Validity of Protestant Baptisms

What is absolutely necessary for a baptism to be valid? The reason I ask this is because, if I am correct, water must actually flow over the forehead for a baptism to be valid and that is why the Catholic Church strongly prefers infusion (pouring) or immersion (dunking) for baptism. However, many protestant churches often baptize by aspersion (sprinkling) and often the minister will just dip his fingers in water and trace the sign of the cross over the child’s forehead and that is considered baptism to them, and the validity of this kind of baptism is questionable. I think this type of baptism is quite common in Episcopalian and Methodist churches and probably among Lutherans and Presbyterians, too. Wouldn’t it be wise for the Church to go back to conditionally baptizing converts from Protestantism as was customary before Vatican II? Why was this changed? Conditional baptisms are rare now, but I understand that they used to be the norm. If there is even a slight chance a baptism might not be valid, shouldn’t a conditional baptism be performed?
Also, I am a convert who was originally baptized by immersion in the Disciples of Christ church at age 9, and I was taught (correctly) that baptism washes away my sins. I know that the trinitarian form was used; but I’m not certain if the minister said “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” before dunking me in the water or during. Would this affect the validity of the baptism at all? (I hope not, because if so I might need a conditional baptism and a conditional confirmation, as my first confirmation would not have been valid if I was not validly baptized.)
Also, what about churches that think baptism is merely symbolic (like the Baptists and most other prots), are those baptisms valid too? Thank you.

I have been told by several people on this and other boards, that it doesn’t matter if the church that you were baptized in believes it to be symbolic, what is important is the trinitarian form…

But I’m assuming I will learn more about the specifics of that when I get to start the conversion process =)

[quote=Anima Christi]What is absolutely necessary for a baptism to be valid? The reason I ask this is because, if I am correct, water must actually flow over the forehead for a baptism to be valid and that is why the Catholic Church strongly prefers infusion (pouring) or immersion (dunking) for baptism. However, many protestant churches often baptize by aspersion (sprinkling) and often the minister will just dip his fingers in water and trace the sign of the cross over the child’s forehead and that is considered baptism to them, and the validity of this kind of baptism is questionable. I think this type of baptism is quite common in Episcopalian and Methodist churches and probably among Lutherans and Presbyterians, too. Wouldn’t it be wise for the Church to go back to conditionally baptizing converts from Protestantism as was customary before Vatican II? Why was this changed? Conditional baptisms are rare now, but I understand that they used to be the norm. If there is even a slight chance a baptism might not be valid, shouldn’t a conditional baptism be performed?
Also, I am a convert who was originally baptized by immersion in the Disciples of Christ church at age 9, and I was taught (correctly) that baptism washes away my sins. I know that the trinitarian form was used; but I’m not certain if the minister said “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” before dunking me in the water or during. Would this affect the validity of the baptism at all? (I hope not, because if so I might need a conditional baptism and a conditional confirmation, as my first confirmation would not have been valid if I was not validly baptized.)
Also, what about churches that think baptism is merely symbolic (like the Baptists and most other prots), are those baptisms valid too? Thank you.
[/quote]

This should have been addressed before you entered the Church. I would suggest writing the Disciples of Christ church where you were Baptized and asking them to send you their exact procedure for Baptism and ask if any changes have been made since your Baptism. If you can remember the words why can’t you or someone else who was there remember when they were spoken?

Yes it does matter when the words are spoken. If they are spoken before any water flows. The Baptism is not valid. Usually there is three immersions one for each person of the Trinity.

Conditional Confirmation would not be necessary for you only Conditional Baptism if you have serious doubts. If you were not Baptized your Confirmation would still be valid, it just would not be effective until your validly Baptized. It’s said that the Sacrament is “revived”.

I was told at the time that as long as it was trinitarian formula, the baptism was valid. I wonder how many converts are told their baptisms are valid when they really aren’t? It is almost impossible to know whether or not a Protestant baptism is valid because there is no uniformity among them. It is imperative that the Church require conditional baptism for her converts!
And are you sure about confirmation? I thought baptism was the entrance to all the other sacraments.
In the meantime, should I stop receiving the sacraments?
This is terribly upsetting.

[quote=Anima Christi]I was told at the time that as long as it was trinitarian formula, the baptism was valid. I wonder how many converts are told their baptisms are valid when they really aren’t? It is almost impossible to know whether or not a Protestant baptism is valid because there is no uniformity among them. It is imperative that the Church require conditional baptism for her converts!
And are you sure about confirmation? I thought baptism was the entrance to all the other sacraments.
In the meantime, should I stop receiving the sacraments?
This is terribly upsetting.
[/quote]

I would speak with your pastor and explain your concern. Ask him point blank if he would conditionally Baptize you to put your mind at ease. All that would be necessary is the church secretary as a witness. It would take all of three minutes and a notation in the Baptismal register. Confirmation would NOT need to be repeated. The same with Marriage if a nonsacramental marriage is valid between a Baptized and non-Baptized person and the non-Baptized person receives Baptism. The Marriage becomes Sacramental at the moment of their Baptism. The Sacrament of Marriage does not need to be celebrated again.

If one is baptized using the trinitarian formula, the baptism is valid…In some protestant denominations, the biblical command to “baptize all in my name” is taken out of context and one is baptized only “In the name of Jesus”. Such baptisms are invalid. If you have reason to think you were not baptized with the trinitarian formula (shouldn’t be too confusing as most denomination who use the flawed Chisto-centered baptism formula only baptize those who have reached the age of reason, so you probably would remember it), you should make an appointment to see your pastor immediately to make sure you have your theological affairs in order. If you do not, you will most likely need to make the rest of the sacraments of initiation over again (eucharist/confirmation) after you have been validly baptized.

Yes, I can understand how this can be terribly upsetting, but give thanks and rejoice that all this has been realized so you can more perfectly fulfill the will of God in Christ!

Adam

Adam,
I was baptized in the trinitarian formula: “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” What I am worried about is this: did the minister say these words before dunking me under the water, or during? It has come to my attention that unless the words were said as the water was flowing, it is invalid. There is a possibility the minister said, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” and then dunked me under water. In this case, it is probably invalid.

thats interesting - nothing I’ve read online has addressed this - despite a unofficial list that said that a whole bunch of denomination’s baptisms were “ok” when every single protestant baptism I’ve seen, (in multiple denominations that were on the “ok” list according to one site online), said the formula first and then dunked…

yippee then if this is true - I actually like the idea of getting baptized again in the Catholic church… mostly because I had grown up in a protestant church that didn’t emphasize baptism and I got baptized at 16 (12 years after getting “saved”) because I was tired of the question coming up when we changed churches - not exactly the most spiritual of reasons…oh and it was done in a swimming pool because we didn’t have a Church building yet at that church… so needless to say it just isn’t a great spiritual event in my mind…

You will definately want to contact your pastor, but he may not even know. Another person who you may want to contact is the Director of the Office of Worship (may also be called the Director of Liturgy), and perhaps a sacramental specialist (If the chancery of your diocese doesn’t have one, check out your local seminary). I believe that if the intent was to baptize in the name of Trinity, your baptism would be valid, but it would be very wise for you to make sure.

Adam

[quote=NetNuncio]You will definately want to contact your pastor, but he may not even know. Another person who you may want to contact is the Director of the Office of Worship (may also be called the Director of Liturgy), and perhaps a sacramental specialist (If the chancery of your diocese doesn’t have one, check out your local seminary). I believe that if the intent was to baptize in the name of Trinity, your baptism would be valid, but it would be very wise for you to make sure.
Adam
[/quote]

As soon as I heard about baptisms done this way not being valid, I drove to the rectory the next day and asked my pastor. He said he would find out but it would take a couple days. I’m anxiously waiting in the meantime.

When I entered the Catholic Church 8 years ago (I was received into the Church by a traditional priest) as an adult having been baptised as Presbyterian, there was little or no question that I should have conditional baptism, because of the doubt that even though the trinitarian formula is used the custom is merely to sprinkle water, not to pour it on the forehead. The Catholic Encyclopedia at the New Advent website has a detailed explanation of this issue and basically says that if there is any doubt then it is prudent to perform the full conditional baptism plus other ceremonies as described in the extract below. Regrettably this has been relaxed since Vatican 2 so it is probably not a major issue unless you particularly are concerned and then I would ask a traditional priest to consider what is the best option.
Extract follows:
As to the baptism of the various sects, Sabetti (no. 662) states that the Oriental Churches and the “Old Catholics” generally administer baptism accurately; the Socinians and Quakers do not baptize at all; the Baptists use the rite only for adults, and the efficacy of their baptism has been called in question owing to the separation of the matter and the form, for the latter is pronounced before the immersion takes place; the Congregationalists, Unitarians and Universalists deny the necessity of baptism, and hence the presumption is that they do not administer it accurately; the Methodists and Presbyterians baptize by aspersion or sprinkling, and it may be reasonably doubted whether the water has touched the body and flowed upon it; among the Episcopalians many consider baptism to have no true efficacy and to be merely an empty ceremony, and consequently there is a well-grounded fear that they are not sufficiently careful in its administration. To this may be added, that Episcopalians often baptize by aspersion, and though such a method is undoubtedly valid if properly employed, yet in practice it is quite possible that the sprinkled water may not touch the skin. Sabetti also notes that ministers of the same sect do not everywhere follow a uniform method of baptizing. The practical method of reconciling heretics with the Church is as follows:-- If baptism be conferred absolutely, the convert is to make no abjuration or profession of faith, nor is he to make a confession of his sins and receive absolution, because the sacrament of regeneration washes away his past offences. If his baptism is to be conditional, he must first make an abjuration of his errors, or a profession of faith, then receive the conditional baptism, and lastly make a sacramental confession followed by conditional absolution. If the convert’s former baptism was judged to be certainly valid, he is only to make the abjuration or the profession of faith and receive absolution from the censures he may have incurred (Excerpta Rit. Rom., 1878). The abjuration or profession of faith here prescribed is the Creed of Pius IV, translated into the vernacular. In the case of conditional baptism, the confession may precede the administration of the rite and the conditional absolution be imparted after the baptism. This is often done as a matter of fact, as the confession is an excellent preparation for the reception of the sacrament (De Herdt, VI, viii; Sabetti, no. 725).

Did anyone ever get a reply to this? This is bothering me. I was raised southern baptist and baptized in the baptist church. I know for a fact that the words were pronounced before I was dunked under the water and this is the common custom for baptist churches. If what is said here is true, then it could be that most protestant (evangelical) converts to the catholic church are entering without valid baptism.

Also, its never been clear to me that the intention of evangelicals and baptists is to do what the church does. They do not believe it is a sacrament. They do not believe that baptism washes away sins. It is merely symbolic for them and not even necessary.

I’m very concerned. I first brought this up with my priest a long time ago (I’ve been catholic 10 years) and he said just to accept the church’s judgment that such baptisms are valid. If the Church makes a mistake though, then I’m the one going to hell for it. This is really bothering me. I can’t have someone do a conditional baptism since that would be a mortal sin, or can I?

I wish the church would have just kept to the practice of always administering conditional baptisms. Better safe than sorry :frowning:

Symbolic Baptism cannot be valid.

A valid sacrament needs matter, form and intent.

Meaning…it must be of water.
In the Trinitarian form.
With the intent to baptize (in the Roman understanding)

Most Protestant baptisms fail in either the form or the intent.

A baptism is valid when a person is baptised with water (immersed, poured or sprinkled) in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

I, too, was struggling with this question of whether I should have had a conditional baptism upon entering the Church.

But here’s the thing: it’s not just the priest/pastor who recognized my Protestant baptism as valid. In doing this, he acted on behalf of my bishop, and on behalf of the Church, who has the keys to the kingdom of heaven and the authority to forgive or retain sins.

So if I’m every able to enter in the pearly gates and St. Peter has some problem with my baptism, then I’ll just point out that there’s documentation to prove that the Church accepted my baptism as valid.

this thread is 12 years old. I see you are new to the forums but it is against forum rules to resurrect old threads.

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