Under what conditions does the Catholic Church explicitly call the laity extraordinary ministers?

Extraordinary ministers are seen in almost every parish. For the most part, they help the parish priest in the distribution of Holy Communion, as well as a few other functions surrounding the administration of the Eucharist.

In every celebration of the Eucharist, there should be a sufficient number of ministers of Holy Communion so that it may be distributed in a reverent and orderly manner. Bishops, priests and deacons distribute Holy Communion in virtue of their office as ordinary ministers of the Body and Blood of the Lord. When the size of the congregation or the incapacity of the bishop, priest, or deacon requires it, the celebrant may be assisted by other bishops, priests, or deacons. If such ordinary ministers of Holy Communion are not present, "the priest may call upon extraordinary ministers to assist him, i.e., duly instituted acolytes or even other faithful who have been deputed for this purpose. In case of necessity, the priest may also depute suitable faithful for this single occasion (GIRM 162)." - Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion at Mass

The Catholic Encyclopedia says the following about extraordinary ministers and the sacrament of baptism.

Extraordinary minister

In case of necessity, baptism can be administered lawfully and validly by any person whatsoever who observes the essential conditions, whether this person be a Catholic layman or any other man or woman, heretic or schismatic, infidel or Jew.

The essential conditions are that the person pour water upon the one to be baptized, at the same time pronouncing the words: "I baptize thee in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost." Moreover, he must thereby intend really to baptize the person, or technically, he must intend to perform what the Church performs when administering this sacrament.

The Roman Ritual adds that, even in conferring baptism in cases of necessity, there is an order of preference to be followed as to the minister. This order is: if a priest be present, he is to be preferred to a deacon, a deacon to a subdeacon, a cleric to a layman, and a man to a woman, unless modesty should require (as in cases of childbirth) that no other than the female be the minister, or again, unless the female should understand better the method of baptizing. The Ritual also says that the father or mother should not baptize their own child, except in danger of death when no one else is at hand who could administer the sacrament. Pastors are also directed by the Ritual to teach the faithful, and especially midwives, the proper method of baptizing. When such private baptism is administered, the other ceremonies of the rite are supplied later by a priest, if the recipient of the sacrament survives.

Thus my question: Does the Catholic Church explicitly call laity extraordinary ministers elsewhere in the administration of her sacraments or in her liturgy, other than the two mentioned above?

  • Are there Extraordinary ministers for proclaiming the Gospel, for example?
    – Ken Graham
    Jan 11, 2020 at 16:05
  • Honestly I think the Church only uses the term explicitly for communion. That said, in any case where there is an ordinary minister and someone else is also able to carry out the task, say in case of necessity, that person would be an extraordinary minister. Thus if a non-ordinary minister baptizes or witnesses a marriage they would be an extraordinary minister.
    – zippy2006
    Jan 11, 2020 at 16:47
  • Are there Extraordinary ministers for proclaiming the Gospel, for example That seems to be reserved for the ordained, per my observations, but I can't find better support than "observation" at present Jan 11, 2020 at 19:25
  • A communion service or "word service" would be an example of a time when the non-ordained are allowed to proclaim the gospel.
    – zippy2006
    Jan 11, 2020 at 19:41
  • Does the Church refer to the laity as extraordinary ministers in these cases?
    – Ken Graham
    Jan 11, 2020 at 20:34

1 Answer 1


There are no other Sacraments where laity may validly administer the Sacrament with the exception of marriage, and in marriage the laity are the ordinary ministers.

The Church only calls laity extraordinary ministers whenever they can administer a valid Sacrament and have permission to do so out of necessity. The laity cannot validly administer the Sacraments of Penance, Holy Orders, Extreme Unction, or Confirmation. In matrimony, the betrothed administer the Sacrament to one another ordinarily, that is, not out of necessity, but out of the ordinary way in which the Sacrament is celebrated. In baptism, laity only licitly baptize in cases of the imminent possibility death or the impossibility of finding a priest in a reasonable time (eg stranded on an island). For the Eucharist, laity cannot bring about the effects of transubstantiation, but can licitly administer a consecrated element of the Sacrament whenever clergy are not available in the liturgical setting (communion service rather than mass) or when the size of the congregation and lack of clergy necessitates it. Because laity have conditions of extraordinary circumstance placed upon them in order to licitly administer these Sacraments, they are called Extraordinary Ministers.

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