Summa - Supplement 744

Whether the acts of the Orders are rightly assigned in the text?


Objection 1: It would seem that the acts of the Orders are not rightly assigned in the text (Sent. iv, D, 24). Because a person is prepared by absolution to receive Christ's body. Now the preparation of the recipients of a sacrament belongs to the lower Orders. Therefore absolution from sins is unfittingly reckoned among the acts of a priest.

Objection 2: Further, man is made like to God immediately in Baptism, by receiving the character which causes this likeness. But prayer and the offering of oblations are acts directed immediately to God. Therefore every baptized person can perform these acts, and not priests alone.

Objection 3: Further, different Orders have different acts. But it belongs to the subdeacon to place the oblations on the altar, and to read the epistle; and subdeacons carry the cross before the Pope. Therefore these acts should not be assigned to the deacon.

Objection 4: Further, the same truth is contained in the Old and in the New Testament. But it belongs to the readers to read the Old Testament. Therefore it should belong to them likewise, and not to deacons, to read the New Testament.

Objection 5: Further, the apostles preached naught else but the gospel of Christ (
Rm 1,15). But the teaching of the apostles is entrusted to subdeacons to be read by them. Therefore the Gospel teaching should be also.

Objection 6: Further, according to Dionysius (Eccl. Hier. v) that which belongs to a higher Order should not be applicable to a lower Order. But it is an act of subdeacons to minister with the cruets. Therefore it should not be assigned to acolytes.

Objection 7: Further, spiritual actions should rank above bodily actions. But the acolyte's act is merely corporeal. Therefore the exorcist has not the spiritual act of casting out devils, since he is of inferior rank.

Objection 8: Further, things that have most in common should be placed beside one another. Now the reading of the Old Testament must needs have most in common with the reading of the New Testament, which latter belongs to the higher ministers. Therefore the reading of the Old Testament should be reckoned the act, not of the reader, but rather of the acolyte; especially since the bodily light which the acolytes carry signifies the light of spiritual doctrine.

Objection 9: Further, in every act of a special Order, there should be some special power, which the person ordained has to the exclusion of other persons. But in opening and shutting doors the doorkeeper has no special power that other men have not. Therefore this should not be reckoned their act.

I answer that, Since the consecration conferred in the sacrament of orders is directed to the sacrament of the Eucharist, as stated above (Article [2]), the principal act of each order is that whereby it is most nearly directed to the sacrament of the Eucharist. In this respect, too, one order ranks above another, in so far as one act is more nearly directed to that same sacrament. But because many things are directed to the Eucharist, as being the most exalted of the sacraments, it follows not unfittingly that one Order has many acts besides its principal act, and all the more, as it ranks higher, since a power extends to the more things, the higher it is.

Reply to Objection 1: The preparation of the recipients of a sacrament is twofold. One is remote and is effected by the ministers: another is proximate, whereby they are rendered apt at once for receiving the sacraments. This latter belongs to priests, since even in natural things matter receives from one and the same agent both the ultimate disposition to the form, and the form itself. And since a person acquires the proximate disposition to the Eucharist by being cleansed from sin, it follows that the priest is the proper minister of all those sacraments which are chiefly instituted for the cleansing of sins, namely Baptism, Penance, and Extreme Unction.

Reply to Objection 2: Acts are directed immediately to God in two ways; in one way on the part of one person only, for instance the prayers of individuals, vows, and so forth: such acts befit any baptized person. In another way on the part of the whole Church, and thus the priest alone exercises acts immediately directed to God; because to impersonate the whole Church belongs to him alone who consecrates the Eucharist, which is the sacrament of the universal Church.

Reply to Objection 3: The offerings made by the people are offered through the priest. Hence a twofold ministry is necessary with regard to offerings. One on the part of the people: and this belongs to the subdeacon who receives the offerings from the people and places them on the altar or offers them to the deacon. the other is on the part of the priest, and belongs to the deacon, who hands the offerings to the priest. This is the principal act of both Orders, and for this reason the deacon's Order is the higher. But to read the epistle does not belong to a deacon, except as the acts of lower Orders are ascribed to the higher; and in like manner to carry the cross. Moreover, this depends on the customs of Churches, because in secondary acts it is not unfitting for customs to vary.

Reply to Objection 4: Doctrine is a remote preparation for the reception of a sacrament; wherefore the announcement of doctrine is entrusted to the ministers. But the doctrine of the Old Testament is more remote than that of the New Testament, since it contains no instruction about this sacrament except in figures. Hence announcing of the New Testament is entrusted to the higher ministers, and that of the Old Testament to the lower ministers. Moreover the doctrine of the New Testament is more perfect as delivered by our Lord Himself, than as made known by His apostles. Wherefore the Gospel is committed to deacons and the Epistle to subdeacons.

This suffices for the Reply to the Fifth Objection.

Reply to Objection 6: Acolytes exercise an act over the cruet alone, and not over the contents of the cruet; whereas the subdeacon exercises an act over the contents of the cruet, because he handles the water and wine to the end that they be put into the chalice,* and again he pours the water over the hands of the priest; and the deacon, like the subdeacon, exercises an act over the chalice only, not over its contents, whereas the priest exercises an act over the contents. [*The wording of St. Thomas is sufficiently vague to refer either to the Roman rite, where the priest pours the wine and water into the chalice, or to the Dominican rite, where this is done by the subdeacon.] Wherefore as the subdeacon at his ordination receives an empty chalice, while the priest receives a full chalice, so the acolyte receives an empty cruet, but the subdeacon a full one. Thus there is a certain connection among the Orders.

Reply to Objection 7: The bodily acts of the acolyte are more intimately connected with the act of Holy orders than the act of the exorcist, although the latter is, in a fashion, spiritual. For the acolytes exercise a ministry over the vessels in which the sacramental matter is contained, as regards the wine, which needs a vessel to hold it on account of its humidity. Hence of all the minor orders the Order of acolytes is the highest.

Reply to Objection 8: The act of the acolyte is more closely connected with the principal acts of the higher ministers, than the acts of the other minor Orders, as is self-evident; and again as regards the secondary acts whereby they prepare the people by doctrine. For the acolyte by bearing a light represents the doctrine of the New Testament in a visible manner, while the reader by his recital represents it differently, wherefore the acolyte is of higher rank. It is the same with the exorcist, for as the act of the reader is compared with the secondary act of the deacon and subdeacon, so is the act of the exorcist compared with the secondary act of the priest, namely to bind and to loose, by which man is wholly freed from the slavery of the devil. This, too, shows the degrees of Order to be most orderly. since only the three higher Orders co-operate with the priest in his principal act which is to consecrate the body of Christ, while both the higher and lower Orders co-operate with him in his secondary act, which is to loose and bind.

Reply to Objection 9: Some say that in receiving the Order the doorkeeper is given a Divine power to debar others from entering the Church, even as Christ had, when He cast out the sellers from the Temple. But this belongs to a gratuitous grace rather than to a sacramental grace. Wherefore we should reply that he receives the power to do this by virtue of his office, although others may do so, but not officially. It is the case in all the acts of the minor Orders, that they can be lawfully exercised by others, even though these have no office to that effect: just as Mass may be said in an unconsecrated building, although the consecration of a church is directed to the purpose that Mass be said there.

Whether the character is imprinted on a priest when the chalice is handed to him?


Objection 1: It would seem that the character is not imprinted on the priest at the moment when the chalice is handed to him. For the consecration of a priest is done by anointing as in Confirmation. Now in Confirmation the character is imprinted at the moment of anointing; and therefore in the priesthood also and not at the handing of the chalice.

Objection 2: Further, our Lord gave His disciples the priestly power when He said (
Jn 20,22-23): "Receive ye the Holy Ghost: whose sins you shall forgive," etc. Now the Holy Ghost is given by the imposition of hands. Therefore the character of order is given at the moment of the imposition of hands.

Objection 3: Further, as the ministers are consecrated, even so are the ministers' vestments. Now the blessing alone consecrates the vestments. Therefore the consecration of the priest also is effected by the mere blessing of the bishop.

Objection 4: Further, as a chalice is handed to the priest, even so is the priestly vestment. Therefore if a character is imprinted at the giving of the chalice, so likewise is there at the giving of the chasuble, and thus a priest would have two characters: but this is false.

Objection 5: Further, the deacon's order is more closely allied to the priest's Order than is the subdeacon's. But if a character is imprinted on the priest at the moment of the handing of the chalice, the subdeacon would be more closely allied to the priest than the deacon; because the subdeacon receives the character at the handing of the chalice and not the deacon. Therefore the priestly character is not imprinted at the handing of the chalice.

Objection 6: Further, the Order of acolytes approaches nearer to the priestly act by exercising an act over the cruet than by exercising an act over the torch. Yet the character is imprinted on the acolytes when they receive the torch rather than when they receive the cruet, because the name of acolyte signifies candle-bearer. Therefore the character is not imprinted on the priest when he receives the chalice.

On the contrary, The principal act of the priest's Order is to consecrate Christ's body. Now he receives the power to this effect at the handing of the chalice. Therefore the character is imprinted on him then.

I answer that, As stated above (Article [4], ad 1), to cause the form and to give the matter its proximate preparation for the form belong to the same agent. Wherefore the bishop in conferring orders does two things; for he prepares the candidates for the reception of orders, and delivers to them the power of order. He prepares them, both by instructing them in their respective offices and by doing something to them, so that they may be adapted to receive the power. This preparation consists of three things, namely blessing, imposition of hands, and anointing. By the blessing they are enlisted in the Divine service, wherefore the blessing is given to all. By the imposition of hands the fulness of grace is given, whereby they are qualified for exalted duties, wherefore only deacons and priests receive the imposition of hands, because they are competent to dispense the sacraments, although the latter as principal dispensers, the former as ministers. But by the anointing they are consecrated for the purpose of handling the sacrament, wherefore the anointing is done to the priests alone who touch the body of Christ with their own hands; even as a chalice is anointed because it holds the blood, and the paten because it holds the body.

The conferring of power is effected by giving them something pertaining to their proper act. And since the principal act of a priest is to consecrate the body and blood of Christ, the priestly character is imprinted at the very giving of the chalice under the prescribed form of words.

Reply to Objection 1: In Confirmation there is not given the office of exercising an act on an exterior matter, wherefore the character is not imprinted in that sacrament at the handing of some particular thing, but at the mere imposition of hands and anointing. But it is otherwise in the priestly Order, and consequently the comparison fails.

Reply to Objection 2: Our Lord gave His disciples the priestly power, as regards the principal act, before His passion at the supper when He said: "Take ye and eat" (Mt 26,26), wherefore He added: "Do this for a commemoration of Me" (Lc 22,19). After the resurrection, however, He gave them the priestly power, as to its secondary act, which is to bind and loose.

Reply to Objection 3: Vestments require no other consecration except to be set aside for the Divine worship, wherefore the blessing suffices for their consecration. But it is different with those who are ordained, as explained above.

Reply to Objection 4: The priestly vestment signifies, not the power given to the priest, but the aptitude required of him for exercising the act of that power. Wherefore a character is imprinted neither on the priest nor on anyone else at the giving of a vestment.

Reply to Objection 5: The deacon's power is midway between the subdeacon's and the priest's. For the priest exercises a power directly on Christ's body, the subdeacon on the vessels only, and the deacon on Christ's body contained in a vessel. Hence it is not for him to touch Christ's body, but to carry the body on the paten, and to dispense the blood with the chalice. Consequently his power, as to the principal act, could not be expressed, either by the giving of the vessel only, or by the giving of the matter; and his power is expressed as to the secondary act alone, by his receiving the book of the Gospels, and this power is understood to contain the other; wherefore the character is impressed at the handing of the book.

Reply to Objection 6: The act of the acolyte whereby he serves with the cruet ranks before his act of carrying the torch; although he takes his name from the secondary act, because it is better known and more proper to him. Hence the acolyte receives the character when he is given the cruet, by virtue of the words uttered by the bishop.



We must now consider those who confer this sacrament. Under this head there are two points of inquiry:

(1) Whether a bishop alone can confer this sacrament?

(2) Whether a heretic or any other person cut off from the Church can confer this sacrament?

Whether a bishop alone confers the sacrament of Order?


Objection 1: It would seem that not only a bishop confers the sacrament of Order. For the imposition of hands has something to do with the consecration. Now not only the bishop but also the assisting priests lay hands on the priests who are being ordained. Therefore not only a bishop confers the sacrament of Order.

Objection 2: Further, a man receives the power of Order, when that which pertains to the act of his Order is handed to him. Now the cruet with water, bowl* and towel, are given to the subdeacon by the archdeacon; as also the candlestick with candle, and the empty cruet to the acolyte. [*"Bacili." The rubric has "aquamanili." Some texts of the Summa have "mantili" ("maniple"), but the archdeacon does not give the maniple to the subdeacon.] Therefore not only the bishop confers the sacrament of Order.

Objection 3: Further, that which belongs to an Order cannot be entrusted to one who has not the Order. Now the conferring of minor Orders is entrusted to certain persons who are not bishops, for instance to Cardinal priests. Therefore the conferring of Orders does not belong to the episcopal Order.

Objection 4: Further, whoever is entrusted with the principal is entrusted with the accessory also. Now the sacrament of Order is directed to the Eucharist, as accessory to principal. Since then a priest consecrates the Eucharist, he can also confer Orders.

Objection 5: Further, there is a greater distinction between a priest and a deacon than between bishop and bishop. But a bishop can consecrate a bishop. Therefore a priest can ordain a deacon.

On the contrary, Ministers are applied by their Orders to the Divine worship in a more noble way than the sacred vessels. But the consecration of the vessels belongs to a bishop only. Much more therefore does the consecration of ministers.

Further, the sacrament of Order ranks higher than the sacrament of Confirmation. Now a bishop alone confirms. Much more therefore does a bishop alone confer the sacrament of Order.

Further, virgins are not placed in a degree of spiritual power by their consecration, as the ordained are. Yet a bishop alone can consecrate a virgin. Therefore much more can he alone ordain.

I answer that, The episcopal power stands in the same relation to the power of the lower Orders, as political science, which seeks the common good, to the lower acts and virtues which seek some special good, as appears from what was said above (Question [37], Article [1]). Now political science, as stated in Ethic. i, 2, lays down the law to lower sciences, namely what science each one ought to cultivate, and how far he should pursue it and in what way. Wherefore it belongs to a bishop to assign others to places in all the Divine services. Hence he alone confirms, because those who are confirmed receive the office, as it were, of confessing the faith; again he alone blesses virgins who are images of the Church, Christ's spouse, the care of which is entrusted chiefly to him; and he it is who consecrates the candidates for ordination to the ministry of Orders, and, by his consecration, appoints the vessels that they are to use; even as secular offices in various cities are allotted by him who holds the highest power, for instance by the king.

Reply to Objection 1: As stated above (Question [37], Article [5]), at the imposition of hands there is given, not the character of the priestly Order, but grace which makes a man fit to exercise his Order. And since those who are raised to the priesthood need most copious grace, the priests together with the bishop lay hands on them, but the bishop alone lays hands on deacons.

Reply to Objection 2: Since the archdeacon is as it were minister-in-chief, all things pertaining to the ministry are handed by him, for instance the candle with which the acolyte serves the deacon by carrying it before him at the Gospel, and the cruet with which he serves the subdeacon; and in like manner he gives the subdeacon the things with which the latter serves the higher Orders. And yet the principal act of the subdeacon does not consist in these things, but in his co-operation as regards the matter of the sacrament; wherefore he receives the character through the chalice being handed to him by the bishop. On the other hand, the acolyte receives the character by virtue of the words of the bishop when the aforesaid things---the cruet rather than the candlestick---are handed to him by the archdeacon. Hence it does not follow that the archdeacon ordains.

Reply to Objection 3: The Pope, who has the fulness of episcopal power, can entrust one who is not a bishop with things pertaining to the episcopal dignity, provided they bear no immediate relation to the true body of Christ. Hence by virtue of his commission a simple priest can confer the minor Orders and confirm; but not one who is not a priest. Nor can a priest confer the higher Orders which bear an immediate relation to Christ's body, over the consecration of which the Pope's power is no greater than that of a simple priest.

Reply to Objection 4: Although the Eucharist is in itself the greatest of the sacraments, it does not place a man in an office as does the sacrament of Order. Hence the comparison fails.

Reply to Objection 5: In order to bestow what one has on another, it is necessary not only to be near him but also to have fulness of power. And since a priest has not fulness of power in the hierarchical offices, as a bishop has, it does not follow that he can raise others to the diaconate, although the latter Order is near to his.

Whether heretics and those who are cut off from the Church can confer Orders? [*Cf. TP, Question [64], Articles [5],9]


Objection 1: It would seem that heretics and those who are cut off from the Church cannot confer Orders. For to confer Orders is a greater thing than to loose or bind anyone. But a heretic cannot loose or bind. Neither therefore can he ordain.

Objection 2: Further, a priest that is separated from the Church can consecrate, because the character whence he derives this power remains in him indelibly. But a bishop receives no character when he is raised to the episcopate. Therefore he does not necessarily retain the episcopal power after his separation from the Church.

Objection 3: Further, in no community can one who is expelled therefrom dispose of the offices of the community. Now Orders are offices of the Church. Therefore one who is outside the Church cannot confer Orders.

Objection 4: Further, the sacraments derive their efficacy from Christ's passion. Now a heretic is not united to Christ's passion; neither by his own faith, since he is an unbeliever, nor by the faith of the Church, since he is severed from the Church. Therefore he cannot confer the sacrament of Orders.

Objection 5: Further, a blessing is necessary in the conferring of Orders. But a heretic cannot bless; in fact his blessing is turned into a curse, as appears from the authorities quoted in the text (Sent. iv, D, 25). Therefore he cannot ordain.

On the contrary, When a bishop who has fallen into heresy is reconciled he is not reconsecrated. Therefore he did not lose the power which he had of conferring Orders.

Further, the power to ordain is greater than the power of Orders. But the power of Orders is not forfeited on account of heresy and the like. Neither therefore is the power to ordain.

Further, as the one who baptizes exercises a merely outward ministry, so does one who ordains, while God works inwardly. But one who is cut off from the Church by no means loses the power to baptize. Neither therefore does he lose the power to ordain.

I answer that, on this question four opinions are mentioned in the text (Sent. iv, D, 25). For some said that heretics, so long as they are tolerated by the Church, retain the power to ordain, but not after they have been cut off from the Church; as neither do those who have been degraded and the like. This is the first opinion. Yet this is impossible, because, happen what may, no power that is given with a consecration can be taken away so long as the thing itself remains, any more than the consecration itself can be annulled, for even an altar or chrism once consecrated remains consecrated for ever. Wherefore, since the episcopal power is conferred by consecration, it must needs endure for ever, however much a man may sin or be cut off from the Church. For this reason others said that those who are cut off from the Church after having episcopal power in the Church, retain the power to ordain and raise others, but that those who are raised by them have not this power. This is the fourth opinion. But this again is impossible, for if those who were ordained in the Church retain the power they received, it is clear that by exercising their power they consecrate validly, and therefore they validly confer whatever power is given with that consecration, and thus those who receive ordination or promotion from them have the same power as they. Wherefore others said that even those who are cut off from the Church can confer Orders and the other sacraments, provided they observe the due form and intention, both as to the first effect, which is the conferring of the sacrament, and as to the ultimate effect which is the conferring of grace. This is the second opinion. But this again is inadmissible, since by the very fact that a person communicates in the sacraments with a heretic who is cut off from the Church, he sins, and thus approaches the sacrament insincerely and cannot obtain grace, except perhaps in Baptism in a case of necessity. Hence others say that they confer the sacraments validly, but do not confer grace with them, not that the sacraments are lacking in efficacy, but on account of the sins of those who receive the sacraments from such persons despite the prohibition of the Church. This is the third and the true opinion.

Reply to Objection 1: The effect of absolution is nothing else but the forgiveness of sins which results from grace, and consequently a heretic cannot absolve, as neither can he confer grace in the sacraments. Moreover in order to give absolution it is necessary to have jurisdiction, which one who is cut off from the Church has not.

Reply to Objection 2: When a man is raised to the episcopate he receives a power which he retains for ever. This, however, cannot be called a character, because a man is not thereby placed in direct relation to God, but to Christ's mystical body. Nevertheless it remains indelibly even as the character, because it is given by consecration.

Reply to Objection 3: Those who are ordained by heretics, although they receive an Order, do not receive the exercise thereof, so as to minister lawfully in their Orders, for the very reason indicated in the Objection.

Reply to Objection 4: They are united to the passion of Christ by the faith of the Church, for although in themselves they are severed from it, they are united to it as regards the form of the Church which they observe.

Reply to Objection 5: This refers to the ultimate effect of the sacraments, as the third opinion maintains.



We must next consider the impediments to this sacrament. Under this head there are six points of inquiry:

(1) Whether the female sex is an impediment to receiving this sacrament?

(2) Whether lack of the use of reason is?

(3) Whether the state of slavery is?

(4) Whether homicide is?

(5) Whether illegitimate birth is?

(6) Whether lack of members is?

Whether the female sex is an impediment to receiving Orders?


Objection 1: It would seem that the female sex is no impediment to receiving Orders. For the office of prophet is greater than the office of priest, since a prophet stands midway between God and priests, just as the priest does between God and people. Now the office of prophet was sometimes granted to women, as may be gathered from
2R 22,14. Therefore the office of priest also may be competent to them.

Objection 2: Further, just as Order pertains to a kind of pre-eminence, so does a position of authority as well as martyrdom and the religious state. Now authority is entrusted to women in the New Testament, as in the case of abbesses, and in the Old Testament, as in the case of Debbora, who judged Israel (Jg 2). Moreover martyrdom and the religious life are also befitting to them. Therefore the Orders of the Church are also competent to them.

Objection 3: Further, the power of orders is founded in the soul. But sex is not in the soul. Therefore difference in sex makes no difference to the reception of Orders.

On the contrary, It is said (1Tm 2,12): "I suffer not a woman to teach (in the Church),* nor to use authority over the man." [*The words in parenthesis are from 1Co 14,34, "Let women keep silence in the churches."]

Further, the crown is required previous to receiving Orders, albeit not for the validity of the sacrament. But the crown or tonsure is not befitting to women according to 1Co 11. Neither therefore is the receiving of Orders.

I answer that, Certain things are required in the recipient of a sacrament as being requisite for the validity of the sacrament, and if such things be lacking, one can receive neither the sacrament nor the reality of the sacrament. Other things, however, are required, not for the validity of the sacrament, but for its lawfulness, as being congruous to the sacrament; and without these one receives the sacrament, but not the reality of the sacrament. Accordingly we must say that the male sex is required for receiving Orders not only in the second, but also in the first way. Wherefore even though a woman were made the object of all that is done in conferring Orders, she would not receive Orders, for since a sacrament is a sign, not only the thing, but the signification of the thing, is required in all sacramental actions; thus it was stated above (Question [32], Article [2]) that in Extreme Unction it is necessary to have a sick man, in order to signify the need of healing. Accordingly, since it is not possible in the female sex to signify eminence of degree, for a woman is in the state of subjection, it follows that she cannot receive the sacrament of Order. Some, however, have asserted that the male sex is necessary for the lawfulness and not for the validity of the sacrament, because even in the Decretals (cap. Mulieres dist. 32; cap. Diaconissam, 27, qu. i) mention is made of deaconesses and priestesses. But deaconess there denotes a woman who shares in some act of a deacon, namely who reads the homilies in the Church; and priestess [presbytera] means a widow, for the word "presbyter" means elder.

Reply to Objection 1: Prophecy is not a sacrament but a gift of God. Wherefore there it is not the signification, but only the thing which is necessary. And since in matters pertaining to the soul woman does not differ from man as to the thing (for sometimes a woman is found to be better than many men as regards the soul), it follows that she can receive the gift of prophecy and the like, but not the sacrament of Orders.

And thereby appears the Reply to the Second and Third Objections. However, as to abbesses, it is said that they have not ordinary authority, but delegated as it were, on account of the danger of men and women living together. But Debbora exercised authority in temporal, not in priestly matters, even as now woman may have temporal power.

Summa - Supplement 744