Is there a sacramental difference between Protestant baptism and illicit baptism?

When considering the CC’s stance on the validity of non-Catholic Christian marriages where both partners were validly baptized, it seems that they are deemed valid as long as neither were Catholic.

It is correct that a valid, licit Catholic baptism makes a person Catholic even if the person never receives confirmation or communion, right? So if they receive Catholic baptism as an infant, but as a teenager decide to be confirmed in another Christian tradition, they are still Catholic for purposes of defect of form marriage validity, right?

Under what circumstances does an emergency baptism or illicit but valid lay baptism according to the requirements of the CC inherently make a person “Catholic” (as opposed to just “Christian”), especially with regards to marriage requirements? If so, how does one tell the difference between a baptism that makes one Catholic and Christian versus a baptism that only makes a person Christian?

No, if a sacrament is valid, its valid. Being licit or not is discipline. One who conducts an illicit rite of a sacrament may be committing sin or even get excommunicated, but the sacrament is valid nonetheless.

Protestants cannot be illicit simply because they are not expected to follow Canon Law.

That’s not exactly what I was asking.

Let me give an example:

Let’s say a Catholic couple have a baby. The father baptizes the child himself, using a valid trinitarian formula, but the baby was not in imminent danger of death and the father was not authorized to perform licit baptisms in the applicable Catholic diocese.

The child refuses Catholic confirmation and joins a Protestant church, and marries there. Was the child ever “Catholic”?

Yes he is, especially if the Catholic father intended the child to be a member of the Catholic Church. It would also have helped if the baptism was reported to the nearest parish. If a priest doubts the father’s accounts and the child wishes to practice Catholic faith, he may be conditionally baptized.

As I said earlier, illicit doesn’t change the fact that the Sacrament was valid.

Remember, there is one baptism. There is no Catholic baptism, Orthodox baptism, Evangelical baptism. A valid baptism always brings us to Christ’s Church, which is the Catholic Church.

So the child, in this case, is in an invalid marriage, because he was actually Catholic and was supposed to get married in a Catholic church? But a person baptized in a Protestant context is not Catholic and thus can be validly married outside the CC?

This is the question I’m driving at. When does a baptism, sacramentally valid, but not performed according to Catholic Canon Law, bring a person into union with the CC and obligated to follow Canon Law, as opposed to just making them Christian?

It seems certain to me that if both parents are Catholic, and will for the child to be Catholic, then the child becomes Catholic, regardless of who baptizes him.

It also seems certain to me that if the Catholic parent is the one to baptize the child, and wills him to be Catholic, then he is.

Similarly, if a non-Catholic parent baptizes the child, and will him to be in their own denomination, then he is.

Unfortunately, I cannot discern what happens in the case of one Catholic, one non-Catholic parent, each willing the child to be of their own denomination, with the child baptized, but not by a minister of either.

Nor for a child of non-Christian parents who survives after baptism in extremis.

I am looking forward to hearing someone more knowledgeable of canon law than I am :slight_smile:

Depends on what you mean by invalid marriage. There are types of marriages that may be invalid for Catholics but valid for non-Catholics, such as lack of form (did not get married in a Catholic rite nor did he/she get the proper dispensation).

It would be hard to judge someone living a non-Catholic faith from the Catholic perspective. Was this person brought up in the Catholic faith? Did this person receive other Sacraments other than baptism from the Catholic Church? And if this person is not living a Catholic life nor does he/she intend to in the future, then why bother about Canon Law? There are many Catholics who has since lost the faith and joined other faiths or become atheists. My question here is, so what concern is it if they are not following Canon Law or Catholic doctrine or tradition?

Can. 877 §1. The pastor of the place where the baptism is celebrated must carefully and without any delay record in the baptismal register the names of the baptized, with mention made of the minister, parents, sponsors, witnesses, if any, the place and date of the conferral of the baptism, and the date and place of birth.

§2. If it concerns a child born to an unmarried mother, the name of the mother must be inserted, if her maternity is established publicly or if she seeks it willingly in writing or
Can. 878 If the baptism was not administered by the pastor or in his presence, the minister of baptism, whoever it is, must inform the pastor of the parish in which it was administered of the conferral of the baptism, so that he records the baptism according to the norm of ⇒ can. 877, §1.

I am confused as to the cirumstances you outline :confused: A Catholic couple who want to have their child baptised Catholic should in the first place go about it the ‘normal’ way. If they didn’t, and baptised the child themselves (whether or not in imminent danger of death), then they have a duty to have the baptism recorded by the parish. This would most usually entail, if not a full-on conditional baptism, at least a supplying of form. If they refused to do this also then in what sense could they be considered as intending for the child to be Catholic? It would seem to me (and I may be wrong, of course) that such a situation would mean that the child would not be Catholic (and therefore not subject to Catholic marriage laws etc) because, regardless of what Church they had attended as a child, there would never have been any attempt to baptise them as a Catholic. That child is baptised, but not a Catholic. The parents, whatever they may have said, clearly did not intend to raise the baby Catholic.

In my opinion…

Sacramentally, there is no difference between one Church/ecclesial community’s baptism and another. They all have the same, sacramental effects. From a juridic/legal perspective, the effects differ according to the Church/ecclesial community the person is incorporated into. If it so happens that a baby is baptized at home by Catholic parents who intended the child to be Catholic, but no record is ever made of this event, we have no reason to doubt the spiritual/sacramental effects of the baptism. But, from a legal perspective, we depend on baptismal records to determine who is bound to observe canon law. If there are *no *records, we would not be able to say that such a person was obliged to observe canon law, including the law regarding canonical form for marriage. This is why the law places such an emphasis on the baptismal records being properly kept and checked. Unfortunately, there are many times when they are not.


I think you mean he is in an illicit marriage. The requirements for a valid marriage do not depend upon disciplines of the Church. Any 2 baptized persons can enter into marriage if they have free consent and are not under any constraint or violating any natural law.

Well if one married a divorcee, then its an invalid marriage as far as the Catholic Church is concerned. The OP hasn’t revealed why he thinks the marriage is invalid. But my guess it that may be the case.

Your right, I hadn’t considered that. They also must be free to marry.

My understanding is that the 3 sacraments administered to a person to bring them into communion to the Church are Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist. Upon receiving all 3 , the person is required to adhere to canon law. Prior to that, he’s a baptized Catholic not in full communion with the Church and not yet bound by canon law.

His marriage to a validly baptized Christian woman is valid and licit as long as neither have impediments (prior marriage, too close in relationship to each other, etc…).

There have been a couple of ideas expressed here which I would like to address from the perspective of the law of the Catholic Church.

First, all Catholics are bound to observe canon law when they marry. So, either they must observe canonical form (that is, express consent in front of a qualified priest/deacon/lay person and two witnesses) or be dispensed from this obligation by the local ordinary. It does not matter if only one person is Catholic and the other is not. The Catholic must observe the law or the Church will consider the marriage invalid (see c. 1108.1 & 1117 & 1127). [A Catholic marrying in an Orthodox Church is an exception to this rule, as c. 1127.1 states.]

Second, those who are baptized Catholic or received into the Catholic Church (after baptism in another community/Church) are bound by ecclesiastical law, including the laws regarding marriage (see c. 11). Confirmation/Communion do not have any impact on this issue. Yes, this is a “problem” when a baby is baptized Catholic and then, through no fault of his own, never sets foot inside a Catholic Church again and gets married “outside the Church.”


This is not correct.

Can. 11 Merely ecclesiastical laws bind those who have been baptized in the Catholic Church or received into it, possess the efficient use of reason, and, unless the law expressly provides otherwise, have completed seven years of age.

If the child is below the age of reason, it is when the parents approach the Church, express their explicit desire that the child be Catholic, file the appropriate sacramental records, and the Church receives the child through the completion of the baptismal rites or at a minimum a public declaration (at Mass typically) of the parents stating their intent that the child be Catholic. It is then that the child is Catholic.

If the child is over the age of reason, the parents can no longer make such a declaration on behalf of the child. The child would then need to declare their own intent to be Catholic through a formal profession of faith and reception into the Church. This is typically followed immediately by Confirmation and Eucharist. In other words, the child is converting to the Catholic Church of their own free will through the RCIA process.

It depends.

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