Apostolic Constitution Of Pope Pius XII on the Sacrament of Order
November 30, 1947
1. The Catholic Faith professes that the Sacrament of Order instituted by Christ, by which are conferred spiritual power and grace to perform properly ecclesiastical functions, is one and the same for the universal Church; for, just as Our Lord Jesus Christ gave to the Church but one and the same government under the Prince of the Apostles, one and the same faith, one and the same sacrifice, so too He gave her but one and the same treasury of efficacious signs of grace, that is, Sacraments. For these Sacraments instituted by Christ Our Lord, the Church in the course of the centuries never substituted other Sacraments, nor could she do so, since, as the Council of Trent teaches (Conc. Trid., Sess. VII, can. 1, De Sacram, in genere), the seven Sacraments of the New Law were all instituted by Jesus Christ Our Lord, and the Church has no power over "the substance of the Sacraments," that is, over those things which, as is proved from the sources of divine revelation, Christ the Lord Himself established to be kept as sacramental signs.
2. As regards the Sacrament of Order, of which We are now speaking, it is a fact that, notwithstanding its unity and identity, which no Catholic has ever dared to question, in the course of time, according to varying local and temporal conditions, various rites have been added in its conferring; this was surely the reason why theologians began to inquire which of the rites used in conferring the Sacrament of Order belong to its essence, and which do not; it also gave rise to doubts and anxieties in particular cases; and as a consequence the humble petition has again and again been addressed to the Holy that the supreme Authority of the Church might at last decide what is required for validity in conferring of Sacred Orders.
3. All agree that the Sacraments of the New Law, as sensible signs which produce invisible grace, must both signify the grace which they produce and produce the grace which they signify. Now the effects which must be produced and hence also signified by Sacred Ordination to the Diaconate, the Priesthood, and the Episcopacy, namely power and grace, in all the rites of various times and places in the universal Church, are found to be sufficiently signified by the imposition of hands and the words which determine it. Besides, every one knows that the Roman Church has always held as valid Ordinations conferred according to the Greek rite without the traditio instrumentorum; so that in the very Council of Florence, in which was effected the union of the Greeks with the Roman Church, the Greeks were not required to change their rite of Ordination or to add to it the traditio instrumentorum: and it was the will of the Church that in Rome itself the Greeks should be ordained according to their own rite. It follows that, even according to the mind of the Council of Florence itself, the traditio instrumentorum is not required for the substance and validity of this Sacrament by the will of Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. If it was at one time necessary even for validity by the will and command of the Church, every one knows that the Church has the power to change and abrogate what she herself has established.
4. Wherefore, after invoking the divine light, We of Our Apostolic Authority and from certain knowledge declare, and as far as may be necessary decree and provide: that the matter, and the only matter, of the Sacred Orders of the Diaconate, the Priesthood, and the Episcopacy is the imposition of hands; and that the form, and the only form, is the words which determine the application of this matter, which univocally signify the sacramental effects - namely the power of Order and the grace of the Holy Spirit - and which are accepted and used by the Church in that sense. It follows as a consequence that We should declare, and in order to remove all controversy and to preclude doubts of conscience, We do by Our Apostolic Authority declare, and if there was ever a lawful disposition to the contrary We now decree that at least in the future the traditio instrumentorum is not necessary for the validity of the Sacred Orders of the Diaconate, the Priesthood, and the Episcopacy.
5. As to the matter and form in the conferring of each Order, We of Our same supreme Apostolic Authority decree and provide as follows: In the Ordination to the Diaconate, the matter is the one imposition of the hand of the Bishop which occurs in the rite of that Ordination. The form consists of the words of the "Preface," of which the following are essential and therefore required for validity:
"Emitte in eum, quaesumus, Domine, Spiritum Sanctum, quo in opus ministerii tui fideliter exsequendi septiformis gratiae tuae munere roboretur."
In the Ordination to the Priesthood, the matter is the first imposition off hands of the Bishop which is done in silence, but not the continuation of the same imposition through the extension of the right hand, nor the last imposition to which are attached the words: "Accipe Spiritum Sanctum: quorum remiseris peccata, etc." And the form consists of the words of the "Preface," of which the following are essential and therefore required for validity:
"Da, quaesumus, omnipotens Pater, in hunc famulum tuum Presbyterii dignitatem; innova in visceribus eius spiritum sanctitatis, ut acceptum a Te, Deus, secundi meriti munus obtineat censuramque morum exemplo suae conversationis insinuet."
["Grant, we beseech Thee, Almighty Father, invest this Thy servant with the dignity of the Priesthood; do Thou renew in his heart the spirit of holiness, so that he may persevere in this office, which is next to ours in dignity, since he has received it from Thee, O God. May the example of his life lead others to moral uprightness."]
Finally in the Episcopal Ordination or Consecration, the matter is the imposition of hands which is done by the Bishop consecrator. The form consists of the words of the "Preface," of which the following are essential and therefore required for validity:
"Comple in Sacerdote tuo ministerii tui summam, et ornamentis totius glorificationis instructum coelestis unguenti rore santifica."
["Perfect in Thy priest the fullness of thy ministry and, clothing him in all the ornaments of spiritual glorification, sanctify him with the Heavenly anointing."]
All these things are to be done as was determined by Our Apostolic Constitution "Episcopalis Consecrationis" of 30 November, 1944.
6. In order that there may be no occasion for doubt, We command that in conferring each Order the imposition of hands be done by physically touching the head of the person to be ordained, although a moral contact also is sufficient for the valid conferring of the Sacrament.
Finally, what We have above declared and provided is by no means to be understood in the sense that it be permitted even in the slightest detail to neglect or omit the other rites which are prescribed in the Roman Pontifical; on the contrary We order that all the prescriptions laid down in the said Roman Pontifical be religiously observed and performed.
The provisions of this Our Constitution have not retroactive force; in case any doubt arises, it is be submitted to this Apostolic See.
These things We proclaim, declare, and decree, all things to the contrary notwithstanding, even those worthy of special mention, and accordingly We will and order that in the Roman Pontifical they be clearly indicated. Let no man therefore infringe this Constitution which We have enacted, nor dare to contravene the same.
Given at Rome from Saint Peter's, on the thirtieth of November, Feast of Saint Andrew the Apostle, in the year nineteen hundred and forty-seven, the ninth of Our Pontificate.
AAS 40-5; Pius XII, Apostolic Constitution, 30 Nov., 1947 Cf. Periodica, 37-9 (Hurth): Commentarium pro Religiosis, 1948, p. 4 (Pujoiras).
AAS 40-5. Volume 3, Canon Law Digest, 1954