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A reader writes:
I am wondering if a baptism performed outside of the actual church building--for example, in a private home by an ordained Roman Catholic priest--is recognized by the Church?
This is an interesting question, because the Catholic Church does, in fact, place a great deal of emphasis on the church as the location in which we receive the sacraments. For instance, in most cases, priests are not allowed to assist at the marriage of two Catholics unless that wedding takes place in a Catholic church. The location itself is a sign of the faith of the couple and a signal that they are entering the sacrament with the right intent.

But what about baptism? Does the location make a difference? Yes and no.

All that is required for a baptism to be valid (and hence recognized by the Church) is the pouring of water over the head of the person to be baptized (or the immersion of the person in water); and the words "I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."

The baptism does not need to be performed by a priest; any baptized Christian (even a non-Catholic) can perform a valid baptism. In fact, when the life of the person being baptized is in danger, even a non-baptized person who does not himself believe in Christ can perform a valid baptism, so long as he does so with the proper intent!

Yet the church is still an important symbol, and a baptism should not be performed outside the church simply for the sake of convenience. Our baptism is our entrance into the Church, the Body of Christ, and performing it in the place where the Church gathers to worship emphasizes that communal aspect.

Performing a baptism outside of a church without good reason does not invalidate the sacrament, but it does deemphasize the fact that this sacrament is not just about the person being baptized but about building up the Body of Christ.

If you have a question that you would like to have featured in our Friday "Reader Questions" series, send me an e-mail at catholicism.guide@about.com. Be sure to put "QUESTION" in the subject line, and please note whether you'd like me to address it privately or on the Catholicism blog.

August 12, 2008 at 1:30 pm
(1) Dennis says:

I think there would be more Catholic weddings if they were allowed to be held with a priest outside of a Catholic Church. If baptism, eucharist, reconciliation, and annointing can be done outside of a church, why is holy matrimony not allowed outside of a church?

June 10, 2009 at 2:03 pm
(2) Chad says:

You can have a wedding outside. Where in Scripture does it say that weddings must be held in a Church?

November 21, 2011 at 11:14 pm
(3) Jay says:

Where in scripture? Really? Are you Catholic? I don’t mean to criticize, but that is a classic sola scriptura answer.

June 10, 2009 at 2:38 pm
(4) Scott P. Richert says:

Chad, it’s not a question of Scripture. The Church requires that a couple receive a special dispensation to celebrate a Catholic wedding outdoors. A Catholic wedding should, when possible, occur within a nuptial Mass; and a Mass, of course, should take place in a church. And beyond that, there is, just as in baptism, the symbolism of the church to consider. Our marriages involve not simply husband and wife; they take place within a community of believers.

June 30, 2009 at 9:46 am
(5) Colin says:

Baptism should take place anywhere that has sufficient water for immersion. (And I am not going to start the immersion argument its just that all of the apostles, disciples and Jesus himself were baptised completely in water…there was no sprinkling!!)

The rite of marriage can be held anywhere, breaking bread can be held anywhere and by anyone (not just priests)…for we are all made priests by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ….no man is higher than any other man…

GOD is spirit and he is looking for commitment within your spirit not physical location…Think about it…this earth is going to pass away when the Lord next appears and be replaced with a new one…

If you don’t know by now that we are the living house of GOD and not the physical building then you are missing all of what Jesus taught us. Jesus said that the kingdom of GOD is in us…Paul the apostle confirmed this when he said

“Do you not know that your ARE the temple of GOD and that the Holy Spirit dwells within you”.

King Solomon built “The House of The Lord” andit was filled with the Holy Spirit so much that even the priests of the Law could not approach it. The House was destroyed by the King of Babylon

The temple was rebuilt only to be destroyed by the romans.

The prophet Haggai tells us that the House of GOD will be build again and that the Glory of the HOUSE to come will be greater than before.

Jesus was the temple and within him we are the house and body of Christ. Jesus said

“The Father is in me and I in the Father. You are in Me and together we are one”

We are the living church of GOD and the church building itself is just an empty, derilict building! In fact we shouldn’t even call a build a church. We should just call it a gathering place for the living church of GOD. That would describe it much better and stop all the confusion and cermony that is attached to religion…throw out the ceromony, read your bible and live what it says. Love God with all your heart, mind and Soul and love your neighbor as yourself…believing the Jesus Christ is our one and only salvation in which we can present ourselves to GOD. At baptism we affirm that we want to clothe ourselves in Jesus to hide our shame (because its the only way)…do you think that Jesus needs a building for this!?!?

October 24, 2013 at 4:31 pm
(6) Mykeal Ackah-Menlah says:

All one need is to allow the in-dwelling of the Holy Spirit. The modus oparandi of baptism is not necessary. All we need is CHRIST JESUS. AMEN!

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