Holy Communion & Un-Holy Catholics – Ordained and Lay… How Does This Work?

Holy Communion & Un-Holy Catholics – Ordained and Lay… How Does This Work?

John Farrell, a reader from south of the border, in England, Our Lady’s Dowry, has submitted the following article for our consideration – he’d like some answers: some editorial comment has been injected, but all insights gratefully  received…

John writes…

Validity of Mass and Sacraments

I believe that the Son of God, Jesus, is truly both man and God. God is Love and is in his all, Merciful. God has guided his people with Prophets, Patriarchs and in these latter days, His Son and His Priests.

The gift of the Eucharist is made to enable all to share in the salvation that Jesus brings to us. My being and all human being is still prone to sin and Jesus creates for us a means to be cleansed of sin and thus grow in holiness, closer to the Eternal Being, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

It is recorded in the New Testament that Jesus singled out from all his disciples 12 men who at the meal before his agony and death were told the words which form the consecration of the Catholic Mass. These words have been preserved in all the languages of the world for this is the sole purpose of the Eternal Word entering into time. The words of authority were not scattered but targeted, the Last Supper was not one of the communal meals attended by Jesus recorded in the Gospels. It was indeed the first eternal mass for it happened in time before the historical events it recalls. Even the traitors present at that meal became priests. They were called by God to administer the source of all his sacraments his gifts to fortify his people in their commitment to Holiness.

The above is the reason we have a Church to be the earthly structure to protect the divine gifts granted by God’s inconceivable love and humility. It is right that we understand and believe the Church’s claim to be the valid channel for the distribution of Grace. It is our God-given right to demand that the Institutional Church act in a Christ-like manner and does not give scandal to us the little ones called by God.

Sacramental Life

If I know a priest to be living a sinful life how can I believe in the validity of the Sacraments he administers; and is not attending such an event in itself sinful?

I have been asking myself this question for some years now and looking all over for a satisfactory answer.

Nobody has treated my question as the fundamental issue it seems to be to me. I know of nothing more important than the sacraments but I have been unable to find anyone willing to recognise either the truth or sincerity of the question posed.

I am an “oldish” Catholic born and baptised 1941. I have recently been utterly shattered in my faith which has been for me the only way to make some sort of sense about my existence. I have always lived as a sinner and at times reaching out for the grace promised by the life of Jesus and the subsequent teachings of St Paul and the other disciples. If I questioned something I have always sought to find the Church’s answer. Basically my belief and relationship to God is the same as it was when I was a sinful altar boy in the 1950s. I have always loved the Church and known that the Liturgy is the service and prayer of humanity to its Creator. I was taught to respect the holiness of the Priesthood and not to question the authority of a priest.

What I know now about the Clergy is known to the whole world; but it is not these abuse scandals and dissolute clergy that have rocked my faith. All clergymen are only human. But I am shocked as by an earthquake by what is the black and white teaching of the Church, in her infallibility, about the Sacraments.

The following is from the Vatican Website’s Catechism of the Catholic Church.

The Sacraments of Salvation

#1127 Celebrated worthily in faith, the sacraments confer the grace that they signify.48 They are efficacious because in them Christ himself is at work: it is he who baptizes, he who acts in his sacraments in order to communicate the grace that each sacrament signifies. The Father always hears the prayer of his Son’s Church which, in the epiclesis of each sacrament, expresses her faith in the power of the Spirit. As fire transforms into itself everything it touches, so the Holy Spirit transforms into the divine life whatever is subjected to his power.

#1128 This is the meaning of the Church’s affirmation49 that the sacraments act ex opere operato (literally: “by the very fact of the action’s being performed”), i.e., by virtue of the saving work of Christ, accomplished once for all. It follows that “the sacrament is not wrought by the righteousness of either the celebrant or the recipient, but by the power of God.”50 From the moment that a sacrament is celebrated in accordance with the intention of the Church, the power of Christ and his Spirit acts in and through it, independently of the personal holiness of the minister. Nevertheless, the fruits of the sacraments also depend on the disposition of the one who receives them.

#1129 The Church affirms that for believers the sacraments of the New Covenant are necessary for salvation.51 “Sacramental grace” is the grace of the Holy Spirit, given by Christ and proper to each sacrament. The Spirit heals and transforms those who receive him by conforming them to the Son of God. The fruit of the sacramental life is that the Spirit of adoption makes the faithful partakers in the divine nature52 by uniting them in a living union with the only Son, the Saviour

John’s  Comments

#1127 [in this paragraph] there is a powerful explication that all the graces are given by Jesus himself working through the priest; that the Holy Spirit touches us all and ensures that grace is poured into our hearts. I have never found it necessary to either question or really think about this. But now I have noticed the qualifying phrase with which it starts “Celebrated worthily in faith” which is given as a condition for Jesus to be present with us in the celebration. The phrase can only mean that the Celebrant has to be holy and fully believing.

Editor:  this is a misreading of the paragraph which refers to the fruits, graces conferred.  Transubstantiation takes place whatever the disposition of the priest.  Here’s the Council of Trent, to clarify:

The Unworthiness Of The Minister Does Not Invalidate The Sacrament… What, however, has been already said of the other Sacraments, holds good also with regard to the Sacrament of the Eucharist; namely, that a Sacrament is validly administered even by the wicked, provided all the essentials have been duly observed. For we are to believe that all these depend not on the merit of the minister, but are operated by the virtue and power of Christ our Lord.  Click here to read, online, the Catechism of the Council of Trent

John appears to understand the above, but continues…

#1128 shows that authors of these canons are not stupid. They are fully aware of the questions raised by “Celebrated worthily in faith”. But avoid the “going through the motions” and magical implications  of “ex opere operato”
[Ed: “magical”?  You kidding?] by turning the “deed” from not that of the ordained minister but into the saving grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Which is independent of the spiritual condition of the minister. Of course it is! Then why does the efficacy of the reception of the Sacrament depend on the spiritual condition of the recipient? For this canon closes with another condition “Nevertheless, the fruits of the sacraments also depend on the disposition of the one who receives them.”

Editor:  the efficacy of the reception of the Sacrament doesn’t depend on the spiritual condition of the recipient.  We all receive the Blessed Sacrament no matter our spiritual condition.  That’s why sacrilegious Communions are such a grave scandal.  However, the more disposed we are to allowing God to work in our souls, the more open we are to His grace then, obviously, the better the fruits, the more we benefit from the sacrament. That’s no doubt why some of the great saints and mystics experienced visions after receiving Holy Communion.  Very recently, April 2021, a priest, clearly very disposed to the graces of Holy Communion, offers an example of this in practice – click here


The message that I see here is “we clergy do not need to be holy to confect the Sacraments but to receive them you must be”! Sin is all right for us but not for you. Is that the message of the pulpit? Is it for this that the Incarnation Crucifixion and Resurrection had to be undergone in all its painful humility and humiliation?

Editor:  It seems to me that you have misunderstood the Catechism teaching. I have a vague memory of having made this same mistake myself in the past, on this blog but I’ve been unable to find the thread.  On the other hand, if I’m wrong on any of this, I’d urge our bloggers to point it out.  Then run 😀

John adds… 

I have always believed #1129’s “the sacraments of the New Covenant are necessary for salvation.” What am I to do if I cannot find them in the Church founded by Jesus?

Editor:  You won’t find them anywhere else, John, that’s for sure…  Hopefully, you are now realising that you have unwittingly confused the action of Transubstantiation, the action by the priest of effecting the Real Presence on the altar, with the graces given to us (priests and people) when we receive the Eucharist.  The more open we are to pleasing God, to receiving His grace, the more we will benefit from our reception of Holy Communion – which IS Christ truly present, whether the priest is open to God’s grace or not!

John concludes…

Would that our Overseers do their duty and remove from office those priests who openly flaunt their disordered persons and those many who do not even try to follow the rules for the distribution of Sacraments. In the past the Church was almost broken by the sinful vanity and greed of its prelates and the ignorance of its clergy. We the laity were here to do what we were told but it is for us all both clergy and laity that the Love of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit was incarnated, lived, suffered, died and resurrected so that there might be a Church to receive the only source of Grace and share it with all mankind.

Editor:  nothing with which to disagree there.  Well said.

Comments (30)

  • Michaela

    It’s very easy to confuse the two things, the bringing down of Our Lord on the altar, confecting the Eucharist, and the fruits of the Sacrament. I think this is what John has done and since he is of an age to remember before the clergy abuse scandals, and of course the liturgical abuses, it’s no wonder he has begun to doubt.

    The only thing I think I can add is that it’s obvious when we think about it, that a priest or anyone else who is genuinely seeking holiness, the graces of the Eucharist will show in that life more than in the life of someone who is lukewarm. That’s how I interpret the Catechism paragraphs, but, like all Vatican documents, it could be put in simpler language. They always seem to go out of their way to make everything they write more complicated than it needs to be. It’s no wonder John and probably many others, get confused at times.

    November 8, 2021 at 8:08 am
    • editor


      I think you have simplified the issues beautifully. Many thanks for that.

      November 8, 2021 at 9:58 am
  • westminsterfly

    Remember Hilaire Belloc’s famous quote: “The Catholic Church is an institution I am bound to hold divine — but for unbelievers a proof of its divinity might be found in the fact that no merely human institution conducted with such knavish imbecility would have lasted a fortnight.” The very fact that the Church has so often been in tumult and mired in scandals throughout Her history – but has somehow managed to survive, when a purely human endeavour would have failed, is a strong proof for me of Her divine mission. It’s never been perfect in the human sense. It will almost certainly get a lot worse. But hang in there. At the end of the day, you do the best you can, given the circumstances presented to you. That’s all you can do.

    November 8, 2021 at 9:39 am
    • editor


      Very good point. In fact, GK Chesterton, while still an Anglican, before he became a Catholic, wrote of the Catholic Church as follows:

      “It is always simple to fall; there are an infinity of angles at which one falls, only one at which one stands. To have fallen into any one of the fads from Gnosticism to Christian Science would indeed have been obvious and tame. But to have avoided them all has been one whirling adventure; and in my vision the heavenly chariot flies thundering through the ages, the dull heresies sprawling and prostrate, the wild truth reeling but erect.” (GK Chesterton: Orthodoxy)…

      The scandals are dispiriting, to say the least, and bad popes take their toll, but through them all, we see the work of the Holy Spirit in keeping the Church on track. I remember being struck by one writer who noted that it was the very same liberalism of the modern popes which kept them from defining any of their errors as binding Catholic teaching.

      The fact, though, that bad priests and popes cause people to doubt the Faith, and perhaps keep people out of the Church, is, in and of itself, a scandal for which they will be held to account. I think now, perhaps more than ever before, we need to remind ourselves of the perfect Justice of God.

      November 8, 2021 at 9:55 am
      • westminsterfly

        ‘The perfect Justice of God’. Yes, we hear too much about mercy these days – either through the relentless pushing of the Divine Mercy devotion or Pope Francis’s false mercy. They forget about God’s Justice, while blinding the faithful with this cheapened ‘mercy’.

        November 8, 2021 at 11:48 am
  • Andrew

    It comes down to Form, Matter and Intent. If any one of those is clearly awry in the priest or what he’s doing then that’s a mass to steer clear of. An occasional slip is regrettable but entrenched patterns are the real concern. For example, one priest croons his way through the central part of the mass making up his own words. Form is clearly missing. Another priest openly admits to not believing in the resurrection. The Intent must therefore be skewed.

    Pray for our priests. Some of them are jaded, troubled and isolated. They may become despondent or be lacking ongoing formation or spiritual direction. They can develop dreadful bad habits like anyone else.

    There are no perfect priests in our parishes – but there are many good ones. Seek them out and let them know they are appreciated. If you’re blessed to live somewhere with access to Fraternity, Institute or Society priests or others who live communally then that’s often a good place to start. That system (mostly) keeps priests on track by clearer oversight and shared liturgical experiences.

    November 8, 2021 at 9:53 am
  • John Farrell

    Response from John Farrell
    Thanks for your comments. I wish that I could say that I am reassured by them. I was horrified by my understanding of the three items from the catechism and I still am.
    Please note that I am interpreting the items of the Catechism as they appear on the Vatican website and not how I wish they would be.
    I hope that I am not just reacting but I cannot see anything wrong in my understanding of #1127
    The opening phrase “Celebrated worthily in faith” does refer to the “outward sign of inward grace”, the Sacrament. It is the priest who celebrates and it is he who has to be worthy and in full belief (faith). “The fruits” are the results of a worthy and faithful celebration.
    I used “magical” with a purpose for without true faith and belief what else is the priest’s “going through the motions” my loose translation of “ex opere operato”?
    You are absolutely right about the efficacy of the “Blessed Sacrament” but I too am right in my interpretation of the final sentence of item #1128. “Nevertheless, the fruits of the sacraments also depend on the disposition of the one who receives them.” can mean nothing less or more than it says.
    I want to be part of the Church that practises what it preaches even though Jesus told us to do what the Pharisees teach but not act as they do. I think that it is also the teaching that has also lost its savour and the salt of the earth is missing from it. Help us Lord!

    November 8, 2021 at 11:10 am
    • Lily

      John Farrell,

      I can’t see your problem, TBH. I think it’s obvious what the Church teaches. It teaches that a priest can bring Christ down on the altar, even if he is the most wicked priest on the planet, but he will not grow in holiness as should happen through the graces of the Mass and Holy Communion if he persists in his serious sins. That applies to us all.

      What’s so difficult to understand about that?

      November 8, 2021 at 12:48 pm
  • John Farrell

    Lily, item # 1127 quoted above begins “Celebrated worthily in faith”. The conditional can only be applied to the celebrant. Can your “most wicked priest on the planet” measure up to that condition? Worthy and faithful? Clergy I have discussed this with all tell me that it is for our benefit that we do not have to worry about the priest’s holines or otherwise and yet the relevant canon begins with the above condition. This is what I think is difficult to understand. Lord send us holy and faithful priests.

    November 8, 2021 at 2:14 pm
    • Michaela

      John Farrell,

      With all due respect, you have set up a strawman argument. You are doing the equivalent of what Protestant do with the Bible – taking one verse or a part of a verse and making it stand alone. You can’t do that.

      The reason those clergy tell you not to worry about the holiness of the priest is because it is Christ not the priest, who confects the Eucharist. You seem determined to show that the Church is wrong on Transubstantiation and you will never do that.

      There’s nothing wrong with the teaching – you are making issues where none exist. Christ, acting through the priest, brings Jesus onto the altar at the Consecration during Mass. He consumes the host at the priest’s Communion and then gives it to those who approach in the congregation. Neither the priest nor the congregation will be able to draw on the full graces available through Holy Communion while they persist in sin. That’s why the Church (to the best of my knowledge) teaches that by receiving Communion our venial sins are wiped away (even without absolution in Confession) but not mortal sins.

      I went back up to your article just now and copied this bit: “Then why does the efficacy of the reception of the Sacrament depend on the spiritual condition of the recipient? For this canon closes with another condition “Nevertheless, the fruits of the sacraments also depend on the disposition of the one who receives them.”

      This is an example of misunderstanding, IMHO. Nowhere does it say that the efficacy of the reception of the Sacrament depends on the spiritual condition of the one who receives it, but – as I think has already been explained by others – efficacy means that the Real Presence is there, but the fruits means the outcome or the graces the recipient obtains from the sacrament/Real Presence.

      It seems very clear to me and I’m no theologian.

      November 8, 2021 at 4:22 pm
    • Josephine November 8, 2021 at 5:04 pm
  • Athanasius


    Worry not about your interpretation of the Canon – you’re simply misunderstanding it. The fact is that a Black Mass can include Transubstantiation if a sufficiently wicked priest were to follow the words of consecration with a genuine belief that they confect Transubstantiation, albeit for sacrilegious purposes in his case. You have to be able to separate the man from the office, the natural from the supernatural, in order to grasp the reality. The divine power and authority bestowed by Our Lord on the ordained priest is not dependent upon his fidelity to grace and/or the Commandments. Our Lord ordained it this way for the love of souls so that even an excommunicated priest can administer the last rights to a dying person. We need to think on the broader issue of the salavation of souls, as God views it, rather than get caught up too much in the worthiness or otherwise of the priest, His minister.

    November 8, 2021 at 4:20 pm
  • John

    Dear Michelea
    Thank you for taking the trouble to explain my error. However I do not understand your analogy with a “strawman” or with the use of only one verse from the Bible to justify an opinion; this being a habit not confined only to Protestants.
    My comments are on the Catechism Canons/items as printed in black and white on the Vatican’s website. #1127 begins with a conditional adverbial phrase that limits the meaning of the whole sentence. “Celebrated worthily in faith” can only refer to the celebrant and means that if not “Celebrated worthily in faith” it does not work.
    You misinterpret my intention which is not to attack the doctrine of Transubstantiation. My purpose has been to point out lack of clarity in the modern catechisms as typified by the ambiguities I have pointed out.
    I stand by what I have written about the, in my eyes, offending phrases and thank your editor for immediately quoting Trent which although usually so clear brings into the following an element of subjectivity on the part of the celebrant
    “Since the ministers of the Sacraments represent in the discharge of their sacred functions, not their own, but the person of Christ, be they good or bad, they validly perform and confer the Sacraments, provided they make use of the matter and form always observed in the Catholic Church according to the institution of Christ, and provided they intend to do what the Church does in their administration. Hence, unless the recipients wish to deprive themselves of so great a good and resist the Holy Ghost, nothing can prevent them from receiving (through the Sacraments) the fruit of grace.”

    There is still no getting away from my problem if I know the priest to be sinful and know him to be supported by a doubtful superior am I not compounding sin by supporting them?

    Thanks for taking time to answer me. I hope that no one feels offended.
    God Bless

    November 8, 2021 at 7:03 pm
    • editor


      I don’t feel offended – just fooled. I am now questioning the integrity of your supposed problem. Are you (as they say these days in younger circles) having a laugh?

      This, partly because now, typical of a troll, you are shifting the goal posts. I don’t recall this question appearing in your original article, yet now you are posing it as if it’s a central plank of your “problem”: “… If I know the priest to be sinful and I know him to be supported by a doubtful superior, am I not compounding sin by supporting them?”

      What the heck does that mean? A lot of us stopped attending the new Mass years ago because we know it is displeasing to God and we could not “support” the priests who say it. And if my priest were known to be living a double life, I’d stop attending his Masses and yes, wouldn’t support him because I don’t want to be paying money into his favourite gay bar. That’s different from saying that those same priests are unable to confect the Eucharist – they can and do, assuming that they fulfil the usual conditions. It’s certainly difficult to imagine that they have the intention to do what the Church teaches, and we can sometimes see that they do not adhere to the correct matter and form – which is why I wouldn’t attend their Masses. Conditions fulfilled, however, any properly ordained priest can and does bring down Our Lord on the altar at the Consecration.

      I take it you actually mean “publicly sinful” (because all priests, like all laypeople, are sinners). The answer – obviously – has to be that if you know that your priest is living a publicly double life, as I indicate above, you should shake the dust; have nothing to do with him, beyond, hopefully, some attempt at correcting him.

      The thing you persist in turning into a doubt is the idea of the Mass being “celebrated worthily in faith” but you have, so far, failed to define what you understand by “worthily in faith.” It seems to me that you mean “celebrated perfectly worthily in perfect faith”. There’s no room for a less than perfect faith, which is a pity. I say that because…

      There are examples of less than perfectly believing priests confecting the Eucharist. Check out the Miracle of Lanciano. Normally, I’d go searching for a link to the story but you have shown no sign of having read the link I placed in the introduction, the wonderful account of the priest who was granted a mystical experience during Mass which resulted in him banning Communion in the hand and restoring Communion kneeling and on the tongue; nor is there any mention by you of Josephine’s link, so I’m not going to bother my pretty little head. YOU go and search for the Miracle of Lanciano, and read for yourself the account of the priest who doubted the dogma of Transubstantiation, doubts which were quickly removed when the Host turned to flesh and blood before his very eyes. But, there you go, while, at some level, he obviously had “the Faith” it certainly wasn’t perfect and while to all appearances presumably, he celebrated “worthily” giving no obvious cause for scandal, wearing proper vestments, using correct matter, form and with the right intention – despite his doubts. In summary, presumably at a level acceptable (if not pleasing) to God, the Lanciano priest celebrated the Mass worthily in faith.

      If you know of a priest who denies an article of the Faith – say the Bodily Resurrection of Our Lord – then you would not attend his Masses. End of. There are an awful lot of heretics around, so we do have an obligation to make sure that we are attending the Mass which pleases God; for us, that has to be the traditional Roman Rite, i.e. the Traditional Latin Mass.

      And don’t gimme “It is not my intention to attack the doctrine of Transubstantiation” – that is exactly what you are doing, as your reply to Athanasius below indicates. So, God would not “allow” sacrilegious, blasphemous and even Satanic Masses/Holy Communions? Really? What, then, IS a Black Mass? And why do you think Catholic churches in the Reading area, south of England, some years ago (if not at the present time, I don’t know) had notices posted in the church porches notifying entrants that there would be no Communion in the hand due to theft of Hosts for use in Black Masses?

      Your error is very clear but you will not accept – or at least admit – that you do not understand, and/or have confused the necessary distinction between the validity of the sacrament and the fruits of the sacrament. It’s been explained very clearly more than once, so I advise you to read over the comments on this thread and then – if you’re still not satisfied that the Church’s 2,000 years old teaching about the Mass and Sacraments is revealed by God Himself, and thus true, and not to be doubted, perhaps it’s best to simply make a sincere and intelligent Act of Faith – if you have given us your true age, then the last thing you want to be doing at this stage in your life is to challenge this central dogma of the Faith, and be faced with explaining your deliberate doubting at your Judgment. It’s a very grave sin to deliberately entertain doubts; you’re of an age to remember having been taught that, so your prayer has to be…

      O my God, I firmly believe that you are one God in three divine persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I believe that your divine Son became man and died for our sins, and that he will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe these and all the truths which the holy Catholic Church teaches, because in revealing them you can neither deceive nor be deceived.

      November 8, 2021 at 9:02 pm
  • John

    I am sure that you must be mistaken that God would allow offer his own body and blood in sacrifece to Satan. You must be wrong.
    God be with you


    November 8, 2021 at 7:06 pm
    • Athanasius


      You need to listen to the interviews with Fr. Malachi Martin (an exorcist) and understand that, yes, God may permit such a sacrilege. But woe betide those who commit the sacrilege. It’s a known fact that God does not suspend priestly powers under any circumstances, but leaves all men, including priests, the free will to use or abuse his gifts.

      November 8, 2021 at 9:26 pm
  • John

    Dear editor,
    It was not my intention to cause upset to anyone. You need to read more carefully what you publish and I wish you hadn’t said this.
    “This, partly because now, typical of a troll, you are shifting the goal posts. I don’t recall this question appearing in your original article, yet now you are posing it as if it’s a central plank of your “problem”: “… If I know the priest to be sinful and I know him to be supported by a doubtful superior, am I not compounding sin by supporting them?”
    I don’t wish to cause you embarrassment but look at my original piece and you will see that the question is the central plank of my “problem”. How could you miss it?
    I wish you hadn’t said it because I too am embarrassed to have to point this out not in a spirit of defence but of the truth which is as black and white as is the lack of consistency in the Catechism “canons” I am shocked by.
    “I don’t live in hole!” Quoted from an old ditty which you may remember.
    I have prayed for forgiveness for any error or offence I might have caused.
    John Farrell

    November 9, 2021 at 8:49 am
    • editor


      No need ever to apologise to me – and if I’m wrong about something, I’m always grateful to be corrected. Who wants to be wrong? Being mistaken and accepting that is not “embarrassing”, certainly not for me. I’m mistaken/wrong a lot – it comes with the ability to type far too fast!

      However, while there seems to be some misunderstanding, that is because in your original statement you wrote:

      If I know a priest to be living a sinful life how can I believe in the validity of the Sacraments he administers; and is not attending such an event in itself sinful?”

      I read that as referring to attending Mass and receiving Holy Communion, and since you went on to quote the Catechism on validity and fruits of the sacrament, I naturally focused on that key issue. However sinful the priest’s life, he can still offer a valid Mass and confect the Eucharist.

      Your more recent statement is a bit different:

      “If I know the priest to be sinful and I know him to be supported by a doubtful superior, am I not compounding sin by supporting them?

      I read that more broadly. You are right, though, in that I should have highlighted that different wording when replying and I do apologise for effectively accusing you of trolling. I was wrong to do that. Mea culpa!

      I am sad that you are apparently allowing some difficulty in understanding the wording of the Catechism paragraphs to disturb the peace of your soul in relation to the Real Presence and the power of the priesthood.

      If I am misunderstanding your position, please allow me to apologise in advance!

      God bless.

      November 9, 2021 at 10:20 am
  • John Farrell

    Dear Editor,
    I have tried to clarify my thoughts.
    It is not the “wording” of the Catechism that stirs up my soul. You know and so do I that the Church has always taught that the holiness of the priest does not affect the validity of Mass and all the Sacraments derived there from.
    The Catechism as written today using words that have meaning, states in #1127 “Celebrated worthily in faith” as the condition for the outward forms to signify the inward Grace that they bring to us.
    Even in the Catechism of the Council of Trent there is reference to “intention” which can only be a condition in the priest who is officiating.
    This has shocked me as so many of us in the last 80+ years have been receiving the “sacraments” from disordered cynical and sacrilegious clergy who all have been ”priests in good standing” and so meeting the requirements of the Church structure that did not look for holiness beyond ordination.
    I can forgive (God knows that I have to for my own sake) sinful humanity but self-contradiction that occurs in black and white is an offence to my God given reason and I cannot conceive why God would want me to ignore it.
    As always I will try to follow the Way, the Truth and the Life and I wish you every success in your mission.
    Thank you for tolerating me and even though you didn’t question it I have to explain my “I don’t live in a hole” as a mis-remembering of “I am a mole and I live in a hole” a ditty you may recall hearing in the distant past, my faulty memory I substituted “troll” for mole.
    May God bless all your endeavours.
    John from south of the border.

    November 10, 2021 at 12:53 pm
    • Michaela

      John Farrell,

      Just so I understand can I check if you are worried that you are not receiving the Real Presence because your priest is a public sinner? If so, why not find a traditional Latin Mass where everything is as it always was, more or less, before the horrendous V2 Council?

      Unless you think Christ did not tell the truth when he promised to be with his Church until the end of time and that the gates of Hell would never prevail against it, I don’t see any other option for you.

      If I’ve not understood your problem, would you spell it out for me very clearly because I can be very slow on the uptake.

      November 10, 2021 at 2:10 pm
    • Deacon Augustine

      John Farrell,

      John, I think I understand where your concerns are coming from, but I also think you are reading too much into the words of the Catechism

      “#1127 Celebrated worthily in faith, the sacraments confer the grace that they signify.48”

      The word “celebrated” here is not necessarily used in the context you are assuming i.e. it is not specifying anything pertaining to the celebrant as such. I think you will find that is meant in that ambiguous neo-Catholic sense in which the sacraments are “celebrated” by those who receive them as well as those who minister them. The curse of the conciliar religion is the imprecise use of terms and constant failure to make proper distinctions. “Mass is celebrated by the whole community” is one of those wretch-inducing Vatican II isms which comes to mind.

      To obtain the intended meaning of the phrase, it would be worth referring to footnote 48 which cites the Council of Trent as it is catalogued in Denzinger no.s 1605 and 1606. I have been looking for my copy, but cannot find it, so if you or anybody else can provide us with the appropriate citations, it might help clarify.

      November 10, 2021 at 6:06 pm
  • Michaela

    John Farrell,

    I forgot to say that if by “I will try to follow the Way, the Truth and the Life” you mean you will try to do that outside the Church, I am conscience bound to tell you that it is not possible to do that.

    November 10, 2021 at 2:11 pm
  • John Farrell

    Canon Augustine
    Thank you for your concern and thanks for pointing me to Denziger 1605-1606.
    I still think “Celebrated worthily in faith” in the Catechism is a conditional phrase modifying the whole sentence and that it refers to the celebrant who has to be “worthy and faithful”. I cannot put more or less into the black and white of those words.
    The following Canons from Trent also contain conditions which modify the “even in a state of mortal sin a Catholic Priest confects the Body and Blood of Christ” which seems to have been the Church’s position for all of my lifetime.
    In Canon 6 “who do not place an obstacle in their way” is a defining adjectival clause for the pronoun “those” i.e. the recipients.
    Canon 6 If anyone says that the sacraments of the New Law do not contain the grace that they signify or that they do not confer that grace on those who do not place an obstacle in the way, as if they were only external signs of grace or justice received through faith and marks of the Christian profession by which among men the faithful are distinguished from unbelievers, let him be anathema.
    “Who do not place an obstacle in their way” is a defining adjectival clause for the pronoun “those” i.e. the recipients.
    Canon 11 is even clearer
    If anyone one says that the intention at least of doing what the Church does is not required in the ministers when they are effecting and conferring the sacraments, let him be anathema.
    The minister has to have the intention of confecting and distributing the sacrament to those “who do not put an obstacle in their way”.
    Canon 12
    If anyone says that a minister in the state of mortal sin, though he observes all the essentials that belong to the effecting and conferring of the sacrament, does not effect or confer the sacrament, let him be anathema.

    It seems to me that our Church has not been observing its own canons in an effective way and that our decline has more to decline in holiness than even the worst examples of abuse and financial corruption. None of which could have happened if the simple “be holy for I am holy” had remained fixed in our minds.

    November 11, 2021 at 12:53 pm
    • Michaela

      John Farrell,

      I would be grateful if you would reply to my questions in my comment above at November 10, 2021 at 2:10 pm.

      I’m afraid without a clear understanding of exactly what you fear, I cannot make sense of your issues.

      Our Lady was sent by God to warn us of the crisis to come in the Church, both at Quito 400 years ago and in 1917 at Fatima. She also asked for the First Five Saturdays and if she’d known that the Church was in error on the matter of the Consecration etc. she would surely not have asked us to make sacrilegious Communions.

      So, I must be misunderstanding your problem and I would be grateful if you would spell it out for me. Thanks.

      November 11, 2021 at 1:02 pm
    • Deacon Augustine

      John Farrell,

      To respond to a couple of your points:

      “I still think “Celebrated worthily in faith” in the Catechism is a conditional phrase modifying the whole sentence and that it refers to the celebrant who has to be “worthy and faithful”. I cannot put more or less into the black and white of those words.”

      Ignore the CCC – it is not an infallible document. It is ambiguous and misleading in a number of places and the fact that it has been edited and changed at least 3 times now shows that the Church does not consider it to be an irreformable document either. Focus instead on the teaching delivered by the Council of Trent which was an infallible Council of the Church.

      “Canon 11 is even clearer
      If anyone one says that the intention at least of doing what the Church does is not required in the ministers when they are effecting and conferring the sacraments, let him be anathema.
      The minister has to have the intention of confecting and distributing the sacrament to those “who do not put an obstacle in their way”.”

      No – your interpretation of that Canon is not correct. The minister literally only has to have the intention of “doing what the Church does” to validly confer/confect the Sacrament. It doesn’t matter whether he has the wrong idea about what the Church does, doesn’t understand what the Church does, or has a completely heretical idea of what the Sacrament is or what the Church is – as long as he INTENDS TO DO what the Church DOES, then the Sacrament is valid. This is why even an atheist or a Jew can vaildly confer the Sacrament of Baptism in extremis.

      The Church has always and deliberately set a very low bar for Sacramental validity precisely so that the faithful can have assurance that they receive valid Sacraments from their pastors and ministers. This is the meaning and purpose of the “ex opere operato” doctrine – the validity of the Sacraments conferred are never affected by the worthiness of the minister because in reality it is Christ Himself who confers the Sacraments, working through and despite His weak and sinful ministers.

      Receiving the grace that comes to us through the Sacraments is another matter entirely. This is where the doctrine of “ex opere operANTIS” dictates that the recipient of a Sacrament of the living (i.e. not Baptism or Penance) must be in a state of grace in order for the Sacrament to be efficacious to him/her i.e. for them to receive the grace/life of God that comes to us through the Sacraments. This is what constitutes receiving the Sacrament worthily.

      Thus the situation can arise where a priest who is in mortal sin can validly confect the Eucharist and minister it to his congregation who are all in a state of grace. To him there would be no grace or benefit derived from his Communion (in fact it would be the sin of sacrilege), but for his congregation they would receive all the grace and benefits which the Sacrament confers from their Communions.

      If the validity of the Sacraments were dependent in any way on the worthy state of the ministers who confer them, then the Catholic Church died out at around the time of the Apostles.

      November 11, 2021 at 2:17 pm
      • editor

        Deacon Augustine,

        Sincere thanks for your crystal clear explanation – God bless your tartan socks. If you don’t have tartan socks, tartan socks will be supplied 😀

        November 11, 2021 at 3:45 pm
  • John Farrell

    Dear Deacon Augustine,
    Thank you for your clear exposition of the Church’s stated position.
    I am not making debating points but I have to point out “what the Church does” also includes the Church’s intent in doing it.
    This is apparent in the denial of validity of Anglican Orders on grounds of “defect of form and intention”.
    My original question
    “If I know a priest to be living a sinful life how can I believe in the validity of the Sacraments he administers; and is not attending such an event in itself sinful?”
    still troubles me.
    Thank you for your help and I am unable to continue in this thread as I have a lot more reading to do.
    God Bless
    John Farrell

    November 19, 2021 at 10:17 am
    • Michaela

      John Farrell,

      If you have concerns about the validity of the sacraments administered by your priest, why don’t you just go to another priest? I honestly cannot see the problem unless every priest in your diocese is living a publicly sinful life.

      The Church’s teaching couldn’t be more clear and it’s been spelt out here over and over. So, since you seem determined to doubt that your priest is giving you valid sacraments, just go to another priest!

      November 19, 2021 at 6:47 pm
  • John

    Michaela, I said nothing about doubts concerning any specific priest let alone about all priests. It is wrong of you to make such assumptions. I am surprised that the editor published such comments.

    November 19, 2021 at 7:11 pm
    • editor


      To be frank, the only comments which are giving me cause for concern and wondering if I should publish, are yours.

      A number of us have sought to (a) understand your problem – not easy – and (b) despite struggling to understand what the heck it is that troubles you, we have tried to answer it.

      Very good responses have been given – notably that from Deacon Augustine. Yet still, you appear to be concerned about the validity of the sacraments – not clear at all why. You make reference to priests in sinful situations, living sinful lives, and incurring guilt as a result of participating in their “events” (presumably Masses), but no matter what any of us offers to make clear to you the Church’s teaching, you won’t accept it and/or shift the goalposts and – in the case of Michaela – hurl insults. So, I hope you realise now, that we are not in a position to help you.

      Indeed, your responses to Michaela’s legitimate questions have been downright rude – you have either ignored her questions (very rude – would you ignore her in a room if she were sitting next to you and asked the same question?) OR, as this latest comment from you reveals, you nitpick, looking for a fight. Your latest response to her is nonsensical.

      This is classic: “I said nothing about doubts concerning any “specific priest” let alone about all priests”. Then, what the heck have you been on about? I didn’t used to believe in “speaking in tongues” but it would make a welcome change from all this gobbledegook. If, at your age, you don’t know Catholic doctrine on the validity of the sacraments, and the manner in which conscience works – it is NOT a teacher, it dictates, so unless your conscience is dictating that you don’t participate in these priests’ (whoever they are, if they exist at all) “events”, you can participate to your heart’s content.

      However, we are clearly not clever enough to assist you with your supposed doubts, so I suggest that you seek help with your problem, whatever it is, elsewhere.

      I’d advise you not to waste any more time posting comments on this blog. As they say in the USA – “we’re done here”.

      November 19, 2021 at 9:55 pm

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