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


11 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.

  • 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., A. 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.





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.



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.



Canonical aspects of a sacramental act.



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.)


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 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.


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.



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 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.


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.


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.



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