Baptism on the bottom, valid?


ARE THESE BAPTIMS VALID? This past Sunday I was visiting a parish where the priest baptized two infant girls during Mass. He held them up without clothes and dipped their “bottoms” three times into the water while saying, " I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. The Catechism clearly says to immerse or pour water over the forehead three times. So I wonder if these babies were actually baptized?

WHAT SHOULD I HAVE DONE? After Mass I waited until the priest was sort of alone, and introduced myself. Then I asked if it was ok to only immerse the bottoms of the girls instead of their heads. He got quite defensive and asked me if this was the only reason I came to Mass? I could see I would receive no answer, so I thanked him and left. Do we lay persons have an obligation to question the priest in cases such as this?


Dear Greg,

According to Fr. Nicholas Haligan, O.P. in “The Administration of The Sacraments,” “The head is the principal part of where life integrally resides. Baptism is less certainly valid as the parts washed are less noble than the head. One baptized on other than the head in a case of necessity should be baptized later conditionally, if possible.”

Well, certainly the parts that received the water were at the other end of the babies’ nobility. I would suggest that they be re-baptized conditionally. But the parents ought to go to another priest–one with some common sense! The laity do indeed have an obligation to challenge such irresponsible behavior from the clergy!

Fr. Vincent Serpa, O.P.

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