Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Conditional Baptism

I have a quandry - if you have an adult who is in need of conditional baptism, due to the fact that they vaguely remember being baptized somewhere at a non-Catholic church but have no records, the church no longer exists, etc., is it necessary for them to also make a first confession prior to baptism in case they are already baptized? I'm thinking, if they are baptized, then the conditional baptism will not effect the grace of baptism, since baptism can't be repeated. In that case, a first confession prior to the conditional baptism would be ideal, "just in case." But, if they are not in fact already baptized, then the first confession would not avail them, since confession is only for the baptized; but that wouldn't matter because the baptism, though administered conditionally, would in fact be a valid baptism and take care of all their sins and the punishments due to sin.

Any suggestions here? If you know of any official statements on this, please let me know. This is a real situation and not a hypothetical, so I need some practical guidelines. In days past, when this has come up, we have just administered conditional baptism with no prior confession, though I have had some scruples about this.

What would you recommend in this scenario and are you aware of any current magisterial documents addressing it?


Anonymous said...

Would it not be better to have conditional confession after conditional baptism? For if the Baptism is real then there would be no need to absolve these sins but, just in case, we ask for pardon. But if the person isn't Baptized then the sacrament of confession would be fruitless, for it can not give sanctifying grace in the same way that Baptism does but only restores sanctifying grace.

I don't know of any official document off hand but it seems to me that it is best to conditionally remove original sin (and all other sins) and then to conditionally remove all actual sins (in case the person was already baptized).

Anonymous said...

When I read Scott Hahn's book Rome Sweet Home I think he mentions going to Confession before his conditional Baptism and I also think I recall something similar from Joseph Pearce's Literary Converts. If the person has already had a valid baptism and has committed mortal sins he would need Confession to restore him to sanctifying grace, as Anonymous states above. I don't think it would be sacrilegious to receive Confession before Baptism, but receiving Holy Communion in the state of mortal sin is. Better safe than sorry would be my choice...

Hope everything works out!

In Christ,

Anonymous said...

I have been a Director of RCIA for about 15 years. I have encountered this situation several times. The correct order is conditional baptism first, then First Confession. The above comment is correct. If baptism already did on fact take place, the conditional baptism does not effect any grace. If, however, the baptism did not in fact take place, the person cannot be absolved in the Sacrament of Confession, since only a baptized person can receive the other sacraments. Therefore, it is first necessary to establish the fact of baptism first. The confession of sins can be repeated -- if a person confesses a mortalnsin that has already been absolved sacramentally, either through Confession or through Baptism, they may confess that sin again (although not obliged to do so) and receive additional sacramental grace. Thus, if the conditional baptism did effect the grace of baptism, no harm has been done through subsequent Confession.