In fourteenth century Iberian bishops' registers and pastoral manuals I used
in my dissertation, they consistently said that everyone should know the
formula for baptism, including Muslim and Jewish midwives and nurses. They
were clearly valid, although a conditional baptism by the priest might
From: Patrick Nugent [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
Sent: 02 March, 2000 3:20 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: baptism by unbelievers
And indeed the position stands today, in practice. Two of my siblings who
died shortly after birth were baptized by my mother's Jewish obstetrician
(in rural, Baptist, North Carolina, no less)
>Further to my earlier reply: The Commentary on the Catechism of the
>Catholic Church [as if the Catechism itself were not long enough, it
>has a commentary] states that "Such cases can easily occur in a
>maternity hospital, when it may fall to a non-christian nurse to confer
>the sacrament on a dying baby. All that is necessary is that water be
>poured while the trinitarian baptismal formula is recited. The
>minister does not need to *believe* in the effect of the sacrament;
>what is required is simply the *intention* of 'doing what the Church
>does', i.e. of performing the Christian rite."
>It might seem strange that the minister need not believe in baptism;
>but then, even an ordained minister might be defective in his or her
>understanding of the theology of baptism (and dare I say, I have met a
>number of clergy of whom this is so). One's salvation is not dependent
>on the faith of the minister of one's baptism. I have no idea what the
>person who baptized me actually believed about the sacrament.
>Thomas Aquinas discussed the matter in ST, Part 3, q.67. Articulus 3
>asks, Utrum laicus baptizare possit, Can a layman baptize? (He can).
>Articulus 4 asks, Utrum mulier possit baptizare, Can a woman baptize?
>(She can). And Articulus 5 asks, Utrum ille qui non est baptizatus,
>possit sacramentum baptismi conferre, Whether he who is not baptized,
>can confer the sacrament of baptism. He can, says Aquinas, on the
>basis, not (for once) of a scriptural text, but of a text from Isidore
>of Seville; and Aquinas cites further Augustine, Pope Nicholas, and
>Pope Gregory II in support of his view.
>It would seem, therefore, that this has always been the view of the
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Patrick J. Nugent
Richmond, Indiana 47374 USA
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