Ineligible for RCIA; any other options?


I’ve been interested in joining the Catholic church for several years. Twice I have enrolled in RCIA classes; one at my school’s university chaplaincy, and a year later at a larger parish nearby. Neither attempt lasted more than a few weeks.

I’m to understand that if you were previously baptised, it is generally accepted by the Catholic church. If you weren’t, a baptism ceremony will happen at some point during the RCIA process. As I was baptised as a teenager, I was told that I couldn’t proceed further without producing my baptismal records. Unfortunately the church I was baptized at has since closed and been demolished. There are no records to obtain.

I explained it to the sister who was running the RCIA class, and she looked at me like I had three heads and said no, I need the baptism record, end of story.

So I’ve kind of fallen between the cracks. I’m not sure what to do, aside from finding another parish and lying about being baptized, and I don’t want to go that route if I can help it.

I’ve heard vague rumors that finding a willing priest could, if they wanted, fast track things… Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Additionally, if anyone can explain why a Church that presumably believes in both Heaven and Hell, would be so cavalier about denying someone an eternity with God, all because of missing paperwork. This has baffled me for 4 years now.


Have you spoken to a priest about baptism? A lot of converts don’t have their baptism paperwork. So there are obviously ways around it.


A deacon once told me this sometimes happens with newborns and grandmas who baptize them. He just repeats the ceremony and adds at the beginning “in case you were not already, I baptize you in the name…”.


There are ways around this dilemma. Speak to a priest. Missing baptismal records is not an impediment to learning about Catholicism. The sister is wrong here. She should know better.


There’s no need to lie. You may have a conditional baptism. You will make a conditional confession beforehand and then receive baptism. The only difference is that this baptism is usually done privately, outside of Easter Vigil, and the priest says “If you are not already baptized…”


come to my church in Orlando FL… they accepted my word that I was baptized Catholic, did my Communion and Confirmation. They never asked for any proof. I was just in the RCIA class to help me better understand the Catholic faith, I’ve been away since forever.

another guy in my class was baptized Baptist, he was baptized again Catholic after the class, went to confession and then baptized.

I’m kind of confused if you’re going to become Catholic, why not just get baptized again?

Do you remember if you were baptized in the Trinitarian formula - in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit? This would be a requirement. Your Priest can clarify, but I’ve heard that sometimes letters from family members who witnessed the baptism are accepted. I have the church bulletins from when my kids were baptized - so if they ever wanted to become Catholic, I believe they would accept these as proof. Just check with your priest.


Since you were baptized as a teenager, I assume you remember the occasion. Talk to your pastor – you can affirm that you were baptized. If family or friends were present they can also affirm it.


How do such people get out in charge of an RCIA program? She obviously has both a lack of understanding of a situation that is not at all uncommon for people wanting to convert. She also arms to have a lack of appreciation for how important joining the Catholic Church is.

A very sad story IMO.

But one that should be easily rectified by talking to a priest. Conditional baptisms happen all the time.


Did he lie about his baptism?

Baptism is one & done deal. If you have a valid baptism, you can’t have another one. Baptisms in a Baptist church are considered valid in the Catholic Church.

@GreenHorse No one is ineligible for RCIA. If you don’t have a copy of your baptism record, maybe someone in your family does. Or they witnessed your baptism, or their may be a picture of your baptism.

Was your baptism done in the correct form with the right matter? Water and the words “in the name of Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit” If both were present you have a valid baptism.

If their are any questions about your baptism, the priest can do a conditional baptism. That is where you are baptized again, but it’s only effective if your first one wasn’t valid.

Talk to the priest of your parish.


why would he and how would I know if he did.

Guess it depends on the church, mine didn’t question my baptism, or require proof, they took me at my word. {shurg}

Because there would have been no reason to baptize him again if had a valid baptism.

It doesn’t “depend on the church” unless you’re talking about a church that isn’t a Catholic Church. The Catholic Church has a set of rules for ALL Catholic Churches must follow. Coming into the Catholic Church has requirements that everyone must meet. Some parishes may use different programs or styles, some are good and some are not, however they all have the same requirements.

If you registered at a parish as a Catholic they wouldn’t question you. For non Catholics going through RCIA it’s a different story.


Exactly. Conditional baptism - just in case. A little anecdote: My mother received a conditional baptism at age 88. She had been baptized decades prior in a proto-mega church, but all records were lost when it was seized by the state for non payment of taxes.

Anyway, Father bypassed all RCIA since she had dementia, and because she told him “You know, I’m going to be Catholic” one day as he administered Holy Communion to Catholic members of her assisted living home. The Lord called her home just a few months after.

Researching the other day, I see that the pastor caused great division in the community as he did not believe in the Trinity. Thus, his baptisms were invalid.

So, there you go.


Code of Canon Law #869
Can. 869 §1. If there is a doubt whether a person has been baptized or whether baptism was conferred validly and the doubt remains after a serious investigation, baptism is to be conferred conditionally.

§2. Those baptized in a non-Catholic ecclesial community must not be baptized conditionally unless, after an examination of the matter and the form of the words used in the conferral of baptism and a consideration of the intention of the baptized adult and the minister of the baptism, a serious reason exists to doubt the validity of the baptism.

§3. If in the cases mentioned in §§1 and 2 the conferral or validity of the baptism remains doubtful, baptism is not to be conferred until after the doctrine of the sacrament of baptism is explained to the person to be baptized, if an adult, and the reasons of the doubtful validity of the baptism are explained to the person or, in the case of an infant, to the parents.

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~sigh~ I am so sorry that you have been mislead.

I coordinate the RCIA program at my parish, so I have had to deal with this kind of situation several times now. It’s not uncommon, and anybody working with RCIA should really know how to handle it.

When an actual Baptismal certificate can’t be produced (for whatever reason), we can use a letter/statement from the Baptized individual (if they were old enough to remember it) or another witness (parent, etc.). As long as they can verify that the Baptism used water and was in the Trinitarian form, then we’re good-to-go. Basically, we need to be reasonably sure that a valid Baptism occurred. I ask the individual or witness to include in a letter as much detail as they can provide…for example, “I witnessed [Person] being Baptized at [Church X] by [Pastor Y] in the summer of [Year]. The Baptism used water and was in the Trinitarian Form.”

If that cannot be produced (for whatever reason), or if the details are too vague for us to be certain, then the ‘backup’ option is a conditional Baptism. You would be Baptized, but the form would be slightly changed to say, “If you are not already Baptized, I Baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” That way we could be certain that you are Baptized, but in a way that acknowledges that Baptism can only occur once (i.e., if you were actually already Baptized, then the new Baptism would be ineffective…but if you weren’t, it would be).

This is really very routine in RCIA. I learned how to handle it in my first year coordinating the program, with the guidance of my pastor, who of course has the responsibility for governing how we operate. I’m amazed and saddened that you have been turned away or discouraged because of this.

I join with others in suggesting that you speak directly to the pastor at your local parish. They should be able to guide you through the process (and, if necessary, educate the RCIA team on how to handle it). If they turn you away, then try another parish (but hopefully that will not be necessary). The fact that you cannot produce an official Baptismal certificate is not an impediment to entering full communion with the Catholic Church. Period!

God bless you.


heh. Just don’t speak to the one that hired Sister Misspoken!


Yeah, they just do a “conditional” baptism. Not a big deal at all.

You probably won’t even need a Conditional Baptism. You were a teenager so should have a clear memory of what took place at your baptism. Just tell the priest what was said and done, and if clearly valid, which it probably was, end of problem

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You do not have to have a baptismal record. You can do an affidavit of baptism. A witness to the baptism— including yourself— simply attests to your baptism and signs it.

And if there is doubt about your baptism then you would be conditionally baptized.

Stop talking to the sister and start talking to the pastor. Sister is mistaken.

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