Can a layperson ever administer sacraments?


I know that, in emergency situations, lay people can administer baptism validly. Is the same true of pennance and the other sacraments, if a priest is absolutely not available?


The “power,” for lack of a better word, to baptize does not come from the sacrament of Holy Orders. Therefore, a layperson can baptize in an emergency.

However, the “power,” to absolve sins comes from the Sacrament of Holy Orders. Therefore a layperson cannot absolve sins, even in an emergency.

From what I understand, in the sacrament of matrimony, the two who are getting married administer the sacrament to each other and so therefore, if they are lay people, then in this case, the answer is yes. Also, I have seen lay people conduct Communion Services too in which the Eucharist is not consecrated but the daily readings are simply read and the Eucharist is distributed amongst the faithful along with prayer intentions.

yes, only Baptism and Matrimony.

the CCC teaches:

1623 According to Latin tradition, the spouses as ministers of Christ’s grace mutually confer upon each other the sacrament of Matrimony by expressing their consent before the Church. In the tradition of the Eastern Churches, the priests (bishops or presbyters) are witnesses to the mutual consent given by the spouses, but for the validity of the sacrament their blessing is also necessary.

EMHCs don’t really administer the Sacrament. they’re about as good as those who assist priests during baptisms or confirmations. without the priest or bishop to concecrate the bread and wine, they’re practically useless.

Wow, Choy got a problem with EMHC???
You tone is somewhat harsh to say the least.

There are some dioceses (e.g., the Diocese of Baker, headed by Bishop Robert Vasa) where communion services are forbidden. And enough people think of them as “Mass without a priest,” or as an opportunity for laymen to play priests, that they should be forbidden. I personally walk out of communion services.

When the Catholics of Nagasaki went two hundred years without a priest, they had to get by on two sacraments: Baptism and Matrimony.

Kind of a related question…

While a layperson cannot administer the Anointing of the Sick, is it possible for a layperson to anoint an ill person with blessed oil?

Suppose the person does not intend to administer the sacrament. Is it OK to use some oil blessed by a priest and just say something like “may God bless you and may His healing power assist you in this trying time”?

This was an actual scenario (the “anointing” was done by a seminarian who was visiting a family), and some friends are saying that this was not proper.

It’s possible yes. However, it’s also forbidden by the Church, so it’s not licit. The reason is that so many people were simulating the Sacrament, or were doing “anointing” in such a way that it gave the impression of simulating the Sacrament that the Church had to come out and forbid it.

See this link
to a 1997 Vatican Instruction

Article 9 § 1…In using sacramentals, the non-ordained faithful should ensure that these are in no way regarded as sacraments whose administration is proper and exclusive to the Bishop and to the priest. Since they are not priests, in no instance may the non-ordained perform anointings either with the Oil of the Sick or ony other oil.

Note that John Paul the Great approved this Instruction *In Forma Specifica * meaning that it carries a great deal of weight as far as instructions are concerned, and also that only the pope himself personally can change anything in it. In fact, not even a future pope can change it without specifically stating that he intends precisely to change what was in that exact document.

Do you know the circumstances behind that? That diocese is very large (geographically) and very short of priests.

BTW, the walking out comment has an odd aspect to it that struck my curiosity. How do you unknowningly get into a communion service, that you’d have an opportunity to walk* out* on one? Has this happened to you often? It would be kind of rude to go to one in order to walk out, so this has to have found some way of catching you by surprise. Were you somewhere where the parish was in the habit of substituting these for Mass without advance notice? Just curious.

The circumstances behind the prohibition of communion services in the Diocese of Baker are basically that Bishop Vasa is an orthodox bishop who takes an interest in his people having a right understanding of the Faith. He has told his people, in essence, that the solution to the priest shortage is not to have substitutes for Mass and give themselves the idea that they can somehow get along without priests, but to pray for vocations.

Re walking out of communion services: yes, in my diocese, it is very common to have communion services substituted for daily Mass, even when priests are available, and it is not uncommon to do this without advance notice. As soon as it becomes clear that there is not going to be Mass, I leave.

sorry, not really. thats not my intention. i was just stressing the point that administration of Sacraments means effecting the Sacrament in its entirety. EMHCs only hep with the distribution of the Eucharist, but not the consecration, so you can’t really say they administer the Sacrament in its entirety, they just assist. thats just stating the obvious fact

The tone seemed to be more matter of fact than anything…

Yes, Bishop Vasa is very orthodox, but he is also a bishop with some considerable challenges. His diocese, the last time I heard, had 25 active priests serving approximately 38,000 Catholics in 60 parishes living in a territory that covers approximately 66,000 square miles! That number does not count the 25,000 Catholic migrant workers who come for the cherry harvest, concentrated on the northwestern side of the diocese.
That is about 600 Catholics (closer to 1,000 during harvest) and less than one priest, on average, for each 1,000 square mile area. Wow.

In Elgin, for instance, they used to have Sunday Mass only twice a month, with a Communion Service two Sundays a month. The churches nearest Elgin are Our Lady of the Valley in LaGrande and her two other missions in Union and North Powder. Those are somewhere between 30 and and over 50 minutes away in the summer when the roads are good…that is in addition to the distance parishioners would travel to get into Elgin proper. The geography is such that regular meetings for Mass are difficult enough for many of the faithful, let alone regular Bible studies and the like.

Yes, they’re praying for vocations in the Diocese of Baker, but if there was ever a situation where having a communion service in place of an obligatory Mass, that is it. I live in the Archdiocese of Portland, and I hadn’t heard there had been a blanket prohibition. So I’m wondering if it was not daily services led by laypeople rather than Sunday services led by, say, a deacon, that were forbidden by the bishop.

Okay, I guess I misunderstood your question. My understanding is that what’s forbidden is laymen doing communion services. I can’t say whether this includes services led by deacons.

I suppose the next time I run into someone over hear from “east of the mountains”, I’ll just have to ask.


BTW, I’m sorry about the situation with Masses and communion services where you are. It’s really unfortunate that the faithful aren’t informed in advance of when there will be one or the other. The information is important, as the difference is hardly trivial!!

Unfortunately, it’s perfectly in keeping with the spirits of confusion and disorder that reign in this diocese, to such an extent that many people like communion services and think they’re perfectly okay substitutes for Mass. I think this is what Bishop Vasa is trying to combat.

Well, you can’t have communion services if the result is worse than nothing. That’s not a theoretical question, but a real one that is the bishop’s to discern. He’s the one with the information and the duty of the crozier.

A few years ago mass was celebrated ,for the first time at a private school. There were over three hundred Consecrated Hosts. The priest instructed the school prinicipal to assist him. On of the teachers removed herself from line and returned to her seat, being unable to receive from the priest. After mass she told the principal that she did not receive from anyone other than a priest.
His reply was along these lines. You seem to have a problem understanding the Real Presence. You abstained from receiving Our Lord because I wasn’t a priest! Look what you missed!
I understand your position regarding the laity, but remember the Catholic Church has 1.2
billion catholics. Only a little over 490,000 are priests. Without the principal to assist the priest, there would of been no Holy Communion for the children!
I thank God for the Eucharist, easly available to anyone in the state of grace, as opposed to the catholics of Japan that you cited.

It’s not the case that there would have been “no Holy Communion for the children” but simply a matter of saying that the time to distribute Communion would have been a little longer. I can tell you personally that 300 is not an impossible number for a priest to distribute all by himself.

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