Could an infant be validly ordained with Holy Orders?

Just curious. Obviously, this would probably never happen. The only instance I could think of is if we needed to send frozen embryo’s to another planet because the Earth was about to be destroyed, so we ordained a frozen embryo as a bishop.

But apart from the science fiction scenario, wouldn’t it be valid?

The infant would have to be baptized and confirmed first. The bishop must lay hands upon the head, so that would preclude validly ordaining an embryo.

But yes, someone like a baby COULD be validly Ordained.

Wow, that sounds crazy:confused:
So Im guessing the embryo would be the archbishop of the diocese of the womb?:whacky:

As I mentioned above, there is no possibility of an embryo being ordained, as hands must be laid upon the head of the recpipient. An embryo has no head.

It would be techincally possible to ordain a fetus, but it would still require laying hand up his head; that would be physically problematic while he was still in utero.

A newborn could validly be ordained after it was baptized and confirmed.

It would require some HUGE indults for such an act to be licit, however.

Good point, Brendan–baptism must come first for validity. And, water must touch the body for a valid baptism. Confirmation, though, is not required for validity (see canon 1024).

Also, a man needs to have the necessary freedom (and maturity) needed to make an intention to be ordained. I don’t see how an infant could ever be considered capable of forming an intention to be ordained (see c. 1026).



And the fact that with a frozen embryo, it’d be difficult to tell if it were male or not without DNA sampling. :smiley:

I think it’d be impossible for an infant due to the requirements or ordination, as Dan said.

Interesting question, though.

See, that was the kind of answer I was wanting. If ordination requires a free choice, then ordination of anyone below the age of reason would be precluded.

Obviously, the canon law requires that an individual have a free choice, but canons are canons, and not dogma.

As for embryos, depending on the state of development, there is a superior segment. Furthermore, even with a zygote, the single cell will eventually develop into a head.

In the science fiction scenario, I’m guessing that the child would be conceived naturally and then removed. I think that economy could be applied if this were the only way to ensure that Holy Orders was continued.

Bishops are not just randomly ordained. From what I have seen, they are ‘groomed’ or at least chosen. In today’s world men choose to become priests and go from there.

Besides, the Church is not very fond in-vitro fertilization.

If we had to start a colony on another planet, I am sure Father Roderick would be the 1st priest in line to get on the spaceship.

Well, a superior segment is not necessarily a head. It would HAVE to be a head for there to be no doubt over the validity of the ordination.

As far as forming intent. I don’t believe that is necessary

Can. 1024 A baptized male alone receives sacred ordination validly.

Can. 1025 §1. To confer the presbyteral or diaconal orders licitly, it is required that the candidate, having completed the period of probation according to the norm of law, is endowed in the judgment of his own bishop or of the competent major superior with the necessary qualities, is prevented by no irregularity and no impediment, and has fulfilled the prerequisites according to the norm of ⇒ cann. 1033-1039. Moreover, the documents mentioned in ⇒ can. 1050 are to be obtained and the investigation mentioned in ⇒ can. 1051 is to be completed.

Look at the relevant canons. For validity, the person must be male and baptized.

The remainder are matters of licity.

This is very similar to what is listed for Confirmation

Can. 889 §1. Every baptized person not yet confirmed and only such a person is capable of receiving confirmation.

§2. To receive confirmation licitly outside the danger of death requires that a person who has the use of reason be suitably instructed, properly disposed, and able to renew the baptismal promises.

Can. 890 The faithful are obliged to receive this sacrament at the proper time. Parents and pastors of souls, especially pastors of parishes, are to take care that the faithful are properly instructed to receive the sacrament and come to it at the appropriate time.

The a person must be baptized. It laters stated requirements such as insuring that the person is properly instructed etc…

But those are clearly not requirements for validity, or else the Church would reject the confirmations of Eastern Catholics, which are done in infantcy.

This is the “wierdest” thread I’ve seen on CAF. Sounds like my kids when they were 10 years old.


Can. 1031 §1. The presbyterate is not to be conferred except on those who have completed the twenty-fifth year of age and possess sufficient maturity; an interval of at least six months is to be observed between the diaconate and the presbyterate. Those destined to the presbyterate are to be admitted to the order of deacon only after completing the twenty-third year of age.

§4. **A dispensation of more than a year from the age required according to the norm of §§1 and 2 is reserved to the Apostolic See.


Can. 1032 §1. Those aspiring to the presbyterate can be promoted to the diaconate only after they have completed the fifth year of the curriculum of philosophical and theological studies.

§2. After a deacon has completed the curriculum of studies and before he is promoted to the presbyterate, **he is to take part in pastoral care, exercising the diaconal order, for a suitable time defined by the bishop or competent major superior

Those are discipinary Canons, which are items of licity. We are talking about validity.

Note the practices of First Communuion, the licit ages have varied within the Latin Rite, from upper teens to now the common age 7.

We even have Canon’s that state that the recpient must be of the age of Reason, but the Eastern Church (which have their own Code of Canon Law) Communicate infants.

All that you posted could be dispensed by the Holy See.

Hi Brendan,

Some experts would agree with you that an infant (someone who does not have, and never has had, the use of reason) could be validly ordained, while it would certainly be as illicit as illicit can be.

On the other hand, it is thought that a man who has had the use of reason and then “lost it” can not be validly ordained unless he had, while sane, at least made an intention to be ordained and did not retract that intention.

Not many people have this set of books but the “Exegetical Commentary on the Code of Canon Law” includes commentary (on canon 1024) that agrees with the two points made above. Therefore, this commentary (and other commentaries) agree with you, I think.

I’ll need to think this over a little more before I can understand it. The conclusion seems to be: a man capable of forming an intention must have made such an intention at some point and not withdrawn it in order to be validly ordained. But, a man (even an infant) who has never been capable of forming an intention can be validly ordained without ever having made any intention to receive ordination…

Perhaps I am confused.


Again, those are not all that different form the Canons on First Holy Communion or Confirmation.

An infant may recieve both, but one cannot Confirm an adult while they are unconscience or insane, unless they had specifically requested to be confirmed while conscience or sane.

But even then, those might only be disciplinary Canons. Each of the three sacraments of under discussion make an indelible mark on the soul. The Confirmation of an insane person might well make this mark, but be lacking in other aspects of the Sacrament. That still would be, by definition, a valid Sacrament.

Obviously this would violate canon law, However, the Church can always add to canon law. When it comes to such an instance when the earth was going to be destroyed, canon law could be modified.
The opening post asks both about infants and embryos. Infants should be baptized, and even embros should be in the case of a misscarriage. So the requirement that only baptized people can be ordained is not relevant.
However, I agree. I can’t imagine a likely case when this would be appropiate, and I find this merely an entertaining question.

Actually when you think about it—Christ was a priest from the moment that Our Lady said Her “Fiat”–her yes at the Annunciation!
"—Nor did Christ give Himself the glory of becoming high priest,but He had it from the one who said to Him "You are my Son,today I have become your father’,and in another text:“You are a priest of the order of Melchisedech.and for ever”(Hebrews 5:1-5)

On coming into the world Christ our High Priest commenced His self-immolation by the offering of His body through a loving obedience."Then I said,God,here I am,I am coming to obey your Will.“The Word became flesh”–an embryonic Priest and Victim–true God,true man. The Infant Jesus was a Priest forever.

So Jesus was the first Priest and Victim–others share His Priesthood–through Him ,With Him and In Him–since it is through The Catholic Church that has been given the power to ordain men with Holy Orders;The Church through it’s Cannon Law gives out all the directives of what is required as to the age and suitablility.Let infants give up milk before they can eat meat----Jesus said " my meat is to do the Will of my Father’

So as the “song” goes —thead starter-----leave the kids alone–just another brick in the wall!!":eek:

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