Liturgy & Liturgical Law Forum: Validity of rites that are not Sacraments

Validity of rites that are not Sacraments QUESTION from A. Basto on March 23, 2002 Dear Mr. Slavek,
Just recently, I read your answer to Mr. Grey's question Roman Pontifical and Coronation Rite. After asking other questions, Mr. Grey asked his question number 4, divided in four sub-questions.
I was puzzled by Mr. Grey's fourth question (since it is a big question, and since it is avaliable in this forum, I think it is better not to quote Mr. Grey's question in this present question.)
In your answer to the above mentioned question 4, you stated that you can't talk about the validity of a Coronation order, since it is not a Sacrament. I was very confused by your awnser and I would like you to explain why only Sacraments can be valid or invalid.
You see, I started thinking about other liturgical rites that are not sacraments, and, I believe that in the case of many non-sacramental liturgical actions, there can be valid and invalid celebration. Now, I know that you are the expert, and so I would like to submit the examples that came to my mind to your consideration, so that you can explain to me why you can only speak of the validity of Sacraments, and not of other liturgical actions.
I was thinking about the rites of Dedication of an Altar and of a Church, Blessing of an Abbot, Consacration of Virgins, and institution of Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist. These rites are not Sacraments. But they bestow God's grace. Before the rite of institution, the person is not an Extraordinary Minister, but after the institution the person has been commisioned to this dignity. Before the Dedication of a Church, you have only a building. But after the dedication you have something holy, the Temple of the Lord. Before the dedication, the Altar is just a stone, but after the dedication, it becomes a sacred place, where the Most Holy Sacrifice is to be offered.
All the rites above mentioned are long rites, composed of several parts. In the case of the dedication of the Altar, you have the washing of the altar, then the prayer of dedication, then the anointing with chrism, and then the incensation of the Altar.
But, in the way I understand, and correct me if I am wrong, all the rites I mentioned have in them some essential act, a main part, in which the aim of the liturgical action is acomplished. This essential act almost always has a specific form. A formula that is essential to the act, just like the Sacraments all have an essential formula.
So that if certain acts are done, and certain formulas said by the celebrant, with the appropriate intention of at least doing what the Church does, the act is accomplished, and if such formulas are not said, the act is not accomplished.
Thus, if the prayer of dedication is ommited, the dedication of the Altar failed to take place, regardless of the fact that the altar was washed, anointed and incensed. The dedication of the Altar, without the appropriate prayer of dedication, seems to me an INVALID dedication. Don't you agree?
In like manner, if certain essential acts are ommited in the rite of Blessing of an Abbot, or Consacration of a Virgin, or institution of an Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist, the Abbot is not blessed, the virgin is not consacrated, and the Minister is not instituted, so that those rites were invalid.
Therefore an Abbot invalidly blessed will need to go through the rite again if he wants to be validly blessed for his office. And the same apllies to the consacration of the virgin and institution of the Extraordinary Minister. And those liturgical rites are not Sacraments. Am I wrong? Am I missing something?
1. So, can there be a between valid and invalid rites that are not Sacraments?
2. If one can, at least in a broader sense of the term validity, talk about valid and invalid liturgical rites of non-sacramental nature, how would Mr. Grey's above mentioned question be answered?
ANSWER by Mr. Jacob Slavek on April 2, 2002 Dear Mr. Basto,
I think that you have incorrectly identified me as the expert here. :-) Although I consider myself a liturgical expert, I am not a theological expert (yet at least). Frequently though it is difficult to discuss Liturgy without Sacramental Theology so I am happy to try my best and invite others to help out.
Something important to start out with: Liturgy does not equal sacraments, as said in your question. Sacraments do not come from liturgical rites or ceremonies, although currently, as always was (I believe) and probably always will be it is only lawful that the sacraments be administered within the context of a liturgical celebration, with exceptions of Baptism in danger of death, etc.
Okay, moving on to Theology, I suppose that the distinction between valid and invalid can apply to some sacramentals that are not sacraments, such as blessings/dedications that are administered within the Liturgy. I think, however, that the distinction is not as vivid since there is much more freedom in the manner of blessing, whereas in the sacraments there is usually a precise formula that must be followed for validity. (liceity is another question) A priest may give a simple blessing by making The Sign of the Cross over a person or object, which can be considered valid. I think that in the dedication of an altar, there are many formulas that could be composed that would be valid, but only the one given in the rites is licit. Since the sacraments have precise instructions that are instituted within Sacred Scripture, much less freedom is available for their validity, and therefore the distinction between valid and invalid is more vivid.
Hope this helps. I invite theologians to offer their input.
Mr. Slavek
Back to Index Page

You have successfully subscribed!