Definitions

Code of Canon Law

Age of reason (canon law)

The age of reason, also called the age of discretion, is the age at which children become capable of moral responsibility. On completion of the seventh year a minor is presumed to have the use of reason (canon 97 §2 of the Code of Canon Law), but mental retardation or insanity could prevent some individuals from ever reaching it. Children under the age of reason and the mentally handicapped are sometimes called "innocents" because of their inability to commit sins: even if their actions are objectively sinful, they sometimes lack capacity for subjective guilt.

While in the Eastern Churches Confirmation (also known as Chrismation) and Eucharist are bestowed on the infant who has just been baptized, in Latin rite Catholicism, confirmation (except in danger of death) may be lawfully conferred only on a person who has the use of reason (canon 889 §2), and Holy Communion may be administered to children only if "they have sufficient knowledge and (are) accurately prepared, so that according to their capacity they understand what the mystery of Christ means, and are able to receive the Body of the Lord with faith and devotion. The blessed Eucharist may, however, be administered to children in danger of death if they can distinguish the Body of Christ from ordinary food and receive communion with reverence" (canon 913).

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