Protestant denominations are not like the Catholic church in that if one particular protestant church community of whatever denomination goes rogue, not much is done about it unless the congregation ousts the pastor. Sometimes, if they go way off the deep end they simply leave the denomination and do their own thing. It’s very easy for protestants to change what they do/believe. It doesn’t really matter because, for a protestant, their faith (and denomination of choice) is dependent on their own personal interpretation of the Bible. If after being a Presbyterian for 40 years, they decide you have to be immersed for real baptism, then they fill out a form, drop it in the offering plate at a Baptist church, and BAM you’re now Baptist.
So what if a protestant wants to become Catholic, and the protestant community they were a member of was a little abnormal as far as the norms for their denomination goes, so they were not baptized correctly. However, years after baptism she wants to become Catholic, so calls up her old protestant church asking for a baptismal certificate, and they print her out one saying she was given a trinitarian baptism, and it is a denomination that the Catholic Church does accept as giving valid baptisms… then… they’re not actually Catholic? What if a person dies like this?
God has bound salvation to His Sacraments but God Himself is not bound by His Sacraments. This is a clear case of Baptism of Desire. When there is some fraud or misunderstanding that prevents the actual reception of a Sacrament by someone who was willing and ready, that person is not deprived of the graces just because the Sacrament did not actually take place. God has us covered in these cases by His infinite love and mercy.
There is no need to worry about an odd case like this. If a person honestly believed that he had had a Trinitarian baptism, and then received Catholic Confirmation, Communion, and other sacraments, there would certainly be Baptism by Desire.
This is only good for salvation, but not for other things in this life. For example, what if this person were to be ordained? Without valid water Baptism, the ordination would be invalid. And what if this person were to be ordained a bishop? Then we’re talking about the potential of a possible line of bishops with no apostolic succession.
Baptism of desire is not a substitute for actual, valid Baptism for the purposes of the other Sacraments.
In the hypothetical case put before us by the OP, this person’s baptism is presumed valid and so who is going to know that an ordination is invalid?
Yes, perhaps many years later, someone may bring evidence that the person was never validly baptized, and at that point there is cause for concern, but if there is one thing this does not affect, it is the subsequent consecration of bishops. Bishops are always ordained with two co-consecrators, thus making it virtually certain that at least one of three men is a validly ordained bishop. This method tends to purify the lines of succession over time. To my knowledge, no line of episcopal succession in the Church has ever been found to be invalid, and the “safety net” of co-consecrators is an important element here.
Co-consecrators will ensure that apostolic succession itself is not broken…but there is still the distinct, though unlikely, possibility that a man who was never baptized is ordained a priest…which would mean a lifetime of invalid Masses and absolutions.
The church has a list of baptisms it recognizes, those which are questionable and ones it doesn’t recognize. When in doubt, they will be rebaptized. It is quite simple since not all Protestant denominations are considered christian. It is difficult to explain but some by not believing in the trinity are not considered christian and hence their baptism would not be recognized.
I wanted to comment on this. First of all, it’s always dangerous to lump all people who name themselves “Protestant” in one group. There are many church hoppers and I have to say that I’ve seen Catholics do this as well. They will often hop around trying to find the “right priest” or the “nicer congregation” so we should not judge. There are lukewarm Christians in all denominations. Many people are going through pain, have been abused, or genuinely are searching for “more”.
I come from a long line of Protestants. My mother is a Wisconsin Synod Lutheran (that’s how she says it) and won’t even pray with you if you aren’t a Lutheran. But she is even more staunch that that–she said she was never allowed to pray with someone if they are a Lutheran but of a different Synod (Missouri, ELCA). My mother would die for her faith. Totally, absolutely, and without question.
My father comes from a long line of Southern Baptist Convention people, of which my great- grandma belonged. My great-grandma read her Bible every day and cried when she went blind. We got her the Bible on cassette and she listened to it until the day she died (age 93). She was the only person in my life (as a kid) who passionately loved me. I would sit on her lap while she sang “Precious Memories” and her favorite, “The Old Rugged Cross”. I remember her gnarled hands stroking my hair and her prayers for me. To say that Protestants are fickle and “just” jump from one church to another is totally outrageous and offensive to me. My grandmother is my inspiration. I suffer with a mental illness so I have a hard time with what I believe and I don’t seem to fit in anywhere. When I’m lonely and sad I remember her and I can feel her love encouraging me to hang on and not give up. I have traced her lineage bac to Europe (Ireland) and I miss her horribly. The day they put her casket in the hearse to leave for the cemetery I sat on the ground in the parking lot and bawled like a baby, calling for her. She was STRONG and she would have fought for what she believed in anytime. It was an awesome thing to have her tell you she was praying for you. But I KNOW my great-grandma Hazel would have DIED for what she believed…she would tell you, up front, if you “weren’t living right” and drove people crazy with her refusal to do laundry, housework, or shopping on Sunday. My aunt is another who has stood against many for her faith and she is Pentecostal. We don’t agree on things but we agree on loving Jesus. She took me in and showed me the love of the Lord when no one else would.
So I am offended by that statement and don’t like the generalizing I see on here. God knows the heart and while there are lots of people who church shop I see it in the Catholic faith as well so let’s not throw stones unless we are without sin.
There are many Protestants who are honorable and valiant Christians. I can’t wait for the day when I see my great-grandma again. I know I would give anything to hear her humming, “The Old Rugged Cross” in her rocking chair. It breaks my heart I didn’t talk to her more. She was a pillar of faith, and would never run from one church to another. She was honorable and everyone knew where she stood. She was a holy woman of God.
Me? I’m the lost child who longs to talk to her, ask her how to grow as strong as she was, and while I theologically differ from the Southern Baptists in many ways, I loved the faith and Christian walk I saw in her and hope she’s praying for me. I sure need it. I miss her so much. I may not agree with many, but I respect that they are often as committed to their faith as I am, maybe even more so–I can use that as an example of how to embrace Jesus and not let go.
Hello Irishgal49. Your grandmother sounds like she was a wonderful person and I did not intend to insult you, her memory, or any other protestants. I didn’t mean my church hopping comment as an insult or even tease at our brothers and sisters in Christ, but I see church hopping (or better put for this context, denomination hopping) as a trend I see among protestants and something that is in reality quite easy for them to do. Denomination hopping does not make their faith less than a Catholic’s, it is just an option they have precisely because they believe in sola scriptura. If they believed in Tradition they would never dream of leaving their denomination. I apologize for hurting your feelings, and I pray you find your spiritual home.
My observation of protestants church hopping comes from my own life. Before I became Catholic I too was looking for my spiritual home and for a while I went to a presbyterian church, then a baptist church, christian reformed, then baptist again, anglican for a short while, a non-denomination church and then finally presbyterian again. I’ve also seen this trend in my extended family. All my aunts and uncles were raised strictly christian reformed, now some are baptist, some methodist, one still christian reformed, one non-denominational, one presbyterian, two believe church is simply getting together with Christian friends so their church is basically a tea gathering (which I don’t say to slam them, it’s just what they believe and what they do, which is fine and dandy, that’s their choice.). And my observation also comes from the entire protestant community of my small city. People generally stick to denominations that are similar to each other, but most of the presbyterians and christian reformed folk know each other because they regularly switch membership between the various churches of each denomination. There’s a mega church that is non denominational that has membership flowing in and out from various trinitarian denominations in the city.
A Catholic cannot do this. Yes we may look for a better parish or a better priest, but the denomination we are part of is always the same. We will not leave the Catholic faith. For a protestant, her church is the building where she attends church services at and the group of several hundred people who also attend services in that one building in her city. Yes there is the belief that the church is the entire body of all Christians around the world, but if you ask a protestant what church she is a member of she will say which specific building, under which specific pastor. For a Catholic, her church is the entire Roman Catholic Church around the world. We are all one big family, and so switching parishes is not a big deal because the teachings are all exactly the same. We are one big Church, one big global family. A protestant’s pastor is the guy (or girl) who preaches before you every Sunday. For a Catholic, yes the main priest of each parish is rightly called your pastor, but the main Pastor (after Jesus Christ of course!) is the Pope. He is our Holy Father, and we are all his little sheep. A Catholic switching parishes would be more akin to a protestant switching pews than a protestant switching denominations.
I wasn’t angry and I apologize if I sounded angry. Actually I’m leaving the Catholic Church and I have seen people who call themselves “Catholic” bouncing around from one faith to another. Now whether they were well grounded at some point and committed to Catholicism or whether they weren’t is unknown. I know in my case I converted and feel, that I made a big mistake. I actually have so much respect for the Catholic faith I won’t stay. It comes after almost 3 years of agonizing soul searching and I have not been church hopping. I equate it to having an affair. It sounds exciting and would feel great and seem fun but, it will lost its luster after a time and then you are left wanting. I have worked with 4 (maybe 5) priests and continue to meet with one.
I would think anyone who is well grounded in any faith would stay put, while they may get disgruntled with a particular parish, if they are convinced their faith is genuine would stay. In my experience, we cannot know the hurts they may have, mental or health issues that may impact their decision-making, and while I’m sure every faith has people who are fair weather Christians, I believe that some people may just have to run around or awhile until they wrestle it through. Sometimes absence makes the heart go fonder.
I imagine there are people who couldn’t care less, but I think most people who change churches really are seeking more…I try to go with what seems to be closest to what Jesus would ask of us.
I totally went off track some but thanks for your kind response.
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