‘For validity of Sacraments, formulas and matter cannot be modified’
Feb 3, 2024

‘For validity of Sacraments, formulas and matter cannot be modified’

In the face of continued liturgical abuses, the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith releases a doctrinal Note entitled “Gestis verbisque,” reiterating that the words and elements established in the essential rite of each Sacrament cannot be changed because such changes render the Sacrament invalid.

The Note from the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, entitled “Gestis verbisque,” was published on Saturday, February 3.

The Note was discussed and approved unanimously by the Cardinals and Bishops who are Members of the Dicastery and were present at the recent Plenary Assembly. Pope Francis then approved the text of the Note.

It reaffirms that the formulas and material elements established in the essential rite of each Sacrament cannot be changed at will in the name of creativity.

Doing so, in fact, renders the Sacrament itself invalid; therefore, it never existed and no Sacramental grace was conferred.

Presentation by Cardinal Fernández

Presenting the document, Cardinal Victor Fernández, Prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, explained the Note’s genesis.

He said there has been a “multiplication in the number of situations in which it was necessary to declare the invalidity of the celebrated Sacraments,” due to modifications that “then led to the need to track down the individuals involved to repeat the rite of Baptism or Confirmation and a significant number of the faithful have rightly expressed their disturbance.”

As an example, he cited modifications to the baptismal formula, including: “I baptize you in the name of the Creator…” and “In the name of the dad and the mom… we baptize you.”

These same circumstances have also caused concern among some priests who “having been baptized with such formulas, painfully discovered the invalidity of their ordination and of the Sacraments celebrated up to that moment.”

Cardinal Fernández explained that “while in other areas of the Church’s pastoral action there is ample room for creativity,” in the realm of sacramental celebration this “turns instead into a ‘manipulative will’.”

Priority given to God’s action

“With intimately connected events and words,” reads the doctrinal Note, “God reveals and carries out His plan of salvation for every man and woman.”

Unfortunately, he added, “it must be noted that not always does the liturgical celebration, especially that of the Sacraments, take place in full fidelity to the rites prescribed by the Church.”

The Church, “has the duty to ensure the priority of God’s action and to safeguard the unity of the Body of Christ in those actions that are unequalled because they are sacred ‘par excellence’ with an efficacy guaranteed by the priestly action of Christ.”

The Church, he noted, is also “aware that administering God’s grace does not mean appropriating it, but becoming an instrument of the Spirit in transmitting the gift of the Risen Christ. It knows, in particular, that…


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