Children after the age of seven who are presented for initiation into the Church will often be accompanied by other members of their family. Special attention should be given to the family unit in these circumstances and all the sacraments of initiation should normally be celebrated for the whole family together. It is not sufficient reason to delay confirmation and first communion simply so that a child may join peers or classmates in a common celebration.

The catechumenal pattern respects the understanding of children once they have reached catechetical age. Those baptised in infancy complete their initiation at the end of infancy and the catechesis necessary to grow into a mature faith follows the reception of the sacraments. Once a child reaches ‘catechetical age’ however, some catechesis precedes the celebration of Christian initiation.

Children baptised in another Christian Church who come with members of their family to be received into full communion with the Catholic Church can be associated with a modified catechumenate process just as their parents can. They would be confirmed and admitted to eucharist with the other members of their family.

Though the primary discernment of the suitability of initiating an infant into the Catholic Church occurs before baptism, there may sometimes be cases where a prudent pastoral judgement suggests a delay in the completion of Christian initiation for those baptised Catholics in infancy. In such a case also it may be pastorally beneficial to associate the child with a modified catechumenate process until the child is judged ready to complete initiation through confirmation and reception of holy communion.

2. Children who are baptised as infants may be considered eligible for confirmation and first reception of eucharist from about the age of seven years.

Recognising the parish as the context for Christian initiation (rather than a Catholic school) lessens the link between a particular school grade and the celebration of the sacraments. This second proposition of the diocesan policy is deliberately stated in a rather flexible way.

It would be able to accommodate the occasional parent who requests confirmation and first communion for a child of five or six: where a child has been accompanying the parents to Mass and communion since infancy, such a request may not always be unreasonable. But the proposition also suggests that a time after turning seven may be more suitable for other children.

A parish program must be flexible enough to incorporate children in a variety of situations, not only children who may be older or younger than the norm, but also those who are being received into full communion from another Christian Church, those from other dioceses who may have received communion but who are not yet confirmed, and so on.

The best approach will be for a parish to issue a public invitation to those who are eligible inviting them to enroll for sacramental preparation. Certainly such an invitation will be issued through the parish school, but it will not presume that all the children in a particular class (and only those) will be included in the parish celebration of the sacraments. Timely notification should be given to parents of eligible children, and details of the parish program provided.

3. Confirmation is celebrated together with, or just prior to, the first reception of eucharist.

The custom of the Roman Rite is to complete the initiation of those baptised as infants when they have reached the use of reason. Eucharist is the climax of the initiation process. Hence, in order to respect our theological and liturgical tradition, confirmation is celebrated prior to the first reception of communion.

Since the Rite for the Christian Initiation of Adults provides a model for sacramental initiation and shows clearly the unity of the sacraments of initiation, it is appropriate that this completion of initiation be seen as a single process involving renewal of baptismal promises, sealing with the gift of the Spirit (confirmation), and introduction to the eucharistic table.

The unity of the sacraments of initiation is also seen in the Eastern Rite Catholic Churches where an infant is baptised, confirmed and given communion in a single celebration of initiation. (Care should be taken not to repeat the sacrament of confirmation for these children when they are older.) The existence of this pattern of initiation for infants does not mean that the Roman custom of delaying confirmation and first communion until seven years of age should be abandoned, nor does it justify joining confirmation to baptism, a practice which would leave admission to eucharist isolated from the other sacraments of initiation.

Occasionally it may be desirable to separate confirmation from first communion; for example, if the bishop is present to celebrate confirmation in the parish on a weekday, the first communion may be delayed until the following Sunday in order to involve the whole parish community and to highlight the importance of Sunday. It is not desirable to separate these two sacraments so that there is an opportunity to have two separate preparation programs or to offer separate catechesis on each sacrament. Remember that for children of seven, catechesis on these sacraments will mostly take place in the years following their celebration.

Since the child’s confirmation and first communion relate so intimately to baptism, it is desirable that the baptismal sponsors be involved with the parents and child in the parish sacramental preparation program and act as sponsors during the rite of confirmation. This provides a privileged pastoral opportunity for all involved to renew their commitment to the child’s continued faith growth and practice.

It is nowhere envisaged in the rite of confirmation that a child will take a special confirmation name. In fact this practice is not helpful. It is better to use the child’s baptismal name as a way of emphasising the unity of the sacraments of initiation.

Preparation for Confirmation and First Communion

4. The sacramental celebration is prepared for within a parish program that involves at least child and parents. 

Ideally other family members and baptismal sponsors will also take part. Participation by members of the parish will strengthen the bonds between the child’s family and the parish, and the child will be more fully introduced into the life of the Church.

The sacramental preparation program is a proximate preparation for receiving the sacraments. It presumes that the child is receiving appropriate instruction through on-going catechesis. Sacramental preparation involves more the shaping of attitudes, development of a sense of intimacy and trust, prayerfulness and practical help to celebrate the sacrament with proper devotion.

Parent involvement in this is indispensable. They create in the home the prayerful atmosphere of anticipation that leads the child to desire the sacraments. They share their experiences and the importance they attach to God’s sacramental gifts. They “coach” the child in the ritual of receiving the sacraments. They lead the child in prayer beforehand and afterwards. They, where possible, accompany the child in receiving communion. (For guidelines on when a parent who is Catholic may receive communion, see the 1995 Archdiocesan pastoral guidelines for eucharistic hospitality, Blessed and Broken.)

Parents rightly expect from the parish practical assistance in this. Hence there should be a parish-based preparation program for those who have been enrolled. It includes adult education, helping parents and sponsors to understand better the Church’s teaching and sacramental practice; practical help for working with their children; and parent-child communal activities. It also provides for a discernment of the child’s readiness to receive the sacraments.

This program can take any form suited to local needs. Many parishes have a combination of parish briefing sessions for parents, home discussion groups for parents, activity sessions for parents and children together, home activities for parents to do with their child. The program should be flexible, for example, not requiring parents to attend an adult education session they went to for another of their children. Some briefing sessions could be offered just for those who want or need more background. The program should be no longer than is necessary and should be held close to the dates set for celebrating the sacraments.

Care should be taken to have this preparation program recognised as a parish program. It should embrace all enrolled candidates, irrespective of schools they attend. Whilst teachers from the parish school may be involved, any impression that it is a school program must be avoided. It is desirable that a venue other than the parish school be used.

Where older children are involved, sensitivity to their feelings about being grouped with younger children and to their more developed needs will require particular arrangements both in preparation for and celebration of the sacraments.

5. When readiness for the sacraments has been determined, each child is enrolled in the parish program for sacramental preparation. 

Prior to enrolment, the readiness of each child should be determined. Parents will take the initiative, responding to the parish invitation to enrol their child. For some families who are active in the life of the parish and are known to the priest, this will suffice to indicate readiness. Other families may require more attention.

The Christian initiation of a child provides an important opportunity for pastoral contact with the family. It is highly desirable for the pastor (or some other member of the pastoral team) to arrange an interview with the parents to ensure that they are clear in their understanding of what is involved in this further initiation of their children, and willing to participate in preparing the child for the sacraments. The problem of irregular Mass attendance or the absence of regular catechesis for the child – usually symptomatic of family faith in need of development – can be addressed in this interview.

Pastoral concern for the child and family will characterise this interview. Consideration will be taken of such factors as the practical faith of the extended family, and the child’s own urgings. A decision to defer enrolment may sometimes result, but it will always be accompanied by an offer to assist the family towards a fuller faith and practice so that, at a later date, the child may be meaningfully incorporated into the community’s sacramental life. Practical ways of doing this need to be developed in each parish. Any appearance of personal rejection or outright refusal of sacraments should be avoided.

A ritual at Sunday Mass (or on another suitable occasion) provides an appropriate beginning to the program. Through it children and parents commit themselves to the period of preparation, and the community offers its support of prayer and instruction.

6. Each child is expected to be receiving on-going catechesis both before and after the time of celebrating the sacraments. 

A child baptised as an infant is educated and formed into the faith of the Christian community. This is called catechesis. It naturally involves formation in the sacramental life of the community. Obviously the parish sacramental preparation program – a short, proximate preparation to receive the sacraments – will not be sufficient to provide formation in the sacraments to last a lifetime. There is the distinct task of providing an on-going program of catechesis that supports the child’s general faith formation and instruction.

An on-going catechetical program provides for that understanding of their faith and of the sacraments, appropriate to their age, which is required of all candidates. Already at seven years of age, it includes knowledge of the Father’s love, of the mystery of Jesus and of the gift of the Spirit; of the Church as God’s family; and of our call to live as God’s children.

In the parish school, the Religious Education Guidelines ensure that children are properly instructed for the reception of the sacraments at whatever age they present themselves because education for sacramental understanding occurs throughout the school’s religious education program.

For children attending other schools, the parish should assist in providing an on-going catechesis that builds on contact made within the school. This may be offered at the parish centre or in homes, after school or at weekends, in conjunction with the Sunday liturgy, or in family groupings.

Regular parent involvement is vital in the catechesis of children and should be encouraged both by providing suitable adult faith education opportunities, and by the use of strategies that draw parent and child together in a faith dialogue.

The on-going program of catechesis should commence as the child enters formal schooling in Year 1, and continue beyond the period of sacramental initiation throughout the years of schooling. It will include involvement in youth groups and other parish activities and ministries, both within the liturgy and outside it.

As a child grows to adulthood, there will be a number of opportunities to ritualise the stages of growth in faith. There is the annual opportunity offered by the Easter renewal of baptismal promises. This rite may be especially powerful if it follows an intense religious experience such as a retreat or youth camp. These occasions may be times of conversion which can appropriately be celebrated in the sacrament of penance, renewing the faith of baptism and restoring a young person to the table of the eucharist. An awareness of these on-going possibilities will enable a child’s growth in faith to be supported by the celebration of the sacraments.

Celebration of Scaraments

7. The celebration of these sacraments involves the entire parish community, if possible during the Easter season. 

The idea of ‘initiation’ into the Church implies that a person is introduced into the life and values of those who follow Christ. The parish is the basic grouping of the local Church of the diocese; it is in the parish that a Catholic worships each Sunday and is nourished in faith; it is in the midst of the parish assembled that Christian initiation is best celebrated, for the parish “represents the visible Church established throughout the world” (SC 42).

The General Introduction to Christian Initiation (1973) shows the connection between Easter and the sacraments of initiation.

Through the sacraments of Christian initiation men and women are freed from the power of darkness. With Christ they die, are buried, and rise again. They receive the Spirit of adoption that makes them God’s sons and daughters and with the entire people of God they celebrate the memorial of the Lord’s death and resurrection.

While it is possible to celebrate confirmation and first communion at other times of the year, it is highly recommended that they be celebrated by the parish between Easter Sunday and Pentecost.

The basic liturgical signs of the gathered Church, the Sunday, and the Easter season will help to make the sacraments of confirmation and admission to eucharist a significant event in the children’s lives. So too the liturgy should be planned with care so that all the assembly may take part in the singing and the responses. Normally the children should receive their first communion under both kinds, along with the rest of the assembly.

No particular style of celebration is mandated: the parish must remain sensitive to and respect the varying situations, traditions and wishes of the families involved. Quite legitimate diversity exists in the style of sacramental celebration, for example, with respect to dress and the organisation of candidates (sometimes candidates will sit together as a group, sometimes with their families). Uniformity should not be imposed. Where practicable families should be consulted and their wishes catered for. For example, a parish might offer families a choice among several parish Masses on a particular Sunday for the celebration of confirmation and first communion. This would allow for sensitivity to certain cultural expectations and to the situation of non-sacramental parents.

Each parish is to keep a register of confirmation and first communion celebrated in the parish. In addition, an annotation recording the completion of Christian initiation is to be made with the entry in the baptismal register for each person who receives these sacraments. It is pastorally desirable that a record be kept of those who are fully initiated members of the Church.

8. The ordinary minister of the sacrament of confirmation is the bishop of the diocese which, in Brisbane, includes the archbishop and his auxiliaries. 

One way of interpreting the history of confirmation is to say that the Western Church was prepared to suffer a fraction in the unity of the sacraments of initiation for the sake of safeguarding the role of the bishop in Christian initiation. This was seen to be important because the bishop is a sign of unity. As successor to the apostles, he links the particular worshipping community with the Church of all ages; as a member of the college of bishops, he expresses the unity of the Church around the world. Christian initiation brings a person into membership of the Church, one, holy, catholic and apostolic.

A parish will need to balance several key elements to make sure that, over a number of years, none is lost. The ideal is to have the bishop present to celebrate confirmation and first communion on a Sunday in the Easter season. From year to year, one or other of these may need to be foregone. In some regions, it may be desirable for several parishes to cluster together in a common celebration with the bishop as minister of the sacraments, though the identity of each parish worshipping community should not be compromised. For their part, in Brisbane, the archbishop and the auxiliary bishops undertake to make Christian initiation a priority during the Easter season.

It is desirable that the bishop not only confirm the child, but also give the child first holy communion. This affirms the unity of the sacraments of initiation and highlights their orientation towards and climax in the celebration of eucharist. It also properly focuses on the bishop as leader of the eucharistic community.

Occasionally another pattern may better safeguard the balance of values. For example, if the bishop can only be present on a weekday in the Easter season to celebrate confirmation, a parish may decide to celebrate confirmation outside Mass and to admit the newly confirmed to the eucharist at the following Sunday Mass.

When it is not practicable for a bishop to celebrate this completion of children’s initiation with the parish community, express delegation of the pastor or another priest may be granted on application (Canon 884). When the bishop does preside at the celebration of these sacraments in a parish, the parish priest will usually concelebrate with him and, especially where there are large numbers, will join him in administering the sacrament of confirmation and in giving first communion to the children. Lay ministers of communion may also take part, especially in offering the cup to those who are receiving their first communion and their families.

Sacrament of Penance

9. The opportunity for the celebration of sacramental reconciliation precedes the first reception of eucharist. 

The current discipline of the Church is that a child is first introduced to penance, and then to eucharist. (cf. General Catechetical Directory [Addendum] and subsequent Roman responses to questions) Any practice which created a situation in which children could not or would not normally celebrate penance first would contravene this discipline. On the other hand, the Code of Canon Law is clear that Catholics are only bound to confess in the sacrament of penance any grave sin they are aware of having committed. A greater obligation than this cannot be imposed on a small child.

It is important in dealing with such a clearly defined pastoral practice that our theological and liturgical expectations are realistically accommodated to the age and development of the children. Conversion (metanoia) is an on-going dimension of every Christian’s life. The first celebration of the sacrament of penance provides an occasion for the child to appropriate more fully this gift of conversion received in baptism. However, it must be understood that at a tender age a child’s understanding of sin and personal culpability differs from that of an adult, and must be taken into account.

For younger children, the actual experience of the sacrament, regularly repeated, is the most significant education they receive in its meaning. Their conceptual level is quite concrete; they learn most by doing. Therefore the policy of the Archdiocese of Brisbane does not require a formal parish program of sacramental preparation for the sacrament of penance at this stage. Parents will need information and education on penance, sin and conversion before their child is enrolled in the preparation program for confirmation and first communion. This will enable them to guide their child into the experience of the sacrament of penance. But for the child, the first participation in the celebration of penance will be low-key, celebrated together with other members of the family, and without special build-up.

10. At this stage, children will normally be introduced to the sacrament of penance through the communal (2nd) rite in a simplified form. 

Reconciliation has both a personal and a communal/ecclesial dimension. It involves one’s relationship with God, and also one’s relationship with the people with whom one lives, works and plays. Hence each experience of the sacrament needs to incorporate both the personal and the communal/ecclesial dimensions explicitly.

The communal (2nd) rite provides for this admirably. The children are part of a small group of several families. The group is led through the readings, homily and guided examination of conscience” to see how their choices and actions have sometimes hurt others, how this is against God’s loving plan for them and how they need to “say sorry” and be forgiven – both by God and those they have failed.

Each person in the group individually approaches the priest to express this sorrow, to receive the healing laying-on of hands and the words of forgiveness, I absolve you from your sins … The child preparing for confirmation and communion simply does likewise. It is usually best for the priest to be in full view (for example, seated in the presider’s chair in the sanctuary) rather than in a closed reconciliation room. This is much less daunting for adults and children, and saves time.

Through regular experience of the sacrament in this form, children are soundly formed in their grasp of the elements of the sacrament, and are gradually prepared for the celebration of individual reconciliation when they are more capable of accepting personal responsibility for sin and of appreciating its social consequences even in a non-communal setting. Celebrating the rite with small groups will mean that the liturgy is not too long for younger children who are capable only of limited attention spans.

The (3rd) rite with general confession and general absolution is inappropriate for younger children. The individual element is lost, and in their concrete stage of thinking they cannot appreciate that they themselves have actually received the sacrament; instead, a penitential service without sacramental absolution may assist a child to be aware of sin and to pray for forgiveness.

11. The principal parish program relating to the sacrament of penance will take place for those who are about ten years of age to prepare them for the celebration of the individual (1st) rite of reconciliation.

With a couple of years of experience a communal form of reconciliation, a child of about ten years of age will be ready to make the step to the individual rite. When readiness for this form of the sacrament has been determined, each child is enrolled in the parish program for sacramental preparation. The arrangements for this sacramental preparation program would be similar to the sacramental preparation for confirmation and first communion. It will include some sessions for parents as well as activities for the children; elements of the program could take place in the parish, in clusters of families meeting in home groups, or within each family.

Locating the parish preparation at this point in the child’s religious journey has several advantages. It ensures that the child is actually introduced to the individual rite of penance. It enables the child to understand the sacrament with a greater degree of moral maturity. It makes it clear that penance is not a sacrament of Christian initiation and keeps it separate from confirmation and first communion. It gives the parish community an opportunity to engage with the family – for evangelisation if necessary – some two or three years after the parish preparation program for confirmation/eucharist.

Church documents insist on a distinct catechesis for penance and eucharist, which are to be separated from each other by a suitable period of time. There are sound educational and pastoral reasons for this. If too closely linked, penance will be seen simply as a necessary preparation for eucharist and the value of the sacrament in its own right is lost. Children may cease to celebrate the sacrament regularly because they lack an appreciation of its unique contribution to their spiritual life.

Children should be introduced to penance as a sacrament in its own right, with its own purpose and value. This necessitates a period of on-going experience of the sacrament supported by suitable instruction. Only by being led carefully to prepare for and celebrate penance regularly and over a lengthy period can we hope to establish a genuine appreciation by the child of this sacrament. The pattern established by the archdiocesan policy will achieve this.

Special Needs

12. Greater pastoral flexibility will be required to cater for those who have an intellectual disability or other special needs. 

Various adaptations in the policy will be needed for those who have special intellectual, emotional or physical needs. By way of example, the following guidelines have been approved in the Archdiocese of Brisbane for the reception of the sacraments of confirmation, eucharist and penance by people who have an intellectual disability.

Archdiocese of Brisbane 1982 revised 1992.

The love of Jesus for children and for those who are marginalised and his unqualified acceptance of them is clearly portrayed in such gospel scenes as that of his putting his arms around little children and blessing them (Mk 10:13-16), curing the possessed boy (Mt 17:14-17), raising the daughter of Jairus (Lk 8:40-53) and healing the paralysed man (Lk 5:17-26). The local Church is called to express this same unqualified love, acceptance and inclusion.

When parents know that their son or daughter has an intellectual disability and their faith leads them to express a desire for the child to receive the sacraments, then the usual norms governing these matters should be replaced or supplement ed by consideration of the faith of the family in the love that Christ has for their intellectually disabled member.

In practice, there should be no hindrance to the full incorporation of this person into the Christian community. Even if a child or adult were to give no evidence of intellectual activity, these sacraments may still be given so long as the person is accompanied by other members of the family.

The reason for this practice is twofold: to give witness to the love of Christ and the Church for the person who is intellectually disabled but who is a person with an eternal destiny and a priceless dignity; and to honour the person’s status as a baptized member of the Church. This witness becomes more credible when, as is the case in infant baptism, the Church expresses its love and care sacramentally, looking to the supporting faith of the family where personal faith is not possible. Another reason is that, once the question of giving these sacraments to someone with intellectual disability has been raised, were the Church to respond negatively the family would very likely experience this as a rejection by the Church of one whom they have been taught not to reject but to accept and love. To be able to share the sacraments with their son or daughter will, on the other hand, encourage them in the particular, constant, and often difficult role that is theirs.

Consultation between parents, pastor and catechist will determine when and how the sacraments should be administered. It is desirable that the sacraments should be celebrated in the midst of the parish community at the same time and age as other children. However individual circumstances will sometimes suggest other arrangements. In receiving holy communion, similar consultation may suggest it preferable that the priest or special minister give the host and cup to one of the parents to adminis­ter to make sure that their child is not up­set by a stranger and that the elements are swallowed. This procedure has the advan­ tage of expressing family love and unity.

Every effort should be made to assist those who can appreciate these sacraments to do so. Appreciation will vary, of course, according to the person’s disability. This task of catechesis is on-going, and should not occasion delay in admission to the sacraments. It is sufficient that the person be prepared according to their ability at the time the request is made. (These same principles apply to children with hearing impairment.)

Resources for sacramental preparation are available through Brisbane Catholic Edu­cation and The Liturgical Commission. Personnel are available for consultation and support (Phone (07) 3840 0525).

Concerning the sacrament of penance, the readiness of the candidate is ascertained according to the usual norms. Reception of this sacrament will frequently be delayed, and in many cases there will be no question of its ever being administered.

Each case (and even each occasion) will be considered individually, looking to all relevant circumstances. Any appearance of the sacraments being forced on a person with an intellectual disability should be avoided. Nor should parents feel obliged to bring their son or daughter to communion with them each time they themselves receive. Finally even if the practice of the faith by the parents is irregular their child may be admitted to the sacraments where there is the genuine faith support of the extended family or a Catholic institution.