ASK FATHER: Hard time getting kids confirmed with traditional rites. Can you go to another diocese?

From a reader…


I wonder if you can help me out here. I have a good old friend who is having the dickens of a time with the confirmation of his children. He and his wife and children really want to have a traditional Latin confirmation, but the bishop of the diocese is so dead-set against the usus antiquior that he is trying to extinguish it wherever it exists and would never give permission for said confirmation.

So my friend has asked priests of the FSSP and ICKSP if they would allow his children to join the confirmandi at their parishes (in other dioceses). Several priests have responded: “You would need your bishop’s permission to have your children confirmed outside his diocese.” Which permission of course would, in this case, never be granted, so it’s a vicious circle.

My question to you is: is it technically correct that a bishop’s permission is needed before a child can be confirmed outside the diocese? My own children were confirmed in another diocese at an FSSP parish, no questions asked.

“You would need your bishop’s permission to have your children confirmed outside his diocese.”

Not quite.

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 the bishop of the potential confirmand coming from outside the diocese 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, target diocese, and someone showed up asking to be confirmed, as pastor of the parish where it was to take place, would want to know what gives, whether or not the pastor of the potential confirmand’s parish knew him, etc.

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

That could get political.  Hence, be careful.

In sum, if there is an bishop a another diocese willing to include “guests” from outside the diocese, then, according to the Church’s law, the faithful can request to be confirmed validly and licitly, providing that their home bishop doesn’t explicitly object.

The proprieties should be observed, of course. Avoid the appearance of “sneaking around”.

Fr. Z

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, ASK FATHER Question Box, Canon Law, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000 and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Kate says:

    How timely. A group of us from our TLM community just began the process of looking outside of our diocese for Confirmation for precisely the same reason. We’re not seeming to hit any opposition, though, at least not yet. Our pastor is assisting us in our endeavor, however, so that may make the other dioceses not quite so suspicious that we’re renegades. He really tries to help and support us without bringing the undue attention of our bishop which could potentially result in his explicitly forbidding us to go. Could the pastor be of assistance to you? I think that may make all the difference in the world. By the way, our former bishops have granted faculties to our priest for years, and now we’re on our own.

  2. Georgemartyrfan says:

    Does an unwillingness to allow anything to do with traditional liturgy imply apostasy? While it saddens me, I can understand hesitancy or even unwillingness to learn it or provide it personally. But how can a bishop or priest be so virulently opposed to it that he forbids it or forbids one seeking it elsewhere? Can one hate the patrimony and love the Pastor?

  3. Alice says:

    My parents wanted a traditional Latin Confirmation for my sister, so they took her to St. John Cantius, which is outside our diocese. I do know that our territorial pastor sent a letter recommending her for Confirmation and I think that the pastor of the indult parish where we went to Mass was involved too. I don’t remember who made the first call to St. John Cantius, my mother or our indult pastor, but I do know that my mother had to make a lot of phone calls to the correct people in the correct order. On a personal note, if the family does not attend the TLM, I would strongly suggest that they make an effort to go at least monthly and get to know the rite and some of the other confirmands. As beautiful as her Confirmation was, my 13 year old, extremely sheltered homeschooled sister lost her faith in the process, [?!?!?]and based on things she’s said, I think part of it had to do with being thrown into a High Mass Confirmation in a completely unfamiliar place. Sure she shouldn’t have let that shake her faith, but lead us not into temptation. [That last part caught my attention. If her faith was so fragile and her preparation so lacking, then it may not have been a good time to confirm or confirm in that way.]

  4. therecusant says:


    Is there any chance that Bishop Hying may continue Bishop Morlino’s practice of confirming in the Old Rite and permitting those from outside your diocese to participate? I planned on bring up one of my daughters at the next opportunity before Bishop Morlino’s untimely passing.

  5. Blackfriar says:

    Just to clarify a point, regarding the notification to the parish of the confirmatus, this is to be made to the parish of his or her baptism, (canon 895) which is not necessarily the same as the current place of residence. (Of course it might be, but not necessarily so these days when people move a lot.)

  6. KateD says:

    I know lots of families who struggle with this problem.

    The FSSP are very respectful of their local bishops. Even in the worst of situations, don’t expect the word boo from them. Very diplomatic and loyal to the Magisterium.

    And that’s a good thing for the longevity of the order (fraternity/prelature…)

    Some friends go to foreign countries, some change rites, some up and move cross country to where better bishops are in order to get their kids sacraments squared away.

    It’s insanity to believe that one can set undefended and helpless children in the middle of a battle field and expect them to come out unscathed. Make them wait till they’re big enough to be armored?!? No wonder they walk away….or rather the enemy carries them away. The Church has abandoned our youth to the enemy on the battlefield.

    Look at the saints…many were confirmed very young. Saint Junipero Serra was fully initiated on the day of his birth. Early initiation (complete:baptism, communion AND confirmation) prevents the enemy from ever getting a toehold in the soul of a Christian.

    Or we can continue to wait till the kids are fully infused with the ideology of the enemy and then try to wrest their souls back from the dark side….Hows that been working out so far?

  7. TonyO says:

    Fr. Z points out:

    So, if the bishop of the potential confirmand coming from outside the diocese doesn’t explicitly object, you can go to another diocese for confirmation.

    I take it this means that if you have asked the bishop “Can I get Billy confirmed at a TLM in another diocese” and he said “No.” or even “Damn no!”, then you can’t. And if the bishop has made a (general) local law saying “persons of my diocese are not to be confirmed in another diocese” then you can’t.

    Other than that … the bishop has not EXPLICITLY objected, right? If you haven’t asked the bishop, and he hasn’t made a blanket rule, then he hasn’t objected, so another diocese is free to do it.

    Now, I can understand a priest / bishop not wanting to irritate the bishop of your diocese unnecessarily, so not wanting to be obnoxious about it. So who’s going to tell your bishop? Why not let sleeping dogs lie: your bishop doesn’t want to hear about it, and the other priest . bishop don’t want to tell him, so DON’T TELL YOUR BISHOP! Simple. Yes, the priest of the parish where your child is confirmed in that other diocese will have to send notice to the child’s original parish to update the records – this by no means involves telling the bishop “hey, some kid in your diocese was confirmed in some other diocese”. There is normally no reason to go to the chancery with information like that. If a priest in that other diocese is willing “but doesn’t want to create heavy weather with (your) bishop”, just tell him “there is no need for this to come to the attention of my bishop, and what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him.” In other words, if the priest and/or bishop in the other diocese don’t have any objection on their own part, they should have no worries about what your bishop thinks of the matter – just as long as your bishop has not objected.

    In ordinary times, with an ordinary bishop, he is owed the love and respect and loyalty that would make you WANT to inform him that you want a TLM mass and because one is not available here, you would like to go to another diocese. – telling him would be suitable and reasonable. But at the same time, the bishop owes you the love and respect to honor your desire for a TLM mass, if not by doing one himself or causing some priest in his diocese to do it, then AT LEAST cooperating with another diocese for it. That’s a minimum of what he owes you. If he is so unjust in his hatred of the TLM that he can’t even afford you that minimum level of respect, he doesn’t deserve that you should “inform” on yourself and thus give him the opportunity to block your legitimate aspiration. The justice and loyalty goes two ways here.

    What I am suggesting is not being “underhanded” by not informing the bishop of what he has a right to be informed of, rather it is to suggest that by being unjust the bishop has voided any right to be informed of something that you would normally only have a reason for telling him arising to the level of “suitable” or “reasonable”, not “required.” It is no longer suitable or reasonable to give him the information by which he would then squelch your legitimate aspiration, when the law does not demand that you first give him the opportunity to deny your request.

  8. Joe in Canada says:

    Regarding notification of parish of baptism, with an increasing number of people moving to North America from other parts of the world, that is not always possible. I have noticed that Nigerians, for example, carry a sort of sacramental passport with them, issued by their parish, where such information is recorded.

  9. Eoin Suibhne says:

    My family is experiencing the same frustrations as your reader, Father. Like him, we had our older children confirmed in another diocese through an FSSP parish with the approval of the local ordinary. Our pastor was aware of everything, and the subject of seeking the permission of our own bishop never even came up, neither from him nor from the FSSP pastor. That was seven years ago. Since then, trying to get our younger children similarly confirmed has been a maddening — and I would submit, completely unjust — wild goose chase.

    Our first option, quite naturally, was to approach the same FSSP parish through which our older children were confirmed. We learned that the new bishop now prohibits “guests” from outside his diocese to be confirmed there.

    Our next attempt was through another FSSP parish. Like the first time, the pastor was very welcoming, we had the approval of our own pastor, and we were never asked to seek the permission of our bishop. However, the guest bishop who was to perform the confirmations, a well-known, friendly-to-tradition bishop who himself offers the TLM, acceded to the requirement of the local ordinary not to confirm anyone not of high school age. As KateD wrote above, “It’s insanity to believe that one can set undefended and helpless children in the middle of a battle field and expect them to come out unscathed.” Yet that is exactly what our bishops are doing.

    Attempt number three was over before it ever really began: both the FSSP pastor and the local ordinary told us we would not be welcome without the explicit permission of our own bishop.

    Our fourth attempt was through another FSSP parish. If ever there was an example of why you “don’t poke the bear,” this was it. Everything was going well: a welcoming (though very young) FSSP pastor and our own pastor on board once again. Two weeks out from leaving on a 900+ mile trip to this parish (we live in a very remote part of the country), we received notice from the FSSP pastor (a very young man) that he would be contacting the diocesan canon lawyer “just to make sure.” (What!?!?) Well, the canon lawyer got it right: unless explicitly prohibited, one is not required to seek the permission of one’s bishop. Not satisfied, the FSSP pastor went to the bishop! (Double What!?!?) Well, this bishop (thought by some to be friendly-to-tradition — and also a canon lawyer) told this pastor to tell us (as we feared he might) that he would not confirm our children without the explicit approval of our bishop. (Gotta pay dues to the old boys’ club.) We explained our situation to this priest that our bishop is extremely anti-Tradition (he is a protégé of Cardinal Cupich) and would never grant such permission. Our own local pastor was absolutely flummoxed that the FSSP pastor did this and (God bless him) went so far as to speak to him on our behalf to explain the practical realities of our situation. Alas, he wouldn’t budge and told us that we should seek our bishop’s permission (even though we are not required to) and “be obedient to him.” (He did not seem at all interested in discussing what canon law actually says.)

    My point here is not to bash the FSSP; we have several dear friends who are Fraternity priests, and we hold the order in high esteem. I’m certainly not asking anyone to be dishonest or underhanded, but our Lord did tell us to be “wise as serpents and simple as doves.”

    So, Father, a serious question (and perhaps one your reader is asking also): at this point, would I be justified in going the SSPX route to have my children confirmed? They need these graces!

  10. veritas vincit says:

    Reading all these posts, especially that of Eoin Suibhne, I have to wonder: is there recourse in canon law against a local bishop who denies confirmation under the TLM?

  11. Fr_Sotelo says:


    I’m not sure why you call unconfirmed children “undefended and helpless.” We are speaking of Catholic children, no?

    They have been baptized. They have gone to confession. They receive the Blessed Eucharist at Mass. Hopefully, they have been taught Our Lady’s rosary, and wear her scapular or Miraculous Medal. And devout Catholic parents use age appropriate examples of how faith and morals are attacked in the world, so that their children are prepared to fight back for the sake of their souls.

    Such children, in other words, are not pagans in the jungle. They are heretofore armed with sanctifying, and sacramental grace, and with some knowledge of apologetics/ Catholic morals.

    The grace of confirmation, is not a magical, silver bullet. Many a Catholic has erroneously believed that after confirmation, the victory of the youth is assured. Not at all. Look at Alice’s story and how that young lady received a traditional confirmation and still lost her faith.

    The sacrament of confirmation can be fruitful only if parents toil vigilantly to remove worldly priorities from the home and give constant attention to forming holy children. The grace by itself does not make a young Catholic, to be a persevering Catholic.

    Rather, the grace of confirmation builds upon nature, which is a home with loving, parental attention. Making children be confirmed outside of the parish just to “get the grace,”–without laying the needed foundation, in the home–can lead to a fruitless confirmation.

    The young lady Alice spoke to is by no means the only young person to receive a traditional confirmation, only to abandon the Faith later.

  12. Alice says:

    I doubt if very many people really think that a Traditional Confirmation is some sort of magic protection against loss of faith. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Margaret Sanger both received Traditional Confirmation while virtually every regular Mass attendee who is under 65 received the sacrament in the modern rite. Faith and cooperation with grace are required no matter which rite is used and it is extremely helpful if this is modeled by the Confirmand’s parents.

    Speaking of parents, it is fairly unusual for the children of Catholics who don’t practice their faith to grow up to be devout Catholics, but many devout parents suffer the heartbreak of a child leaving the Church. My parents certainly did their best to teach us Catholicism and create a Catholic culture in our home. I’m certain that my sister could still recite parts of the Baltimore Catechism and tell you about most of the saints in both calendars, but knowledge of the faith is not the same as belief and belief she lacks. Naturally it is a sore subject, but she has mentioned that she lost her faith during her Confirmation process and that things might have been different in one of our regular parishes.

Comments are closed.