What The Church Intends

While I read a lot of writers from all periods of the Church’s history my focus tends to be on the West in the first thousand years. Thus, there’s lots of great stuff that I [haven’t gotten/won’t get to] that I only  encounter through citations from others. This especially holds true for Post-Reformation Roman Catholic authors. Aside from the Carmelite Mystics and a bit of Ignatius, I’m ignorant of these folks. Therefore it was with interest that I read an enlightening selection on the intention of the Church from Fr. Hunwicke:

The Church’s standard teaching is graphically expressed by Bellarmine: “There is no need to intend to do what the Roman Church does; but what the true Church does, whichever it is, or what Christ instituted, or what Christians do: for they amount to the same. You ask: What if someone intends to do what some particular or false church does, which he thinks the true one, like that of Geneva, and intends not to do what the Roman church does? I answer: even that is sufficient. For the one who intends to do what the church of Geneva does, intends to do what the universal church does. For he intends to do what such a church does, because he thinks it to be a member of the true universal church: although he is wrong in his discernment of the true church. For the mistake of the minister does not take away the efficacy of the sacrament: only a defectus intentionis does that.” Cardinal Franzelin gives an extreme case: a daft priest who didn’t want to confer grace when he baptised but actually believed that by baptising he would consign someone to the Devil – there was a seventeenth century rumour about this in Marseilles. Non tamen, he writes, sacramenti virtutem et efficaciam impediret. He qotes Aquinas in support. In nineteenth century, the Holy Office declared that Methodist missionaries in Oceania who explicitly denied in the course of the Baptism service itself that Baptism regenerates, did not thereby invalidate the Sacrament.

. . .
And this does really matter because an enthusiasm for deeming true sacraments to be invalid is likely to lead to irreverence or even sacrilege.

Good stuff…

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