Sacramental validity and jurisdiction question



The Church’s teaching on the necessity for a sacrament to be validly effected is as follows:

  • Must have valid form (words)
  • Must have valid matter
  • Must have a valid person particular to the sacrament (example, validly ordained priest for Holy Eucharist, Confession, etc.)
  • The person performing the Sacramental Rite must have the intent of doing what the Church does

My question is, what is the background or explanation as to why the Church teaches that the Eucharistic consecrations of schismatics are valid while proper jurisdiction is required for valid absolution of sins to take place?

In other words, if we understand the Sacraments as being directly tied to Our Lord, and that someone cutting himself off from unity to the Sovereign Pontiff also does the same ipso facto with Our Lord, then why would Christ effectively condescend to make Himself present to schismatics in the Blessed Sacrament but not also allow them to retain the authority to forgive or retain sins?

What further comes to mind is Mark 9:38-39:
John answered him, saying: Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, who followeth not us, and we forbade him.
But Jesus said: Do not forbid him. For there is no man that doth a miracle in my name, and can soon speak ill of me.

This obviously has to do with exorcisms, but imagine a scenario where a lay person comes to a priest and genuinely desires to seek forgiveness for his sins.
The priest happens to be schismatic, let us use Eastern Orthodox for example. The priest therefore has no “jurisdiction.”

If the person seeking forgiveness truly wishes to be forgiven and is by his own account, conscience and mind doing it by the appropriate channels (versus just getting up and saying “well, God loves me and forgives me!”), and the priest of the Eastern Orthodox has the sincere intent to do what the Church does…how do we mesh that with Mark 8:38-39 and the fact that all the criteria for a valid sacrament are being met?

Also, am I correct in my understanding that the Eastern Orthodox absolutions would therefore be invalid since they are schismatic and have no jurisdiction? And that therefore anyone who commits a mortal sin at any point in his life is therefore not absolved and committing weekly if not daily sacrilege by receiving the Eucharist?

Appreciate your considerations


The ministry of forgiveness was given to the Church generally, not the apostles individually/specifically. Therefore they exercise the ministry on the Church’s behalf, therefore the Church must deputize them to act in this way on their behalf, therefore faculties to absolve sins are required for a valid confession.


First, our Orthodox brethren are not schismatic…their official status is separated from full communion with See of Peter…so their is no question of validity or illicitly in their sacraments…only what the Orthodox Churches in their particular Canon Laws state regarding who may receive their sacraments…same for the Catholic Latin Church’s Canon Law statutes.

Second…the sacrament of penance by its organic power requires a judgment to be made and the giving judicial penalties…to the penitent or to the subject of the Church. The other sacraments…including the Eucharist…do not require any type of judgment to be made…they do not need a jurisdiction approval for the priest…and are valid and licit as long as he possesses valid Orders…correct Form and Matter…and his intent is the same as that of the Church.

The only exception for this jurisdiction requirement to minister the sacrament of penance would be in the case of a near/imminent death emergency type situation.

Pax Christi

The ministry of the sacrament of penance requires both the power of the priesthood and the power of jurisdiction.

**Ecclesiastical jurisdiction is the public power to rule, to judge, to coerce the baptized with a view to their sanctification and supernatural happiness, which is the end purpose of the Church.**

** It is certain by divine institution, besides [Holy] Orders, the priest must possess jurisdiction.** ** 26**. A judgment can be made only on one who is subject to the authority of the judge; absolution is a judiciary sentence, and thus the subjects or penitents must be assigned to the priest, even for the valid remission of venial sins. Jurisdiction is received bu the commission (missio) of a competent superior, which commission to certain subjects may be increased or decreased, suspended or limited as to persons, places, times, cases, sins. Since the other sacraments are not conferred in the manner of a judgment and do not have judicial acts, jurisdiction of it self is not required for them, except for their lawful administration (licentia). Thus a priest may never validly impart absolution unless he possesses penitential jurisdiction in the Church from a valid title [a recognized Local Catholic Church and its legally installed Bishop].
[INDENT]26: Trent. Denz.-Schon. 1686 Summa Theol , Suppl q. 8. a. 4.

***The Sacraments and Their Celebration***n–pgs. 88-89
[Father] Nicholas Halligan , O.P.
Doctor of Sacred Theology



Thank you for the reply.
Can you please clarify this comment?

Was not the separation of the Eastern Church from Rome called “The Great Schism?”
How is one who is part of a schism not schismatic?

“The Eastern Schism always means that most deplorable quarrel of which the final result is the separation of the vast majority of Eastern Christians from union with the Catholic Church, the schism that produced the separated, so-called ‘Orthodox’ Church.”

Furthermore, what could it mean to be “separated from full communion?” How can there be differing degrees in the level of communion?
One either accepts the Pontiff as the Vicar of Christ and the Successor of Peter and the primacy of his role, or he does not.
He, by his words and/or actions, is therefore either in communion with the Pontiff or is not.

It makes one recall the words of our Lord Jesus Christ:
“He that is not with me, is against me: and he that gathereth not with me, scattereth.”

Pax et Bonum


The answer is because absolution is “a juridic act of the Church.”

Consecrating the Eucharist is not a “juridic act” and therefore different criteria apply.

Absolution (strictly speaking) is the juridic act whereby the penitent is reconciled to the Church. Forgiveness is the remission of the sin by God Himself. Reconciliation is being both forgiven and absolved. Of course, when we are absolved, we receive the fullness of the Sacrament, meaning that we are fully reconciled to both God and the Church–so in this paragraph, I’m using absolution in the strictest sense.

The 2 biblical sources for the Sacrament are the post-resurrection appearance of Christ “Peace be with you…whose sins you forgive are forgiven”–that’s forgiveness. The other source is “thou art Peter…upon this Rock…whatever you bind on earth…”–that’s absolution (the juridic act of binding and loosing).

The reason why the priest can absolve is because Christ gave to Peter the authority to bind and to loose–ie the juridic authority. In order for a priest to absolve, he must be able to represent the Church in an official capacity (again, juridically). This is where the faculties to hear confessions becomes relevant. In order to carry-out a juridic act of the Church, he must have the legal authority to do so.

In the case of danger-of-death, the Church grants special faculties through the law itself (I can quote the canons if need be) to a suspended (excommunicated, etc.) priest.

Let me know if you need more clarification (I’m a bit distracted at the moment so I don’t have time to edit properly).


Good questions.

The answers are rather lengthy.

I would seriously recommend reading Bl (soon to be Saint!) John Paul II’s letter
Ut Unum Sint


On commitment to Ecumenism
25 MAY 1995

  1. …The resulting change found its historical expression in the ecclesial act whereby “there was removed from memory and from the midst of the Church” 84 the remembrance of the excommunications which nine hundred years before, in 1054, had become the symbol of the schism between Rome and Constantinople. That ecclesial event, so filled with ecumenical commitment, took place during the last days of the Council, on 7 December 1965. The Council thus ended with a solemn act which was at once a healing of historical memories, a mutual forgiveness, and a firm commitment to strive for communion.
  1. From the reaffirmation of an already existing communion of faith, the Second Vatican Council drew pastoral consequences which are useful for the everyday life of the faithful and for the promotion of the spirit of unity. By reason of the very close sacramental bonds between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches, the Decree on Eastern Catholic Churches Orientalium Ecclesiarum has stated: "Pastoral experience clearly shows that with respect to our Eastern brethren there should and can be taken into consideration various circumstances affecting individuals, wherein the unity of the Church is not jeopardized nor are intolerable risks involved, but in which salvation itself and the spiritual profit of souls are urgently at issue. Hence, in view of special circumstances of time, place and personage, the Catholic Church has often adopted and now adopts a milder policy, offering to all the means of salvation and an example of charity among Christians through participation in the Sacraments and in other sacred functions and objects".94

59…I was able to declare in union with my Venerable Brother, His Holiness Dimitrios I, the Ecumenical Patriarch, it has concluded** “that the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church can already profess together that common faith in the mystery of the Church and the bond between faith and sacraments”.97 **

…Moreover, these joint affirmations represent the** basis for Catholics and Orthodox to be able from now on to bear a faithful and united common witness in our time,** that the name of the Lord may be proclaimed and glorified.

The New Advent CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA you quote from is a 1917 reference…its a great resource…but current Ecumenical Initiatives and Imperatives were the fruit of Vatican II…1965.

You may still want to use the term “schism” or “not in full communion”…when referring to our Orthodox Churches brethren…but that is clearly not the mind and heart of the (Roman) Latin Church…of its Pontiffs or the Ecumenical Curia Dicastery …even “separated” is really getting very outdated/outmoded…it doesn’t convey that we are in communion with them…not full communion…but certainly not the 1054 Great Schism reality…thanks be to God!

I am simply trying to be not only an orthodox(right thinking in truth) Catholic…but also an orthopraxis (right acting/doing) Catholic and an** orthopathy** (right feeling/right heart) Catholic–all to be in greater communion with the Church, the Pope and the Magisterium…(referring to Charles Cardinal Chaput’s exhortation in his book: ***Living the Catholic Faith ***.[pgs 86-88].

For your consideration…hope this will clarify my previous post.

Pax Christi


Thank you, Father.

Yes that makes sense especially the part about being reconciled to the Church.

Pax Christi sit semper tecum


Pax et Bonum, Lancer.
Thanks for your reply.

I hope you won’t mind some follow up?
And please understand up front I am not trying to be unnecessarily polemical or a pain.
And I hope I won’t be accused of “agenda pushing” using a few more references from, or for quoting saints, popes and Bible verses.
I’m just a young Catholic who wants to learn his faith better so that he can defend it better…

Definition of schism:
"Schism (from the Greek schisma, rent, division) is, in the language of theology and canon law, the rupture of ecclesiastical union and unity, i.e. either the act by which one of the faithful severs as far as in him lies the ties which bind him to the social organization of the Church and make him a member of the mystical body of Christ. (

Summa Theologica, St. Thomas Aquinas, Second Part of the Second Part, Question 39, Article 1
“The sin of schism is one that is directly and essentially opposed to unity…Accordingly schismatics properly so called are those who, wilfully and intentionally separate themselves from the unity of the Church…according to Colossians 2:18-19: “Puffed up by the sense of his flesh, and not holding the Head, from which the whole body, by joints and bands, being supplied with nourishment and compacted, groweth unto the increase of God.” Now this Head is Christ Himself, Whose viceregent in the Church is the Sovereign Pontiff. Wherefore schismatics are those who refuse to submit to the Sovereign Pontiff, and to hold communion with those members of the Church who acknowledge his supremacy.”

To my knowledge, and correct me if I am wrong, the Eastern Orthodox Church did not change its position/stance on any of the matters which have separated it from Holy Mother Church since 1054, namely the Primacy of the Papacy and the Filique Clause.

So if they have no changed their stance, how has the Church changed her stance on their status as to whether or not they are schismatic?

Mortalium Animos, On Religious Unity, Pope Pius XI, 1928, #10
“The union of Christians can only be promoted by promoting the return to the one true Church of Christ of those who are separated from it, for in the past they have unhappily left it…For since the mystical body of Christ, in the same manner as His physical body, is one, compacted and fitly joined together, it were foolish and out of place to say that the mystical body is made up of members which are disunited and scattered abroad: whosoever therefore is not united with the body is no member of it, neither is he in communion with Christ its head.”

Allatae Sunt, On the Observance of Oriental Rites, Pope Benedict XIV, 1755, #19
“The missionary who is attempting with God’s help to bring back Greek and eastern schismatics to unity should devote all his effort to the single objective of delivering them from doctrines at variance with the Catholic faith. Their forefathers accepted these errors as some sort of pretext for leaving the unity of the Church and for refusing the pope the respect and obedience which is his due as head of the Church.”

*Athanasian Creed
*“Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholic Faith.
Which Faith except everyone do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly…
The Holy Ghost is of the Father and of the Son, neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding.”

Pius IX, First Vatican Council, Session 3, Chapter 4, #3
“If anyone says that it is possible that at some time, given the advancement of knowledge, a sense may be assigned to the dogmas propounded by the Church which is different from that which the Church has understood and understands: let him be anathema.”

The Primacy of the Papacy is a doctrine of the Church. Rejecting it is heresy. But separating one’s self from the Pope is schism. The definition of which Pius IX says cannot change.

First Vatican Council, Session 4, Canon 6
“[We] propound the doctrine concerning the 1. institution, 2. permanence and 3. nature of the sacred and apostolic primacy, upon which the strength and coherence (aka unity) of the whole Church depends.”

First Vatican Council, Session 4, Ch. 1
“1. We teach and declare that, according to the gospel evidence, a primacy of jurisdiction over the whole Church of God was immediately and directly promised to the blessed apostle Peter and conferred on him by Christ the lord.
6. Therefore, if anyone says that blessed Peter the apostle was not appointed by Christ the lord as prince of all the apostles and visible head of the whole Church militant…let him be anathema.”


*Unam Sanctam, Pope Boniface VIII, 1302
*“We declare, we proclaim, we define that it is absolutely necessary for salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman Pontiff.”

These don’t seem to be written in language that is subject to revision when the Popes use wording along the lines of “we declare, we proclaim, we define…”
So that is where my major confusion comes in.


"One Lord, one faith, one baptism. (Ephesians 4:5)

“We believe in One, Holy, Catholic & Apostolic Church.” (Nicene Creed)

You may still want to use the term “schism” or “not in full communion”…when referring to our Orthodox Churches brethren…but that is clearly not the mind and heart of the (Roman) Latin Church…of its Pontiffs or the Ecumenical Curia Dicastery …even “separated” is really getting very outdated/outmoded…it doesn’t convey that we are in communion with them…not full communion…but certainly not the 1054 Great Schism reality…thanks be to God!

I guess I don’t understand how the “mind and heart” of the Church can be seen to evolve over time with respect to the schismatic nature of others?
Isn’t this, in part, what Pope St. Pius X was condemning?

Oath Against Modernism, Pope Pius X, 1910
“I sincerely hold that the doctrine of faith was handed down to us from the apostles through the orthodox Fathers in exactly the same meaning and always in the same purport. Therefore, I entirely reject the heretical’ misrepresentation that dogmas evolve and change from one meaning to another different from the one which the Church held previously.”

And obviously the nature of schism is dogmatic, not pastoral. Schismatics separate themselves from the Church; the Church does not do something wrong to force them to leave. So, logically, the schismatics must do something to return to the Church, namely, recant their errors and, like the Prodigal Son, return humbly in submission.

From CatholicAnswers:
"For those who knowingly and deliberately (that is, not out of innocent ignorance) commit… schism (separating from the Catholic Church and/or joining a schismatic church), no salvation would be possible until they repented and returned to live in Catholic unity.

(Quoting St. Irenaeus)
[The spiritual man] shall also judge those who give rise to schisms…who look to their own special advantage rather than to the unity of the Church…True knowledge is that which consists in the doctrine of the apostles, and the ancient constitution of the Church throughout all the world, and the distinctive manifestation of the body of Christ according to the successions of the bishops. (Against Heresies)

(Quoting St. Augustine)
Schismatics…withdraw from fraternal love by hostile separations, although they [may] believe the same things we do. Consequently, neither heretics nor schismatics belong to the Catholic Church; not heretics, because the Church loves God; and not schismatics, because the Church loves neighbor."

*First Vatican Council, Session 3, Chapter 4, #14

  • The meaning of the sacred dogmas is ever to be maintained which has once been declared by Holy mother Church, and there must never be any abandonment of this sense under the pretext or in the name of a more profound understanding."

*Syllabus of Errors, Pope Pius IX, 1864, #38
*“The Roman pontiffs have, by their too arbitrary conduct, contributed to the division of the Church into Eastern and Western - CONDEMNED”

Satis Cognitum, Pope Leo XIII, 1896, #9
“…can it be lawful for anyone to reject any one of those truths without by the very fact falling into heresy?-without separating himself from the Church?-without repudiating in one sweeping act the whole of Christian teaching?..for what the Apostle St. James judges to be the effect of a moral deliquency, the same is to be said of an erroneous opinion in the matter of faith. “Whosoever shall offend in one point, is become guilty of all” (Ep. James ii., 10)”

Thank you in advance, Lancer, for your consideration.
Again, please don’t mistake the tone as anything polemical or lacking in charity.

This is just very strange to see such a stark change in not just language but seemingly in principle with how the Eastern Orthodox are now viewed.

Pax Domini sit semper tecum


Do be careful, Lancer, with your opinion of the Orthodox. They are most definitely in schism, and are excommunicated, as far as they are not in communion (ex - communic-ated – out of communion) with the Roman See. There are also serious disagreements on certain areas that will have to be cleared up before reunification, however we are almost there :slight_smile:

He who is not at peace with the Roman Church shall not be considered catholic [INDENT][INDENT]- Dictatus Papae, S. Gregory VII, 1075[/INDENT][/INDENT]

Now, as you note, by God’s grace, the Orthodox Churches and Catholic Church are closer to reunion than ever, and are in substantial agreement, and we ought to pray everyday for the reunion of the Orthodox with the Catholic Church. We must avoid the spirit of angry superiority if we wish to see such reunion come to fruition. Pray hard and pray often.

Now, to the main point, the Holy See has explicitly provided Orthodox priests with the faculties to hear confessions and absolve sins, since, as noted, bishops have no authority if they are not in communion with the Apostolic Chair (Holy See). Over 99% of the time, the Orthodox sacraments are valid. The 1% of the time they are not would be for instance, the fact that the Orthodox Church accepts divorce for adultery, and then allows the innocent spouse to remarry, whose marriage would not be valid, since the sacrament is indissoluble, and the reason given is not sufficient to declare a marriage null. The other situation in which the sacrament of an Orthodox priest may not be valid has to do with absolution for something in which the Catholic and Orthodox Churches disagree, since the intention would be contrary to the celebration of the sacrament. An example of this would be contraception. Many Orthodox priests see contraception as an issue for married couples to decide, not the objective evil it really is (the Catholic position). If a Catholic, in a serious situation, had to confess this [the use of contraception] to an Orthodox priest, and the priest did not believe it was sinful, then it would be difficult to say that the sacrament was valid, since the priest did not intend to absolve the penitent of sins he commited and confessed, which is what the Church intends to do. Many Orthodox priests do hold the correct position on contraception (see the Orthodox reception of Humanae Vitae), in which case the absolution would be valid, but it is best not to roll the dice with issues as serious as this. Now, admittedly this is rare, and in basically any other circumstance, as long as the Catholic has sufficient reason, the absolution of the Orthodox priest is valid.

It struck me that I may have sounded harsh or uncharitable to the Orthodox Christians, which I don’t mean, I do just want to point out that a rosy “we believe in the same thing” is not helping reunion, since it is not true, both the Catholic and Orthodox Churches confessing this.

Benedicat Deus both Catholic and Orthodox readers.


Once again, I want to stress that I do not want to be taken as hating on the Orthodox Church, I just want to point out that there are more differences than many people realize. It does not mean that Orthodox Christians are necessarily evil and damned to Hell.

I wanted to stress that once more.

Benedicat Deus

closed #13

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