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