Friday, October 29, 2010

On the Validity of Sacraments

Please read also:
The Most Holy Eucharist in today's world
The Church's Sacraments Today

The question of the validity of sacraments among the various sects is one that has been posed numerous times, and I also wrestled at one point with the various conflicting bits of information out there.

You have some groups saying that the Novus Ordo, for example, is a valid Mass and has a valid priesthood, when others say that they are not valid at all.  People, of course, want to know the truth of the matter, but often for the wrong reasons.  They fully realize that the men offering these Masses or "Masses" are heretics or schismatics, but they would look past this if only they could receive the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, truly present in every validly consecrated Eucharist.

While they are right to desire this above all things, still, we may never, ever, ever procure what is good by committing sin (we may never sin, that good may come of it).  And this is the problem with the question of sacramental validity.  The question is proposed as though validity in itself renders the sacrament efficacious towards the end for which it was instituted, namely to produce or increase grace in the soul of a man.

But this is a fallacy, and the question of sacramental validity becomes a red herring, distracting many from the insidious danger of communing with heretics in sacred matters.  This is ALWAYS forbidden, valid sacraments or no!  And yet we see an increasing push among modern day heretics who would have us commit this most grievous of sins, despite the valiant sacrifices made by the saints of old, who would rather have died than to insult God in this way.

It is not the goal of this article to discuss whether or not such and such a sect possesses valid sacraments or a valid priesthood.  That being said, however, it still behooves us to examine the true doctrine  and principles on sacramental validity, lest practical errors in this regard should give rise to sins of heresy or schism. 

What is required for a valid priesthood?

For a valid priesthood to exist, there must first and foremost be a bishop who can trace his ordination back to Jesus Christ and the Apostles.

Pope Eugene IV, Council of Florence, Session 8, 1439, ex cathedra: "The ordinary minister of this sacrament is a bishop. The effect is an increase of grace to make the person a suitable minister of Christ."

Pope Eugene IV, Council of Florence, Session 8, 1439, ex cathedra: "All these sacraments are made up of three elements: namely, things as the matter, words as the form, and the person of the minister who confers the sacrament with the intention of doing what the church does. If any of these is lacking, the sacrament is not effected.  Three of the sacraments, namely baptism, confirmation and orders, imprint indelibly on the soul a character, that is a kind of stamp which distinguishes it from the rest. Hence they are not repeated in the same person. The other four, however, do not imprint a character and can be repeated."

Indelible means that this character cannot ever be erased by any means whatsoever, including the profession of heresy, schism or apostasy, let alone mortal sin, whether private or public.  As such, the bishop who should fall away into heresy retains all of the power of his ordination, while losing the right to exercise it.

St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Supp., Q. 38, Art. 2: "When a bishop who has fallen into heresy is reconciled he is not reconsecrated. Therefore he did not lose the power which he had of conferring Orders [...] Hence others say that they confer the sacraments validly, but do not confer grace with them, not that the sacraments are lacking in efficacy, but on account of the sins of those who receive the sacraments from such persons despite the prohibition of the Church. This is the third and the true opinion."

Can Ordained Heretics, Schismatics or Apostates still Consecrate the Eucharist?

Since, as St. Thomas says above, a heretical bishop does not lose the power of conferring orders, it logically follows that he also does not lose the power to consecrate the Eucharist (though he loses the right).  Furthermore, since he can indeed confer orders (though he is forbidden to do so), it also follows that those whom he has ordained can also consecrate the Eucharist, though also not without sin, since they have sinned by seeking ordination from one outside the Church and neither have they yet been received into communion with the Catholic Church.

St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Tertia Pars, Q. 82, Art. 7, reply to Obj 3: "Consequently, if a priest severed from the unity of the Church celebrates mass, not having lost the power of order, he consecrates Christ's true body and blood; but because he is severed from the unity of the Church, his prayers have no efficacy."

St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Tertia Pars, Question 82, Art. 9: "I answer that, As was said above , heretical, schismatical, excommunicate, or even sinful priests, although they have the power to consecrate the Eucharist, yet they do not make a proper use of it; on the contrary, they sin by using it. But whoever communicates with another who is in sin, becomes a sharer in his sin."

Saint Augustine, Address to the People of the Church at Caesarea: “No man can find salvation except in the Catholic Church. Outside the Catholic Church one can have everything except salvation. One can have honor, one can have the sacraments, one can sing alleluia, one can answer amen, one can have faith in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost [not a supernatural, saving faith], and preach it too, but never can one find salvation except in the Catholic Church."

No comments:

Post a Comment