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The Sacraments Instituted By Christ… Conditional Baptism And Other Forms

December 17, 2017 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA, KM

Part 7

Years ago, I knew a young man in Brazil, my country of birth, who, after a few months of catechism lessons, expressed the desire to be baptized, and wanted me to stand at the ceremony as his godfather. I agreed to do so, of course, but there was a problem: He thought that he had been baptized as a child. Since both of his parents were Japanese immigrants and with little knowledge of Catholicism, I thought of asking the parish priest to baptize him on a conditional basis, and consulted a priest friend about it, to make sure it was OK. And it was. My friend received a conditional Baptism, and I am his godfather.
This is the Church teaching: If a person has a reasonable doubt about the validity of his Baptism, he may be baptized by a priest conditionally, and he says, “If you have not been baptized, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
A similar procedure takes place when a person appears to have died, but the folks around him are not absolutely sure. Supposing, of course, that the dying person had expressed the willingness to receive Baptism, he then can be baptized with water by a person (intending, by the Baptism, to do what the Church does) who says: “If you are alive, I baptize you….” But if death is certain, no sacrament may be administered; one cannot baptize dead people. The sacraments are for the living.
This is important to know, because there are some well-meaning persons involved in the pro-life movement, who think that aborted babies can be baptized. And, in the goodness of their hearts, they add the formula of Baptism to their rosaries or other prayers. It is a pious thought, of course, but it does not happen. Only living people can be baptized, or receive any other sacrament.
Now we touch a very controversial issue: Is Baptism necessary for salvation? Or is it optional? What is the teaching of the Church about it?
The teaching is that Baptism is necessary for the salvation of both adults and infants. When was this teaching defined? The necessity of Baptism for adults was clearly defined by the Council of Trent, which teaches: “If any one says that Baptism is optional, that is, not necessary for salvation, let him be anathema.”
What of the Baptism of infants? The practice of infant Baptism is an immemorial tradition of the Church, from the comprehensive words of Christ, “unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:5).
Some Protestant groups have abandoned the practice of infant Baptism and even condemned it as unbiblical. But we do not care about what heretics had to say about Catholic teaching 1,500 years after Jesus Christ founded the Catholic Church. These groups today don’t even agree among themselves about a list of biblical doctrines. . . .
They say that, since an infant cannot make an act of faith to accept Baptism, infant Baptism is not valid.
But we can show to them that even in their Bible there are three passages of the Acts of the Apostles that speak of the Baptism of a whole household or family (Acts 16:15; 16:33; 18:8; cf. 1 Cor. 1:16) and in the first-century households or families you would find infants and children. Although, perhaps, in these days, you may have a problem with contracepting couples who do not have children to baptize, but I digress. . . .
More: Among the early Christians, as early as the second century, right after the preaching of the apostles, you find explicit testimony to the practice of infant Baptism. St. Paul teaches that the circumcision of infant boys introduced them into the Covenant with God (Col. 2:11-12), and infants could not make an act of faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And yet they were covenanted with God’s people. As circumcision of the infant Jews signified entry into the Old Covenant, so its fulfillment, Baptism, introduces infants into the New Covenant, according to St. Paul.
When should you baptize your infant? There are people who delay Baptism until much later, for whatever unreasonable reason. But the fact is that, for a Catholic family, to delay Baptism beyond the first few weeks is sinful. Some people say that they want to wait for Uncle Joe to return from his vacation; or that the priest who baptizes their child must be the same priest who witnessed their marriage, but he is in another parish; or Aunt Jane will have her baby in a few months and they want to have the cousins baptized together, or whatever.
Absence of relatives or the desire for a particular priest is no excuse for delay. Moreover, if there is danger of death for the child, Baptism must be done immediately, by anyone who is able to, without waiting for the parish priest to arrive. The child should be baptized immediately; this is a case of necessity in which anyone may lawfully administer the sacrament.

Baptism Of Blood

Are there substitutes for Baptism? Yes, there are. The Church’s Magisterium, reflecting Jesus’ mind, shows us that He accepts the Baptism of Desire and the Baptism of Blood as substitutes for the sacramental Baptism of water.
What is the Baptism of Desire? The Baptism of Desire applies to those who, while explicitly wishing to be baptized, die before receiving the sacrament. And as Lumen Gentium of Vatican II said, it also applies to “those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do His will as they know it through the dictates of conscience” (n. 16).
The Baptism of Blood is martyrdom suffered by one who has not been baptized. Martyrdom, whether of baptized or unbaptized persons, is the endurance of death or deadly suffering for the sake of Jesus Christ, as in the first days of Christianity under the pagan Romans and with Christians today under the oppression of pagan and barbaric radical Islamists.
There are, therefore, two requirements for a person to be considered a martyr: a) the martyr must be put to death or endure sufferings that lead to death; b) the persecutor must inflict death or deadly violence through opposition to the Church, the Catholic faith, or a Christian virtue. Also, a Christian killed for refusing to commit a sin against the virtue of chastity is a martyr; so, too, is a Christian who suffers death rather than commit the sin of perjury or apostasy.

+ + +

(Raymond de Souza, KM, is a Knight of the Sovereign and Military Order of Malta; a delegate for International Missions for Human Life International [HLI]; and an EWTN program host. He is a militant pro-life writer and apologist, addressing live audiences and delivering talks on television, radio, and online. To date he has given over 2,500 presentations in 38 countries of the six continents. He is available to speak at Catholic events, both large and small, anywhere in the Free World, in four languages — English, Spanish, French, and Portuguese. Website: www.RaymonddeSouza.com.)

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