Doubt about baptism

If my child received an symbolic catholic baptism at home, with no godparents (just the parents were present), can he be formally baptized later with godparents in a catholic church ceremony?

Describe the “symbolic Catholic baptism” as there is absolutely no such thing. Best advice, go see a priest right away.

If he was baptized with water, “In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Ghost)”, then he is validly baptized and cannot be re-baptized. If not, then he needs to be baptized.

God Bless

I am not sure if this is in the modern rite, but in the Traditional (1962) Rituale, there is a conditional form that reads “If you are not already Baptized, I Baptize thee…” It is typically used if a child is baptized by the delivering doctor in a high risk birth or by the parents at home, as the OP relates.

But you cannot be Baptized twice.

That’s interesting, I didn’t know about this! But it makes a lot of sense. The Church certainly does think of almost everything. :thumbsup:

That’s true if the person doing the baptism intended to do what the Church does when She baptizes. If this “symbolic” baptism had a different intention, if in other words they did not intend to really baptize the child, then it may well not have been sacramentally valid even if the words and actions were all there.

Conditional baptism is still done in the “modern rite” as well. I don’t know precisely which words are used, but here is some information from the archdiocese of Philadelphia that I quickly found on the subject. Specifically it is addressing conditional baptism in the case of a non-Trinitarian formula having been used, which is not the issue here, but it shows that it is still done.

Your best bet is to speak with your priest. Be truthful about what was done.

As we say in the Creed, we believe in ONE baptism. So if this child was baptized then that’s it, he was baptized once and forever. If there’s any question about the validity of the baptism he can be conditionally baptized.

The priest can then arrange to supply the additional rites of baptism and the godparents can definitely be part of that. The child will receive the baptismal candle, white garment, and anointing that were skipped in the original ceremony. The priest will also make sure the baptism is recorded in the parish register. This will be important later in the child’s life.

You need to speak to a Priest. I would think this is not a true baptism. Yes, anyone can baptize another person in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. But this should only be done when a Priest is not available, and when death seems to be something possible at any moment. But remember, if I baptize anyone, say at a car crash or other similar emergent situation, I am baptizing them as Catholic and I am obligated to see to it that this person, if they survive, is aware of that and is afforded the chance to study the faith.

Baptism is serious, and cannot or should not be taken as something just anyone can do symbolically.

As far as I understand, and I may be wrong, baptism has to be performed by a priest unless a priest is not available and the person is in immediate danger of death and the proper formula was used and the proper intent was present in the person performing the baptism. Unless all of those conditions were present the baptism is seen as invalid.

Definitely talk to a priest, describe the situation surrounding the “baptism” fully including intent, and see if the baptism was valid or not.

While canon law requires a priest or deacon to perform the baptism except in unusual circumstances, not fulfilling this requirement does not affect the validity of the baptism. Anyone can validly baptize, even an unbaptized atheist, assuming the action meets all the actual requirements for validity and regardless of whether it is licit or not.


So, if the person who performed the baptism did it as a “symbolic” gesture (intent) the baptism wouldn’t be valid, correct?

As others have stated, speak with a priest.

I know that laity is able to perform baptism under emergency situations, but we are not called to baptize on our own simply because we prefer to. I don’t know if in your situation it is considered a valid baptism or not.

Interesting question. If it were a case of, say, “baptizing” someone within a play or a movie, then it would be clear there is no intent to “do what the Church deos.” How far this stretches with regards to those who view Baptism as merely symbolic, I do not know.

As Tafan said, the best advice for the OP is to speak with a priest. He can evaluate the situation and counsel the OP on what needs to be done.

I guess that depends on what is meant by “symbolic.” True baptism is rich in symbolism, as are all the sacraments. The pertinent question is whether they intended to baptize the child.

In order to understand what’s happening and what should happen next, it’s important that you ignore the traditional rite in the sacramentary of 1962 and the newer rite in the current sacramentary. Neither of these books contains theology or canon law. They are ritual books

If the person doing the baptizing does what the Church intends and he does it correctly, the baptism is valid and it must be registered as such, with the name of the person who did the baptizing and date.

Godparents are not a requirement for a valid baptism. None of the prayers in either of the rituals of 1962 or the current are required for validity. There is a lot of nonsense among our Catholic people who want to say that if you dont’ say this or that prayer, there is something wrong with the sacrament, any sacrament. That’s ludicrous. The Church tells us what makes the sacrament valid and licit, not someone sitting in the pew pretending to be a parallel Magisterium.

To be valid the baptism has to meet these criteria.

  1. The person being baptized must be alive.

  2. The person doing the baptism must desire to do what the Church does. He need not be a believer. All he needs is the desire to do what the Church does, for the benefit of the candidate being baptized.

  3. You must use water.

  4. You must use the Trinitarian formula, "I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

If you follow those four steps, the baptism is valid and will be recorded as such.

If this was not an emergency baptism, the sacrament continues to be valid, but it was illegal for someone to baptize without being delegated by the bishop. This baptism is illicit. The person is truly baptized. But it took place in a manner contrary to the law.

The parents have a duty to take the child to the local parish for the anointing and the blessing that is part of the ritual. The deacon reserves the right to perform a conditional baptism, if he feels that you may have don’t it incorrectly. That’s his call.

If you don’t have a permanent deacon in your parish, any priest in the parish can help. This is really the job of the deacon, not the priest or the pastor.

The intent is what lead to my question. If the person who performed the baptism did it without truly intending to baptize the child, as in they thought the child would be “really” baptized later by a priest and this was merely symbolic to make the parents or a family member feel better, then I wondered if the baptism would be considered valid.

I’m just curious. Don’t mean to derail, but this is interesting to me.

Question has been answered.


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