Tuesday, October 16, 2007


I think this will have been the third RCIA class I've started and quit. It's not because the people aren't nice: they're very friendly. It's not because they're theologically crazy: the two most recent ones involved what seemed like perfectly normal doctrine. It's just that it's a huge, huge time commitment that seems like a rehashing of work I've already done. I'm not some newcomer to Christianity who doesn't know hermeneutics from apologetics or Peter from Paul. I've read the entire Bible (minus the Deuterocanonical books, but I'm working on those) and sought out answers to questions I had. I've wrestled with the concepts of papal infallibility, the Marian doctrines, apostolic succession, the Real Presence, praying to saints, Purgatory, and the many ways that the Roman Catholic Church has let down Christendom for the past two thousand years (not that I probably would have done better) and found myself in line with Rome's doctrines. This doesn't make me a better person than someone who hasn't done this, but it makes me different from them.

As much as I'd like to partake of the Eucharist, I don't have 2-3 hours every week on the night before I have three classes the next morning. I can't afford to blow off law school based on bureaucracy. I have a valid Christian baptism and a belief in the Real Presence. If an expedited solution isn't available I'll just continue to go up with crossed arms at RCC parishes and get illicit-but-valid Communion at Traditional Anglican Church parishes in the region (their priests have the "Dutch Touch" that restores the validity of their orders).

Honestly, this is annoying. A person gets baptized as a Roman Catholic and does virtually nothing in accordance with the Roman Catholic faith and may partake, but because I was baptized as an Episcopalian my submission and faithfulness mean jack squat.

UPDATE: According to the folks in the Comments, it may be that I'm overreacting and that there are much shorter options available. If so, that'd be great. And, let me be clear: I don't believe the RCIA program I attended was in any way defective. It just takes up a huge amount of time at the time of the week I can least afford to spare it, and does so until Easter. I've already spent scores, perhaps hundreds, of hours researching, praying, and seeking advice. If a priest told me he wanted me to read through the entire Catechism of the Catholic Church and meet with him eight times at a more convenient time I'd be okay with that (I had to do something similar in order to date a girl once). Honestly, I'm just frustrated at what looks to my eyes as red tape. Here's the basic secret I've noticed to understanding me: I'll complain to high heaven about little things, but I generally keep pretty quiet on major hassles. If I'm complaining it just means I haven't figured out a solution or that it's not very important. I take action on things that are actually more important, and I seek advice if it's major and I don't how to solve it. I do appreciate the comments, though: there's not nearly enough material out there on how a faithful Christian should convert to Roman Catholicism short of RCIA.


Catholic Mom said...

Oh, don't despair. RCIA is actually meant for the unbaptized. Those who have been baptized usually get lumped in for the convenience of the parish. It is perfectly acceptable for you to find a priest to offer you private instruction and determine you are ready for the Eucharist. You can then participate in the Diocesan program for adult confirmation at a later date. I know the Diocese of Arlington has such a program. I don't know about the Diocese of Richmond. Perhaps some of your readers can suggest a local priest who would be amenable to providing the private instruction.

Anonymous said...

Cool down. Catholic mom is right. Go talk with your parish priest or just start participating.

Anonymous said...

Yes, have you met with a priest? You should (I hope) be able to find one who might do things the old-fashioned way, give you a few months private instruction and then welcome you into Full Communion. In my parish (which is not in VA), a couple of months ago an old guy was baptized and confirmed at Mass - and there's no RCIA program in our parish.

That said (she ventures cautiously)...even as I understand your time issues - and they are very important - and even though I am totally against pushing everyone through RCIA, a process which, as the first commentor says, was designed for catechumens (the unbaptized), there is something to be said for just submitting, you know? Maybe your presence would be a gift to the sessions? Maybe your presence would be a grace to others on the journey?

But I would absolutely try to contact a priest - is there a campus ministry at WM? Is that where you were doing RCIA? You never know about people staffing college campus ministries. Sometimes they're flexible, sometimes they're not. And sometimes they're flexible in the wrong way.

Please keep us posted.

frival said...

Yes, Catholic Mom is definitely correct. As an RCIA catechist myself I dislike how it's over-used as a catch-all for any type of adult catechesis in so many places. Do talk to the pastor - if he is unwilling or unable to help out then you should either go up the chain and talk to someone at the Diocesan level or see if there is another parish or campus chaplain who can help you out. Effectively denying the sacraments for the sake of organizational ease is simply not the Catholic way.

If you can manage it, anonymous #2's suggestion to try to stick it out and be a resource for the others is a good suggestion. The old saying is that you learn best when teaching. If that can't work for whatever reason, I'd do what I said above. We'll be praying for you, whatever happens!

HokiePundit said...

If this were done over the summer or on Sundays before/after services I'd probably be okay with it. It's just that with a full schedule of law school stuff I don't have time to possibly be a resource when I haven't even been accepted yet. I'm glad to help when asked and even to take the initiative to make things happen, but I do it from within, not without.

Anonymous said...

First of all, congratulations for cooperating with God's grace in desiring entry into the Catholic Church.

RCIA was not designed for baptized Christians, particularly for well-catechized Christians. You have no business being in it and being forced into RCIA is a pastoral abuse.

The relevant paragraphs from the "National Statutes for the Catechumenate" are numbers 30-36. Highlights include:

"n. 30 Those who have been baptized in another Church or ecclesial community should not be treated as catechumens or so designated. Their doctrinal and spiritual preparation for reception into full Catholic communion should be determined according to the individual case..."

from n. 31 "Those baptized persons who have lived as Christians and need only instruction in the Catholic tradition and a degree of probation within the Catholic community should not be asked to undergo a full program parallel to the catechumenate."

You get the gist of the section from these two excerpts. You aren't asking for a special favor to miss RCIA, you are asking for what the Catholic Church states is the NORM for someone like yourself.


John Domingo said...

As someone who is an employee of the Diocese of Richmond and as well is Coordinator of RCIA for my parish, let me just share with you what is diocesan policy for a "an adult baptized non-Catholic catechized in their faith". Regarding the process, "pastoral formation includes both doctrinal and spiritual preparation adapted to the individual's needs for reception into full communion and a deeper adherence to the Church. The length of preparation is determined by the amount of formation needed and is not necessarily a part of the catechumenate process. `No greater burden than necessary is required' (RCIA #473). Time of Celebration - Any Sunday Eucharist throughout the year, though the Easter season is probably most appropriate." (Taken from "Sorting it all Out: Children and Adults in the Initiation Process", Diocese of Richmond, Office of Worship, May 29, 2007). You may want to share this with your RCIA Coordinator and pastor.

John Domingo
DRE, Saint John the Apostle, Virginia Beach

Rick S. said...

Thanks so much Robert and everyone else for the very helpful posts. I stumbled on this blog while searching for information on RCIA. I also started RCIA several times in the past but, as a doctoral student, I just don't have time for it. I fully understand Robert's frustration about attending Mass and not being able to take communion. Before reading this blog I was unaware that RCIA was not absolutely required for those who are already baptized.

jackjoe said...

I had a three year "battle" with my wife's parish over the status of candidates. I have taught philosophy for years and was quite aware of catholic doctrines. The real reason candidates are treated as cathechumentates if usually a 'power ' play by someone in the parish who wants to lord it over others. The dismissal is disgraceful. Making the non-catholic jump through hoops is a real thrill to some catholics. I won out in the long run, but it was a battle. Jack

Anonymous said...

My problem is a lot like yours. As a matter of fact I found this by looking for ways around RCIA. I've started 2 diffiterent times. I drive truck and it's hard for me to have time for RCIA. I really felt like it was a calling for me to join the Catholic Church. I was baptized in the Name Of Jesus, not in the Trinitarian formula. I was raised in church. I've really had this strong calling to be baptized the proper way and become Catholic. I have read book after book, listen to Catholic radio all the time. The second attempt at RCIA I was told that I would not be confirmed until the teacher could see Jesus in my eyes and it would probably be long after the Easter Vigil. I did not realize people could judge such things. My job took me away from being able to attend these weekly meetings and again as Easter approaches I have a heavy heart. I understand the need for education in the Catholic way but, did Jesus make the apostles go through an educationalcourse before they could join Him? No. He taught them as He preached. Someone commented that it is a Power-play. In my circumstace I agree. The five classes I did attend had very little to do with Catholic teaching. Whenever questions arose they were always put on the back burner. Whenever I try to talk to the pastor or anyone else they say to just go to RCIA because I'll learn a lot so that doesn't help, either. Now the way I look at it is people who are already Catholic are lucky and I guess I'm just going to learn to live with the fact that I can't be. I know Jesus understands that I have good intentions, anyway. Oh well, Happy Easter all.