Is everyone who is baptized technically catholic?

Is it technically accurate to say that protestants, baptists, lutherans, prosperity gospelers etc are all part of the catholic church (the universal church) seeing how they are baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit?

And from the catholic churches perspective (the Pope and Magisterium), these people are simply bad catholics rather than being part of another “separate” church?

If so, then “there is no salvation outside the church” doesn’t apply to protestants as they are not “outside” the church as such but are simply bad catholics (though they will have a hard time gaining salvation seeing how they are bad catholics …the same way any bad catholic would have difficulty gaining salvation).



The Church calls them separated brethren, since they were not raised Catholic and (presumably) don’t know any better, and that seems like a good appellation for them.

Wouldn’t say they are bad Catholics, I’d say most are invincibly ignorant and hopefully heaven bound.

Someone baptized in a Methodist Church is not Catholic, they are Methodist. Same with Lutherans.

Baptists and other Evangelicals don’t even believe that baptism does anything so the efficacy of their baptism is in question. These most certainly are not Catholic.

There is no such thing as being technically Catholic. You are either Catholic or you are not. Being Catholic is not a technicality.


Ah… if the baptism uses proper form and matter (trinitarian, water) I do believe that the Church recognizes them. The Church recognizes even Seventh Day Adventist baptisms, as they are trinitarian and done by full immersion.

There is one Church, one faith, one baptism. The reformation has made a muddle of all this, but the baptisms that are known to be invalid are Mormon (different father, different son and different spirit), and JWs, if they even baptize. As well, Oneness Pentecostal baptisms are invalid as they deny the Trinity.

The responses seem contradictory on the surface. Are there not different levels at which the Church can be viewed. The Church as referenced by baptism is the Body of Christ into which all who are properly baptized are joined. It is the catholic or universal church. The Catholic Church, capital “C” refers to those members of the Body of Christ who belong to the organization by that name, which proclaims itself to be the same organization founded by Christ Himself and which claims to alone profess all truth as safeguarded by the Holy Spirit. Once baptized by the Catholic Church into the Body of Christ that person is forever Catholic whether or not they choose to be a faithful member of the Catholic Church. It is my understanding that if a person is baptized into the Methodist church they are a Methodist even though they become a part of the universal church, the Body of Christ, by virtue of that baptism. They must later join the Catholic Church to become a Catholic. This is my understanding. Others may be able to express this more artfully.

One last point, I think “separated brethren” for current day Protestants refers to brothers in Christ who do not profess all of the tenets of faith proclaimed by the Catholic Church. For the most part they have never been Catholics. Only the original separated brethren could be called separated Catholics, and also some today who were once Catholic and later decided to join one of the 30,000+ denominations. I do not believe “separated brethren” is synonymous with “separated Catholics”.

One of my favorite paragraphs of the encyclical Ut Unum Sint by Pope Saint John Paul II says it so beautifully:

*42. It happens for example that, in the spirit of the Sermon on the Mount, Christians of one confession no longer consider other Christians as enemies or strangers but see them as brothers and sisters. Again, the very expression separated brethren tends to be replaced today by expressions which more readily evoke the deep communion — linked to the baptismal character — which the Spirit fosters in spite of historical and canonical divisions. Today we speak of “other Christians”, “others who have received Baptism”, and “Christians of other Communities”. The Directory for the Application of Principles and Norms on Ecumenism refers to the Communities to which these Christians belong as “Churches and Ecclesial Communities that are not in full communion with the Catholic Church”. This broadening of vocabulary is indicative of a significant change in attitudes. There is an increased awareness that we all belong to Christ. I have personally been able many times to observe this during the ecumenical celebrations which are an important part of my Apostolic Visits to various parts of the world, and also in the meetings and ecumenical celebrations which have taken place in Rome. The “universal brotherhood” of Christians has become a firm ecumenical conviction. Consigning to oblivion the excommunications of the past, Communities which were once rivals are now in many cases helping one another: places of worship are sometimes lent out; scholarships are offered for the training of ministers in the Communities most lacking in resources; approaches are made to civil authorities on behalf of other Christians who are unjustly persecuted; and the slander to which certain groups are subjected is shown to be unfounded.

In a word, Christians have been converted to a fraternal charity which embraces all Christ’s disciples. If it happens that, as a result of violent political disturbances, a certain aggressiveness or a spirit of vengeance appears, the leaders of the parties in question generally work to make the “New Law” of the spirit of charity prevail. Unfortunately, this spirit has not been able to transform every situation where brutal conflict rages. In such circumstances those committed to ecumenism are often required to make choices which are truly heroic.

It needs be reaffirmed in this regard that acknowledging our brotherhood is not the consequence of a large-hearted philanthropy or a vague family spirit. It is rooted in recognition of the oneness of Baptism and the subsequent duty to glorify God in his work. The Directory for the Application of Principles and Norms on Ecumenism expresses the hope that Baptisms will be mutually and officially recognized. This is something much more than an act of ecumenical courtesy; it constitutes a basic ecclesiological statement.

It is fitting to recall that the fundamental role of Baptism in building up the Church has been clearly brought out thanks also to multilateral dialogues.*

With all due respect, there is not one faith and one Church in the world. Catholics profess one faith and one Church but others profess a different faith and a different Church.

The fact that someone was baptized using the proper form does not make them Catholic. Recognizing the validity of a baptism is not the same as declaring that the same baptism makes one Catholic. To be Catholic is to be bound by canon law, united to the bishop, participate in the sacraments, assist the Church’s needs, worship on days of obligation, etc.

Don’t take my word for it. Walk into a Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian or Seventh Day Church and ask anyone you meed if they are Catholic.


Using this criteria, most people who have been baptized Catholic in a Catholic church by a Catholic priest …is NOT Catholic. This is seeing how most Catholics don’t accept all canon law (they make up their own mind about things such as abortion, contraception etc. Heck, even some priests think gay marriage is ok), they don’t attend all the sacraments or worship on days of obligation.

This is what i mean by being a “bad Catholic”. Aren’t protestants simply technically “bad Catholics” too. Otherwise, how can the Catholic church recognize their baptism as correct? Wouldn’t this mean that the Catholic church is recognizing the baptism of another church? …which would be an incorrect thing to do as there is only one church.

The Catholic church is effectively recognizing protestants as bad Catholics even if protestants don’t think of themselves as Catholic. For example, if someone who was baptized Catholic in a Catholic church later became an atheist, that person wouldn’t consider themselves a Catholic anymore BUT the catholic church would (seeing how they were baptized Catholic) and would now simply consider that person a bad Catholic.

They are in partial communion with the Church based on their baptism, but they are not members of the Catholic Church.

[quote=Pius XII Mystici Corporis]22. Actually only those are to be included as members of the Church who have been baptized and profess the true faith, and who have not been so unfortunate as to separate themselves from the unity of the Body, or been excluded by legitimate authority for grave faults committed.

[quote=Vatican II, Lumen Gentium]They are fully incorporated in the society of the Church who, possessing the Spirit of Christ accept her entire system and all the means of salvation given to her, and are united with her as part of her visible bodily structure and through her with Christ, who rules her through the Supreme Pontiff and the bishops. The bonds which bind men to the Church in a visible way are profession of faith, the sacraments, and ecclesiastical government and communion.

People can have other bonds with the Catholic Church other than being a fully incorporated member–we call these bonds “partial communion” (based on concepts enunciated by St. Augustine). Baptism is the source of that bond.

Here’s how Ott’s Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma explained it using the more historically common terminology:

Although public apostates and heretics, schismatics and excommunicati vitandi are outside the legal organisation of the Church, still their relationship to the Church is essentially different from that of the unbaptised. As the baptismal character which effects incorporation in the Church is indestructible, the baptised person, in spite of his ceasing to be a member of the Church, cannot cut himself off so completely from the Church, that every bond with the Church is dissolved.


Though baptism outside full communion with the Catholic Church does put the person into a real though imperfect communion with the Catholic Church…that communion will be of varying degrees. For there is one Baptism.

= bad Catholic?

[quote] imperfect communion with the Catholic Church

=bad Catholic?

No. There is a difference between someone who knows what they are supposed to do, but chooses not to obey, and someone who is doing what they think they are supposed to do, but has the wrong information or misunderstandings about it.

That level of knowledge is the difference between what I’d consider a “bad Catholic” (though I’m not thrilled with that term and wouldn’t use it aloud) and our “separated brethren.” It’s complicated because people (and situations) can be so different in levels of background, knowledge, ability, resources, etc.

Of course, I also think if all of us Catholics more often did what we’re supposed to be doing, there would be more converts to the Catholic Church (and probably fewer who fell away). But we’re human, and we don’t always come across to others as joyful, holy, followers of Christ, sharing His message. :blush:

You said in one sentence what I have been trying to say in many posts.

Thank you.


This Lutheran considers his baptism every bit as Catholic as one performed in a parish in communion with the Bishop of Rome. I know its another issue, but I don’t believe that only those in communion with the pope are Catholic.


No rather = non- Catholic Christian

Compendium issued by Pope Benedict XVI

  1. Who belongs to the Catholic Church?


All human beings in various ways belong to or are ordered to the Catholic unity of the people of God. Fully incorporated into the Catholic Church are those who, possessing the Spirit of Christ, are joined to the Church by the bonds of the profession of faith, the sacraments, ecclesiastical government and communion. The baptized who do not enjoy full Catholic unity are in a certain, although imperfect, communion with the Catholic Church.

and after a person is baptized then they can also become guilty of any of these positions 2089

And this 2089

Thinking of the prodigal son as an example

that son was still son even after he left the family. But what did the Father say about him while he was away?

This son of mine was DEAD.

It’s only after his son decided to return home, confess his sins to his Father, that the Father said this son has come to life again. Luke 15:24

We can’t forget it is Jesus telling the story

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