Confirmation (sacrament)

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Confirmation is a rite used in many Christian churches. Though beliefs about confirmation differ among traditions, it is commonly seen as a mature statement of faith of a person already baptised. Customarily, it is done during adolescence, and, as such, is often seen as a rite of passage. In some traditions, Confirmation is seen as a sacrament.


Roman Catholic views

In the Roman Catholic Church confirmation is one of the seven sacraments instituted by Christ for the conferral of sanctifying grace and the strengthening of the union between individual souls and God.

Confirmation is seen as granting the receiver an extra-natural source of wisdom, knowledge and courage, should the person desire it with an open heart. As such, Confirmation is the fulfillment of the words of Christ who said "And ye shall know the truth" (John 8:32). See also the New Testament Gospel of Saint John, chapter 14 where Christ discusses the topic with the Apostles.

As a sacrament it is held to put a person in direct communion with the Holy Spirit. The current 'witness' paradigm of Confirmation used in the Latin Rite since the 1970s emphasizes participation in the community and the evangelistic nature of the grace obtained. Prior to that the 'soldier of Christ' paradigm emphasized defending Christianity and so was more concerned with the apologetic nature of the graces.

In Latin-Rite (i.e., Western) Catholic churches, the usual minister of Confirmation is a diocesan bishop. Unless an ordinary priest has received dispensation from a Bishop granting him permission to confirm people, a confirmation by a parish priest would usually be illegal, but nonetheless valid (unlike a confirmation by an unordained person, which would be both illegal and invalid). In Western Catholic churches, only persons old enough to understand the sacrament are normally confirmed. In Eastern-Rite Roman Catholic churches, the usual minister of this sacrament is a parish priest, who uses the chrismation rite involving olive oil consecrated by a bishop (i.e., chrism), and administers the sacrament immediately after baptism.

Its supernatural efficacy is held to depend on its being administered by a person ordained by a bishop in a line of succession of bishops dating back to the twelve apostles. Roman Catholics recognize the validity of chrismations in Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox churches because those churches maintain the apostolic succession of bishops, and therefore Catholics do not confirm converts from those churches who have been chrismated before their conversion. However, the Catholic Church does not recognize the validity of Protestant confirmations, and so a convert to Catholicism from Protestantism will receive the sacrament.

The Catholic Church teaches that the Sacrament of Confirmation imposes an "indelible mark" upon a soul; therefore, it would be sacrilegeous to receive Confirmation twice.

Orthodox views

In Eastern Orthodox, and Oriental Orthodox churches, there is no direct theological analogue to "confirmation". The Roman Catholic Church considers the Orthodox Church's practice of Chrismation to be an eastern equivalent of confirmation. Thus, the Catholic Church does not confirm converts to Catholicism who have been chrismated in an Eastern church, considering them already confirmed. Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox churches practice chrismation as part of the normal baptism, since it is seen as part-and-parcel, quite inseparable, in the Orthodox theology of baptism. When Roman Catholics (and some Protestants) convert to Orthodoxy, they are admitted via Chrismation alone, but this is a matter of local episcopal discretion, and a bishop may require all converts be admitted by baptism if he deems it necessary. (Depending upon the form of the original baptism, some Protestants must be baptized upon conversion to Orthodoxy.)

Anglican/Episcopal views

The traditional view of the Anglican Communion, taken from the Thirty-Nine Articles, is that Confirmation or Affirmation of Baptism is not a sacrament. The Thirty-Nine articles recognises only two sacraments, Baptism and Communion; however, many Anglicans, particularly those in the Anglo-Catholic tradition, view Confirmation as a sacrament. Only a bishop may administer confirmation. If a person has been confirmed by a bishop in the apostolic succession, they may be received, rather than confirmed when they convert to an Anglican church, although this practice varies. For example, the Episcopal Church in the United States of America now recognises confirmations in churches that do not claim apostolic succession as valid; therefore, a confirmed person from a Protestant denomination would now be received when converting to ECUSA. In being received, the individual has renounced their former church or denomination and has essentially "reconfirmed" as an Anglican. Until recent times, only confirmed Anglicans were allowed to take Communion. This has now been changed in many Anglican churches to permit any baptised Christian to take Communion. As a result, adults who convert to Anglicanism do not have to be confirmed unless they wish to be.

It is still standard that those baptised as either infants or as young children are to go through the Rite of Confirmation upon reaching an age of mature choice.

Protestant views

In Protestant churches, confirmation is often called a "rite" rather than a sacrament, and is held to be merely symbolic rather than an effective means of conferring divine grace. The Roman Catholic Church does not recognize the validity of Protestant confirmations, and therefore do confirm converts from Protestantism.

Latter-day Saint views

In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, confirmation is considered a necessary saving ordinance and is typically administered shortly after baptism. One or more Melchizedek Priesthood holders place their hands on the person's head and one of them says the words of the ordinance, adding any additional words of blessing or advice as he feels inspired. Through confirmation, a person becomes an official member of the Church and receives the Gift of the Holy Ghost.

Each person is confirmed at most once

Western Christians do not normally confirm anyone who has already been confirmed, just as they do not typically baptize anyone twice. Roman Catholics have made it an explicit dogma that confirmation is one of the three sacraments that no one may receive more than once; see sacramental character. On the other hand, the Orthodox insist that chrismation upon conversion is necessary.

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