RCIA and Canon Law

  • Full Christian sacramental initiation requires the celebration of baptism, confirmation and eucharist (CIC, CANON 842 ¶2; 866).

  • Adults desiring baptism are to enter the catechumenate process (CIC, canon 851, 1°). They are to be prepared through liturgical rites, instructed in the truths of the faith, and formed to a life in accordance with gospel values (CIC, canons 788 ¶1 and 2; 851, 1°; 865 ¶1).

  • Children of catechetical age preparing for baptism are to follow the same process (appropriately adapted) as adults (CIC, CANON 852 ¶1).

  • Sponsors must be fully initiated members of the Church who are leading the Catholic way of life (CIC, canon 874 ¶1, 3°).

  • A sponsor or godparent of another Christian denomination may be admitted as a witness only if there is also a Catholic sponsor or godparent (CIC, canon 874 ¶2).

  • A catechumen has the right to a Christian burial  (CIC, canon 1183, ¶1). When two catechumens are married, or when a catechumen marries an unbaptized person, the appropriate rites are to be used (cf. RCIA, n. 47).

  • Those who are fully in communion with the Catholic Church are those baptized persons who express this intention within the structures of the Church through profession of faith, participation in the sacramental life, and adherence to ecclesiastical governance, i.e., union with the hierarchy (CIC, canon 205).

  • The Code of Canon Law does not specify procedure for those already baptized and preparing for full communion. The norms established in the 1988 ritual edition of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults are to be invoked. Their baptism in another Christian community is to be recognized and respected (CIC, canon 869 ¶2).

  • Those already baptized can be admitted to the sacraments of penance, eucharist and anointing under certain circumstances (CIC, canon 844, ¶3).

  • The norms established with the rites of the Church retain their force unless they are contrary to the Code (CIC, canon 2). Hence the liturgical norms established and approved in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults are supported by the Code of Canon Law.1



Morris, Thomas H., The RCIA: Transforming the Church, A Resource for Pastoral Implementation, Revised and Updated Edition, Paulist Press, Mahwah, NJ, NY, 1997, pp. 223-234

Becoming Catholic