(NOTE: I am aware that a similar question has been asked on this site before, but I have first hand experiences which seem to contradict the one answer - at the time this question was asked - to that other question.)
The standard practice of the western churches which make use of the sacrament of confirmation - e.g. the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion - is that this sacrament is only to be conferred by a bishop - except where a bishop delegates this responsibility to a priest for some practical reason. Those, as I understand it, are the requirements for the conferring of the sacrament to be licit, but might a conferral of the sacrament under different circumstances still be valid, even if it was illicit?
This might seem to be one of those silly brainteasers, but I ask for a very concrete, personal reason. I was born into a relatively observant Anglican family, was baptised and later confirmed according to the rites of that church, in which I spent the first thirty years of my life, until, in 2021, I was received into the Roman Catholic Church. As part of the process of my being received, I had to provide my baptismal certificate; there was, of course, no question of my being re-baptised, since, in principle, anyone can baptise anyone else. I was pleasantly surprised to be told that I wouldn't have to be re-confirmed either; the opinion of the diocese was that the Roman Catholic and Anglican sacraments of confirmation were 'the same'. In the service in which I was received, I simply recited the Nicene Creed solo, and then received the bread and wine shortly after.
Unfortunately for my brain, I've never been able to stop wondering why the Roman Catholic Church viewed my Anglican confirmation as valid! I understand the logic regarding baptism; again, anyone can baptise anyone else. But, to be valid, doesn't confirmation have to be performed by a bishop, or at least a priest acting on a bishop's behalf? And doesn't the Roman Catholic Church view Anglican ordinations as null and void? Or is it that a confirmation performed by a non-priest could be valid, at least in principle, but would be illicit?
Some short specific questions which summarise the issues I raised above:
- Who can validly confer the sacrament of confirmation according to the Roman Catholic Church?
- Is the sacrament of confirmation as practied by Anglicans recognized as valid by the Roman Catholic Church?
- If a priest conferred the sacrament of confirmation without a bishop's approval, I imagine that would be illicit, but would it also be invalid, with the person in question needing to be re-confirmed?
- What is the impact of this issue on Christians who move between sacramental traditions - Eastern Catholic, Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, etc, etc - each of which has slightly different views on how the sacrament of confirmation is to be conferred?