Saturday, February 3, 2024



This is Vatican News Report on the new document from the DDF on the Validity of the Sacraments:

‘For validity of Sacraments, formulas and matter cannot be modified’

In the face of continued liturgical abuses, the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith releases a doctrinal Note entitled “Gestis verbisque,” reiterating that the words and elements established in the essential rite of each Sacrament cannot be changed because such changes render the Sacrament invalid.

By Vatican News

The Note from the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, entitled “Gestis verbisque,” was published on Saturday, February 3.

The Note was discussed and approved unanimously by the Cardinals and Bishops who are Members of the Dicastery and were present at the recent Plenary Assembly. Pope Francis then approved the text of the Note.

It reaffirms that the formulas and material elements established in the essential rite of each Sacrament cannot be changed at will in the name of creativity.

Doing so, in fact, renders the Sacrament itself invalid; therefore, it never existed and no Sacramental grace was conferred.

Presentation by Cardinal Fernández

Presenting the document, Cardinal Victor Fernández, Prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, explained the Note’s genesis.

He said there has been a “multiplication in the number of situations in which it was necessary to declare the invalidity of the celebrated Sacraments,” due to modifications that “then led to the need to track down the individuals involved to repeat the rite of Baptism or Confirmation and a significant number of the faithful have rightly expressed their disturbance.”

As an example, he cited modifications to the baptismal formula, including: “I baptize you in the name of the Creator...” and “In the name of the dad and the mom... we baptize you.”

These same circumstances have also caused concern among some priests who “having been baptized with such formulas, painfully discovered the invalidity of their ordination and of the Sacraments celebrated up to that moment.”

Cardinal Fernández explained that “while in other areas of the Church's pastoral action there is ample room for creativity,” in the realm of sacramental celebration this “turns instead into a ‘manipulative will’.”

Priority given to God's action

“With intimately connected events and words,” reads the doctrinal Note, “God reveals and carries out His plan of salvation for every man and woman.”

Unfortunately, he added, “it must be noted that not always does the liturgical celebration, especially that of the Sacraments, take place in full fidelity to the rites prescribed by the Church.”

The Church, “has the duty to ensure the priority of God's action and to safeguard the unity of the Body of Christ in those actions that are unequalled because they are sacred ‘par excellence’ with an efficacy guaranteed by the priestly action of Christ.”

The Church, he noted, is also “aware that administering God's grace does not mean appropriating it, but becoming an instrument of the Spirit in transmitting the gift of the Risen Christ. It knows, in particular, that her power (potestas, in Latin) in relation to the Sacraments ends at their substance” and that “in Sacramental actions she must preserve the saving acts that Jesus entrusted to Her.”

Matter and form

The Note then explains that the “matter of the Sacrament consists in the human action through which Christ acts. In it, a material element is sometimes present (water, bread, wine, oil), other times a particularly eloquent gesture (sign of the cross, laying on of hands, immersion, infusion, consent, anointing).”

The form of the Sacrament, says the Note, “is constituted by the word, which confers a transcendent meaning to the matter, transfiguring the ordinary meaning of the material element and the purely human sense of the action performed. Such a word always draws inspiration to various extents from Sacred Scripture, finds its origins in the Church’s living Tradition, and has been authoritatively defined by the Magisterium of the Church.”

Therefore, matter and form “have never depended nor can depend on the will of the individual or the individual community.”

Sacraments cannot be changed

The document reiterates that “for all the Sacraments, in any case, the observance of matter and form has always been required for the validity of the celebration, with the awareness that arbitrary changes to either one and/or the other—whose gravity and invalidating force must be ascertained in each instance—jeopardize the actual bestowal of Sacramental grace, with evident damage to the faithful.”

That which is read in the promulgated liturgical books must be faithfully observed without “adding, removing, or changing anything.”

The art of celebrating

The liturgy allows for variety that preserves the Church from “rigid uniformity,” as read in the Conciliar Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium.

However, this variety and creativity which promote a greater intelligibility of the rite and the active participation of the faithful, cannot concern what is essential to the celebration of the Sacraments.


William said...

So no possibility of ordaining females! So no possibility of uniting two males or two females in holy matrimony! The wrong matter = no sacramental grace.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

William, if one is logical and coherent, what you highlight is exactly true. Men are the valid substance for deacons, priests and bishops. To substitute a woman or any other variety of so-call “genders” invalidates the sacrament!

The same is true with Holy Matrimony. One real man and one real woman and for a lifetime.

No sacramental grace if a sacrament is feigned. This would apply not to just same sex but to someone who has an impediment to get married in the Church, such as a valid sacramental marriage.

Mark Thomas said...

Father McDonald, thank you for the updates in regard to the DDF's new document.


Mark Thomas

Mark Thomas said...

Father McDonald, you are Mikey.


That is, if you are on board with something via Pope Francis/Cardinal Fernández, then said document must be a winner.

In regard to the "Mikey" reference: Remember the following old commercial?


Mark Thomas

Jerome Merwick said...

I would remind any of the gullible readers who take this story seriously, that this is one of the Peronist tactics that defines this papacy.

Day one: "We'll never do that."

One year later: "We could do that."

Two years later: "We will permit that under certain circumstances."

Two years, six months later after complaints are brought to the Vatican: "The CDF agrees that such praxis can be the accepted norm of doing that."

Mark Thomas said...

Father McDonald, in fairness to you, on many occasions you have offered positive comments in regard to Pope Francis.

In particular, I have found the following very holy and charitable:

Whenever Pope Francis has fallen ill...incurred serious medical have prayed for, as well as requested prayers, for His Holiness. That is far more than certain folks have done.

Father, I have always found that interesting, as well as uplifting, about you. On the one hand, it is clear as to how you regard Jorge Bergoglio the to how you regard his Pontificate.

On the other hand, in regard to Jorge Bergoglio, if you will, the man, you have prayed for his good health, the healing of his sufferings (not that you have not prayed for Jorge Bergoglio, the Pope. You have.).

Father McDonald, you are a fine man — God's holy priest.


Mark Thomas

Servimus Unum Deum said...

Another dead on arrival letter the radicals Misrepresenting Traditonalists will ineffectively try to enforce with much spilled ink from their Internet armchairs.

Sorry but to me the only solution to partially correct our sad state of the Church is the Biological Solution of the next two generations. And that’s only to keep the remnant Benedict XVI mentioned. Won’t fight the brainwashed youth and parents under Catholic Lite school systems being taken over by gender and alternative lifestyle ideologies.

TJM said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
monkmcg said...

Typical "Vatican Two-Step"; 1) put out a document that appears to hold the line on abuses; 2) slip in one or two sentences that allow the entire thing to be undercut.

Fr Martin Fox said...

Here's something about the sacraments -- and the issue of matter, form and the minister -- that I wonder isn't pointed out more often:

The whole logic of it is for the benefit of the faithful. That's it.

If we accept the premise that God exists, and he is gracious (rather than malevolent or indifferent) toward us, and therefore, offers us grace (and parallel to this, we accept the premise that we need grace), then the blindingly obvious follow-up questions are:

> Where and how do we get this grace? And,
> How do we know we have gotten it?

The sacraments answer these questions with assurance!

But when the matter and form are not respected, then the assurance is imperiled, unless you want to maintain that we don't really need grace via sacraments; either because grace isn't real; or because grace is everywhere, all the time, and the sacraments don't really add anything.

I have known clergy who roll their eyes at discussions of respecting matter and form; their mindset seems to me to be that God just takes care of it so why worry about it?

One problem with that mindset is that it ignores the question of assurance; surely, a person coming to confession is not helped by wondering if s/he actually received absolution? Use the specified words, please. I mean, even if it is true (and it is, in a way) that "God just takes care of it," your "improved" words of absolution can hardly help with assurance, not if what the penitent wants is God's absolution, as opposed to Father Freelance's.

It may be that Father Freelance knows better; or that I know better, for that matter. But Jesus did not put either of us in charge; he put the Apostles in charge. We follow them, and those before us, who follow them.

Fathers, give people the sacraments in the way the Church's leaders, following tradition, following Christ, tell you to do it. Save your improvements for conversations with the Lord himself. And you know what? God will take care of it. The sacraments will work without your improvements.