From what we have Premised it is clear that the ministers of the Church, when they receive their orders, receive a certain power for dispensing the sacraments.
 But what is acquired by a thing through consecration persists in that thing forever; hence, nothing consecrated is consecrated a second time. Therefore, the power of their orders persists in the ministers of the Church perpetually. Therefore, it is not taken away by sin. Therefore, even sinners and evil men, provided they have orders, are able to confer the sacraments of the Church.
 Then, too, nothing has power over that which exceeds its capacities unless the power be received from some other source. This is clear in natural as well as in civil matters: Water cannot heat unless it receives the power of beating from fire, nor can a bailiff coerce citizens unless he receives power from a king. But the things accomplished in sacraments exceed human capacity, as the foregoing made clear. Therefore, no man can dispense the sacraments, no matter how good he is, unless he receives the power to dispense them. Now, goodness is in man the opposite of malice and sin. Therefore, one who has received the power to dispense the sacraments is not blocked by sin from dispensing them.
 A man, furthermore, is called good or bad in accord with virtue or vice, which are habits of a sort. Habit differs from power in this way: By a power we are able to do something, but by a habit we are not rendered able or unable to make something, but ready or unready in doing well or badly what we are able to do. Habit, therefore, neither gives us an ability nor removes one, rather, by habit we acquire this: to do something well or badly. Therefore, a man’s being good or bad does not make him able or unable to dispense the sacraments, but suitable or unsuitable for dispensing them well.
 Morever, that which acts by the power of another likens the thing modified not to itself, but to the principal agent. For a house is riot made like the instrument which a builder uses; it is made like his art. The ministers of the Church do not perform the sacraments in their own power, but in the power of Christ, of whom John (1:33) says: “He it is who baptizes.” Hence, also, ministers are said to act as instruments, for a minister is an “animate tool.” Therefore, the malice of the ministers does not block the faithful from achieving in the sacraments the salvation which is from Christ.
 There is more. The goodness or malice of another man cannot be judged by man; this is God’s alone, who scans the secrets of the heart. If, then, the malice of the minister could block the effect of the sacrament, a man could not have a sure confidence about his salvation, and his conscience would not remain free from sin. It seems awkward, also, that one put the hope of his salvation in the goodness of a mere man, for Jeremiah (17:5) says: “Cursed be the man that trusts in man.” But, if a man were not to hope for the achievement of his salvation through the sacraments—except through those conferred by a good minister—he would appear to put the hope of his salvation to some extent in a man. That we may, therefore, put the hope of our salvation in Christ, who is God and man, we must confess that the sacraments are for salvation by the power of Christ, whether they are good ministers or bad ministers who confer them.
 This is apparent as well from the fact that our Lord teaches us to obey even bad prelates, whose works we must not imitate. For He says: “The Scribes and the Pharisees sit on the chair of Moses. All things, therefore, that they say to you, observe and do. But according to their works, do not do” (Mat. 23:2-3). But there is much more reason to obey people who have received a ministry from Christ than there was to obey “the chair of Moses.” Therefore, one must obey even bad ministers. And this would not be the case unless the power of their orders persisted in them-which is the reason one obeys them. Even bad men, therefore, have the power of dispensing the sacraments.
18]. In this way one excludes the error of some who say that all good men have the power of dispensing the sacraments and no bad men have it.
Next - CONTRA GENTILES: BOOK FOUR: SALVATION - Chapter 78 ON THE SACRAMENT OF MATRIMONY
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