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Jimmy Huckabay wrote:

Dear AskACatholic,

I submitted a question in the past regarding the traditions (small t) of the Church and your answer was very helpful. Thank you so much!

I have another question. I think of myself as Catholic because I accept all of the doctrines of the Catholic Church; however the truth is I have always been on the outside looking in. My biggest problem is though I was baptized by an Archbishop, I question the validity of my Baptism.

I converted as a young adult and frankly it was rushed. Though I went along with it, the truth is: I wasn't ready and I did not want it at that time.

I know that baptism leaves an indelible mark upon the soul (regardless of the person); however I don't feel baptized. I remember the Archbishop asking me what I was asking of the Catholic Church, and I said Baptism, but the truth is I didn't want it at that time. I felt that I was not mature enough in the faith and I had a lot of doubts. I was too afraid to be honest and so I went along with peer pressure.

After the ceremony I went into a private room where I actually through down the candle that I had been given. People kept telling me Oh, you're so holy right now but I didn't feel very holy. I lacked faith when I was baptized. Even now, I struggle; I used to be an atheist.

As I understand it, there is another ceremony that can be performed in cases where it is unknown if a Baptism was valid (because there is only one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins). Maybe my first Baptism was valid and maybe it was not. I wish to fix this matter so that I may serve the Church completely.

  • Is this other ceremony something I could look into?

It should also be noted that the worst sins I ever committed (of a mortal nature) were after I was baptized. Any help on this issue would be great! I am deeply conflicted and I feel this issue is a barrier between me and God.

Please help and please pray for me.

God bless.

Jimmy

  { If I didn't really have the faith when I was baptized and don't feel baptized, am I still baptized? }

Mike replied:

Hi Jimmy,

If an Archbishop of the Church baptized you, there is no question that you were validly baptized and the record of your Baptism should be on file at the parish where you were baptized. The sacraments work: Ex Opere Operato, meaning, they derive their efficiency from the action of the Sacrament as opposed to the merits or holiness of the priest or participant.

Here is a posting that will tell you both the required form and matter for each sacrament of the Church:

As long as the Archbishop intended to do what the Church requires, you were validly baptized. In the exceptional and unusual circumstance where either the form or matter for the sacrament was invalid, the Church would supply for what was missing. The objective result of sacramental actions on our souls are not something that can, or should be felt, so feelings have nothing to do with the issue at hand.

You said:
I remember the Archbishop asking me what I was asking of the Catholic Church, and I said Baptism, but the truth is I didn't want it at that time. I felt that I was not mature enough in the faith and I had a lot of doubts. I was too afraid to be honest and so I went along with peer pressure.

After the ceremony I went into a private room where I actually through down the candle that I had been given. People kept telling me Oh, you're so holy right now but I didn't feel very holy. I lacked faith when I was baptized. Even now, I struggle; I used to be an atheist.

Because being able to freely choose Baptism is important, I understand your concern, but despite any extenuating circumstances, you told the archbishop you wished to be baptized. I would not worry about this concern. By your original e-mail, it is clear that your love for the faith and the Church’s teachings has grown from previously being an atheist to one who accepts the teachings of the faith. Build on what you have and receive the sacraments, especially the Blessed Sacrament and Confession regularly. If you have temptations going back to atheism, learn the arguments against it. St. Thomas’s Five Proofs is a good start and Patrick Madrid will always give you good insights.

If you need guidance, talk to your local pastor. Also, ask him about ministries the parish has that you can participate in.

You said:
As I understand it, there is another ceremony that can be performed in cases where it is unknown if a Baptism was valid (because there is only one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins).

If a priest cannot discern whether a Protestant had previously been validly baptized, he can perform a conditional Baptism. I think this is what you are referring to.

This posting will explain more:

You said:

  • Is this other ceremony something I could look into?

You didn't mention anything in your original question about whether you had been confirmed or not.

  • If you have not, that would be an ideal time to re-affirm your beliefs in the teachings of the Catholic faith.
  • If you have been confirmed, bring this issue to your pastor for appropriate counsel and go with his advice.

You said:
It should also be noted that the worst sins I ever committed (of a mortal nature) were after I was baptized.

First, make sure you are aware of the criteria for mortal sin:

  • Knowledge (knowing it is a sin.)
  • Full Consent of the Will
  • Serious Reflection. (It was no accident.)

If one is missing, there is no mortal sin.

Also, check out the detailed criteria for a mortal sin from the Catechism: CCC 1857-1860

The best way to keep any habitual, mortal sins at rest, especially those below the belt, is by regular Confession.

Your pastor can advise you appropriately.

I hope this helps,

Mike

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