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64. Source and Ministration of the Sacraments

1. God is the cause of the sacraments, and of their effecton the soul of the recipient. The person who administers asacrament is God's instrument. God is the principalcause; the minister is the instrumental cause of thesacraments. Now, the interior effect of a sacrament comes from theprincipal cause alone.

2. God alone can cause the justification of the soul bygrace. Such justification is the inward effect of the sacraments.Therefore, sinceonly God can give to sacraments theirjustifying or grace-conferring power, God alone can institute asacrament.

3. Christ, as God, as exercising his divinepower, instituted the seven sacraments of the New Law. Yet Christas man has authority over the sacraments, and is theirmost excellent minister.

4. Christ can impart to his priests the authority andexcellence which he has in respect to the sacraments.

5. The validity of a sacrament conferred, does not dependupon the worthiness of him who administers it. The instrumentcannot change the essence of what is done by the principal cause.Water is water, whether it flow through a pipe of gold or a pipe oflead. Hence, even an evil minister can validly confer asacrament.

6. But a wicked person who administers a sacrament doeswrong. He commits a sin of irreverence which, in its essentialgeneral kind or genus, is a mortal sin. It is called a sinof sacrilege.

7. The whole power of the sacraments comes fromChrist's Passion which belongs to him as man, even though thispower is not imparted to the sacramental signs except byChrist as God, who imparts this power in instituting thesacraments. Since Christ's suffering and death as man are thesource of sacramental power, it belongs to men, rather than toangels, to administer sacraments. Yet God could give this power toangels.

8. The one who confers a sacrament must truly intend toconfer it. He must employ the determinate matter or sign.He must mean the words (the form) which make the signsacramentally significant. If the intention of the minister (thatis, the person who administers the sacrament) is amiss, thesacrament is not validly conferred. {-With regard tothe Holy Eucharist, it must be remembered that the minister is theconsecrating priest, not the priest who distributes HolyCommunion.-}

9. Even should the minister lack faith, he can validlyadminister a sacrament, provided he use the proper sign (matter),and employ the determinate formula of words (form), and have theintention of doing what Christ and the Church intend to havedone.

10. If a qualified minister intends to confer or confect asacrament, and does all that is required to that purpose by Christand the Church, the sacrament is true and valid. This is so, evenif, by an ulterior intention, the minister's will is evil. If,for instance, a minister were to baptize a man purely for the sakeof some social or personal advantage he hopes to gain from thatman, the sacrament is not invalidated by this alien and evilpurpose.

"When the devil has failed in making a man fall, he puts forward all his energies to create distrust between the penitent and the confessor, and so by little and little he gains his end at last."
St Philip Neri

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"A single act of uniformity with the divine will suffices to make a saint."
St Alphonsus de Liguori

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"Though the path is plain and smooth for people of good will, those who walk it will not travel far, and will do so only with difficulty if they do not have good feet, courage, and tenacity of spirit. "
St John of the Cross, OCD - Doctor of the Church

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