You know how the internet sucks you in and several hundred links later you end up pondering obscure bits of Catholic doctrine? (Or maybe that’s just me. Other people end up at RickRolling or worse…) Random surfing today brought me to the Catholic Encyclopaedia’s page on the sacraments, and this odd piece of information:
For administering Baptism validly no special ordination is required. Any one, even a pagan, can baptize, provided that he use the proper matter and pronounce the words of the essential form, with the intention of doing what the Church does (Decr. pro Armen., Denzinger-Bannwart, 696). Only bishops, priests, and in some cases, deacons may confer Baptism solemnly (see BAPTISM).
I would *dearly* love to know how that piece of canon law came about. Was there some sort of emergency in which a pagan had to be called on to perform baptism? Why would you call on a pagan instead of a nearby Christian? Why would a pagan be inclined to perform baptism “with the intent of doing what the church does”? Or is this some kind of theological brain twister which no one ever expected to use…?
So far as I can make out, the Denzinger-Bannwart thing is a 19th century canon law compilation, but this piece of knowledge tells me nothing about what prompted the decretal in the first place. Fisher Library has it, but it’s out, it’s in Latin, and I’m in Canberra, so it’s not much use to me anyway.
Does anyone HAPPEN to know why a pagan can perform baptism? Not the theological justification, that seems to make sense (as much as canon law ever does) – but why someone felt the need to theologically justify it in the first place?
Failing that, any suggestions as to how to find out this piece of interesting information – short of learning Latin and borrowing the book out, which is possible but rather a long-term goal.