Let me preface my questions by saying my wife and I are currently have on our Tiber-swimming boots, have been attending a local Catholic parish, and have plans to begin RCIA in the fall. Many thanks to Saint Monica for her intercession, Scott Hahn for his incredible witness, and all those on this board who seek not to condemn, but to allow the Lord to work through them in spreading the fullness of the gospel.
That said, I have some questions about Catholic baptism, that might have to be taken in the order I ask them, as they build on each other. Thanks in advance, and peace to all through our Lord Jesus Christ.
- It is my understanding that Catholic doctrine teaches that the sacrament of baptism is validly performed by anyone who desires to do what the church does when it baptizes.
Therefore, the Church will accept as valid, for example, my baptism performed at the hands of an evangelical Methodist minister, provided it was performed using the Trinitarian formula. Given that understanding of the sacrament, what does it mean to be baptized Catholic?
From this site:
“A person who is baptized in the Catholic Church becomes a Catholic at that moment. One’s initiation is deepened by confirmation and the Eucharist, but one becomes a Catholic at baptism. This is true for children who are baptized Catholic (and receive the other two sacraments later) and for adults who are baptized, confirmed, and receive the Eucharist at the same time.”
Is something imparted via a Catholic baptism that is not imparted via baptism by a protestant clergyman, or a protestant layperson?
- If the answer to #1 is "nothing is different about a Catholic baptism, then why is it that a person “baptized Catholic” but not raised in the Church in any way (not confirmed, no confession, never received FHC) is still considered Catholic? From this site:
Another special case concerns those who have been baptized as Catholics but who were not brought up in the faith or who have not received the sacraments of confirmation and the Eucharist. “Although baptized adult Catholics who have never received catechetical instruction or been admitted to the sacraments of confirmation and Eucharist are not catechumens, some elements of the usual catechumenal formation are appropriate to their preparation for the sacraments, in accord with the norms of the ritual, Preparation of Uncatechized Adults for Confirmation and Eucharist” (NSC 25).
How does being “baptized Catholic” give someone that right vs. a person baptized by a protestant clergyman having to go through RCIA, to receive confirmation, and the other sacraments of initiation (normally) at Easter? What was transmitted to the person that made them Catholic here?
If the answer to #1 is “the only thing that is different is that being baptized Catholic, in addition to the normal effects of the sacrament, imparts membership into the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church,” then that raises two questions: (a) does a protestant baptism impart membership into a church–if so, what church? (b) doesn’t such an understanding of baptism conflict with the statement that anyone can perform a valid baptism? Shouldn’t logic dictate that anytime a protestant clergyman baptizes someone, he is baptized Catholic as long as it is done with the proper Trinitarian language? If the result is different, i.e., church membership vs. non-church membership, then isn’t a protestant baptism a less-complete version of baptism, perhaps a second-rate sacrament?
Would the situation be different if a Catholic layperson baptized someone? The question here is, would a person be considered “baptized Catholic” if they were baptized by, for example, a Catholic aunt, as opposed to a priest? In other words, is such a baptism considered an initiation into the Catholic Church proper, such that he may be considered a Catholic, or akin to baptism by a protestant clergyman, such that a person would have to go through RCIA and receive the sacraments of initiation?
To take #4 even further, it is my understanding that under certain circumstances, a layperson may baptize a baby in secret or in fear for the child’s survival. Let us imagine that the layperson is Catholic. In such a circumstance, does not the Church consider that child to be Catholic, even though the child had no relation to the Church, no Catholic parents or godparents, no catetchesis, and no further sacraments of initiation? Is it not possible that the child grows up with no knowledge of ever having been baptized, and therefore lives life as a “secret” Catholic, even as to himself? Would it be sacrilege somehow if he presented himself to the Church for baptism and it were peformed, not conditionally, but as though he had never been baptized?
I know these questions venture perhaps far into the realm of hypotheticals, but I am just attempting to take Catholic doctrine as I understand it, to its logical ends, in order that I may better explain my conversion to those who will undoubtedly question it.