Can. 849 - True water

Anyone find it strange that the word true is used here, as if there is some subtle implication?

Canon 849 - Baptism, the gateway to the sacraments and necessary for salvation by actual reception or at least by desire, is validly conferred only by a washing of true water with the proper form of words. Through baptism men and women are freed from sin, are reborn as children of God, and, configured to Christ by an indelible character, are incorporated into the Church.

In other words, if the word “true” weren’t employed here, it wouldn’t seem to be lacking anything in expression. The fact that it is there feels to be hinting at something strange, without attempting to sound paranoid. . .

If you’ve anything substantial about its usage, please comment :thumbsup:

I’ve always understood that to mean NOT things that are mostly water, or watery, like soda, coffee,saliva, seltzer, etc.

I have heard the term living water…our pastor indicated once it had the same meaning as true water.

Right. “True” here means something like “actual” or “genuine.” The teaching is that it has to be something we’d generally call water.

Thanks for the responses.
So its opposite isn’t false water but liquid partially made of water, e.g. soda.
No cool mysterious sci-fi implications here, I suppose. :cool:

P.S. Since one of you mentioned it, Living water is mentioned in the Didache as the prime-choice; if not available then other, then cold, then warm, or finally thrice poured in that order.

Yeah, the doctrine is that anything you’d normally call water counts. You can baptize in swamp water and it would be valid. Obviously that isn’t preferred if you have just about any other option, but it counts as water and is thus valid matter for baptism.

Hmm…living water is running water as opposed to stagnant water.

No, ‘living water’ is something much different. I remember reading a little about this long ago, most people view all water to be the same, its the stuff that comes out of the tap or is in our water bottles, but ‘living water’ is something else entirely, Google this topic to understand.

I Googled it and the Bible refers to “rivers of living water coming from within him.” Living water is running, or moving, water, especially in scripture as coming from a spring, being the cleanest, purest water of all. Running river water is better than pond water because pond water is stagnant and less desirable with algae or mosquito larvae in it. Hence, the waters from Jesus or from God are living waters, the best, purest, and cleanest of all.

In the translation of the Didache by J.B. Lightfoot he uses the expression “living water” but in brackets after the word “living” he states “running” so he is saying living water means running water.

Except that stagnant water - or water from a still pond, a barrel, water that may not be in movement but is recognizably water (and not a water-based beverage) is still valid matter for Baptism.

Yes. The sisters who taught us catechism said in an emergency even water from the ditch, or maybe even radiator water would work. (I don’t know about antifreeze!)

I think antifreeze would be considered a different liquid in the same category as beer or coffee.

It’s pretty much a common sense test. If you put a cup of it on the table, would you say “that’s a cup of water” or “that’s a cup of <>”?

1917 CIC Can. 737 specified true and natural water (aquae verae et naturalis) and this was revised with the 1983 CIC Can. 849 to true water (aquae verae). The 1990 CCEO (eastern canon law) Can. 675 specifies “aquae naturalis”.

I think the term “true water” is used to identify one of the 4 elements fire, earth, water, and air. Saint Thomas Aquinas uses the term “true water” in this sense to distinguish the term ‘water’ from Hippocrates’ elements of yellow bile, black bile, phlegm, and blood. [See St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, III, 74, 7]

I understand the canon to be saying that baptism is only valid in the washing of H[SUP]2[/SUP]O (real water) - other watery-like fluids are not valid substances. “True water” is used in the sense of “real water”.


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit