Friday, February 29, 2008

Liturgy: Baptism's proper form

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) has laid down the law (of the Church) on the proper form of baptism:
VATICAN CITY, 29 FEB 2008 (VIS) - Made public today were the responses of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to two questions concerning the validity of Baptism conferred with certain non-standard formulae.

The first question is: "Is a Baptism valid if conferred with the words 'I baptise you in the name of the Creator, and of the Redeemer, and of the Sanctifier', or 'I baptise you in the name of the Creator, and of the Liberator, and of the Sustainer'"?

The second question is: "Must people baptised with those formulae be baptised in forma absoluta?"

The responses are: "To the first question, negative; to the second question, affirmative".

Benedict XVI, during his recent audience with Cardinal William Joseph Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, approved these responses, which were adopted at the ordinary session of the congregation, and ordered their publication. The text of the responses bears the signatures of Cardinal Levada and of Archbishop Angelo Amato S.D.B., secretary of the dicastery.

An attached note explains that the responses "concern the validity of Baptism conferred with two English-language formulae within the ambit of the Catholic Church. ... Clearly, the question does not concern English but the formula itself, which could also be expressed in another language".

"Baptism conferred in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit", the note continues, "obeys Jesus' command as it appears at the end of the Gospel of St. Matthew. ... The baptismal formula must be an adequate expression of Trinitarian faith, approximate formulae are unacceptable.

"Variations to the baptismal formula - using non-biblical designations of the Divine Persons - as considered in this reply, arise from so-called feminist theology", being an attempt "to avoid using the words Father and Son which are held to be chauvinistic, substituting them with other names. Such variants, however, undermine faith in the Trinity".

"The response of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith constitutes an authentic doctrinal declaration, which has wide-ranging canonical and pastoral effects. Indeed, the reply implicitly affirms that people who have been baptised, or who will in the future be baptised, with the formulae in question have, in reality, not been baptised. Hence, they must them be treated for all canonical and pastoral purposes with the same juridical criteria as people whom the Code of Canon Law places in the general category of 'non-baptised'".
In other words, no one has the right to change the words of the formula of baptism, and an attempted baptism with an altered formula is, in fact, invalid.

(Source: In the Light of the Law, via WDTPRS)

3 comments:

preacherman said...

Does it matter if I am baptized in the protestant church or the Catholic church? Should it matter as long as I am baptized and doing God's will for my life. Would I need to be re-baptized if I started going to the Catholic church? Why? These are just some questions I have about baptism.
Kinney

japhy said...

As long as you're baptized "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit", your baptism is a valid Christian one. The Catholic Church does not rebaptize anyone who has already been baptized. However, in the case of a person who isn't sure they've been baptized, the Church baptizes them "conditionally", meaning, they only do it with the intent of fixing the defect (a lack of baptism) if such a defect exists.

A non-Catholic who seeks full communion with the Catholic Church only needs to be baptized if they haven't already been baptized. Often, the Church will ask for some sort of documentary proof of baptism (which most Christian communities do anyway).

The problem the Church was addressing here, Kinney, is people who were "baptized" using a made-up formula that is not acceptable by the Church because it is not the formula that Jesus provided his apostles with.

preacherman said...

I remeber when I was baptized the pracher saying, "I now baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." So I quess we are brother Japhy which is wonderful isn't it.