What makes a Catholic ... Catholic?

What makes someone Catholic? Not a practicing Catholic, but a Catholic. Is it being baptized in the Church? Is it receiving first holy communion? If you are baptized outside the Church but then receive first holy communion are you Catholic? If you are baptized first not by a Catholic priest but receive a Catholic ceremony later, are you Catholic? If someone could clear this up for me would be great.

Baptims into the Church or reception into the Church by profession of faith.


This is it, exactly. And once baptized or received one never ceases to be Catholic, no matter how wrong one can be.

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Ok so personally, I was baptized by my Catholic grandpa when I was a baby, then had an episcopalian baptism ceremony after that, then had a Catholic baptismal ceremony after that. Then, I had my first confession and holy communion when I was in 1st grade, but I did not get confirmed into the church until my freshman year of college. At what point did I become a Catholic?

Seems like from the narrative, when your grandpa baptized you as a baby :grinning:


Ok gotcha. Why was I Catholic at that point? Because I thought in order to be baptized Catholic you need to be baptized in the catholic rite of baptism by a priest.

No, anyone can baptize validly. Your baptism would have been illict, but valid.

As long as the baptism is Christian and done in the Name of the Father Son and Holy Spirit it is valid.

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@ajac - what do you mean by this? Do you mean “what makes a person subject to canon law?” Or do you simply mean “what would the tiniest detail that separates a Catholic from a Protestant / Orthodox?”

So does that mean people who are baptized in protestant churches in a valid baptism are Catholic?

Possibly when your Catholic grandpa baptized you (if he reported it to the parish you lived in and had you enrolled).

However, since you had a Catholic baptism later (after your Episcopalian one), my guess is that canonically you became officially Catholic and subject to canon law after your 3rd Baptism.

I think it’s your 3rd because the fact that you were rebaptized in the Catholic Church means no one located records of your first two baptisms.

We don’t know the circumstances of your grandpa baptizing you. Anyone can baptize in danger of death. If your grandfather was Catholic, he likely intended to incorporate you into the Catholic Church. He should have reported it to the pastor of the parish. If he baptized you because he was concerned your own parents would not, that was wrong but still valid. He should have reported it. If he did not, there is no record of it, and he could have given an affidavit.

if your Catholic baptism from Grandpa was valid (and we have no reason to believe they weren’t), then the two subsequent attempts at baptism were not actually baptisms. I am not sure why there would have been an Episcopal baptism. But, it may be because there was no proof of your baptism, or your parents didn’t know your grandpa had baptized you.

I am also unclear why there would have been any sort of Catholic baptism after that-- since you’d already been validly baptized. But, I presume it was a conditional baptism based on some concern your pastor had about the validity of a prior baptism.

All before you were in first grade-- that is quite odd.

At any rate, below the age of reason, your parents can bring you into the Catholic Church by their own profession of faith and by simply indicating to the pastor they want to do so. You are a Catholic, you need have no doubt of that.

So, you became Catholic either at your own first baptism by your grandfather or via the Catholic baptism performed by a priest if the first (two) weren’t valid for some reason.

If the Episcopal baptism was the valid one, you became Catholic when your parents approached the Church when you were still a young child to continue your sacramental formation.


There are a lot of oddities in this situation. And, the OP was a baby so not able to give a first hand account. We don’t really know what went on, perhaps the Catholic priest was unaware of the prior baptismal events. Whichever baptism was the first valid baptism is the one he actually received.

Canonically, the child would have been Catholic either upon valid baptism into the Catholic Church (the first or third one) or upon the parents decision that he be Catholic and be brought into the Church, whether they explicitly stated it this way or not. Under the age of reason a child can be brought into the Church simply by their parents action of becoming Catholics or if one already was then by making it known they are raising the child Catholic.


Pretty sure, in fact children under the age of reason in protestant households that practice such young baptism are Catholics in a certain sense.

Right! But regardless, the OP was 100% Catholic by the time of his 3rd Baptism :slight_smile:

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Maybe in an ideal world…I only wish it were that easy.

Its like saying that everyone born male is a Gentleman, and everyone born female is a Lady.

Being Catholic is not just a noun, it must also be a verb.

The question was what makes one Catholic, canonically speaking. Not what it means to be a Christian, a practicing Catohlic, a good person, etc.

Yes, there is certainly a difference. But that is a different topic altogether.

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In an ideal world none of us would be sinners. Alas all of us are. Baptism leaves an indelible mark on one’s soul. It cannot be erased by any of humankind’s (mis)deeds. Whether or not we accept the grace offered to us through baptism and the other sacraments is another matter.

So a valid baptism in the Church makes us Catholic. A profession of faith for those validly baptized in other ecclesial communities achieves the same.

I would add, that all of us are born “ladies and gentlemen” in that we are all afforded by God the same degree of dignity. As a human being a prisoner has the same dignity in God’s eyes as you I or anybody else does.


I agree, but on the other side of the equation of Dignity “afforded by God” is acceptance of that dignity through our actions.

A famous American once asked if he asked God for forgiveness admitted he has not, by justifying he had never done anything that required it.

That man may have been (and will continue to be) afforded dignity by God, but like the man given one Talent in the parable, he has squandered it.

Baptism incorporates one into the Body of Christ. As an arm is attached to the rest of the body, baptism unites one with the Christian family, the Body of Christ.
This is a real, or substantial, thing, not an idea or philosophy. It is not something one gains and loses according to changes in perspective or quality of deeds.

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