Confused about the validity of Protestant baptism

As Catholics, we recognize the baptism of Protestants, if they have been baptized in water “in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” If the person baptized belongs to a Protestant church that does not believe baptism to be a regenerating sacrament, but only a public witness and ordinance symbolizing a personal acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, then in what sense has that person been baptized? Do we “accept” all Protestant baptisms as long as the proper form has been followed? I must be missing something . . .

We consider baptism to be valid if the proper form is used and if the minister of baptism “intends to do what the Church does when she baptizes”. As such, even non-Christians can baptize in the case of necessity. The minister may have an deficient idea about what the Church intends (that could be the case with a Catholic priest or deacon too) but if that person *wants *to do what the Church does then that is considered sufficient.

Generally each persons Baptism is looked at carefully. Sometimes diocese will issue a list of other Christian Communities Baptisms that are generally accepted and those that are questionable as well as those that are not accepted. But the Rite calls for each Baptism to be carefully considered in details and additional investigation done if needed.

I was told by our RICA leaders, who just returned from a conference on Cannon Law, that the only requirement was that a person be baptised using the words, “in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit”. That everything else is moot since no one is baptised into a denomination or doctrine, rather your baptism is to set you apart unto the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; therefore, it would be a valid a baptism regardless of what the denomination believed.

Mormon baptism thought it uses the words of the Trinity is invalid.

As to a Protestant minister’s intention…his intention would have been in the very least ‘to do what Christ commanded’ and even though his understanding was not full…or even though he did not believe that baptism was anymore than a symbol …this is enough.

to intend to fulfill the Command of Christ is to intend to do what the Church does…even if the person does not believe.

or to intend to do what Christians do…for a pagan may even baptize…
It is Christ who baptizes.*

for the Church even declared very early on … 3rd century…that even the heretics baptize validly…and that even a pagan can baptize validly …and so when someone came into full communion with the Church Pope St. Stephen I decreed that they were not to be rebaptized…

so with our separated brothers…this would be the case as well…(even though they are in a different boat from formal heretics…)

if some doubt still exists one can be conditionally baptized…

Since Mormons practice proxy baptism, it can probably be assumed that their understanding of Baptism is deeply flawed.

Leaving aside, that is, the question of whether Mormonism can properly be called Christian at all…

The Church judged that Morman baptism of individuals (non-proxy) is invalid.

I’m aware of that. My comment was that their practice of proxy baptism indicates that their understanding of Baptism is not the understanding of traditional Christianity.

I suppose it would be similar if there were a religious group that baptized farm animals and pets. It seems to me that such a practice might call into question their baptism of people as well.

The idea that you are not Baptized into a “denomination” (The Catholic Church is not one of many denominations) is not generally held by all. For instance a Catholic cannot Baptize someone into the Methodist Faith. If a Catholic Baptizes someone, they are considered Baptized Catholic.

There is one baptism. Of course someone who does not intend to baptize a person into full communion with the Catholic Church…but to say to baptize them as a Lutheran Christian…will not be baptizing them into full communion with the Catholic Church…

but it still the one baptism…thus a valid baptism is still baptism…even if done by an Buddhist who intends to make a person a Christian at his request…

Incorporated into the Church, the Body of Christ

1267 Baptism makes us members of the Body of Christ: "Therefore . . . we are members one of another."71 Baptism incorporates us into the Church. From the baptismal fonts is born the one People of God of the New Covenant, which transcends all the natural or human limits of nations, cultures, races, and sexes: "For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body."72

1268 The baptized have become “living stones” to be "built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood."73 By Baptism they share in the priesthood of Christ, in his prophetic and royal mission. They are "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that [they] may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called [them] out of darkness into his marvelous light."74 Baptism gives a share in the common priesthood of all believers.

The sacramental bond of the unity of Christians

1271 Baptism constitutes the foundation of communion among all Christians, including those who are not yet in full communion with the Catholic Church: "For men who believe in Christ and have been properly baptized are put in some, though imperfect, communion with the Catholic Church. Justified by faith in Baptism, [they] are incorporated into Christ; they therefore have a right to be called Christians, and with good reason are accepted as brothers by the children of the Catholic Church."80 "Baptism therefore constitutes the sacramental bond of unity existing among all who through it are reborn."81

You are of course correct. That we are Baptized into Christ and become Christians. That is why it is the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. There is however an idea that tends to deny or down play the divisions in Christianity. I suspect that this RCIA training might have had that in mind. The documents and decrees on Ecumenism propose various degrees of relationship.

Yes of course…various degrees of communion.

It is not the issue of proxy baptism which is the basis of rejection of their form of baptism, but rather the whole of their theology. They are not the only group whose baptisms are rejected; there are several others.

The identifying theme running through the whole issue of other groups’ baptism is that those groups generally agree on the major points of the Creed. Where there is a rejection of the understanding of the creed itself, you will find a rejection of their baptismal proceedure. Included (but not limited to) are, for example, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Seventh Day Adventists.

For example: the LDS do not accept that there is one God; they believe that God was a human being who was “perfected”, and that other human beings can be perfected and become Gods on their own planet, generating “spiritual children” through intercourse, which “spiritual children” will eventually receive a body through human intercourse on this world.

They also believe that Jesus and the Devil were “spiritual brothers”… the issues go on and on. And do not expect all LDS members to be well versed in their religious concepts.

LDS members consider themselves Christian, and they do beleive that Christ was a person who was born of Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit. However, their understanding of Jesus and the Holy Spirit and Christians’ understanding is radically different.


It is gr8 to c so many replies to this question. I frequent this forum regularily hoping to gain new insight into this question and boy have I gained some. Your teacher must be fantastic, not every teacher allows their students to post on forums. It’s inovative, creative and productive to learning in the 21st Century.

I think most of you guys are on the right track when you say that the main difference between protestant and catholic babptism is that whereas catholics believe that they receive Grace from the rite, protestants believe that Grace can only come from accepting Jesus - the baptism is sought of like a ceremony to acknowledge this personal commitment. BUT, and this is where I think some of you go a little off track, baptism in the protestant faith is still much more than a symbol. It is still a supernatural experience becasue it is the time when you tell God formally that you have decided to be his. Kind of like a marriage is the formal aknowledgement of an engagement.

The inner meaning of these rituals you can see is slightly different. There are similarities in symbolism for example both believe that the water symbolises death and resurection but for Catholics it is an actual spiritual rebirth.

I think that this is a very interesting topic - you should research it some more:

and decide for yourself - do the differences outweight the similarities? It is interesting to note whether other denominations consider baptisms to be valid for their faiths.

Bye for now and God Bless,


Protestant Baptism is held valid in three conditions:

  1. The Formula is valid: " (Name) I Baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son
    and of the Holy Spirit."

  2. The material is valid: clean water

  3. The Intention: When the intention of the minister is the same with the intention of the Catholic Church (Now this is hypothetical).

Ref. Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma by Dr. Ludwig Ott.

we, as in the Catholic bishops, accept water baptism in the Trinitarian formula as valid when conducted by any minister (even a non-Catholic if the baptized was in danger of death) as long as the minister intended whatever the Church intends by the sacrament, and most ministers in good faith have this intent even (as in the case of the non-Catholic) they don’t fully understand or accept the Church’s intent.

The local bishop determines which non-Catholic baptisms are valid in his diocese as he has the general knowledge of what each sect does in and intends in his area. For instance while many Baptist baptisms may be valid, there are several small Baptist sects who do not baptize in the accepted manner, so the local bishop would have to sort that out.

The candidate for full communion with the Catholic Church should give the priest whatever documentation he has of his baptism, including his own recollection if he was old enough, or testimony of witnesses, and let the priest determine, with the guidance of the bishop, if he is validly baptized.

The bishops may also state explicitly which baptisms are not valid, such as Mormon, since the matter and form of their process explicitly denies what the Catholic Church means and intends by baptism and the Trinitarian formula.

One must (even in Canon Law) have the needed intention…to basically do what the Church does (even if they do not understand it properly)

…and as another noted Mormon Baptism is invalid …but then again Mormons are not Christians.

A Protestant baptism is valid if it meets the Church’s requirement for valid baptism. If a Protestant ecclesial community does not baptise in a valid way, e.g. it does not use the correct Trinitarian formula, their baptisms are invalid and those baptised by that group are not baptised. If a Protestant ecclesial community does not have baptism at all its unbaptised members are just that, unbaptised.

It is not that the Church legitimizes Baptism but that by its authority recognizes and thus approves the form of Baptism that is given to the apostles in Matt. 28. I wouldn’t think that one had to have the intent of the Church in this matter because it came from Jesus Himself. In the Consecration of the Eucharist, though, the method does come from the Church and thus intent united with the Church is important…thus the Protestant (includes Anglican) Eucharist is not valid (not the Anglican Ordinariate though, they are obviously in communion with the Church), it would seem.

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