Baptismal Validity


Hi all,

Please look at the below quote from Council of Trent on baptismal validity:

**Canon 4.**If anyone says that the baptism which is given by heretics in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, with the intention of doing what the Church does, is not true baptism,[12] let him be anathema.


A friend tried to tell me that because of the statement in bold, a lot of protestant baptisms are invalid, since they don’t intend to do as the Church does. Now, in my heart, I know this is just plain wrong, but I can’t seem to find a way to show that. I can mention Canon Law, but that seems to not carry the same doctrinal weight as the Council of Trent.

So how do we get from that to recognizing certain baptisms from Protestant churches as valid? Thoughts?


Your friend likely has a wrong idea of what “do what the Church does” means, applying all sorts of conditions to that phrase that the Church simply does not.



I would ask–how does he know that they don’t have the proper intention? The Church presumes a sufficient intention when the external actions (the matter and form) are correct. That’s why it took quite a while to finally say that Mormon baptism is not valid–they said the right words and carried out the right action. Only after a long investigation was it determined that they are truly non-Christian in their theology and so they could not possibly intend to do what the Church does.

Here is something from Pope Leo XIII, with my emphasis:

“33. With this inherent defect of “form” is joined the defect of “intention” which is equally essential to the Sacrament. The Church does not judge about the mind and intention, in so far as it is something by its nature internal; but in so far as it is manifested externally she is bound to judge concerning it. A person who has correctly and seriously used the requisite matter and form to effect and confer a sacrament is presumed for that very reason to have intended to do (intendisse) what the Church does. On this principle rests the doctrine that a Sacrament is truly conferred by the ministry of one who is a heretic or unbaptized, provided the Catholic rite be employed. On the other hand, if the rite be changed, with the manifest intention of introducing another rite not approved by the Church and of rejecting what the Church does, and what, by the institution of Christ, belongs to the nature of the Sacrament, then it is clear that not only is the necessary intention wanting to the Sacrament, but that the intention is adverse to and destructive of the Sacrament” (Apostolicae curae).



My grandmother was baptised as a Baptist in her early teens. But was rebaptised when she became Catholic.

The priest did it just “in case” because some Baptists believe that Baptism is purely a public display and does not forgive orginal sin, does not regenerate us, etc.

In those cases, while they do baptize in the Name of the Father, Son & Holy Spirit; they are not intending to do the samething as us Catholics.

I think this is something that the priest should know about when a Baptist or Fundamentalist enters the Church. Now, I might be wrong, but I still think it’s food for thought.

God Bless.


The church intends remission of sin, and re-birth into the new life in Christ when she baptises. Most protestants also hold this view of baptism if only in less well defined terms(an extreme example would be intending to do as jesus did but without expliciting what that is) it is still valid.


That was my thought exactly!



Thank you! This reference clearly states what I was trying to say to my friend. It’s frustrating when someone zooms in on one little phrase in a Church document and then uses that for the basis of their entire argument without seeing the bigger picture.

But the best way to combat that is to find other documents that contradict their position, so thanks for finding that reference for me! :slight_smile:


Hi Phil,

That’s referred to as a Conditional Baptism. That’s why my friend was arguing should be done for all Protestants (and apparently what was done prior to Vatican II).

I don’t necessarily oppose the idea of loosening the requirements for a conditional baptism because from a simple perspective: Why take the risk? But I probably don’t know the full story there or understand the reasons why.


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