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A term used in W. sacramental theology to denote that a sacrament is genuine if certain formal conditions have been fulfilled. It is distinguished from fruitfulness (or efficacy) and regularity. Thus a sacrament, even if celebrated irregularly (e.g. outside the unity of the Church), and even if unfruitful in that the participants will not receive grace through the sacrament, may still be a real (or valid) sacrament, conferring e.g. membership of the Church (in the case of Baptism) or Holy Orders (in the case of Ordination). The formal conditions are that the minister of the sacrament be validly ordained (if necessary), that the essential part of the Church's liturgy be used (see form), and that there be a proper intention on the part of the minister to do what the Church intends in celebrating the sacrament. The concept was developed in the W. in connection with the problem of the Church's attitude to sacraments conferred in heresy or schism. It was repudiated by most Protestants at the Reformation.

Subjects: Christianity.

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