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Back to Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions
regarding
THE BAPTISM
OF A DYING INFANT.

Q. 1. I have a friend who said that she baptized her newly born infant at the hospital because the Doctor did not expect the newly born child to live. Thanks to God and the prayers of many, the baby did survive.

When my friend went to her parish priest to arrange the baptism of her child, she was told that a baptism cannot take place because the mother had already baptized her child. Is this true? I never heard of a mother being able to baptize her child and then the priest refusing to baptise the baby.


A. 1. Your question is a very good one. You address a number of issues related to the Sacrament of Baptism.

First of all, a person can only be baptized once. "Every person not yet baptized and only such a person is able to be baptized." [CIC, can. 864; cf. CCEO, can. 679] (C.C.C. # 1246) "Every unbaptised person, and only such a person, can be baptised." (Code of Canon Law # 864)

Secondly, for the Sacrament of Baptism to be valid, certain conditions must be met. In this case, (A) the mother must have had the intention of baptising her child. (B) She had to use the correct formula, the exact words that are required to make the baptism valid. (C) She had to sprinkle water on the forehead of the infant.

If the proper matter and form was used and the one conferring the sacrament really intended to perform what the Church performs the baptism is undoubtedly valid.

Thirdly, if there is doubt as to if one of the above three conditions were met, then the Church can administer a "conditional baptism." In such a case, the formula used starts as follows: "If thou art not yet baptized, then I baptize thee in the name", etc.." In such cases, the infant (person) to be baptized is done privately, not publicly. Holy water is used, not consecrated baptismal water. The conditional baptism is without the usual ceremonies.

In this kind of situation, the Church record displays the date of the Baptism of the infant as being the date when the mother baptized her child. No Godparents are listed on the Church record since none were originally present.




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