A Guide to Catholic Baptism
By Andres Ortiz
Baptism is the first of seven sacraments and the way in which a person becomes a member of the Catholic Church
Who can receive a Catholic baptism?
Anyone who has not already been baptized can receive the sacrament of Baptism in the Catholic Church. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that “Every person not yet baptized and only such a person is able to be baptized,” (paragraph 1246). Baptism leaves an indelible (permanent) mark on the soul and there is no way nor any reason that one could be re-baptized.
There are no age restrictions for baptism; you cannot be too old or too young to be baptized.
Who can perform a Catholic baptism?
Anyone can perform a baptism, however this is typically done only in extreme cases in which someone’s life is in danger. The Catholic Church has ordinary ministers for sacraments and those are bishops, priests, and sometimes deacons. An ordinary minister is one who has been entrusted with the authority to perform the sacrament although the responsibility for performing a sacrament can usually be delegated. For example, a bishop is the ordinary minister for Confirmation, but can give permission to a priest to do a Confirmation; a priest does not have the authority to do a confirmation without the permission of his bishop. However, priests do have the authority to do baptisms without the permission of the bishop and sometimes delegate the responsibility to a deacon if one is available.
Most baptisms are done by a priest or deacon when the person is an infant, but there are extreme cases when even an unbaptized person can baptize someone. All that is required is “the will to do what the Church does when she baptizes, and to apply the Trinitarian Baptismal formula.” If this is done it is usually because someone is lying on his/her deathbed and they truly desire to become Christian. How is this type of Baptism valid you ask? Well, the Church believes in the universal saving will of God and the necessity of Baptism for salvation (1 Timothy 2:4, John 3:5).
Can someone be baptized twice?
Baptizing someone twice is not necessary so long as the person was baptized using the Trinitarian formula described above. Some churches do not use the Trinitarian formula and therefore their baptisms are not valid and one would need to be baptized again. It is not a sin to be baptized twice, but one need not be baptized twice in most cases.
Does the Catholic Church accept baptisms from another church?
Yes, the Catholic Church recognizes any baptism that uses water and in which the baptized was baptized with the words “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Some churches do not use the Trinitarian formula for baptism and thus their baptisms are not valid.
Why are children baptized?
Children receive baptism primarily to remove original sin, but can serve as a great family tradition in which to enculturate one’s child into the faith of the family. Infant baptism has been debated for centuries. First, let us appeal to the Bible. John 3:5 says, “Jesus answered, ‘Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.'” Note that Jesus says “no one” can enter heaven in that passage. In the spirit of brevity here is the short answer straight from the Catechism:
“The practice of infant Baptism is an immemorial tradition of the Church. There is explicit testimony to this practice from the second century on, and it is quite possible that, from the beginning of the apostolic preaching, when whole “households” received baptism, infants may also have been baptized,” (Acts 16:15,33; 18:8; 1 Corinthians 1:16).(Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1252)