Pastoral care for those with concerns about their baptism
What is essential for baptism?
The Church requires three conditions for a valid baptism. The baptism must be conferred by pouring or washing of water, the use of the "essential sacrament formula" and with the intent to baptize.
What is the concern?
On Aug. 6, 2020, in response to questions about baptism, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said that when a minister strays from using the ‘essential sacramental formula’ (I baptize you in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit), the baptism is not valid.
Why is this important?
Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit and the door which gives access to sacramental grace. Participation in the Christian life necessarily occurs through baptism; hence if the Church knows with certainty that someone has not been validly baptized, the Church must rectify the error. Baptism is the foundational sacrament and must first be received before other sacraments can be celebrated.
The essential sacramental formula is required for baptism to be valid. A minister who does not follow the ‘essential sacramental formula’ for baptism, does not confer the sacrament. An example is if the celebrant uses the words “We baptize you in the name of the Father...” instead of the correct formula, “I baptize you in the name of the Father...”
In the case where a determination is made that a person’s baptism is invalid, the Diocese, along with your pastor, will assist you in receiving a valid baptism.
Why would the Holy See put a strong emphasis on the word “I” and condemn the substitution of the word “we?”
In baptism, Christ himself baptizes through the person of the minister who acts in his name and person.
Isn’t the baptism a celebration of the community?
The gathered assembly has a role to play in the celebration of the sacraments, but it is not the same as the minister who acts in Christ's name and person.
What should one do?
The Church presumes that all baptisms are celebrated validly. However, if you have video of a baptism in which the celebrant can be heard using words that are not the essential sacramental formula, or if you have a witness who can verify that words other than the essential sacramental formula were used, contact the Diocese of Des Moines by email or by calling 515-243-7653.
Frequently Asked Questions
For more information, contact the Diocese by email or by calling 515-243-7653.