Catechism of the Catholic Church
Part Two: The Celebration of the Christian Mystery
Section Two: The Seven Sacraments of the Church
Chapter Three: The Sacraments at the Service of Communion
1533 Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist are sacraments of Christian
initiation. They ground the common vocation of all Christ's disciples, a
vocation to holiness and to the mission of evangelizing the world. They
confer the Graces needed for the life according to the Spirit during this
life as pilgrims on the march towards the homeland.
1534 Two other sacraments, Holy Orders and Matrimony, are directed towards
the salvation of others; if they contribute as well to personal salvation,
it is through service to others that they do so. They confer a particular
mission in the Church and serve to build up the People of God.
1535 Through these sacraments those already consecrated by Baptism and
Confirmation for the common priesthood of all the faithful can receive
particular consecrations. Those who receive the sacrament of Holy Orders
are consecrated in Christ's name "to feed the Church by the word and Grace
of God." On their part, "Christian spouses are fortified and, as it
were, consecrated for the duties and dignity of their state by a special
Article Six: The Sacrament of Holy Orders
1536 Holy Orders is the sacrament through which the mission entrusted by
Christ to his apostles continues to be exercised in the Church until the
end of time: thus it is the sacrament of apostolic ministry. It includes
three degrees: episcopate, presbyterate, and diaconate.
(On the institution and mission of the apostolic ministry by Christ, see
above, no. 874 ff. Here only the sacramental means by which this ministry
is handed on will be treated.)
I. Why is this Sacrament called "Orders"?
1537 The word order in Roman antiquity designated an established civil
body, especially a governing body. Ordinatio means incorporation into an
ordo. In the Church there are established bodies which Tradition, not
without a basis in Sacred Scripture, has Since ancient times called
taxeis (Greek) or ordines. And so the liturgy speaks of the ordo
episcoporum, the ordo presbyterorum, the ordo diaconorum. Other groups
also receive this name of ordo: catechumens, virgins, spouses, widows,....
1538 Integration into one of these bodies in the Church was accomplished
by a rite called ordinatio, a religious and liturgical act which was a
consecration, a blesSing or a sacrament. Today the word "ordination" is
reserved for the sacramental act which integrates a man into the order of
bishops, presbyters, or deacons, and goes beyond a simple election,
designation, delegation, or institution by the community, for it confers a
gift of the Holy Spirit that permits the exercise of a "sacred power"
(sacra potestas) which can come only from Christ himself through his
Church. Ordination is also called consecratio, for it is a setting apart
and an investiture by Christ himself for his Church. The laying on of
hands by the bishop, with the consecratory prayer, constitutes the visible
sign of this ordination.
II. The Sacrament of Holy Orders in the Economy of Salvation
The priesthood of the Old Covenant
1539 The chosen people was constituted by God as "a kingdom of priests and
a holy nation." But within the people of Israel, God chose one of the
twelve tribes, that of Levi, and set it apart for liturgical service; God
himself is its inheritance. A special rite consecrated the beginnings
of the priesthood of the Old Covenant. The priests are "appointed to act
on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for
1540 Instituted to proclaim the Word of God and to restore communion with
God by sacrifices and prayer, this priesthood nevertheless remains
powerless to bring about salvation, needing to repeat its sacrifices
ceaselessly and being unable to achieve a definitive sanctification, which
only the sacrifice of Christ would accomplish.
1541 The liturgy of the Church, however, sees in the priesthood of Aaron
and the service of the Levites, as in the institution of the seventy
elders, a prefiguring of the ordained ministry of the New Covenant.
Thus in the Latin Rite the Church prays in the consecratory preface of the
ordination of bishops: God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, . . . by
your gracious word you have established the plan of your Church. From the
beginning, you chose the descendants of Abraham to be your holy nation.
You established rulers and priests and did not leave your sanctuary
without ministers to serve you....
1542 At the ordination of priests, the Church prays:
Lord, holy Father, . . . when you had appointed high priests to rule your
people, you chose other men next to them in rank and dignity to be with
them and to help them in their task....
you extended the spirit of Moses to seventy wise men.... You shared among
the sons of Aaron the fullness of their father's power.
1543 In the consecratory prayer for ordination of deacons, the Church
Almighty God . . .. You make the Church, Christ's body, grow to its full
stature as a new and greater temple. You enrich it with every kind of
Grace and perfect it with a diversity of members to serve the whole body
in a wonderful pattern of unity.
You established a threefold ministry of worship and service, for the glory
of your name. As ministers of your tabernacle you chose the sons of Levi
and gave them your blesSing as their everlasting inheritance.
The one priesthood of Christ
1544 Everything that the priesthood of the Old Covenant prefigured finds
its fulfillment in Christ Jesus, the "one mediator between God and
men." The Christian tradition considers Melchizedek, "priest of God
Most High," as a prefiguration of the priesthood of Christ, the unique
"high priest after the order of Melchizedek"; "holy, blameless,
unstained," "by a Single offering he has perfected for all time those
who are sanctified," that is, by the unique sacrifice of the cross.
1545 The redemptive sacrifice of Christ is unique, accomplished once for
all; yet it is made present in the Eucharistic sacrifice of the Church.
The same is true of the one priesthood of Christ; it is made present
through the ministerial priesthood without diminishing the uniqueness of
Christ's priesthood: "Only Christ is the true priest, the others being
only his ministers."
Two participations in the one priesthood of Christ
1546 Christ, high priest and unique mediator, has made of the Church "a
kingdom, priests for his God and Father." The whole community of
believers is, as such, priestly. The faithful exercise their baptismal
priesthood through their participation, each according to his own
vocation, in Christ's mission as priest, prophet, and king. Through the
sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation the faithful are "consecrated to be
. . . a holy priesthood."
1547 The ministerial or hierarchical priesthood of bishops and priests,
and the common priesthood of all the faithful participate, "each in its
own proper way, in the one priesthood of Christ." While being "ordered one
to another," they differ essentially. In what sense? While the common
priesthood of the faithful is exercised by the unfolding of baptismal
Grace-a life of faith, hope, and charity, a life according to the
Spirit-,the ministerial priesthood is at the service of the common
priesthood. It is directed at the unfolding of the baptismal Grace of all
Christians. The ministerial priesthood is a means by which Christ
unceasingly builds up and leads his Church. For this reason it is
transmitted by its own sacrament, the sacrament of Holy Orders.
In the person of Christ the Head . . .
1548 In the ecclesial service of the ordained minister, it is Christ
himself who is present to his Church as Head of his Body, Shepherd of his
flock, high priest of the redemptive sacrifice, Teacher of Truth. This is
what the Church means by saying that the priest, by virtue of the
sacrament of Holy Orders, acts in persona Christi Capitis:
It is the same priest, Christ Jesus, whose sacred person his minister
truly represents. Now the minister, by reason of the sacerdotal
consecration which he has received, is truly made like to the high priest
and possesses the Authority to act in the power and place of the person of
Christ himself (virtute ac persona ipsius Christi).
Christ is the source of all priesthood: the priest of The Old Law was a
figure of Christ, and the priest of the new law acts in the person of
1549 Through the ordained ministry, especially that of bishops and
priests, the presence of Christ as head of the Church is made visible in
the midst of the community of believers. In the beautiful expression
of St. Ignatius of Antioch, the bishop is typos tou Patros: he is like the
living image of God the Father.
1550 This presence of Christ in the minister is not to be understood as if
the latter were preserved from all human weaknesses, the spirit of
domination, error, even Sin. The power of the Holy Spirit does not
guarantee all acts of ministers in the same way. While this guarantee
extends to the sacraments, so that even the minister's Sin cannot impede
the fruit of Grace, in many other acts the minister leaves human traces
that are not always signs of fidelity to the Gospel and consequently can
harm the apostolic fruitfulness of the Church.
1551 This priesthood is ministerial. "That office . . . which the Lord
committed to the pastors of his people, is in the strict sense of the term
a service." It is entirely related to Christ and to men. It depends
entirely on Christ and on his unique priesthood; it has been instituted
for the good of men and the communion of the Church. The sacrament of Holy
Orders communicates a "sacred power" which is none other than that of
Christ. The exercise of this Authority must therefore be measured against
the model of Christ, who by love made himself the least and the servant of
all. "The Lord said clearly that concern for his flock was proof of
love for him."
. . . "in the name of the whole Church"
1552 The ministerial priesthood has the task not only of representing
Christ - Head of the Church - before the assembly of the faithful, but
also of acting in the name of the whole Church when presenting to God the
prayer of the Church, and above all when offering the Eucharistic
1553 "In the name of the whole Church" does not mean that priests are the
delegates of the community. The prayer and offering of the Church are
inseparable from the prayer and offering of Christ, her head; it is always
the case that Christ worships in and through his Church. The whole Church,
the Body of Christ, prays and offers herself "through him, with him, in
him," in the unity of the Holy Spirit, to God the Father. The whole Body,
caput et membra, prays and offers itself, and therefore those who in the
Body are especially his ministers are called ministers not only of Christ,
but also of the Church. It is because the ministerial priesthood
represents Christ that it can represent the Church.
III The Three Degrees of the Sacrament of Holy Orders
1554 "The divinely instituted ecclesiastical ministry is exercised in
different degrees by those who even from ancient times have been called
bishops, priests, and deacons." Catholic doctrine, expressed in the
liturgy, the Magisterium, and the constant practice of the Church,
recognizes that there are two degrees of ministerial participation in the
priesthood of Christ: the episcopacy and the presbyterate . The diaconate
is intended to help and serve them. For this reason the term sacerdos in
current usage denotes bishops and priests but not deacons. Yet Catholic
doctrine teaches that the degrees of priestly participation (episcopate
and presbyterate) and the degree of service (diaconate) are all three
conferred by a sacramental act called "ordination," that is, by the
sacrament of Holy Orders:
Let everyone revere the deacons as Jesus Christ, the bishop as the image
of the Father, and the presbyters as the senate of God and the assembly of
the apostles. For without them one cannot speak of the Church.
Episcopal ordination- fullness of the sacrament of Holy Orders
1555 "Amongst those various offices which have been exercised in the
Church from the earliest times the chief place, according to the witness
of tradition, is held by the function of those who, through their
appointment to the dignity and responsibility of bishop, and in virtue
consequently of the unbroken succession going back to the beginning, are
regarded as transmitters of the apostolic line."
1556 To fulfil their exalted mission, "the apostles were endowed by Christ
with a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit coming upon them, and by the
imposition of hands they passed on to their auxiliaries the gift of the
Spirit, which is transmitted down to our day through episcopal
1557 The Second Vatican Council "teaches . . . that the fullness of the
sacrament of Holy Orders is conferred by episcopal consecration, that
fullness namely which, both in the liturgical tradition of the Church and
the language of the Fathers of the Church, is called the high priesthood,
the acme (summa) of the sacred ministry."
1558 "Episcopal consecration confers, together with the office of
sanctifying, also the offices of teaching and ruling.... In fact ... by
the imposition of hands and through the words of the consecration, the
Grace of the Holy Spirit is given, and a sacred character is impressed in
such wise that bishops, in an eminent and visible manner, take the place
of Christ himself, teacher, shepherd, and priest, and act as his
representative (in Eius persona agant)." "By virtue, therefore, of the
Holy Spirit who has been given to them, bishops have been constituted true
and authentic teachers of the faith and have been made pontiffs and
1559 "One is constituted a member of the episcopal body in virtue of the
sacramental consecration and by the hierarchical communion with the head
and members of the college." The character and collegial nature of the
episcopal order are evidenced among other ways by the Church's ancient
practice which calls for several bishops to participate in the
consecration of a new bishop. In our day, the lawful ordination of a
bishop requires a special intervention of the Bishop of Rome, because he
is the supreme visible bond of the communion of the particular Churches in
the one Church and the guarantor of their freedom.
1560 As Christ's vicar, each bishop has the pastoral care of the
particular Church entrusted to him, but at the same time he bears
collegially with all his brothers in the episcopacy the solicitude for all
the Churches: "Though each bishop is the lawful pastor only of the portion
of the flock entrusted to his care, as a legitimate successor of the
apostles he is, by divine institution and precept, responsible with the
other bishops for the apostolic mission of the Church."
1561 The above considerations explain why the Eucharist celebrated by the
bishop has a quite special significance as an expression of the Church
gathered around the altar, with the one who represents Christ, the Good
Shepherd and Head of his Church, presiding.
The ordination of priests - co-workers of the bishops
1562 "Christ, whom the Father hallowed and sent into the world, has,
through his apostles, made their successors, the bishops namely, sharers
in his consecration and mission; and these, in their turn, duly entrusted
in varying degrees various members of the Church with the office of their
ministry." "The function of the bishops' ministry was handed over in a
subordinate degree to priests so that they might be appointed in the order
of the priesthood and be co- workers of the episcapal order for the proper
fulfillment of the apostolic mission that had been entrusted to it by
1563 "Because it is joined with the episcopal order the office of priests
shares in the Authority by which Christ himself builds up and sanctifies
and rules his Body. Hence the priesthood of priests, while presuppoSing
the sacraments of initiation, is nevertheless conferred by its own
particular sacrament. Through that sacrament priests by the anointing of
the Holy Spirit are signed with a special character and so are configured
to Christ the priest in such a way that they are able to act in the person
of Christ the head."
1564 "Whilst not having the supreme degree of the pontifical office, and
notwithstanding the fact that they depend on the bishops in the exercise
of their own proper power, the priests are for all that associated with
them by reason of their sacerdotal dignity; and in virtue of the sacrament
of Holy Orders, after the image of Christ, the supreme and eternal priest,
they are consecrated in order to preach the Gospel and shepherd the
faithful as well as to celebrate divine worship as true priests of the New
1565 Through the sacrament of Holy Orders priests share in the universal
dimensions of the mission that Christ entrusted to the apostles. The
spiritual gift they have received in ordination prepares them, not for a
limited and restricted mission, "but for the fullest, in fact the
universal mission of salvation 'to the end of the earth,"' "prepared
in spirit to preach the Gospel everywhere."
1566 "It is in the Eucharistic cult or in the Eucharistic assembly of the
faithful (synaxis) that they exercise in a supreme degree their sacred
office; there, acting in the person of Christ and proclaiming his mystery,
they unite the votive offerings of the faithful to the sacrifice of Christ
their head, and in the sacrifice of the Mass they make present again and
apply, until the coming of the Lord, the unique sacrifice of the New
Testament, that namely of Christ offering himself once for all a spotless
victim to the Father." From this unique sacrifice their whole priestly
ministry draws its strength.
1567 "The priests, prudent cooperators of the episcopal college and its
support and instrument, called to the service of the People of God,
constitute, together with their bishop, a unique sacerdotal college
(presbyterium) dedicated, it is, true to a variety of distinct duties. In
each local assembly of the faithful they represent, in a certain sense,
the bishop, with whom they are associated in all trust and generosity; in
part they take upon themselves his duties and solicitude and in their
daily toils discharge them." priests can exercise their ministry only
in dependence on the bishop and in communion with him. The promise of
obedience they make to the bishop at the moment of ordination and the kiss
of peace from him at the end of the ordination liturgy mean that the
bishop considers them his co-workers, his sons, his brothers and his
friends, and that they in return owe him love and obedience.
1568 "All priests, who are constituted in the order of priesthood by the
sacrament of Order, are bound together by an intimate sacramental
brotherhood, but in a special way they form one priestly body in the
diocese to which they are attached under their own bishop. . ;" The
unity of the presbyterium finds liturgical expression in the custom of the
presbyters' impoSing hands, after the bishop, during the Ate of
The ordination of deacons - "in order to serve"
1569 "At a lower level of the hierarchy are to be found deacons, who
receive the imposition of hands 'not unto the priesthood, but unto the
ministry."' At an ordination to the diaconate only the bishop lays
hands on the candidate, thus signifying the deacon's special attachment to
the bishop in the tasks of his "diakonia."
1570 Deacons share in Christ's mission and Grace in a special way. The
sacrament of Holy Orders marks them with an imprint ("character") which
cannot be removed and which configures them to Christ, who made himself
the "deacon" or servant of all. Among other tasks, it is the task of
deacons to assist the bishop and priests in the celebration of the divine
mysteries, above all the Eucharist, in the distribution of Holy Communion,
in assisting at and blesSing marriages, in the proclamation of the Gospel
and preaching, in presiding over funerals, and in dedicating themselves to
the various ministries of charity.
1571 Since the Second Vatican Council the Latin Church has restored the
diaconate "as a proper and permanent rank of the hierarchy," while the
Churches of the East had always maintained it. This permanent diaconate,
which can be conferred on married men, constitutes an important enrichment
for the Church's mission. Indeed it is appropriate and useful that men who
carry out a truly diaconal ministry in the Church, whether in its
liturgical and pastoral life or whether in its social and charitable
works, should "be strengthened by the imposition of hands which has come
down from the apostles. They would be more closely bound to the altar and
their ministry would be made more fruitful through the sacramental Grace
of the diaconate."
IV. The Celebration of this Sacrament
1572 Given the importance that the ordination of a bishop, a priest, or a
deacon has for the life of the particular Church, its celebration calls
for as many of the faithful as possible to take part. It should take place
preferably on Sunday, in the cathedral, with solemnity appropriate to the
occasion. All three ordinations, of the bishop, of the pRiest, and of the
deacon, follow the same movement. Their proper place is within the
1573 The essential rite of the sacrament of Holy Orders for all three
degrees consists in the bishop's imposition of hands on the head of the
ordinand and in the bishop's specific consecratory prayer asking God for
the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and his gifts proper to the ministry to
which the candidate is being ordained.
1574 As in all the sacraments additional rites surround the celebration.
Varying greatly among the different liturgical traditions, these rites
have in common the expression of the multiple aspects of sacramental
Grace. Thus in the Latin Church, the initial rites - presentation and
election of the ordinand, instruction by the bishop, examination of the
candidate, litany of the saints - attest that the choice of the candidate
is made in keeping with the practice of the Church and prepare for the
solemn act of consecration, after which several rites syrnbolically
express and complete the mystery accomplished: for bishop and priest, an
anointing with holy chrism, a sign of the special anointing of the Holy
Spirit who makes their ministry fruitful; giving the book of the Gospels,
the ring, the miter, and the crosier to the bishop as the sign of his
apostolic mission to proclaim the Word of God, of his fidelity to the
Church, the bride of Christ, and his office as shepherd of the Lord's
flock; presentation to the priest of the paten and chalice, "the offering
of the holy people" which he is called to present to God; giving the book
of the Gospels to the deacon who has just received the mission to proclaim
the Gospel of Christ.
V. Who can Confer this Sacrament?
1575 Christ himself chose the apostles and gave them a share in his
mission and Authority. Raised to the Father's right hand, he has not
forsaken his flock but he keeps it under his constant protection through
the apostles, and guides it still through these same pastors who continue
his work today. Thus, it is Christ whose gift it is that some be
apostles, others pastors. He continues to act through the bishops.
1576 Since the sacrament of Holy Orders is the sacrament of the apostolic
ministry, it is for the bishops as the successors of the apostles to hand
on the "gift of the Spirit," the "apostolic line." Validly
ordained bishops, i.e., those who are in the line of apostolic succession,
validly confer The Three Degrees of the Sacrament of Holy Orders.
VI. Who Can Receive this Sacrament?
1577 "Only a baptized man (vir) validly receives sacred ordination."
The Lord Jesus chose men (viri) to form the college of the twelve
apostles, and the apostles did the same when they chose collaborators to
succeed them in their ministry. The college of bishops, with whom the
priests are united in the priesthood, makes the college of the twelve an
ever-present and ever-active reality until Christ's return. The Church
recognizes herself to be bound by this choice made by the Lord himself.
For this reason the ordination of women is not possible.
1578 No one has a right to receive the sacrament of Holy Orders. Indeed no
one claims this office for himself; he is called to it by God. Anyone
who thinks he recognizes the signs of God's call to the ordained ministry
must humbly submit his desire to the Authority of the Church, who has the
responsibility and right to call someone to receive orders. Like every
Grace this sacrament can be received only as an unMerited gift.
1579 All the ordained ministers of the Latin Church, with the exception of
permanent deacons, are normally chosen from among men of faith who live a
celibate life and who intend to remain celibate "for the sake of the
kingdom of heaven." Called to consecrate themselves with undivided
heart to the Lord and to "the affairs of the Lord," they give
themselves entirely to God and to men. Celibacy is a sign of this new life
to the service of which the Church's minister is consecrated; accepted
with a joyous heart celibacy radiantly proclaims the Reign of God.
1580 In the Eastern Churches a different discipline has been in force for
many centuries: while bishops are chosen solely from among celibates,
married men can be ordained as deacons and priests. This practice has long
been considered legitimate; these priests exercise a fruitful ministry
within their communities. Moreover, priestly celibacy is held in great
honor in the Eastern Churches and many priests have freely chosen it for
the sake of the Kingdom of God. In the East as in the West a man who has
already received the sacrament of Holy Orders can no longer marry.
VII. The Effects of the Sacrament of Holy Orders
The indelible character
1581 This sacrament configures the recipient to Christ by a special Grace
of the Holy Spirit, so that he may serve as Christ's instrument for his
Church. By ordination one is enabled to act as a representative of Christ,
Head of the Church, in his triple office of priest, prophet, and king.
1582 As in the case of Baptism and Confirmation this share in Christ's
office is granted once for all. The sacrament of Holy Orders, like the
other two, confers an indelible spiritual character and cannot be repeated
or conferred temporarily.
1583 It is true that someone validly ordained can, for a just reason, be
discharged from the obligations and functions linked to ordination, or can
be forbidden to exercise them; but he cannot become a layman again in the
strict sense, because the character imprinted by ordination is for
ever. The vocation and mission received on the day of his ordination mark
1584 Since it is ultimately Christ who acts and effects salvation through
the ordained minister, the unworthiness of the latter does not prevent
Christ from acting. St. Augustine states this forcefully:
As for the proud minister, he is to be ranked with the devil. Christ's
gift is not thereby profaned: what flows through him keeps its purity, and
what passes through him remains dear and reaches the fertile earth.... The
spiritual power of the sacrament is indeed comparable to light: those to
be enlightened receive it in its purity, and if it should pass through
defiled beings, it is not itself defiled.
The Grace of the Holy Spirit
1585 The Grace of the Holy Spirit proper to this sacrament is
configuration to Christ as Priest, Teacher, and Pastor, of whom the
ordained is made a minister.
1586 For the bishop, this is first of all a Grace of strength ("the
governing spirit": Prayer of Episcopal Consecration in the Latin
rite): the Grace to guide and defend his Church with strength and
prudence as a father and pastor, with gratuitous love for all and a
preferential Love for the Poor, the sick, and the needy. This Grace impels
him to proclaim the Gospel to all, to be the model for his flock, to go
before it on the way of sanctification by identifying himself in the
Eucharist with Christ the priest and victim, not fearing to give his life
for his sheep:
Father, you know all hearts. You have chosen your servant for the office
of bishop. May he be a shepherd to your holy flock, and a high priest
blameless in your sight, ministering to you night and day; may he always
gain the blesSing of your favor and offer the gifts of your holy Church.
Through the Spirit who gives the Grace of high priesthood grant him the
power to forgive Sins as you have commanded to assign ministries as you
have decreed and to loose from every bond by the Authority which you gave
to your apostles. May he be pleaSing to you by his gentleness and purity
of heart, presenting a fragrant offering to you, through Jesus Christ,
1587 The spiritual gift conferred by presbyteral ordination is expressed
by this prayer of the Byzantine Rite. The bishop, while laying on his
hand, says among other things:
Lord, fill with the gift of the Holy Spirit him whom you have deigned to
raise to the rank of the priesthood, that he may be worthy to stand
without reproach before your altar to proclaim the Gospel of your kingdom,
to fulfill the ministry of your word of truth, to offer you spiritual
gifts and sacrifices, to renew your people by the bath of rebirth; so that
he may go out to meet our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, your only
Son, on the day of his second coming, and may receive from your vast
goodness the recompense for a faithful administration of his order.
1588 With regard to deacons, "strengthened by sacramental Grace they are
dedicated to the People of God, in conjunction with the bishop and his
body of priests, in the service (diakonia) of the liturgy, of the Gospel,
and of works of charity."
1589 Before the grandeur of the priestly Grace and office, the holy
doctors felt an urgent call to conversion in order to conform their whole
lives to him whose sacrament had made them ministers. Thus St. Gregory of
Nazianzus, as a very young priest, exclaimed:
We must begin by purifying ourselves before purifying others; we must be
instructed to be able to instruct, become light to illuminate, draw close
to God to bring him close to others, be sanctified to sanctify, lead by
the hand and counsel prudently. I know whose ministers we are, where we
find ourselves and to where we strive. I know God's greatness and man's
weakness, but also his potential. [Who then is the priest? He is] the
defender of truth, who stands with angels, gives glory with archangels,
causes sacrifices to rise to the altar on high, shares Christ's
priesthood, refashions creation, restores it in God's image, recreates it
for the world on high and, even greater, is divinized and divinizes.
And the holy Cure of Ars: "The priest continues the work of redemption on
earth.... If we really understood the priest on earth, we would die not of
fright but of love.... The Priesthood is the love of the heart of
1590 St. Paul said to his disciple Timothy: "I remind you to rekindle the
gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands" (2 Tim
1:6), and "If any one aspires to the office of bishop, he desires a noble
task." (1 Tim 3:1) To Titus he said: "This is why I left you in Crete,
that you amend what was defective, and appoint presbyters in every town,
as I directed you" (Titus 1:5).
1591 The whole Church is a priestly people. Through Baptism all the
faithful share in the priesthood of Christ. This participation is called
the "common priesthood of the faithful." Based on this common priesthood
and ordered to its service, there exists another participation in the
mission of Christ: the ministry conferred by the sacrament of Holy Orders,
where the task is to serve in the name and in the person of Christ the
Head in the midst of the community.
1592 The ministerial priesthood differs in essence from the common
priesthood of the faithful because it confers a sacred power for the
service of the faithful. The ordained ministers exercise their service
for the People of God by teaching (munus docendi), divine worship (munus
liturgicum) and pastoral governance (munus regendi).
1593 Since the beginning, the ordained ministry has been conferred and
exercised in three degrees: that of bishops, that of presbyters, and that
of deacons. The ministries conferred by ordination are irreplaceable for
the organic structure of the Church: without the bishop, presbyters, and
deacons, one cannot speak of the Church (cf. St. Ignatius of Antioch, Ad
1594 The bishop receives the fullness of the sacrament of Holy Orders,
which integrates him into the episcopal college and makes him the visible
head of the particular Church entrusted to him. As successors of the
apostles and members of the college, the bishops share in the apostolic
responsibility and mission of the whole Church under the Authority of the
Pope, successor of St. Peter.
1595 Priests are united with the bishops in sacerdotal dignity and at the
same time depend on them in the exercise of their pastoral functions; they
are called to be the bishops' prudent co-workers. They form around their
bishop the presbyterium which bears responsibility with him for the
particular Church. They receive from the bishop the charge of a parish
community or a determinate ecclesial office.
1596 Deacons are ministers ordained for tasks of service of the Church;
they do not receive the ministerial priesthood, but ordination confers on
them important functions in the ministry of the word, divine worship,
pastoral governance, and the service of charity, tasks which they must
carry out under the pastoral Authority of their bishop.
1597 The sacrament of Holy Orders is conferred by the laying on of hands
followed by a solemn prayer of consecration asking God to grant the
ordinand the Graces of the Holy Spirit required for his ministry.
Ordination imprints an indelible sacramental character.
1598 The Church confers the sacrament of Holy Orders only on baptized men
(viri), whose suitability for the exercise of the ministry has been duly
recognized. Church Authority alone has the responsibility and right to
call someone to receive the sacrament of Holy Orders.
1599 In the Latin Church the sacrament of Holy Orders for the presbyterate
is normally conferred only on candidates who are ready to embrace celibacy
freely and who publicly manifest their intention of staying celibate for
the love of God's kingdom and the service of men.
1600 It is bishops who confer the sacrament of Holy Orders in the three
Article Seven: The Sacrament of Matrimony
1601 "The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish
between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature
ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education
of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by
Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament."
I. Marriage in God's Plan
1602 Sacred Scripture begins with the creation of man and woman in the
image and likeness of God and concludes with a vision of "the
wedding-feast of the Lamb." Scripture speaks throughout of marriage
and its "mystery," its institution and the meaning God has given it, its
origin and its end, its various realizations throughout the history of
salvation, the difficulties ariSing from Sin and its renewal "in the Lord"
in the New Covenant of Christ and the Church.
Marriage in the order of creation
1603 "The intimate community of life and love which constitutes the
married state has been established by the Creator and endowed by him with
its own proper laws.... God himself is the author of marriage." The
vocation to marriage is written in the very nature of man and woman as
they came from the hand of the Creator. Marriage is not a purely human
institution despite the many variations it may have undergone through the
centuries in different cultures, social structures, and spiritual
attitudes. These differences should not cause us to forget its common and
permanent characteristics. Although the dignity of this institution is not
transparent everywhere with the same clarity, some sense of the
greatness of the matrimonial union exists in all cultures. "The well-being
of the individual person and of both human and Christian society is
closely bound up with the healthy state of conjugal and family life."
1604 God who created man out of love also calls him to love the
fundamental and innate vocation of every human being. For man is created
in the image and likeness of God who is himself love. Since God
created him man and woman, their mutual love becomes an image of the
absolute and unfailing love with which God loves man. It is good, very
good, in the Creator's eyes. And this love which God blesses is intended
to be fruitful and to be realized in the common work of watching over
creation: "And God blessed them, and God said to them: 'Be fruitful and
multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it.'"
1605 Holy Scripture affirms that man and woman were created for one
another: "It is not good that the man should be alone." The woman,
"flesh of his flesh," i.e., his counterpart, his equal, his nearest in all
things, is given to him by God as a "helpmate"; she thus represents God
from whom comes our help. "Therefore a man leaves his father and his
mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh." The Lord
himself shows that this signifies an unbreakable union of their two lives
by recalling what the plan of the Creator had been "in the beginning": "So
they are no longer two, but one flesh."
Marriage under the regime of Sin
1606 Every man experiences evil around him and within himself. This
experience makes itself felt in the relationships between man and woman.
Their union has always been threatened by discord, a spirit of domination,
infidelity, jealousy, and conflicts that can escalate into hatred and
separation. This disorder can manifest itself more or less acutely, and
can be more or less overcome according to the circumstances of cultures,
eras, and individuals, but it does seem to have a universal character.
1607 According to faith the disorder we notice so painfully does not stem
from the nature of man and woman, nor from the nature of their relations,
but from Sin. As a break with God, the first Sin had for its first
consequence the rupture of the original communion between man and woman.
Their relations were distorted by mutual recriminations; their mutual
attraction, the Creator's own gift, changed into a relationship of
domination and lust; and the beautiful vocation of man and woman to be
fruitful, multiply, and subdue the earth was burdened by the pain of
childbirth and the toil of work.
1608 Nevertheless, the order of creation persists, though seriously
disturbed. To heal the wounds of Sin, man and woman need the help of the
Grace that God in his infinite mercy never refuses them. Without his
help man and woman cannot achieve the union of their lives for which God
created them "in the beginning."
Marriage under the pedagogy of the Law
1609 In his mercy God has not forsaken Sinful man. The punishments
consequent upon Sin, "pain in childbearing" and toil "in the sweat of your
brow," also embody remedies that limit the damaging effects of Sin.
After the fall, marriage helps to overcome self-absorption, egoism,
pursuit of one's own pleasure, and to open oneself to the other, to mutual
aid and to self-giving.
1610 Moral Conscience concerning the unity and indissolubility of marriage
developed under the pedagogy of The Old Law. In the Old Testament the
polygamy of patriarchs and kings is not yet explicitly rejected.
Nevertheless, the law given to Moses aims at protecting the wife from
arbitrary domination by the husband, even though according to the Lord's
words it still carries traces of man's "hardness of heart" which was the
reason Moses permitted men to divorce their wives.
1611 Seeing God's covenant with Israel in the image of exclusive and
faithful married love, the prophets prepared the Chosen People's
conscience for a deepened understanding of the unity and indissolubility
of marriage. The books of Ruth and Tobit bear moving witness to an
elevated sense of marriage and to the fidelity and tenderness of spouses.
Tradition has always seen in the Song of Solomon a unique expression of
human love, a pure reflection of God's love - a love "strong as death"
that "many waters cannot quench."
Marriage in the Lord
1612 The nuptial covenant between God and his people Israel had prepared
the way for the new and everlasting covenant in which the Son of God, by
becoming incarnate and giving his life, has united to himself in a certain
way all mankind saved by him, thus preparing for "the wedding-feast of the
1613 On the threshold of his public life Jesus performs his first sign -
at his mother's request - during a wedding feast. The Church attaches
great importance to Jesus' presence at the wedding at Cana. She sees in it
the confirmation of the goodness of marriage and the proclamation that
thenceforth marriage will be an efficacious sign of Christ's presence.
1614 In his preaching Jesus unequivocally taught the original meaning of
the union of man and woman as the Creator willed it from the beginning
permission given by Moses to divorce one's wife was a concession to the
hardness of hearts. The matrimonial union of man and woman is
indissoluble: God himself has determined it "what therefore God has joined
together, let no man put asunder."
1615 This unequivocal insistence on the indissolubility of the marriage
bond may have left some perplexed and could seem to be a demand impossible
to realize. However, Jesus has not placed on spouses a burden impossible
to bear, or too heavy - heavier than the Law of Moses. By coming to
restore the original order of creation disturbed by Sin, he himself gives
the strength and Grace to live marriage in the new dimension of the Reign
of God. It is by following Christ, renouncing themselves, and taking up
their crosses that spouses will be able to "receive" the original meaning
of marriage and live it with the help of Christ. This Grace of
Christian marriage is a fruit of Christ's cross, the source of all
1616 This is what the Apostle Paul makes clear when he says: "Husbands,
love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,
that he might sanctify her," adding at once: "'For this reason a man shall
leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall
become one. This is a great mystery, and I mean in reference to Christ and
1617 The entire Christian life bears the mark of the spousal love of
Christ and the Church. Already Baptism, the entry into the People of God,
is a nuptial mystery; it is so to speak the nuptial bath which
precedes the wedding feast, the Eucharist. Christian marriage in its turn
becomes an efficacious sign, the sacrament of the covenant of Christ and
the Church. Since it signifies and communicates Grace, marriage between
baptized persons is a true sacrament of the New Covenant.
Virginity for the sake of the Kingdom
1618 Christ is the center of all Christian life. The bond with him takes
precedence over all other bonds, familial or social. From the very
beginning of the Church there have been men and women who have renounced
the great good of marriage to follow the Lamb wherever he goes, to be
intent on the things of the Lord, to seek to please him, and to go out to
meet the Bridegroom who is coming. Christ himself has invited certain
persons to follow him in this way of life, of which he remains the model:
"For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs
who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made
themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able
to receive this, let him receive it."
1619 Virginity for the sake of the kingdom of heaven is an unfolding of
baptismal Grace, a powerful sign of the supremacy of the bond with Christ
and of the ardent expectation of his return, a sign which also recalls
that marriage is a reality of this present age which is pasSing away.
1620 Both the sacrament of Matrimony and virginity for the Kingdom of God
come from the Lord himself. It is he who gives them meaning and grants
them the Grace which is indispensable for living them out in conformity
with his will. Esteem of virginity for the sake of the kingdom
and the Christian understanding of marriage are inseparable, and they
reinforce each other:
Whoever denigrates marriage also diminishes the glory of virginity.
Whoever praises it makes virginity more admirable and resplendent. What
appears good only in comparison with evil would not be truly good. The
most excellent good is something even better than what is admitted to be
II. The Celebration of Marriage
1621 In the Latin Rite The Celebration of Marriage between two Catholic
faithful normally takes place during Holy Mass, because of the connection
of all the sacraments with the Paschal mystery of Christ. In the
Eucharist the memorial of the New Covenant is realized, the New Covenant
in which Christ has united himself for ever to the Church, his beloved
bride for whom he gave himself up. It is therefore fitting that the
spouses should seal their consent to give themselves to each other through
the offering of their own lives by uniting it to the offering of Christ
for his Church made present in the Eucharistic sacrifice, and by receiving
the Eucharist so that, communicating in the same Body and the same Blood
of Christ, they may form but "one body" in Christ.
1622 "Inasmuch as it is a sacramental action of sanctification, the
liturgical celebration of marriage . . . must be, per se, valid, worthy,
and fruitful." It is therefore appropriate for the bride and groom to
prepare themselves for the celebration of their marriage by receiving the
sacrament of penance.
1623 In the Latin Church, it is ordinarily understood that the spouses, as
ministers of Christ's Grace, mutually confer upon each other the sacrament
of Matrimony by expresSing their consent before the Church. In the Eastern
liturgies The Minister of this Sacrament (which is called "Crowning") is
the priest or bishop who, after receiving the mutual consent of the
spouses, successively crowns the bridegroom and the bride as a sign of the
1624 The various liturgies abound in prayers of blesSing and epiclesis
asking God's Grace and blesSing on the new couple, especially the bride.
In the epiclesis of this sacrament the spouses receive the Holy Spirit as
the communion of love of Christ and the Church. The Holy Spirit is
the seal of their covenant, the ever available source of their love and
the strength to renew their fidelity.
III. Matrimonial Consent
1625 The parties to a marriage covenant are a baptized man and woman, free
to contract marriage, who freely express their consent; "to be free"
- not being under constraint;
- not impeded by any natural or ecclesiastical law.
1626 The Church holds the exchange of consent between the spouses to be
the indispensable element that "makes the marriage." If consent is
lacking there is no marriage.
1627 The consent consists in a "human act by which the partners mutually
give themselves to each other": "I take you to be my wife" - "I take you
to be my husband." This consent that binds the spouses to each other
finds its fulfillment in the two "becoming one flesh."
1628 The consent must be an act of the will of each of the contracting
parties, free of coercion or grave external fear. No human power can
substitute for this consent. If this freedom is lacking the marriage
1629 For this reason (or for other reasons that render the marriage null
and void) the Church, after an examination of the situation by the
competent ecclesiastical tribunal, can declare the nullity of a marriage,
i.e., that the marriage never existed. In this case the contracting
parties are free to marry, provided the natural obligations of a previous
union are discharged.
1630 The priest (or deacon) who assists at the celebration of a marriage
receives the consent of the spouses in the name of the Church and gives
the blesSing of the Church. The presence of the Church's minister (and
also of the witnesses) visibly expresses the fact that marriage is an
1631 This is the reason why the Church normally requires that the faithful
contract marriage according to the ecclesiastical form. Several reasons
converge to explain this requirement:
- Sacramental marriage is a liturgical act. It is therefore appropriate
that it should be celebrated in the public liturgy of the Church;
- Marriage introduces one into an ecclesial order, and creates rights and
duties in the Church between the spouses and towards their children;
- Since marriage is a state of life in the Church, certainty about it is
necessary (hence the obligation to have witnesses);
- The public character of the consent protects the "I do" once given and
helps the spouses remain faithful to it.
1632 So that the "I do" of the spouses may be a free and responsible act
and so that the marriage covenant may have solid and lasting human and
Christian foundations, preparation for marriage is of prime importance.
The example and teaching given by parents and families remain the special
form of this preparation.
The role of pastors and of the Christian community as the "family of God"
is indispensable for the transmission of the human and Christian values of
marriage and family, and much more so in our era when many young
people experience broken homes which no longer sufficiently assure this
It is imperative to give suitable and timely instruction to young people,
above all in the heart of their own families, about the dignity of married
love, its role and its exercise, so that, having learned the value of
chastity, they will be able at a suitable age to engage in honorable
courtship and enter upon a marriage of their own.
Mixed marriages and disparity of cult
1633 In many countries the situation of a mixed marriage (marriage between
a Catholic and a baptized non-Catholic) often arises. It requires
particular attention on the part of couples and their pastors. A case of
marriage with disparity of cult (between a Catholic and a nonbaptized
person) requires even greater circumspection.
1634 Difference of confession between the spouses does not constitute an
insurmountable obstacle for marriage, when they succeed in placing in
common what they have received from their respective communities, and
learn from each other the way in which each lives in fidelity to Christ.
But the difficulties of mixed marriages must not be underestimated. They
arise from the fact that the separation of Christians has not yet been
overcome. The spouses risk experiencing the tragedy of Christian disunity
even in the heart of their own home. Disparity of cult can further
aggravate these difficulties. Differences about faith and the very notion
of marriage, but also different religious mentalities, can become sources
of tension in marriage, especially as regards the education of children.
The temptation to religious indifference can then arise.
1635 According to the law in force in the Latin Church, a mixed marriage
needs for liceity the express permission of ecclesiastical Authority.
In case of disparity of cult an express dispensation from this impediment
is required for the validity of the marriage. This permission or
dispensation presupposes that both parties know and do not exclude the
essential ends and properties of marriage and the obligations assumed by
the Catholic party concerning the baptism and education of the children in
the Catholic Church.
1636 Through ecumenical dialogue Christian communities in many regions
have been able to put into effect a common pastoral practice for mixed
marriages. Its task is to help such couples live out their particular
situation in the light of faith, overcome the tensions between the
couple's obligations to each other and towards their ecclesial
communities, and encourage the flowering of what is common to them in
faith and respect for what separates them.
1637 In marriages with disparity of cult the Catholic spouse has a
particular task: "For the unbelieving husband is consecrated through his
wife, and the unbelieving wife is consecrated through her husband."
It is a great joy for the Christian spouse and for the Church if this
"consecration" should lead to the free conversion of the other spouse to
the Christian faith. Sincere married love, the humble and patient
practice of the family virtues, and perseverance in prayer can prepare the
non-believing spouse to accept the Grace of conversion.
IV. The Effects of the Sacrament of Matrimony
1638 "From a valid marriage arises a bond between the spouses which by its
very nature is perpetual and exclusive; furthermore, in a Christian
marriage the spouses are strengthened and, as it were, consecrated for the
duties and the dignity of their state by a special sacrament."
The marriage bond
1639 The consent by which the spouses mutually give and receive one
another is sealed by God himself. From their covenant arises "an
institution, confirmed by the divine law, . . . even in the eyes of
society." The covenant between the spouses is integrated into God's
covenant with man: "Authentic married love is caught up into divine
1640 Thus the marriage bond has been established by God himself in such a
way that a marriage concluded and consummated between baptized persons can
never be dissolved. This bond, which results from the free human act of
the spouses and their consummation of the marriage, is a reality,
henceforth irrevocable, and gives rise to a covenant guaranteed by God's
fidelity. The Church does not have the power to contravene this
disposition of divine wisdom.
The Grace of the sacrament of Matrimony
1641 "By reason of their state in life and of their order, [Christian
spouses] have their own special gifts in the People of God." This
Grace proper to the sacrament of Matrimony is intended to perfect the
couple's love and to strengthen their indissoluble unity. By this Grace
they "help one another to attain holiness in their married life and in
welcoming and educating their children."
1642 Christ is the source of this Grace. "Just as of old God encountered
his people with a covenant of love and fidelity, so our Savior, the spouse
of the Church, now encounters Christian spouses through the sacrament of
Matrimony." Christ dwells with them, gives them the strength to take
up their crosses and so follow him, to rise again after they have fallen,
to forgive one another, to bear one another's burdens, to "be subject to
one another out of reverence for Christ," and to love one another
with supernatural, tender, and fruitful love. In the joys of their love
and family life he gives them here on earth a foretaste of the wedding
feast of the Lamb:
How can I ever express the happiness of a marriage joined by the Church,
strengthened by an offering, sealed by a blesSing, announced by angels,
and ratified by the Father? . . . How wonderful the bond between two
believers, now one in hope, one in desire, one in discipline, one in the
same service! They are both children of one Father and servants of the
same Master, undivided in spirit and flesh, truly two in one flesh. Where
the flesh is one, one also is the spirit.
V. The Goods and Requirements of Conjugal Love
1643 "Conjugal love involves a totality, in which all the elements of the
person enter - appeal of the body and instinct, power of feeling and
affectivity, aspiration of the spirit and of will. It aims at a deeply
personal unity, a unity that, beyond union in one flesh, leads to forming
one heart and soul; it demands indissolubility and faithfulness in
definitive mutual giving; and it is open to fertility. In a word it is a
question of the normal characteristics of all natural conjugal love, but
with a new significance which not only purifies and strengthens them, but
raises them to the extent of making them the expression of specifically
The unity and indissolubility of marriage
1644 The love of the spouses requires, of its very nature, the unity and
indissolubility of the spouses' community of persons, which embraces their
entire life: "so they are no longer two, but one flesh." They "are
called to grow continually in their communion through day-to-day fidelity
to their marriage promise of total mutual self-giving." This human
communion is confirmed, purified, and completed by communion in Jesus
Christ, given through the sacrament of Matrimony. It is deepened by lives
of the common faith and by the Eucharist received together.
1645 "The unity of marriage, distinctly recognized by our Lord, is made
clear in the equal personal dignity which must be accorded to man and wife
in mutual and unreserved affection." Polygamy is contrary to conjugal
love which is undivided and exclusive.
The fidelity of conjugal love
1646 By its very nature conjugal love requires the inviolable fidelity of
the spouses. This is the consequence of the gift of themselves which they
make to each other. Love seeks to be definitive; it cannot be an
arrangement "until further notice." The "intimate union of marriage, as a
mutual giving of two persons, and the good of the children, demand total
fidelity from the spouses and require an unbreakable union between
1647 The deepest reason is found in the fidelity of God to his covenant,
in that of Christ to his Church. Through the sacrament of Matrimony the
spouses are enabled to represent this fidelity and witness to it. Through
the sacrament, the indissolubility of marriage receives a new and deeper
1648 It can seem difficult, even impossible, to bind oneself for life to
another human being. This makes it all the more important to proclaim the
Good News that God loves us with a definitive and irrevocable love, that
married couples share in this love, that it supports and sustains them,
and that by their own faithfulness they can be witnesses to God's faithful
love. Spouses who with God's Grace give this witness, often in very
difficult conditions, deserve the gratitude and support of the ecclesial
1649 Yet there are some situations in which living together becomes
practically impossible for a variety of reasons. In such cases the Church
permits the physical separation of the couple and their living apart. The
spouses do not cease to be husband and wife before God and so are not free
to contract a new union. In this difficult situation, the best solution
would be, if possible, reconciliation. The Christian community is called
to help these persons live out their situation in a Christian manner and
in fidelity to their marriage bond which remains indissoluble.
1650 Today there are numerous Catholics in many countries who have
recourse to civil divorce and contract new civil unions. In fidelity to
the words of Jesus Christ - "Whoever divorces his wife and marries
another, commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and
marries another, she commits adultery" the Church maintains that a
new union cannot be recognized as valid, if the first marriage was. If the
divorced are remarried civilly, they find themselves in a situation that
objectively contravenes God's law. Consequently, they cannot receive
Eucharistic communion as long as this situation persists. For the same
reason, they cannot exercise certain ecclesial responsibilities.
Reconciliation through the sacrament of Penance can be granted only to
those who have repented for having violated the sign of the covenant and
of fidelity to Christ, and who are committed to living in complete
1651 Toward Christians who live in this situation, and who often keep the
faith and desire to bring up their children in a Christian manner, priests
and the whole community must manifest an attentive solicitude, so that
they do not consider themselves separated from the Church, in whose life
they can and must participate as baptized persons:
They should be encouraged to listen to the Word of God, to attend the
Sacrifice of the Mass, to persevere in prayer, to contribute to works of
charity and to community efforts for justice, to bring up their children
in the Christian faith, to cultivate the spirit and practice of penance
and thus implore, day by day, God's Grace.
The openness to fertility
1652 "By its very nature the institution of marriage and married love is
ordered to the procreation and education of the offspring and it is in
them that it finds its crowning glory."
Children are the supreme gift of marriage and contribute greatly to the
good of the parents themselves. God himself said: "It is not good that man
should be alone," and "from the beginning [he] made them male and female";
wishing to associate them in a special way in his own creative work, God
blessed man and woman with the words: "Be fruitful and multiply." Hence,
true married love and the whole structure of family life which results
from it, without diminishment of the other ends of marriage, are directed
to dispoSing the spouses to cooperate valiantly with the love of the
Creator and Savior, who through them will increase and enrich his family
from day to day.
1653 The fruitfulness of conjugal love extends to the fruits of the moral,
spiritual, and supernatural life that parents hand on to their children by
education. Parents are the principal and first educators of their
children. In this sense the fundamental task of marriage and family
is to be at the service of life.
1654 Spouses to whom God has not granted children can nevertheless have a
conjugal life full of meaning, in both human and Christian terms. Their
marriage can radiate a fruitfulness of charity, of hospitality, and of
VI. The Domestic Church
1655 Christ chose to be born and grow up in the bosom of the holy family
of Joseph and Mary. The Church is nothing other than "the family of God."
From the beginning, the core of the Church was often constituted by those
who had become believers "together with all [their] household." When
they were converted, they desired that "their whole household" should also
be saved. These families who became believers were islands of
Christian life in an unbelieving world.
1656 In our own time, in a world often alien and even hostile to faith,
believing families are of primary importance as centers of living, radiant
faith. For this reason the Second Vatican Council, uSing an ancient
expression, calls the family the Ecclesia domestica. It is in the
bosom of the family that parents are "by word and example . . . the first
heralds of the faith with regard to their children. They should encourage
them in the vocation which is proper to each child, fostering with special
care any religious vocation."
1657 It is here that the father of the family, the mother, children, and
all members of the family exercise the priesthood of the baptized in a
privileged way "by the reception of the sacraments, prayer and
thanksgiving, the witness of a holy life, and self-denial and active
charity." Thus the home is the first school of Christian life and "a
school for human enrichment." Here one learns endurance and the joy
of work, fraternal love, generous - even repeated - forgiveness, and above
all divine worship in prayer and the offering of one's life.
1658 We must also remember the great number of Single persons who, because
of the particular circumstances in which they have to live - often not of
their chooSing - are especially close to Jesus' heart and therefore
deserve the special affection and active solicitude of the Church,
especially of pastors. Many remain without a human family often due to
conditions of poverty. Some live their situation in the spirit of the
Beatitudes, serving God and neighbor in exemplary fashion. The doors of
homes, the "domestic churches," and of the great family which is the
Church must be open to all of them. "No one is without a family in this
world: the Church is a home and family for everyone, especially those who
'labor and are heavy laden.'"
1659 St. Paul said: "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the
Church.... This is a great mystery, and I mean in reference to Christ and
the Church" (Eph 5:25, 32).
1660 The marriage covenant, by which a man and a woman form with each
other an intimate communion of life and love, has been founded and endowed
with its own special laws by the Creator. By its very nature it is ordered
to the good of the couple, as well as to the generation and education of
children. Christ the Lord raised marriage between the baptized to the
dignity of a sacrament (cf. CIC, can. 1055 # 1; cf. GS 48 # 1).
1661 The sacrament of Matrimony signifies the union of Christ and the
Church. It gives spouses the Grace to love each other with the love with
which Christ has loved his Church; the Grace of the sacrament thus
perfects the human love of the spouses, strengthens their indissoluble
unity, and sanctifies them on the way to eternal life (cf. Council of
Trent: DS 1799).
1662 Marriage is based on the consent of the contracting parties, that is,
on their will to give themselves, each to the other, mutually and
definitively, in order to live a covenant of faithful and fruitful love.
1663 Since marriage establishes the couple in a public state of life in
the Church, it is fitting that its celebration be public, in the framework
of a liturgical celebration, before the priest (or a witness authorized by
the Church), the witnesses, and the assembly of the faithful.
1664 Unity, indissolubility, and openness to fertility are essential to
marriage. Polygamy is incompatible with the unity of marriage; divorce
separates what God has joined together; the refusal of fertility turns
married life away from its "supreme gift," the child (GS 50 # 1).
1665 The remarriage of persons divorced from a living, lawful spouse
contravenes the plan and law of God as taught by Christ. They are not
separated from the Church, but they cannot receive Eucharistic communion.
They will lead Christian lives especially by educating their children in
1666 The Christian home is the place where children receive the first
proclamation of the faith. For this reason the family home is rightly
called "The Domestic Church," a community of Grace and prayer, a school of
human virtues and of Christian charity.
Article One: Sacramentals
1667 "Holy Mother Church has, moreover, instituted sacramentals. These are
sacred signs which bear a resemblance to the sacraments. They signify
effects, particularly of a spiritual nature, which are obtained through
the intercession of the Church. By them men are disposed to receive the
chief effect of the sacraments, and various occasions in life are rendered
The characteristics of sacramentals
1668 Sacramentals are instituted for the sanctification of certain
ministries of the Church, certain states of life, a great variety of
circumstances in Christian life, and the use of many things helpful to
man. In accordance with bishops' pastoral decisions, they can also respond
to the needs, culture, and special history of the Christian people of a
particular region or time. They always include a prayer, often accompanied
by a specific sign, such as the laying on of hands, the sign of the cross,
or the sprinkling of holy water (which recalls Baptism).
1669 Sacramentals derive from the baptismal priesthood: every baptized
person is called to be a "blesSing," and to bless. Hence lay people
may preside at certain blesSings; the more a blesSing concerns ecclesial
and sacramental life, the more is its administration reserved to the
ordained ministry (bishops, priests, or deacons).
1670 Sacramentals do not confer the Grace of the Holy Spirit in the way
that the sacraments do, but by the Church's prayer, they prepare us to
receive Grace and dispose us to cooperate with it. "For well-disposed
members of the faithful, the liturgy of the sacraments and sacramentals
sanctifies almost every event of their lives with the divine Grace which
flows from the Paschal mystery of the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of
Christ. From this source all sacraments and sacramentals draw their power.
There is scarcely any proper use of material things which cannot be thus
directed toward the sanctification of men and the praise of God."
Various forms of sacramentals
1671 Among sacramentals blesSings (of persons, meals, objects, and places)
come first. Every blesSing praises God and prays for his gifts. In Christ,
Christians are blessed by God the Father "with every spiritual
blesSing." This is why the Church imparts blesSings by invoking the
name of Jesus, usually while making the holy sign of the cross of Christ.
1672 Certain blesSings have a lasting importance because they consecrate
persons to God, or reserve objects and places for liturgical use. Among
those blesSings which are intended for persons - not to be confused with
sacramental ordination - are the blesSing of the abbot or abbess of a
monastery, the consecration of virgins, the rite of religious profession
and the blesSing of certain ministries of the Church (readers, acolytes,
catechists, etc.). The dedication or blesSing of a church or an altar, the
blesSing of holy oils, vessels, and vestments, bells, etc., can be
mentioned as examples of blesSings that concern objects.
1673 When the Church asks publicly and authoritatively in the name of
Jesus Christ that a person or object be protected against the power of the
Evil One and withdrawn from his dominion, it is called exorcism. Jesus
performed exorcisms and from him the Church has received the power and
office of exorcizing. In a simple form, exorcism is performed at the
celebration of Baptism. The solemn exorcism, called "a major exorcism,"
can be performed only by a priest and with the permission of the bishop.
The priest must proceed with prudence, strictly observing the rules
established by the Church. Exorcism is directed at the expulsion of demons
or to the liberation from demonic possession through the spiritual
Authority which Jesus entrusted to his Church. Illness, especially
psychological illness, is a very different matter; treating this is the
concern of medical science. Therefore, before an exorcism is performed, it
is important to ascertain that one is dealing with the presence of the
Evil One, and not an illness.
1674 Besides sacramental liturgy and sacramentals, catechesis must take
into account the forms of piety and popular devotions among the faithful.
The religious sense of the Christian people has always found expression in
various forms of piety surrounding the Church's sacramental life, such as
the veneration of relics, visits to sanctuaries, pilgrimages, processions,
the stations of the cross, religious dances, the rosary, medals, etc.
1675 These expressions of piety extend the liturgical life of the Church,
but do not replace it. They "should be so drawn up that they harmonize
with the liturgical seasons, accord with the sacred liturgy, are in some
way derived from it and lead the people to it, Since in fact the liturgy
by its very nature is far superior to any of them."
1676 Pastoral discernment is needed to sustain and support popular
piety and, if necessary, to purify and correct the religious sense which
underlies these devotions so that the faithful may advance in knowledge of
the mystery of Christ. Their exercise is subject to the care and
judgment of the bishops and to the general norms of the Church.
At its core the piety of the people is a storehouse of values
that offers answers of Christian wisdom to the great questions of life.
The Catholic wisdom of the people is capable of fashioning a vital
synthesis.... It creatively combines the divine and the human, Christ and
Mary, spirit and body, communion and institution, person and community,
faith and homeland, intelligence and emotion. This wisdom is a Christian
humanism that radically affirms the dignity of every person as a child of
God, establishes a basic fraternity, teaches people to encounter nature
and understand work, provides reasons for joy and humor even in the midst
of a very hard life. For the people this wisdom is also a principle of
discernment and an evangelical instinct through which they spontaneously
sense when the Gospel is served in the Church and when it is emptied of
its content and stifled by other interests.
1677 Sacramentals are sacred signs instituted by the Church. They prepare
men to receive the fruit of the sacraments and sanctify different
circumstances of life.
1678 Among the sacramentals blesSings occupy an important place. They
include both praise of God for his works and gifts, and the Church's
intercession for men that they may be able to use God's gifts according to
the spirit of the Gospel.
1679 In addition to the liturgy, Christian life is nourished by various
forms of popular piety, rooted in the different cultures. While carefully
clarifying them in the light of faith, the Church fosters the forms of
popular piety that express an evangelical instinct and a human wisdom and
that enrich Christian life.
Article Two: Christian Funerals
1680 All the sacraments, and principally those of Christian initiation,
have as their goal the last Passover of the child of God which, through
death, leads him into the life of the Kingdom. Then what he confessed in
faith and hope will be fulfilled: "I look for the resurrection of the
dead, and the life of the world to come."
I. The Christian's Last Passover
1681 The Christian meaning of death is revealed in the light of the
Paschal mystery of the death and resurrection of Christ in whom resides
our only hope. The Christian who dies in Christ Jesus is "away from the
body and at home with the Lord."
1682 For the Christian the day of death inaugurates, at the end of his
sacramental life, the fulfillment of his new birth begun at Baptism, the
definitive "conformity" to "the image of the Son" conferred by the
anointing of the Holy Spirit, and participation in the feast of the
Kingdom which was anticipated in the Eucharist- even if final
purifications are still necessary for him in order to be clothed with the
1683 The Church who, as Mother, has borne the Christian sacramentally in
her womb during his earthly pilgrimage, accompanies him at his journey's
end, in order to surrender him "into the Father's hands." She offers to
the Father, in Christ, the child of his Grace, and she commits to the
earth, in hope, the seed of the body that will rise in glory. This
offering is fully celebrated in the Eucharistic sacrifice; the blesSings
before and after Mass are sacramentals.
II. The Celebration of Funerals
1684 The Christian funeral confers on the deceased neither a sacrament nor
a sacramental Since he has "passed" beyond the sacramental economy. It is
nonetheless a liturgical celebration of the Church. The ministry of
the Church aims at expresSing efficacious communion with the deceased, at
the participation in that communion of the community gathered for the
funeral and at the proclamation of eternal life to the community.
1685 The different funeral rites express the Paschal character of
Christian death and are in keeping with the situations and traditions of
each region, even as to the color of the liturgical vestments worn.
1686 The Order of Christian Funerals (Ordo exsequiarum) of the Roman
liturgy gives three types of funeral celebrations, corresponding to the
three places in which they are conducted (the home, the church, and the
cemetery), and according to the importance attached to them by the family,
local customs, the culture, and popular piety. This order of celebration
is common to all the liturgical traditions and comprises four principal
1687 The greeting of the community. A greeting of faith begins the
celebration. Relatives and friends of the deceased are welcomed with a
word of "consolation" (in the New Testament sense of the Holy Spirit's
power in hope). The community assembling in prayer also awaits the
"words of eternal life." The death of a member of the community (or the
anniversary of a death, or the seventh or fortieth day after death) is an
event that should lead beyond the perspectives of "this world" and should
draw the faithful into the true perspective of faith in the risen Christ.
1688 The liturgy of the Word during funerals demands very careful
preparation because the assembly present for the funeral may include some
faithful who rarely attend the liturgy, and friends of the deceased who
are not Christians. The homily in particular must "avoid the literary
genre of funeral eulogy" and illumine the mystery of Christian death
in the light of the risen Christ.
1689 The Eucharistic Sacrifice. When the celebration takes place in church
the Eucharist is the heart of the Paschal reality of Christian death.
In the Eucharist, the Church expresses her efficacious communion with the
departed: offering to the Father in the Holy Spirit the sacrifice of the
death and resurrection of Christ, she asks to purify his child of his Sins
and their consequences, and to admit him to the Paschal fullness of the
table of the Kingdom. It is by the Eucharist thus celebrated that the
community of the faithful, especially the family of the deceased, learn to
live in communion with the one who "has fallen asleep in the Lord," by
communicating in the Body of Christ of which he is a living member and,
then, by praying for him and with him.
1690 A farewell to the deceased is his final "commendation to God" by the
Church. It is "the last farewell by which the Christian community greets
one of its members before his body is brought to its tomb." The
Byzantine tradition expresses this by the kiss of farewell to the
By this final greeting "we Sing for his departure from this life and
separation from us, but also because there is a communion and a reunion.
For even dead, we are not at all separated from one another, because we
all run the same course and we will find one another again in the same
place. We shall never be separated, for we live for Christ, and now we are
united with Christ as we go toward him . . . we shall all be together in
Cf. LG 10.
LG 11 # 2.
GS 48 # 2.
Cf. Heb 5:6; 7:11; Ps 110:4.
Cf. LG 10.
Ex 19:6; cf. Isa 61:6.
Cf. Num 1:48-53; Josh 13:33.
Heb 5:1; cf. Ex 29:1-30; Lev 8.
Cf. Mal 2:7-9.
Cf. Heb 5:3; 7:27; 101-4.
Cf. Num 11:24-25.
Roman Pontifical, Ordination of Bishops 26, Prayer of Consecration.
Roman Pontifical, Ordination of Priests 22, Prayer of Consecration.
Roman Pontifical, Ordination of Deacons 21, Prayer of Consecration.
2 Tim 2:5.
Heb 5:10; cf. 6:20; Gen 14:18.
St. Thomas Aquinas, Hebr. 8, 4.
Rev 1:6; cf. Rev 5:9-10; 1 Pet 2:5, 9.
LG 10 # 1.
LG 10 # 2.
Cf. LG 10; 28; SC 33; CD 11; PO 2; 6.
Pius XII, encyclical, Mediator Dei: AAS, 39 (1947) 548.
St. Thomas Aquinas, STh III, 22, 4c.
Cf. LG 21.
St. Ignatius of Antioch, Ad Trall. 3, 1: SCh 10, 96; cf. Ad Magn. 6, 1:
SCh 10, 82-84.
Cf. Mk 10 43-45; 1 Pet 5:3.
St. John Chrysostom, De sac. 2, 4: PG 48, 636; cf. Jn 21:15-17.
Cf. SC 33N; LG 10.
St. Ignatius of Antioch, Ad Trall. 3,1: SCh 10, 96.
LG 21; Cf. Acts 1:8; 24; Jn 20:22-23; 1 Tim 4:14; 2 Tim 1:6-7.
LG 21 # 2.
CD 2 # 2.
Cf. LG 22.
Pius XII, Fidei donum: AAS 49 (1957) 237; cf. LG 23; CD 4; 36; 37; AG
5; 6; 38.
Cf. SC 41; LG 26.
LG 28; cf. Jn 10:36.
PO 2 # 2.
LG 28 cf. Heb 5:1-10; 7:24; 9:11-28; Innocent I, Epist. ad Decentium:
PL 20, 554 A; St. Gregory of Nazianzus, Oratio 2, 22: PG 35, 432B.
PO 10; OT 20; cf. Acts 1:8.
LG 28; cf. 1 Cor 11:26.
Cf. PO 2.
LG 28 # 2.
LG 29; cf. CD 15.
Cf. St. Hippolytus, Trad. ap. 8: SCh 11, 58-62.
Cf. LG 41; AA 16.
Cf. Mk 10:45; Lk 22:27; St. Polycarp, Ad Phil. 5, 2: SCh 10, 182.
Cf. LG 29; SC 35 # 4; AG 16.
LG 29 # 2.
AG 16 # 6.
Cf. Pius XII, apostolic constitution, Sacramentum Ordinis: DS 3858.
Cf. Roman Missal, Preface of the Apostles I.
Cf. LG 21; Eph 4:11.
LG 21 # 2.
Cf. DS 794 and Cf. DS 802; CIC, can. 1012; CCEO, can. 744; 747.
CIC, can. 1024.
Cf. Mk 3:14-19; Lk 6:12-16; 1 Tim 3:1-13; 2 Tim 1:6; Titus 1:5-9; St.
Clement of Rome, Ad Cor. 42, 4; 44, 3: PG 1, 292-293; 300.
Cf. John Paul II, MD 26-27; CDF, declaration, Inter insigniores: AAS 69
Cf. Heb 5:4.
1 Cor 7:32.
Cf. PO 16.
Cf. PO 16.
Cf. Council of Trent: 1 DS 1767; LG 21; 28; 29; PO 2.
Cf. CIC, cann. 290-293; 1336 # 1 3, 5, 1338 # 2; Council of Trent DS
Cf. Council of Trent DS 1612; DS 1154.
St. Augustine, In Jo. ev. 5,15: PL 35, 1422.
Cf. Roman Pontifical, Ordination of Bishops 26, Prayer of Consecration;
cf. CD 13; 16.
Roman Pontifical, Ordination of Bishops 26, Prayer of Consecration; cf.
St. Hippolytus, Trad. ap. 3: SCh ll, 44-46.
Byzantine Liturgy, Euchologion.
St. Gregory of Nazianzus, Oratio 2, 71, 74, 73: PG 35, 480-481.
St. John Vianney, quoted in B. Nodet, Jean-Marie Vianney, Cure' d' Ars,
CIC, can. 1055 # 1; cf. GS 48 # 1.
Rev 19:7, 9; cf. Gen 1:26-27.
1 Cor 7:39; cf. Eph 5:31-32.
GS 48 # 1.
Cf. GS 47 # 2.
GS 47 # 1.
Cf. Gen 1:27; 1 Jn 4:8, 16.
Gen 1:28; cf. 1:31.
Cf. Gen 2:18-25.
Cf. Gen 3:12.
Cf. Gen 2:22; 3:16b.
Cf. Gen 1:28; 3:16-19.
Cf. Gen 3:21.
Gen 3:16, 19.
Cf. Mt 19:8; Deut 24:1.
Cf. Hos 1-3; Isa 54; 62; Jer 2-3; 31; Ezek 16; 23; Mal 2:13-17.
Rev 19:7, 9; cf. GS 22.
Cf. Jn 2:1-11.
Cf. Mt 19:8.
Cf. Mk 8:34; Mt 11:29-30.
Cf. Mt 19:11.
Eph 5:25-26, 31-32; Cf. Gen 2:24.
Cf. Eph 5:26-27.
Cf. DS 1800; CIC, Can. 1055 # 2.
Cf. Lk 14:26; Mk 10:28-31.
Cf. Rev 14:4; 1 Cor 7:32; Mt 2:56.
Cf. Mk 12:25; 1 Cor 7:31.
Cf. Mt 19:3-12.
Cf. LG 42; PC 12; OT 10.
St. John Chrysostom, De virg. 10, 1 PG 48, 540; Cf. John Paul II, FC
Cf. SC 61.
Cf. LG 6.
Cf. 1 Cor 10:17.
Cf. Eph 5:32.
CIC, can. 1057 # 1.
GS 48 # 1; OCM 45; cf. CIC, can. 1057 # 2.
Gen 2:24; cf. Mt 10:8; Eph 5:31.
Cf. CIC, can. 1103.
Cf. CIC, can. 1057 # 1.
Cf. CIC, cann. 1095-1107.
Cf. CIC, can. 1071.
Cf. Council of Trent: DS 1813-1816; CIC, can. 1108.
Cf. CIC, can. 1063.
GS 49 # 3.
Cf. CIC, can. 1124.
Cf. CIC, can. 1086.
Cf. CIC, can. 1125.
1 Cor 7:14.
Cf. 1 Cor 7:16.
Cf. CIC, can. 1134.
Cf. Mk 10:9.
GS 48 # 1.
GS 48 # 2.
Cf. CIC, can. 1141.
LG 11 # 2.
LG 11 # 2; cf. LG 41.
GS 48 # 2.
Eph 5:21; cf. Gal 6:2.
Tertullian, Ad uxorem. 2, 8, 6-7: PL 1, 1412-1413; cf. FC 13.
Mt 19:6; cf. Gen 2:24.
GS 49 # 2.
Cf. FC 19.
155 GS 48 # 1.
156 Cf. FC 20.
157 Cf. FC 83; CIC, cann. 1151-1155.
158 Mk 10:11-12.
159 FC 84.
160 GS 48 # 1; 50.
161 GS 50 # 1; cf. Gen 2:18; Mt 19:4; Gen 1:28.
162 Cf. GE 3.
163 Cf. FC 28.
164 Cf. Acts 18:8.
165 Cf. Acts 16:31; Acts 11:14.
166 LG 11; cf. FC 21.
167 LG 11.
168 LG 10.
169 GS 52 # 1.
170 FC 85; cf. Mt 11:28.
171 SC 60; Cf. CIC, can. 1166; CCEO, can. 867.
172 Cf. Gen 12:2; Lk 6:28; Rom 12:14; 1 Pet 3:9.
173 Cf. SC 79; CIC, can. 1168; De Ben 16, 18.
174 SC 61.
175 Eph 1:3.
176 Cf. Mk 1:25-26; 3:15; 6:7, 13; 16:17.
177 Cf. CIC, can. 1172.
178 Cf. Council of Nicaea II: DS 601; 603; Council of Trent: DS 1822.
179 SC 13 # 3.
180 Cf. John Paul II, CT 54.
181 CELAM, Third General Conference (Puebla, 1979), Final Document # 448
(tr. NCCB, 1979); cf. Paul VI, EN 48.
182 Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed.
183 2 Cor 5:8.
184 Cf. 1 Cor 15:42-44.
185 Cf. SC 81-82.
186 Cf. SC 81.
187 Cf. 1 Thess 4:18.
188 OCF 41.
189 Cf. OCF 41.
190 Cf. OCF 57.
191 OCF 10.
192 St. Simeon of Thessalonica, De ordine sepulturae. 336: PG 155, 684.