Illicit baptisms: how common are they?

Hi all,

Does anybody here know how common illicit baptisms are? Did they used to be more common than nowadays?


Illicit Baptisms are those which are valid, but are done illegally.

Invalid Baptisms are those which are both illicit and not valid.

I am assuming you mean illicit. I doubt there is really an answer to your question, but I can tell you, from my own experience, that people are performing illicit Baptisms and not reporting them to the proper authorities. In my small circle I know of at least 3 sets of Grandparents who have performed illicit Baptisms on their grandchildren because the parents of these children never bothered to take the children to church, or left the Church. I think this happens more often than is realized in the Catholic Church. This is, of course, frowned upon by the Church.

OP, perhaps you could explain for us exactly what you mean by illicit baptisms?

CB Catholic: Yes, I am asking about illicit baptisms, not valid baptisms.

PaulafromIowa: An illicit baptism is one that is performed validly, but not legally. In an illicit baptism, the person was indeed baptized and has had the stain of original sin removed. The sacrament was imparted even though it was illicitly done. I have also seen them referred to as secret baptisms or unauthorized baptisms. Here is a description of the difference between licit and valid:

I realize that it would be difficult to compile such information, but was wondering if anybody had tried.

Yes, I think it’s still fairly common, and frankly, getting more so. The parish offices hear “stories” about this among the ranks.

I am aware of one. In fact, asking about it is what drew me to CAF waaaay back when.

I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the case.

Catholics who were catechized as youths of my age (60) or older were instructed on how to perform an emergency baptism and it was emphasized how important baptism is.

If the millennial parents are neglecting to or being refused baptism for their children, I can see some baby boomer grandparents doing this.

I think it happens a lot more than we would think. I know a priest who joked that the ordinary ministers of baptism are the bishop, priest, and grandparents

guilty as charged! :blush:

I have this mental picture of a guy standing in the mouth of a shadowy back alley saying “Psssst hey buddy come here, wanna get baptised?” :smiley:

Nah, grands and a sink.

I know of one, personally.

It’s very difficult to resist when you are considering the good of their souls. One priest expressed surprise that I had not done so. Only my knowledge of what obligations I would be imposing prevented me. I also know what my obligation is to report my action should a medical situation arise that would force my hand.

Nacho Libre baptism

Unfortunately, I don’t think the grandparents realize the tremendous burden they are now placing upon the child. The requirements upon Catholics are now binding upon the child who probably has zero chance of fulfilling them – or why would the grandparents be illicitly baptizing the child in the first place?

Oh, and for full disclosure, I did perform an illicit baptism on my cat when I was ten. :blush:

Of course, it was also invalid, so…

Your heart was in the right place! :smiley:

Illicit Baptisms among Catholics are quite common, unfortunately. It was a trend that grandparents would baptize an infant in the kitchen sink, when the parents said they would not raise the children in any sort of faith life (Catholic or otherwise).

Though these individuals were well intentioned, the Church frowns upon such action (as others have said in this thread).

Also, on a practical note, I would say that the majority of Protestant Baptisms are valid, but not licit, because they themselves (by virtue of being Protestant) do not follow the norms of the Church. When someone converts, they are not re-baptized, because the Church recognizes the validity of the sacrament.

So, answering your question, many baptisms are valid but illicit.

I think another cool topic to explore is the validity of sacraments…especially in the 70s-80s, when priests began to wrongfully “experiment” with the liturgy, changing many of the formulas and substances used in certain sacraments (making up their own expressions of the Trinity, changing Eucharistic prayers including the words of consecration, etc.). Quite sad, thank goodness that time is on its way out!

Why would you think Protestant Baptisms are illicit??

I hope it didn’t come across as saying that Protestant Baptisms are invalid, just that they are illicit. They are valid, provided that the correct formula and substance are used and it is not a “self-baptism”.

The nature of a sacrament being considered licit, depends on the approval and sanction of the Church. Protestant Baptisms, unless they occur in emergency/end of life happen without the approval of the Church.

I said the majority, meaning that there are indeed circumstances, such as beautiful end-of-life Baptisms, where the Church would have no problem sanctioning such an action.

It is also to be noted that, outside life threatening circumstances, the ordinary minister for the sacrament is a validly ordained deacon or a priest. If someone tries to baptize someone else, in a normal circumstance, and they are not a validly ordained priest of deacon, the sacrament breaks with the norms set forth by the Church. Which means, the sacrament, while it may be valid, is illicit.

Therefore, a Protestant minister, the great majority of whom are not validly ordained, do not have the authority to preform licit Baptisms. However, their Baptisms are valid.

I say the majority, because some Protestant denominations still have valid Apostolic Succession and valid Ordination.

I am unclear, because of the recent conversations, if the SSPX and such organizations still have licit Baptism (I believe they can give licit absolution…but I could be wrong). I am also unclear with regard to the Orthodox Church. Both organizations like the SSPX and the Orthodox have valid priesthood…but what about licit sacraments like Baptism and Confession. Of course, their Eucharist is valid, but illicit.

Does this clear my statement up at all?


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