Confirmation and priests and bishops

I read somewhere that only a bishop should give the Sacrament of Confirmation but on the Easter Vigil when people are confirmed, the parish priests do this…and of course the Bishop can’t be in all the churches of the diocese in the same evening :smiley:
But then why does it say this? :confused:

The priests get a special dispensation to confer the sacrament of confirmation on converts. That’s what I remember from my confirmation, which happened at Easter, when the Apostolic Administrator (we didn’t have a bishop then) had to travel to a parish without a parish priest, and let my parish priest do it. Ordinarily it’s supposed to be a bishop, but in special cases, or under special circumstances, other priests can do it, but only with the approval of the bishop.

I’m sure someone here can point to the proper rules and regulations - there seems to be a lot of members very knowledgeable in canon law here! (I dunno how they manage to keep track of all these encyclicas and law books etc. Impressive.)

My emphases and comments:

Code of Canon Law

  1. The ordinary minister of confirmation is a bishop [see the Catechism, 1313, for part of the reasoning behind this]; a presbyter provided with this faculty in virtue of universal law or the special grant of the competent authority also confers this sacrament validly.

  2. The following possess the faculty of administering confirmation by the law itself:
    1. within the boundaries of their jurisdiction, those who are equivalent in law to a diocesan bishop;
    2. as regards the person in question, the presbyter who by virtue of office or mandate of the diocesan bishop baptizes one who is no longer an infant or admits one already baptized into the full communion of the Catholic Church [the Catechism, 1312 (see below) explains this: for unbaptised or baptised adults, the Eastern discipline is generally followed];
    3. as regards those who are in danger of death, the pastor or indeed any presbyter.** [As with many other things, in case of danger of death, any ordained minister can administer this sacrament without the permission necessary in other circumstances.]

  3. §1. The diocesan bishop is to administer confirmation personally or is to take care that another bishop administers it. **[So, really, before he considers delegating confirmation to one of his priests, the bishop should first attempt to find another bishop.] ****If necessity requires it, he can grant the faculty to one or more specific presbyters , who are to administer this sacrament.
    §2. For a grave cause the bishop and even the presbyter endowed with the faculty of confirming in virtue of the law or the special grant of the competent authority can in single cases also associate presbyters with themselves to administer the sacrament.

  4. §1. The diocesan bishop is obliged to take care that the sacrament of confirmation is conferred on subjects who properly and reasonably seek it.
    §2. A presbyter who possesses this faculty must use it for the sake of those in whose favor the faculty was granted. [If the bishop delegates one of his priests to confirm someone, that does not then give that priest the automatic right to confirm any other person at any other time (except in danger of death, as per can. 883 above).]

  5. §1. A bishop in his diocese legitimately administers the sacrament of confirmation even to faithful who are not his subjects [as per can. 884 §1], unless their own ordinary expressly prohibits it.
    §2. To administer confirmation licitly in another diocese, a bishop needs at least the reasonably presumed permission of the diocesan bishop [out of common courtesy, this would preferrably be written permission; in law, reasonable presumption is valid here, though] unless it concerns his own subjects.

  6. A presbyter who possesses the faculty of administering confirmation also confers this sacrament licitly on externs in the territory assigned to him unless their proper ordinary prohibits it** **; he cannot confer it validly on anyone in another territory, without prejudice to the prescript of can. 883, n. 3 [only in danger of death can priests validly confer the sacrament outside of their diocese]**.

  7. Within the territory in which they are able to confer confirmation, ministers can administer it even in exempt places.

Catechism of the Catholic Church

  1. The original minister of Confirmation is the bishop. In the East, ordinarily the priest who baptizes also immediately confers Confirmation in one and the same celebration. But he does so with sacred chrism consecrated by the patriarch or the bishop, thus expressing the apostolic unity of the Church[see further below, 1313] whose bonds are strengthened by the sacrament of Confirmation. In the Latin Church, the same discipline applies to the Baptism of adults or to the reception into full communion with the Church of a person baptized in another Christian community that does not have valid Confirmation** [as per can. 883, n. 2; note that the sacred chrism used by the priest in these instances must* be blessed by the bishop].
  2. In the Latin Rite, the ordinary minister of Confirmation is the bishop. Although the bishop may for grave reasons concede to priests the faculty of administering Confirmation, it is appropriate from the very meaning of the sacrament that he should confer it himself, mindful that the celebration of Confirmation has been temporally separated from Baptism for this reason. **Bishops are the successors of the apostles. They have received the fullness of the sacrament of Holy Orders. The administration of this sacrament by them demonstrates clearly that its effect is to unite those who receive it more closely to the Church, to her apostolic origins, and to her mission of bearing witness to Christ.
  3. If a Christian is in danger of death, any priest should give him Confirmation**[can. 883, n. 3].Indeed the Church desires that none of her children, even the youngest, should depart this world without having been perfected by the Holy Spirit with the gift of Christ’s fullness [cf. can. 891: the requirement that those to be confirmed have reached “the age of discretion” is waived in danger of death]**.

Hope this is helpful. I make no claim to be a knowledgeable canon lawyer (because I’m not!); they are my comments, and as such could be wrong. It all seems quite logical, though (!).

You can also see the Catholic Encyclopaedia’s entry on confirmation, if you need a bit more information (particularly about the history and development of the sacrament itself).**

Confirmation (or properly, Chrismation) is administered by a priest even to newly-baptized infants in Eastern Catholic Churches all the time.

Priests are required by Canon Law to Confirm and give Holy Communion to adults that they Baptize at the same time they Baptize them. The Easter Vigil is primarily intended for the Baptism of Adults.

When necessary other already Baptized adult Christians can be received into the Church at the Easter Vigil using a “Combined Rite”. The already Baptized adults are received and are given Holy Communion, however they may not necessarly be Confirmed. Each pastor must receive permission to Confirm each adult that he is not Baptizing from the Bishop. Any Bishop can decide to hold Confirmation and celebrate this Sacrament himself at a later time

So it’s more about how the particular Bishop wishes to do things in his diocese.

The OP is not asking about the Eastern practice, this is just confusing more an already confusing issue.

Not to go off on a tangent, but why is there the provision in Canon 883, part 3, regarding someone in danger of death? It seems a bit strange that Confirmation would be administered at that point.


I would say that is relevant, if only to confirm ( no pun) that Priests have the ability ( with faculites) to validly administer the Sacrament, and a Catholic should have no concerns re: a priests ability to do so if authorized by the bishop or Canon Law.

Why? Should not a dying person be able to recieve as much Sacramental Grace as possible?

Full Christian Initiation is completed with the reception of all three Sacraments - Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Communion.

Why do you think that? Even infants can be confirmed at the same time as an emergency baptism is conferred.

Your question reflects the generally poor understanding of the sacrament of Confirmation we have as a community. We tend to think more about what we do to get Confirmed rather than about what Confirmation does to us when we receive it. We’ve put so many ‘requirements’ in the way to Confirmation that we forget why we are being confirmed in the first place: to receive God’s Grace and the gifts of the Holy Spirit to strengthen us.

Roman Rite Confirmation is seen as a right of passage, more than as a sacrament providing grace; as the point where one is an adult in the eyes of the church.

The Eastern Churches, both Catholic and Orthodox, now well outnumbered in adherents by Romans, maintain infant baptism by the priest as the norm, and converts are baptised, chrismated, and communed almostt as if it were one sacrament, also by the priest.

And why should the Latin practice be considered the default position on this forum?

It is not called “Latin Liturgy and Sacraments”, is it?

My point is that it is not without precedent in the Catholic Chuch for confirmation to be administered by priests.

That’s not fair and you know it. :slight_smile:

We are one Church, and the Latin understanding of Confirmation as the reception of the full gift of the Holy Spirit and as a holy and divine mystery are, ultimately, just as deep as the Byzantino-Greek understandings.

Now, I would agree that many ethnic (i.e. poorly catechized and evangelized) Catholics see it as a “rite of passage.” But orthodox Latin Catholics know that it is a true sacrament in which real and powerful spiritual changes and gifts are impressed upon the soul.

Back on topic…

At our Rite of Election this year, in which the Bishop presided, at the end of the service he made a statement that said something along the lines of “I give permission to the respective priests of your parish to confer the sacrament of Confirmation upon you in my absence.” Hope that helps a little. :slight_smile:

Which prompts the question: why are they in that condition ?

But orthodox Latin Catholics know that it is a true sacrament in which real and powerful spiritual changes and gifts are impressed upon the soul.

OTOH - Confirmation has been something of a “poor relation” to Baptism in the Roman Rite: the practice of the RR is what has been deficient. A lot of people are concerned with orthodoxy, right belief; less care has been taken to ensure orthopraxy, right practice. Which does not in the end make sense, because they need one another.

It is a position that was taught by a Jesuit priest!
Even the Dominicans played up that portion; they (unlike the jesuit in question) stress the grace aspects, but still, the common perception, reinforced by roman praxis in asking catholic candidates if they wish to be confirmed as a separate act of will from baptism implies a rite of passage trial… an “Are you ready?” kind of mindset. My grandfather dropped the “y” from my name after I was confirmed. So did several of my parents friends, and most of the latin priests who knew me. (And I’d been trying to get them to drop it for years. Once I was confirmed, they almost automatically did so.)

Further, the pre-confirmation retreats and the post-confirmation parties reaffirm the role as equivalent to the Bar Mitsva: A coming of age, and full membership in the congregation.

That it is a sacrament was taught. That the sacramental nature is the most important aspect is heavily downplayed even amongst the theologians I’ve known (and there are several).

The Eastern approach prevents that abuse; it bears, however, the risk of blurring it into unification with baptism.

What in the OP’s message led you to infer this?

Given, as you admit, the confusing nature of Confirmation (Chrismation) why unnecessarily preclude further clarification?

Does the OP have further thoughts?

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