Unconsented Baptism


If someone is baptized without actually wanting to be (eg dying friend, teen ‘forced’ into RICA) is the baptism still valid? I think it must be since babies do not really have baptism on their minds when it happens and yet it is valid for them, but I am not sure.



Babies are baptized with the consent and upon the faith expressed by their parents and god parents… a very different circumstance than with those at or above the age of reason.

Thus for those able to speak for themselves and consent or not to their baptism - to use force or coercion would invalidate the action …


The Church has not taken a position on this, but most theologians agree that a forced baptism is still valid, but illicit.

On another note, a baby does not have the ability to give or withhold consent. Therefore, it is not a forced baptism.

It was Pope Innocent III who said: “However, he who has never consented, but has altogether opposed it, has received neither the stamp nor the purpose, for it is better to object expressly than to manifest the slightest consent…”

This statement is not ex cathedra, so it is not doctrine. So in short, I guess we really do not know whether a baptism without any consent is valid.


priest at my parish said an adult must express a desire to be baptized…


I’m also very curious to hear the answer because my brother was forced into baptism and confirmation as a young teen. (This happened almost 20 years ago). So he was above the age of reason and was - in theory - free to decide for himself and free to reject, but in reality he was against it and was forced by our mother. This situation bothers me very much because it was so wrong of her to do it, and I genuinely hope that he is not held accountable for what happened.


I know this is going to be controversial, but many teens are not mature enough to know what is good and proper for them. Thus, in a natural state of rebellion, they will later claim to have been Confirmed under duress - either parental or from group pressure from their peers in school. This, in my opinion is not true duress, since these teens are too immature to validly object to being Confirmed. especially when they have been properly catechized.
Thee fact is, that so many teens today think they are mature-largely from exposure to sex and other adult matters in the mass media-when in reality they are still mentally and emotionally children.
If you don’t think this is true, just talk to any high school guidance counselor, or better yet, someone in the professional military that has guided youths through basic training. Our society is such that about 1 out of every 3 recruits is discharged before they complete basic training-largely due to immaturity on the part of the recruits. This is quite a bit more than what happened to WW II, Korean War, and Viet Nam era recruits.


Babies and young children who are of course under their parents’ guardianship CAN be
committed to God by the parents, that is totally acceptable. The baptism can certainly
be in question if a child says “no” to the baptism, I suppose anyway.

If one attempts to baptize a dying friend without, or at least against (assuming coma), their consent, that’s wrong I think.

One thing this question definitely makes me think of is the Mormon baptism by proxy
work done for the dead. The Jewish community was very outraged with the Mormons
when they went and baptized the Jewish victims of the Holocaust AND Adolf Hitler.


What about babies who later when they are adults wish they hadn’t been baptized Catholic? Doesn’t the indelible character placed upon their souls in such a baptism make them more or less lifetime members of the Church if I’m not mistaken or not?


Still I wonder though if the immature ones are mature enough to decide even about Confirmation or if some are confirmed because it’s expected of them.


I have to agree with this. Since baptism removes sin, the person above the age of reason must willingly desire this. For the adult they must have proper disposition, namely with faith and contrition. It would be like going to confession without repenting of the sins confessed, it invalidates the confession. The person who does not want to be baptized is rejecting God’s graces even though externally they are going through the motions. That’s part of freewill that God respects our decisions even if it is opposed to His will.

For adults who were baptized as infants or anyone, we all have the choice every day to either accept God’s graces or reject them. While they can’t remove the mark of baptism, they can freely choose to reject the graces given in baptism through sin.


The sacraments are valid ex opere operato - if the matter, the form and the intent of the minister is valid, the sacrament is valid.

The minister of Baptism is a human being; the matter is water; and the form is saying the formula while pouring, immersing or sprinkling. The intent of the Baptized is irrelevant.

It’s not at all like Confession where the minister is a priest; the matter is contrition, the form is the formula of absolution. Contrition of the penitent is required for Confession because it is the matter of the sacrament - contrition is not part of Baptism.


with that in mind, I note: valid confirmation is not dependent on the faith, age or condition of the confirmand. It simply requires a Bishop (or priest with faculties from the Bishop) with intent; a baptized human and chrism applied with the proper formula

Orders similarly requires only a male ordinand, a Bishop with intent and the laying on of hands with the proper formula.

Since the couple to be married are the ministers of that sacrament - they must have the intent to marry for a valid marriage as well as meeting the other requirements.

I note intent is not needed by the anointed in the sacrament of Anointing.

Of course, intent is not needed by a recipient of communion for the consecration to be valid…


I don’t agree. The Church position is clear that a person must intend to receive baptism in order to be baptised validly. Its pretty obvious that if someone objects to being baptised then it is invalid if its forced on them.

Can. 865 §1 To be admitted to baptism, an adult must have manifested the intention to receive baptism, must be adequately instructed in the truths of the faith and in the duties of a christian, and tested in the christian life over the course of the catechumenate. The person must moreover be urged to have sorrow for personal sins.

§2 An adult in danger of death may be baptised if, with some knowledge of the principal truths of the faith, he or she has in **some manner manifested the intention to receive baptism **and promises to observe the requirements of the christian religion.


thistle, I don’t see your conclusion asserted by these canons. I could easily draw the inference that baptism without consent is illicit but valid. If a person is not adequately instructed in the faith, is it invalid then too? What if he has not been urged to have sorrow for his sins? Invalid again?


Agreed. “To be admitted to baptism” is not the same as “For the baptism to be valid.”


I do not agree that any “baptism” forced on a person against their will is valid. That doesn’t make any sense at all.
I could just as easily use that logic to say anyone forced to murder, or rape, or rob a bank has committed a mortal sin which of course is not the case. If criminals hold your family hostage and threaten to kill them if you do not commit some crime that is not a “valid” mortal sin.
A forced baptism is not a valid baptism.



You could be right that the referenced canon only addresses the lawfulness of a baptism. I don’t know how it would ever happen but I suppose there might be a case where an adult didn’t manifest an intention to be baptized, yet still had the intention, and was somehow baptized. If everything was done properly, the baptism would be valid.

Nevertheless, it is certainly the case that an adult must have the intention to receive baptism in order for the baptism to be valid. As the Holy Office said in 1860: “a person baptized without the will to receive the sacrament is neither licitly nor validly baptized” (from the instruction In foliis of the Supr. S. Cong. of the Holy Office, 03-08-1860).



you misunderstand the difference between “valid” and “licit.” Liceity is a matter of law - it is certainly illicit to Baptize someone against their will. Nonetheless, it is clear that Baptism’s validity in no way depends on the consent of the Baptized person.

Your example of the forced crime is simply inapt. Apples and oranges…


NOPE I’m wrong…for an adult the consent of the person is required…learn something new every day. mea culpa


This is why I asked the question. I remember a book about a girl who was not Catholic who befriended a Catholic person. They went inside the Church together and the catholic girl dipped her hand in holy water and baptized her in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and told her that she was now baptized. The uncatholic girl did not know what her friend was doing and didn’t really know about Catholicism.

So technically it wasn’t as if she was set on NOT being baptized, and her friend just jumped out guerilla warfare style with a bottle of holy water and sneak-attack baptized her, but she didn’t want to be baptized, either. She had really never thought about it. Which, I figured, is sort of like a baby, because as far as I know, a baby has never thought, ‘I do not want to be baptized.’ or ‘I want to be baptized’.

Just clarifying.

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