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Effect of The Sacrament
 Holy Orders 

Effect of The Sacrament

The first effect of the sacrament is an increase of sanctifying grace. With this, there is the sacramental grace which makes the recipient a fit and holy minister in the discharge of his office. As the duties of God’s ministers are manifold and onerous, it is in perfect accord with the rulings of God’s Providence to confer a special grace on His ministers. The dispensation of sacraments requires grace, and the rightful discharge of sacred offices presupposes a special degree of spiritual excellence. The external sacramental sign or the power of the order can be received and may exist without this grace. Grace is required for the worthy, not the valid, exercise of the power, which is immediately and inseparably connected with the priestly character. The principal effect of the sacrament is the character, a spiritual and indelible mark impressed upon the soul, by which the recipient is distinguished from others, designated as a minister of Christ, and deputed and empowered to perform certain offices of Divine worship (Summa, III, Q. lxiii, a. 2). The sacramental character of order distinguishes the ordained from the laity. It gives the recipient in the diaconate, e.g., the power to minister officially, in the priesthood, the power to offer the Sacrifice and dispense the sacraments, in the episcopate the power to ordain new priests and to confirm the faithful. The Council of Trent defined the existence of a character (Sess. VII, can. 9). Its existence is shown especially by the fact that ordination like baptism, if ever valid, can never be repeated. Though there have been controversies with regard to the conditions of the validity of ordination, and different views were held at different times in reference to them, “it has always been admitted that a valid ordination cannot be repeated. Reordinations do not suppose the negation of the inamissible character of Order--they presuppose an anterior ordination which was null. There can be no doubt that mistakes were made regarding the nullity of the first ordination, but this error of fact leaves the doctrine of the initerability of ordination untouched” (Saltet, “Les Réordinations”, 392).


The ordinary minister of the sacrament is the bishop, who alone has this power in virtue of his ordination. Holy Scripture attributed the power to the Apostles and their successors (Acts 6:6; 16:22; 1 Timothy 5:22; 2 Timothy 1:6; Titus 1:5), and the Fathers and councils ascribe the power to the bishop exclusively. Con. Nic. I, can. 4, Apost. Const. VIII, 28 “A bishop lays on hands, ordains. . .a presbyter lays on hands, but does not ordain.” A council held at Alexandria (340) declared the orders conferred by Caluthus, a presbyter, null and void (Athanas., “Apol. contra Arianos”, ii). For the custom said to have existed in the Church of Alexandria see EGYPT. Nor can objection be raised from the fact that chorepiscopi are known to have ordained priests, as there can be no doubt that some chorepiscopi were in bishops’ orders (Gillman, “Das Institut der Chorbischöfe im Orient,” Munich, 1903; Hefele-Leclercq, “Conciles”, II, 1197-1237). No one but a bishop can give any orders now without a delegation from the pope, but a simple priest may be thus authorized to confer minor orders and the subdiaconate. It is generally denied that priests can confer priests’ orders, and history, certainly, records no instance of the exercise of such extraordinary ministry. The diaconate cannot be conferred by a simple priest, according to the majority of theologians. This is sometimes questioned, as Innocent VIII is said to have granted the privilege to Cistercian abbots (1489), but the genuineness of the concession is very doubtful. For lawful ordination the bishop must be a Catholic, in communion with the Holy See, free from censures, and must observe the laws prescribed for ordination. He cannot lawfully ordain any except his own subjects without authorization (see below).

Written by Hubert Ahaus. Transcribed by Robert B. Olson. Offered to Almighty God for the priests and brothers of the Legionaries of Christ and all the men ordained into the Priesthood of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XI. Published 1911. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, February 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York

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