Why can anyone baptize but only priests/bishops can celebrate the Eucharist?

I run an apologetics group at my university Newman Center, and this question came up and it kind of stumped me. Basically, we believe that Eucharist celebrated by anyone other than someone with valid orders (e.g. a priest or bishop) does not really become Jesus, regardless of intent, life-and-death situations, etc. However, we accept (most) Protestant baptisms based on the belief that with the proper intent and form, the baptism is valid (e.g. the person is a baptized member of the Body of Christ, and their original sin is washed away).

I guess root of the question is why do we need holy orders to perform some sacraments (Eucharist, absolution, etc.), but you don’t even have to be Catholic (or Orthodox, e.g. Apostolic) to Baptize?

Good question, I’d be very interested in hearing a response.


I think of it this way: Baptism and Matrimony are actually administered by the person cooperating with the Holy Spirit.

While Confession, The Mass, Confirmation, Anointment of the Sick, and Holy Orders are performed in Persona Christi; meaning the priest is standing in for Christ.

In persona christi

Only the priest, acting in persona christi, can consecrate the elements that become the body and the blood.

It used to be Church practice that only a priest can baptise. People would travel hundreds of miles in the times of the American pioneers simply to get their children baptised. Allowing lay-people to baptise is generally a thing of emergency. Accepting non-Catholic, non-Orthodox baptisms, however, seems to be a more recent phenomenon.

Generally, matrimony & baptism should be performed by a priest in persona Christi; however, as we know, the Lord Jesus Himself baptised no one (John 4:1-2). Marriage was a venerable mystery of the Jews before Christ made it a sacrament. The other five Sacraments were all created and administered directly by the Lord Jesus, uniquely and immediately from Himself; thus, their celebration requires a person who mysteriously represents the Lord. That is the logic.

I think this is the truth… may God and you forgive me if it’s wrong.

That makes sense. Thank you!

I learned in Catholic school…if a baby is dying & no priest is available, anyone can pour water on its head & say I baptize you in the name of the Father & of the Son & of the Holy Ghost. It’s valid but a priest should perform the sacrament if the child lives.

A priest cannot “perform the sacrament” because it is already validly performed in the situation you describe.

What the priest will do is record it in the sacramental register of the parish where it was performed, and he will also perform “supplied rites” such as the anointing with sacred chrism. The baptism will not be repeated.

If the validity of the baptism is in serious doubt, then the priest can perform a baptism sub conditione with the words “If you are not already baptized, I baptize you…” This is not a repetition but a recognition that baptism may have already occurred. A repetition would be sacriligeous.

Baptism cannot be validly administered twice as Elizium points out. This is why Protestants and members of other Churches who become Catholic and are validly baptised are not required to be rebaptised.

Protestants are not members of a Church, they are members of ecclesial communities. The only True Churches are the ones with the Four Marks, such as the Eastern Orthodox.

I did not refer to Protestants as members of Churches, I said Protestants AND other Churches. The second part of my sentence does not imply I consider Protestant communities Churches. Although out of courtesy I would refer to the Anglicans for example as a Church in real life to avoid giving needless offence. Given my family is mixed Catholic/Russian Orthodox believe me I know all about the Orthodox Church.

No! You cannot re-baptize someone. If a baby is baptized in an emergency and survives, the baby is brought to the church for the remaining ceremonies. If the priest has a real doubt regarding the validity, he may baptize conditionally, but never re-baptized.

The Eastern Orthodox are Protestant catholics who don’t recognize the Pope as the Vocar of Christ. They are not “one of the true churches”. There is only one true Church- the Roman Catholic Church.

The Eastern and other Orthodox Churches are true particular Churches and not protestant ecclesial communities. Protestants do not have Churches, because they do not have the Four Marks. The separated Eastern Churches are true because they retain the Four Marks.

Dominus iesus

  1. Therefore, there exists a single Church of Christ, which subsists in the Catholic Church, governed by the Successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him.58 The Churches which, while not existing in perfect communion with the Catholic Church, remain united to her by means of the closest bonds, that is, by apostolic succession and a valid Eucharist, are true particular Churches.59 Therefore, the Church of Christ is present and operative also in these Churches, even though they lack full communion with the Catholic Church, since they do not accept the Catholic doctrine of the Primacy, which, according to the will of God, the Bishop of Rome objectively has and exercises over the entire Church.60

On the other hand, the ecclesial communities which have not preserved the valid Episcopate and the genuine and integral substance of the Eucharistic mystery,61 are not Churches in the proper sense; however, those who are baptized in these communities are, by Baptism, incorporated in Christ and thus are in a certain communion, albeit imperfect, with the Church.62 Baptism in fact tends per se toward the full development of life in Christ, through the integral profession of faith, the Eucharist, and full communion in the Church.63

Yeah, everybody jumped on me for this…I guess I forgot what the nun said 60 yrs. ago! :blush:

So, Lutherans, Episcopalians etc. don’t belong to a church ? That’s kind of narrow - minded thinking… like Fundamentalists feel about Catholics.

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