The Celebration of the Christian Mystery
someone to receive orders. Like every grace this sacrament can be
only as an unmerited gift.
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
“for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.”
Called to conse-
crate 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.
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.
The indelible character
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.
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
be repeated or conferred temporarily.
It is true that someone validly ordained can, for grave reasons, 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
because the character imprinted by ordination is for ever.
74 Cf. Council of Trent: DS 1767;
21; 28; 29;
75 Cf. CIC, cann. 290-293; 1336 § 1 3°, 5°; 1338 § 2; Council of Trent: DS 1774.