calling for Catholic help

To my Catholic readers, or anybody else familiar with the nuances of Catholic policy regarding baptism, especially nineteenth-century policy on same:

1) If an adult converts to Catholicism, do they receive a Catholic baptism? Is the answer to that question dependent at all upon whether they were previously baptized in a different Christian denomination? Does age affect it, and if so, what’s the cut-off point for different treatment?

2) If there were, for plot reasons, a character who had originally been baptized into the Catholic church, who really really needed to be re-baptized in the same tradition, how would the argument about that go? (As I understand it, re-baptism isn’t something that’s supposed to be done, but there’s an unusually compelling reason for it in this case; what I’m asking for is basically a run-down of the objections the priest would make, that my characters can then overcome.)

3) Does anybody have a handy link to the text for the baptismal rite Catholics used in the nineteenth century?

0 Responses to “calling for Catholic help”

  1. aliettedb

    I am not familiar with the 19th Century attitudes to this. I can tell you how it works today, however.
    Adults who convert to Catholicism from another non-Christian religion get baptised. It’s often done at Easter.
    If your character is converted from another Christian denomination, it kinds of depends which denomination and what the Roman Catholic Church thinks of it. Today, they recognise most baptism sacraments, which means that those adults are not baptised, but receive confirmation as a “welcome” into the Roman Catholic Church. The exception is when the Church recognises the confirmation as valid (Eastern Orthodox people, I think, are pretty much the only ones for whom the Confirmation would get skipped).
    I’m also pretty sure that, until recently, Protestants were re-baptised when they converted, because the Church wasn’t quite certain if a Protestant baptism was valid.
    (FYI, if your character is a Mormon, the Catholic Church still doesn’t recognise the baptism as valid)

    Baptism is a sacrament, and it’s one of the three that has permanent validity and may not be repeated (the others being Confirmation and Holy Orders). It’s a fairly strong belief that forms the bedrock of Catholic faith, so it’s going to be really, really hard to go against it. Pretty much the only reason I can see for it being repeated is that the original sacrament was null. Usual reasons for nullifying a sacrament: the person acting as minister wasn’t entitled to do so (it’s really, really hard to prove that for a baptism, though, because anyone can baptise–even a non-Christian, if you can prove that it was a case of necessity), or the “matter” or “form” weren’t respected when the sacrament was admistered. In the case of a baptism, for instance, water wasn’t involved in the sacrament (form lacking, which nullifies it), the proper words (“I baptise you in the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”) weren’t said (matter lacking), or some other essential aspect of the sacrament was excluded.
    If you can cast doubt on the validity of the original sacrament, the priest would then baptise “again” (though in his view, for the first time). He would officiate with a conditional “if you are not already baptised, I baptise you…”, just in case the objections turned out not to be justified.
    What I don’t think you cannot get away with is, for instance, if the character has done something in the meantime which you think might invalidate the baptism: it’s been clearly stated that there is no earthly way to invalidate a baptism. You are welcomed into the Catholic Church once and for all, and the sacrament of baptism isn’t granted a second time. If your compelling reason is something along those lines, you need a sacrament of Reconciliation.

    I’m hazier on the history of the Catholic Church, but I think you want the baptismal rite in Latin. Prior to the Vatican I (or II, I’m never sure, but both are 20th-century councils), everything was done in Latin.

    • aliettedb

      Uh, sorry. Second-to-last para should read “What I don’t think you can get away with”…

    • ckastens

      Without reading the rest of the comments here, I’m going to agree with Aliette. Baptism can’t be repeated within the Catholic Church. If a priest knows the person has already been baptised, he won’t perform another. It’s as simple as that. Baptism cannot be invalidated for any reason.
      You can later be baptized in another Christian religion afterwards or vice-versa, but not baptised twice in the same one.
      To understand the reasoning it can be stated very simply: what God has given can’t be taken away.

  2. midnight_sidhe

    1) My mother was initially baptised as some variety of Protestant. When she converted to Catholicism, she was told she didn’t need another baptism, but she really really wanted one, and so it was allowed because there’s apparently some grey area with Protestants. But if she’d been baptised Catholic they probably would not have allowed it.

    2) I found this discussion on a Catholic message board about annulling a baptism; I didn’t read the whole thing, but one of the commenters says early on that if it’s a valid baptism, there’s no way of annulling it. The case they’re discussing here is an invalid baptism where one of the parents objected:

    My own baptism was irregular because I was neither an infant nor above the age of consent, but I think it’s probably valid even though I am now a Jew. If I were to decide I wanted to be a Catholic again, my understanding is that my baptism is still valid in the eyes of the Catholic church even though I myself no longer acknowledge it.

    3) There’s a Latin translation of the rite here (you have to scroll down a ways):

    I’ve never seen a baptism in the old rite, but this is consistent with my understanding of it, and I found this blog post which has comparison of the old and new rites in English; the former does look to be a translation of the Latin text in the first link, but I didn’t check the whole thing:

    • midnight_sidhe

      One might be able to make a case for a second baptism if one could prove that the spirit housed in the body in need of baptism was different from the one that had been baptised. Not as in “the person is possessed”, because in that case they just perform an exorcism and you don’t have a second baptism afterwards; but as in “the original occupant of the body, who was baptised, is really and truly dead, but somehow a different spirit has taken over the body and this spirit has never been baptised”. Or, if the body dies and the spirit is reincarnated into a new one, arguably you would always get a second baptism simply because the church doesn’t recognise reincarnation and would not believe that the person had had a previous baptism.

      (I’m reasoning here by analogy to the rules for marriage. You cannot marry more than once in the Catholic church unless either it is determined that the marriage was invalid from the start or your spouse has died. Baptisms share the first “unless”, which made me wonder how the second “unless” might be made applicable. But I am totally making this up.)

      • aliettedb

        I agree–it’s possible that either of those two situations might work for a new baptism.
        It’s just going to be darn hard to convince the priest of either of those. The first is marginally simpler compared to the second, which would essentially require the priest to deny church teachings. So either your priest is aware of supernatural goings-on that don’t follow Church doctrine, or I expect your characters to have lots and lots of trouble convincing the priest.

        Do you *need* it to be a priest? As I said above, baptism can be performed by pretty much anyone (in the Roman Catholic Church, it’s priests or deacons, but in case of extreme need anyone can do). I’ll quote from the official Vatican cathechism here:(

        1256 The ordinary ministers of Baptism are the bishop and priest and, in the Latin Church, also the deacon. In case of necessity, anyone, even a nonbaptized person, with the required intention, can baptize , by using the Trinitarian baptismal formula. The intention required is to will to do what the church does when she baptizes. The Church finds the reason for this possibility in the universal saving will of God and the necessity of Baptism for salvation.

  3. pathseeker42

    Yes, re-baptism is a big no-no. A huge one even. The priest might make some argument that baptism is the gift of God’s grace – it is God’s act, not man’s. And so re-baptizing means doubting that the grace of God was sufficient the first go-round. You’re basically going up to God (almighty, all-powerful awesome soveriegn) and saying “The first time you did this wasn’t good enough. Can we try again?”

    As for the 18th century Catholic rite, if you like, I can send off an email to my church history professor later today.

  4. kizmet_42

    Canons on Baptism

    Latin Text for a child’s baptism. In fact, the entire site may be of use to you.

    What reason would there be for a second baptism?

    If the character committed a horrific sin, he would go to Confession.

    If the character left the faith and returned, she goes to Confession.

    If the character was perhaps taken over by demons, there is a rite of exorcism* that probably involved Holy Water.

    Instead of a re-baptism (wouldn’t be done if the first baptism was into the Catholic church) there would possibly be a time of penitence for repentance after a confession was made to a priest or bishop, or possibly a monk.

    *The site looks sketchy, but they claim to have accurately presented the Latin. Comes with translations.

  5. kendokamel

    If an adult converts, they do receive a baptism. As a part of it, in addition to renouncing Satan and all his works, they must renounce any other dogmas/religious affiliations. The only thing that age has to do with it is that they are able to speak for themselves – as compared to an infant being baptized, which is where the notion of Godparents comes in – they are the ones who speak on the infant’s behalf.

  6. Anonymous

    1) As others have said, adult converts from another Christian denomination are generally not rebaptized, unless there is some doubt that they were baptized with the Trinitarian formula (“in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost”). The Trinitarian formula is the key thing, and it’s used by nearly all Protestant groups, so this would rarely be a problem in the time that you’re thinking of. The only exception I know of is the Mormon church, which uses the Trinitarian formula but whose baptisms have been judged invalid because their understanding of the Trinity is so different.

    2) This would be extremely difficult. Normally an adult who had been away from the Church would be received by confession and communion, possibly with exorcism (depending on what they’d been doing in the meantime). Would exorcism in place of baptism meet your plot needs? It doesn’t have to involve green projectile vomit.

    There is something called conditional baptism, which involves all of the same ritual as standard baptism with the addition only of the words “If not already baptized, I baptize you….” This formula is normally used only if there is some question as to whether the person has already been baptized, or whether their baptism was valid.

    3) Sorry. Others have posted.

  7. kmousie

    Looks like others have helped you out here…re-baptism doesn’t/shouldn’t/can’t happen (unless the original baptism wasn’t Trinitarian). If a non-Christian adult converts, she receives all three sacraments of initiation (baptism, Eucharist, and confirmation); if a Christian adult converts, she’s confirmed and receives the Eucharist. This is all going on current teachings; I don’t know about 19th-century stuff.

    I was conditionally baptized (I had major surgery at 29 days, and my parents wanted to have be baptized just in case) and then “officially” baptized later on. If you’d like me to get more details about how the conditional baptism went down, I’d be happy to ask my mom.

  8. wshaffer

    I was baptized shortly after birth, and then when I was around 6 or so (just before my first communion) had to be baptized again, because the original baptism was invalid for some reason. Unfortunately, I don’t really know anything about why the original baptism was invalid, except that it was a rush job under less-than-ideal circumstances. (Of course, now, being a practicing Jew, I just joke that they had a hard time making the Catholicism stick, so they had to try again.)

  9. gollumgollum

    You know, it could always be a matter of record keeping (although i’m not sure how scandalous/unheard of it would be at the time to have neverever been baptized); if you have a character wanting/needing to be baptized again, they could always lie and say they’d never been baptized in the first place. Of course, if you need it for the powers of the religious rite, then you’re going to have to grapple with the metaphysical question of whether or not that second baptism ‘takes’ if the baptizee is lying about it, since metaphysically, i’d think the first baptism would be in effect and negate the second one, if that makes sense.

  10. kalynn06

    As others have said, a new convert has a baptism, but as I understand it this is a conditional baptism if they were baptized children. They have the Catholic ceremony that was omitted at the original batptism, but only the unbaptized can be baptized. My grandfather and one of his brothers married women baptized in some other denomination and both were baptized in this way, when they converted. Strangely, the motivation for both to convert was so they could be buried with their husbands.

    Renewal of baptismal vows, however, is a common practice and is done regularly at Easter Vigil. Right now, canon law says only those who are not baptized are eligible for baptism, though there is provision to baptise if the original baptism is doubtful or potentially invalid.

    Part of the problem about using practices now as guidance, however is
    that practices in place now are quite a bit different, since they are post Vatican II, except for traditionalist groups. And you are talking about pre Vatican I time frame.

    For a reference, it’s complicated because the first modern unified code of canon law is early 20th century. As far as I understand, until around 1917, the only codified form of church law was still the medieval Corpus juris canonici last revised in like 1582. Basically, a long history of Church thinking was that even heretics were not rebaptized because Christ’s grace once given could not be given again.

    For a somewhat scholarly discussion of baptism thinking, see . It’s an article about the Church’s position on the validity of Mormon baptism, but it gives good historical insight on the nature of Baptism. This message board link : might also be helpful.

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