FAQs on Baptism
1. Which are the Oriental Churches/Orthodox Churches, not in full communion with the Holy See, in which baptism is valid?
In general, baptism in all the Eastern Churches is presumed valid.
2. What is to be done if a baptised non-catholic wants to be received into the Catholic Faith?
If a baptised non-catholic wants to embrace the Catholic faith he/she must first be properly instructed in the faith. After instructing the person concerned, the priest must ascertain whether his/her baptism was validly administered. If the baptism is invalid he/she should be baptised. If the baptism is doubtful the person must be baptised conditionally and an entry must be made in the Baptism Register with a remark that the person was baptised conditionally. For the list of Churches in which baptism is presumed valid and for the rite of reception, refer to Appendices I(B), I(C) & II. (A similar procedure will have to be followed if a non-catholic Oriental wants to join the Catholic Church.)
3. If an Oriental non-catholic were to be received into the Latin Church, would he/she belong to the Latin rite?
If an Oriental non-catholic were to be received into the Catholic Church, he/she would still belong to the Oriental rite.
4. If an Oriental Catholic wants to become a Latin Catholic what is the procedure to be followed?
If a child has not completed the fourteenth year of age, Canon 111 §1 provides for three situations:
a) If both parents belong to the Latin Church, the child too automatically belongs to the Latin Church at baptism. This principle would apply even if a different liturgical rite, such as Syro-Malabar or Syro-Malankara, was used.
b) If only one parent belongs to the Latin Church the child would also belong to the Latin Church provided both the parents agree.
c) If only one parent belongs to the Latin rite and the parents do not agree, then the child becomes a member of the ritual Church to which the father belongs.
If a child has completed fourteen years of age, Canon 111 §2 permits him/her to freely choose to be baptised either in the Latin Church or in another autonomous ritual Church. Besides this, after the reception of baptism, the following become members of another autonomous ritual Church (canon 112 §1):
I. Those who have obtained permission from the Apostolic See; this permission can be presumed if a member of the faithful of an autonomous ritual Church requests a transfer to another autonomous ritual Church which has an eparchy within the same territory, provided that the Diocesan Bishops of both dioceses consent to this in writing. This personal dual consent of the Diocesan Bishops concerned is required for the validity of such a transfer;
II. A spouse who, on entering marriage or during its course, has declared that he/she is transferring to the autonomous ritual Church of the other spouse; such a declaration may be made either at the time the parties enter into marriage or at any stage during it. This declaration is made either before the Local Ordinary, the Parish Priest or a priest or deacon delegated by either of them in the presence of two witnesses. On the dissolution of the marriage, whether by death or by papal dispensation, that person may freely return to the Latin Church. (For the Eastern Catholic Churches, however, a wife, and not the husband, is at liberty to transfer to the Church of the husband at the celebration of or during the marriage; when the marriage has ended, she can freely return to the autonomous ritual Church to which she belonged - cf. CCEO 33.)
III. The children of those mentioned in numbers 1 and 2 who have not completed their 14th year and likewise in a mixed marriage the children of a Catholic party who has lawfully transferred to another ritual Church; on completion of their 14th year, however, they may return to the Latin Church.
5. What is to be done if a non-Christian wants to embrace the Catholic Faith?
In the first place the priest concerned must ascertain whether the person concerned has reached the age of majority. Then make sure that he/she is properly instructed in the faith. The applicant must sign an Affidavit that he/she is embracing the Catholic faith of his/her own free will. Permission, then, must be obtained from the Local Ordinary or his delegate to baptise the person concerned and follow the Rite prescribed for Adult Baptism.
6. What is to be done if a person claims to be a Catholic but cannot obtain the Baptism Certificate?
If the person was baptised as an adult and his/her credibility cannot be doubted, his/her sworn statement that he/she was baptised would suffice. (Canon 876) If the person concerned was baptised as an infant, the sworn testimony of the father or the mother or of an eye-witness would suffice, provided that their credibility cannot be doubted. If the person claims to be a Catholic but the fact of baptism cannot be established with certainty, the person should be baptised conditionally and the baptism should be registered in the Baptism Register of the parish with a remark that the person concerned was baptised conditionally because the proof of baptism was not available.
7. Can an illegitimate child be baptised? If so, What is to be done when recording the baptism of such a child?
It is to be noted, in the first place, that there is no law forbidding the baptism of illegitimate children. If there is moral certainty that the child will be brought up as a Catholic, the child can be baptised if one of the parents requests this. The mother's name is normally to be entered besides the other details. The father's name should not be entered unless he consents to have his name entered. If, however, the father's name has been entered in the Municipal Birth Certificate or in the Hospital Records, it can be entered in the Baptism Register even without the father's consent.
8. What is to be done when making a baptismal entry of an adopted child?
The CCBI has decreed that in the case of baptism of an adopted child, the names of the adopting parents are to be recorded in the Baptism Register. The names of the natural parents may be recorded if the adopting parents so desire and the natural parents have no objection. (N.B: while registering the names of the adopting parents it must be recorded that they are adopting parents.)
9. Can a person who is not present at the time of baptism be a sponsor by proxy?
Yes, it is possible for a person who is not present at the time of baptism to be a sponsor provided that the person concerned has consented and given in writing that he/she is willing to be a sponsor.
10. Can a non-catholic baptised person be a sponsor for baptism?
No. The role of the sponsor is, together with the parents, to present the child for baptism and to help in the faithful fulfilment of the duties inherent in baptism, thus helping the child to live a Christian life. Canon 874 clearly states that only a Catholic who has been confirmed and has received the Eucharist and who lives the life of faith which befits the role to be undertaken can be a sponsor for baptism. (Cf. CCEO 685 §3 for Orientals.)
A baptised person who belongs to a non-catholic ecclesial community may be admitted only in company with a Catholic sponsor, and then simply as a witness to the baptism. However, a member of an Eastern Orthodox Church can be allowed to act as a sponsor together with a Catholic sponsor at the baptism of a Catholic infant or adult so long as there is provision for the Catholic education of the person being baptized, and it is clear that the sponsor is a suitable one.
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