The Sacraments of the Catholic Church, "instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, are efficacious signs of grace perceptible to the senses. Through them divine life is bestowed upon us. They assist individuals in their spiritual progress and growth in holiness. The sacraments contribute to the Church's growth in charity and in giving witness.
Though not every individual receives every sacrament, the sacraments as a whole are seen as necessary means of salvation for the faithful, each conferring that sacrament's particular grace, such as incorporation into Christ and the Church, forgiveness of sins, or consecration for a particular service.
The Church teaches that the effect of a sacrament comes ex opere operato, by the very fact of being administered, regardless of the personal holiness of the minister administering it. However, a recipient's own lack of proper disposition to receive the grace conveyed can block the effectiveness of the sacrament in that person. The sacraments presuppose faith and through their words and ritual elements, nourish, strengthen and give expression to faith.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church lists the sacraments as follows: "The whole liturgical life of the Church revolves around the Eucharistic sacrifice and the sacraments. There are seven sacraments in the Church: Baptism, Confirmation or Chrismation, Eucharist, Penance, Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders, and Matrimony.
The Sacrament of Penance is the first of two sacraments of healing. The Catechism of the Catholic Church mentions in the following orders different names of the sacrament, calling it the sacrament of conversion, Penance, confession, forgiveness and Reconciliation. It is the sacrament of spiritual healing for a baptized person from the distancing from God resulting from sins committed. If a man sins after baptism, he cannot have baptism as a remedy; Baptism, which is a spiritual regeneration, cannot be given a second time.
Reconciliation involves four elements: (1) Contrition (the Penitent's sincere remorse for wrongdoing or sin, repentance, without which the rite has no effect); (2) Confession to a Priest with the faculty to hear confessions (Canon 966.1) - while it may be spiritually helpful to confess to another, only a Priest has the power to administer the sacrament; (3) Absolution by the Priest; and, (4) Satisfaction or Penance.
"Many sins wrong our neighbour. One must do what is possible in order to repair the harm (e.g., return stolen goods, restore the reputation of someone slandered, pay compensation for injuries). Simple justice requires as much. But sin also injures and weakens the sinner himself, as well as his relationships with God and neighbour. Absolution takes away sin, but it does not remedy all the disorders sin has caused. Raised up from sin, the sinner must still recover his full spiritual health by doing something more to make amends for the sin: he must 'make satisfaction for' or 'expiate' his sins. This satisfaction is also called 'penance'" (CCC 1459). In early Christian centuries, this element of satisfaction was quite onerous and generally preceded absolution, but now it usually involves a simple task for the penitent to perform, to make some reparation and as a medicinal means of strengthening against further temptation.
The priest is bound by the "seal of confession", which is inviolable. "Accordingly, it is absolutely wrong for a confessor in any way to betray the penitent, for any reason whatsoever, whether by word or in any other fashion. A confessor who directly violates the sacramental seal incurs an automatic excommunication whose lifting is reserved to the Holy See.
In some dioceses, certain sins are "reserved" which means only certain confessors can absolve them. Some sins, such as violation of the sacramental seal, consecration of bishops without authorization by the Holy See, direct physical attacks on the Pope, and intentional descration of the Eucharist are reserved to the Holy See. A special case by case faculty from the Sacred Penitentiary is normally required to absolve these sins.
When, in the Western Church, the sacrament was conferred only on those in immediate danger of death, it came to be known as "Extreme Unction", i.e. "Final Anointing", administered as one of the "Last Rites". The other "Last Rites" are Confession (if the dying person is physically unable to confess, at least absolution, conditional on the existence of contrition, is given), and the Eucharist, which when administered to the dying is known as "Viaticum", a word whose original meaning in Latin was "provision for a journey".
Holy Orders is the sacrament by which a man is made a bishop, a priest, or a deacon, and thus dedicated to be an image of Christ. A bishop is the minister of this sacrament. Ordination as a bishop confers the fullness of the sacrament, making the bishop a member of the body of successors of the Apostles, and giving him the mission to teach, sanctify, and guide, along with the care of all the Churches. Ordination as a priest configures the priest to Christ the Head of the Church and the one essential High Priest, and conferring on him the power, as the bishops' assistant, to celebrate the sacraments and other liturgical acts, especially the Eucharist. Ordination as a deacon configures the deacon to Christ the Servant of All, placing him at the service of the bishop, especially in the Church's exercising of Christian charity towards the poor and preaching of the word of God.
Aspirants to the priesthood are required by canon law (canon 1032 of the Code of Canon Law) to go through a seminary program that includes, as well as graduate level philosophical and theological studies, a formation program that includes spiritual direction, retreats, apostolate experience, etc. The course of studies in preparation for ordination as a permanent deacon is decided by the episcopal conference concerned.
However, an apparent administration of a sacrament is invalid, if the person acting as minister does not have the necessary power (as if a deacon were to celebrate Mass). They are also invalid if the required "matter" or "form" is lacking. The matter is the perceptible material object, such as water (not wine) in baptism or wheaten bread and grape wine (not potatoes and beer) for the Eucharist, or the visible action. The form is the verbal statement that specifies the signification of the matter, such as, (in the Western Church), "N., I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit". Furthermore, if the minister positively excludes some essential aspect of the sacrament, the sacrament is invalid. This last condition lies behind the 1896 judgement of the Holy See denying the validity of Anglican Orders.
A sacrament may be administered validly, but illicitly, if a condition imposed by law is not observed. Obvious cases are administration of a sacrament by a priest under a penalty of excommunication or suspension, and an episcopal ordination without a mandate from the Pope.
Canon law specifies impediments to reception of the sacraments of orders and marriage. Those concerning the first of these two sacraments only concern liceity, but "a diriment impediment renders a person incapable of validly contracting a marriage" (canon 1073).
In the Latin Church, only the Holy See can authentically declare when divine law prohibits or invalidates a marriage, and only the Holy See has the right to establish for those who are baptised other impediments to marriage (canon 1075). But individual Eastern Catholic Churches, after having fulfilled certain requirements that include consulting (but not necessarily obtaining approval from) the Holy See, may establish impediments (Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, canon 792).
If an impediment is imposed by merely ecclesiastical law, rather than being a matter of divine law, the Church may grant a dispensation from the impediment.
Conditions for validity of marriage such as sufficient use of reason (canon 1095) and freedom from coercion (canon 1103), and the requirement that, normally, a marriage be contracted in the presence of the local Ordinary or parish priest or of the priest or deacon delegated by either of them, and in the presence of two witnesses (canon 1108), are not classified in the Code of Canon Law as impediments, but have much the same effect.
Three of the sacraments may not be repeated: Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Orders: their effect is permanent. This teaching has been expressed by the images of, in the West, an indelible character or mark and of, in the East, a seal (CCC 698). However, if there is doubt about the validity of the administration of one or more of these sacraments, a conditional form of conferral may be used, such as: "If you are not already baptized, I baptize you …"
|Sacrament||Ordinary ministers||Extraordinary ministers|
|Baptism||Clergyman (bishop, priest or deacon)); but reserved normally to the parish priest.|
|Confirmation||Bishop or (in Eastern Churches and in Western Church during Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) priest.||(in Western Church) priest given faculty by law, special grant, or emergency circumstances.|
|Penance||Bishop or priest||None|
|Anointing of the Sick||Bishop or priest||None|
|Holy Orders||Bishop (for liceity, at least three at an episcopal ordination)||Episcopal ordinations may proceed with just one consecrating bishop, formal dispensation from the Pope required. In the Eastern Churches, an Archimandrite may admit his subjects to minor orders.|
|Matrimony||Husband and wife for each other (Western tradition; clergy (bishop, priest, or deacon) with proper jurisdiction act as witnesses necessary for validity); officiating priest (Eastern tradition)||Requirement of clergy witness, necessary for validity, may be dispensed from and another witness substituted, as in a mixed marriage (i.e. one party is a non-Catholic; with dispensation, a Protestant minister, Orthodox priest or other clergy, for instance)|