Who can baptize?


#1

Hi,

A mother of a friend of mine told me how she poured water over the head of her three grandsons and marked the sign of the cross upon their forehead, saying "I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." Her daughter married a Jehovah's Witness and promised to raise any future children as Catholics but soon after being married she began considering herself as a Jehovah's Witness and the children never were baptized according to the Trinitarian formula.

From what I understand if a priest is not available the rite can be performed validly and licitly by any person (including a Muslim of an atheist) who has the intention to baptize another and according to the Trinitarian formula. Could someone please provide me with some references from Church documents affirming or correcting this understanding?

His mother, not sure whether she had done the right thing or not, also asked me for some references from sacred Scripture that demonstrate that the laity are allowed to baptize others into the Christian faith. I suggested John the Baptist would be a prime example. Are there any other verses that you can think of?

Thank you for your help in advance.

God bless.


#2

Unlike the other sacraments, a baptism can be performed by anyone, cleric or not. So long as the person has the correct intention, and says the proper formula of words, while correctly performing the required action (i.e., pouring or immersing the person in water,the baptism is valid. All things being equal however I don't really think someone should baptize a child against the parents wishes.

I would suggest that you look into the Code of Canon Law for a more complete answer. I am quite sure you will find the answer there.


#3

[quote="fergatroid, post:1, topic:316778"]
Hi,

A mother of a friend of mine told me how she poured water over the head of her three grandsons and marked the sign of the cross upon their forehead, saying "I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." Her daughter married a Jehovah's Witness and promised to raise any future children as Catholics but soon after being married she began considering herself as a Jehovah's Witness and the children never were baptized according to the Trinitarian formula.

From what I understand if a priest is not available the rite can be performed validly and licitly by any person (including a Muslim of an atheist) who has the intention to baptize another and according to the Trinitarian formula. Could someone please provide me with some references from Church documents affirming or correcting this understanding?

His mother, not sure whether she had done the right thing or not, also asked me for some references from sacred Scripture that demonstrate that the laity are allowed to baptize others into the Christian faith. I suggested John the Baptist would be a prime example. Are there any other verses that you can think of?

Thank you for your help in advance.

God bless.

[/quote]

Validly, yes.

Licitly, no.

What she has done is quite grave. It is only licit to baptize a child against the parents' will in danger of death.

She needs to report these baptisms to her parish priest ASAP as he must record the baptisms in the sacramental register.

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.* 878 If the baptism was not administered by the pastor or in his presence, the minister of baptism, whoever it is, must inform the pastor of the parish in which it was administered of the conferral of the baptism, so that he records the baptism according to the norm of ⇒ can. 877, §1.


#4

Thank you both for your assistance in this matter. I will advise her to speak to her parish and have the baptisms registered.

In regards to my second question does anyone know of any Scripture verses that demonstrate non-clergymen being able to baptize?


#5

1ke, you beat me to it. A child can't be baptized against their parents will unless they are in danger of death.

Similarly, unless it is an emergency situation,

Can. 853 Apart from a case of necessity, the water to be used in conferring baptism must be blessed according to the prescripts of the liturgical books.

So there's that too. If she just grabbed a glass of tap water, for example, it also would make it illicit, don't know about valid, though.

She is right on one point: anybody can perform a baptism using water, but this is only licit and valid if the infant is in immediate danger of death and there is no proper minister present. As it stands, it may be valid, but is almost certainly illicit based on the info you have.


#6

The intention is not the same as the formula. The intention is "to do what the Church does." And St. John the Baptist would not exactly be an example of laity baptizing because his baptism was not the same as the sacrament of baptism. I don't think you can prove the ability of laity to baptize from Scripture; you have to appeal to Church authority.

The Catechism of Trent states:

The matter . . . of this Sacrament is any sort of natural water, which is simply and without qualification commonly called water, be it sea water, river water, water from a pond, well or fountain. . . . [T]he true and essential form of Baptism is: I baptise thee in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. . . . Baptism may be administered in three ways, -- by immersion [dunking], infusion [pouring] or aspersion [sprinkling]. . . . It is a matter of indifference whether the ablution [immersion / infusion / aspersion] be performed once or thrice.

Bishops and priests hold the first place. To them belongs the administration of this Sacrament, not by any extraordinary concession of power, but by right of office; for to them, in the persons of the Apostles, was addressed the command of our Lord: Go, baptise. . . . Next among the ministers are deacons . . .

Those who may administer Baptism in case of necessity, but without its solemn ceremonies, hold the last place; and in this class are included all, even the laity, men and women, to whatever sect they may belong. This office extends in case of necessity, even to Jews, infidels and heretics, provided, however, they intend to do what the Catholic Church does in that act of her ministry. These things were established by many decrees of the ancient Fathers and Councils; and the holy Council of Trent denounces anathema against those who dare to say, that Baptism, even when administered by heretics, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, with the intention of doing what the Church does, is not true Baptism.


#7

It may be noted that while everyone can baptize still nobody can baptize oneself as this would change the baptismal formula. In St. Matthew 28, 19 Christ particularly commands the Apostles saying "you, therefore, must go out, making disciples of all nations, and baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost". St. Thomas Aquinas emphasizes that this is the reason Christ was baptized by St. John the Baptist and not by Himself.

Summa Theologica III:66:5:

Likewise it would be a change of form to say, "I baptize myself": consequently no one can baptize himself. For this reason did Christ choose to be baptized by John (Extra, De Baptismo et ejus effectu, cap. Debitum).


#8

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