Vatican Discerns Validity of the Sacraments

The Vatican Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith (DDF) released on Saturday a note on discerning the validity of the sacraments.

According to CBCP News, the new document titled ‘Gestis Verbisque,’ or ‘Deeds and Words,’ which was signed by Pope Francis and DDF Prefect Cardinal Victor Fernández, was composed “to help bishops in their task as promoters and custodians of the liturgical life of the particular Churches entrusted to them.”

Cardinal Fernandez wrote, “The Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith intends to offer in this note some elements of doctrinal nature with regard to discernment on the validity of the celebration of the sacraments, paying attention also to some disciplinary and pastoral implications.”

Published only in Italian on February 3, the 11-page text reiterates that the “observance of both matter and form has always been required for the validity of the celebration,” of all sacraments in the Catholic Church.

It adds that, “Both matter and form, summarized in the Code of Canon Law, are established in the liturgical books promulgated by the competent authority, which must therefore be faithfully observed, without ‘adding, removing, or changing anything.'”

The document states that changes, either to the matter or form, “jeopardize the effective bestowal of sacramental grace, to the obvious detriment of the faithful,” and that such changes “must be ascertained on a case-by-case basis.”

‘Gestis Verbisque’ refers to the discatery’s 2020 doctrinal note regarding the modification of the sacramental formula of baptism. This note states that changing the baptismal formula to, “we baptize you,” invalidated the baptism. This means that anyone who has been baptized using this formula is considered to have not yet received the sacrament.

According to Fernández, in 2022, cardinals and bishops who took part in the DDF’s January plenary assembly had expressed concern regarding the multiple situations in which it is necessary to note the invalidity of the celebrated sacraments. Among the examples listed by the cardinal is the use of, “I baptize you in the name of the Creator…” or “In the name of your father and mother… we baptize you,” in place of the baptismal formula.

The cardinal prefect said, “While in other areas of the Church’s pastoral action, there is ample room for creativity, such inventiveness in the context of the celebration of the sacraments turns rather into a ‘manipulative will,’ and therefore cannot be invoked.”

Fernández added that, “We ministers are therefore required to have the strength to overcome the temptation to feel like owners of the Church.”

The cardinal also commented that the priest does not become “the boss,” who can exercise arbitrary power when he acts “in persona Christi capitis.” Citing Colossians 1:18,  that Christ alone is “the head of the body, the Church.”

Fernández further said, “It seems increasingly urgent to mature an art of celebrating that, keeping at a distance as much from rigid rubricism as from unbridled imagination, leads to a discipline to be respected, precisely in order to be authentic disciples.”

The text of the DDF note was approved by Pope Francis during a private audience on January 31, after the discussion and unanimous approval of the cardinals and bishops present during the dicastery’s recent plenary assembly last January.

The note was also signed by Monsignor Armando Matteo, Secretary for the dicastery’s Doctrinal section, on the feast of the Presentation of the Lord on February 2. (By Louise Nazir Banzuela/SOCOM-San Felipe Neri Parish | Photo from Vatican News)



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