Is the Consecration Form for the Holy Eucharist in the New Mass Valid or Invalid?

by Patrick Henry Omlor

Adapted from his longer work of the same title

(Summer, 2007)

The Problems with the New Form of Consecration

Defenders of the “short form” position hold that these first few words of the wine-consecration form in the Latin Rite, “This is the chalice of My Blood,” suffice for the valid consecration of the Precious Blood. They claim that the remaining words of the sacramental form, namely, “of the new and eternal testament, the mystery of faith, which shall be shed for you and for many unto the remission of sins,” although being part of the wine-consecration form laid down in the Roman Missal, are nevertheless not necessary for the valid consecration of the wine and hence not necessary for the validity of the Mass.

The defenders of the “entire form” position deny the foregoing supposition. They hold that, except for the word “for,” ALL the words of the sacramental form for the wine-consecration, exactly as laid down in the Roman Missal, are absolutely necessary for bringing about the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist and therefore are essential for the celebration of a valid Mass.

Present-day advocates of the “short form” opinion are wont to point out that from the beginning of the trend in the mid-17th century it has gradually become today the “more common opinion” among theologians. Since the falsely translated words in the English version of the wine-consecration, “for all so that sins may be forgiven,” occur in the latter part of the sacramental form, which (so they claim) is a nonessential part anyway, that deviation from the correct and certainly valid wording, “for many unto the remission of sins”, has no bearing on the validity of the consecration in the English version. So they claim.

Emmanuel Doronzo, O.M.I., professor of Dogmatic Theology at the Catholic University, Washington, DC, and author of De Eucharista (1947), points out that the “entire form” position “is taught by the majority of theologians and Thomists up to the Council of Trent, and afterwards by very many Thomists as well as non-Thomists.” Moreover, the Salmanticenses remarked on the UNANIMITY of thought regarding the necessity for validity of the entire form: “All the earlier Thomists up to Cajetan, who rejected it, taught the same unanimously.”

Pope St. Pius V ordered that Cajetan’s opinion that the short form of consecration is sufficient be expunged from the Roman edition of his “Commentaries” as being opposed to the teaching of the Angelic Doctor

Thus Cajetan (1469-1534), a Dominican cardinal, was the first “Thomist” to oppose the mind of St. Thomas on this matter. In his “Commentaries” on the Summa Theologica he emphatically declared that for the wine-consecration nothing more is required than these four words: “This is my blood.” Continuing with excessive self-assurance, he asserted: “Although Scotus and many others doubt this is true, it seems to me that there is no basis for doubting it to be probable: but IT MUST BE CONSIDERED AS BEYOND QUESTION [emphasis added], as I have said.”

This opinion of Cajetan’s appeared during his lifetime in the edition of his “Commentaries” published at Venice in 1533. But the Sovereign Pontiff St. Pius V later proved to be one who certainly did NOT consider Cajetan’s opinion to be “beyond question,” for when he authorized the “Commentaries” to be republished in a Roman edition in 1570, he also explicitly commanded this particular opinion to be expurgated!

As Cardinal Capisuccus (1677) notes, “They are in error who try to maintain that this was expurgated only because Cajetan downgraded St. Thomas’ opinion too much. For Cajetan here does not merely downgrade the opinion of St. Thomas: he departs from it. Just as he departs from him on other matters, but those other divergences were not ordered to be dropped from the Roman edition. It is evident that Pope Pius V did not agree with this opinion of Cajetan’s [which he ordered to be expurgated].”

Very many great theologians, including saints, popes and doctors of the Church, have held that the mere words “This is the chalice of My Blood” are insufficient for the validity of the consecration of the wine and that the entire form (including “for you and for many unto the remission of sins”) is absolutely essential. These exponents include St. Thomas Aquinas; St. Antoninus; Pope St. Pius V; Pope Innocent III; the authors of the Catechism of the Council of Trent; Cardinal Raymond Capisuccus, O.P.; those brilliant Thomists, the renowned Discalced Carmelites of Salamanca known as the Salmanticenses; Hervaeus Natalis and Aegidius Columna (Colonna), who were two of St. Thomas’ disciples; Capreolus (“The Prince of Thomists”); Bartholomeus Spina (a Dominican who was a Master of the Sacred Palace); Sylvester; Tabiena; Armilla Peter de Soto; Viguerius; Arauxo; Marcus Huertos; John Nicolai; Gonet; John Vincent Asturicensis; John Gonzalez: N. Franciscus; Thomas Argentina; Richardus; N. Philippus; N. Cornejo; John Gerson; Andrew Victorellus; Lorca; Thomas Hurtado; Pasqualigo:  Petrus de Palude; Henry Henriquez, S.J.; Francis Amicus, S.J.; John of Freiburg; Jacobus de Graffus, O.S.B.; F. Macedo, G.M.; Pere Maurice de la Taille, S.J.

It is worth mentioning that the redoubtable Suarez, who was a prominent “short form” advocate, conceded that the “entire form” position that he opposed “IS VERY PROBABLE AND OF GREAT AUTHORITY [emphasis added] and Scotus himself did not venture to contradict it, but left it as a doubtful matter.”

Teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas Regarding the Form of Consecration

The view of St. Thomas on which words of the wine-consecration form are essential for validity is given in three different places: Scriptum Super Lib. IV Sententiarum; (2) In 1 Cor. XI, (lect. 6); (3) Summa Theologica.

In Scriptum Super Lib. IV Sententiarum (dist. 8. Q. 2. a. 2. q. 1. ad 3) we read: “And therefore those words which follow [that is, which follow ‘This is the chalice of My Blood’] are essential to the blood, inasmuch as it is consecrated in this sacrament; and therefore they must be of the substance of the form.”

In 1 Cor. XI, (lect. 6) has the following: “In regard to these words which the Church uses in the consecration of the Blood, some think that not all of them are NECESSARY [emphasis added] for the form, but the words ‘This is the chalice of My Blood’ only, not the remainder which follows, ‘of the new and eternal testament, the mystery of faith, which shall be shed for you and for many unto the remission of sins.’ But it would appear that this is not said correctly, because all that which follows is a determination of the predicate: HENCE THOSE SUBSEQUENT WORDS BELONG TO THE MEANING OR SIGNIFICATION OF THE SAME PRONOUNCEMENT, AND BECAUSE, AS HAS OFTEN BEEN SAID, IT IS BY SIGNIFYING THAT THE FORMS OF SACRAMENTS HAVE THEIR EFFECT. HENCE ALL OF THESE WORDS APPERTAIN TO THE EFFECTING POWER OF THE FORM [emphasis added].”

In Summa Theologica (III. Q. 78, A. 3): “There is a twofold opinion regarding this form. Some have maintained that the words ‘This is the chalice of My Blood’ alone belong to the substance of this form, but not those words which follow. Now this seems incorrect, because the words which follow them are determinations of the predicate, that is, of Christ’s blood; consequently they belong to the integrity of the recitation of the form. “And on this account others say more accurately that all the words which follow are of the substance of the form down to the words, ‘As often as ye shall do this,’ which belong to the use of the sacrament, and consequently do not belong to the substance of the form.” 

St. Thomas Aquinas expresses his view in three different places that the long form is essential for the validity of the consecration.

Teaching of Catholic Theologians Regarding the Form for the Consecration of the Holy Eucharist

Those illustrious Discalced Carmelite theologians of Salamanca, Spain (l6thl7th centuries), known as the Salmanticenses, were as a group the most learned followers of all time of the mind of St. Thomas. “Consequently they made strict adherence to Thomism their fundamental principle, and carried it out with greater consistency than probably any other commentators of the neo-Scholastic period. . . [S]uch uniformity and consistency were obtained that it could be claimed that there was not a single contradiction in any of these immense works, although nearly a century elapsed between the publication of the first and the appearance of the final installment. . . . The Salmanticenses have ever been held in the highest esteem, particularly at Rome where they are considered a standard work on Thomistic scholasticism” (Catholic Encyclopedia).

Martin Serra, an obscure 17th-century Dominican, claimed that St. Thomas held that the mere words “This is the Chalice of my Blood” are sufficient for the valid consecration of the wine. Serra based his argument on Article 1 of Question 78 in Part III of Summa Theologica, which he completely misunderstood. Unfortunately, nowadays there are some who harbor the same ignorance of the meaning of this Article 1. Not being experienced students of St. Thomas, these dilettantes read ONLY HIS WORDS with no understanding whatever of their context and as they relate to the overall purpose of the Angelic Doctor’s explanations.

The following is the refutation against Martin Serra by the Salmanticenses:

“Forasmuch as opposites are more apparent when placed side by side, and in order to avert the possibility of being confronted once again with the question of the Holy Doctor’s meaning, we shall set forth the arguments adduced by various Thomists against our opinion. St. Thomas, they say, remarks in Summa. III, Q. 78. Art. 1, Reply to Objection 4, that ‘If a priest were to pronounce only the aforesaid words with the intention of confecting the sacrament. etc.’ Now by the ‘aforesaid words’ we must understand him to mean the words of consecration which he had set forth in the title of the article. But the title reads: ‘Whether this is the form of the sacrament, This is My Body, and This is the Chalice of My Blood.’ Therefore it is the opinion of the Holy Doctor that only the following words are of the essence, or are necessary, for the consecration of the chalice: ‘This is the Chalice of My Blood.’ Serra places so much stock in this argument and line of reasoning that he would have St. Thomas teaching that the changing of wine into blood occurs by the agency of those words alone.”

“To this we might reply as follows. In the passage under consideration the Holy Doctor’s only concern was so to determine the bare minimum of words that are universally received as being essential for the consecration, as to place them beyond questioning. Whether other words besides these are required for the consecration of the chalice he did not care to state in that passage, namely, Art. 1, but he reserved the discussion of that issue for Art. 3, where he fully considered the question. Therefore we must understand him exactly as he explained the Master of Sentences [Peter Lombard] (In IV, d. 8), in his commentary on the letter, where he said, ‘It is not the intention of the Master in this passage to determine definitively the precise words which effect consecration, but only to explain that the consecration is effected by the words of the Lord.’

“The reply given in the text itself corroborates this: for when the Holy Doctor says: ‘If a priest were to pronounce only the aforesaid words with the intention of confecting this sacrament, this sacrament would be valid.’ His meaning is not at all such as would be favorable to our opponents, that is to say, that these words alone are required for sacramental validity [of the wine-consecration]: ‘This is the Chalice of My Blood’. His meaning is quite different and in no way similiar to that: viz., that it is the words which precede: ‘Qui pridie quam pateretur, etc.’ [i.e., the narrative preambles ‘Who the day before He suffered, etc.’ for the bread; and ‘In like manner, after He had supped, taking also this excellent chalice, etc.’ for the wine] which are not required. This is evident from both the Objection itself as well as from his reply thereto.”

* * * * *

“Such was the difficulty with which St. Thomas was dealing, thus posing a question quite different from that which [our opponents suppose]…, and leading to the demonstration of an entirely different matter. Furthermore, the ‘Objection’ pertains to both elements of the sacramental form, to both the bread and the wine. “Thus both in the Objection and in the Reply it is manifest that he is not treating of those words, ‘of the new and eternal testament, the mystery of faith, which shall be shed for you and for many unto the remission of sins’ but of others, namely of those that precede, and, as it were, introduce the consecratory form. ‘Qui pridie quam pateretur, etc’,… and it is those words only which St. Thomas declares unnecessary… But in no part of this Article 1 does he touch upon the present controversy. Consequently, it is evident that the author of whom we spoke above [Martin Serra] erred in his assertion that St. Thomas’ teaching in this passage is contrary to ours: in fact, neither explicitly nor implicitly did he teach what Serra makes him teach, for on that occasion he was not even discussing the matter of the essential form, since it was not relevant to the question being considered in Article 1.” 

The Arguments of those who claim the New Form of Consecration is Valid and Lawful

In the first work of St. Thomas that was cited (Script. Sup. Lib. IV Sent.) he uses the word “essential” (essentialia), and in the very same sentence he uses the phrase “of the substance (de substantia) of the form.” In the second source cited (In 1 Cor. XI) St. Thomas uses different wording, namely, NECESSARY (de necessitate), referring to the entire form. Finally, in Summa Theologica he reverts to the words “de substantia” (of the substance) of the form.

St. Alphonsus Liguori did not think much of the opinion of those who held that St. Thomas Aquinas was referring to the integrity rather than the validity of the form.

About four centuries ago, sometime after the Council of Trent, certain “short form” apologists came up with the theory that St. Thomas in the Summa did not mean by the expression “de substantia formae” what everyone up to that time had always thought he meant by “substance,” namely, a term synonymous with “essentia” and with “necessitas.” They claimed that by “of the substance of the form” he did not mean necessary for VALIDITY, but necessary only for THE INTEGRITY or completeness of the form. After this bit of sophistry had surfaced, many good Thomists, including Capisuccus and the Salmanticenses, refuted it soundly. And St. Alphonsus does not think much of this particular argument, remarking that how such a theory squares with the mind of St. Thomas is not at all apparent, which is a polite understatement.

“There is no use objecting that the holy Doctor does not teach that all these words are of the essence of the form, but only ‘of the substance of the form’; as though the words ‘This is My blood’ are of the substance as an essential part, and the other words are of the substance as an integral part…”

The first thing that comes to mind that would seem to torpedo this argument is the fact that in the very same Summa Theologica where this supposed problematical expression “belonging to the substance” (de substantia) is used, St. Thomas ACTUALLY DEFINES what he means by “de substantia formae sacramentalis.” In his section on the sacraments in general he establishes principles that are to apply to all the sacraments individually when he will be discussing them later in the work. In Summa Theologica (III, Q. 60, A. 8) he explains:

“Now it is clear that if anything that is OF THE SUBSTANCE OF A SACRAMENTAL FORM be taken away, the essential sense of the words is destroyed: AND CONSEQUENTLY THE SACRAMENT IS NOT ACCOMPLISHED [emphasis added throughout].”

The next thing that would seem to torpedo this argument is that it was not advanced until about THREE HUNDRED YEARS AFTER THE DEATH of St. Thomas. As we saw earlier, the Salmanticenses mentioned that all the earlier Thomists, UNANIMOUSLY, up to Cajetan taught that the entire form is necessary. And Maurice de la Taille, S.J., points out that St. Pius V ordered the expunging of Cajetan’s contrary opinion “as being OPPOSED TO [emphasis added] the teaching of the Angelic Doctor,” which is exactly what Cardinal Raymond Capisuccus said in the passage quoted earlier.

The contemporaries of St. Thomas and those who followed soon thereafter — not only those who agreed with him, but also those who opposed his view — must be considered more reliable interpreters of his mind than those who came upon the scene much later, coming as they did after the fashion of innovators, entertaining such entirely revolutionary and patently unsound theories.

“Furthermore a special probability is given to the ‘entire form’ opinion by the authority of Pope Innocent III, the more obvious interpretation of the words of St. Thomas, and the words of the Catechism of the Council of Trent and of the Roman Missal.”

The Grace of the Sacrament Must be Signified

In his Bull Apostolicae Curae (1896), Pope Leo XIII authoritatively re-emphasized the following important principle of sacramental theology:

“All know that the Sacraments of the New Law, as sensible and efficient signs of invisible grace, must both signify THE GRACE which they effect, and effect THE GRACE which they signify. Although the signification ought to be found in the whole essential rite — that is to say, in the matter and in the form — yet it pertains chiefly to the form; since the matter is a part which is not determined by itself, but which is determined by the form.” [In the foregoing the emphasis on the words “THE GRACE” was added.].

The Pontiff added: “That form consequently cannot be apt or sufficient for a Sacrament which omits what it must essentially signify.”

Here Leo XIII teaches that the forms of the various Sacraments (“it still pertains chiefly to the form”) must signify THE GRACE which they effect: that is, the “grace proper to the Sacrament (i.e., its sacramental grace). This is also called “the effect” of the sacrament or its res sacramenti, translated as “the reality of the sacrament.” All those expressions — grace proper, sacramental grace, the effect, the reality of the sacrament, res sacramenti — mean exactly the same thing. It is this GRACE that the words of the sacramental form MUST signify, as the Sovereign Pontiff so clearly teaches.

On page 31 of A Vindication of the Bull “Apostolicae Curae” (1898), the chief author of which was Cardinal Vaughan, we find the following reiteration of Leo’s teaching that the form of a Sacrament must signify the GRACE of the Sacrament, which must not be confused with grace in general or other kinds of grace: “Moreover, the signification must not be ambiguous, but so far definite [italics in the original text] as to discriminate the grace effected from graces of a different kind; as, for instance, the graces of other Sacraments.”

And on p. 40: “The definite signification, as has already been explained, must be found in the essential part [italics in the original text], in the matter and form morally united together.”

Now what is this sacramental grace, this “grace proper”, this effect, this reality, this res sacramenti of the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist? What is this grace that must be so definitely signified in the sacramental form that it must not be confused with graces of a different kind? As is acknowledged by all theologians, the res sacramenti of the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist is the union of the Mystical Body of Christ. And this must be signified in the sacramental form, that is, in the Words of Consecration. 

Pope Leo XIII authoritatively re-emphasized in his Bull Apostolicae Curae the principle that the sacraments must both signify the grace which they effect, and effect the grace which they signify

Is this signification contained in the mere words, “This is My Body; This is the Chalice of My Blood”? Those words signify the TRUE Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ, which become present through transubstantiation; not the MYSTICAL Body, as some Protestant theologians (e.g., Dorner and Loofs) have heretically claimed. To hold that BOTH Christ’s True Body AND His Mystical Body are somehow signified by those words is absurd, for that would be saying that a valid sacramental form can signify ambiguously, which is not possible.

The words which in fact provide the vital signification of the res sacramenti are found in the final phrase of the form: “for you and for many unto the remission of sins.” The words “you” and “many” are the only words of the form that explicitly designate the members of the Mystical Body of Christ, which is the Catholic Church. Moreover, the final words, “unto the remission of sins,” signify the union of the members, as will now be explained.

The very principle of existence of the union of members within the Mystical Body is sanctifying grace. Any person living in the state of sanctifying grace is automatically within Christ’s Mystical Body. Since sanctifying grace is the principle of existence of the union of the Mystical Body, it is easily seen that the essential and absolute prerequisite of this union is the remission of sins.

By Baptism we first receive sanctifying grace through THE REMISSION OF SIN(S), original sin and also actual sin in the case of adult baptisms. Thus we first enter the union of the Mystical Body. We retain our status as living members of the Mystical Body by remaining in the state of sanctifying grace. One who has become spiritually dead through mortal sin, though not severed altogether from the Mystical Body, becomes a “dead member” and can be reinstated as a living member and again become a VITAL part of the union of the Mystical Body only by THE REMISSION OF HIS SINS through the Sacrament of Penance.

Thus it is seen that THE REMISSION OF SINS — that is, the ACTUAL, EFFICACIOUS remission of sins: or in other words “in remissionem peccatorum” (UNTO the remission of sins) — is the one thing necessary for our initial incorporation in the Mystical Body and the revitalization as living members of those who lose sanctifying grace. Consequently, the remission of sins CAUSES one to be brought within the unity of the Mystical Body.

Hence the final phrase of the form for the wine-consecration in its entirety — to wit: “for you and for many unto the remission of sins” — comprises the essential words signifying the grace of the Sacrament, which is the union of the Mystical Body. For the words “you” and “many” designate the members, and the words “unto the remission of sins” signify the cause of their unity.

The words of the English version, “for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven,” give a false signification. “All” cannot and does not designate the members of the Mystical Body since not all, but only “many,” are members. The words “so that sins may be forgiven” do not express the actual, efficacious remission of sins: they express only the potential forgiveness of sins of all men.  A ridiculous argument was raised a few years ago. It was claimed that since the words, “This is My Body; This is the Chalice of My Blood”, signify the Body and Blood of Christ, Who as true God is the Author of all grace, those words suffice to satisfy Pope Leo’s teaching that the form must signify the grace of the Sacrament! That is on par with saying that the final words of the form for Baptism, “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost,” suffice because they signify the Blessed Trinity, God, the Author of all grace. Though God is the Author of all grace, He is not grace, least of all is He sacramental grace: He is not the res sacramenti of the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist or of any other Sacrament.

* The full version of Mr. Omlor’s work is available from: Catholic Research Institute, P.O. Box 589, Veradale, WA 99037 •

–Taken from the Reign of Mary Quarterly Magazine, Issue 127

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