A year after one bishop decided to change the order of the sacraments of initiation, another has decided to make a different change—preserving the present order, but moving the age of confirmation.
A letter was published last week from Bishop Richard Stika of Knoxville:
After much prayer, discernment and further consultation, I have decided to move the age (grade level) of confirmation, effective January 1, 2019, to the 5th and 6th grade level. With this pastoral adjustment to the confirmation age, I also created a new commission to evaluate and to make recommendations on how best to strengthen our young adult ministry within the diocese, as well as our overall religious formation program. This commission, named the St. John Paul II Commission after our diocese’s co-patron, is chaired by Mr. Dave Wells of Sacred Heart Cathedral Parish and includes members from around the diocese. Initially, I requested their recommendations by this September, but in the interest of thoroughness, I have extended their timeline until the end of the year. In regards to Confirmation preparation, it will involve a diocesan wide policy that will require preparation standardization. (Note: the policy will permit allowances for some flexibility regarding the size of the particular programs.)
Read the full text.
While it’s not mentioned in the letter whether this means a raising or lowering of the age for confirmation, readers tell me the sacrament is now routinely given between the 8th and 11th grade in Knoxville.
The USCCB gives some latitude to local bishops to make this decision. Here’s a decree issued in 2001:
The National Conference of Catholic Bishops, in accord with the prescriptions of canon 891, hereby decrees that the Sacrament of Confirmation in the Latin rite shall be conferred between the age of discretion and about sixteen years of age, within the limits determined by the diocesan bishop and with regard for the legitimate exceptions given in canon 891.