QUAERITUR: baptism practices… AGAIN. Fr. Z rants.

WARNING – this has been updated and must be corrected!


If water does not touch the head, baptism is invalid.

But most of my comments below still have their use.


From a reader:

I am sure you must get many emails — I am hoping you could take time to answer mine or even just address it on your blog.
We had a baptism during Mass yesterday and the baby was baptized by ‘immersion’. Actually, the only thing Monsignor managed to get wet was the baby’s buttocks, which he dunked 3 times. I know this is not right — I realize that the proper form is for water  to be poured over a baby’s head.
My questions are: 1. why does the Church require this? 2. Is this baptism in fact valid? 3. What can be done? 4. Should I approach our pastor (who did the baptism)?
Baptism of infants by immersion takes place 9 out of 10 times at our parish — its very popular. I have never seen a baby actually immersed however, but usually the back of the head gets wet. [Water must contact the head.]

I have dealt with questions of baptism before.

It is a constant source of amazement to me just how hard some priests find it to follow the book!  Just do the red and say the black!

Well… I guess I do understand.  

Priests are generally good-hearted men, even if some have wacky ideas.  Sometimes they err because they want to make the rite more "meaningful".  Sometimes they endure real pressure from poorly catechized lay people, who nevertheless do come to the church for these milestone moments, because they want "meaningful" stuff put into the rite where it doesn’t belong.  Priests cave in sometimes.  I remember a bunch of people got really mad at me once because I wouldn’t interject some goofy things they made up and wanted as part of the rite of baptism.  Yes… there is pressure.

Also, some priests think that they are doing something "more authentic" because they read somewhere that in the ancient Church baptism was by immersion.   The progressivist writers and workshops they attend have fed them the line that if it is pristine then it must automatically be better.  This is redolent of the false archeologizing Pius XII warned about in Mystici Corporis Christi and which the Church condemned when pushed by the infamous Synod of Pistoia.  Just because something was done in the ancient Church, that doesn’t mean that it is better than what we do now.  We learned a few things along the way, after all, and therefore changed our practices.

I have nothing against the ancient rites, and the mystagogy, etc.  It might be that the Church will shrink to the point where we will be doing what the ancients did. Sure it would be great to have everyone descend into the pool and then be anointed all over and clothed in the white garment.  But we also have infant baptisms now, not to mention lots of lawyers.

I digress…

Anyway… I implore you Reverend Fathers… Your Excellencies…. don’t go for gimmicks or cuteness.    For the love of God, just do the red and say the black.

In the meantime, from what the writer said, it sounds to me that the baptism was valid.  If the Trinitarian form of baptism was said while causing the water to flow across the skin, it was valid.  It is best, but not necessary for validity that water flow on the head.  Again, for validity, water must touch the head.

But you know what?  Had they held the child over the font and had the priest poured water from a proper baptismal "shell" or other good vessel over the little pagan’s head, no one would be wondering if it was valid.

Please, Fathers!  Follow the book and don’t do anything creative.

Please, Most Reverend Bishops!  Make it clear to your priests that you don’t want to have to get questions about whether sacraments were valid.

How hard is this?

Oh yes… since I am ranting now… one last thing.

Lay people: When you name your baby, just pick a saints name, spell it correctly and move on to the next task in your lives.   We can discuss "name" issues under a different blog entry

There… I feel better now.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Maureen says:

    Speaking as someone who definitely has a saint’s name, but whose parents and namebook sources aren’t entirely clear on whether Maureen is meant to be a diminutive of Moire or Maura, I thinkk you are asking a lot here. Clearly, Anglicization and Americanization of
    names is not really correct spelling, so that would kinda leave me out of luck.

    I mean, I’d have to use the accent mark ASCII code _all the time_, and I suppose I’d have to re-spell my last name and add a patronymic… Headache…. :)

    OTOH, it does seem silly to throw in heaping handfuls of y’s and other vowels in bizarre combinations at random. Right now, the way to have a unique name is to spell it traditionally, in many cases. :)

    I do have to say that the last names of the English and Irish martyrs seem to have been designed to give coverage to parents with bizarre ideas of naming, with them even knowing that they are covered. Little did Snow and Tempest know, back in the Seventies, that they had male martyrs watching over them, and the same goes for a lot of surname-named girls today.. :)

    Don’t worry, though. Thanks to Harry Potter, the number of obscure saints’ names used is bound to go up in the next few generations!

    [I think we will do “name” discussions in another entry.]

  2. Lauren says:

    I had heard somewhere a while ago that this sort of baptism was *not* valid. I never checked up, because I was 12 or something, and my cousin to whom this occurred was conditionally re-baptized so all our bases were covered anyway. (I, of course, defer to Fr. Z on this point… the conditional baptism was, then, probably not necessary, but we were not sure.)

    But I’m with the good Father Z on this point. Baptism is so essential that even a Sasquatch could do it (in an emergency), so long as he intends to do what the church does. Even the unbaptized can baptize. It’s so easy, one has to go out of one’s way to mess it up. Ah, well.

  3. FT says:

    The general instruction on Christian Initiation, which came out of the CDW thirty or more years ago had this to say about baptism:
    As the rite for baptizing, either immersion, which is more suitable as a symbol of participation in the death and resurrection of Christ, or pouring may lawfully be used.

    Anyone know if this is still the Church’s view, and if not why not? I don’t think you can say the ‘proper form” is water over the head, even if its the most usual. [It sure eliminates a lot of silliness.]

  4. JSK says:

    I have a question about names, and maybe this isn’t the proper place, but I figured commentary might help me. [Noooo….. let’s not got here. Enough of the names thing. I will start a different entry about that.]

  5. Ohio Annie says:

    Lots of new parish buildings are being built with what I call dunking tanks because the new teaching is that immersion is a “more complete sign.” My feeling is this is part of the slippery slope to believing that communion under both kinds is a “more complete sign” which devolves into a lack of belief that He is present whole and entire in each species. I am sorry to have started a rabbit hole but this convert has a few pet peeves with the more overtly Protestant thinking to which she has been subjected in the last 3 years. Of course, some of this is in the catechism and it is all right but if the proper catechesis isn’t being done, then the problem starts.

    I have noticed that there is a correlation (warning: small sample size) between the presence of a dunking tank and communion under both kinds and irreverence toward the Most Blessed Sacrament.

    And this is from somebody who was baptized a Mennonite! (I knelt before the congregation and the pastors poured water over my head in the name of the three persons of the Trinity, after I had renounced Satan and all his works in all sorts of ways, the congregation acting as witnesses)

  6. Kimberly says:

    I live in Minnesota and I really appreciate the correct way. Our church’s are big, cold and drafty – I surely don’t want the whee one undressed and dumped into cold water. Talk about law suits when the tiny one gets sick. Ok, so that was kind of a different take on the situation. As for names, I agree with Fr. Z. More than ever our children need a saints name as an example in these troubles times. Maureen, don’t worry, at least your name comes from the Irish meaning “Wished-for-child”. Try Kimberly on for size, cheez, what were my parents thinking.

  7. irishgirl says:

    I agree with you on all counts, Fr. Z!

    Rant all you want…we understand!

  8. Andrew, medievalist says:

    I think you’re right about the problem of lay catechesis Father. Funny how in those baaaad old Middle Ages, the laity were taught repeatedly (or so the sources suggest) the correct form of baptism in the vernaculars.

    [sarcasm] Actually, considering the whole “lay empowerment” thing I’m curious why more laity aren’t exercising their own “priesthood” to baptise their children. But then again, nothing good could possibly come out of the Middle Ages.[/sarcasm]

  9. TJ says:

    What the woman describes isn’t immersion anyway. Immersion is kneeling in the water and having it poured over the head and body. Affusion is when someone’s body is fully plunged into the water. Both forms have been used from the earliest times in the Church.

    I don’t think what this pastor did was a good choice and certainly didn’t convey the beauty and power of the grace of baptism.

  10. Disgusted in DC says:

    I’ve had maddening encounters with “butt-baptisms” before. I know of one family that was so very concerned when their baby was baptized this way, they conditionally baptized him at home. Priests who do such things are blithering idiots. [Do you think that is a charitable statement? I don’t.]

  11. Biff says:

    I knew a hospital chaplain who said that on several occassions, he baptised babies conditionally because he wasn’t sure they were human. This was one of the holiest men I ever knew.

  12. Father, are you so sure that the Baptism in question is valid?

    According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, the approved way is pouring water over the head. I don’t know the source it is based on – it might be an outdated canon. It does, however, quote St. Alphonsus as saying that pouring water over any other part of the body (which he assumes would only happen in a case of necessity) would be doubtfully valid and the person in question would be subject to conditional re-baptism.

  13. Biff says:

    In Alabama, there was a deacon who used to baptise children over six “on the hand.”

  14. Janet says:

    I can’t resist telling of my Protestant (Church of Christ) experience of baptism when I was 12 yrs old. The Church of Christ believes baptism must be TOTAL immersion, and they all have these pools with curtains across a ‘window’ at the front, and you wade down steps into this pool, wearing a ‘cassock’ with fishing weights attached to the bottom hem. The preacher who baptised me dunked me backwards underwater, and said the ‘correct’ words. All over and done with, you might think.

    But no! After I got home, he called my parents and said he thought he saw a ripple and felt one of my toes might have kicked up out of the water when he dunked me. He insisted that my parents bring me back and he did it again, just to make sure every single millimeter of me was under water. Otherwise, in his mind (and in C.of C. mentality), I might not have been validly baptised and would therefore go to Hell with the pagans, Catholics, and anyone else who doesn’t perform total immersion baptism.

    And the reason he didn’t just dunk me the second time right then was that they’d forgotten to have the water heater turned on, and the water was freezing cold. He wanted to warm the baptistry before making me get back in it. I still caught a terrible cold!

    I can only say after looking back… Thank God I am now Roman Catholic!

  15. The “proximate matter” of baptism is ablution. This means physical contact of the water and the person’s body.

    An ablution is a “washing”, symbolizing outwardly what is happening in the soul. There are different ways to accomplish this ablution. There is dipping, which is immersion (immersio), pouring (infusio) or sprinkling (aspersio).

    In the case above, immersion was used. The entire body was not immersed, but it was nevertheless an immersion.

    The immersion does not, apparently, even have to be a three-fold immersion. Pope Gregory the Great, in a letter to the Church in Spain, permitted a single immersion. According to Ott’s helpful book this was to symbolize against the Arians the unity of the divine substance of the Trinity.

  16. paul says:

    Why do so many priests have a hard time saying the black and doing the red?? My opinion is that Satan the father of lies is behind this. The popes as well as Vatican 2 have repeatedly stated that no one- not even a priest, has a right to change any part of the Mass. Catholics have a right to a true liturgy as stated repeatedly by the Church. It is pride that states “I know better than the church- I’m more compassionate, more sensitive to the feelings of my parishoners”. Therefore I will change the words to what I feel is okay. Pride is a vice not a virtue.

  17. ssoldie says:

    Mom told me, I was baptized twice, Catholic Grandma once, Lutheran Grandma once. Oh Well, and no saints name until I was Confirmed in the Catholic Church.

  18. Allan says:

    Dunking a baby’s bottom in water is known as “bathing” not “baptism”. I’m a Dad. I know these things ;)

  19. Dave N. says:

    Refer to The Rites of the Catholic Church, No. 22 under “Christian Initiation”: “As the rite for baptizing, either immersion, which is more suitable as a symbol of participation in the death and resurrection of Christ, or pouring may lawfully be used.” It’s ok to critique poor excuses for immersion, but those who criticize it above as a general principle are off base, imo. You can argue that the rite should be revised, but that’s a different issue.

  20. Pes says:

    I’m curious about this impulse toward primitivism.

    My guess is that primitivists run backwards to original things because they don’t trust that subsequent developments have either added things appropriately or revealed things more fully.

    The first is a kind of anti-humanism. The second indicates a lack of faith in the Holy Spirit.

    Either way, it is iconoclastic and therefore confused about the inherent dignity of man.

  21. Dave N. says:

    As for cold water issue, no 20 is also helpful: “If the climate requires, provision should be made for the water to be heated beforehand.”

  22. I have seen adults baptized on their feet. They were taken to the top of the multi-tiered, waterfall-esque baptismal font (lined with tile) and then walked down through the water, not farther up than their ankles. Just on safety grounds, apart from any questions of validity, it made absolutely no sense.

  23. Rellis says:

    I think immersion could be read as the preferred option according to canon law, which would seem to have the final say. Here’s something from Canon 854:

    “Baptism is to be conferred either by immersion or by pouring; the prescripts of the conference of bishops are to be observed.”

    Immersion is listed as the first option. One could argue that this makes it preferential, though I’d leave that to a canon lawyer. Immersion is certainly valid, though.

  24. Steven Dunn says:

    I grew up a Southern Baptist in the Bible Belt, and all baptism was done by immersion – as a youth the only difference in baptisms that I knew was whether they were done at a real body of water or at an indoor tank!

    When my pastor prepared me for baptism he told me he would go: one, two, three, dunk! but when the actual baptism happened he went: one, two, dunk! and caught me off guard. I didn’t have time to close my eyes or catch my breath. When he submerged me I thought I was going to die in the tank (I had an experience as a child where my father had to rescue me when I accidentally got into deep water, so this wasn’t idle speculation). When I was pulled up (we only submerged once) my water-filled eyes couldn’t focus so all I saw were bright white lights.

    Many years later, after converting and learning more about Catholic sacramental teaching, I learned about the connection between baptism, death and resurrection. It gave this experience as a young Southern Baptist new and profound meaning, for which I’m forever thankful. It’s one of the few experiences from my early religious formation that I have been able to translate fully and unchanged into a Catholic context. I couldn’t have asked for a better baptism.

  25. Lisa says:

    Father, you said *from a proper baptismal “shell” or other good vessel over the little pagan’s head* my parish priest uses a real conch shell, is this an acceptable vessel?

  26. JSK says:

    I have been asked to be the God-father of my niece (on my wifes side) and have been trying to find online sources of the Rite of Baptism. (Due to the lack of physical resources at my disposal). The baptism is this Tuesday (which is another story)… but I have found a few generic church sites that have the Rite on their website.

    What intrigues me is at the end or bottom, I have noticed a few, but not all, that say “where there is a custom of brining the child to the BVM” or “when a presentation to Mary is desired, this may occur” … and it usually is concluded with “where this is appropriate.”

    Now I have never seen this in our area, or at least the Church where the baptism is occurring. I was wondering if anyone else has seen this, done this, or knows how and when this is appropriate? Devotion to Mary is very important to me, and the entire family is aware of this, and I am sure would be supportive, but I want to make sure this is something that is PROPER at this Rite, and if so how it occurs. Or is this one of the things that has been ADDED or created to make this more “meaningful”?

    The Marian Shrine/statue is somewhat close but in the “corner” of the church, so it isn’t immediately near by, but the closest of all statues/shrines.

  27. Trey says:

    But isn’t the issue the prudence of dunking in this instance, and not the validity of the baptism (which I think Fr Z cleared up in the original post.) WHY would you try to dunk a little baby if it isn’t necessary, or even preferable? Why not do it the “old fashioned” way and be done with it? Seems better than making a bidet of the baptistry…

    And, lest we all forget… Praise God for this new member of the household of God…

    May Almighty God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who
    has given us a new birth by water and the Holy Spirit, and
    bestowed upon us the forgiveness of sins, keep us in eternal
    life by his grace, in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

  28. ben says:

    Maybe part of the reason people have a tendancy to get s creative with baptisms is that so much of the rich symbolism from the older form has been removed from the newer form?

    What if instead of spending all the money to build immersion baptismal fonts, we just brought back the salt?

  29. Jenny says:

    My babies were dunked in the new old fashioned way. This does not bother me near as much as the fact that my parents’ church (where my children were baptized) insists on doing it during Mass and the deacon (who did the baptizing since the priest was on vacation) did not bother to preread the names of the children beforehand. He kept calling her “Oliver” instead of “Olivia” (It wasn’t mistyped; he just misread). In my urgency to make sure he did not baptize her “Oliver,” I confused the poor man and he completely left off her middle name. Now all of this confusion could have been prevented or easily corrected if we weren’t in the middle of Mass with five other children being baptized at the same time and with about two dozen other children pressed up against the font so they could “participate.” Some random five year old stranger had a better view of Olivia’s baptism than her parents did.

  30. Not Getting Creaky Just Yet says:

    “Dunking a baby’s bottom in water is known as “bathing” not “baptism”.”
    Quote of the day!

    “Actually, considering the whole “lay empowerment” thing I’m curious why more laity aren’t exercising their own “priesthood” to baptise their children”
    When we discovered that Father Cooldude was determined that all the babies in the class should come in nothing (maybe a diaper) and be dunked, we thought about it. The wading pool with the garden hose running into it just seemed alien to Catholic culture. It still does.

    (We no longer live in that parish, BTW. And that was a couple decades ago.)

  31. Here are my thoughts about baptism…

    One thing that makes it hard for me to maintain some decorum at baptisms is a certain level of disquiet, because babies and children squirm and cry and get antsy. Also, in one church, we stand around the font, which is stationary, and is placed near the front door of church; and I haven’t figured out a good way to arrange people there so it’s orderly. In the other, the baptismal font is moved into position in front of pews in church. It’s a little more orderly; however, I dislike the baptismal font being moved about. In the first church I am responsible for the siting of that font–partly to put near the door, and partly for lack of a better site; it was either that, or a temporary font, or else in the old baptistry, which would mean (a) standing around the font anyway and (b) baptisms in Mass would be in another temporary font. (We can argue the merits of baptisms during Mass if you like; I don’t favor them, don’t encourage them, but as they are an option provided by the Church, nor do I forbid them.)

    So, I find it rather hard to stay as focused as I like when things get a bit crazy. And I’m not blaming the parents, kids will be kids and I’m loathe to discourage their presence.

    I was taught to make generous use of the symbols involved, so…I do use quite a bit of chrism, perhaps someone can find fault; I have tried to encourage the families to bring the fancy baptismal garment, and put it on after the baptism, since their heirloom garment beats the simpler white garment I put on the child. I do involve the other children, either by having them help a bit, or else I ask them a question about the water in the font during my homily.

    As far as this “immersion” business–I’ve never encouraged it, but I have had parents request it–one time that I recall. One time I had seven children, and I specified the “by immersion” baby was going last, and the little boy would be pointed toward dad. That’s when I realized just how slippery a wriggly baby can be, and I dreaded losing my grip on him at the wrong moment–I was attempting to hold him still with one hand, while pouring water over his head with the other. (For the one who asked about the shell–I wasn’t aware a shell was even required; I sometimes use one, but as often cup my hand, since too much water means stinging baby’s eyes, something I learned along the way.)

  32. CarpeNoctem says:

    Heh… one of my pet peeves, too… especially idea of immersion vs. the reality of immersion.

    True immersion is, no doubt, a legitimate way to baptize, and there is a certain wry smile that comes across my face with the idea that I could do it someday (and not simply a ‘butt baptism’,) given the legitimate means. But in so many contemporary churches, those which have been remodeled, and the temporary fonts set up for Easter in some places, what one finds is a more-or-less proper font which allows the water to ‘flow’ into nothing more than a wading pool. The particular one in my church can’t be more than 6″ deep. Needless to say, there is not going to be any immersions going down in that baptismal pool.

    So what’s the point? The “more authentic symbol” which the liturgists insisted on when they built the place is, actually, when you put aside agendas and rhetoric, just the opposite… I would call it a “less authentic symbol” as you cannot actually accomplish the ritual which it purports to enable. At best it imitates or simulates what it is trying to enable. It distracts from and de-solemnizes what normally takes place at the parish’s (‘pedestal’) font. I consider this situation the very opposite of the graciousness and authenticity of the sacramental signs which we are called on to use.

    There is no intrinsic or even symbolic value to having adults stand in the wading pool while water is poured on their heads, is there? After all, it is the same effect and same sign as pouring over the small font, except that it gets the baptizee’s feet wet in the process. We have gained nothing by having a wading pool. This setup does make an item of comment for all sorts of jokes and provide a place to catch water while I pour, but that’s about it. Give me the ‘pedestal’ font. We can do without vestigial symbols, wet feet, and stupid comments.

    My particular font is misplaced at the front (in the sanctuary) of the church, but that’s how “they” (not the parishioners) wanted it built. Having come on the scene some 20 years after the construction, I as a pastor am having to jump through a bunch of hoops with folks as I am working to do right thing and ‘retire’ this albatross. I am only talking with folks in a ‘what-if…’ stage for the work, but they are fearfully defending the present setup, seemingly to the death. They are, nonetheless, stricken silent in response to the argument I have made above. I do receive a nice ad hominem parting attack for my efforts, dismissing me as a young fogey who is too uncharitable to really listen in order to understand and accept what good was accomplished by this particular construction and ‘what this font now means to this community after xx years of use”. (Which of course, I do understand, although my re-considered conclusion remains the same. I suppose it is easier for them to vilify me to make them feel better about themselves and their now-passe ideas about Church planning, rather than enter into true ‘dialogue’ on ways we can improve what we have. It hurts, but I know I can’t take it personally or let it discourage me.)

    Rest assured, I do have the people behind me, many of whom kept records from when the place was built documenting their objection to this setup (wow… what a unique and surprising gift this is!) The minute I give up dealing with the bureaucracy and take it upstairs to the hierarchy, with money-in-hand from the people to do the project, my guess is we’ll get a go-ahead. Thank God for the new wave of bishops in recent years!

    The goal, of course, is not sacramental minimalism. I have nothing against flowing water and even baptism by immersion. The font could be a most gracious structure at the entry of my particular parish church, which is an otherwise-unremarkable example of 1980’s Catholic church architecture, for better or worse. I do have something against the present poor location (baptismal fonts as a focal point of a sanctuary) and inauthentic imitations of sacramental signs. We don’t have the redesign together yet, as I think it may be one element of a number of good things we need to do in this church.

    Brick-by-brick, my friends.

  33. Mike says:

    This reminds me of one of the baptism scenes in The Violent Bear it Away where a baby is baptized “properly”, but then the “other end” is baptized as well, as an act of (comic) defiance.

  34. Nathan says:

    Fr. Fox (and all the other priests, too)–God bless you for performing the baptisms! I know the hub-bub and logistics are often distracting, but it all seems to be worth it when the baby is there at the end, another one for Christ, with a beautifuly clean soul.

    In Christ,

  35. Kat says:


    All of my children are presented to Our Lady after Baptism,and my husband and I read a prayer consecrating our baby to her,which we sign after. I then go through the “churching” ritual for a woman who has given birth, which is also quite beautiful.

  36. fr.franklyn mcafee says:

    As A recall immersion is allowed according to the traditional rite if it is the custom of the place.

  37. jarhead462 says:

    “just pick a saints name, spell it correctly and move on to the next task in your lives”

    Hear! Hear!

    Semper Fi!

  38. Michael Garner says:

    By the present authorized ritual of the Latin Church, baptism must be performed by a laving of the head of the candidate. Moralists, however, state that in case of necessity, the baptism would probably be valid if the water were applied to any other principal part of the body, as the breast or shoulder. In this case, however, conditional baptism would have to be administered if the person survived (St. Alphonsus, no. 107). In like manner they consider as probably valid the baptism of an infant in its mother’s womb, provided the water, by means of an instrument, would actually flow upon the child. Such baptism is, however, later to be repeated conditionally, if the child survives its birth (Lehmkuhl, n. 61).

    -Catholic Encyclopedia

    There is no doubt to me that this child should be conditionally baptized.

  39. Disgusted in DC says:

    Uncharitable, arguably. Accurate, indisputably. Down with “butt-baptisms!”

  40. Sarah L says:

    I guess “butt baptisms” need to join unity candles on my list of “‘Catholic’ practices I didn’t realize were a bad idea.”

    I was baptized by immersion as an infant. Now I am freaking out a little and want to go check the photo record at my parents’ house. I’m pretty sure my head got wet – is that all I need to be valid?

    My parish did Easter vigil immersion of adults for a time, and I have to admit I rather liked it. The death and resurrection symbolism was very powerful. Thanks, Steven Dunn, for describing your own experience with it.

  41. Trey says:

    the baby is there “at the end”… LOL!

  42. MargaretC says:

    Father, you’ll be pleased to hear that, on Corpus Christi Sunday, we had FIVE babies baptized — all according to the rubrics and with the only variations supplied by the babies themselves. Our pastor makes sure that the water is tepid before beginning, so the babies don’t usually squawk.

    He has also said that he’d love to baptize adults by immersion, but we don’t have the necessary facilities.

  43. Liam says:


    The Catholic Encyclopedia quote is a century old, and is predicated on the ritual then in force, which is no longer in force, so your conclusion does not follow.

  44. cathomommy says:

    Check out a Melkite or other Eastern Rite baptism sometime! The baby (naked) is kind of cradled sideways in the priest’s arms and is “swooshed” through the deep water by the priest, three times. Head wet, yes! Vestment sleeves wet, yes! Participants wet? Sometimes, and no one minds! But there is no doubt that that baby is “good and baptized” and the end! (Plus, at one point in the ceremony we get to spit upon the devil…always fun!)

  45. Joshua Edward Benjamin H. says:

    According to the literal definition of the word it means to dip or dunk not pour over.

    Greek References: ???????? baptisma (baptism), ??????? baptizo (baptize), 907,908 (Strong) cf 909,910.
    [from 911 ????? bapto, to dip]

    Also according to the word of God faith is a prerequisite how do infants have faith????

    Mrk 16:16 “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved…”
    Acts 8:36-37 “Look! water! What prevents me from being baptized? …’If you believe with all your heart you may'”
    Acts 18:8 “And many of the Corinthians hearing, believed and were baptized”

    If you must “believe with all your heart” how can an infant believe anything?

    I am not trying to start a debate I would just like someone to explain to me the bastardization of baptism in the Holy Catholic Church.

  46. Dave Pawlak says:

    I do recall seeing a Pre-Vatican II description of Baptism which listed immersion as a valid method of administration…I wish I remembered where I saw it…

  47. Michael Garner says:


    Actually the Catholic Encyclopedia quote is predicated on theology when it states that moral theologians state, “that in case of necessity, the baptism would probably be valid if the water were applied to any other principal part of the body, as the breast or shoulder. In this case, however, conditional baptism would have to be administered if the person survived (St. Alphonsus, no. 107).”

    St. Thomas Aquinas states:

    Objection 3. Further, if Baptism is valid without total immersion of the body, it would follow that it would be equally sufficient to pour water over any part of the body. But this seems unreasonable; since original sin, to remedy which is the principal purpose of Baptism, is not in only one part of the body. Therefore it seems that immersion is necessary for Baptism, and that mere sprinkling is not enough.

    Reply to Objection 3. The principal part of the body, especially in relation to the exterior members, is the head, wherein all the senses, both interior and exterior, flourish. And therefore, if the whole body cannot be covered with water, because of the scarcity of water, or because of some other reason, it is necessary to pour water over the head, in which the principle of animal life is made manifest.

    And although original sin is transmitted through the members that serve for procreation, yet those members are not to be sprinkled in preference to the head, because by Baptism the transmission of original sin to the offspring by the act of procreation is not deleted, but the soul is freed from the stain and debt of sin which it has contracted. Consequently that part of the body should be washed in preference, in which the works of the soul are made manifest.

    Nevertheless in the Old Law the remedy against original sin was affixed to the member of procreation; because He through Whom original sin was to be removed, was yet to be born of the seed of Abraham, whose faith was signified by circumcision according to Romans 4:11.


    If anything this baptism is doubtful. Even if it is probably valid, that does not cut it. This child needs to be conditionally baptized.

  48. michigancatholic says:

    Fr. Z,

    Perhaps Disgusted in DC is a mother and can tell one end of the baby from the other end. Name-calling is definitely not good, but neither is baptizing the baby butt-first. Maybe we mothers should mark out the right end with an X or something. ;)

  49. irishgirl says:

    I saw an Orthodox baptism on TV once. The baby was stark naked, and the priest picked it up and quickly dunked it three times in the water, face first! Boy, how that little one wailed!

    Wonder what happens if the kid ‘pees’ in the font?

  50. Micha Elyi says:

    “I am not trying to start a debate I would just like someone to explain to me the bastardization of baptism in the Holy Catholic Church.Joshua Edward Benjamin H.

    The Holy Catholic Church is authentically Bible Christian. For those who doubt the teaching of Christ’s church, John Salza has compiled abundant proof from Bible texts for the scriptural basis of infant baptism.

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