another baptism question


my adult sister has schizo-affective disorder. She is not capable of functioning without help, but she is very high level. In fact she is highly intelligent. She has not been in any hospitals for almost 20 years and she is not on any meds. Honestly she only comes across as slightly eccentric 90% of the time.
She is not however capable enough in social situations to go thru RCIA classes. And she wants to be baptized and confirmed Catholic.
Both of us have a genetic disease that could kill us at any time, in fact–I was Emergency Baptized by a priest 5 years ago. So here is my question—if it ever comes to it, can I baptize her if I do it the right way?
And outside of an emergency situation—do you think a priest would consider baptizing her without RCIA? She is coming to visit me next month for 4 days and I plan on asking my priest about it, but I thot I would run it by you guys first to get some ideas of what he might say.


Dear Ravyn,

You should absolutely follow through with your intention of discussing it with your priest. In fact, I’d make an appointment to speak to him now, before she arrives, so that you and he can work out any details that may be necessary.

Regarding the emergency baptism, these things must be present for a valid baptism:
(1) Water must be used. (Matter)
(2) The Trinitarian formula must be used. “N., I baptize you in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Form)
(3) The intention of the person baptizing would have to be to do that which the Church does when she baptizes - which you obviously would. (Intent)

From the Catechism


1256 The ordinary ministers of Baptism are the bishop and priest and, in the Latin Church, also the deacon.57 In case of necessity, anyone, even a non-baptized person, with the required intention, can baptize58 , by using the Trinitarian baptismal formula. The intention required is to will to do what the Church does when she baptizes. The Church finds the reason for this possibility in the universal saving will of God and the necessity of Baptism for salvation.59

Please note that this is in case of necessity. Additional education may be obtained by reading the Code of Canon Law on the topic. See this link.


Please ask the priest before taking this upon yourself to do. I’m sure that once the situation is explained to him, he will figure out how to bring her into the Church without having to go through RCIA.


The book “Rite of Christian Initaition of Adults” gives some flexibility for such cases.

“76 The duration of the catechumenate will depend on the grace of God and on various circumstances, such as the programme of instruction for the catechumenate, the number of catechists, deacons, and priests, the cooperation of the individual catechumens, the means necessary for them to come to the site of the catechumenate and spend time there, the help of the local community. Nothing, therefore, can be settled a priori.
The time spent in the catechumenate should be long enough — several years if necessary — for the conversion and faith of the catechumens to become strong. By their formation in the entire Christian life and a sufficiently prolonged probation the catechumens are properly initiated into the mysteries of salvation and the practise of an evangelical way of life. By means of sacred rites celebrated at successive times they are led into the life of faith, worship, and charity belonging to the people of God.
77 **It is the responsibility of the bishop to fix the duration and to direct the programme of the catechumenate. **The conference of bishops, after considering the conditions of its people and region, may also wish to provide specific guidelines. At the discretion of the bishop, on the basis of the spiritual preparation of the candidate, the period of the catechumenate may in particular cases be shortened (see nos. 307, 308-311); in altogether extraordinary cases the catechumenate may be completed all at once (see nos. 308, 312-345).”

307 Exceptional circumstances may arise in which the local bishop, in individual cases, can allow the use of a form of Christian initiation that is simpler than the usual, complete rite (see no. 34,4). The bishop may permit this simpler form to consist in the abbreviated form of the rite (nos. 316-345) that is carried out in one celebration. Or he may permit an expansion of this abbreviated rite, so that there are celebrations not only of the sacraments of initiation but also of one or more of the rites belonging to the period of the catechumenate and to the period of purification and enlightenment (see nos. 308-311). The extraordinary circumstances in question are either events that prevent the candidate from completing all the steps of the catechumenate or a depth of Christian conversion and a degree of religious maturity that lead the local bishop to decide that the candidate may receive baptism without delay.
308 Extraordinary circumstances, for example, sickness, old age, change of residence, long absence for travel, may sometimes either prevent a candidate from celebrating the rite of acceptance that leads to the period of the catechumenate or, having begun the catechumenate, from completing it by participation in all the rites belonging to the period. Yet merely to use the abbreviated form of the rite given in nos. 316-345 could mean a spiritual loss for the candidate, who would be deprived of the benefits of a longer preparation for the sacraments of initiation. It is therefore important that, with the bishop’s permission, an expanded form of initiation be developed by the incorporation of elements from the complete rite for the Christian initiation of adults.
309 Through such an expansion of the abbreviated rite a new candidate can reach the same level as those who are already advanced in the catechumenate, since some of the earlier elements from the full rite can be added, for example, the rite of acceptance into the order of catechumens (nos. 48-74) or the minor exorcisms (no. 94) and blessings (no. 97) from the period of the catechumenate. The expansion also makes it possible for a candidate who had begun the catechumenate with others, but was forced to interrupt it, to complete the catechumenate alone by celebrating, in addition to the sacraments of initiation (see nos. 198-210), elements from the full rite, for example, the rite of election (see nos. 105-115) and rites belonging to the period of purification and enlightenment (see nos. 128-136).”

The above numbers are from the RCIA book used in Australia and England. The USA edition also has 76 as 76, but n. 307 above is n. 331 in the USA editon. (The Rites Volume One, Liturgical Press, 1990, ISBN: 0-8146-6015-0, page 214).


no one can be denied the sacraments who truly desires them. speak to your priest first, fill him in on the situation, ask him to meet with her. He may advise that she speak with a priest where she lives, or he may be able to help himself. If there is anything in her condition which would threaten to shorten her life the sacraments should not be delayed. Even if there were something that prevented her from receiving communion (behavioral, physical etc), she should be baptized and confirmed. Her preparation will be according to her needs and abilities. Going through a prescribed RCIA program is not an absolute necessity, neither are many of the optional rites that occur during that process.


Just because someone desires the sacrament of holy orders does not mean they should be ordained. Just because someone desires General Absolution does not mean they can have it. Just because someone desires the sacrament of marriage does not mean they can marry anyone, eg. someone already married. …
Also with the sacraments of initiation. The church recognises the responsibilites of ministers in deciding when and if someone should receive them. For example, before the Rite of Acceptance as a catechumen a decision is made:
“42 The prerequisite for making this first step is that the beginnings of the spiritual life and the fundamentals of Christian teaching have taken root in the candidates. Thus there must be evidence of the first faith that was conceived during the period of evangelization and precatechumenate and of an initial conversion and intention to change their lives and to enter into a relationship with God in Christ. Consequently, there must also be evidence of the first stirrings of repentance, a start to the practice of calling upon God in prayer, a sense of the Church, and some experience of the company and spirit of Christians through contact with a priest or with members of the community. The candidate should also be instructed about the celebration of the liturgical rite of acceptance.”
(From the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, in The Rites Volume One, Liturgical Press, 1990, ISBN: 0-8146-6015-0, page 52).


we are speaking in this thread of the sacraments of initiation. I did not say any one has the right to any sacrament just for the asking. The priest will make the determination and judgement called for in the article you cite, not me, not you, not the brother.


A person should be prepared at the level that they are capable of understanding. So if she is intelegent but needs special one on one learning methods, she should be able to be prepared to a certain level for reception, possibly by you, a sponsor that she works well with and the pastor.


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