Catholic Theology: An Indelible Character Is Imprinted By The Sacraments Of Holy Orders, Baptism & Confirmation

©Lúcio Mascarenhas.
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  1. The Church Teaches—Documents Of The Church In English Translation, by the Jesuit Fathers of St. Mary's College, St. Mary's, Kansas, U.S.A. Editors: Frs. Clarkson, Edwards, Kelly & Welch. Imprimi Potest: Daniel J. Conway, S.J., Provincial, Missouri Province. Nihil Obstat: Malachi J. Donnelly, S.J., Censor Deputatus. Imprimatur: Edward J. Hunkeler, D.D., Archbishop of Kansas City in Kansas. April 20, 1955. ©1955, B. Herder Book Co. ©1973, TAN Books & Publishers, Inc.

  2. The Christian Faith in the Doctrinal Documents of the Catholic Faith, edited by J. Neuner, S.J., and J. Dupuis, S.J. ©1973, Theological Publications in India, St. Peter's Seminary, Bangalore, India. Post Code: 560 055.

  1. Pope Stephen I, Letter to Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, 256: If, therefore, some come to you from any heresy whatsoever, let no innovation be made except according to what has been handed down, namely, let an imposition of hands be made on them by way of penance; for the heretics themselves are right in not baptizing other heretics who come over to them but simply receiving them into their communion.

  2. 1st. Council of Nicaea, Directive on Re-Baptism of Paulinist heretics, adherents of Paul of Samosata, formerly Bishop of Antioch, who denied the Divinity of the Son, and who, therefore, did not baptize with the Trinitarian Formula, 325: Canon #19: As for the Paulinists who seek refuge in the Catholic Church, the decision has been taken that they be re-baptized by all means.

  3. Pope Gregory I, Letter to the Bishops of Georgia, 601: Without any doubts, let your Holiness receive them (the converts from Nestorianism) into your assembly, preserving their own Orders, so that... you will snatch them away from the mouth of the ancient enemy, while by your gentleness you do not raise any opposition or difficulty as regards their own Orders.

  4. Pope Innocent II, Profession of Faith Prescribed For Durandus of Osca and Followers, converts from Waldensianism, 1208: Furthermore, we do not reject the sacraments that are conferred in the Church, in cooperation with the inestimable and invisible power of the Holy spirit, even though these sacraments be administered by a sinful priest as long as he is recognized by the Church. And we do not disparage ecclesiastical functions and benedictions celebrated by such a one; but we accept them in a kindly manner, as if performed by the most just of men. For the evil life of a bishop or a priest does not invalidate either the baptism of an infant, or the consecration of the Eucharist, or other ecclesiastical duties performed for the faithful.

  5. Council of Constance, 1415; Error of Wycliff Condemned: If a bishop or a priest is in mortal sin, he does not ordain, he does not consecrate, he does not effect the Sacrifice, and he does not baptize.

  6. Pope Martin V, Bull Inter Cunctas, 1418; Question Proposed For Followers Of Wycliff & Hus: Likewise, whether he believes that an evil priest who has the correct matter and form and the intention of doing what the Church does, truly effects the Sacrifice, truly absolves, truly baptizes, truly confers the other sacraments.

  7. Pope Eugene IV, Bull Exultate Deo for the Armenians, November 22, 1439: ...All these sacraments are brought to completion by three components; by things as matter, by words as form, and by the person of the minister effecting the sacrament with the intention of doing what the Church does. And if any one of these three is lacking, the sacrament is not effected. Among these sacraments, there are three, baptism, confirmation, and holy orders, which print on the soul an indelible character, that is a certain spiritual sign distinguishing the recipient from others. Hence, these are not given more than once to one person. The other four do not imprint this character and may be repeated.

  8. Council of Trent, 1545-1563; Canons on the Sacraments in General:

    #9: If anyone says that in three sacraments, namely, baptism, confirmation, and holy orders, a character is not imprinted on the soul—that is, a kind of indelible spiritual sign whereby these sacraments cannot be repeated: Anathema sit!

    #12: If anyone says that a minister in the state of mortal sin, though he observes all the essentials that belong to effecting and conferring the sacraments, does not effect or confer the sacrament: Anathema sit!

    #13: If anyone says that the accepted and approved rites of the Catholic Church that are customarily used in the solemn administration of the sacraments can, without sin, be belittled or omitted by the ministers as they see fit, or that they can be changed into other rites by any pastor in the Church: Anathema sit!

  9. Council of Trent, 1547; Canons on Baptism:

    #4: If anyone says that baptism, even that given by heretics in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, with the intention of doing what the Church does, is not true baptism: Anathema sit!

    #11: If anyone says that he who has denied the faith of Christ before infidels must, when he is converted to repentance, receive baptism again even when it was truly and rightly performed: Anathema sit!

  10. Council of Trent, July 15, 1563:

    Chapter 4: The Ecclesiastical Hierarchy & Ordination: Moreover, in the sacrament of orders, just as in baptism and in confirmation, a character is imprinted which can neither be blotted out nor taken away. Therefore, this holy council rightly condemns the opinion of those who say that the priests of the New Testament have merely temporary power, and that once they have been duly ordained they can become laymen again, if they do not exercise the ministry of the word of God.

    Canon #4: If anyone says that by holy ordination the Holy Spirit is not given and thus it is useless for bishops to say, "Receive the Holy Spirit"; or if anyone says that no character is imprinted by ordination; or that he who was once a priest can become a layman again: Anathema sit!

  11. Pope Alexander VIII, Decree of the Holy Office, 1690, Condemnation of the Error of the Jansenist Farvacques: Baptism is valid, when conferred by a minister who observes all the external rites and the form of baptizing, but interiorly within his heart resolves: I do not intend what the Church does.

  12. Pope Pius XII, Encyclical Mysticis Corporis Christi, 1943: Christ is the author and efficient cause of holiness; for there can be no salutary act which does not proceed from Him as from its supernatural source: "Apart from Me you can do nothing," He said (Jn. 15.5).... His inexhaustible fullness is the fount of grace and glory.... And when the Church administers the sacraments with external rite, it is He who produces their effect in the soul. He it is, too, who feeds the redeemed with His own flesh and blood....

    ... In the first place, in virtue of the juridical mission by which the divine Redeemer sent forth His apostles into the world as He Himself had been sent by the Father (cf. Jn. 17.18; 20.21), it is indeed He who baptizes through the Church, He who teaches, governs, absolves, binds, offers and makes sacrifice.

  13. Pope Pius XII, Encyclical Mediator Dei, 1947: This priesthood is not transmitted by heredity or blood relationship... nor is it derived by delegation from the people. This sacrament (of Holy Orders) not only confers the grace proper to this particular function and state of life; it also confers an indelible character which conforms the sacred ministers to Christ the Priest, and enables them lawfully to perform the acts of religion by which men are sanctified and God duly glorified according to the divine ordinance.

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