Question on validity of baptism


I had a question posed to me that I couldn’t quite answer, so I am bringing it here for conformation (pun intended).

There is a catechumen who will be received into the Church on Easter, who is living in a state of mortal sin. Would their baptism be considered valid if the person continues to live in a state of mortal sin after the baptism?

I instantly assumed it would be, but after some thought I’m not too sure. By the way, it could be cohabitation or using contraception. That I’m not completely sure about. But anyway, that is the question.




The validity of baptism is not dependent on the person receiving it. If it were, we would never really know if an adult was validly baptized or not. Let us pray that the grace of the sacrament will encourage this person toward greater conversion.


As long as they are receiving it over there own will and by a valid person then yes


I believe it is valid as far as the whole ceremony goes. They are forever marked as a child of God. A person cannot be baptized a second time. However, the grace that accompanies the sacrament might be withheld until they are in full communion again. This would require a good confession with the priest to be absolved of those mortal sins. Some of the grace might still get through. For example, I was in a state of mortal sin when I did my Confirmation, but I still was able to feel the grace of God for that day and several months afterwards. I could not receive the full grace until I confessed all my mortal sins. Confirmation, like Baptism, cannot be repeated.


Thanks folks. I trust the sacrament. This person in particular seems to be changing spiritually. Let’s all join in prayer for them. Thanks!


Baptism cleanses and saves. It would be valid. Though the cleanliness and salvation of the individual could be in jeopardy immediately following the baptism if they sin.


Valid? Yes.

If the question was cohabitation, though, I know that some pastors would be unwilling to baptize a person who had not considered repenting prior to reception of baptism… :shrug:


The Sacrament of Baptism wipes away both personal and original sin. Can. 865 §1. For an adult to be baptized, the person must have manifested the intention to receive baptism, have been instructed sufficiently about the truths of the faith and Christian obligations, and have been tested in the Christian life through the catechumenate. The adult is also to be urged to have sorrow for personal sins.
§2. An adult in danger of death can be baptized if, having some knowledge of the principal truths of the faith, the person has manifested in any way at all the intention to receive baptism and promises to observe the commandments of the Christian religion.
Note carefully the fourth condition in §1: *The adult is also to be **urged *to have sorrow for personal sins

That is an obligation for those who are involved in the ministry: the priest / deacon / lay person who will do the baptizing; the RCIA leader; the sponsor. They are obliged to urge the catechumen to have contrition. There is NOT an obligation for the catechumen to have actual contrition for past sins as a condition for valid baptism.

The interesting part is that the catechumen will enter into a state of mortal sin virtually immediately after being baptized if he/she is actively living in a state of sin when being baptized. So if the person receives Holy Communion after being baptized, assuming in a state of mortal sin still exists…that person will be compounding sacrilege along with the acts that comprising living in a state of mortal sin (as you say).

Therefore, I don’t think that the minister of baptism will be doing the person a favor unless that person has expressed contrition and a firm purpose of amending his/her life to resolve the situation. The individual concerned will go to hell just as surely with unabsolved sins post-baptism as he/she will pre-baptism. And while baptism does not require contrition for past sins and purpose of amendment, the sacrament of penance absolutely does:Can. 987 To receive the salvific remedy of the sacrament of penance, a member of the Christian faithful must be disposed in such a way that, rejecting sins committed and having a purpose of amendment, the person is turned back to God.
So the person, once baptized, will never be able to receive the benefit of absolution until and if the situation that constitutes their living in a state of mortal sin is resolved.

Having said the above, though, I have to bring this uncomfortable issue up. I’m not asking for a response on this nor, in fact, do I really want to hear the answer to this, but the uncomfortable question is:

How do you know that this person is living in a state of mortal sin. Has that person told you as much, approaching you for counsel? We have to be careful not to be guilty of calumny, detraction, or rash judgment regarding what is going on with a person’s life.

For example, a man could be living with a female roommate. We might assume that they are living in sin, but do we know that they are engaging in intimate relations, or is it possible that they sleep in separate bedrooms and actually live as brother and sister? (the latter, while potentially a cause for scandal and a near occasion of sin, is not an *actual *sin). Unless one of the two has told you or unless you have witnessed actual evidence (e.g., staying as a houseguest and hearing the tell-tale rhythmic creaking of the bed), you don’t know.

Alternatively, with a couple that has been married for several years without children, we would naturally assume the situation was because of contraception or sterilization; but unless we’ve been told this, it could well be because of fertility issues.

The point is that if you know (not assume, not guess, not deduce, but actually 100% know) that the person is living in a grave situation and have attempted to counsel the person about that situation, you should approach the pastor (in private) where the person is going to be baptized and make sure that the pastor is aware of that situation. Like I said above, a favor is not being done for the catechumen if he/she is baptized and has full intent to continue sinful life post-baptism.

Once you’ve done so, then leave it be…



Great reply! As you infer, we don’t know until we actually know. Thanks for the consideration.


I have a question about infant baptism, I might be wrong that’s why I am asking here. Does infant baptism cleanse you of original sin and justification is infused in the process? If original sin is removed at baptism and you still fall under concupisence during your lifetime and temptations are still there and you fall into sin then wouldn’t you still be under original sin, am I misunderstood?


I have a question about infant baptism, I might be wrong that’s why I am asking here. Does infant baptism cleanse you of original sin and justification is infused in the process? If original sin is removed at baptism and you still fall under concupisence during your lifetime and temptations are still there and you fall into sin then wouldn’t you still be under original sin, am I misunderstood?


My understanding is that if the catechumen is not truly repentant of certain grave sins, the baptism is valid, as other posters have noted, but it is in effect an “empty form” - the indelible mark is “applied” to the soul and the individual is eternally configured as a son/daughter of God, but sanctifying grace (the divine life of Christ) may not be active. This would be rectified the moment the individual repented and, now as a baptized Christian, went to confession. The priest’s absolution would then avail the individual of all the graces of baptism. In a similar manner, if an individual receives confirmation while in a state of mortal sin, the full graces of the gift of the Holy Spirit are not available to the individual until he / she receives absolution. In both of these cases, sacramental absolution infuses with sanctifying grace the empty forms of the sacraments the individual previously received. The individual was given a beautiful drinking glass at baptism/confirmation, but his/her sin prevented the glass from being filled with living water…once absolved, the previously empty glass is filled to the brim.


From the catechism (#405): “Although it is proper to each individual, original sin does not have the character of a personal fault in any of Adam’s descendants. It is a deprivation of original holiness and justice, but human nature has not been totally corrupted: it is wounded in the natural powers proper to it, subject to ignorance, suffering and the dominion of death, and inclined to sin - an inclination to evil that is called ‘concupiscence’. Baptism, by imparting the life of Christ’s grace, erases original sin and turns a man back towards God, but the consequences for nature, weakened and inclined to evil, persist in man and summon him to spiritual battle.”

So, baptism cleanses us of original sin – regardless of the age at which we are baptized – but it does not perfect our human nature. (After all, we will only be perfected in heaven, when corruptibility will give way to incorruptibility and mortality to immortality!) So, our human nature remains weakened. But, there is forgiveness for post-baptismal sin, so we are able to regain that ‘state of grace’ that we were in at the time that we were justified at our baptism! Of course, this does not mean that original sin is still present in us; it simply means that the original sin – which had been wiped away – affects human nature, and requires us to continue to strive to cooperate with the sanctifying grace that we received at baptism.

Hope this helps…!


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