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It is an almost universal custom now to confer the four minor orders at, one time, and the Council of Trent (loc.
cit.) leaves the bishop quite free to dispense with the interstices (q.v.).
The lower degrees of the hierarchy are designated by the name of minor orders, in opposition to the "major" or "sacred" orders.
At the present time the ranks of the clergy are entered by the tonsure, after which all the orders without omission are received in succession.
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Lectors received a simple benediction; acolytes were created by handing them the linen bag in which they carried the Eucharist; subdeacons by the reception of the chalice.
This explains why minor orders differ in the Latin Church and in the various Eastern Churches.
In the East, though at an early date we hear of porters and exorcists (never of acolytes ), after the Trullan Synod in 692, in accordance with its sixth canon, only lectors and cantors are known, and often even these orders coalesce, or are conferred at the same time ; the three other minor orders of the Latin Church (porter, exorcist, acolyte ) are held to be included in the subdiaconate. There are, then, in the Western Church four minor orders: porter, lector, exorcist, and acolyte ; the cantors merely exercise an office and are not an order.
Moreover, there is no longer any fixed age at which the minor orders may be received. Canonists, including Benedict XIV (Constitution, "Eo quamvis," 4 May, 1745), admit that minor orders may be conferred not only on those who have reached the age of puberty, but on boys over seven years.
In fact, minor orders are usually conferred on ecclesiastical students during their seminary studies. Although several medieval theologians regarded minor orders as sacramental, this view is no longer held, for the fundamental reason that minor orders, also the subdiaconate, are not of Divine or Apostolic origin.