Question about Invalid Baptism

Assume that person was raised and baptized in a protestant tradition and later decided to convert to Catholicism. The person could not remember the words used for baptism so it was unknown if the person received the actual sacrament of baptism, so the priest and the person to be confirmed into the Church decided that it was “most likely” that the correct form of baptism was used, so there was no Catholic baptism or even a conditional baptism.

Then suppose that years later, it was discovered that the form of baptism was not valid or that there was a chance that it wasn’t valid. What is the best course of action from there? I would assume baptism, or conditional baptism. Would this type of thing need to be done immediately?
Also, does that invalidate every other sacrament that the person has received? Confirmation, Confession, etc?

Thank you.

Get the baptismal certificate from whatever Church you belonged to.
I was a Methodist before converting. I asked for and obtained my baptismal certificate.

You would be best served by discussing this with your local Priest. There are some people on this forum who are quite knowledgeable but the bottom line is that your parish Priest is the one who would need to dispense any sacraments and correct any documentation.

If there is any doubt, they will do what’s called a “conditional” Baptism. Baptism is a one time thing. You can only be baptized one time, period. Here’s what happens with a “conditional” Baptism (they take all the same actions as a regular Baptism): IF the original Baptism was valid, then nothing happens. IF the original Baptism was not valid, then you are Baptized.

Various churches have set methods of baptizing their members. If you were baptized into any know sect, their ritual of baptism is known, and it is known if it is a valid form or not.

So, unless you were baptized into some sect where it is totally unknown what form of baptism is used, the odds are that your baptism was valid. ALL of the major Protestant Churches, all of the Orthodox Churches, and most of the minor Protestant Churches utilize a valid form of baptism.

The church still recognizes the ancient concept of “Baptism by Desire”, so even if your original baptism were to be invalid, you would still be saved by your desire to become a Catholic Christian.

There are about five or so Protestant baptisms that do not follow the form of the CC enough or is not close enough to the Church to be considered valid. There is a list. If you receive other sacraments after a baptism that is later determined invalid, then you need to have them redone. But it can be done quietly and quickly. One of my goddaughters had been baptized, but it was later found to be on this list of invalid baptisms, so we redid the baptism and confirmation after mass one day.

If good doubt still remains…

Conditional all around :slight_smile: (not just baptism…but Confirmation)

Yes it should be done quickly …

(they would see the Priest…he can tell them what to do…I assume this is hypothetical)

A caveat to Catholics: Many mainline Protestant churches have moved to a theological position in which the traditional formula of the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) is optional. I have heard the “creator, redeemer, sustainer” title used in my denomination (ELCA) frequently, and am aware of “feminist” trinitarian formulas (mother, daughter, holy of holies). Though this hasn’t been an issue in the past, I think it will soon become one for converts.

If anyone has been baptised using “creator, redeemer, sustainer” that is not considered a valid baptism by the Catholic Church. In such a case the convert would have to be baptised into the Catholic Church.

Actually I don’t know why there are variations anyway. Jesus was very specific. Baptise in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. He didn’t say, by the way any variation of that is also okay.

I guess most Trinitarian Baptisms of 18 or more years ago would be valid. These rewritings of the Trinitarian Formula is only a recent innovation. I guess the Church would have to make conditional baptism mandatory for converts as most protestant groups do not have any kind of doctrine that will bind those who belong to the same denomination so much so that one “parish” in one denomination may use a valid formula but another in the same denomination may not.

Exactly. You can’t just assume that the correct form was given just because of the denomination. That really means nothing. Even within the Church there are abuses on this sort of thing.

I’m going to add another level to this:

What if said person was on an extended stay in another country when they found out about this? Another country with a long flight back home. A loooooooong flight home. What would become the best course of action then?

Also, I’d heard that it was assumed that all other sacraments then became valid with a conditional baptism, but I may be mistaken. Obviously, you can’t receive conditional penance, marriage, holy orders, etc. Only Confirmation and Baptism.

Also, also: Some groups Baptize “in the name of Jesus.” That wouldn’t be valid form either, but is “biblical” as in “bible churches.”

That’s nonsense. I was a Methodist. The Catholic Church accepts as valid a Methodist baptism. I was not conditionally baptised. All I had to do was produce my baptism certificate. Same applies to Anglicans, Lutherans etc.

What I was getting at in my post above is that many mainline Protestant churches, of which I am a member (Lutheran) are not necessarily using the proper Trinitarian form in Baptism. This includes Lutherans, Anglicans, and Methodists! It is not so easy any more as to trust the tradition to adhere to itself.

I think you misunderstood what I was trying to say. Like I said, if someone like yourself was baptized in the past then its pretty much safe. But in the last decade or so many have adopted invalid formulas like the ones mentioned. And there is no guarantee anymore that one Protestant denomination will even use the same formula in every parish/church they have. One might use the valid formula while the next wouldn’t. That is what I meant that in the future it may become necessary to make conditional baptism mandatory for converts, because we’re coming to a time where there is no guarantee with many Protestant denominations that they are using the valid Trinitarian formula.

Okay. So you are saying it would be better to have a conditional baptism so that such a convert would at least be sure they are baptised.

What is the situation with someone who is sure they were validly baptised, can produce a certificate, accepted by the Catholic Church as valid but in actual fact was not valid? This person would go through their whole life thinking they were validly baptised and Catholic. Assuming this person died in a state of grace would they be saved, maybe then through baptism of desire?

To be more specific, I’m saying that with the increasing perchance of more and more groups to bastardize the Trinitarian formula for the sake of political correctness, there is an ever increasing uncertainty to the validity of baptisms by Protestant denominations.

That’s fine. I understand and agree with you.
I was just curious as to the example I gave.

Sorry, it was not my intention to avoid that. I am unsure of the answer.

No problem. I don’t know the answer either.

I would say that if the previous baptism was discovered to be either non-existent or definitively invalid, a normal Catholic baptism should be performed. Otherwise, I would suggest a conditional baptism. Of course, I’m not a priest so I am no expert on this! :stuck_out_tongue:

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit