Validly Baptised Christian on RCIA told that he needed a Conditional Baptism

Hi All,

I was due to become a Catholic this last Easter Sunday but I was told 9 days before this was due to happen that I would need a Conditional Baptism because the Church where I was Baptised ( a Community Church ) was not recognised. Having briefly looked into what a Conditional Baptism means I discovered that it was because there was a doubt about the validity of my Baptism, and by inference there was a doubt about my membership of the entire Christian community ( i.e. The Church ). In conscience, the only option open to me was to refuse because I knew I had been Baptised by full immersion in water ( the correct matter ), using the correct words “In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” ( the form ) and with the intention that I become fully a member of Christ’s Body ( i.e. The Church ). My intention was that my sins would be washed away, that is certainly how I understood Baptism ( i.e. I my old self would die and I would rise to a new life in Christ ). I have all this on DVD quality video.

A few weeks before Easter, as part of the RCIA process, I was asked for a copy of my Baptismal certificate which the Community Church do not provide. I was told that a letter from the Lead Elder of that church confirming my Trinitarian Baptism and the sponsors would suffice. This was delivered two weeks before Easter Sunday. At no time was any question raised about the validity of my Baptism by the RCIA course leader or my Parish Priest. At no time was it suggested that a full investigation would be needed into the Church where I was Baptised and/or the Baptism it’s self

The section of Canon Law which covers Baptism ( 869, $1, $2 & $3 ) states the following :

"§1. If there is a doubt whether a person has been baptized or whether baptism was conferred validly and the doubt remains after a serious investigation, baptism is to be conferred conditionally.

§2. Those baptized in a non-Catholic ecclesial community must not be baptized conditionally unless, after an examination of the matter and the form of the words used in the conferral of baptism and a consideration of the intention of the baptized adult and the minister of the baptism, a serious reason exists to doubt the validity of the baptism.

§3. If in the cases mentioned in §§1 and 2 the conferral or validity of the baptism remains doubtful, baptism is not to be conferred until after the doctrine of the sacrament of baptism is explained to the person to be baptized, if an adult, and the reasons of the doubtful validity of the baptism are explained to the person or, in the case of an infant, to the parents."

In addition to the above, John P Beal’s commentary on the Code of Cannon Law says the following:

"When a person was Baptised in a non-Catholic Church or ecclesial community there is usually no doubt whatsoever about the fact the Baptism occurred. The only area of doubt is wether the Baptism was conferred validly. Since the person was Baptised a Christian, the law presumes the the Baptism was valid. The reasons for doubting the validity of the Baptism conferred in the non-Catholic Church or ecclesial community must be supported by sufficient evidence to call the reliability of this presumption into question. Therefore those Baptised in non-Catholic Christian churches and ecclesial communities are not to be Baptised conditionally unless a serious doubt or a positive and probable doubt remains even after a thorough investigation of the matter. This caution reflects the 1967 Ecumenical Directory which prohibits the indiscriminate conditional Baptism of those already Baptized in a non-Catholic Christian community: “The practice of conditional baptism of all without distinction who desire to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church cannot be approved”

The Commentary then goes to to say that the integrity of the Baptism must be safeguarded and the non-Catholic Christian communities respected by performing an investigation of the form, matter and intention of the Baptism. The commentary also goes on to say that the investigation should also consider the “norms,customs and rituals” of what the community does results in a valid Baptism. Also, if the investigation results in no doubt about the Baptism, doubt can persist only if there is evidence that the Minister in question deviated from the accepted Baptismal norms of the Christian community in question. A list of recognised Churches and Denominations is then provided which includes “Evangelical Churches”. The Community Church where I got Baptised is a member of the Evangelical Alliance and does call it’s self an Evangelical Church. It fits entirely within the doctrinal framework of Evangelicalism. So, my Baptism is valid in the eyes of the Catholic Church, according to it’s own Canon Law

part 2 to follow below

part 2 :

There was never any serious investigation into my Baptism and/or the Church were I was Baptised as required by Canon Law.

Having discussed this situation with Parish Priest he has told me he is powerless to do anything about this as the decision was taken at the level of the Diocese by the Bishop.

The only avenue it seems to me to get this sorted is to make a formal complaint to the Bishop ( my Parish Priest is also the Dean of my Parish ) but I am not sure if this the best route as according to my Priest the decision was the Bishop’s in the first place. What would be the most appropriate place to start? a Compliant to the Bishop in question or the Metropolitan Bishop? Any help and advise would be greatly appreciated here as I am in no mans land here,. I don’t want to go back to being an Anglican as I genuinely feel that my calling is to become a Catholic

I can’t imagine how or why the bishop would be involved in this in the first place. Start by contacting the judicial vicar of the diocese and talk to him. He is a canon lawyer and should definitely be well versed in the material you quoted above.

You are correct. You should not be conditionally baptized unless there is a very real doubt, and your DVD should certainly put any doubt to rest since it would be evident you were baptized correctly and also have an affidavit from the church elder.

I can’t imagine why there would be any doubt. Talk to the judicial vicar and ask for an explanation.

You can also contact the society below, dedicated to assisting the faithful with canon law issues:

how far are you ready to go for God’s kingdom? I recommend you take the pain of hearing the bishop our. this is because I can ask you to accept another baptism in which you are not convinced (it automatically invalids it) and I can’t ask you to forfeit the baptism. so write the bishop If you don’t have the resources to see him in person, and hear from him.

personally I feel sorry when I see people who want to turn to God meeting such obstacles that can uproot their new resolve

I’m praying for you that the Holy Spirit guide you and the people you are dealing with…

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name.
Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women
And blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,
As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be world without end. Amen.

Personally, I’d probably go ahead and do a conditional baptism… but I’m not in your shoes…

Step 1 is to write to the bishop and ask him why he determined that the attempted baptism was not a valid one.

There is no step 2 until you receive his explanation.

I have just spoken to the Chancellor of the Diocese who said that it appeared that perhaps a full investigation was not done. He is going to speak to the Community Church involved to ascertain their intent when they Baptise and also to my Parish Priest. I’ll keep you all updated on progress

While my heart goes out to you, I have to agree with the others who’ve responded so far. There must be a reason that the Bishop got involved. The link to the St. Joseph site is a good place to start. Perhaps the reason behind this large a Cross being laid upon your shoulders this early in your conversion process is because God thinks your shoulders can bare it. Hang in there. It will all work out in God’s time and by His plan. You’ll be educating and evangelizing the whole way thru. trust God. It is His will you come to His Church. He will clear the way, but you need to go through the motions.

If you accept a conditional Baptism, you will be a full member of the Church and can then receive the Eucharist. I’d focus on learning about the second Sacrament if I were you - Confession and all it requires. If you are validly Baptized, you will have to make your first Confession before you can receive Holy Communion.

God bless you and let us know how things work out. It sounds like you’re taking your Christianity very seriously and you are well informed. That is to be commended. Keep it up. But back it up with a good prayer life.


As others have stated, I think you should write directly to the Bishop.

I’m curious to know what Diocese you are in. I was confirmed in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, and I believe that the Archbishop has directed the parishes to be more strict in examining whether or not a Baptism is valid. When your parish priest said that the decision was made by the Bishop, I don’t think he means that the Bishop has reviewed your case, I think he means that he has been given guidelines by the Bishop.

I encountered the same type of apathy when I entered the church about investigating my Baptism. My parents had gone through a flood (as had the church), and we couldn’t find my Baptismal certificate. But even if we could have, it would not have stated on it that I was Baptized in the Trinitarian formula, as the agreement between the church of my Baptism (Reformed Church in America) and the Catholic church states. (There was an agreement struck just in the past few years between some mainline churches and the Catholic church mutually recognizing Baptisms - and requiring that the Baptismal certificates indicate that the Trinitarian formula was used.)

I can’t tell you how many times the RCIA director said, 'Well, he’ll probably want to do a conditional Baptism because there have been abuses in the past and the Diocese has given us instructions to just do Conditional Baptisms if there is any question." I didn’t really have a problem with a conditional Baptism until the pastor of the church where I was Baptized pointed out that it might be difficult for my parents. He was also a bit miffed about the lack of ecumenism when there was an agreement in place between the Churches. Long story short - he ended up writing a very nice letter to my parish Priest referencing the agreement between the churches, confirming that I was validly baptized in the Reformed Church as evidenced by the fact that I was confirmed there, and providing links to where the liturgy used during my Baptism could be found online. That did the trick.

I would be inclined to just go through with the conditional baptism, but I understand your frustration and reluctance to do so. Short of seeking confirmation at a different parish, I think your only recourse is with the Bishop.

Good luck! Definitely keep us posted.

Be Valiant for Christ, this is one of the tests maybe of many you might encounter in life, it will be make you a stronger Catholic having fought to be one, I know what it means, my parents threw me out of the house at 18 and never saw them again for 10 years, but it made me stronger to face other things that crop up in life just things in general not always about religion.

Do what you have to do at the end of the day, show the Lord that you do have humility, if it means you have to have conditional Baptism so be it, do it for the Lord in whom you have put your total trust in. You will reap the rewards ten fold.

God Bless, walk with the Lord.

You might find this of interest. It is the directive from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia regarding conditional Baptism, and it basically says to conditionally Baptize everyone if there is any doubt whatsoever, even if the Baptismal certificate indicates baptism in the Trinitarian formula. Perhaps your parish is under a similar directive. (It still doesn’t excuse not doing an investigation, but I will say at that time of the year, priests and education directors are extremely busy.)

We had an issue at our place…not similar, but just as troubling to the persons involved.
RCIA teams need to put all of this to bed by Dec. 31st, well before Easter.
This last minute mess is what causes people to really become disheartened, angry, and disappointed in the RCIA process. At a time that should be enlightening, instructive, and spiritually awakening, people are having their emotions thrust up and down, up and down,
Surely we can do better.
It appears that no one likes the paper trail that goes with it. Welcome to work in the Church! We have to have it. But someone, the DRE, the RCIA leader, or the Pastor has to bite the bullet and get everything in order in a timely fashion.
I’m so very sorry for your experience. God bless you for hanging in there.
Whether it’s a tribunal; issue or maybe the Bishop was really involved…who knows? :shrug:
But, I’m anxious to hear how it goes now that the Chancery is aware of it.
You will be in our prayers.



Wow! After reading your post, I’m glad our RCIA director had us get our baptismal certificates when we started discerning last August.

How frustrating and disheartening.

To quote Cheezy: :thumbsup::thumbsup::thumbsup:

Our RCIA program has done conditional baptisms the last two years.

Last year we had a convert from Anglicanism who really shouldn’t have needed a conditional baptism, but was unable to provide any sort of record, location, date etc. for her Anglican baptism, so our hands were kind of tied. Thankfully she really didn’t seem to mind.
This year’s conditional was for someone who was baptized in a Pentecostal church, but wasn’t sure of the formula used, and again was unable to provide any background documentation.
In both cases we advised the individuals in question to make their first confessions prior to the Easter Vigil on the assumption that if their baptisms were indeed valid they’d just be getting wet at Easter before being Confirmed.

In your situation it does seem odd to me that you’d need one given the documentation provided, but if your parish or diocese has particular rules about that kind of thing it may be a result of past problems. There are groups that use a trinitarian formula and water whose baptisms are not considered valid by the Catholic Church (like LDS). Perhaps it could have something to do with past issues with the denomination you came from.

Thanks for your input Solayan,

My Baptism was performed at a Community Church which is congregational in nature, which is actually recognised by the Catholic Church. I have not been told of any past problems with these types of Congregational Churches in my Diocese

Hi all,

I have an update for you. I received a reply from the Chancellor of the Diocese letting me know that the matter is still under investigation but that the matter might have to be referred to the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith for a final decision but that he would contact me before then and when he has some more information.

Below was my reply to his e-mail


Thank you for your update. Further to our recent phone conversation I have had an opportunity to read Canon Law in greater detail, in particular the Ecumenical Directory (1967-1970). I wish to add some points to our original phone conversation.

The Ecumenical Directory ( 95 a-c, and 99b ) clearly outlines the way that Baptisms in a non-Catholic ecclesial community are to be treated and verification of the validity of a Baptism is to be carried out in an Ecumenical Context. Preference is clearly given to where there has already been agreements on the nature and validity of the Baptisms that are carried out within certain Christian Churches or Communities, but a lack of an agreement should not preclude the Baptism in question being valid (99b). This obviously makes sense and ( to me ) invalidates that reason given to me by the RCIA course leader ( having received this judgement from the Diocese ) that I would need a Conditional Baptism because the Church where I got Baptised was not recognised.

Having reflected further on this whole matter, and in particular the understanding that The Community Church has on the nature of Baptism. It is my firm belief that it is quite close to the Catholic understanding and that when a Baptism happens, the following is done:

  • A public declaration is being done of the person’s decision to follow Christ
  • They are being Baptised into the Church
  • An indelible mark is being left on the soul ( I clearly remember in preparation for Baptism being told that whatever happens in your life, the membership of Christ’s Church is permanent )
  • you are dyeing to your old self and rising to a new life in Christ

This is my understanding of what the Elders intended when they Baptised me. Obviously this can be verified by discussing this with The Community Church’s Elders. I have told Them to expect your call and that you wanted to talk to them about my Baptism ( which the Lead Elder witnessed ) and what They intends when they Baptise people.

Also, an additional point I wish to make is that the Baptism I received followers closely the intention of other Roman Catholic recognised Churches such as the Methodists and Baptists and also sections of the Church of England ( such as it’s Evangelical wing ). It seems that it can be very easy to fall into the trap of playing judge over the ‘validity’ of other Churches when the real issue is the validity of the Baptism. This is not to say that I think that The Community Church is a Church that is not recognised by the Catholic Church because it is a Congregational Church - it independently runs it’s own affairs

Anyway, I hope this offers additional clarity and I apologise if any of this is actually unclear, I am at work as I write this so my though processes might be a bit muddled ( never mix Canon Law and IT work, it can addle your brain :slight_smile: )


Sent from my iPad Air

P.s. Please note that the e-mail has, when posted here, been edited to remove names and the name of the Community Church in question

Personally, if it were me, I would drop the whole thing and accept the conditional baptism. Yes, the parish/diocese may be making a mistake, but it is not a mistake of malice. They are truly worried about your immortal soul and making sure that you receive all the graces of baptism. They are probably erring too far on the side of caution.

But personally, I would just accept the conditional baptism, and move on from there. it sounds like there is a 99+% chance you are correct, but there is no harm nor injury to accept the conditional baptism.

Why delay the opportunity for you to receive the multitude of other graces from the rest of the sacraments??? You have Confession, Confirmation, and the EUCHARIST waiting for you.

That’s my opinion, and I hope you don’t let this tarnish or impede on your joy at this time when you are joining the Church!

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