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Question

Good morning, dear Father Angelo!

I am Luca. I was already baptized in my parish when I was a child; therefore, my question is not for me, in a direct way. I explain: a few days ago, I was talking with my aunt about baptism and she asked me if it is valid for Catholics, even if baptism is administered in a Protestant church. I do not know exactly the answer to this question, however, I told her  that, in my opinion, baptism is valid only if it is conferred in a Catholic or Orthodox church. And I also explained to my aunt  the reasons why it would not be valid, because for Protestants, baptism has a different meaning: for Catholics, it erases the original sin, while for evangelicals, Baptism only symbolizes “A simple entry” into the community of believers, but it does not take away the original sin. Now, I ask you: did I answer correctly to my aunt about Baptism? And therefore, I can only ask you the same question: is baptism, for the Catholic Church, still valid, even if a Catholic decides to be baptized in a Protestant church?

Waiting for your answer (to this and other questions!), I offer my warmest regards!


The Priest’s reply

Dear Luca,

1. In this case you were wrong to give this answer.

Because, in case of necessity, even an atheist who is begged by a person to confer Baptism baptizes validly.

The only condition is to want to do what the Church intends to do.

2. Now it is true that for Protestants Baptism does not erase original sin because man would still remain in a state of mortal sin (and in this respect you answered well).

Yet Protestants intend to give baptism as Christ intends to give it, obeying that will of Christ for which He said:  “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Mt 28,19).

3. It would not be valid if they denied the divinity of Christ, as Jehovah’s Witnesses do, who also deny the Trinity.

This is why baptism of Jehovah’s Witnesses is null and void.

But Protestants generally recognize the divinity of Christ.

4. Pope Nicholas I in the ninth century in the Responses to the Bulgars wrote: “You ask about what should be done concerning many people in your country who you claim have been baptized by some Jew, though whether he is Christian or pagan you do not know. Of course, if these people have been baptized in the name of the holy Trinity or in the name of Christ alone, as we read in the Acts of the Apostles,[Acts 19:5] — for as St. Ambrose explains,[32] it is one and the same thing — it is agreed that they should not be baptized again”  (DS 646).

5. And this is what Saint Thomas says.

Starting from what St. Isidore said: “”The Roman Pontiff does not consider it to be the man who baptizes, but that the Holy Ghost confers the grace of Baptism, though he that baptizes be a pagan.” (Decret. di Graziano, 2,1, 1, 59), he concludes “Augustine left this question without deciding it. For he says (Contra Ep. Parmen. ii): “This is indeed another question, whether even those can baptize who were never Christians; nor should anything be rashly asserted hereupon, without the authority of a sacred council such as suffices for so great a matter”. But afterwards it was decided by the Church that the unbaptized, whether Jews or pagans, can confer the sacrament of Baptism, provided they baptize in the form of the Church. Wherefore Pope Nicolas I replies to the questions propounded by the Bulgars: “You say that many in your country have been baptized by someone, whether Christian or pagan you know not. If these were baptized in the name of the Trinity, they must not be rebaptized.” But if the form of the Church be not observed, the sacrament of Baptism is not conferred. And thus is to be explained what Gregory II [*Gregory III] writes to Bishop Boniface: “Those whom you assert to have been baptized by pagans,” namely, with a form not recognized by the Church, “we command you to rebaptize in the name of the Trinity.” And the reason of this is that, just as on the part of the matter, as far as the essentials of the sacrament are concerned, any water will suffice, so, on the part of the minister, any man is competent. Consequently, an unbaptized person can baptize in a case of urgency. So that two unbaptized persons may baptize one another, one baptizing the other and being afterwards baptized by him: and each would receive not only the sacrament but also the reality of the sacrament. But if this were done outside a case of urgency, each would sin grievously, both the baptizer and the baptized, and thus the baptismal effect would be frustrated, although the sacrament itself would not be invalidated” (Summa Theologiae, III, 67, 5).

6. And he adds “The man who baptizes offers but his outward ministration; whereas Christ it is Who baptizes inwardly, Who can use all men to whatever purpose He wills. Consequently, the unbaptized can baptize” (Ibid., ad 1).

I wish you all the best, I remind you to the Lord and I bless you.

Father Angelo