Intention of the Minister in the Sacrament


#1

Hello all, yes, this is my first post. I am a teacher and graduate of theological studies and philosophy. As always, there is something I don’t know, lol and need to ask others. My question lies with the validity of the sacrament based on the minister.

If one makes a valid confession, but the intention of the priest is not in line with the purpose of the sacrament, would it be invalid? Would the recipient (confession) not receive absolution, or would it simply be that they receive no sacramental grace?

For example, a person goes to confession, has the full intention required for the sacrament and confesses all sins without reservation and receives the “words of absolution”, then does their penance. But what if the priest does not willfully intend the absolution, either maliciously or because it is just a mere habit. Is there a valid sacrament?

I was always under the impression that if the minister corresponds to the rite of confession, the penitent is absolved. So that, as long as the penitent has heard the words “I absolve you…” that the penitent knows they have been absolved. I reasoned that if the minster said the rite, and did not deny the recipient absolution that by merit of corresponding to the rite, the penitent will receive the absolution and grace.

Recently, I read the book The Sacramental Mystery by Paul Haffner and it seems that I am incorrect, that the intention of the minister must be true as well. In fact, the minister plays a larger role than I originally thought. I realized this for the Eucharist, that the minister must intend which hosts to include in consecration etc. Don’t know why I didn’t think about this for confession

Can anyone help me on this one? Thanks in advance for any help.


#2

=Coolhandlukeboy;11231838]Hello all, yes, this is my first post. I am a teacher and graduate of theological studies and philosophy. As always, there is something I don’t know, lol and need to ask others. My question lies with the validity of the sacrament based on the minister.

If one makes a valid confession, but the intention of the priest is not in line with the purpose of the sacrament, would it be invalid? Would the recipient (confession) not receive absolution, or would it simply be that they receive no sacramental grace?

For example, a person goes to confession, has the full intention required for the sacrament and confesses all sins without reservation and receives the “words of absolution”, then does their penance. But what if the priest does not willfully intend the absolution, either maliciously or because it is just a mere habit. Is there a valid sacrament?

I was always under the impression that if the minister corresponds to the rite of confession, the penitent is absolved. So that, as long as the penitent has heard the words “I absolve you…” that the penitent knows they have been absolved. I reasoned that if the minster said the rite, and did not deny the recipient absolution that by merit of corresponding to the rite, the penitent will receive the absolution and grace.

Recently, I read the book The Sacramental Mystery by Paul Haffner and it seems that I am incorrect, that the intention of the minister must be true as well. In fact, the minister plays a larger role than I originally thought. I realized this for the Eucharist, that the minister must intend which hosts to include in consecration etc. Don’t know why I didn’t think about this for confession

Can anyone help me on this one? Thanks in advance for any help.

The SACRAMENT [Form] is VALID; although [likely IMO] not licit.

The Absolution is VALID: John 20:19-23 is precise and clear.:thumbsup:

God Bless you,
patrick


#3

It’s my understanding the sacrament would still be valid. It would be similar to a priest, not being in a state of grace during communion, if it would undo the good of the sacrament. I don’t think so. I don’t think if the penitent did every thing right in accordance with the sacrament that God would undo it because of a problem with the priest.


#4

You’re correct that the minister must have the correct intention but from what you describe, this does not invalidate the absolution. The priest does not have to willfully intend to absolve; he needs only to intend to do what the Church does, whatever that is. So even with mere habit, the virtual intention to do what the Church does suffices. The minister is not required to intend what the Church intends.


#5

Thank you all for your answers.

This was my assumption as well, that because the minister follows the rite, it suffices that he does as the Church wills simply by performing the rite.


#6

The minister’s intent is required for all the sacraments. If a minister didn’t have the correct intent the sacrament is invalid. That’s the easy part. The difficult part is how do you know that the minister has the right intent? Personally, I don’t think it’s something to be too concerned about. We can’t worry every time Mass is celebrated, every time we go to confession, etc. whether the minister has the proper intent. We should trust that he does.


#7

I’ll make a general comment and not direct it to the OP or any of the replies specifically, but this comment does address all of the comments and the OP which says that the intent of the minister to “do as the Church does” is not required for validity. This is false. It is required for the minister to have the proper intent, it is not required that he be in a state of Grace. Two separate and individual aspects of the state and condition of the minister; intent without grace = valid. No intent without grace = not valid. If the minister performs a sacrament in the state of grace but intentionally does not intend to confer the sacrament, he commits a serious infraction.

This is from the Council of Trent, Session 7; “Canons on the Sacraments In General”

Canon 11. If anyone says that in ministers, when they effect and confer the sacraments, there is not required at least the intention of doing what the Church does,[6] let him be anathema.

biblelight.net/intention.htm

The validity, not only lucidity, is affected by the intent or lack there of, of the minister who is conferring the sacrament. If a minister of baptism performs a baptism will all proper form and matter by does not intent to baptize as the Church intends, the person being baptized is NOT baptized and grace if not conferred on that person. Same is true for all of the sacraments.

If a priest goes through all the motions of Mass, with the proper matter in the bread and wine but intends to “simulate” and not consecrate, then there is no consecration.

Now keep in mind the severe canonical punishment, automatic excommunication, for “simulating a sacrament”. The priest who “plays Mass” is excommunicated.

I’m sure some will argue and disagree, but none of the Church documents of doctrine will say different; at least none that I have studied.


#8

Interesting. That is indeed my own reading of Paul Haffner (recommended by many friends and theologians) which incited this whole post. It seems clear through the Council of Trent that the intention of the minister is critical to the whole sacrament. This was always clear to me in the Eucharist (having been in the seminary myself for seven years), as I was always taught that the minister MUST intend the consecration, and specifically what is to be consecrated.

Confession was my real question, but I see now that the two are nearly identical in the situation of intention. That if the priest intends the consecration it happens; if he does not, it does not happen. Similarly, it would be true for confession: that if the priest intends the forgiveness of sins, it happens; if he does not, it does not happen.

Truly St. Paul is correct to say we hold this treasure in earthen vessels. Our salvation literally depends on our fellow humans, the Church, in order to bring others to Christ.

Thank you for putting this at ease for me. It corresponds to what I have been discussing with a fellow theologian and the teachings of the Church. It just seems hard to accept, when in high-school it never was explicitly drawn out that way.

And by the way, I’m a high-school teacher. I have no problem being “called out” or corrected by anyone who holds the teaching of the Church. It is necessary for the truth of the faith to be understood and taught correctly to myself and others. Theology is not my strongest suit, I am a philosopher, but I want to know more about theology. Thank you for responding.


#9

Ironically, I read this post too. Just seemed so anti-Catholic that I didn’t take it as a source document, for knowing the truth.


#10

I agree with your perception of the site. However, it places many sources concerning this particular point together. If you search the Council of Trent independently you will find all of the same information along with EWTN’s site and other sources mentioned. I was suspect of the site as a whole myself, but not the individual bits of information contained on it.

What do you teach?


#11

I teach Moral Theology, Social Justice (reclaiming the Catholic terminology!), Sacraments (creating the course right now).

I teach Metaphysics to college students and some adults and also RCIA.

Are you a teacher as well?


#12

You are quite correct: whether or not the minister is in a state of grace does not affect the sacrament. Indeed, it is widely accepted that if sacraments depended on the state of the minister’s soul we would all be in serious jeopardy of not receiving any sacrament with considerable regularity. That the ministers of sacraments are mortal and fall into sin is accepted. The question, however, is whether the minister’s intent has any bearing on the validity of a sacrament. This intent is required for validity so it is wrong to make your statement, “This is false”. The minister’s intent must be ‘do as the Church does’, which might be better phrased to do what the Church intends. The minister must have the correct intent and his intent must be to intend what the Church intends.


#13

No, I am a deacon assigned to a parish in South Louisiana and a manger of an electric utility local office by trade. That’s the job that pays the bills for me…:smiley:

I do teach the current formation ground of deacon candidates. I teach an ongoing course of the spirituality of the deacon. It’s my job to challenge them and foster a constant connection to God in prayer and action. In other words, it’s my job to drive them nuts, in a somewhat Socratic methodology so that if they make it to ordained ministry they will be used of staying connected to Mother Church and God in prayer.

I know that sounds quite abstract, but this thought may help. It is imperative that we work and move as one unit, Mother Church. To separate and “go it alone” we do harm. My job is to insure they understand and know how to practice a spiritual unity with the Bishop, Mother Church and last but not least, the Holy Spirit. It’s been fun and challenging for me.


#14

Notice the “quotation marks”, it’s not my words; this is a direct quote of the English translation of canon 11 of session 7 of the Council of Trent. Do you disagree with Trent? It appears you want to disagree for the sake of disagreeing. I’m not interested.

If you want to debate the point, I’m good with that; but I won’t go back and forth with you just for the sake of argument.

I’m trying to understand your point and the only thing I can see is you do not understand my point. The minister’s intent has direct affect in the validity of the sacrament conferred. Do we agree?


#15

I, obviously, thought this as well. It seems hard to accept at first, but I must admit that the documents I have read and are approved by the Church clearly state the necessity of the intention of the minister.

Paul Haffner: “For example, the sacrament of Penance would be invalid if the priest says “I absolve you” but does not distinguish which of the two individuals is to be absolved.” This means, much like consecrating the Eucharist, that the minister must also clearly intend what he is doing, not just intend to do as the Church does.

Just as the priest must not only intend to say the Liturgy of the Eucharist, but also intend which particular hosts to consecrate (all on the corporal, or none on the corporal etc.). Clearly it is not just intention to perform the rite, but intention within the rite.

However, I don’t think I disagree with the fact that the minister must “intend to do as the Church does”. But the Church clearly wills that the minister does very particular things even within the rite, like choose whom to absolve sins and which hosts to consecrate, etc.

God bless, back to teaching classes.


#16

That’s still intending to do what the Church does. He does not have to intend specifically to confect the Eucharist; only whatever it is the Church is doing. Putting the hosts on the corporal, for example, is the traditional way of confining the intention, but he does not have to specifically intend “I intend to consecrate these hosts on the corporal”, although this is ideal. He simply needs, even out of habit, to intend whatever it is the Church does, and that intention is almost always virtually present.

I don’t know what point was of the citation of Trent since I saw no one actually deny that intent to do what the Church does was necessary for validity.


#17

Might I inquire your thoughts about the following passage then?

“The habitual and interpretive intentions are insufficient”

Thus the actual and virtual intentions are sufficient. However, it sounds to me like you are describing virtual intention above, (really a habit of performing a virtual intention).

However, I do not disagree with you. I think this was an error on my part to loop two topics together that are not the same thing. The first being whether the priest fully intended what he was doing, on which point you are correct. The second being whether the priest says the words, but intends something else.

My question really was this: “If one makes a valid confession, but the intention of the priest is not in line with the purpose of the sacrament, would it be invalid?”

At which point, I think the sacrament really is invalid. So if the priest does not intend to absolve the sinner, it seems to me that the sacrament is invalid, even if he said the words “I absolve you…” Also, if the priest only intends to consecrate half the hosts on the corporal, but yet distributes all of them, that the sacrament is not valid for all those who receive it.

Or am I incorrect? I just want to be correct, as others depend on me to understand the truths of the faith, and I need to know as well. Although I cannot deny I love an intellectual conversation!

As a closing note, I was a sacristan before and a priest told me that some of the hosts on the corporal were not consecrated and that I should just return them to the sacristy or bury/dissolve them if I felt the need to do so. Honestly, I consumed them, because I was confused at the time.


#18

I shouldn’t have used the phrase “out of habit” when I meant to say he had a virtual intention. You’re right; habitual intention does not suffice. However, one would be hard-pressed to find a priest who celebrates sacraments merely out of habitual intention, given that he does many things that are sufficient to activate virtual intention (e.g. vesting, walking to the confessional, sitting in the confessional, putting hosts on the corporal).

Yes, I believe this is correct. If the priest intends NOT to absolve, then the sacrament is invalid, even though he says the words (which would be the requirement of form). This is, however, gravely sinful. This, however, is an active intention to NOT do what the Church does, so it affects validity.


#19

I do appreciate your taking the time to respond. I think I have come to understand what the church teaches in regards to this.

I can only imagine how rare this would be, but the fact that it is possible is important to acknowledge, if only to understand the importance of the sacrament and those involved.

I think there is little to fear with the minister, as you said. The virtual intention would seem to be most common and sufficient.


#20

This is not true. If a priest does all the motions and reads everything perfectly for the consecration but he diabolically chooses to be a satan worshiper and not confect the Eucharist, it is not the Eucharist. The Church does intend to confect the Eucharist.

Also remember this point, we are discussing the validity of the sacrament. In the OP it was more towards confession, but all of the sacraments depend on the intent of the minister. In the case of Eucharist the epiclesis through elevation of the species is the “sacrament”. If within that time frame the minister’s intent is not there to confect, then there is no sacrament. If I at a baptism go through all the motions, use all proper matter and say all the proper forms of the prayers, and do not intend to baptize as the Church does, then the child is not baptized. End of story.

This is not an easy thing to accept, I admit because us as the faithful receiving and worshipping wish to believe this cannot happen; but it can.


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