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How valid — and how licit — is confirming a Catholic child using a Q-Tip®?
Church Militant received this question this week from a tipster in the diocese of Trenton, New Jersey, where officials are proposing to use Q-Tips to confirm young Catholics.
The rationale, as explained to the confirmandi and their families at the rehearsal for the Sept. 18 confirmation Mass, disturbed the woman to the core and left her with more questions than answers.
Digging deeper, Church Militant found that this new mode of administration of the sacrament — ostensibly owing to COVID-19 — is not isolated to Trenton.
In the archdiocese of Chicago, for example, led by leftist cardinal Blase Cupich, "Q-Tip confirmations" are now part of the "new normal." The sacred chrism is administered to the confirmandi only with a Q-Tip or, if preferred by the celebrant, cotton ball.
In a video from Aug. 6, Fr. Dennis Ziomek, pastor of St. Catherine of Alexandria Parish in Oak Lawn, Illinois, can be seen diligently using — as directed by Cdl. Cupich —cotton swabs to administer the sacrament — one sterile disposable swab per confirmandi, with their sponsors standing 6 feet behind them.
Church Militant inquired of Church canonists how valid and licit the use of something like a cotton swab is to administer confirmation.
"Totally invalid!" said one pre-eminent canonist.
"The Holy See for centuries has permitted extreme unction via a sacred instrument, but never permitted that for confirmation," he noted. "The use of an instrument is a violation of canon 880, par. 1 CIC. The Sacred Congregation of Propaganda Fide decided this question almost 400 years ago in 1630."
Across the country, where other ordinaries have adopted "Q-Tip confirmations" in recent weeks, faithful Catholics are questioning the validity of using cotton swabs or other instruments to administer the sacrament.
On Aug. 25, for example, a concerned parishioner queried Catholic Answers about the practice:
When it was time to go up for the anointing by the priest, he used a long Q-Tip, dipped it in a jar with the oil and used it on my forehead making the sign of "the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit." I didn't think much of it at the time. I was overwhelmed with joy and happiness to be confirmed into the Catholic Church. However, a couple days later I heard on the Patrick Madrid Show a parent asked him that his son was confirmed in California in similar fashion with the Q-Tip and was very concerned if it was a valid confirmation.
Lamentably, after posting his question to Catholic Answers, the inquirer was given misinformation.
"Yes. It is valid," the apologist responded. "The USCCB sent a dubium to the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments on May 14, 2020, asking whether an instrument could be used to anoint with chrism in confirmation and received an affirmative on June 2, 2020."
In short, the concerned parishioner was given the wrong answer. And what should be the correct answer to the thousands who have been invalidly confirmed since this practice was widely adopted by U.S. ordinaries in June?