Dr. Edward Peters 

To work for the proper implementation of canon law is to play an extraordinarily

constructive role in continuing the redemptive mission of Christ. Pope St. John Paul II







1983 Code



1917 Code


 Liber Extra



 Eastern Code


26 September 2017

Sacramental Law (AT 881)



Notices ►


General remarks



This course presents the ecclesiastical law of the sacraments (except Matrimony, treated in AT 746).


  Class meets: Mondays, 6:15 pm to 9:45 pm, Room 114.


  Required text: Canon Law Society of America, Code of Canon Law, Latin-English Edition, New English Translation (Canon Law Society of America, 2012) ISBN: 1-932208-32-1. Note: I understand that copies of this edition are hard to find now. Do the best you can; we will work out something. Bring the Code to every class. In examining sacramental law (not liturgical rubrics or ceremonial technique!) we will draw primarily on Book IV, Part 1, of the 1983 Code. Other resources such as the Catechism of the Catholic Church (esp. Part II) and the Roman Ritual may be consulted to the degree they impact sacramental law but students need not bring either the Ritual or the Catechism to class.


  Class format: Interactive lecture.


  Course grading: 90% of grade is based on mid-term and final exams (consisting of multiple choice, true/false, fill-in-the-blank, and short answer questions) and 10% on class participation. An optional homily or bulletin-insert writing project will be offered, allowing a boost of approximately 10% to one's course grade.


  Optional writing exercise: coming.


  SHMS Bulletin description: This course will be an extensive study of the canons regarding the Sacraments of Initiation, Sacraments of Healing, and Orders. There will be a special emphasis on Book Four of the Code of Canon Law. 3 credits. (Prerequisite: AT 780 or MNS 300 or PM 550).




In addition to the standard canonical commentaries, scholarly works useful for graduate-level study of Catholic sacraments and sacramental law would include:


  Felix Cappello (Roman Jesuit, 1879-1962), Tractatus canonico-moralis de sacramentis iuxta Codicem juris canonici [c. 1920s], in 5 vols., 7th ed., (Marietti, 1962).


  Henry Davis (English Jesuit, 1866-1952), Moral and Pastoral Theology [1935], in 4 vols., 3d ed., (Sheed and Ward, 1938), esp. vol. III & IV.


  P. Fink, ed., The New Dictionary of Sacramental Worship (Liturgical Press, 1990) 1351 pp.


  Nicholas Halligan (American Dominican, 1917-1997), The Administration of the Sacraments (Alba House, 1963) 585 pp. See also id., The Sacraments and their Celebration (Alba, 1986) 284 pp.


  John Huels (American layman, b. 1950), The Pastoral Companion: a Canon Law Handbook for Catholic Ministry, New Series, 4th ed., (Wilson & Lafleur, 2009) 476 pp. See also id., Liturgy and Law: Liturgical Law in the System of Roman Catholic Canon Law (Wilson & Lafleur, 2006) 249 pp.


  Bernard Leeming (English Jesuit,1893-1971), Principles of Sacramental Theology [1956], 2d ed., (Newman, 1963) 720 pp.


  Aimé Georges Martimort, ed., The Church at Prayer: An Introduction to the Liturgy, in 4 vols. rev. ed., (Liturgical Press, 1986-1988) esp. vol. III The Sacraments (1988) 331 pp.


  Coleman O’Neill (Irish Dominican, =), Meeting Christ in the Sacraments (Alba, 1964) 378 pp., revised by R. Cessario (Alba, 1991) 313 pp.


  Bernard Piault, What is a Sacrament? (Hawthorn Books, 1963), 174 pp., Manson’s trans. of Piault’s Qu’est-ce qu’un sacrament? [1963].


  Eduardus Regatillo (Spanish Jesuit, 1882-1975), Ius Sacrametarium, 4th ed., (Sal Terrae, 1964) 998 pp.





Doctrine has priority over law in the order of being but law usually takes priority over doctrine in the order of development.



Relationship between (sacramental) doctrine and law.


St. John Paul II, ap. con. Sacrae disciplinae leges (25 ian 1983) [¶ 18]. The instrument which the Code is fully corresponds to the nature of the Church, especially as it is proposed by the teaching of the Second Vatican Council... Indeed, in a certain sense, this new Code could be understood as a great effort to translate this same doctrine... into canonical language.


Canon 836. Since Christian worship, in which the common priesthood of the Christian faithful is carried out, is a work which proceeds from faith and is based on it, sacred ministers are to take care to arouse and enlighten this faith diligently, especially through the ministry of the word, which gives birth to and nourishes the faith.


Canon 837. § 1. Liturgical actions are not private actions but celebrations of the Church itself which is the sacrament of unity, that is, a holy people gathered and ordered under the bishops. Liturgical actions therefore belong to the whole body of the Church and manifest and affect it; they touch its individual members in different ways, however, according to the diversity of orders, functions, and actual participation. § 2. Inasmuch as liturgical actions by their nature entail a common celebration, they are to be celebrated with the presence and active participation of the Christian faithful where possible.


Canon 839. § 1. The Church carries out the function of sanctifying also by other means, both by prayers in which it asks God to sanctify the Christian faithful in truth, and by works of penance and charity which greatly help to root and strengthen the kingdom of Christ in souls and contribute to the salvation of the world. § 2. Local ordinaries are to take care that the prayers and pious and sacred exercises of the Christian people are fully in keeping with the norms of the Church.



Sacraments as liturgical acts.


CCC 1113. The whole liturgical life of the Church revolves around the Eucharist and the sacraments.


CCC 1117.... The Church has discerned over the centuries that among liturgical celebrations there are seven that are, in the strict sense of the term, sacraments instituted by the Lord.


CCC 1135. The catechesis of the liturgy entails first of all an understanding of the sacramental economy.


Canon 834. § 1. The Church fulfills its sanctifying function in a particular way through the sacred liturgy, which is an exercise of the priestly function of Jesus Christ. In the sacred liturgy the sanctification of humanity is signified through sensible signs and effected in a manner proper to each sign. In the sacred liturgy, the whole public worship of God is carried out by the Head and members of the mystical Body of Jesus Christ. § 2. Such worship takes place when it is carried out in the name of the Church by persons legitimately designated and through acts approved by the authority of the Church.



Sacraments as juridic acts.


Canon 124. § 1. For the validity of a juridic act it is required that the act is placed by a qualified person and includes those things which essentially constitute the act itself as well as the formalities and requirements imposed by law for the validity of the act. § 2. A juridic act placed correctly with respect to its external elements is presumed valid.



Canonical aspects of a sacramental act.


Matter, Form, Minister, Recipient, Intention, Consequences, Rite, and Other.



Hierarchic authority over sacraments.


Matthew 16: 18-19. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. (See also Mt. 18:18.) See 1983 CIC 331, but see 1983 CIC 336.


Council of Trent, Sess. VII (3 mar 1547), On Sacraments in general. CANON 1. If anyone says, that the sacraments of the New Law were not all instituted by Jesus Christ, our Lord; or, that they are more, or less, than seven, to wit, Baptism, Confirmation, the Eucharist, Penance, Extreme Unction, Order, and Matrimony; or even that anyone of these seven is not truly and properly a sacrament; let him be anathema (Schroeder 51-53).


Canon 835. § 1. The bishops in the first place exercise the sanctifying function; they are the high priests, the principal dispensers of the mysteries of God, and the directors, promoters, and guardians of the entire liturgical life in the church entrusted to them. § 2. Presbyters also exercise this function; sharing in the priesthood of Christ and as his ministers under the authority of the bishop, they are consecrated to celebrate divine worship and to sanctify the people. § 3. Deacons have a part in the celebration of divine worship according to the norm of the prescripts of the law. § 4. The other members of the Christian faithful also have their own part in the function of sanctifying by participating actively in their own way in liturgical celebrations, especially the Eucharist. Parents share in a particular way in this function by leading a conjugal life in a Christian spirit and by seeing to the Christian education of their children.


Canon 838. § 1. The direction of the sacred liturgy depends solely on the authority of the Church which resides in the Apostolic See and, according to the norm of law, the diocesan bishop. § 2. It is for the Apostolic See to order the sacred liturgy of the universal Church, publish liturgical books and review their translations in vernacular languages, and exercise vigilance that liturgical regulations are observed faithfully everywhere. § 3. It pertains to the conferences of bishops to prepare and publish, after the prior review of the Holy See, translations of liturgical books in vernacular languages, adapted appropriately within the limits defined in the liturgical books themselves. § 4. Within the limits of his competence, it pertains to the diocesan bishop in the Church entrusted to him to issue liturgical norms which bind everyone. (per Francis, 9 Sep 2017, new text coming.).


Canon 840. The sacraments of the New Testament were instituted by Christ the Lord and entrusted to the Church. As actions of Christ and the Church, they are signs and means which express and strengthen the faith, render worship to God, and effect the sanctification of humanity and thus contribute in the greatest way to establish, strengthen, and manifest ecclesiastical communion. Accordingly, in the celebration of the sacraments the sacred ministers and the other members of the Christian faithful must use the greatest veneration and necessary diligence.


Canon 841. Since the sacraments are the same for the whole Church and belong to the divine deposit, it is only for the supreme authority of the Church to approve or define the requirements for their validity; it is for the same or another competent authority according to the norm of Canon 838 §§ 3 and 4 to decide what pertains to their licit celebration, administration, and reception and to the order to be observed in their celebration.



Conditional conferral.


Canon 845. § 1. Since the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, and orders imprint a character, they cannot be repeated. § 2. If after completing a diligent inquiry a prudent doubt still exists whether the sacraments mentioned in § 1 were actually or validly conferred, they are to be conferred conditionally. (See also Canon 869.)



General rights to sacraments.


Canon 213. The Christian faithful have the right to receive assistance from the sacred pastors out of the spiritual goods of the Church, especially the word of God and the sacraments.


Canon 843. § 1. Sacred ministers cannot deny the sacraments to those who seek them at appropriate times, are properly disposed, and are not prohibited by law from receiving them. § 2. ...


Canon 18. Laws which establish a penalty, restrict the free exercise of rights, or contain an exception from the law are subject to strict interpretation.




83 CIC 849-878

CCC 1213-1284

Canonical aspects of Baptism.


Matthew XXVIII: 19. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Canon 849. Baptism, the gateway to the sacraments and necessary for salvation by actual reception or at least by desire, is validly conferred only by a washing of true water with the proper form of words. Through baptism men and women are freed from sin, are reborn as children of God, and, configured to Christ by an indelible character, are incorporated into the Church.




83 CIC 879-896

CCC 1285-1321

Canonical aspects of Confirmation.


Canon 879. The sacrament of confirmation strengthens the baptized and obliges them more firmly to be witnesses of Christ by word and deed and to spread and defend the faith. It imprints a character, enriches by the gift of the Holy Spirit the baptized continuing on the path of Christian initiation, and binds them more perfectly to the Church.


Background reading:


 • Bl. Paul VI (reg. 1963-1978), ap. con. Divinae consortium naturae (15 aug 1971), Acta Apostolicae Sedis 63 (1971) 657-664, Eng. trans. CLD VII: 604-610, on-line here.




83 CIC 897-958

CCC 1322-1419

Canonical aspects of the Eucharist.


Canon 897. The most August sacrament is the Most Holy Eucharist in which Christ the Lord himself is contained, offered, and received and by which the Church continually lives and grows. The eucharistic sacrifice, the memorial of the death and resurrection of the Lord, in which the sacrifice of the cross is perpetuated through the ages is the summit and source of all worship and Christian life, which signifies and effects the unity of the People of God and brings about the building up of the body of Christ. Indeed, the other sacraments and all the ecclesiastical works of the apostolate are closely connected with the Most Holy Eucharist and ordered to it.


Canon 898. The Christian faithful are to hold the Most Holy Eucharist in highest honor, taking an active part in the celebration of the most august sacrifice, receiving this sacrament most devoutly and frequently, and worshiping it with the highest adoration. In explaining the doctrine about this sacrament, pastors of souls are to teach the faithful diligently about this obligation.


Background reading:

Benedict XVI (reg. 2005-2013), ap. exh. Sacramentum caritatis (22 feb 2007) AAS 99 (2007) 105-180. ▪ Eng. on-line here.

Cong. for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments (Ainze), instr. Redemptionis sacramentum (25 mar 2004), AAS 96 (2004) 549-601. ▪ Eng. on-line here.


 • John Paul II (reg. 1978-2005), enc. Ecclesia de Eucharistia (17 apr 2003), AAS 95 (2003) 433-475. ▪ Eng. on-line here.


Mass stipends.


Required reading:


 • Cong. for the Clergy (Innocenti), decr. Mos iugiter (22 feb 1991), AAS 83 (1991) 443-446. ▪ Eng. on-line here.


Background reading:


 • Bl. Paul VI (reg. 1963-1978), ap. lit. Firma in traditione (13 iun 1974), Acta Apostolicae Sedis 66 (1973) 308-311, Eng. trans. CLD VIII: 530-533, or on-line here.




83 CIC 959-991

CCC 1422-1498

Canonical aspects of Penance.


Canon 959. In the sacrament of penance the faithful who confess their sins to a legitimate minister, are sorry for them, and intend to reform themselves obtain from God through the absolution imparted by the same minister forgiveness for the sins they have committed after baptism and, at the same, time are reconciled with the Church which they have wounded by sinning.


Background reading:

John Paul II (reg. 1978-2005), ap. exh. Reconciliatio et paenitentia (2 dec 1984), AAS 77 (1985) 185-275. ▪ Eng. on-line here.

Robert Fastiggi (American layman, 1953-), The Sacrament of reconciliation: an Anthropological and Scriptural Understanding (Hillenbrand, 2017) 155 pp.




83 CIC 998-1007

CCC 1499-1532

Canonical aspects of Anointing.


James V: 14-15. Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.


SC 73. “Extreme unction", which may also and more fittingly be called "anointing of the sick," is not a sacrament for those only who are at the point of death. Hence, as soon as any one of the faithful begins to be in danger of death from sickness or old age, the fitting time for him to receive this sacrament has certainly already arrived.


LG 11. By the sacred anointing of the sick and the prayer of her priests the whole Church commends the sick to the suffering and glorified Lord, asking that He may lighten their suffering and save them; she exhorts them, moreover, to contribute to the welfare of the whole people of God by associating themselves freely with the passion and death of Christ.


Canon 998. The anointing of the sick, by which the Church commends the faithful who are dangerously ill to the suffering and glorified Lord in order that he relieve and save them, is conferred by anointing them with oil and pronouncing the words prescribed in the liturgical books.


Background reading:


 • Bl. Paul VI (reg. 1963-1978), ap. con. Sacram unctionem infirmorum (30 nov. 1972), Acta Apostolicae Sedis 65 (1973) 5-9, Eng. trans. CLD VII: 682-686, or on-line here.




83 CIC 1008-1054

CCC 1536-1600

Canonical aspects of Order(s).


Canon 1008. By divine institution, some of the Christian faithful are marked with an indelible character and constituted as sacred ministers by the sacrament of holy orders. They are thus consecrated and deputed so that, each according to his own grade, they may serve the People of God by a new and specific title.


Canon 1009. § 1. The orders are the episcopate, the presbyterate, and the diaconate. § 2. They are conferred by the imposition of hands and the consecratory prayer which the liturgical books prescribe for the individual grades. § 3. Those who are constituted in the order of the episcopate or the presbyterate receive the mission and capacity to act in the person of Christ the Head, whereas deacons are empowered to serve the People of God in the ministries of the liturgy, the word and charity.


Required reading:


 • St. John Paul II (reg. 1978-2005), ap. lit. Ordinatio sacerdotalis (22 mai 1994), Acta Apostolicae Sedis 86 (1994) 545-548, Eng. trans. CLD XIII: 533-536, or on-line here.


Background reading:


 • Bl. Paul VI (reg. 1963-1978), ap. con. Pontificalis Romani recogitio (18 iun 1968), Acta Apostolicae Sedis 60 (1968) 369-373, Eng. trans. CLD VII: 700-704.


 • Pius XII (reg. 1939-1958), ap. con. Sacramentum ordinis (30 nov 1947) Acta Apostolicae Sedis 40 5-7, CLD III: 396-399, or on-line here.


Special Topics


Sacramental sharing.


Canon 842. § 1. A person who has not received baptism cannot be admitted validly to the other sacraments. § 2. The sacraments of baptism, confirmation, and the Most Holy Eucharist are interrelated in such a way that they are required for full Christian initiation.


Canon 844. § 1. Catholic ministers administer the sacraments licitly to Catholic members of the Christian faithful alone, who likewise receive them licitly from Catholic ministers alone, without prejudice to the prescripts of § § 2, 3, and 4 of this canon, and Canon 861, § 2. § 2. Whenever necessity requires it or true spiritual advantage suggests it, and provided that danger of error or of indifferentism is avoided, the Christian faithful for whom it is physically or morally impossible to approach a Catholic minister are permitted to receive the sacraments of penance, Eucharist, and anointing of the sick from non-Catholic ministers in whose Churches these sacraments are valid. § 3. Catholic ministers administer the sacraments of penance, Eucharist, and anointing of the sick licitly to members of Eastern Churches which do not have full communion with the Catholic Church if they seek such on their own accord and are properly disposed. This is also valid for members of other Churches which in the judgment of the Apostolic See are in the same condition in regard to the sacraments as these Eastern Churches. § 4. If the danger of death is present or if, in the judgment of the diocesan bishop or conference of bishops, some other grave necessity urges it, Catholic ministers administer these same sacraments licitly also to other Christians not having full communion with the Catholic Church, who cannot approach a minister of their own community and who seek such on their own accord, provided that they manifest Catholic faith in respect to these sacraments and are properly disposed. § 5. For the cases mentioned in § § 2, 3, and 4, the diocesan bishop or conference of bishops is not to issue general norms except after consultation at least with the local competent authority of the interested non-Catholic Church or community.


Liturgical books. Canon 846.


Holy Oils. Canon 847.


Simony and gifts upon celebration. Canons 848, 1380.


CCC 2121. Simony is defined as the buying or selling of spiritual things. To Simon the magician, who wanted to buy the spiritual power he saw at work in the apostles, St. Peter responded: "Your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain God's gift with money!" [Acts VIII: 9-24]. Peter thus held to the words of Jesus: "You received without pay, give without pay." It is impossible to appropriate to oneself spiritual goods and behave toward them as their owner or master, for they have their source in God. One can receive them only from him, without payment.


Simulation. Canons 1378-1379.


Lecture Aids

17 CIC 731. § 1. As all the Sacraments of the New Law, instituted by Christ Our Lord, are the principal means of sanctification and salvation, the greatest diligence and reverence is to be observed in opportunely and correctly administering them and receiving them. § 2. It is forbidden that the Sacraments of the Church be ministered to heretics and schismatics, even if they ask for them and are in good faith, unless before-hand, rejecting their errors, they are reconciled with the Church.


17 CIC 1255. § 1. To the most Holy Trinity and to each of its Persons, [and] to Christ the Lord, even under sacramental species, there is owed the worship of latria; to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the cult of hyperdulia [is owed]; and to the others reigning with Christ in heaven, the cult of dulia [is owed].


17 CIC 1256. [Worship], if it is carried on in the name of the Church by persons legitimately deputed for this and through acts instituted by the Church and given only to God, the Saints, and the Blesseds, is called public; anything less is private.



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