What is "necessity" when Lay Baptism is concerned?

A lay person may Baptise another out of necessity or in danger of death, but when is this deemed a necessity? (If possible, please give situations that are viewed as such.)

If a person cannot get Baptised in a timely fashion and without much hindrence, is this then, a necessity, as the Church teaches the importance of this Sacrament?

Thank you for your answers.

Necessity means immediate danger of death, or in extraordinary circumstances, such is in mission fields, when lay catechists have been given the faculty to baptize. If your bishop has not personally instructed you and given you that faculty, to exercise with specific individuals in specific circumstances, you have not the authority to baptize licitly.

I’m not sure this is entirely correct. Specifically, the part about “If your bishop has not…”. That is why the Catholic Church will accept as valid baptisms from many other churches, as long as they were done with proper form and matter. For instance, my Episcopalian baptism is accepted as valid by the CC.

In the CCC, “The Necessity of Baptism” is described in 1257-1261.

A few things from “This Rock” magazine:

From this page:

Q: Can only Christians administer baptism?

A: No. Anybody—even an atheist—can administer baptism if he has the proper intention. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 1256) “the intention required is to will to do what the Church does when she baptizes, and to apply the Trinitarian baptismal formula.” The reason anybody can baptize is that it is, in fact, Jesus Christ who performs the baptism. Once again, baptism is God’s grace to us, not our work for him.

There is a footnote for CCC 1256 regarding Canon Law 861 § 2. When I get a chance I’ll look it up.

From this page:

To become sons of God by grace and to know him intimately in heaven, men need baptism, for it is the rebirth into his family. Baptism is simple and remarkably universal. Anyone having the right intention and a little water can perform it, and anyone can receive it. This means of course that vast numbers of people outside the visible unity of the Church receive the life of grace through her first sacrament. Should they keep it securely through life, they will quite certainly see God in heaven.

From this page:

But if their orders are invalid, it follows that all the sacraments they have ever administered–except baptism–are invalid also!

I hope this helps. :slight_smile:

Lay Mininsters can baptise when the necessity of the church warrants it and when ministers are lacking. Canon #903

“Necessity” could be viewed subjectively in relation to the intent of the one baptising.
Eg: A Mother after giving birth can determine the necessity of not waiting until a later date to baptise. If properly done , as perscribed by Canon Law the baptism would be licit.
This is my interpation of Baptism not necessarly accurate but again my opinion.

That’s true, but your Episcopalian baptism wasn’t done by a lay Catholic.

The original question was when a layperson could baptize and Puzzleannie was correct in saying that it is permissible when someone is in danger of death or when the bishop has authorized it.

If I decide to start baptizing people on my own say-so, there’s a problem.

I agree! :thumbsup:

And, upon further review…

A big issue here is the difference between something being “valid” and something being “licit”. At the time of my original post, I could not find a good definition of a “case of necessity” and was basically just going by the “necessity of baptism” in the CCC. Also, if you look at CCC 1256, neither word “valid” nor “licit” appear.

Then, when I got to the Code of Canon Law, I got this:

Can. 861 § 2 When an ordinary minister is absent or impeded, a catechist or another person designated for this function by the local ordinary, or in a case of necessity any person with the right intention, confers baptism licitly. Pastors of souls, especially the pastor of a parish, are to be concerned that the Christian faithful are taught the correct way to baptize. emphasis mine

And while looking for a definition of a “case of necessity”, I found this from this page (it is an answer to a question from someone asking if he can baptize people he is trying to bring into the Church):

Under nearly none. Canon 861 states that the “ordinary minister of baptism is a bishop, priest, or deacon.” As a layman, you aren’t any of these. Moreover, you do not claim to be “deputed for this function by the local ordinary” in case the ordinary minister of baptism happens to be impeded (also from CIC 861).

Indeed, canon 861 recognizes only one condition under which you may baptize licitly: “in case of necessity.” But this is not nearly as wide-open as it might sound. “Necessity” is almost always described by canonical experts as being present chiefly in cases of mortal danger. Indeed, the Roman Ritual, in providing the text to be used for baptism conferred by non-ordained ministers, opens by noting that the so-called shortened rite is to be used only in cases of “imminent danger of death.”

I won’t cite here the long list of other canons likely violated by private baptism outside of danger-of-death situations (though the curious might wish to consult, among others, canons 851, 853, 856, 857, and 866). Nor will I spend much time observing that, however illicit such baptisms are, they are almost certainly valid, assuming the use of water and the Trinitarian formula.

Instead, I would simply note that, according to canon 878, “the minister of baptism, whoever it is, must inform the pastor of the parish in which the baptism was administered.” The reasons for such a provision are obvious, but I would not relish being the one required to report an illicit baptism to a pastor. emphasis mine

I’m sorry if I gave the impression I thought it was ok for us to go around baptizing each other. :o I know that wouldn’t be good! :eek:

I guess I was only thinking of the valid/invalid part of it and not the licit/illicit part.

Oh, man! I feel shame. :frowning: I just now noticed puzzleannie did say “baptize licitly”.

You don’t need faculties to confer baptism. There is no such thing as faculties for baptism.

From the 1997 Instruction “On Certain Questions …” at vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/laity/documents/rc_con_interdic_doc_15081997_en.html :

"Article 11

The Minister of Baptism

Particularly praiseworthy is the faith with which many Christians, in painful circumstances of persecution, or in missionary territories or in special cases of necessity, have afforded and continue to afford the Sacrament of Baptism to new generations of Christians in the absence of ordained ministers.

Apart from cases of necessity, canonical norms permit the non ordained faithful to be designated as extraordinary ministers of Baptism (footnote 109: Cf. C.I.C., can. 861, § 2; Ordo baptismi parvulorum, praenotanda generalia, nn. 16-17.) should there be no ordinary minister or in cases where he is impeded. (footnote 110: Cf. C.I.C., can. 230.) Care should be taken however to avoid too extensive an interpretation of this provision and such a faculty should not be conceded in an habitual form.

Thus, for example, that absence or the impediment of a sacred minister which renders licit the deputation of the lay faithful to act as an extraordinary minister of Baptism, cannot be defined in terms of the ordinary minister’s excessive workload, or his non-residence in the territory of the parish, nor his non-availability on the day on which the parents wish the Baptism to take place. Such reasons are insufficient for the delegation of the non ordained faithful to act as extraordinary ministers of Baptism."

that is not what OP is asking so I did not refer to baptisms performed on non-Catholics by non-Catholic ministers

thank you to the posters who provide references, but note that the lay minister cannot appoint themselves nor can a priest appoint them simply because of his workload, that delegation comes through the bishop alone.


This is not congruent to canon law.



Can. 861 §1. The ordinary minister of baptism is a bishop, a presbyter, or a deacon, without prejudice to the prescript of ⇒ can. 530, n. 1.

§2. When an ordinary minister is absent or impeded, a catechist or another person designated for this function by the local ordinary, or in a case of necessity any person with the right intention, confers baptism licitly. Pastors of souls, especially the pastor of a parish, are to be concerned that the Christian faithful are taught the correct way to baptize.

Can. 862 Except in a case of necessity, no one is permitted to confer baptism in the territory of another without the required permission, not even upon his own subjects.

Can. 863 The baptism of adults, at least of those who have completed their fourteenth year, is to be deferred to the diocesan bishop so that he himself administers it if he has judged it Expedient.


Can. 865 §1. For an adult to be baptized, the person must have manifested the intention to receive baptism, have been instructed sufficiently about the truths of the faith and Christian obligations, and have been tested in the Christian life through the catechumenate. The adult is also to be urged to have sorrow for personal sins.

§2. An adult in danger of death can be baptized if, having some knowledge of the principal truths of the faith, the person has manifested in any way at all the intention to receive baptism and promises to observe the commandments of the Christian religion.

Can. 866 Unless there is a grave reason to the contrary, an adult who is baptized is to be confirmed immediately after baptism and is to participate in the eucharistic celebration also by receiving communion

Can. 867 §1. Parents are obliged to take care that infants are baptized in the first few weeks; as soon as possible after the birth or even before it, they are to go to the pastor to request the sacrament for their child and to be prepared properly for it.

§2. An infant in danger of death is to be baptized without delay.

Can. 868 §1. For an infant to be baptized licitly:

1/ the parents or at least one of them or the person who legitimately takes their place must consent;

2/ there must be a founded hope that the infant will be brought up in the Catholic religion; if such hope is altogether lacking, the baptism is to be delayed according to the prescripts of particular law after the parents have been advised about the reason.

§2. An infant of Catholic parents or even of non-Catholic parents is baptized licitly in danger of death even against the will of the parents.


Can. 871 If aborted fetuses are alive, they are to be baptized insofar as possible.


Immanent danger of death requires no permissions, save the law itself. (Can. 868 §2, 865 §2)
A aborted or miscarried child does not, either; again, by the law itself the layman has the licity and faculty. (Can. 871)

An infant is to be baptized within a few weeks (Can 867 §1); essentially, if not able to be baptized within the month, they should be baptized by a catechist with approval, but should none be available, a layman may baptize them licitly, since being unable to obey another canon constitutes necessity. Necessity itself grants the faculty to baptize (Can 861, 862)

thank you for the complete citation, and I see nothing in that cite that contradicts my short answer. more importantly, OP have you been answered?

Double check the last sentence In what quoth. It’s erroneous on your part, because it denies necessity granting licity without needing the bishop’s permission.

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