QUESTION 64: OF THE CAUSES OF THE SACRAMENTS)
In the next place we have to consider the causes of the sacraments, both
as to authorship and as to ministration. Concerning which there are ten
points of inquiry:
(1) Whether God alone works inwardly in the sacraments?
(2) Whether the institution of the sacraments is from God alone?
(3) Of the power which Christ exercised over the sacraments;
(4) Whether He could transmit that power to others?
(5) Whether the wicked can have the power of administering the
(6) Whether the wicked sin in administering the sacraments?
(7) Whether the angels can be ministers of the sacraments?
(8) Whether the minister's intention is necessary in the sacraments?
(9) Whether right faith is required therein; so that it be impossible
for an unbeliever to confer a sacrament?
(10) Whether a right intention is required therein?
Article 1: Whether God alone, or the minister also, works inwardly unto the sacramental effect?
Objection 1: It seems that not God alone, but also the minister, works
inwardly unto the sacramental effect. For the inward sacramental effect
is to cleanse man from sin and enlighten him by grace. But it belongs to
the ministers of the Church "to cleanse, enlighten and perfect," as
Dionysius explains (Coel. Hier. v). Therefore it seems that the
sacramental effect is the work not only of God, but also of the ministers
of the Church.
Objection 2: Further, certain prayers are offered up in conferring the
sacraments. But the prayers of the righteous are more acceptable to God
than those of any other, according to Jn. 9:31: "If a man be a server of
God, and doth His will, him He heareth." Therefore it stems that a man
obtains a greater sacramental effect if he receive it from a good
minister. Consequently, the interior effect is partly the work of the
minister and not of God alone.
Objection 3: Further, man is of greater account than an inanimate thing. But
an inanimate thing contributes something to the interior effect: since
"water touches the body and cleanses the soul," as Augustine says (Tract.
lxxx in Joan.). Therefore the interior sacramental effect is partly the
work of man and not of God alone.
On the contrary, It is written (Rm. 8:33): "God that justifieth." Since,
then, the inward effect of all the sacraments is justification, it seems
that God alone works the interior sacramental effect.
I answer that, There are two ways of producing an effect; first, as a
principal agent; secondly, as an instrument. In the former way the
interior sacramental effect is the work of God alone: first, because God
alone can enter the soul wherein the sacramental effect takes place; and
no agent can operate immediately where it is not: secondly, because grace
which is an interior sacramental effect is from God alone, as we have
established in the FS, Question , Article ; while the character which is the
interior effect of certain sacraments, is an instrumental power which
flows from the principal agent, which is God. In the second way, however,
the interior sacramental effect can be the work of man, in so far as he
works as a minister. For a minister is of the nature of an instrument,
since the action of both is applied to something extrinsic, while the
interior effect is produced through the power of the principal agent,
which is God.
Reply to Objection 1: Cleansing in so far as it is attributed to the ministers of
the Church is not a washing from sin: deacons are said to "cleanse,"
inasmuch as they remove the unclean from the body of the faithful, or
prepare them by their pious admonitions for the reception of the
sacraments. In like manner also priests are said to "enlighten" God's
people, not indeed by giving them grace, but by conferring on them the
sacraments of grace; as Dionysius explains (Coel. Hier. v).
Reply to Objection 2: The prayers which are said in giving the sacraments, are
offered to God, not on the part of the individual, but on the part of the
whole Church, whose prayers are acceptable to God, according to Mt.
18:19: "If two of you shall consent upon earth, concerning anything
whatsoever they shall ask, it shall be done to them by My Father." Nor is
there any reason why the devotion of a just man should not contribute to
this effect. But that which is the sacramental effect is not impetrated
by the prayer of the Church or of the minister, but through the merit of
Christ's Passion, the power of which operates in the sacraments, as
stated above (Question , Article ). Wherefore the sacramental effect is made no
better by a better minister. And yet something in addition may be
impetrated for the receiver of the sacrament through the devotion of the
minister: but this is not the work of the minister, but the work of God
Who hears the minister's prayer.
Reply to Objection 3: Inanimate things do not produce the sacramental effect,
except instrumentally, as stated above. In like manner neither do men
produce the sacramental effect, except ministerially, as also stated
Article 2: Whether the sacraments are instituted by God alone?
Objection 1: It seems that the sacraments are not instituted by God alone. For
those things which God has instituted are delivered to us in Holy
Scripture. But in the sacraments certain things are done which are
nowhere mentioned in Holy Scripture; for instance, the chrism with which
men are confirmed, the oil with which priests are anointed, and many
others, both words and actions, which we employ in the sacraments.
Therefore the sacraments were not instituted by God alone.
Objection 2: Further, a sacrament is a kind of sign. Now sensible things have
their own natural signification. Nor can it be said that God takes
pleasure in certain significations and not in others; because He approves
of all that He made. Moreover, it seems to be peculiar to the demons to
be enticed to something by means of signs; for Augustine says (De Civ.
Dei xxi): "The demons are enticed . . . by means of creatures, which were
created not by them but by God, by various means of attraction according
to their various natures, not as an animal is enticed by food, but as a
spirit is drawn by a sign." It seems, therefore, that there is no need
for the sacraments to be instituted by God.
Objection 3: Further, the apostles were God's vicegerents on earth: hence the
Apostle says (2 Cor. 2:10): "For what I have pardoned, if I have pardoned
anything, for your sakes have I done it in the person of Christ," i.e. as
though Christ Himself had pardoned. Therefore it seems that the apostles
and their successors can institute new sacraments.
On the contrary, The institutor of anything is he who gives it strength
and power: as in the case of those who institute laws. But the power of a
sacrament is from God alone, as we have shown above (Article ; Question , Article ).
Therefore God alone can institute a sacrament.
I answer that, As appears from what has been said above (Article ; Question , Article ), the sacraments are instrumental causes of spiritual effects. Now
an instrument has its power from the principal agent. But an agent in
respect of a sacrament is twofold; viz. he who institutes the sacraments,
and he who makes use of the sacrament instituted, by applying it for the
production of the effect. Now the power of a sacrament cannot be from him
who makes use of the sacrament: because he works but as a minister.
Consequently, it follows that the power of the sacrament is from the
institutor of the sacrament. Since, therefore, the power of the sacrament
is from God alone, it follows that God alone can institute the sacraments.
Reply to Objection 1: Human institutions observed in the sacraments are not
essential to the sacrament; but belong to the solemnity which is added to
the sacraments in order to arouse devotion and reverence in the
recipients. But those things that are essential to the sacrament, are
instituted by Christ Himself, Who is God and man. And though they are not
all handed down by the Scriptures, yet the Church holds them from the
intimate tradition of the apostles, according to the saying of the
Apostle (1 Cor. 11:34): "The rest I will set in order when I come."
Reply to Objection 2: From their very nature sensible things have a certain
aptitude for the signifying of spiritual effects: but this aptitude is
fixed by the Divine institution to some special signification. This is
what Hugh of St. Victor means by saying (De Sacram. i) that "a sacrament
owes its signification to its institution." Yet God chooses certain
things rather than others for sacramental signification, not as though
His choice were restricted to them, but in order that their signification
be more suitable to them.
Reply to Objection 3: The apostles and their successors are God's vicars in
governing the Church which is built on faith and the sacraments of faith.
Wherefore, just as they may not institute another Church, so neither may
they deliver another faith, nor institute other sacraments: on the
contrary, the Church is said to be built up with the sacraments "which
flowed from the side of Christ while hanging on the Cross."
Article 3: Whether Christ as man had the power of producing the inward sacramental effect?
Objection 1: It seems that Christ as man had the power of producing the
interior sacramental effect. For John the Baptist said (Jn. 1:33): "He,
Who sent me to baptize in water, said to me: He upon Whom thou shalt see
the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, He it is that baptizeth
with the Holy Ghost." But to baptize with the Holy Ghost is to confer
inwardly the grace of the Holy Ghost. And the Holy Ghost descended upon
Christ as man, not as God: for thus He Himself gives the Holy Ghost.
Therefore it seems that Christ, as man, had the power of producing the
inward sacramental effect.
Objection 2: Further, our Lord said (Mt. 9:6): "That you may know that the Son
of Man hath power on earth to forgive sins." But forgiveness of sins is
an inward sacramental effect. Therefore it seems that Christ as man
produces the inward sacramental effect.
Objection 3: Further, the institution of the sacraments belongs to him who
acts as principal agent in producing the inward sacramental effect. Now
it is clear that Christ instituted the sacraments. Therefore it is He
that produces the inward sacramental effect.
Objection 4: Further, no one can confer the sacramental effect without
conferring the sacrament, except he produce the sacramental effect by his
own power. But Christ conferred the sacramental effect without conferring
the sacrament; as in the case of Magdalen to whom He said: "Thy sins are
forgiven Thee" (Lk. 7:48). Therefore it seems that Christ, as man,
produces the inward sacramental effect.
Objection 5: Further, the principal agent in causing the inward effect is that
in virtue of which the sacrament operates. But the sacraments derive
their power from Christ's Passion and through the invocation of His Name;
according to 1 Cor. 1:13: "Was Paul then crucified for you? or were you
baptized in the name of Paul?" Therefore Christ, as man, produces the
inward sacramental effect.
On the contrary, Augustine (Isidore, Etym. vi) says: "The Divine power
in the sacraments works inwardly in producing their salutary effect." Now
the Divine power is Christ's as God, not as man. Therefore Christ
produces the inward sacramental effect, not as man but as God.
I answer that, Christ produces the inward sacramental effect, both as
God and as man, but not in the same way. For, as God, He works in the
sacraments by authority: but, as man, His operation conduces to the
inward sacramental effects meritoriously and efficiently, but
instrumentally. For it has been stated (Question , Articles ,6; Question , Article ) that
Christ's Passion which belongs to Him in respect of His human nature, is
the cause of justification, both meritoriously and efficiently, not as
the principal cause thereof, or by His own authority, but as an
instrument, in so far as His humanity is the instrument of His Godhead,
as stated above (Question , Articles ,3; Question , Article ).
Nevertheless, since it is an instrument united to the Godhead in unity
of Person, it has a certain headship and efficiency in regard to
extrinsic instruments, which are the ministers of the Church and the
sacraments themselves, as has been explained above (Article ). Consequently,
just as Christ, as God, has power of "authority" over the sacraments, so,
as man, He has the power of ministry in chief, or power of "excellence."
And this consists in four things. First in this, that the merit and power
of His Passion operates in the sacraments, as stated above (Question , Article ).
And because the power of the Passion is communicated to us by faith,
according to Rm. 3:25: "Whom God hath proposed to be a propitiation
through faith in His blood," which faith we proclaim by calling on the
name of Christ: therefore, secondly, Christ's power of excellence over
the sacraments consists in this, that they are sanctified by the
invocation of His name. And because the sacraments derive their power
from their institution, hence, thirdly, the excellence of Christ's power
consists in this, that He, Who gave them their power, could institute the
sacraments. And since cause does not depend on effect, but rather
conversely, it belongs to the excellence of Christ's power, that He could
bestow the sacramental effect without conferring the exterior sacrament.
Thus it is clear how to solve the objections; for the arguments on either
side are true to a certain extent, as explained above.
Article 4: Whether Christ could communicate to ministers the power which He had in the sacraments?
Objection 1: It seems that Christ could not communicate to ministers the power
which He had in the sacraments. For as Augustine argues against Maximin,
"if He could, but would not, He was jealous of His power." But jealousy
was far from Christ Who had the fulness of charity. Since, therefore,
Christ did not communicate His power to ministers, it seems that He could
Objection 2: Further, on Jn. 14:12: "Greater than these shall he do,"
Augustine says (Tract. lxxii): "I affirm this to be altogether greater,"
namely, for a man from being ungodly to be made righteous, "than to
create heaven and earth." But Christ could not communicate to His
disciples the power of creating heaven and earth: neither, therefore,
could He give them the power of making the ungodly to be righteous.
Since, therefore, the justification of the ungodly is effected by the
power that Christ has in the sacraments, it seems that He could not
communicate that power to ministers.
Objection 3: Further, it belongs to Christ as Head of the Church that grace
should flow from Him to others, according to Jn. 1:16: "Of His fulness we
all have received." But this could not be communicated to others; since
then the Church would be deformed, having many heads. Therefore it seems
that Christ could not communicate His power to ministers.
On the contrary, on Jn. 1:31: "I knew Him not," Augustine says (Tract.
v) that "he did not know that our Lord having the authority of baptizing
. . . would keep it to Himself." But John would not have been in
ignorance of this, if such a power were incommunicable. Therefore Christ
could communicate His power to ministers.
I answer that, As stated above (Article ), Christ had a twofold power in the
sacraments. one was the power of "authority," which belongs to Him as
God: and this power He could not communicate to any creature; just as
neither could He communicate the Divine Essence. The other was the power
of "excellence," which belongs to Him as man. This power He could
communicate to ministers; namely, by giving them such a fulness of
grace---that their merits would conduce to the sacramental effect---that
by the invocation of their names, the sacraments would be
sanctified---and that they themselves might institute sacraments, and by
their mere will confer the sacramental effect without observing the
sacramental rite. For a united instrument, the more powerful it is, is
all the more able to lend its power to the separated instrument; as the
hand can to a stick.
Reply to Objection 1: It was not through jealousy that Christ refrained from
communicating to ministers His power of excellence, but for the good of
the faithful; lest they should put their trust in men, and lest there
should be various kinds of sacraments, giving rise to division in the
Church; as may be seen in those who said: "I am of Paul, I am of Apollo,
and I of Cephas" (1 Cor. 1:12).
Reply to Objection 2: This objection is true of the power of authority, which
belongs to Christ as God. At the same time the power of excellence can be
called authority in comparison to other ministers. Whence on 1 Cor. 1:13:
"Is Christ divided?" the gloss says that "He could give power of
authority in baptizing, to those to whom He gave the power of
Reply to Objection 3: It was in order to avoid the incongruity of many heads in
the Church, that Christ was unwilling to communicate to ministers His
power of excellence. If, however, He had done so, He would have been Head
in chief; the others in subjection to Him.
Article 5: Whether the sacraments can be conferred by evil ministers?
Objection 1: It seems that the sacraments cannot be conferred by evil
ministers. For the sacraments of the New Law are ordained for the purpose
of cleansing from sin and for the bestowal of grace. Now evil men, being
themselves unclean, cannot cleanse others from sin, according to Ecclus.
34:4: "Who [Vulg.: 'What'] can be made clean by the unclean?" Moreover,
since they have not grace, it seems that they cannot give grace, for "no
one gives what he has not." It seems, therefore, that the sacraments
cannot be conferred by wicked men.
Objection 2: Further, all the power of the sacraments is derived from Christ,
as stated above (Article ; Question , Article ). But evil men are cut off from
Christ: because they have not charity, by which the members are united to
their Head, according to 1 Jn. 4:16: "He that abideth in charity, abideth
in God, and God in him." Therefore it seems that the sacraments cannot be
conferred by evil men.
Objection 3: Further, if anything is wanting that is required for the
sacraments, the sacrament is invalid; for instance, if the required
matter or form be wanting. But the minister required for a sacrament is
one who is without the stain of sin, according to Lev. 21:17,18:
"Whosoever of thy seed throughout their families, hath a blemish, he
shall not offer bread to his God, neither shall he approach to minister
to Him." Therefore it seems that if the minister be wicked, the sacrament
has no effect.
On the contrary, Augustine says on Jn. 1:33: "He upon Whom thou shalt
see the Spirit," etc. (Tract. v in Joan.), that "John did not know that
our Lord, having the authority of baptizing, would keep it to Himself,
but that the ministry would certainly pass to both good and evil men . .
. What is a bad minister to thee, where the Lord is good?"
I answer that, As stated above (Article ), the ministers of the Church work
instrumentally in the sacraments, because, in a way, a minister is of the
nature of an instrument. But, as stated above (Question , Articles ,4), an
instrument acts not by reason of its own form, but by the power of the
one who moves it. Consequently, whatever form or power an instrument has
in addition to that which it has as an instrument, is accidental to it:
for instance, that a physician's body, which is the instrument of his
soul, wherein is his medical art, be healthy or sickly; or that a pipe,
through which water passes, be of silver or lead. Therefore the ministers
of the Church can confer the sacraments, though they be wicked.
Reply to Objection 1: The ministers of the Church do not by their own power
cleanse from sin those who approach the sacraments, nor do they confer
grace on them: it is Christ Who does this by His own power while He
employs them as instruments. Consequently, those who approach the
sacraments receive an effect whereby they are enlikened not to the
ministers but to Christ.
Reply to Objection 2: Christ's members are united to their Head by charity, so
that they may receive life from Him; for as it is written (1 Jn. 3:14):
"He that loveth not abideth in death." Now it is possible for a man to
work with a lifeless instrument, and separated from him as to bodily
union, provided it be united to him by some sort of motion: for a workman
works in one way with his hand, in another with his axe. Consequently, it
is thus that Christ works in the sacraments, both by wicked men as
lifeless instruments, and by good men as living instruments.
Reply to Objection 3: A thing is required in a sacrament in two ways. First, as
being essential to it: and if this be wanting, the sacrament is invalid;
for instance, if the due form or matter be wanting. Secondly, a thing is
required for a sacrament, by reason of a certain fitness. And in this way
good ministers are required for a sacrament.
Article 6: Whether wicked men sin in administering the sacraments?
Objection 1: It seems that wicked men do not sin in administering the
sacraments. For just as men serve God in the sacraments, so do they serve
Him in works of charity; whence it is written (Heb. 13:16): "Do not
forget to do good and to impart, for by such sacrifices God's favor is
obtained." But the wicked do not sin in serving God by works of charity:
indeed, they should be persuaded to do so, according to Dan. 4:24: "Let
my counsel be acceptable" to the king; "Redeem thou thy sins with alms."
Therefore it seems that wicked men do not sin in administering the
Objection 2: Further, whoever co-operates with another in his sin, is also
guilty of sin, according to Rm. 1:32: "He is [Vulg.: 'They are'] worthy
of death; not only he that commits the sin, but also he who consents to
them that do them." But if wicked ministers sin in administering
sacraments, those who receive sacraments from them, co-operate in their
sin. Therefore they would sin also; which seems unreasonable.
Objection 3: Further, it seems that no one should act when in doubt, for thus
man would be driven to despair, as being unable to avoid sin. But if the
wicked were to sin in administering sacraments, they would be in a state
of perplexity: since sometimes they would sin also if they did not
administer sacraments; for instance, when by reason of their office it is
their bounden duty to do so; for it is written (1 Cor. 9:16): "For a
necessity lieth upon me: Woe is unto me if I preach not the gospel."
Sometimes also on account of some danger; for instance, if a child in
danger of death be brought to a sinner for baptism. Therefore it seems
that the wicked do not sin in administering the sacraments.
On the contrary, Dionysius says (Eccl. Hier. i) that "it is wrong for
the wicked even to touch the symbols," i.e. the sacramental signs. And he
says in the epistle to Demophilus: "It seems presumptuous for such a
man," i.e. a sinner, "to lay hands on priestly things; he is neither
afraid nor ashamed, all unworthy that he is, to take part in Divine
things, with the thought that God does not see what he sees in himself:
he thinks, by false pretenses, to cheat Him Whom he calls his Father; he
dares to utter, in the person of Christ, words polluted by his infamy, I
will not call them prayers, over the Divine symbols."
I answer that, A sinful action consists in this, that a man "fails to
act as he ought to," as the Philosopher explains (Ethic. ii). Now it has
been said (Article , ad 3) that it is fitting for the ministers of sacraments
to be righteous; because ministers should be like unto their Lord,
according to Lev. 19:2: "Be ye holy, because I . . . am holy"; and
Ecclus. 10:2: "As the judge of the people is himself, so also are his
ministers." Consequently, there can be no doubt that the wicked sin by
exercising the ministry of God and the Church, by conferring the
sacraments. And since this sin pertains to irreverence towards God and
the contamination of holy things, as far as the man who sins is
concerned, although holy things in themselves cannot be contaminated; it
follows that such a sin is mortal in its genus.
Reply to Objection 1: Works of charity are not made holy by some process of
consecration, but they belong to the holiness of righteousness, as being
in a way parts of righteousness. Consequently, when a man shows himself
as a minister of God, by doing works of charity, if he be righteous, he
will be made yet holier; but if he be a sinner, he is thereby disposed to
holiness. On the other hand, the sacraments are holy in themselves owing
to their mystical consecration. Wherefore the holiness of righteousness
is required in the minister, that he may be suitable for his ministry:
for which reason he acts unbecomingly and sins, if while in a state of
sin he attempts to fulfil that ministry.
Reply to Objection 2: He who approaches a sacrament, receives it from a minister
of the Church, not because he is such and such a man, but because he is a
minister of the Church. Consequently, as long as the latter is tolerated
in the ministry, he that receives a sacrament from him, does not
communicate in his sin, but communicates with the Church from. whom he
has his ministry. But if the Church, by degrading, excommunicating, or
suspending him, does not tolerate him in the ministry, he that receives a
sacrament from him sins, because he communicates in his sin.
Reply to Objection 3: A man who is in mortal sin is not perplexed simply, if by
reason of his office it be his bounden duty to minister sacraments;
because he can repent of his sin and so minister lawfully. But there is
nothing unreasonable in his being perplexed, if we suppose that he wishes
to remain in sin.
However, in a case of necessity when even a lay person might baptize, he would not sin in baptizing. For it is clear that then he does not exercise the ministry of the Church, but comes to the aid of one who is in need of his services. It is not so with the other sacraments, which are not so necessary as baptism, as we shall show further on (Question , Articles ,4; Question , Article ).
Article 7: Whether angels can administer sacraments?
Objection 1: It seems that angels can administer sacraments. Because a higher
minister can do whatever the lower can; thus a priest can do whatever a
deacon can: but not conversely. But angels are higher ministers in the
hierarchical order than any men whatsoever, as Dionysius says (Coel.
Hier. ix). Therefore, since men can be ministers of sacraments, it seems
that much more can angels be.
Objection 2: Further, in heaven holy men are likened to the angels (Mt. 22:30). But some holy men, when in heaven, can be ministers of the
sacraments; since the sacramental character is indelible, as stated above
(Question , Article ). Therefore it seems that angels too can be ministers of
Objection 3: Further, as stated above (Question , Article ), the devil is head of the
wicked, and the wicked are his members. But sacraments can be
administered by the wicked. Therefore it seems that they can be
administered even by demons.
On the contrary, It is written (Heb. 5:1): "Every high priest taken
from among men, is ordained for men in the things that appertain to God."
But angels whether good or bad are not taken from among men. Therefore
they are not ordained ministers in the things that appertain to God, i.e.
in the sacraments.
I answer that, As stated above (Article ; Question , Article ), the whole power of
the sacraments flows from Christ's Passion, which belongs to Him as man.
And Him in their very nature men, not angels, resemble; indeed, in
respect of His Passion, He is described as being "a little lower than the
angels" (Heb. 2:9). Consequently, it belongs to men, but not to angels,
to dispense the sacraments and to take part in their administration.
But it must be observed that as God did not bind His power to the
sacraments, so as to be unable to bestow the sacramental effect without
conferring the sacrament; so neither did He bind His power to the
ministers of the Church so as to be unable to give angels power to
administer the sacraments. And since good angels are messengers of truth;
if any sacramental rite were performed by good angels, it should be
considered valid, because it ought to be evident that this is being done
by the will of God: for instance, certain churches are said to have been
consecrated by the ministry of the angels [*See Acta S.S., September 29].
But if demons, who are "lying spirits," were to perform a sacramental
rite, it should be pronounced as invalid.
Reply to Objection 1: What men do in a less perfect manner, i.e. by sensible
sacraments, which are proportionate to their nature, angels also do, as
ministers of a higher degree, in a more perfect manner, i.e.
invisibly---by cleansing, enlightening, and perfecting.
Reply to Objection 2: The saints in heaven resemble the angels as to their share
of glory, but not as to the conditions of their nature: and consequently
not in regard to the sacraments.
Reply to Objection 3: Wicked men do not owe their power of conferring sacraments
to their being members of the devil. Consequently, it does not follow
that "a fortiori" the devil, their head, can do so.
Article 8: Whether the minister's intention is required for the validity of a sacrament?
Objection 1: It seems that the minister's intention is not required for the
validity of a sacrament. For the minister of a sacrament works
instrumentally. But the perfection of an action does not depend on the
intention of the instrument, but on that of the principal agent.
Therefore the minister's intention is not necessary for the perfecting of
Objection 2: Further, one man's intention cannot be known to another.
Therefore if the minister's intention were required for the validity of a
sacrament, he who approaches a sacrament could not know whether he has
received the sacrament. Consequently he could have no certainty in regard
to salvation; the more that some sacraments are necessary for salvation,
as we shall state further on (Question , Article ).
Objection 3: Further, a man's intention cannot bear on that to which he does
not attend. But sometimes ministers of sacraments do not attend to what
they say or do, through thinking of something else. Therefore in this
respect the sacrament would be invalid through want of intention.
On the contrary, What is unintentional happens by chance. But this
cannot be said of the sacramental operation. Therefore the sacraments
require the intention of the minister.
I answer that, When a thing is indifferent to many uses, it must needs
be determined to one, if that one has to be effected. Now those things
which are done in the sacraments, can be done with various intent; for
instance, washing with water, which is done in baptism, may be ordained
to bodily cleanliness, to the health of the body, to amusement, and many
other similar things. Consequently, it needs to be determined to one
purpose, i.e. the sacramental effect, by the intention of him who washes.
And this intention is expressed by the words which are pronounced in the
sacraments; for instance the words, "I baptize thee in the name of the
Reply to Objection 1: An inanimate instrument has no intention regarding the
effect; but instead of the intention there is the motion whereby it is
moved by the principal agent. But an animate instrument, such as a
minister, is not only moved, but in a sense moves itself, in so far as by
his will he moves his bodily members to act. Consequently, his intention
is required, whereby he subjects himself to the principal agent; that is,
it is necessary that he intend to do that which Christ and the Church do.
Reply to Objection 2: On this point there are two opinions. For some hold that
the mental intention of the minister is necessary; in the absence of
which the sacrament is invalid: and that this defect in the case of
children who have not the intention of approaching the sacrament, is made
good by Christ, Who baptizes inwardly: whereas in adults, who have that
intention, this defect is made good by their faith and devotion.
This might be true enough of the ultimate effect, i.e. justification
from sins; but as to that effect which is both real and sacramental, viz.
the character, it does not appear possible for it to be made good by the
devotion of the recipient, since a character is never imprinted save by a
Consequently, others with better reason hold that the minister of a
sacrament acts in the person of the whole Church, whose minister he is;
while in the words uttered by him, the intention of the Church is
expressed; and that this suffices for the validity of the sacrament,
except the contrary be expressed on the part either of the minister or of
the recipient of the sacrament.
Reply to Objection 3: Although he who thinks of something else, has no actual
intention, yet he has habitual intention, which suffices for the validity
of the sacrament; for instance if, when a priest goes to baptize someone,
he intends to do to him what the Church does. Wherefore if subsequently
during the exercise of the act his mind be distracted by other matters,
the sacrament is valid in virtue of his original intention. Nevertheless,
the minister of a sacrament should take great care to have actual
intention. But this is not entirely in man's power, because when a man
wishes to be very intent on something, he begins unintentionally to think
of other things, according to Ps. 39:18: "My heart hath forsaken me."
Article 9: Whether faith is required of necessity in the minister of a sacrament?
Objection 1: It seems that faith is required of necessity in the minister of a
sacrament. For, as stated above (Article ), the intention of the minister is
necessary for the validity of a sacrament. But "faith directs in
intention" as Augustine says against Julian (In Psalm xxxi, cf. Contra
Julian iv). Therefore, if the minister is without the true faith, the
sacrament is invalid.
Objection 2: Further, if a minister of the Church has not the true faith, it
seems that he is a heretic. But heretics, seemingly, cannot confer
sacraments. For Cyprian says in an epistle against heretics (lxxiii):
"Everything whatsoever heretics do, is carnal, void and counterfeit, so
that nothing that they do should receive our approval." And Pope Leo says
in his epistle to Leo Augustus (clvi): "It is a matter of notoriety that
the light of all the heavenly sacraments is extinguished in the see of
Alexandria, by an act of dire and senseless cruelty. The sacrifice is no
longer offered, the chrism is no longer consecrated, all the mysteries of
religion have fled at the touch of the parricide hands of ungodly men."
Therefore a sacrament requires of necessity that the minister should have
the true faith.
Objection 3: Further, those who have not the true faith seem to be separated
from the Church by excommunication: for it is written in the second
canonical epistle of John (10): "If any man come to you, and bring not
this doctrine, receive him not into the house, nor say to him; God speed
you": and (Titus 3:10): "A man that is a heretic, after the first and
second admonition avoid." But it seems that an excommunicate cannot
confer a sacrament of the Church: since he is separated from the Church,
to whose ministry the dispensation of the sacraments belongs. Therefore a
sacrament requires of necessity that the minister should have the true
On the contrary, Augustine says against the Donatist Petilian: "Remember that the evil lives of wicked men are not prejudicial to God's sacraments, by rendering them either invalid or less holy."
I answer that, As stated above (Article ), since the minister works
instrumentally in the sacraments, he acts not by his own but by Christ's
power. Now just as charity belongs to a man's own power so also does
faith. Wherefore, just as the validity of a sacrament does not require
that the minister should have charity, and even sinners can confer
sacraments, as stated above (Article ); so neither is it necessary that he
should have faith, and even an unbeliever can confer a true sacrament,
provided that the other essentials be there.
Reply to Objection 1: It may happen that a man's faith is defective in regard to
something else, and not in regard to the reality of the sacrament which
he confers: for instance, he may believe that it is unlawful to swear in
any case whatever, and yet he may believe that baptism is an efficient
cause of salvation. And thus such unbelief does not hinder the intention
of conferring the sacrament. But if his faith be defective in regard to
the very sacrament that he confers, although he believe that no inward
effect is caused by the thing done outwardly, yet he does know that the
Catholic Church intends to confer a sacrament by that which is outwardly
done. Wherefore, his unbelief notwithstanding, he can intend to do what
the Church does, albeit he esteem it to be nothing. And such an intention
suffices for a sacrament: because as stated above (Article , ad 2) the
minister of a sacrament acts in the person of the Church by whose faith
any defect in the minister's faith is made good.
Reply to Objection 2: Some heretics in conferring sacraments do not observe the
form prescribed by the Church: and these confer neither the sacrament nor
the reality of the sacrament. But some do observe the form prescribed by
the Church: and these confer indeed the sacrament but not the reality. I
say this in the supposition that they are outwardly cut off from the
Church; because from the very fact that anyone receives the sacraments
from them, he sins; and consequently is hindered from receiving the
effect of the sacrament. Wherefore Augustine (Fulgentius, De Fide ad
Pet.) says: "Be well assured and have no doubt whatever that those who
are baptized outside the Church, unless they come back to the Church,
will reap disaster from their Baptism." In this sense Pope Leo says that
"the light of the sacraments was extinguished in the Church of
Alexandria"; viz. in regard to the reality of the sacrament, not as to
the sacrament itself.
Cyprian, however, thought that heretics do not confer even the
sacrament: but in this respect we do not follow his opinion. Hence
Augustine says (De unico Baptismo xiii): "Though the martyr Cyprian
refused to recognize Baptism conferred by heretics or schismatics, yet so
great are his merits, culminating in the crown of martyrdom, that the
light of his charity dispels the darkness of his fault, and if anything
needed pruning, the sickle of his passion cut it off."
Reply to Objection 3: The power of administering the sacraments belongs to the
spiritual character which is indelible, as explained above (Question , Article ). Consequently, if a man be suspended by the Church, or excommunicated
or degraded, he does not lose the power of conferring sacraments, but the
permission to use this power. Wherefore he does indeed confer the
sacrament, but he sins in so doing. He also sins that receives a
sacrament from such a man: so that he does not receive the reality of the
sacrament, unless ignorance excuses him.
Article 10: Whether the validity of a sacrament requires a good intention in the minister?
Objection 1: It seems that the validity of a sacrament requires a good
intention in the minister. For the minister's intention should be in
conformity with the Church's intention, as explained above (Article , ad 1).
But the intention of the Church is always good. Therefore the validity of
a sacrament requires of necessity a good intention in the minister.
Objection 2: Further, a perverse intention seems worse than a playful one. But
a playful intention destroys a sacrament: for instance, if someone were
to baptize anybody not seriously but in fun. Much more, therefore, does a
perverse intention destroy a sacrament: for instance, if somebody were to
baptize a man in order to kill him afterwards.
Objection 3: Further, a perverse intention vitiates the whole work, according
to Lk. 11:34: "If thy eye be evil, thy" whole "body will be darksome."
But the sacraments of Christ cannot be contaminated by evil men; as
Augustine says against Petilian (Cont. Litt. Petil ii). Therefore it
seems that, if the minister's intention is perverse, the sacrament is
On the contrary, A perverse intention belongs to the wickedness of the
minister. But the wickedness of the minister does not annul the
sacrament: neither, therefore, does his perverse intention.
I answer that, The minister's intention may be perverted in two ways.
First in regard to the sacrament: for instance, when a man does not
intend to confer a sacrament, but to make a mockery of it. Such a
perverse intention takes away the truth of the sacrament, especially if
it be manifested outwardly.
Secondly, the minister's intention may be perverted as to something that
follows the sacrament: for instance, a priest may intend to baptize a
woman so as to be able to abuse her; or to consecrate the Body of Christ,
so as to use it for sorcery. And because that which comes first does not
depend on that which follows, consequently such a perverse intention does
not annul the sacrament; but the minister himself sins grievously in
having such an intention.
Reply to Objection 1: The Church has a good intention both as to the validity of
the sacrament and as to the use thereof: but it is the former intention
that perfects the sacrament, while the latter conduces to the meritorious
effect. Consequently, the minister who conforms his intention to the
Church as to the former rectitude, but not as to the latter, perfects the
sacrament indeed, but gains no merit for himself.
Reply to Objection 2: The intention of mimicry or fun excludes the first kind of
right intention, necessary for the validity of a sacrament. Consequently,
there is no comparison.
Reply to Objection 3: A perverse intention perverts the action of the one who has
such an intention, not the action of another. Consequently, the perverse
intention of the minister perverts the sacrament in so far as it is his
action: not in so far as it is the action of Christ, Whose minister he
is. It is just as if the servant [minister] of some man were to carry
alms to the poor with a wicked intention, whereas his master had
commanded him with a good intention to do so.