From a reader…
I was born to Southern Baptist parents and baptized at age 7 by immersion. I clearly remember standing waist-high in a pool of water… the Baptist minister pronounced the Trinitarian formula and AFTER WHICH, he immersed me. (YouTube “Baptist baptism” and you’ll see what I mean)
At the rather precocious age of 13, I converted to the the Catholic Church on my own. The pastor and RCIA teacher only asked for my baptismal certificate which simply states I was baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. There was no further inquiry into the timing of matter and form. I didn’t think anything of it.
Recently I came across a 19th century decree from the Sacred Congregation of Rites ruling baptisms in sects that separate form & matter are invalid. Is that still in force? How could I possibly be validly baptized if the formula was fully pronounced before my head was the least bit wet?
I’ve lost a lot of sleep recently wondering whether I’m technically a Christian at all. What are your thoughts?? Should I be baptized SINE or SUB conditione? Or am I missing something and just being scrupulous/ pharasitic?
After some consultation, I think you can be confident in the validity of your baptism. The temporal separation of matter and form was minimal, and part of the same act. If the minister had pronounced the baptismal formula, then proceeded to deliver a sermon, and then immersed you, the separation of matter and form would have been such as to render the baptism invalid. The brief separation, while not optimal, doesn’t seem to be sufficient to render your baptism invalid.
Baptism is arguably the most important moment in an individual’s life. Christ tells us that baptism is necessary for entrance into the heavenly kingdom. As for those who die unbaptized? We simply don’t know. We can trust the mercy of God, but we have to acknowledge His justice as well, and the clarity of Christ’s demand to go out and baptize all nations. God can save whom it pleaseth Him to save. We don’t place limits on Him. If He does save the non-baptized, we don’t know how He does it.
There was a time in the Church when all converts, regardless of their previous faith and prior baptismal experience were at a minimum conditionally baptized. In a spirit of ecumenical fervor (warranted or unwarranted?) and out of a recognition that a valid baptism cannot be repeated, ever, the Church cautioned Her priests to be more careful when receiving those who were baptized outside the Catholic Church. If those baptisms were valid, they cannot be repeated and to do so “conditionally” was deemed imprudent.
Considering the baptismal practices of some of the mainline Protestant congregations, the judgment of prudence might Swing in another direction.
We are confident in the judgment of Our Mother, the Church, who has solicitude for us and for the sacraments. If She says we’re validly baptized, we should rest confident in Her judgment and continue to work out our salvation in fear and trembling. Pray for the continued grace to live out the call to holiness you received at the time of baptism, and which was strengthened at your confirmation, and regularly draw spiritual nourishment through your reception of Our Lord in Holy Communion.