ASK FATHER: Can I baptize myself?

From a reader…


I know in an emergency someone who is not Catholic can perform a baptism, provided they have the requisite intent, the right words, and water on the head.

Does that mean a person can baptize himself? Can he say, “I baptize me in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit”?

No. You cannot baptize yourself.

The Church teaches about three different kinds of baptism, by water, by blood (martyrdom), by desire.

Baptism by desire implies an implicit baptism, that would have taken place, had a person – who is sincerely seeking for and living for the Truth – had the chance to be baptized. Such a person would have been baptized had they had the chance, because they would have accepted Christ as God and would have lived according to the Commandments and in the Church He founded. This is what was also thought about catechumens who were committed already but who had not yet been baptized. Cyprian of Carthage (+258) was confident that catechumens martyred before baptism were baptized with another baptism. The Angelic Doctor holds the same in the Summa (III, q. 82. a .2).  St Robert Bellarmine writes of it.  Innocent III based on Augustine’s De baptismo writes of it.

Hence, it is possible to obtain the justification and sanctification which are the effects of baptism through true desire for them.

That doesn’t mean that baptism is not necessary. Some kind of baptism is necessary, by water, by blood or by desire. Baptism is necessary for salvation.

This is one of the reasons why it is cruel not to try by the most charitable and prudent means to bring people to the light of the true Faith and into the Church by baptism.

As Pope Pius XII explained in Mystici Corporis Christi, his encyclical letter on the nature of the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ, and as the Second Vatican Council reaffirmed in its magisterial document Lumen gentium, everyone who tries to do God’s will in the light of what he sincerely believes that will to be possesses already by that very fact, connection with Christ, an imperfect connection, fragile and insecure, but a connection nevertheless, since the very core of God’s will is acceptance of and obedience to His only, begotten Son.

Such an imperfect connection with Christ – what Pope Pius XII called “an implicit baptism of desire” – fragile and insecure as it is, ideally should be reinforced and brought to perfection by a formal and complete membership in Christ’s Church, with full participation in the life of grace.  In the Church alone is the fullness of truth that Christ revealed, a fullness guarded by the Holy Spirit against error and loss. The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, in accordance with Christ’s promise, dwells within the Church to guide and guard her defense of that truth forever.

Only in the Church of Christ is to be found the full range of resources for healing and strengthening the human soul, the full panoply of the seven sacraments that combine to provide an inexhaustible fountain of forgiveness and grace.

No.  You can’t baptize yourself with water.

If you are concerned about this…. DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.

And about Pius…

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Bthompson says:

    I suppose the same goes for the other sacraments (so much for “Ego me absolvo”).

  2. Joe in Canada says:

    St Thecla is reported as having baptized herself.

  3. On another level, because baptism is the gateway to the other sacraments, having a witness is important, just as having witnesses to a marriage is important because of the public effects of a marriage. If one were to baptize himself, presumably there would be no witnesses to testify not only that it was done, but done properly. I’m not sure that a “selfie” video would work there. It’s also hard to take something seriously when it gets reduced to that level of minimalism (or in this case, below minimalism).

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