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Carrie wrote:

Hi, guys —

I am an adult convert to Catholicism. I was previously baptized in a quasi-Calvinist denomination, and I was told in RCIA that my baptism was valid since it was performed with water, full immersion, and the Trinitarian formula.

However in pre-Baptism classes, my pastor taught, and I believed, that Baptism was only an outward sign of obedience and identification with a church community and did not effect any change in the person; it only made them wet. I did not learn about the regenerative effect of Baptism until studying other Christian denominations. I realize that it is God who is actually the One who baptizes us, but since the sacrament needs, not only the correct form and matter, but the proper intention:

  • How could my pastor and myself have had the will to Do what the Church does when She baptizes, if neither of us believed in a baptism of regeneration?
  • Should I request conditional baptism and how do I handle this since I've already received the sacrament of Confirmation?

Thank you!

Carrie

  { If my pastor did not have the proper theological intent, should I be conditionally baptized? }

Mike replied:

Hi Carrie,

Thanks for the question.

Here's my two cents.

In another question Fr. Jonathan provided the denominations that have a valid baptism and
I believe those with Calvinist leanings would be included though they are not in his list.

If what you say about your pastor is correct, it is a sad manifestation of poor philosophical and theological training from the seminary he was trained at.

Although God is not bound by the sacraments, you are right, that every valid sacrament has to have a proper:

  • form
  • matter, and
  • intent

The Catechism tells us:

1128 This is the meaning of the Church's affirmation that the sacraments act
ex opere operato
(literally: "by the very fact of the action's being performed"),
i.e., by virtue of the saving work of Christ, accomplished once for all. It follows that "the sacrament is not wrought by the righteousness of either the celebrant or the recipient, but by the power of God." From the moment that a sacrament is celebrated in accordance with the intention of the Church, the power of Christ and his Spirit acts in and through it, independently of the personal holiness of the minister. Nevertheless, the fruits of the sacraments also depend on the disposition of the one who receives them.

Although the pastor appeared to not have the proper theological intent, due to poor training,
he still has the intent to do what the Church wanted him to do: namely to have you baptized into Jesus' Church. Unless Fr. Jonathan has issues about the validity Calvinist Baptism, I wouldn't worry about it.

Finally, if someone had not received a valid baptism but had the desire to receive it in the Church, they would be saved by a baptism of desire because they knew its necessity. (CCC 1260)

That's my two cents.

I hope this helps,

Mike

Fr. Jonathan replied:

Hi, Carrie —

I think Mike's answer was fine.

The standard is rather low as to the intention of the recipient. One needn't understand the theology of the act, one merely must desire to become a Christian. What that action really means is something one continues to learn as they grow as a Christian.

Clearly, you were not against the action, so your Baptism is presumed valid.

Fr. Jonathan

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