From a reader…
My five year old nephew, who wasn’t formally baptized as an infant (ie: with his parents’ permission, in a church, by a priest, etc). My mom baptized him in the bathtub (and didn’t tell anyone except me) and he’s been learning the Catholic faith, learning his prayers, he loves praying the Rosary, sits through Mass wonderfully and pays attention to what’s going on. He’s very intelligent, and despite only being 5 (and just turning 5 at that), I’m pretty sure he has the use of reason (he seems to know very well the difference between right and wrong, good and bad, etc).
Anyways, he has asked to be baptized and my mom spoke to the priest and told him that she baptized him in the bathtub. The priest told her that since it wasn’t an emergency, that baptism didn’t count [FAIL!] (not sure what he meant by “doesn’t count”, but I’m pretty sure my mom knows how to baptize validly, albeit illicitly). My understanding is that he would have to be baptized conditionally as opposed to baptized as if nothing had happened beforehand. What happens then if baptism is repeated? Is this something I need to worry about?
You should be able to sort this out fairly quickly. Here’s what I would do.
To start, get your mother together with the priest and ascertain if your mother knows how to baptize. Find out what she did.
Then you have three options. First, if she didn’t baptize properly, then baptize the child absolutely. Second, if she is squishy on the details and leaves you wondering about what she did, then baptize the child conditionally. Third, if she baptized properly, then consider having the priest, using the traditional rite, “supply” the ceremonies that were omitted. HERE
It was always the case that when baptism was administered in the case of necessity, or in the reception into the Church of adults or children, or in some situation like you described, the other ceremonies of the rite are to be supplied later by a priest.
Also, make sure that the fact of the baptism, etc., is recorded properly in the parish register.