Three cheers for the RC Archbishop of Liverpool, who has decreed that Confirmation should precede First Communion in his diocese. We Anglicans know that this is the right thing to do (however much we sympathise with some of the general principles behind S Pius X's promotion of frequent Communion), and it is good to see a rolling-back of the (really distinctly iffy) common RC practice of deferring Confirmation until after First Communion.
And another cheer for Liverpool; these Sacraments will be conferred on eight-year-olds. There has been a most unfortunate tendency among some in the Roman Catholic Church to follow a deplorable Anglican mistake: of regarding Confirmation as a sort of Christian Bar-Mitzvah, an adolescent Rite of Passage. In my view - I did spend 28 years teaching 13-19 year-olds - nothing is more misguided than mixing up the Sacraments of Initiation in this way with the hormonal problems which thirteen-year-olds are having to face. Moreover, Confirmation is a Sacrament, not a Rite of Passage.
I think this is the time to resurrect a persistent argument of Dom Gregory Dix; that Confirmation is in fact that Baptism in the Spirit of which Biblical and Patristic texts speak. So Confirmation really is terribly important; arguably more important, Dix provocatively urged, than Water Baptism!
Dix's argument has weaknesses; the biggest of which is that liturgical patterns in the early centuries, we now know, were not as uniform as he liked to think; which makes it a little dodgy to try to force every liturgical tradition into the same straight-jacket. But the main reason while Dix was so vilified was that his emphasis on the importance of Confirmation created a very unwelcome obstacle to the pan-Protestant ecumenical schemes then in vogue. It implied that one would have to tell Free-Church people that they lacked something immensely important; or the equally unfortunate alternative of telling them that they were OK after all because they had 'equivalent' rites, such as extending the right-hand of fellowship to adolescents (here again we have a spin-off from the old Anglican error that Confirmation is really about Adolescence).
You don't need to try to persuade me that Byzantium has got things right in its simple, logical, unwillingness to sunder the Sacraments of Initiation at all. I rather tend to think that too. Indeed, I suspect that, more recently than we always assume, Confirmation was conferred upon newly-born Westerners if only their parents were of enough consequence to have a tame bishop right on tap. Isn't this what happened to Elizabeth Tudor? Perhaps the general Western custom of separating Baptism and Confirmation would never have arisen if Christianity had stuck with the old Mediterranean city-bishopric system, in which the bishop was fairly accessible because he was in the nearest market town, rather than acquiring the vast tribal dioceses of Northern Europe*.
But the Instauratio Liverpudlitana is a splendid step in the right direction for Latin Christians. There are elements in S Pius X's 'reforms' which, a century later, can do with reexamination.
Will the Ordinariate be supporting LU or Everton?
*The Thames formed the boundary between Lincoln and Winchester!