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Whether a layman, a woman, an unbaptized, can baptize?

Whether a layman, a woman, an unbaptized person, can baptize?


Whether a layman can baptize?

We proceed thus to the Third Article: -

Objection I. It seems that a layman cannot baptize. Because, as stated above (A. 2), to baptize belongs properly to the priestly order. But those things which belong to an order cannot be entrusted to one that is not ordained. Therefore it seems that a layman, who has no orders, cannot baptize.

Obj. 2. Further, it is a greater thing to baptize, than to perform the other sacramental rites of Baptism, such as to catechize, to exorcize, and to bless the baptismal water. But these things cannot be done by laymen, but only by priests. Therefore it seems that much less can laymen baptize.

Obj. 3. Further, just as Baptism is a necessary sacrament, so is Penance. But a layman cannot absolve in the tribunal of Penance. Neither, therefore, can he baptize.

On the contrary, Pope Gelasius (I.) and Isidore say that it is often permissible for Christian laymen to baptize, in cases of urgent necessity.

I answer that, It is due to the mercy of Him Who will have all men to he saved (I Tim. ii. 4) that in those things which are necessary for salvation, man can easily find the remedy. Now the most necessary among all the sacraments is Baptism, which is man's regeneration unto spiritual life: since for children there is no substitute, while adults cannot otherwise than by Baptism receive a full remission both of guilt and of its punishment. Consequently, lest man should have to go without so necessary a remedy, it was ordained, both that the matter of Baptism should be something common that is easily obtainable by all, i.e., water; and that the minister of Baptism should be anyone, even not in orders, lest from lack of being baptized, man should suffer loss of his salvation.

Reply Obj. I. To baptize belongs to the priestly order by reason of a certain appropriateness and solemnity: but this is not essential to the sacrament. Consequently, if a layman were to baptize even outside a case of urgency; he would sin, yet he would confer the sacrament; nor would the person thus baptized have to be baptized again.

Reply Obj. 2. These sacramental rites of Baptism belong to the solemnity of, and are not essential to, Baptism. And therefore they neither should nor can be done by a layman, but only by a priest, whose office it is to baptize solemnly.

Reply Obj. 3. As stated above (Q. LXV., AA. 3, 4), Penance is not so necessary as Baptism; since contrition can supply the defect of the priestly absolution which does not free from the whole punishment, nor again is it given to children. Therefore the comparison with Baptism does not stand, because its effect cannot be supplied by anything else.


Whether a woman can baptize?

We proceed thus to the Fourth Article: -

Objection I. It seems that a woman cannot baptize. For we read in the acts of the Council of Carthage (iv.): However learned and holy a woman may be, she must not presume to teach men in the church, or to baptize. But in no case is a woman allowed to teach in church, according to I Cor. xiv. 35: It is a shame for a woman to speak in the church. Therefore it seems that neither is a woman in any circumstances permitted to baptize.

Obj. 2. Further, to baptize belongs to those having authority; wherefore baptism should be conferred by priests having charge of souls. But women are not qualified for this; according to I Tim. ii. 12: I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to use authority over man, hut to be subject to him (Vulg. - but to be in silence). Therefore a woman cannot baptize.

Obj. 3. Further, in the spiritual regeneration water seems to hold the place of the mother's womb, as Augustine says on John iii. 4, Can a man enter a second time into his mother's womb, and be horn again? While he who baptizes seems to hold rather the position of father. But this is unfitting for a woman. Therefore a woman cannot baptize.

On the contrary, Pope Urban (II.) says (Decreta xxx.): In reply to the questions asked by your beatitude, we consider that the following answer should he given: that the baptism is valid when, in cases of necessity, a woman baptizes a child in the name of the Trinity.

I answer that, Christ is the chief Baptizer, according to John i. 33: He upon Whom thou shall see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, He it is that baptizeth. For it is written in Coloss. iii. (cf. Gal. iii. 28),* (* Cf, Part I., Q. XCIII., A. 6, ad 2, footnote) that in Christ there is neither male nor female. Consequently, just as a layman can baptize, as Christ's minister, so can a woman.

But since the head of the woman is the man, and the head of . . . man, is Christ (I Cor. xi. 3), a woman should not baptize if a man be available for the purpose; just as neither should a layman in the presence of a cleric, nor a cleric in the presence of a priest. The last, however, can baptize in the presence of a bishop, because it is part of the priestly ofiice.

Reply Obj. I. Just as a woman is not suffered to teach in public, but is allowed to instruct and admonish privately; so she is not permitted to baptize publicly and solemnly, and yet she can baptize in a case of urgency.

Reply Obj. 2. When Baptism is celebrated solemnly and with due form, it should be conferred by a priest having charge of souls, or by one representing him. But this is not required in cases of urgency, when a woman may baptize.

Reply Obj. 3. In carnal generation male and female co-operate according to the power of their proper nature; wherefore the female cannot be the active, but only the passive, principle of generation. But in spiritual generation they do not act, either of them, by their proper power, but only instrumentally by the power of Christ. Consequently, on the same grounds either man or woman can baptize in a case of urgency.

If, however, a woman were to baptize without any urgency for so doing; there would be no need of rebaptism: as we have said in regard to laymen (A. 3 ad I). But the baptizer herself would sin, as also those who took part with her therein, either by receiving Baptism from her, or by bringing someone to her to be baptized.


Whether one that is not baptized can confer the Sacrament of Baptism?

We proceed thus to the Fifth Article: -

Objection I. It seems that one that is not baptized cannot confer the Sacrament of Baptism. For none gives what he has not. But a non-baptized person has not the sacrament of Baptism. Therefore he cannot give it.

Obj. 2. Further, a man confers the sacrament of Baptism, inasmuch as he is a minister of the Church. But one that is not baptized, belongs nowise to the Church, i.e., neither really nor sacramentally. Therefore he cannot confer the sacrament of Baptism.

Obj. 3. Further, it is more to confer a sacrament than to receive it. But one that is not baptized, cannot receive the other sacraments. Much less, therefore, can he confer any sacrament.

On the contrary, Isidore says: The Roman Pontiff does not consider it to be the man who baptizes, but that the Holy Ghost confers the grace of Baptism, though he that baptizes be a pagan. But he who is baptized, is not called a pagan. Therefore he who is not baptized can confer the sacrament of Baptism.

I answer that, Augustine left this question without deciding it. For he says (Contra Ep. Parmen ii.): This is indeed another question, whether even those can baptize who were never Christians; nor should anything be rashly asserted hereupon, without the authority of a sacred council such as suffices for so great a matter. But afterwards it was decided by the Church that the unbaptized, whether Jews or pagans, can confer the sacrament of Baptism, provided they baptize in the form of the Church. Wherefore Pope Nicolas (I.) replies to the questions propounded by the Bulgars: You say that many in your country have been baptized by someone, whether Christian or pagan you know not. If these were baptized in the name of the Trinity, they must not be rebaptized. But if the form of the Church be not observed, the sacrament of Baptism is not conferred. And thus is to be explained what Gregory II* (* Gregory III) writes to Bishop Boniface: Those whom you assert to have been baptized by pagans, namely, with a form not recognized by the Church, we command you to rebaptize in the name of the Trinity. And the reason of this is that, just as on the part of the matter, as far as the essentials of the sacrament are concerned, any water will suffice, so, on the part of the minister, any man is competent. Consequently, an unbaptized person can baptize in a case of urgency. So that two unbaptized persons may baptize one another, one baptizing the other and being afterwards baptized by him: and each would receive not only the sacrament but also the reality of the sacrament. But if this were done outside a case of urgency, each would sin grievously, both the baptizer and the baptized, and thus the baptismal effect would be frustrated, although the sacrament itself would not be invalidated.

Reply Obj. I. The man who baptizes offers but his outward ministration; whereas Christ it is Who baptizes inwardly, Who can use all men to whatever purpose He wills. Consequently, the unbaptized can baptize: because, as Pope Nicolas (loc. cit,) says, the Baptism is not theirs, i.e., the baptizers', but His., i.e., Christ's.

Reply Obj. 2. He who is not baptized, though he belongs not to the Church either in reality or sacramentally, can nevertheless belong to her in intention and by similarity of action, namely, in so far as he intends to do what the Church does, and in baptizing observes the Church's form, and thus acts as the minister of Christ, Who did not confine His power to those that are baptized, as neither did He to the sacraments.

Reply Obj. 3. The other sacraments are not so necessary as Baptism. And therefore it is allowable that an unbaptized person should baptize rather than that he should receive other sacraments.

Nihil Obstat. F. INNOCENTIUS APAR. O.P., S.T.M., Censor Theol.
Imprimatur. EDUS. CANONICUS SURMONT, Vicarius Generalis
Nihil Obstat. V. G. McNABB, O.P., S.T.B., W. L. MOORE, O.P., S.T.L.
Imprimatur. F. HUMBERTUS EVEREST, O.P., S.T.B., Prior Provincialis Angliae.
LONDINI, die 7 Martii, 1914
17 Thom
p. 128-133

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