(LifeSiteNews) — German Bishop Gebhard Fürst has commissioned lay men and women to administer the sacrament of baptism in his Diocese of Rottenburg-Stuttgart.
Fürst has allowed 26 lay “theologians,” 22 of whom are women, to perform baptisms by issuing an episcopal decree on the “extraordinary administration of baptism by lay people,” katholisch.de reports.
On the eve of November 8, these “extraordinary ministers” will officially be commissioned to administer baptism during a Mass in the Rottenburg Cathedral.
Auxiliary Bishop Matthäus Karrer of the Diocese of Rottenburg-Stuttgart said that “as is often the case in the Catholic Church, changes follow impulses from the base [grassroots].” He added that the change is in line with the wish of many families that baptisms should be “individual, personal and family-oriented.”
Katholisch.de quotes lay theologian Ursula Renner, who called the decision to allow lay people to baptize a “first step” to be followed by others, like the administration of sacraments of extreme unction and matrimony by non-ordained ministers.
Similar allowances for lay people to administer baptism have already been issued by other German bishops in the Dioceses of Essen and Osnabrück. In Essen, it was primarily women who were commissioned to be extraordinary ministers of baptism.
While Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck of Essen cited a “lack of priests” as justification for using lay people, the bishop of Rottenburg-Stuttgart did not attempt to find a similar excuse. Bishop Franz-Josef Hermann Bode of Osnabrück stressed that he “wants to strengthen the role of women” when he introduced lay people as extraordinary ministers of baptism.
The ordinary ministers of the sacrament of baptism are bishops and priests, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia. While every person is allowed to baptize in cases of necessity, there is hardly a real necessity in these cases, but rather an attempt to undermine the authority of the Catholic hierarchy and Holy Orders. Renner referred to lay baptisms as the “first step” on a path that potentially leads to lay men (and especially lay women) administering other sacraments as well.