Wasn't prepared for baptism

I was baptized going on 17 years ago as an adult. I had been in RCIA 8 years previously, only to find out I couldn’t be baptized b/c my husband did not have an anullment from his first marriage. My husband eventually got an annulment and we were married in the Church. I had been back in RCIA for only a few months, but I convinced the pastor to baptize me privately in December instead of waiting to be baptized with the RCIA group at Easter. I arrogantly thought that since I had been in RCIA previously (though not all the way through) and had been attending Mass with my husband for 10 years that I knew everything there was to know about the Catholic Church…WRONG. Fast forward to three years ago: I had a reversion experience and went to Confession for the first time in 7 years, and I finally began to REALLY learn the Faith I had so badly neglected to learn. I resolved through study and prayer every doubt I had about what the Catholic Church teaches and resolved to live a good life. For the past three years I have been confessing everything from the 14 years after my baptism I can think of that was a sin, but I thought all my sins before that were forgiven at baptism. I have had some doubts off and on these past three years that my baptism was valid (because I didn’t accept everything the Church teaches and because I failed to learn my Faith properly), but I was told by my pastor that as long as there is water, the priest intends to do what the Church intends, and the priest speaks the words, “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” the baptism is valid. But I have read in the past in the Baltimore Catechism that baptism forgives original sin and all actual sins one is sorry for, and that upset me b/c at the time I was baptized I was committing sins that I really had no intention of stopping. I’ve confessed those, and I’ve tried to put the Baltimore Catechism out of my mind and trust that all my sins were forgiven. But now I’m wondering if ANY of my sins were forgiven (except maybe one that I actually was sorry for and specifically thought of at the time I was baptized)–due to the fact that I really didn’t think much about my sins before I was baptized, because I was so poorly catechized, and because coming from a Protestant background, I had a hard time believing some things were sins b/c good Protestants I knew had done them. I didn’t completely accept the authority of the Church or the Pope either. I’m not even sure if when I said I believe in the holy Catholic church, if I was thinking CATHOLIC or just “universal”. I remember rejecting Satan and all his works, but in my mind at the time, it just meant that I wouldn’t worship Satan (not exactly, but it might as well have been). In other words I just didn’t “get” that I was to AMEND my life. In my mind, I thought I was already a good Christian. So now I’ve also read St. Thomas Aquinas who says “… no one having the will to sin can, at the same time, be cleansed from sin, which is the purpose of Baptism.” I’m wondering if I need to make a complete confession of 29 years of my pre-baptismal sins or just maybe some sins that I think I might not have been sorry for or whether I should just trust that baptism forgave all my sins. NOW I realize the purpose of RCIA is to PREPARE people so that they do not make the same mistakes I made. I feel my baptism was valid, in that I was forgiven of original sin and the Trinity came to reside in me; however, I just don’t know that all my sins were forgiven. I feel I need to go to Confession for something else, but now when I go, I don’t know what to do about my prebaptismal sins. My mind has been flooding with these sins, and I am grappling with what to confess. I certainly don’t want to make a bad confession. What should I do?

Veronica97, you know that scrupulous people shouldn’t come to web sites and ask about sins.

You know you need to go to your confessor and speak to him about it.

Please, please do just that.

From the Catechism:For the forgiveness of sins . . .

1263 By Baptism all sins are forgiven, original sin and all personal sins, as well as all punishment for sin. 66 In those who have been reborn nothing remains that would impede their entry into the Kingdom of God, neither Adam’s sin, nor personal sin, nor the consequences of sin, the gravest of which is separation from God.

66 Cf. Council of Florence (1439): DS 1316.

“The effect of this sacrament is the remission of all original and actual guilt, also of all penalty that is owed for that guilt. Hence no satisfaction for past sins is to be imposed on the baptized, but those who die before they incur any guilt go straight to the kingdom of heaven and the vision of God.” [Session 8—22 November 1439]


When I was confirmed I had 30 years of sin to confess. I asked, “What about the stuff I remember later?” The priest explained to me that all my sins were forgiven, but that it would be appropriate to mention something I had forgotten if it persistently bothered me.

Go talk to your confessor. That’s what he is there for.

With Baptism you are a new creation. The past is past. Baptism is a Sacrament of initiation. Do not expect to be fully developed in the Faith. You have just begun a journey that will last the rest of your life.

The part of the Baltimore Catechism you mention seems to be talking about the effectiveness of a valid baptism. In his Summa (Question 69, Articles 9 and 10) St Thomas Aquinas seems to say that an unrepented mortal sin at the time of a person’s baptism hinders the effect of the sacrament for as long as the unrepentance lasts. From what you wrote, this does not seem to apply to you because you mention doing things prior to your baptism which, when you did them, you didn’t know they were seriously contrary to the will of God. Because you were ignorant of the truly sinful nature of your actions, there is no way they could be mortal sins for you and unrepented venial sins do not hinder the effect of the sacrament.

YES…best advice, ever!

Baptism for its validity does not depend on the worthiness of the recipient. If that were the case, none of us would ever be baptised, since none of us are ever truly worthy of it! It is a gift given out of sheer gratuity.

It is true that not all of the effects of Baptism would adhere immediately to a person guilty of unrepented mortal sin at the time of their Baptism, but those effects would become present the moment you repented and were absolved. So have no fear.

Interesting historical note: there was a historical heresy called Donatism. The Donatists believed that those Christians who had feigned apostasy to escape Roman persecution and then returned to the Church administered sacraments invalidly because their dispositions were imperfect. They were condemned on the grounds that the action of the Sacraments are confected in virtue of human action, but not by the virtues of human actions.

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