From a reader…
Why is it that some sacraments require a delegation from the bishop, i.e., penance and marriage? Why doesn’t baptism fall under this heading?
The reason that baptism doesn’t require delegation from the bishop or the pastor of a parish, is the foundational importance of the sacrament itself. Baptism is the gateway sacrament to all the other sacraments. The Church, understanding the primary importance of baptism has been extremely solicitous that people be able to receive it.
As early as the Acts of the Apostles, the necessity of baptism was so apparent that not only the Apostles, but also the deacons they ordained were considered qualified to baptize those who sought it (Acts 8: 26-40). Since baptism is essential for salvation, it makes sense that the Church desires to have it made as widely available as possible.
Though the Church quite rightly wants to make sure that baptism is properly celebrated, the proper rites used with dignity and ceremony befitting its importance, she shares Christ’s desire to draw all people to Himself, to cleanse them in the Holy Font so as to open a door for those seeking salvation.
This is why, in an emergency such as danger of death, anyone can validly baptize, even a non-believer, provided they do what they Church asks for in the administration of baptism: pour the water on the person’s skin while saying the Trinitarian formula.