Bishops are the ordinary ministers of confirmation, but they may also delegate it to priests. Is it licit and valid for a priest to confer confirmation without specifically asking for permission? Or does the priesthood itself gives the priest faculties to perform this sacrament?
There are two sets of canon law, Latin (CIC) and eastern (CCEO) with differences. The ordinary minister is a bishop or delegated presbyter in the Latin canons, but in the the eastern canons is a presbyter.
Some cases in the Latin code grant faculties by law: by office or mandate (adults or coming into communion), and for those in danger of death.
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;
3/ as regards those who are in danger of death, the pastor or indeed any presbyter.
1/ All presbyters of the Eastern Churches can validly administer this sacrament either along with baptism or separately to all the Christian faithful of any Church sui iuris including the Latin Church.
2/ The Christian faithful of Eastern Churches validly receive this sacrament also from presbyters of the Latin Church, according to the faculties with which these are endowed.
3/ Any presbyter licitly administers this sacrament only to the Christian faithful of his own Church sui iuris; when it is a case of Christian faithful of other Churches sui iuris, he lawfully acts if they are his subjects, or those whom he lawfully baptizes in virtue of another title, or those who are in danger of death, and always with due regard for the agreements entered between the Churches sui iuris in this matter.
@byhismercy, are you worried that your confirmation was not valid because it was conducted by a priest, not a bishop? And you didn’t ask to see the document where the bishop authorized him to do that? I think you may safely assume that the paperwork was all in order. It usually is.
Not because he is a priest, but because he is not even the parish priest. Plus, even if the Bishop had once given him the faculties, I’m not sure if that is one-time or permenant. I can say with certainty that he or the entire parish did not inform the Diocese of our baptism and confirmation. They told us explicitly that they did not do so.
Any priest bringing someone above the age of reason (7) into the Church should confirm that person, and per Canon Law itself, needs no further faculties. (For the Latin Church)
ETA: In the US, sacramental records are held at the parish level, so the diocese didn’t necessarily need to be informed.
When I worked in the parish office, I was in charge of sacramental records. Two things I noticed: often, a priest was the minister of confirmation, and I was never required to notify the Diocese that a sacrament was performed. If there was some extraordinary reason for that, my pastor handled it.
But I did see a letter he wrote to the bishop once, petitioning for the faculty to confirm an adult. These faculties and permissions are obtained behind the scenes and very discreetly. It is uncharitable and presumptuous of people to think that a priest in good standing did not know or did not even bother to obtain them properly.
Priests are, in general, very meticulous when it comes to the sacraments, because they are central to their vocations and the crown jewels of Holy Mother Church. The last thing a priest wants is for an invalid sacrament to pop up on the radar and be the cause of his undoing. That kind of stuff simply must not happen at any cost.
One time, we had a routine evening Mass during the week, and the sacristan came into the sacristy afterwards to admit a little error to the pastor. Before the Mass, he had taken a ciborium full of unconsecrated hosts and instead of putting it on the credence table, had put it inside the tabernacle with the Blessed Sacrament. Of course this was a huge gaffe, and had it been unknown, we’d be dispensing invalid Eucharist to untold dozens for the next week. Father fell backward a bit when the sacristan told him. But he always has his game face on, and he determined that so far, there was no harm, no foul, and got it rectified. You can be sure the sacristan never made THAT mistake again…
A Bishop is the ordinary minister of Confirmation and a priest must obtain faculties to administer the sacrament in most instances. The one exception is when a priest admits adults (non-infant/non-small child) to the Church he may also administer the sacrament of Confirmation. The Easter Vigil is a great example of this.
Emergencies as well. A priest may perform the sacrament of confirmation is someone is in danger of death
I remember a parish priest reading the letter of delegation letter prior to confirming two teens. The Confirmation and Mass were extraordinary form.
I’ve seen this as well.
As Canon 883 says, priests have the faculty to confirm from the law in the cases of Baptism and receiving into full communion. This is the majority of cases.
The other major group is people who were baptized in a Catholic ceremony when they were infants. Normally these are confirmed by the bishops, usually in a large class that has gone through normal catechesis. Others, who missed the sacrament while they were growing up, can be confirmed by a priest if the bishop gives him faculties to do so. This probably is the source for letters requesting faculties. Exact practice may vary from diocese to diocese, wih some bishops preferring to do these themselves and others allowing priests to do them.
The Chrism used at confirmations has to be consecrated by the bishop, preferably at a ceremony with the priests of the diocese. This ceremony embodies the unity between bishop and priests that allows priests as well as bishops to confirm.
When you say the bishop was not informed of your confirmation, that is strange. It is probably completely normal. That you were told this might mean something, but it is hard to know what without knowing why you were told.
Did the priest ignore the canon law?
Can. 877 §1. The pastor of the place where the baptism is celebrated must carefully and without any delay record in the baptismal register the names of the baptized, with mention made of the minister, parents, sponsors, witnesses, if any, the place and date of the conferral of the baptism, and the date and place of birth.
Can. 878 If the baptism was not administered by the pastor or in his presence, the minister of baptism, whoever it is, must inform the pastor of the parish in which it was administered of the conferral of the baptism, so that he records the baptism according to the norm of can. 877, §1.
When I was confirmed as an adult my parish priest told me he had to get permission from the bishop. I was a revert who had been baptized as a baby and received First Communion as a child.
Pastors can confirm people being received into the faith (baptism, Communion) at the Easter Vigil as a matter of course.
During COVID our bishop has given all pastors blanket permission to confirm anyone in their parish.
Doesn’t make a blind bit of difference just as long as he’s a priest.
It would be one time - the delegation of faculty is supposed to happen each time. that said, it can be as informal as a text message or an email; there’s no requirement for it to be given in a formal letter. I’d be truly astounded if any priest went ahead with a confirmation without first obtaining a delegation of faculty.
In this era of Covid, confirmations are being racked, stacked and packed; there’s only so many slots in the bishop’s calendar (and only so many bishops) and these keep getting shunted as new lockdowns/restrictions are imposed. So, while everyone would of course like to have the bishop present, that’s simply not possible even in normal times. So, especially in parishes which are more distant, the faculty is simply delegated to whichever priest is scheduled to do the mass, which may or may not be the parish priest.
Nor would I expect them to. The bishop obviously would have known it was happening (since the delegation is usually fairly specific as to place/time) but the records are kept in the parish with copies only sent to the diocese about once a year.
The other (admittedly rare) exception is where no Eastern Rite priests is available and a Latin Rite priest baptises an Eastern Rite child. He can chrismate the child with delegated faculty from an Eastern Rite priest.