QUAERITUR: going to another diocese for traditional Confirmation

From a reader:

I would like your advise on something.  I am grateful for any time you can give to this.  I’ll try to be brief.
If the local Ordinary can not feasibly provide Confirmation in the EF can one legitimately use the services of the SSPX?  Should one contact the FSSP and see is they can be "snuck in" somewhere?

First, I don’t like the sound of "sneaking" to receive the sacrament of Confirmation… which by its very nature is contrary to sneakiness.

I think what you should do should be done in conjunction with your pastor.

That said, I consulted a good canonist and can offer this.

The 1983 Code of Canon Law says in c. 886 that a Bishop may lawfully administer the sacrament of confirmation within his diocese "even to the faithful who are not his subjects, unless there is an express prohibition by their own ordinary."

So, if your local bishop doesn’t explicitly object, you can go to another diocese for confirmation. 

According to the law, it isn’t necessary for people to get permission from their own pastor or the local bishop to seek confirmation from a bishop outside of their own diocese.

Still, if I were on the other end, in the other diocese, and someone showed up asking to be confirmed, I think I as pastor of the parish where it was to take place, would want to know what gives, whether or not the pastor of their parish knew them, etc. 

Also, once confirmed it is necessary that your parish be informed so that the sacrament can be noted in the sacramental register. 

So, if there is an FSSP parish in a another diocese with a priest willing to include "stragglers" from outside the parish and outside the diocese, then according to the Church’s law the faithful can go there and request to be confirmed.

In know that in some places very wacky things happen during confirmations.  Still, I would give consideration to being confirmed locally, even if it is in the Ordinary Form, which is valid.  You want the sacrament, right?   That is what you get.  And if your sacramental preparation is sound, you know what counts.   I understand that sometimes the way this is handled in the Ordinary Form, in some places, the rites are unpalatable.   But it is something to consider seriously.

Nevertheless, wacky or not, you can seek the sacrament even in another diocese, in the older Rite if available at an FSSP parish. 
I cannot say the same for the SSPX bishops.  They are suspended a divinis.  They cannot function in the name of the Church.  They may not adminster the sacraments.  They have no jurisdiction to confirm anyone, much less people coming from another diocese.  Perhaps one day they will have this work to do for the Church, but right now they don’t.   Seek a legitimate church or chapel with proper ministers.

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47 Responses to QUAERITUR: going to another diocese for traditional Confirmation

  1. Paul says:

    Why, that’s our bishop of Rockville Centre, Long Island,
    The Most Rev. William F. Murphy.

  2. Keith says:

    This is somewhat off-topic, but can someone explain what is happening in the photo (aside from confirmation). In the foreground there is a girl wearing pearls, a stole, and a red scullcap. What gives? [It is pretty obvious what is happening. Don't create rabbit holes.]

  3. Keith says:

    Fr, Z, sorry but it wasn’t obvious to me, that’s why I asked. But I’m happy to drop it.

  4. CDN Canonist says:

    c. 866 permits a bishop to lawfully administer the sacrament of confirmation within his diocese even to the faithful who are not his subjects, unless there is an express prohibition by their own ordinary.

    The law does not give the faithful a right to seek confirmation outside their diocese. If the faithful had this right, there would be a corresponding obligation to satisfy it. This is not the case. A bishop may confirm those who seek confirmation, but he has no obligation to do so.

    I think we need to be cautious with this type of approach to sacramental ministry. It is the same mentality which lead couples to request (demand?) use of the “prettiest church” for their wedding.

  5. CDN Canonist says:

    of course, I meant c. 886.

  6. Tim Ferguson says:

    I’m always uncomfortable speaking about the notion of “rights” with regards to the Church, especially with regards to the sacraments. The concept of “rights” is something that is rooted in civil law, and while there are certain “rights” in the Church, I think we have to acknowledge that it’s not quite the same thing as when we think of rights in civil law. [Good point. I may revise the top entry.]

    With that said, while the faithful are not explicitly given the “right” to seek the sacrament of confirmation outside of their proper territory, the fact that the law gives bishops the right to confer it on those who are not his subjects, provided their bishop does not prohibit it, seems to indicate that the faithful have the right to request it outside their territory. They don’t have the right to demand it from a bishop who is not their proper bishop, but they certainly have the right to request it.

    Yes, the bishop retains the right to say no, but it can be requested of him. while I share my Canadian colleague’s concern about “sacramental shopping,” and there can be poor reasons for seeking the sacraments outside of the parish and territory where one resides (Fr. Z speaks directly to this in his response to the query), the fact that some have poor reasons should not daunt those who have legitimate requests from asking.

    Favorabilia amplianda, odiosa restringenda, after all.

  7. Clement says:

    I believe that the confirmand in that photo is wearing an uniform that is customary to that parish in Long Island.

    She is wearing her own jewelry as well.

  8. Marcin says:

    What would then a pastor or a canonist say about seeking Holy Chrismation in an Eastern sui iuris Church, when a Latin family is worshiping there on more or less regular basis?

  9. Chris says:

    I believe St. Michaels, an FSSP parish in Scranton, Pa., accepts all traditionals seeking confirmation.

  10. Michael Kramer says:

    The issue of pursuing (regardless of location) the Sacrament of Confirmation administered in the Extraordinary Form has a little more substance, meaning, and spritual nourishment behind it than those seeking the church that will be most asthetically pleasing to them for the Sacrament of Matrimony. While I am inclined to agree that it can lead to a dangerous attitude (to seek Confirmation elsewhere), it remains true that many families seek the Sacraments in the Extraordinary Form in order to remain wholly united to the traditions of the Church, and even more closely to the mind of the Holy Father. [The Holy Father confirms with the newer form of the sacrament, not the older. And, the mind of the Holy Father is also indicated by the rites he promulgates, though your point is probably that the rites should be followed as they are in the book!] In many Diocese’s, the celebration of the Mass according to the Ordinary Form does not conform to the rubrics of the said Form or have much in common with the guidlines in the General Instruction for the Roman Missal. So again, perhaps what the parents are seeking for their children is simply to worship with one voice with the Holy Father, adhering to his norms [yes... there it is...] and desires, rather than the “do-it-yourself” Mass that Cardinal Arinze spoke of.

    Of course its not a right of the confirmand and certainly there is no obligation on the part of the parish or the would-be-confirming bishop to confer the Sacrament on a confirmand not from His own Diocese, it is an option, a good one at that.

  11. Clement says:

    Pastors with special permission from their Ordinary are also allowed to confirm.

    I am familiar with one such case where the parish pastor was given permission by his Bishop to ordain several young men and women, [Nooo..... I don't think so.] one of whom was from a different diocese.

  12. Michael Kramer says:


    Sacraments that can only be received once without grave sin are to be administered according to the Rite of the Catholic. If someone is attending the Divine Liturgy regularly and wishes to switch rites, he may do so. It’s not easy, it requres a decent amount of effort to get your bishop to release you and then if I’m not mistaken the other Bishop to accept you. Confession, Holy Communion, and Extreme Unction may be administered to those from the Latin Rite when they approach, without issue, but thats about it.

  13. Timbot says:

    “I cannot say the same for the SSPX bishops. They are suspended a divinis. They cannot function in the name of the Church. They may not adminster the sacraments. They have no jurisdiction to confirm anyone, much less people coming from another diocese. Perhaps one day they will have this work to do for the Church, but right now they don’t. Seek a legitimate church or chapel with proper ministers.”

    But then does this not raise an important question in terms of sacramental theology? If the operation of episcopal powers is lost by suspension a divinis, then under what jurisdiction do Orthodox bishops exercze their office. [They don't do so in harmony with the Successor of Peter. They are in schism.] And how did they receive Apostolic succession if at some point in their line the consecrating bishop was a willing scismatic from Rome. [It hasn't been suggested that their sacraments are invalid.] Following this logic has not the eastern church also lost the ability to consecrate new priests and Bishops since the 11th century? This is the point at which the western concept of jurisdiction governing validity and not merely liceity becomes logically problematic for me.

  14. Paul says:

    “I cannot say the same for the SSPX bishops. They are suspended a divinis. They cannot function in the name of the Church. They may not adminster the sacraments. They have no jurisdiction to confirm anyone, much less people coming from another diocese. Perhaps one day they will have this work to do for the Church, but right now they don’t. Seek a legitimate church or chapel with proper ministers.”

    Father Z,

    I invite you to listen to Mr. John Salza, a young American apologist & author.

    In this radio interview, Mr Salza deals with the misconceptions regarding the Society of St Pius X and ably clarifies its status in these extraordinary times. Hopefully, it will serve to disabuse [?] you of certain opinions you hold regarding the same.

    [Let me disabuse you of something: they are suspended a divinis except in those specific cases when the law itself gives them faculties (such as absolution in danger of death.]

  15. Timbot says:

    I might add I have no particular truck with the SSPX, this is simply an academic question on my part.

  16. Mitchell NY says:

    I know this Diocease all too well…When requesting an EF Mass let alone a confirmation I was told to go to a cemetary chapel in Queens. If I were a parent I would seek it for my child, within my Diocease, I think they are supposed to provide, or something to that effect about the other sacraments in the MP..If flat out refused, and sarcastically, which happens more often then not, I would go elsewhere and let the debate begin about Canon Law.

  17. wsxyz says:

    Timbot, I don’t think Fr. Z was meaning to say that the SSPX bishops are not capable of confirming – rather that they have no permission to do so and one should not seek the sacrament from a bishop when it would be illicit for him to dispense the sacrament.

    Paul, it is not “an opinion” that the bishops of the SSPX are suspended a divinis. It is a fact.

  18. B. says:

    I have been confirmed by the bishop of another diocese (not my own) post summorum pontificum.
    We had asked our bishop if he would confirm us (or allow one of his auxiliary bishops to do so). We were told that we should be glad if he doesn’t prohibit us from going to another diocese.

  19. Hidden One says:

    I too am a little confused about the girl, but whatever. It’s a depiction of some form of abuse… that’s ‘good enough for me.’ [Really? Which abuse is that? Fashion abuse? No... don't answer. This is ridiculous.]

    Clement: “I am familiar with one such case where the parish pastor was given permission by his Bishop to ordain several young men and women, one of whom was from a different diocese.”

    I am 99% certain that you meant “confirm” rather than “ordain”.

  20. “What would then a pastor or a canonist say about seeking Holy Chrismation in an Eastern sui iuris Church, when a Latin family is worshiping there on more or less regular basis?
    Comment by Marcin — 21 April 2009 @ 12:36 pm “

    My son was confirmed (chrismated) under those circumstances — his mother was Byzantine Rite, his father Roman, so he inherited his father’s rite — on the day he was baptized, since all three sacraments of initiation are administered simultaneously. You should check with the pastor in question, but under the circumstances you mention, it is probably going to be okay.

    “Comment by Paul — 21 April 2009 @ 12:49 pm”

    Every man is entitled to his own opinion. He is not entitled to his own facts.

  21. Ken says:

    I sponsored a work colleague for a novus ordo confirmation — one of the handful of times I have been to a novus ordo sacrament in the past 15 years. What a disaster. The word “confirm” was not used once (!!!) during the banal, schmaltzy hour, led by a notable cardinal. I was also surprised (sort of) that there was absolutely no pomp to the cardinal walking in the door. A stark contrast from the traditional solemn reception of a bishop.

    If I had a teenager, I would drive wherever I needed to go in order to have a bishop confirm him in the traditional rite.

    As an aside, here is some concise writing on the subject:

  22. Clement says:

    I apologise,
    I meant I personally know of priest who recieved permission from his Diocesan Ordinary to CONFIRM several confirmands in the Traditional Roman Rite.

    Sorry about the “consecrate” mistake Father.

    I understand why you said you did not think so.
    Consecrate…what was I thinking??

  23. Jackson says:

    I recommend the few Confirmandi in my stead who are receptive to the idea to another diocese, which shall be unnamed. My archdiocese, whose bishop has so many defenders, remains hostile to the EF.

  24. Paul S says:

    There are also some very practical considerations to not go outside of the structure of a diocese, and if you do go to another diocese to make sure the confirmation is properly recorded.
    About 25 years ago my friend had his daughter confirmed by the priest in the “independent” traditional chapel we used to attend. When it came time for the girl to get married the poor thing had to jump through hoops to try to get the confirmation recognized.

  25. dcs says:

    Paul S. writes:
    About 25 years ago my friend had his daughter confirmed by the priest in the “independent” traditional chapel we used to attend. When it came time for the girl to get married the poor thing had to jump through hoops to try to get the confirmation recognized.

    Priests don’t have the authority to confirm on their own. They have the power, but without permission of the Ordinary their confirmations are not only illicit but also invalid. Even the SSPX recognizes this, which is why confirmandi among their adherents are always confirmed by one of the bishops.

    Confirmations administered in the Orthodox Churches are valid because of the tacit permission of the Holy See (this is explained in Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, somewhere but I don’t have it handy for a reference).

    In short, confirmations administered by “independent” priests (as opposed to bishops) are simply not valid.

    As far as the young lady in the picture accompanying this post is concerned, I think it is delightful that she is wearing a headcovering in church.

  26. Erin says:

    Why did my post get deleted? Is it incorrect that a priest can confirm with the permission of the bishop?

  27. Ben Trovato says:

    Every year, here in the UK, the Latin Mass Society organises Confirmation in the traditional form in London; one of the auxiliary bishops of Westminster confers the sacrament.

    My eldest two have been confirmed there; and my third will be this autumn. We live at the other end of the country; but it seems to be accepted that this is a national event (indeed it is a great meeting of Catholic families who love tradition: we always meet old friends there!).

    We have kept our Parish Priest informed and he has raised no objections. I haven’t spoken to our bishop about it, though as he allows an EF Mass in his cathedral on a regular basis, I imagine he would not be hostile: but I take our priest’s sanction as sufficient…

  28. Dominic says:

    Father Denzil Meuli in Auckland New Zealand has been confirming his subjects himself – with his Bishop’s permission – for years, since he considered a traditional confirmation done by a priest (who is the extraordinary minister of the sacrament) to be better than the new rite done by one of the very progressive New Zealand Bishops. (The former bishop of Auckland, Bishop Brown, was nicknamed “bulldozer Brown” since he had a picture published in the newspaper of himself sitting on the bulldozer that eliminated the traditional high altar from the Auckland cathedral…)

  29. dan says:

    Sorry for the bad english, but it’s an error that FSSPX is suspended a divinis, because the canon law provides that cancelled the excommunication – major penalty – all the other minor penalties fail ipso iure.

  30. Andy says:

    Another consideration for leaving the diocese for confirmation is when your own diocese puts off the sacrament until the childs 16th or 17th year.

  31. Emilio III says:

    Dan, as HH said:

    As long as the Society does not have a canonical status in the Church, its ministers do not exercise legitimate ministries in the Church. There needs to be a distinction, then, between the disciplinary level, which deals with individuals as such, and the doctrinal level, at which ministry and institution are involved. In order to make this clear once again: until the doctrinal questions are clarified, the Society has no canonical status in the Church, and its ministers – even though they have been freed of the ecclesiastical penalty – do not legitimately exercise any ministry in the Church.

  32. Tom says:

    Since asking, I\’ve learnt that this is more prevalent than I first suspected.

    Hypothetical question.

    Overseas, there is an Ordinary who is “Committed to the liturgy of Paul VI.” Post S.P., what may he legitimately do to avoid confirming in the E.F.?

    1) Flat out say, no
    2) Authorize those families desiring this to go to a neighbouring diocese
    3) Require that this be done by the Extraordinary Minister (the pastor)
    4) Stall, delay.
    5) Say there isn’t enough interest
    6) Say that all in the parish must prefer this and request it.
    7) Say that those requesting it must be old enough to vote or collect Social Security
    8) Require a Latin Test and psychological screening.
    Comment by Tom — 19 April 2009 @ 2:42 pm

    Perhaps, this is going on in your LOCAL diocese?

  33. Mike Morrow says:

    These discussions make me very happy to have been confirmed before Vatican II. Back then, none of these current problems and controversies were even imaginable.

  34. Michael J says:


    Unfortunately, your statement that “Still, I would give consideration to being confirmed locally, even if it is in the Ordinary Form, which is valid. You want the sacrament, right? That is what you get.” is not true as often as it should be. How many hundreds of Baptisms given in the Ordinary Form in Brisbane were completely invalid due to the types of things this father is trying to avoid by fleeing to the Extraordinary Form.

  35. MargaretMN says:

    Wow, some people on this blog really want what they want and no quarter given. I was confirmed by an leftwing extremist bishop, who nonetheless was a bishop and validly confirmed me. Even at 16 years old I knew that the guy did not represent my or my family’s view of the church. The service was was typical 70s NO with all the frills. I still had to respect the fact that he was the auxiliary bishop assigned to my Parish’s confirmation. There was probably a lesson in that somewhere about accepting authority even when we disagree or don’t like it. If you were being forced to go to a Parish every week where you found the service and practices appalling it would be one thing but this is a one time deal and the sacrament is still the sacrament regardless of the person conferring it, the music, the service etc. As my Dad used to tell me when I was a kid and I chafed at something, can’t you offer it up? You would rather go to a dissenting bishop?

  36. Christina says:

    I had my daughter confirmed at St. Michael’s in Scranton last year. My parish is too small to get a confirmation group. Sure, we could go to another parish in this diocese, but most pastors, even those sympathetic to homeschoolers (which I am) require the child to attend their CCD classes, attend a retreat, etc. Going to St. Michael’s required permission from my pastor, including a statement saying that she was properly prepared. Other than the 3 hour drive, much less of a pain than schlepping the child to CCD classes where who knows what might be taught.

  37. “Comment by dan — 21 April 2009 @ 4:44 pm”

    The excommunications applied only to the consecrated bishops and the one who consecrated them. The suspension does not. If the offending parties in the two respective instances are not identical, how can the lifting of one cancel out the other?

  38. Maureen says:

    Catholic school beanies for girls! A rare post-1959 sighting!

  39. Mike Morrow says:

    Maureen observed: “Catholic school beanies for girls!”

    Exactly so! Some people’s unfamiliarity with typical pre-Vatican II Catholic school conventions causes them to over react and mis-interprete a very good sign of tradition creeping back in. I haven’t seen such headwear since 1965. Abuse? It is to laugh!

  40. Christina says:

    My husband and I were confirmed in the late 70′s and this was the garb worn, the girls wearing the beanies. Same for his siblings, who were confirmed from the late 50′s onward. It’s not a school thing. The gown looks like a surplice from the back, but it’s a full length gown. Standard fare back then.

  41. notyou says:

    Father can you (or someone else) please explain what the girl is wearing?

    I am not “questioning” it, I am simply asking for a clear answer. I assume it is kosher. There are a great many legit local traditions (particularly in Europe) and I have never seen this one.

    Is it simply a “catholic school beanie” or does this have some type of monastic or medieval roots? I doubt someone one day simply said, “here is a something that vaguely looks like clerical garb, can you please wear this.”

  42. Ken says:

    MargaretMN — the Church is not a democracy, but one can still vote with his feet.

    If everyone were to simply play along with modernists, nothing would ever change.

  43. irishgirl says:

    I wore that same outfit for my Confirmation in 1966! [but I didn't wear pearls]

    There was a family I know slightly who used to come to the TLM in my hometown. All their kids went to the FSSP church in Scranton for their Confirmations.

  44. MargaretMN says:

    Ken, generally I would agree about voting with your feet. I don’t attend Mass at the parish where I probably should in terms of geography because I prefer a more traditional parish. But I think that receiving a sacrament is different. It should not depend on what our opinion is of the priest/bishop or ceremony involved. If it’s validly performed by the designated individuals it shouldn’t be a problem.

    Occasionally we all (“progressives” and trads) need to remind ourselves that we can’t just live our faith lives in a bubble of what we like and avoid what we don’t like about this vast diverse enterprise that is the Roman Catholic Church in the 21st century. It’s one more thing that makes us different from Protestants with their “intentional communities.” In our archdiocese and probably in others, this “voting with your feet” has created serious unbalances in the finances of many parishes and our new Archbishop, a thoughtful man, is reportedly considering ways to rectify this situation that will no doubt displease some people. Until there is more uniformity in practice this situation will be highly problematic.

  45. Hidden One says:

    “[Really? Which abuse is that? Fashion abuse? No… don’t answer. This is ridiculous.]”

    Alright, I won’t answer your sarcastic questions.

    I do, however, have a comment to tack on to my earlier one – albeit in half-asleep Latin this time.

    Satisfacio, quod scientiam magnam tuam defio. Conjectare facile possum (non omnino stultus sum) sed scire vero volui. Non contemnere speraverant.

  46. Fr. Z, you did a fine job handling this question.

    The only aspect of this that has not yet been raised is the question of community for the young person to be confirmed. When I was confirmed, it was something I did along with the other teenagers from my parish’s religious education program — many of whom are still friends. Our shared experience of receiving the sacraments at our hometown parish is something we treasure. (We made our First Holy Communions together, our confirmations together, the young men were altar servers together, we were all in youth group, etc.)