Can a male child receive holy orders? Is there an age requirement that would invalidate an ordination.
From the 1983 Code of Canon Law:
*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.
§2. A candidate for the permanent diaconate who is not married is not to be admitted to the diaconate until after completing at least the twenty-fifth year of age; one who is married, not until after completing at least the thirty-fifth year of age and with the consent of his wife.
§3. The conference of bishops is free to establish norms which require an older age for the presbyterate and the permanent diaconate.
§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.*
So the answer is no, a child or adolescent could not be ordained. A man must be at least 23 to be ordained deacon, and 25 to be ordained priest, with dispensations of up to a year’s reduction in these limits possible at the discretion of the ordinary, or at the discretion of the Holy See for anything greater.
Thus the clear indication is that men must be fully adult to receive holy orders, and dispensations by the Holy See of e.g. 14 year-olds simply do not happen. Whether the reasons are purely disciplinary or inherently ontological is not specified within the code.
Let me ask it this way. What is the youngest known ordained man ever. Canon Law can be modified. St. Therese was allowed to enter the convent at an unusually young age, 15. It’s just a curious question.
I think Pfaffenhoffen and Ocarm are wrong in saying that ordination of a child is invalid.
Can. 1024 A baptized male alone receives sacred ordination validly.
For validity, that is all that is necessary, except that the ordinand must not have an intention against ordination.
What the previous posters have quoted refers to liceity (legality), not validity. Ordination of a baptised male 14 year old who did not have an intention against it, would be valid.
Coptic churches (certainly Coptic Orthodox; maybe even Coptic Catholic) once (maybe still do) ordained all baby boys to the diaconate. This is not our custom – maybe it’s not a good custom, I don’t really know – but it is valid.
Benedict XIV, writing in reference to the custom among the Copts of ordaining baptized infants to all orders up to and including the diaconate, stated that the weight of canonical and theological opinion holds such an ordination to be valid but illicit, provided of course there is no substantial defect in matter, form, and intention by the ordaining bishop. See the discussion on this issue in Felix Cappello, Tractatus Canonico-Moralisde Sacramentis,Volume IV De Sacra Ordina- tione (Rome: Domus Editorialis Marietti, 1947) 248, #357 (entitled Utrum infantes, amentes,fatui, dormientes, ebrii, per iocum, metu coacti valide ordinentur et clericalibus obligationibus teneantur)
THE SACRAMENT OF ORDERS: IRREGULARITIES AND IMPEDIMENTS – AN OVERVIEW ROBERT J. KASLYN, S.J. in The Jurist 62 (2002) p.165
If we believe Benedict XIV, the youngest would have presumably been hours or days old. Maybe even minutes?
I didn’t say it was invalid - in fact I commented that the canons quoted didn’t address that. But since that was the question as initially asked, it would have been better if I’d addressed that more directly, wouldn’t it. Mea culpa. It was early morning here. :o
When I was young, most males entered Seminary at the age of 13 (I was 14 myself when I entered). They went through Minor Seminary (High School), and then Major Seminary (B.A level College), and then studied Theology and were Ordained at about 23-25. Religious Orders had you take no vows till after you reached 18 at a minimum (and more commonly 21). (Jesuits were ordained somewhat later on average, and took their vows somewhat later too.)
In most cases, minor seminaries have been eliminated. Most seminaries (and most Dioceses) now want a man to already have a Bachelor’s degree BEFORE entering Seminary. Some religious communities will enroll men after High School, but they take no vows until after they reach the age of 21-23.
Frankly, I think this is much better. The Church in effect had too many men that came in so young that they knew no other life. They had no way of knowing if they had a true vocation or not, they were in effect “brain washed”. That was the only life that they really knew.
And, when Vatican II came along, thousands upon thousands of those people left the Priesthood.
I was the exception, in that I left after only 18 months. I could not, and would not, accept the fact that my community took vows of poverty, but lived very far from a life of poverty. I grew up in poverty, and I knew that poor people did not eat meat three meals every day, did not wear expensive watches, did not drive Buick’s, etc. it was pointed out that these did not belong to the individuals, and many of the items were donated, and my response was that these things should be sold, and the money used to help the poor.
Needless to say, my opinion was NOT a popular one. It was decided, with my agreement, that I did not have a vocation with that community.
Since this is a technical question, not a pratical one, I think we have one or two more questions to answer: Obviously, it’s needed to be licit, but is the consent of the man needed for him to be ordained? Or could boys below the age of reason be ordained?
THE SACRAMENT OF ORDERS: IRREGULARITIES AND IMPEDIMENTS – AN OVERVIEW; ROBERT J. KASLYN, S.J. in The Jurist 62 (2002) p.165
Benedict XIV, writing in reference to the custom among the Copts of ordaining baptized infants to all orders up to and including the diaconate, stated that the weight of canonical and theological opinion holds such an ordination to be valid but illicit, provided of course there is no substantial defect in matter, form, and intention by the ordaining bishop. See the discussion on this issue in Felix Cappello, Tractatus Canonico-Moralisde Sacramentis,Volume IV De Sacra Ordinatione (Rome: Domus Editorialis Marietti, 1947) 248, #357 (entitled Utrum infantes, amentes,fatui, dormientes, ebrii, per iocum, metu coacti valide ordinentur et clericalibus obligationibus teneantur)
Ergo, boys below the age of reason can be validly ordained.
I suspect, however, that above the age of reason a countervailing intention that he choose not to be ordained, would prevent the conferral of the sacrament.
Saint Therese was not in Holy Orders. There are three Holy Orders: Deacon, Priest, Bishop. I believe you’re referring to Religious Orders. There is a major difference and it is a common mistake.
As an answer to your question, I don’t think the world knows. Saint Therese is one of the youngest to enter the Religious life, we know. As for Priests, I don’t think anyone knows.
I don’t think the poster was claiming that she was: I think they were simply using her as an example of how canonical provisions can be dispensed. But I may be wrong.
Actually, no. At the Council of Trent it was established that religious profession could not take place until the individual reached their 16th year, meaning that a 2 year novitiate (which was and is very common) could start at the age of 14; and there is evidence that accepting adolescents younger even than that was relatively common in the early medieval era. See the Catholic Encyclopedia:
Incidentally, although much is often made of Therese’s early entry into the Lisieux Carmel (so as to emphasise the intensity of her vocation and desire to be a nun) it is somewhat questionable as to whether it was a particularly unusual event. The fact that local authority was able to make this decision shows that it was not deemed to be a matter of great significance that required higher permissions.
The 1917 Code of Canon Law states that entry to religious novitiate can take place when the candidate has reached at least their 15th year (see canon 555), meaning that less than a century ago entry at 15 was entirely permissible and normative (albeit perhaps not very common). It’s worth pointing out that if one could enter novitiate at 15, it is inevitable that aspirancy and postulancy would begin earlier, and perhaps at 14. Thus the 1917 Code didn’t significantly change the canons of Trent, although the 1983 Code of Canon Law did change the minimum age for entry to novitiate to 17 (see canon 643).
As a fellow Carmelite, my love and admiration for Therese is immense, but I think this is one aspect of her story that is overstated. She entered the Lisieux Carmel very young, but not uniquely so.
Best wishes, and apologies if this is an unwanted digression.
I would lover to go to a Minor Seminary too bad the only one is ran by the Legionairres of Christ and my Parish Priest said “There is no way I’m letting you leave for them.” So alas, I must wait a couple more years.
~ Pius :knight1:
ting earlier but the system was under construction. I said that guess I had too much time on my hands and thought of this question. It was very interesting when I thought about it. However, I had a sneaky suspicion that it was possible, but illicit. Now we know.
Really? I had no idea. I suppose that after watching the movie Therese where everyone made a huge deal out of her age (Stating over and over again her admittance at the “unusual age of fifteen”) that I got the idea that this wasn’t normal. Saint Padre Pio was fifteen, I know, but I just figured it was just because it was a different era.
The terms for seminaries has changed somewhat.
Today they are as follows.
High School Seminary (this is what it sounds like, a seminary setting for men in high school, there are very few of these if there are any at all)
Minor Seminary (this is a college level seminary, the men work on fill the requirements for entry into the Major Seminary)
Major Seminary (this is where the men work on their M.Div. or equivalent degree)