What does the RCIA mean by “uncatechized”?
Can I get your thoughts on what the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults means by uncatechized? We get a lot of questions about the rites that arise from differing understandings of what we mean by this term.
For example, we often hear from folks who are trying to figure out what to do with children. A child may be on a path to becoming Catholic because his parents are joining the Catholic Church. The child has celebrated first communion and perhaps even confirmation in his previous tradition. Is he catechized or uncatechized?
Another example we received is a Catholic child who stopped going to church after she celebrated her first communion. Now, at age 12, she is returning to church. Is she catechized or uncatechized?
There a lots of examples of baptized adults from another tradition. Let’s say one man stopped going to his non-Catholic church after first communion in that tradition. He has been away from church and the Christian lifestyle for 20-plus years. Now he wants to become Catholic. Catechized or uncatechized?
Or how about a Protestant woman, who had gone to her church faithfully her whole life until she married a Catholic. Since her marriage ten years ago, she has been accompanying her husband to Mass every Sunday. Is she catechized or uncatechized?
What about a faithful Catholic adult who goes to communion every Sunday, but was never confirmed. Is she catechized or uncatechized?
What does the rite say?
As always, I turn to the rite for help with these things. The section of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults that deals with uncatechized adults starts at paragraph 400. (Remember that for the purposes of initiation, children of catechetical age are considered adults. So this section applies to them as well.)
The following pastoral guidelines concern adults who were baptized as infants either as Roman Catholics or as members of another Christian community but did not receive further catechetical formation nor, consequently, the sacraments of confirmation and eucharist.
The threshold for catechized seems pretty low here. According to the rite, someone who is uncatechized is a baptized person who received zero catechetical formation after infancy. In all of the examples above, the person in question has received some catechetical formation.
Does it really matter?
I think we would all say that some of the people in the examples above need a lot more catechesis. But is it true that they are really uncatechized? And given that we could all use more catechesis, is there any harm in treating them as uncatechized for the purposes of the catechumenal process?
Thanks for sharing your ideas.