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About Baptism

As we are all navigating this unprecedented Holy Week situation, something needs to be said about Baptism. There is a lot of buzz, opining and misinformation going around the internet -- and quite frankly, some are reading these things way too much! One topic about which we have heard some of the above is Baptism. We all must agree as to the great importance and absolute necessity for us to baptize with water. We also have to remember and uphold the constant teaching of the Church that a priest (or deacon) is the ordinary and expected minister of the Sacrament of Baptism. It is true that Our Lord made it possible that anyone, even a non-baptized person, can validly baptize another (because of the necessity for salvation, as He said) but, in the Catholic Church, that is always understood to be in the case of imminent danger of death where it is not possible to have a priest (or deacon) give the Sacrament.


We have heard of some priests saying that they will not baptize newborns until after the COVID situation (or in past years, until Easter). Rome also decreed that Baptisms and receptions into the Church may not take place this year on Holy Saturday. We are certainly free to have an opinion about these decisions but it does not change the Church teaching that imminent danger of death without the possibility of obtaining a priest (or deacon) is required for a layperson to baptize. As crazy at it might sound (and certainly without desiring to return to the practice) to us to defer Lent baptisms to the Easter Vigil, Dom Gueranger in The Liturgical Year speaks of it as having been the practice in some places -- even in the 1800s.


At St. Stanislaus Church, we have been blessed with baptisms of newborns even during these weeks of COVID. Yes, special precautions have been necessary, and the number who can attend in person has been limited, but the Sacrament has been conferred. For others in different situations, it is important to hold to all the teachings of the Church, yes -- on the importance and necessity of Baptism but also on how and who baptizes in the Catholic Church.


For those who have ever, perhaps without knowing, privately baptized someone, it is very important to inform the Church of this fact. Because such a baptism is presumed valid, a record of it must be made in the Church to prevent the sacrilegious situation of a priest later unknowingly "re-baptizing" someone who has already received the Sacrament validly and to ensure the baptism is properly recorded in the Church. Such a person would have, what is called the "supplying of ceremonies" which is receiving all the other parts of the Catholic baptism ceremony (anointing, blessings, exorcisms, etc) without the pouring of the water for the Sacrament already received.


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