Are all the sacraments as delicate as marriage?

It seems that a huge number of possible impediments can invalidate a Catholic marriage and make it non-sacramental.

Reading some conservative theologians on Confession (I’m thinking of St Leonard of Port Maurice in particular) making a ‘good’ i.e. valid confession is equally difficult, i.e. the majority of confessions are invalidated by some forgotten or concealed mortal sin, some lack of repentance, or continued attachment to one sin or another.

I understand that the Blessed Sacrament is less complicated, because the subject of the sacrament is bread and wine, which are less likely to be improperly disposed than human souls (unless for some reason they are not really bread or wine). All the same, if my confession or my baptism was not valid, then I am receiving in a state of mortal sin, and thus committing mortal sin. If I am married invalidly, then I am committing a sin with the woman I think is my wife, a sin which I am not confessing, thus invalidating the other sins remitted through absolution, and thus receiving in a state of mortal sin, and thus committing mortal sin… and so on.

If Holy Orders are as easily invalidated as a marriage, i.e. a priest has ‘psychological factors’ putting his intentions into question, then that makes all the other sacraments questionable, does it not?

The sacraments are from Heaven, and we can never perform or receive them with the perfection that they represent. Does that mean that in fact we are on incredibly shaky ground putting our faith in anything the Church does? If all the sacraments can be as easily called into question and nullified under close scrutiny as most Catholic marriages can, does that make them all pretty shaky?

If I am Confirmed with some ‘psychological reservations’ and subsequently apostasise, couldn’t I argue that the absence of the fruit of the sacrament showed I hadn’t been validly Confirmed, and have my Confirmation or even my Baptism anulled and start again with a re-Confirmation or re-Baptism?

It seems that a huge number of possible impediments can invalidate a Catholic marriage and make it non-sacramental.

An impediment invalidates a Marriage, it doesn’t make it simply non-sacramental.

Reading some conservative theologians on Confession (I’m thinking of St Leonard of Port Maurice in particular) making a ‘good’ i.e. valid confession is equally difficult, i.e. the majority of confessions are invalidated by some forgotten or concealed mortal sin, some lack of repentance, or continued attachment to one sin or another.

Forgetting a Mortal sin does not invalidate the Sacrament of Confession.

I understand that the Blessed Sacrament is less complicated, because the subject of the sacrament is bread and wine, which are less likely to be improperly disposed than human souls (unless for some reason they are not really bread or wine). All the same, if my confession or my baptism was not valid, then I am receiving in a state of mortal sin, and thus committing mortal sin. If I am married invalidly, then I am committing a sin with the woman I think is my wife, a sin which I am not confessing, thus invalidating the other sins remitted through absolution, and thus receiving in a state of mortal sin, and thus committing mortal sin… and so on.

You are not committing Mortal sin if your unaware that your Baptism or Confession, or Marriage is invalid. You would only commit Mortal sin if you knew they were invalid and intentionally received other Sacraments.

If Holy Orders are as easily invalidated as a marriage, i.e. a priest has ‘psychological factors’ putting his intentions into question, then that makes all the other sacraments questionable, does it not?

The priests intention must be positive. In other words he must intentionally not intend to celebrate a Sacrament for it to be lacking intent on his part.

The sacraments are from Heaven, and we can never perform or receive them with the perfection that they represent. Does that mean that in fact we are on incredibly shaky ground putting our faith in anything the Church does? If all the sacraments can be as easily called into question and nullified under close scrutiny as most Catholic marriages can, does that make them all pretty shaky?

Of course not! Many Marriages are found Null because of intentional lack of intent on the part of the ministers (the couple), because of impediments that were obvious, but intentionally ignored.

If I am Confirmed with some ‘psychological reservations’ and subsequently apostasise, couldn’t I argue that the absence of the fruit of the sacrament showed I hadn’t been validly Confirmed, and have my Confirmation or even my Baptism anulled and start again with a re-Confirmation or re-Baptism?

No, it would mean that your received the Sacrament validly, but possibly un fruitfully, Your ‘psychological reservations’ would have only blocked part or all of the Grace from the Sacrament not the reception of the Sacrament itself.

All other sacraments, except emergency baptism, are administered by ordained clergy. One presumes they are sufficiently well trained to do it properly and have proper intent.

Baptism, even by a non-believer, hard to mess up - pour the water, say the words, have a general intention of doing whatever the Church intends. However note that there was a recent case where a priest messed up Baptisms by using Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier instead of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

However, Marriage is conferred by the parties. It requires their full, knowlegable consent and proper intent. These are not always present, particularly the intent of permanence and to have children, especially in non-Catholic marriages. [Note that non-Catholic marriages where one of the partys is becoming Catholic, account for a large fraction of the requests for a decree of nullity.]

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.