Are there any options other than a parish based program to Confirm our children? Our parish does not allow parents to homeschool any of the sacramental years including Confirmation (2 year program).My son Lucas detests going to class because it is a class of all boys that he describes as a bunch of crazed monkeys. They disrupt the class the entire 2 hours and it's very hard for him to concentrate. I realize that they all are 12 and 13 and this is normal. But Lucas is very mature for his age thinks it's silly for them to act this way.He's asking us why he has to go through this? He could learn all this material at home without all the distraction. It's hard to argue with that logic. We've spoken with our priest and with the director of the Religious Ed program. Both have emphasized the need to be apart of the church "community" and just stick it out. Being part of this particular community (his class) would mean acting like a crazed monkey! So you can see our dilemma. Please send any thoughts and/or suggestions.
This was my response:
You have several options.
All involve pain.
1) Once someone is baptized, they may approach ANY legitimate minister of the other sacraments in order to receive those other sacraments. All that is necessary to receive a sacrament is
(a) the recipient knows what it will do to him/her(b) the recipient wants that change to happen and(c) the recipient knows enough about the liturgy to successfully move through it.
So, you could go to ANY PARISH IN THE WORLD in order to get your child confirmed. Any bishop, indeed, any priest whose bishop has given him authority to confirm, can do this for your child. Thus, you are quite within your rights to check out other parishes/dioceses for alternatives. Hispanic children, for example, commonly go to a grandmother's house in Mexico to get confirmed over the summer and avoid the gringo stupidity that you are presently encountering.
2) You can fight the priest. The documents are QUITE clear on this point. The Rite of Confirmation #3 even says:
“The initiation of children into the sacramental life is ordinarily the responsibility and concern of Christian parents. They are to form and gradually increase a spirit of faith in the children and, at times with the help of catechism classes, prepare them for the fruitful reception of the sacraments of confirmation and the eucharist.”Articles 2220-2225 of the CCC re-state the parental duty/right in slightly different language. CCC 2225 says "Parents should initiate their children at an early age into the mysteries of faith." The phrase "mysteries of faith" is a technical theological term that refers to the sacraments (Part II of the CCC is called "The Mystery of Faith" and it discusses sacraments and liturgy). The parents are the primary educators of their own children and no pastor, no bishop, no DRE, no deacon, NO ONE can interfere in your right and your duty to prepare your own children for the sacraments. I have a couple of chapters on this in my book, Designed to Fail: Catholic Education in America.
If you bone up on the Magisterial documents and approach the pastor, making it clear that you know what you're talking about and you will take it to the bishop if he doesn't allow you to prepare your child at home, most pastors will back down because they know they have no ground to stand on. If you run into a stupid pastor who really wants to fight on this issue, then after talking with him, take it to the bishop.
Bishops know perfectly well that they can't force you through the parish program. He may or may not bluster and try to bully you into it, but if you stand your ground, he will relent, if only because he wouldn't want you to take it to the papal nuncio, which you should make clear you are willing to do.
The most common objection is that the parish is supposed to participate in the child's preparation for confirmation. Yes, well, you are part of the parish, so you represent the parish to the child. The parish exists to support the family, not vice versa. Families got along without parishes for the first 1000 years of the Church just fine. Parishes don't exist without families. Parishes must support the parents. Anything else is a violation of the principle of subsidiarity.
3) You can go into the class with your child, as is your right, and loudly correct any error the confirmation instructors try to bring forward, i.e., make a real nuisance of yourself. It works best if you get ALL the homeschooling parents to do this en masse. Facing a large-scale revolt, the pastor will quickly find an alternative way to deal with homeschoolers.
The only reason he's been able to ram this down your throats so far is you haven't all gotten together and had a come-to-Jesus meeting with him. If he sees 20 or 30 families all ticked off and all ready to head to the bishop and sit on the bishop's doorstep, the pastor will back down and accommodate you. Familiaris Consortio (#69-72) recommends that parents form associations to work together for their common good. In this day and age, that means you need to band together against your pastor, break green lumber over his head in order to get his attention, then tell him what he needs to do to fix his ignorance, and his insulting attitude towards the parents in his parish.
He'll hate you for taking option #3, but that's ok. He'll get over it. And he will cave, guaranteed. Pastors hate parish insurrections. A big insurrection reduces the likelihood that the bishop will give the pastor a cushy parish next time he has to pass through the spring "pastor roulette" when bishop transfers pastors.
Now, that having been said, bishops don't like noise either, because it looks bad on their vitae if the noise reaches Rome. Given the internet, most noise reaches Rome nowadays. So, #3 is really going to tick off the bishop as well (although Rome won't mind) and it will give homeschoolers a generally bad name with him. I just mention it because it DOES work, if nothing else does.
4) Skip confirmation for the moment. Yes, I know it's a sacrament, and yes I know it sounds wrong, but if he just waits until he's 18 or 19 to get confirmed, then all of this juvenile behaviour from the pastor and the deacon magically falls away.
Typically, most parishes have a "catch-up" program for adults who missed confirmation in their youth (which is not uncommon). The adult program is much less onerous, typically only a couple of weeks, and the level of discourse does not involve crazed monkeys.
It should be noted that, for purposes of receiving a sacrament, canon law recognizes the age of 8 as being an adult. So, technically, an adult prep program for your child is perfectly within his rights if he's 8 years old or older. Now, nobody is going to let your twelve-year old into an adult confirmation program, and I wouldn't argue that you should try, but since your child is unlikely to fall away from the Faith UNLESS he participates in the parish confirmation nonsense, it is actually a prudent decision on your part to simply delay the sacrament until such time as either the boy or the pastor grows up.
Since the former is more likely to happen than the latter, I don't think it unreasonable to wait until he's 19 for confirmation if you can't avoid the near occasion of sin in the parish program any other way. Again, #4 is not the best choice, but I throw it out as an option that I think can legitimately be considered if you don't want to pursue the other courses of action.