JMC : The Catholic Religion / by Charles Coppens, S.J.

Holy Orders.

265. The most prominent features of religion under the Old Testament were the Tabernacle, the sacrifices, and the priesthood. God Himself had legislated for all things regarding them; they were to be types of the main constituents of Christian worship, namely, of the Holy Eucharist, the Mass, and the Christian priesthood. As the chief function assigned to the Jewish priests was the daily sacrifice, so that of the Christian priesthood is the offering, day after day, of the unbloody Sacrifice of the Mass. This leading idea of a sacrificer is well expressed by the Latin name of a priest, sacerdos, which means an offerer of holy things"; hence our adjective "sacerdotal". The term "priest" is somewhat misleading; it is derived from the Greek word which originally meant "an elder" (presbuteros). But in the time of the Evangelists it denoted "a ruler", or "governor", being a title of dignity without reference to age (Lond. Encycl.). Its meaning to-day is definite and clear: "a priest" is a religious officer who offers sacrifices; and therefore no Protestant clergyman assumes the title, unless he also claim to perform such an office. The Sacrament which perpetuates the priesthood in the Church is "Holy Orders". The name has a plural form because there are various Orders, and corresponding ranks among the ministers of the Altar.

266. The Council of Trent teaches: 1. In the New Testament there is a visible and external priesthood, and the power of consecrating and offering the true Body and Blood of the Lord, and of remitting and retaining sins. 2. Besides the priesthood, there are in the Catholic Church other Orders, greater and less, by which, as by so many steps, the priesthood is approached. 3. Order is truly a Sacrament instituted by Christ. 4. By sacred ordination the Holy Spirit is given, and it is not in vain that the Bishop says, "Receive the Holy Ghost"; by it a character is impressed, and who has once been a priest cannot become a layman. 5. The sacred anointing which the Church uses in ordination is required, and is not contemptible and harmful: so too of the other ceremonies of Order.

267. A leading idea of Luther and his followers was the denial of the Christian priesthood in the proper sense of the word (nn. 265), which implies the offering of sacrifice; a new meaning was given to the Christian ministry. In the unprelatic sects (n. 91) a person becomes a minister by a "call" of the people, this being essential for a lawful ministry. The neighboring ministers next hold a "recognition service", when hands are laid on the new minister, or the right hand of fellowship is extended to him. There is no pretence that grace is conferred, or that one who is once a minister is always a minister.

The prelatic bodies (n. 91) agree generally with the English Established Church, which says in Article 23: "Those we ought to judge lawfully called and sent which be chosen and called to the work by men who have public authority given them in the congregation to call and send ministers into the Lord's vineyard." Article 36 declares that "all those consecrated and ordered according to the Book of Consecration of Edward VI. are rightfully, orderly, and lawfully consecrated and ordered". It will be noticed that the 23rd Article does not determine who are those that have public authority to send ministers. The Erastian theory is that they are the civil governors, the Church being a department of the State.

268. We have seen (n. 244) that Christ gave to His Apostles the sacerdotal power to offer the Eucharistic Sacrifice, when, at the Last Supper, after the institution of the Blessed Sacrament, He added, "Do this in commemoration of Me" (Luke XXII, 19). He gave them power to forgive sin, on the night after His resurrection (n. 255); He gave them power to rule the Church, when He said, "As the Father sent Me, I also send you" (Jo. XX, 21). We have also seen (n. 45) that the Apostles communicated their powers to some of their disciples, and instructed them to communicate the same to others. This transmission of powers, was done by prayer and imposition of hands (Acts XIII, 3; 1 Tim. V 22). St. Paul expressly states that grace was thus conveyed: "Neglect not the grace that is in thee by prophecy with imposition of the hands of the priesthood" (1 Tim. IV, 14); here is an outward ceremony instituted by Christ to produce grace. Thus we have in Orders all the requisites of a Sacrament. St. Augustine expressly treats of ordination as being a Sacrament in the same sense as Baptism is a Sacrament (C. Ep. ad Parm. II, 13), and all the ancient oriental sects have always maintained the same doctrine.

269. The subject of Orders is a baptized male person; the minister is a Bishop, that is, one who has received the fulness of the sacred ministry. The matter and form to be used are contained in the rites prescribed in the Roman Pontifical. Of this there is no dispute; nor could there be any without supposing that the gates of hell could have prevailed against the Church by depriving her of the Sacraments. Regarding the ordination of priests, theologians are not agreed at what part of the service the matter and form are applied.

It is essential that the matter and form should signify the grace; for this is the nature of a Sacrament. The imposition of hands, as explained by the accompanying words, does this sufficiently, and the present tendency of theologians is to regard it as being alone the essential matter and form. The decree of Eugenius IV, issued in time Council of Florence, A. D. 1439, "for the Armenians", requires the tradition of the chalice with wine and the paten with bread; but this decree declares that its contents are partly disciplinary. Still the omission of this ceremony in the West would render the ordination doubtful, because many maintain that the Church requires it for the validity.

270. Anglican Orders are invalid for evident reasons; and therefore the Catholic Church ordains converted Anglican clergymen as she ordains mere laymen, without premising any condition. These Orders were all derived from Parker; and his episcopal consecration, if it took place at all, which is doubtful, was certainly invalid. So were likewise all the Orders, both of Bishops and priests, conferred in the English Church from 1549 to 1662; and thus all Apostolic succession was broken off. For, during those 113 years, the rites employed for the ordination were certainly wanting in one of the essentials of a Sacrament. For they were the rites of the Edwardine Ordinal, and had been changed from the old Catholic rites by purposely suppressing such words and actions as signified the grace and power of the sacerdotal office.

But the matter and form in every Sacrament must signify the grace conferred: this significance belongs to the essence of the Sacrament (n. 228). True, the consecrator used the words: "Receive the Holy Ghost"; but these words occur also in Confirmation, and do not express sacerdotal grace and power; and this is the more strikingly true since they form part of a rite which had been newly designed for time purpose of excluding all sacrificial functions. Besides, by employing this vitiated rite, the minister sufficiently shows that he has not the intention to do what the Catholic Church does, but rather what the Anglican Church intends to do. Now this sect does not, or at least did not then, intend to confer priestly ordination, nor even to confer any Sacrament at all since it does not acknowledge any Sacraments but those of Baptism and the Supper of the Lord (n. 231).

Anglican Orders were pronounced invalid by the Pontiff Clement XI. in 1704; there was no solid foundation for doubt on the subject. In 1896, Pope Leo XIII. allowed a thorough discussion of the whole matter to take place; after which, in the Encyclical "Apostolicae Curae", he definitely declared the invalidity of Anglican Orders by reason of defect of form and imitention.

271. The various Orders constitute the Hierarchy (hieros archê), or sacred body of governors. The Bishops (episkopos, overseer) possess the fulness of sacerdotal power. The priests possess the same (n. 265), except the powers of confirming (n. 244) and ordaining. When the New Testament was being written, the verbal distinction between Bishops and priests was not yet fixed. But as early as the second century, St. Ignatius wrote that in any Church the Bishop presides in the name of God, and the priests represent the college of the Apostles (Ad Magn. n. 6). Deacons (diakonos, attendant) were first ordained to attend to "the daily ministrations". The Apostles, praying, imposed hands on them (Acts XI, 6); and therefore the rite of their ordination appears to be sacramental. The next Order is that of Subdeacons, the lowest of those which are called "Sacred Orders". The "Minor Orders" are those of Acolytes, Exorcists, Readers, and Ostiaries, whose offices to some extent correspond with their names. The rites used to confer the Subdeaconship and the Minor Orders are not generally regarded as Sacramental. Preparatory to the reception of Minor Orders is that of the Tonsure, by which one becomes a member of the clergy, of those, namely, who have chosen the Lord as the portion (klêros, a lot or portion) of their inheritance (Ps. 15). The rest of the faithful are called the laity (laos, people). Tertullian condemns the proceedings of some early heretics, because among them "who is to-day deacon will be a layman to-morrow; for laymen are entrusted even with the functions of priests" (De Praesc. c. 4). this shows that as early as the second century the distinction of clergy and laity was Catholic doctrine.

272. Good order in the government of the Church requires that her ministers shall not exercise their functions in all places and over all classes of the faithful promiscuously but only within certain limits, which are appointed, directly or indirectly, by the Supreme Pontiff. The right thus to exercise the sacred functions within appointed limits is called "jurisdiction"; it is required for the lawful performance of all the functions and for the validity of some of them, namely of those concerned with governing and judging. Therefore the priest needs jurisdiction to absolve validly in the tribunal of Penance but when a penitent is in danger of death, the Church grants jurisdiction to absolve him to any priest whatever. The Roman Pontiffs have, by Divine institution, universal jurisdiction (n. 107). The other Bishops have power to govern their own dioceses only, to which they have been assigned by the Pope. Their jurisdiction is attached to their See, and is therefore called ordinary, to distinguish it from delegated power, which is granted to a cleric for functions lying beyond his special rights of office. None but clerics can hold jurisdiction. The Bishop's ordinary jurisdiction is shared by his Vicar General, who forms one tribunal with him. A group of dioceses is called a province: its principal see is occupied by an Archbishop, or Metropolitan; the other Bishops are his Suffragans. He can entertain appeals from their decisions, and can, if necessary, visit their dioceses, and correct what may be amiss. A Primate stands towards several Archbishops in the same relation that they stand toward their Suffragans. The Primates of Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch have from early days been called Patriarchs; others also at present bear the title; it does not alter their jurisdiction. Even Patriarchs have been deposed by the Pope, which shows that they hold jurisdiction from him.

273. All those in Sacred Orders (n. 271), in the Latin portion of the Church, are bound, as a matter of discipline, to observe celibacy. They cannot validly marry, nor may a married man become a Subdeacon, unless his wife vow perpetual chastity. There are excellent reasons for this celibacy. Christ recommended the leaving of father and mother and wife for His sake (Matt. XIX, 29). St. Peter could say to Him: "Behold, we have left all things" (Mark X, 28); and St. Paul states, what reason also teaches, that care for a wife is apt to divide a man, and hinder his total devotion to the service of God; he invites all to follow his example of a celibate life (1 Cor. VII, 7, 8,32, 33). Origen wrote in the third century: "It appears to me that it belongs to him alone to offer the unceasing Sacrifice, who has devoted himself to an unceasing and perpetual chastity" (Hom. 29 in Num. n. 3). Still, though the practice of celibacy was common in the early ages of the Church, it was not obligatory by law. In the Greek portion to-day, no priest can marry; but yet married men may receive Holy Orders, except episcopal consecration.

274. It is most honorable, and an inconceivable supernatural blessing, to be made a priest of the Most High; but no one should ambition the dignity for the sake of worldly advantages: "Neither does any man" says St. Paul, "take the honor to himself, but he that is called by God, as Aaron was" (Hebr. V, 4). This vocation to the clerical state is known to exist whenever the following conditions are all verified. 1. The aspirant must desire this state for supernatural motives. 2. He must be judged fit for it by his spiritual director. 3. He must be accepted by the Bishop or the religious superior. 4. He must have acquired the habit of leading a chaste life. 5. He must be free from such natural obligations as have a prior claim upon his time and labor. Such would be the duty of supporting parents that could not be properly provided for if he entered the sacred ministry. But if they are not in great need of his support, he does not need their permission to devote himself entirely to God's service; as is clear from the example of Christ, who left His parents at the age of twelve, because He had to be about His Father's business (Luke II, 49). Parents should not presume to usurp God's rights over their children's service, but rather consider themselves highly honored if the Lord deigns to invite one of their sons to so sublime a dignity.

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