Unusual Baptismal Formula

Last night I was watching a news show about a family raising quintuplets, in one scene of which they showed the infants being baptized by their grandfather, a protestant pastor. When performing the baptisms, the pastor dipped his hand in water, placed it on top of the child’s head, and said “I baptize you in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit”. There was no immersion, pouring, or sprinkling of any kind, simply a wet hand held against the top of the head. This brought to mind 2 questions:

Primarily, were these baptisms even valid from a Catholic point of view? I didn’t think that they were, but maybe there’s a recognized form of baptism of which I’m unaware.

Secondly, and slightly off topic for this forum, does anyone know if there are any protestant denominations who use this type of baptism? I’m assuming they weren’t a fundamentalist sect since they were baptizing infants but it wasn’t made clear (at least from what I saw) to which denomination they belonged.

As far as I know, as long as it involves water (unless in an dire emergency situation where there is no water, any liquid will suffice) contacting the skin, and is done in the Trinitarian formula (with a proper understanding of the Godhead by the baptizer/baptizee if adult) it is considered valid.

The Watchtower Society’s baptisms are invalid, because they do not baptize with the Trinitarian Formula, or have the proper understanding of the Godhead.

Mormon baptisms are invalid because they do not have a proper understanding of the Godhead.

Some Oneness Pentecostals have invalid baptisms, because they do not use the Trinitarian formula, and improperly understand the Godhead.


It would considered a settled point of doctrine and law that true water is required for the very validity of the administration of baptism. It is constitutive matter for the sacrament, regardless of who administers it and under what circumstances. See c. 849.

As to the placement of a hand dipped in water sufficing here, this is problemmatic. The tradition of moralists and canonists calls for some kind of washing or flowing or running of water on the person. It is not entirely clear that this is accomplished by dip and press method.

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