QUAERITUR: Valid matter, water, for baptism

From a reader:

Several months ago, we attended a violin recital in a Methodist church (did not attend their service) and the pastor announced that he would be doing a “beach baptism”, and I imagine that he used the salt water from the ocean. According to my Angelus Press missal, “Salt water should only be be used when necessary, but should be used then (i.e. in danger of death), and the same applies to melted ice or snow.” Because the pastor announced this, it didn’t sound like a case of extreme necessity.

That said, would such a baptism (using salt water) be valid if there was no danger of death?

Salt water is really water.  Melted ice is, last time I checked, water.  Melted snow is, last time I checked, water.  Valid baptism is conferred using true liquid water, sweet or salt.

Yes, salt water can be used.    As a matter of fact, the Holy Water blessed by the priest using the older, traditional form of the Roman Ritual has salt in it, exorcised salt.   Were a priest to use Holy Water to baptize, surely that would be valid matter.

Baptismal Water, blessed on Easter or Pentecost, does not have exorcised salt in it, as does Holy Water.

In any event, it is always best to follow the official books given to us by the Catholic Church for the conferral of valid sacraments, no?  The only reason why we would care what a Methodist minister might say about the water she is going to use for a baptism is that, when the baptized person wants to become a Catholic, we want to be sure that valid matter was used.

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14 Responses to QUAERITUR: Valid matter, water, for baptism

  1. “Were a priest to use Holy Water to baptize, surely that would be valid matter. Baptismal Water, blessed on Easter or Pentecost, does not have exorcised salt in it, as does Holy Water.”

    I hope this is not a stupid question, but I have to ask: what is the difference between Blessed Water and Holy Water? I ask because, at our Easter Vigil, the priest blesses the water to be used for baptism, then the servers cary ewers of it to all the holy water fonts and pour it in (n.b., our parish does not put sand in holy water fonts during Lent). Also, because our baptismal font is in the front of the church, where people walk in, everyone uses the water in it to bless themselves when they enter.

    So, does simply blessing water suffice for creating Holy Water in the newer Roman Ritual, or does my parish not have actual Holy Water in our Holy Water fonts?

    Thank you.

  2. Bthompson says:

    Isn’t there an option to use salt when blessing the water of the font in the OF? Or is that an option for anytime BUT the vigil?

  3. Elizabeth D says:

    Well I don’t think the potential for the person becoming Catholic later is the only reason why we would care about the validity. In caring for the individual being baptized who is presumably sincerely seeking salvation in Christ, however imperfectly, surely we care about the validity of the Sacrament in washing away all stain of original sin or sins of their past life. If they die before committing a mortal sin then they are saved. Or if they later sin mortally but repent with perfect contrition, and still oblivious that Christ has made the Catholic Church for our salvation.

  4. Random Friar says:

    The greater danger is that many mainliners are moving away from the Trinitarian formula, to something more “incluse” or “progressive.” E.g., “Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier.” I fear that we may arrive at a time when we will have to do conditional baptisms as a matter of course.

  5. ContraMundum says:

    In caring for the individual being baptized who is presumably sincerely seeking salvation in Christ, however imperfectly, surely we care about the validity of the Sacrament in washing away all stain of original sin or sins of their past life.

    Let’s say such a person was sincere in seeking salvation in Christ, but was (for some reason) invincibly ignorant of the need to join the Catholic Church. Even if there were some difficulty with the matter involved, would not the sincerity of the attempt make this a baptism of desire?

  6. Supertradmum says:

    In RCIA, we had to move to conditional or real redone baptisms for several reasons, one being the new, non-denominational churches which do not keep records. Second, same type of churches frequently baptize, “In the Name of Jesus” only and therefore are not giving true Trinitarian Baptisms. Thirdly, the Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier became popular in the Midwest. However, as far as I know, all the weird permutations were done with real water. Someone did tell me once, however, that they were baptized with champagne, I kid you not. She had to be baptized at the Vigil. The story was bizarre….and she grew up in Australia.

  7. Scott W. says:

    On the other hand, it is my understanding that tears are not valid matter. [Correct.]

  8. JP Borberg says:

    Hold on:
    Water with salt dissolved in it IS valid matter,
    Water with caffeol dissolved in it IS NOT valid matter (from a post a few days ago).

    Why? What makes one water based solution ‘substantially water’ and another water based solution solution ‘substantially NOT water’?

    It may be an experience thing: I call one ‘saline’ and the other ‘coffee’ but to me they actually are both water solutions, or ‘dirty water’ as they were recently called, but this might have something to do with my spending a lot of my time thinking about atoms and having contact with liquids that have no water in them at all.

    But isn’t something ‘substantially’ what it really is, independent of perception and experience?

  9. Mary Jane says:

    From newadvent Catholic Encyclopedia:

    “Theologians tell us … that what men would ordinarily declare water is valid baptismal material, whether it be water of the sea, or fountain, or well, or marsh; whether it be clear or turbid; fresh or salty; hot or cold; colored or uncolored. Water derived from melted ice, snow, or hail is also valid. If, however, ice, snow, or hail be not melted, they do not come under the designation water. Dew, sulfur or mineral water, and that which is derived from steam are also valid matter for this sacrament. As to a mixture of water and some other material, it is held as proper matter, provided the water certainly predominates and the mixture would still be called water. Invalid matter is every liquid that is not usually designated true water. Such are oil, saliva, wine, tears, milk, sweat, beer, soup, the juice of fruits, and any mixture containing water which men would no longer call water. When it is doubtful whether a liquid could really be called water, it is not permissible to use it for baptism except in case of absolute necessity when no certainly valid matter can be obtained.”

    So water in a glass that previously held coffee is probably okay (even if there are a couple drops of coffee in the water). A strong cup of coffee is just that – coffee – and cannot be used to baptize.

  10. ContraMundum says:

    If, however, ice, snow, or hail be not melted, they do not come under the designation water.

    OK, this has me stumped. I can certainly see the point of saying that snow itself is not valid matter, that you cannot baptize someone by shoveling snow over his head, but I do in fact designate “melted snow” as “water”, even more surely than a “dried plum” is a “prune”. It makes no sense to me to say that if I leave the snow on the ground, so that it melts and runs off into a little stream, that is water, but if I put it in a boiler and melt it there, that isn’t water. In fact, I would be much less doubtful about calling melted snow “water” than the stuff that comes out of the municipal taps, what with the chlorination, fluoridation, and various contaminants.

    Can anybody shed light on this for me?

  11. ContraMundum says:

    Whoops! I somehow read right over the word “not” in there. My bad … it’s been a long day.

  12. Precentrix says:

    Well, we know for a fact that beer is NOT valid matter…

    From the papal letter Cum sicut ex to Archbishop Sigurdof of Norway on July 8, 1241, Pope Gregory IX wrote the following:
    Since as we have learned from your report, it sometimes happens because of the scarcity of water, that infants of your lands [Norway] are baptized in beer, we reply to you in the tenor of those present that, since according to evangelical doctrine it is necessary “to be reborn from water and the Holy Spirit” [John 3:5] they are not to be considered rightly baptized who are baptized in beer.

  13. Bthompson says:

    It makes no sense to me to say that if I leave the snow on the ground, so that it melts and runs off into a little stream, that is water, but if I put it in a boiler and melt it there, that isn’t water. In fact, I would be much less doubtful about calling melted snow “water” than the stuff that comes out of the municipal taps, what with the chlorination, fluoridation, and various contaminants.

    I think what “no melted snow or ice” means is that you cannot baptize by rubbing ice on someones head and claim that the flowing water coming from the melting is effective for baptism.

  14. Whereas if you even melted out water with the heat of your hands, and used that, it would be totally okay. :)

    In defense of the Norse, the beer thing was used in the dead of winter, when the non-alcoholic liquids were frozen. But it wasn’t right, so they had to be told.