Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

Midwives come under the canon law of the Church in their relation towards two of the sacraments, baptism and matrimony. As regards marriage, their testimony is frequently required in cases de non consummato matrimonio , whether owing to the impediment of impotency or because a dispensation is asked super matrimonio rato tantum . In such cases, the testimony of three midwives is held sufficient in practice, since the number seven mentioned in the "Corpus Juris Canonici" (c. 4, de Probat) is not considered to be obligatory in law, though some older canonists insisted on the necessity of having the testimony of seven midwives. As regards the sacrament of baptism the office of midwives is of the highest importance. On them frequently devolves the duty of conferring this sacrament, under circumstances where no other person's ministration is possible. Hence, the Church has always been most solicitious concerning the character of midwives and their instruction in this religious duty. Canonists teach that women who undertake the office of midwife are bound under mortal sin to learn the methods and requirements of valid baptism, as in case of necessity this duty frequently devolves upon them. There has been much legislation on this subject in various diocesan synods, whose canons place special obligations on parish priests and midwives. The former are reminded that, as midwives in conferring baptism act in place of the parish priest, he is strictly bound to in form himself whether they have sufficient knowledge to administer the sacrament validly. Some diocesan synods require that midwives, before being approved for duty, take an oath that they will labor to procure the spiritual safety of infant and mother. When a new-born child has been baptized by a midwife, the parish priest must inquire carefully whether she had the proper intention and administered the rite according to the prescriptions of the Church. If there is any reason to doubt, the baptism is to be repeated conditionally (Catch. Rom., II, ii, § 43); but if it be certain that the sacrament was properly conferred it may not be repeated (c. Majores, 3 de bapt; Conc. Trid. Sess. VI, can. ix), and only the other ceremonies are to be supplied by the parish priest. Finally, it is likewise necessary that midwives be well informed on the Church's teaching concerning the performance of abortion.


More Encyclopedia

The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed in fifteen hardcopy volumes.

Catholic Encyclopedia

Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.

No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.

Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912

Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Revelation 20:1-4, 11--21:2
1 Then I saw an angel come down from heaven with the ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 84:3, 4, 5-6, 8
3 Even the sparrow has found a home, the swallow a ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 21:29-33
29 And he told them a parable, 'Look at the fig tree ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for November 28th, 2014 Image

St. Catherine Laboure
November 28: St. Catherine Laboure, virgin, was born on May 2, 1806. At an ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter