Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

Fr. Poblocki on Butt-Baptism and Lay Blessings at Mass +more

June 1st, 2011, Promulgated by b a

Fr. Poblocki fielded a couple of interesting questions the other day on Calling All Catholics. The first deals with butt-baptism.  According to himsuch a baptism is not valid. Parents are being deceived into thinking their children are being baptized when in fact they are not. For those who call us nitpicky and whiny, please explain to me how exactly this is no big deal.

UPDATE 2011-06-04 06:22 AM:

I posed the question to Fr. Poblocki because of a discussion thread had on a post by Hopefull on May 10th, 2011.  That’s where the discussion really started.

For documentation to back up what Fr. Poblocki said, here are some links to this thread’s comment section (which turned into quite the back and forth banter):

  • Mike clipped a Fr Z post here
  • Diane gives plenty of resources here
  • So, it is possible that butt baptisms are valid, but not probable.  Perhaps Rome will need to rule for certain at some point.  Diane gives an example of how to request such a ruling here.


The second (not nearly on the same level), but nevertheless something more Catholics should know – lay people should not be blessing people at mass.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t bless your children. In fact you should. Here’s a good link Choir sent me a while back:
Bless Your Children

Totally unrelated – my wife and I finally finished the movie “Clare and Francis” (it took us about 3 weeks to get through this 3-hour movie). I can’t tell you how accurate it was, but it certainly got me more interested in a Saint I don’t know much about (not much more than what I learned from Prof. Cook’s lecture). For anyone out there who gets overly distraught about the many bad news type stories – remember to simply live a life of holiness. That’s all God wants of us and that is how real change happens – Holiness!  Sometimes God calls us to stand up for Truth, but we must never let it discourage us. For what could be more joyful than standing up for Our Lord?

And finally, check out Fr. Z’s post “Don’t Be Afraid to Be Pious“. How true it is that we are often afraid of being too pious because we don’t want to give the impression of being holier-than-thou. In fact, being pious should actually send the opposite message – we are a people constantly in need of God’s grace. Along similar lines, have a look at Fr. Mike Mayer’s post on “Don’t Be Afraid to Evangelize“.  I better stop there cause I’m winding all over the place 😉



78 Responses to “Fr. Poblocki on Butt-Baptism and Lay Blessings at Mass +more”

  1. Giovanni says:

    Oh dear lord… that is the most nitpicky thing I have ever heard. “water must be sprinkled over the head three times…” give me a break. I highly doubt that God prevents his spirit from entering into those who are baptised by this method. Slow day on Cleansing Fire?? The church accepts all sorts of baptisms from protestant churches so long as it was done in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit…

    Your second point about blessing I agree with… there are certain blessings that are not right for lay people to give… formal blessing of the sick and such(should be reserved for the priest)… however there are many blessings good for all to bestow onto one another. Great story about blessings at this link… skip to 2 min and 20 seconds:

    As for the movie that you and your wife, I think I would like to watch it… I just need to find time to watch a three hour movie 🙂

    Thanks for the post!

  2. Bruce says:

    It is clear. Baptisms are only valid if the water goes over the forehead. Why is that so hard to understand? The Church has many rules such as this, and some that are even more complex, and yet no one questions those. Butt baptisms are not valid and the parents whose children were subjected to such things need to have their children baptized properly. Shame on these creepy priests and deacons who do this stunt which is not only invalid, but really creepy and strange.

  3. Giovanni says:

    To add quickly to why I don’t think a “butt baptism” is invalid… To me this is a matter of substance over form… no one recieving a baptism this way would ever use the term “butt baptism.” These people desire for their newborn to be baptized by immersion. Obviously the head of a baby can’t be held under water so we put as much as we can under water. Therefore butt baptism I see as baptism by immersion.

    The more traditional approach is, of course, total immersion for a baptism. Only after some time did infant baptism even become popular.. in part because Catholics worried about the souls of their children if they were to die shortly after birth.. thinking that they would go to limbo.. something even the Pontiff doesn’t believe in.

    So I think we need to stop acting like canon lawyer (lawyers aren’t holy anyway… right? only joking) and concentrate on the real essence of what is taking place. Just my two cents… I know that nobody asked.. 🙂

  4. To add quickly to why I don’t think a “butt baptism” is invalid… To me this is a matter of substance over form…

    If we were under the Magisterium of Giovanni, I suppose “why I don’t think” and “to me” might be persuasive.

  5. militia says:

    “So I think we need to stop acting like canon lawyers…”

    …seems to be liberal speak for “Ignore the Catechism, tradition and instructions of Holy Mother Church.” Oh, and the entire Code of Canon Law too?

    One of the great side effects of CF is that it entices closet liberals to inch out of the closet. We can’t quite see who they are yet; they are coming out butt first. 🙂

  6. Mike says:

    So I think we need to stop acting like canon lawyer …

    “I heard it said once that there is a shortage of vocations to the priesthood in the United States, but no shortage of vocations to the Papacy!” – John Martignoni

  7. Ben Anderson says:

    The church accepts all sorts of baptisms from protestant churches so long as it was done in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit…

    Under certain restrictions, yes. A protestant baptism that meets these restrictions would be accepted (I was baptized as a Presbyterian and was not re-baptized as a Catholic). Apparently a protestant butt-baptism should not be accepted.

    I think we need to stop acting like canon lawyer

    Who is acting like a canon lawyer? Was it me for asking a knowledgeable and holy priest a question on a live call in show?

  8. Giovanni says:

    No… nothing against you Ben! That was meant more as a joke.. sorry it wasn’t very funny.

  9. Ben Anderson says:

    no harm – no foul, Giovanni. w/out facial expressions and tone of voice, jokes often get lost – I can attest to that (having done it several times)

  10. Bruce says:

    Sorry, Giovanni, but the Church is not a democracy of feelings and preferences. It is the Body of Christ. Butt baptisms are invalid.

  11. Bruce says:

    And they’re creepy too.

  12. Eliza10 says:

    I was listening to Fr. Rick Poblocki yesterday and heard this too. The DOR’s Butt Baptisms are really troubling, and now even more so. Has anyone told these parents their child’s Baptism is likely invalid?? The priests who Butt Baptize need to look these people up and tell them a mistake was made!!

    Really, really sad is the question: Do these priests care that they may have performed an invalid Baptism.

    Giovanni – you must not be a parent. What mother wants their infant baptized by immersion???

    Butt Baptisms are the choice of the DOR priest, NOT the parents, who are NOT given a choice in the matter.

    And Giovanni, I don’t see where you get the idea that immersion Baptism is the “more” traditional approach. Although immersion Baptism does trace back to the earliest church, we also have the words of the earliest Church Father’s teaching to use a shell and pour water over the forehead. Its an earliest Church tradition.

    However, just as there is NO early church tradition for infinity-edged immersion fonts with heated, chemically-treated water, there is NO tradition for Butt Baptism!

  13. Eliza10 says:

    Yes – its really, really creepy. That’s why Mom’s aren’t given a choice. Its imposed on them.

  14. Bruce says:

    I said this in another article before, but if I were from the mainstream media, or if I were Jeffrey Anderson, this “strip a baby and dip his butt in water three times” charade is just begging for negative attention. My point is this: 1.) How bad do you have to be to screw up a baptism, DoR? and 2.) Do you REALLY want priests and the Church to seem creepier to the general public than it already is, given that it is still reeling from the sex abuse crisis? Really?

  15. Persis says:

    Can. 854 Baptism is to be conferred either by immersion or by pouring; the prescripts of the conference of bishops are to be observed.

    This is all Canon law has to say about “how” a baptism is performed.
    I would really like to see some definitive proof, from a competent authority,
    before we get too carried away in saying that something is invalid.

    Re: Forced immersion
    I know of no priest who would *force* a parent to have their child baptized by immersion if the parent was opposed. If this has happened, it should be reported.

    For the record- I’m not a parent and not a big fan of immersion baptism either, but it is acceptable alternative for those who wish to do so, so why make a big deal about it?

  16. Bruce says:

    Immersion is one thing. Butt dipping is another, and clearly, not valid either. I would consider Father Poblocki quite competent, but I also know that even if the Holy Father said the same (and he would) it would still not satisfy those who are unusually and strangely committed to creepy and offensive liturgical abuses.

  17. I agree that baptisms should be done over the forehead. One method of baptism used for infants prior to Vatican II was sprinkling. My father told me that the priest sprinkled water over my forehead, obviously with some sacramental object, while baptizing me in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. I would hope that method is adequate.

    In regard to not being afraid of being too pious-I agree with Piety but it depends on “True Piety” and how someone conveys that to others, themselves, and God. It is not true Piety if it is elevated oneself rather than God, being selfish rather than thinking about others, and/or deceiving oneself that they good and holy outside of God’s redemption, forgiveness, and constant grace. One should not be afraid to convey their love for God and their individual religious practice and one should have courage to share the Word of God. But one should not be going about “tooting their own horn.

  18. annonymouse says:

    To Bruce, et. al. – please cite something official that indicates that a “butt baptism” is somehow invalid.

    Also, please show us where the Church examines whether protestant sects have “butt-baptized” or not when we do pre-marital investigations (as Giovanni indicated, we do not).

    I love Fr. Rich, but on this one, please show us where more is required than matter (water) and the trinitarian formula (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). Thanks.

  19. annonymouse says:

    Persis – I believe the Church officially expresses someplace a preference for immersion over sprinkling as a fuller expression of the symbolism of the Sacrament – I’ll have to find a cite.

    But thanks for the reference you’ve provided – I agree that “immersion” (undefined) and “sprinkling” are all the rubrics say. Anything more that Bruce and others want to require is above and beyond what Holy Mother Church (and therefore, presumably, the Lord GOD) requires.

  20. Bruce says:

    OK. Lets take a look at the most obvious source, the Catholic Encyclopedia. My comments are followed by “NOTE:”

    Billuart (De Bapt., I, iii) says that commonly the catechumen is placed in the font, and then water is poured upon the head. He cites the authority of Goar for this statement.

    By the present authorized ritual of the Latin Church, baptism must be performed by a laving of the head of the candidate. Moralists, however, state that in case of necessity, the baptism would probably be valid if the water were applied to any other principal part of the body, as the breast or shoulder (NOTE: butt not mentioned). In this case, however, conditional baptism would have to be administered if the person survived (St. Alphonsus, no. 107). In like manner they consider as probably valid the baptism of an infant in its mother’s womb, provided the water, by means of an instrument, would actually flow upon the child. Such baptism is, however, later to be repeated conditionally, if the child survives its birth (Lehmkuhl, n. 61).

    It is to be noted that it is not sufficient for the water to merely touch the candidate (NOTE: butt dipping is clearly “touching” and not flowing); it must also flow, otherwise there would seem to be no real ablution. At best, such a baptism would be considered doubtful. If the water touches only the hair, the sacrament has probably been validly conferred, though in practice the safer course must be followed. If only the clothes of the person have received the aspersion, the baptism is undoubtedly void.

    The infant now, through its sponsors, makes a declaration of faith and asks for baptism. The priest, having meantime changed his violet stole for a white one, then administers the threefold ablution, making the sign of the cross three times with the stream of water he pours on the head of the child, saying at the same time: “N___, I baptize thee in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.” The sponsors during the ablution either hold the child or at least touch it. If the baptism be given by immersion, the priest dips the back part of the head three times into the water in the form of a cross, pronouncing the sacramental words. The crown of the child’s head is now anointed with chrism, “to give him to understand that from that day he is united as a member to Christ, his head, and engrafted on His body; and therefore he is called a Christian from Christ, but Christ from chrism” (Catech.).

    NOTE: Nowhere do I see “butt dipping” mentioned, and by not pouring water over the head in a flowing and washing motion, the baptism may be at best doubtful and at worst invalid. This is a major problem, unless you are a closet non-believer.

  21. Bruce says:

    In other words, the DoR is doing invalid or doubtful baptisms. It is no wonder it is dying. And it seems our lay priestesses are not really helping the matter either. Gee….what to do? LOL.

  22. Eliza10 says:

    Persis, no one said anything about “forced immersion Baptism, except you. Butt-baptizing a baby without asking the parent if this is an alternative they want to consider, and leading the parent to believe this is the only option – because no other option is offered – is what is done. No one is talking about “forced immersion”. And as Butt-baptizing is the new DOR novelty, not enough parents know to interject, “Please don’t baptize my baby’s butt.”

  23. Giovanni says:

    Well to be fair above Eliza10 you said

    “Butt Baptisms are the choice of the DOR priest, NOT the parents, who are NOT given a choice in the matter.”

    And immersion as we said has remained undefined, so it isn’t all that far fetched to believe that butt baptisms are a form of immersion. Also, no high officials to my knowledge.. Popes, bishops.. have said that ‘butt’ baptisms are invalid. Only some of you on this blog have said as much… and you attack me for thinking I’m part of the magisterium….

    and you said that parents are lead to believe that butt baptisms are the only option… what catholic.. that goes to church on a regular basis doesn’t know about other forms of baptisms?

  24. Diane Harris says:

    From the Catechism of the Catholic Church posted on the USCCB website:

    The essential rite of the sacrament follows: Baptism properly speaking. It signifies and actually brings about death to sin and entry into the life of the Most Holy Trinity through configuration to the Paschal mystery of Christ. Baptism is performed in the most expressive way by triple immersion in the baptismal water. However, from ancient times it has also been able to be conferred by pouring the water three times over the candidate’s head.

    In the Latin Church this triple infusion is accompanied by the minister’s words: “N., I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

    Head. It says HEAD. If there is some extraordinary exception, such as for a different body part protruding from the rubble of an earthquakie, it certainly can’t equate to general approved practice (anymore than general absolution in time of war can equate to Penance-lite in a communal penance service, but that is probably best postponed for another time.)

    Some may argue (wrongly) that the Catechism doesn’t specifically forbid butt-baptism. No, nor big toe immersion either. But here’s what I’ve learned from writing leases for property I rent on Canandaigua — YOU CAN’T IMAGINE ALL THE ABSURDITIES PEOPLE WILL DO AND PROVIDE A RULE AGAINST EACH AND EVERY ONE OF THEM. How could I have written “Don’t throw boulders on the roof” before it actually happened?

    Seems to me that Butt-Baptism is in the same category, and has the added tinge of being denigrating to the Sacrament, and the gifts of the Spirit conveyed. Can you imagine the Fathers at Nicea saying: don’t forget to outlaw butt baptism? Huh?

    Personally, if I were a parent who had been talked into (or pressured into) butt baptism, I would insist that it be done again as a conditional baptism, in case the bb was invalid as it well may have been. I hope none of the priests standing up to confect the Eucharist and give absolution of sin had a bb. When the Pope required a re-baptism for the formula “creator, redeemer and sanctifier” he probably didn’t mention bb because he couldn’t imagine people doing such a thing!

  25. Eliza10 says:

    annonymouse says: “… please show us where the Church examines whether protestant sects have “butt-baptized” or not when we do pre-marital investigations…”

    Completely not necessary. Apparently you’ve never been Protestant, or around Protestants much. Protestants don’t Butt-Baptize. That’s a new invention from those presenting themselves as Catholics.

  26. Bruce says:

    You know, it is so true. Some people (like Giovanni) will not believe when others tell them their house is on fire until they burn to death. We have posted numerous examples as to why butt dipping is not immersion and is certainly not water poured over the head. At best, butt dipping is doubtful and at worst, it is invalid. Why someone would fight to argue against such clear and weighty evidence is unknown, suffice to say that such a person obviously has something at stake…perhaps some sort of weird attachment to wet baby butts?

  27. annonymouse says:

    Bruce, with all due respect, your resorting to Catholic Encyclopedia for current Church teaching is laughable. Go down to see how the topic of “unbaptized infants” is handled in your source and square that with our current teaching regarding a loving God. Heck, the fathers of Vatican II teach that one does not even need to be baptized to be saved, that there is the possibility of salvation outside the Church (albeit only through the saving merits of Christ, of course).

    Can you give us a valid, current source please?

  28. annonymouse says:

    Diane – Your focus in 1240 is on “head” when “triple immersion” is preferable to “head” baptism in par. 1239! Where is “triple immersion” defined? I should think butt counts as immersion, unless you can show me otherwise!

    The fact that many here believe in a God who would condemn a child to hell because he or she was “butt baptized” instead of “head sprinkled” is, I think, the problem that Giovanni was alluding to.

    Our Blessed Lord spoke of a loving, inviting, forgiving Father, and calls us to likewise be loving, inviting and forgiving.

    If my kid were butt-baptized in water (necessary matter), by someone with intent, who said the trinitarian words (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) – necessary form, I’m not at all worried that he or she has not been baptized, and neither should you be. “Be not afraid.”

  29. Bruce says:

    Being lectured on the Church by you, mouse, is what is truly laughable. In the face of clear and incontrovertable evidence, you once again fail to refute anything and fall back on old cliches. Face it, mouse. Yer wrong-o, and have yet to prove otherwise. Nice try though.

  30. Bruce says:

    Mouse seems to be some sort of wet baby butt apologist for the DoR. It is too bad how very wrong such a stance is, in light of the clear evidence which shows how very wrong mouse is. However, this will not satisfy, because nothing will. Mouse simply cannot be wrong, otherwise the world ends. Welcome to the Church of Mouse! Please remove your pants for your butt washing…LOL.

  31. Giovanni says:

    Bruce I’m happy that you find your evidence to be “clear and incontrovertable,” because I don’t find anything that you’ve written or anyone else has written against ‘butt baptisms’ to be all that convincing. The only stake I have in this fight is that I’m standing up for each and every child who had a baptism in the way you’re describing… I’m telling them they need not worry about the validity of their baptisms because God will not hold any infant at fault for how he or she was baptised (who, of course, has no control of the ceremony’… The priest will be held accountable.. and honestly I don’t think they need to worry either. Write to Bishop Clark with your concern… I’d like to here his thoughts…

    Perhaps the priest mentions in this post was out of line in his comments since you haven’t shown me where anyone is our large hierarchy has made a big deal out of this issue.

  32. Bruce says:

    OK, lets play your game for a bit, mouse and Giovanni. Give us the text and citation where the Church states it is licit to dip a baby’s butt into water and call it a Baptism? I won’t be convinced until you can produce that text, otherwise you’re wrong. Let us see how you do now. 🙂 I’m waiting… After all, WE’VE shown text and citations that speak of the HEAD but not the butt. We even have a priest speaking on the matter. Perhaps we missed them. So….let’s see ’em, otherwise YOU’RE WRONG! 🙂

  33. Bruce says:

    Still waiting for the specific mention of butt dipping in Church documents…but while we’re waiting for evidence that does not exist, let us also ask these “wet butt apologists” why no one else in the Church, outside of a few rather creepy places in the DoR, moistens the butts of infants and calls it a baptism? Why is that? Still waiting…now for BOTH answers…:)

  34. Bruce says:

    It is amazing how “nit-picky” giovanni and mouse became when evidence to refute their view was presented. At first, we were “nit-picky” and now they are. How very interesting.

  35. Diane Harris says:

    Dear Mouse,

    You really are twisting words. For example, you wrote:

    1) “Your focus in 1240 is on “head” when “triple immersion” is preferable to “head” baptism in par. 1239!” No — the Catechism doesn’t use the word “preferable” but rather is called “the most expressive way.” Those are different concepts. It is the most expressive because immersion as practiced historically and in other faiths, plunges the candidate fully beneath the waters, analagous to being dead and buried in the earth. Christ was likely baptized by full immersion. In our Church’s formula, raising to air, to life, and repeating 3x in accordance with the Trinitarian formula and rising to full life in God. I agree that it is more expressive, but isn’t always preferable. Some people out of fear of the water might stay away from baptism; some are too old or unhealthy to be immersed, and it doesn’t seem without risk for babies either. The church hasn’t enjoyed 2000 years of heated baptismal fonts, or antibiotics. Thank God for the generous provision of sprinkling/pouring. (Remember, the Catechism isn’t written in English; it is written in Latin and translated into English, so the breadth of sprinkling/pouring may be more understandable in the Latin. But I’m willing to wager that head is a clear translation that doesn’t extend in meaning to butt (not even ‘butt-head.’)

    2) I didn’t read what you claim as “many here believe in a God who would condemn a child to hell because he or she was “butt baptized” instead of “head sprinkled”. God does the condemning, we don’t. But we have an absolute obligation to witness to the truth, or be held accountable for the sin ourselves. And a parent has the absolute obligation to adhere to church teaching, even if it is awkward. You are right that “Our Blessed Lord spoke of a loving, inviting, forgiving Father, and calls us to likewise be loving, inviting and forgiving.” Absolutely. But He never uses that love as a way for anyone to persist in their sin. Instead, He says “Go, and sin no more.” His mercy is showing all over this blog, as he provides you with correct information that you just don’t seem to like, want or respect.

    3) You wrote: “If my kid were butt-baptized in water (necessary matter), by someone with intent, who said the trinitarian words (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) – necessary form, I’m not at all worried that he or she has not been baptized, and neither should you be. “Be not afraid.” ” I’m not afraid, because I have witnessed to you, and I won’t be held accountable for your sin. But your persistence in violating norms of the church and of advocating others not repent either is very risky. You extend it beyond yourself and put others at risk through the scandal of teaching it is okay to violate Church norms. It isn’t. The argument in this paragraph is very reminiscent of parents who defend their child’s homosexual lifestyle, and refuse the exercise their duties as parents to reflect God’s teaching. It is a trap, Mouse. A Mouse-trap.

    The other commenters are correct, Mouse, it is up to you now to provide chapter and verse, or catechism section or SOMETHING that shows the Church is permissive in this area. But you haven’t done so. I for one am grateful for so many people caring that you get it right and accurately understand the Church’s teaching. Diane

  36. Jim says:

    Jim M. here: After all that has been said, I would have to agree with mouse at 4:21. I certainly do not at all agree with “butt baptisms”. That being said, if the baby’s behind is immersed, and the priest says the trinitarian words of baptism, with the full intent of baptizing the child, the parents should not worry about the salvation of that child. We need to trust in the intention of the priest and in the Lord that the child was indeed baptized! After all, even Baptism of desire is recognized by the Church…if a person is in danger of death, and wants to be baptized, and no priest is present, that person IS baptized by their sheer desire to be so. Remember, God is on our side…He wants us to be saved!

  37. militia says:

    If you google immersion baptisms, buttocks and infant or baby, the first two entries are Cleansing Fire. WOW! How leading edge! Further down is Dirty Catholic on the “tinkling rite”:

    Tinkling Rite

    Last weekend there were 7 baptisms at Mass. And it was the new priest’s first time baptizing.

    At the parish parents can opt for a full immersion baptism with the baby lowered, bottom first, into the water, or the more typical forehead splashing. The priest can tell who wants what because the full immersion babies are naked. Bare-bottomed, chubby bellied, gloriously naked. Parents who choose full immersion usually have 2 questions. First, “Is the water cold?” and second, “What if our son…you know…???”

    The Pastor always says, “Yes, the water is warm!” and “In all my years, I have never seen any accidents. No Peepee Teepees are needed.” Clearly the pastor is unfamiliar with Murphy’s Law.

    So for the first Baptism, the naked baby was lifted up in the air and then plunged down into the water. Alleluia! Then, deliciously fat towheaded naked baby #2 was lifted up in the air and…. an arc of tinkle sprayed up, up, up in the air and down, down, down…into the baptismal font. Alleluia!

    And what do you do? Stop the baptisms? Clean out the font? Repeat, again, the longest water blessing on earth? Eh. Urine is sterile, right? Proceed!

    Baptisms #3-7 were of the more typical splashing-on-the-forehead style, a decision which I am sure the parents deeply regretted at that moment. (Pee on the bottom? Fine. But pee on the forehead?) Nonetheless, the parents were all troopers and did not object to the Holy(pee)Water. The only objection, in fact, came from a 5-year-old boy who sat near the font yelling, “Eeewww!” every time another child was baptized. Alleluia!

    While the children were being changed into their new white clothes, and probably having their heads wiped down with anti-bacterial gel, the new priest dutifully marched around the church and sprinkled the tinkle on us all. Alleluia

  38. Dr. K says:

    If anyone doubts the validity of their Baptism, a conditional Baptism can be performed which begins with the words “If you have not been baptized…”

    Second, if I were to learn that an infant’s buttocks were dipped in the font, I would never put my hand in there to bless myself upon entering church. Seems very unsanitary.

  39. Jim says:

    Jim M. here: To Anon-23817….I’m not sure if I agree with you about the priest’s intention, but I would agree that they sorely need to be re-catechized.

  40. Bill B. says:

    I find the thread interesting in that we are worrying about ife the baby is baptized or not. In all probability it is in God’s eyes (he would overlook any unintentional error made). To me the thread should turn to look at the baby’s parents to view if they had the baby baptized in defference to parents or quick cash from the party. Will the baby be back in seven years for first communion? Will the baby be confirmed? Was it a serious decision or just a tradition that the parents are following to keep mom and dad happy? In the long run, let’s see the baby get married in the church later on without the notations in the parish records. What are the odds. I just find that interesting to think about.

  41. Bruce says:

    I think it is rather interesting that people dismiss 2000 years of Holy Spirit-guided Church teaching and practices and just ASSUME that things are hunky-dory in God’s eyes. What hubris!

  42. Mike says:

    Fr. Z. had a pertinent post on this subject last year …

    I recently was asked by a priest about a problematic baptism:

    The pastor of a local parish baptized a child supposedly by immersion. The head of the child was never touched with water.

    Is this a valid baptism?

    No. The baptism is not valid.

    In researching this answer I consulted various authors and I also contacted the baptism man, so to speak, in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The CDF has competence to determine the validity of sacraments.

    The answer from the baptism guy at the CDF came back to me this way:

    If no water has touched any part of the head, there was no baptism: it is invalid.

    At least the back/base of the head needs to be in contact with water.

    Keep this in mind. If you read around the internet, you might find that a few modern writers have opined that even if water does not touch the head, but it touches other parts of the body, the baptism is valid. According to the CDF, they are wrong. In baptism conferred in the rites of the Latin Church water must touch some part of the the head, even it it runs only on the hair. Water touching the head for baptism is part of the most ancient of all Christian rites.

    Also, the reliable St. Alphonsus Liguori, whose feast it is today in the traditional Roman calendar, says that – in an emergency a person is baptized but water could not reach the head, then if the person survives the baptism must be repeated conditionally.

    So here is a message for priests:

    If you are too thick to do immersion properly, just don’t do it. Otherwise, next time throw yourself into the immersion pool, preferably wearing a millstone.

    Remember: All people have the right to seek their own responses. If someone doesn’t like my answer, fine. You would be wrong, but you may write to your bishops and you may write to the Holy See for clarifications. You will get the answer I just gave.

    Some water must touch some part of the head.

  43. militia-That baptism scenario sounded horrible. I think I would have said something to the priest regarding the urine in the water before he would use it on my child’s head. I would want my child to have fresh, clean water. I also would not want to be sprinkled with urine tainted water in the congregation.
    In regard to parents not having an option and just going along with what is done in regard to butt baptisms”-Aren’t those parents concerned enough or are they too intimidated by church authority to question? I have, and would, question to what would be taking place in any ceremony involved with a sacrament. Parents have the right to question how the baptism will be done. I am totally against “butt baptisms” because they do not meet the criteria for baptism, do not emphasize the area of the mind process of a person, and are also inappropriate and undignified for the baby. I would be upset if my child was stripped naked and “butt baptized” and more so, if afterward they were paraded around the church in that manner.

  44. Thanks for the info Dr. K. I also agree with your comment on dipping your hand in a baptismal font after a “butt baptism” as being unsanitary.

  45. Ben Anderson says:

    I find the thread interesting in that we are worrying about if the baby is baptized or not. In all probability it is in God’s eyes (he would overlook any unintentional error made)

    BillB, we should be most concerned whether a baby’s baptism was valid. To think otherwise is simply un-Catholic. According to our Church sacraments are:

    efficacious signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us. The visible rites by which the sacraments are celebrated signify and make present the graces proper to each sacrament

    Certainly God is not restricted by the sacraments – he can dispense his grace however he chooses. However, the sacraments are the normal means he has given us. If we don’t care whether a baptism was valid – why are we even Catholic? I admire your desire to keep the child in the Church throughout their lifetime, but wouldn’t he have a better shot if he were actually baptized? How sad that the intention of the parents was not fulfilled. Also, the error wasn’t unintentional. It could have been made in ignorance, but it wasn’t unintentional.

    Thanks for that inf. I’ll move that to the main post when I get a chance since it could easily be overlooked later on with the # of comments in this thread.

  46. annonymouse says:

    Well said, Anon 13876.

    As for liceity versus validity, I still challenge anyone here who has posted to show something authoritative (no, not Catholic Encyclopedia or even Father Z, whom I admire) where “butt-baptisms” are invalid or even illicit.

    Bruce, in answer to your obnoxious post above, I don’t have to show you how it’s valid or licit. All I have to show you is matter (water), intent and form (Father, Son and Holy Spirit).

    Diane, with all due respect, the implication of posts like Bruces’ is that children are not being baptized and are in grave peril if not baptized the “right way.” Bruce is implicitly condemning such children and needlessly provoking fear. That is precisely what 13876 is talking about in his or her last paragraph.

    Militia – thank you for some much needed humor. You have dissuaded me from ever requesting a “butt-baptism” or a “tinkling rite”!

  47. Thinkling says:

    I fall in the invalid camp on this one, but I am surprised no one brought up baptism of desire (if someone did I missed it). I am no canon expert but might parents, desiring their child to be baptized and believing that the rite was done correctly (let’s assume they’re ignorant of the rubrics and not willfully lax), bring on baptism of desire in the case of a strictly invalid baptism?

    I don’t know the answer, I am really asking.

  48. Nerina says:

    Annonymouse, Fr. Z maintains that his source of information is the “baptism man from the CDF.” I’d call that pretty authoritative.

    I don’t think anyone here is saying that the Sacraments are somehow superstitious or magical and I would say that many of the readers can articulate the difference between licit and valid. I don’t know why priests would celebrate any Sacrament in a way that would leave any doubt of validity, but that is what “butt baptism” does. Yes, God is not limited by the rubrics, but the Church has given us certain guidelines to follow so we can be assured of grace offered by the Sacraments.

    As for the term, “butt-baptism” I think it has been coined as a way of describing what many of us have seen take place for infant baptism. I remember one such celebration and the baby’s head did NOT get wet. The butt? Yep. Not the head. My neighbor had two of her children baptized in this manner and she insists that their heads did not get wet either. She also said that “full immersion” was offered and she figured that was the way the Sacrament was performed so she didn’t bother to get clarification. Most people will take the lead from their priest or the person who prepares them for the Sacrament.


    Lastly, another term that comes to mind here is scrupulosity. One needs to be careful against a pharisaical approach to sacraments, they are not spells and the rituals are not acts of magic.

    I don’t think it is “scrupulous” or phaisaical (there’s that term again) to want to ensure the validity of the Sacraments. Baptism is a very big deal and we should do all we can to see that it is celebrated licitly and validly. If a person’s baptism is not valid, what are the ramifications for the other Sacraments? I would think we are looking at a major future impediment for receiving the other Sacraments. Yes?

  49. Nerina says:

    Oh, and if worrying about the validity of my child’s baptism makes me “pharisaical,” I can live with that.

  50. Persis says:

    Nerina said-
    Fr. Z maintains that his source of information is the “baptism man from the CDF”.

    Yes, he does say that, and even he is asked to provide some “proof” for this, which I never found.

    I think this whole topic has gotten out of hand! 🙁

    Now, I do not think that this so-called “butt-baptism” is a good idea, but to say that it is invalid,
    when there is NO AUTHORITATIVE STATMENT FROM THE CHURCH on the matter, is way over the top, and part of the reason that I have such a problem with the line of thinking in this thread.

    Now, if someone out there has an authoritive statement, for the whole Church, and not something in a letter addressed to one person for one paticular circumstance, great. But until then, let’s just assume that, while distatseful, “butt-bapitsm” is valid. After all, if the intent is there, water is used and the words “in the name of the Father, the Son & the Holy Spirit are spoken- it is a baptism!

  51. Giovanni says:

    Well said Mouse! 🙂 It’s one thing to challenge the way these baptisms are performed as not being the usual… but to say that they are invalid (that the sacrement wasn’t received) and to question the intent of the Priest… that is absurd!

  52. annonymouse says:

    Nerina – who says the water must be on the head? Only Father Z’s “Baptism guy at the CDF?” Sorry, there’s nothing to that effect in the rubrics, canon law, catechism, anyplace, that I’m aware of.

    These babies are being baptized by immersion – we’re only quabbling about how much skin is made wet. Pardon my arrogance when I say that I doubt very much that either Our Heavenly Father or Our Blessed Lord are measuring!

  53. Scott W, says:

    Our Heavenly Father or Our Blessed Lord are measuring!

    I’d say they were measuring our obedience. Saying it is not explicitly prohibited is a “please don’t eat the daisies” argument. Since the validity is legitimately in question, it would be prudent for the butt-baptisers to take the burden of proof.

  54. Diane Harris says:

    Catechism 1239….head! How can you say there is nothing in the Catechism? You don’t really expect a litany of body parts that can’t be effectively baptized, do you? I agree with Scott W that the burden is on the butt-baptizers to prove it is okay. Like it should be abortionists to prove it isn’t a living human being! When in doubt, it is more humble and obedient to just do what is clearly permitted. Arguments about how God thinks are really stretching. He gave us the Church to make His Will explicitly known to us, it was not an invitation to second-guess.

    We should also remember that baptism “In the name of the Creater, and of the Redeemer and of the Sanctifier” went on for some time before the Pope clearly stated these were not valid baptisms and had to be redone. For some, it meant their marriages were invalid and they had to get remarried! It was a mess.

    For those interested in pursuing further, write to:

    His Eminence
    Antonio Cardinal Cañizares Llovera
    Prefect, Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments
    Palazzo delle Congregazioni
    Piazza Pio XII, 10
    00193 Roma,

    Your Eminence,

    There is a practice in the Diocese of Rochester (NY) which is causing much confusion among the laity. Some priests and deacons are performing what is colloquially called “Butt-baptism” which involves dipping the naked buttocks of a baby into the baptismal font, but not sprinkling water on the baby’s head. We believe that many babies have now been baptized by this rite. Please inform us if this is a valid baptism, or if the baptism must be redone.

    We believe there is no point in your simply referring this letter back to the bishop, who has apparently approved butt-baptism.

    Thank you for your consideration.

    Sincerely in Christ,

  55. Diane Harris says:

    One more thing (sorry to be a pest, but I thought the additional info might help): I copied the following from Catholic Answers. I don’t usually use that site for definitive answers because there is such a wide range of opinion, that it is hard to separate the right from the “wish I was right.” Of course we all need to be careful of the same thing. So I want to point out that I have not personally checked out all of the following, but given the specificity of the quotes I thought it might be helpful:

    CCC1239 “The essential rite of the sacrament follows: Baptism properly speaking…Baptism is performed in the most expressive way by triple immersion in the baptismal water. However, from ancient times it has also been able to be conferred by pouring the water three times over the candidate’s head.

    CCC 1284 “In case of necessity, any person can baptize provided that he have the intention of doing that which the Church does and provided that he pours water on the candidate’s head while saying: ‘I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.'”

    The Rite of Baptism
    21. 1. At the moment of death or when there is urgency because of imminent danger of death, the minister, [4] omitting all other ceremonies, pours water (not necessarily blessed but real and natural water) on the head of the child and pronounces the customary formulary.

    Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults 226 The celebrant baptizes each candidate either by immersion, option A, or by the pouring of water, option B. . . . If baptism is by immersion, of the whole body or of the head only, decency and decorum should be preserved. Either or both godparents touch the candidate. The celebrant, immersing the candidate’s whole body or head three times, baptizes the candidate in the name of the Trinity.
    “Q. 640. If it is impossible, in case of necessity, to reach the head, may the water be poured on any other part of the body?
    A. If it is impossible, in case of necessity, to reach the head, the water should be poured on whatever part of the body can be reached; but then the baptism must be given conditionally; that is, before pronouncing the words of baptism, you must say: “If I can baptize thee in this way, I baptize thee in the name of the Father,” etc. If the head can afterward be reached, the water must be poured on the head and the baptism repeated conditionally by saying: “If you are not already baptized, I baptize thee in the name,” etc.”

    Summa Theologica/Thomas Aquinas/Article 7
    “The principal part of the body, especially in relation to the exterior members, is the head, wherein all the senses, both interior and exterior, flourish. And therefore, if the whole body cannot be covered with water, because of the scarcity of water, or because of some other reason, it is necessary to pour water over the head, in which the principle of animal life is made manifest.”

    Two other inputs:

    National Statutes for the Catechumenate Baptism by immersion is the fuller and more expressive sign of the sacrament and, therefore, is preferred. Although it is not yet a common practice in the United States, provision should be made for its frequent use in the baptism of adults. At the least, the provision of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults for partial immersion, namely, immersion of the candidate’s head, should be taken into account. Note, the USCCB adds “preferred” where it is not used in the Catechism.

    also, some may be interested in the answer from EWTN’s head of Apologetics:

    Answer by Colin B. Donovan, STL (EWTN):
    “Water must flow over the head, according to the common theology of the Church. This can be accomplished by sprinkling, pouring or immersion, as long as it runs somewhere on the head – even if only a trickle. Touching the hair would be insufficient, again by the common teaching, as it must touch flesh and flow. Just touching other body parts, neck, shoulders, back, butt, changes the baptism from “certainly valid” (head) to probably valid (shoulders) to probably invalid (rump) – a chance that should never be taken with a sacrament or a soul.

    So, if you decide on immersion, just make sure that water flows across the flesh of the head somewhere.”

  56. Nerina says:

    Thanks, Diane. As for me and my house, we will baptize heads.

    I’m not sure why anyone is “uncomfortable” with the direction of the thread. Is there a problem with trying to clear up the confusion this practice has clearly caused? Again, this is baptism we are talking about. Who really wants to take a chance with it?

    Nerina – who says the water must be on the head? Only Father Z’s “Baptism guy at the CDF?” Sorry, there’s nothing to that effect in the rubrics, canon law, catechism, anyplace, that I’m aware of.

    Mouse, see Diane’s post above.

    I highly doubt that God prevents his spirit from entering into those who are baptised by this method.

    But how do you know? All we can do is go by the instructions given to us by the Church. I’m with the others who say the burden of proof is on those who insist that dipping an infant’s butt into water is acceptable.

    But until then, let’s just assume that, while distatseful, “butt-bapitsm” is valid. After all, if the intent is there, water is used and the words “in the name of the Father, the Son & the Holy Spirit are spoken- it is a baptism!

    Persis, you know this how? Why assume? The butt validators are acting as their own canon lawyers as much as those questioning the validity of the Sacrament. Give me proof that it is okay. Anything.

  57. Ben Anderson says:

    wow – thanks for that extra effort, Diane. I updated the original post with links to some comments so they’ll be easy to find in the future.

  58. Giovanni says:

    Found this on St. Clement Church website in Lincoln…

    “What is full immersion?
    We are thrilled to have a big font that offers parents the option of having their child baptized by immersion, that is, by being bodily dipped into the life-giving waters of baptism. The baby’s head does not go under the water, and the water in the font is always fresh and warm. Babies baptized by immersion usually begin the baptism ceremony in clothes other than the white baptismal garment – something that’s easy to remove. As the moment for baptism draws near, the parents remove the baby’s clothes. We provide a big white towel for parents to hold the newly baptized baby in until the ceremony is over. Then the parents dress the child in the white baptismal garment. If parents choose not to have their child baptized by immersion, the baby wears the white garment throughout the service”

    They do consider dipping a baby into the water as immersion. You make it sound as if the priest is merely trying to wet the child’s butt…come on now…

    I wanted to post this to show that it is not just our diocese or our Bishop who thinks well enough to allow this practice.


  59. Giovanni says:

    PS.. here is a link to the Chicago, Lincoln Park church… wouldn’t this church be under Cardinal Francis George?

    If it is well with a Cardinal it should be well with you…

  60. Ben Anderson says:

    I don’t think anyone said this *only* occurs w/in the DOR. Just because others do it, doesn’t make it right. You have nothing to say about Diane’s references? I’ll admit it’s possible these baptisms are valid, but with the evidence we have it seems more likely that they aren’t. Hopefully Rome will say one way or another in the near future. Either way, the fact that there is legitimate doubt means they should not be done. To me these types of situations sound like a teenage boy asking how far is too far w/ his girlfriend. It’s the wrong mentality entirely. Why not just do what the Church teaches and then remove all doubt.

  61. Giovanni says:

    I did look at Diane’s references. And ccc 1239 stated the best way to baptize is by triple immersion. This method is preferred to the pouring of water over the head. I’m saying that way you call butt baptism is actually immersion and that we should be happy to have the opprortubity to have our infants baptized in such a fashion. A lot of churches don’t have the right equipment to perform infant baptism by immersion and therefore are forced to resort to te pouring of water over the head. Apparently so common place that Catholics can’t recognize a baptism by immersion when they see it and resort to calling it a ‘butt baptism’

    YES… let us wait for an oppinion from Rome! Of tgis practice is as dire as you claim I’m sure they will act fast.

  62. Giovanni says:

    The instructions fir the rcia would not apply to infants. Adults can have their heads immersed… Infants cannot.

  63. Jim says:

    Jim M. here: Just a question for Ben. But first, to repeat: I am NOT at all in favor of so called butt baptisms. Forgive me if I’m being redundant…Ben, do you think that a baby will not receive salvation, if the baby dies right after one of these baptisms? I believe that the answer to this question is a very important one in this whole conversation.

  64. Dr. K says:

    Dipping one’s butt cheeks in water is not a Baptism. So there is my answer to your question.

  65. Jim says:

    Jim M. here: Hmmmm…I didn’t realize that Dr. K and Ben are one in the same person. Maybe Ben can answer at some point…

  66. Diane Harris says:

    I deeply sympathize with the anxiety caused by the now-looming question: “Was my child really baptized? And if I have some, even small misgiving, what am I obligated to do? And can I trust the answer that the baptizer might give me, if he is trying to justify himself, or to avoid an embarassing “recall” of his baptizees?” So much is video-captured today, one might be able to review the video and get comfortable that there really was a baptism. On the other hand, for many people the question won’t be settled except through a conditional baptism; i.e. “If you are not already validly baptized, then I baptize thee….etc.” There is no point in having sleepless nights, or guilt (it most likely wasn’t the parent’s fault at all), when a conditional baptism is so easy to do.

    However, I want to share a story that may help some in this dilemma to see how the Church views the situation, the Diocese of Rochester actually, and Bishop Clark, in particular. Here is the story–a story told in a group, so there is no “telling tales out of school” since many others do know this story.

    When Father Robert Ring was on his journey to ordination, he had to convert to Catholicism because he was born and grew up Southern Baptist. Now the Baptist formula is considered (at least it was) acceptable to the Catholic Church, not requiring a rebaptism. (Also remember that since few Protestant sects baptize infants, immersion is easier to do with adults, and butt-baptism is hardly an issue.)

    Anyway, because a priest MUST be validly baptized in order to receive Holy Orders, and to confect the Eucharist and to forgive sins etc., it would be a great tragedy if he were not validly baptized. Penitents’ sins wouldn’t be forgiven; the Eucharist wouldn’t be and we’d all be worshipping bread, for example. The Church, and the Diocese under Bishop Clark, simply couldn’t take the chance that anything happened in the Baptist immersion that could make the baptism invalid. So, the decision was that, before ordination, Fr. Ring was re-baptized or, to be more specific, he received a conditional baptism in case he weren’t already baptized. He sometimes jokes: “Do you know what you get when you’re baptized a second time?” No? The answer is “Wet!”

    But here’s my point. If Bishop Clark judged rightly that a conditional baptism was necessary (and I believe he did judge rightly) even though there was no reason to think there had been anything wrong in Fr. Ring’s first baptism, then even though the priest’s duties are such to make the conditional baptism essential, nobody’s soul is so insignificant as to have any doubt AT ALL as to whether or not he or she is validly baptized. Every soul is important and parents have no more important responsibility than the souls of their children. It is a shame that this is foisted on parents now, but it is and likely will be. Rome may not act quickly, which just builds up the pool of invalid baptisms, and as those children age, there is the potential for invalid marriages as well. (Remember it took them some time to act on the “Creater, Redeemer, Sanctifier” formula.)

    I hope illustrating how the Diocese addressed this important issue more than a quarter century ago helps others now to decide what to do. I notice the Bishop didn’t take the path: “Well Jesus knows everyone meant well; He won’t let anything bad happen. He is a loving and merciful God.” That is just the internal dialogue of not wanting to do anything, of not wanting to rock the boat. I believe that Bishop Clark did the right thing. I hope everyone will. God bless!

  67. Ben Anderson says:

    Ben, do you think that a baby will not receive salvation, if the baby dies right after one of these baptisms?

    Thanks for the question, Jim. My answer would be the same as for any baby that isn’t baptized. We would lay that child in the hands of a merciful God. We can’t pretend to know their outcome, but we can hope for their salvation. And we do know that our Church teaches that they would’ve been better off had they been baptized. Shouldn’t we all believe that as Catholics? Am I saying anything beyond what our Church teaches in that regard? And especially since the parents intended a baptism. Even if, perhaps, they requested the invalid baptism. Even if, perhaps, they weren’t intending to raise the child in the fullness of the faith. Even given all of those factors, it should be the Church’s duty to either deny a baptism or give it validly. Besides all the other ramifications of going through an baptismal ceremony when in fact is was invalid, it would be a sin against the 8th commandment, would it not? Now, I’m not condemning any priest who did this, parishioners who observed, or parents who participated. We can always presume good will while still charitably pointing out errors. In this case, it is a grave error. I would hope that these types of baptisms are done in ignorance of the evidence presented against them. However, as a Catholic, we believe in real ontological truths. What I believe and what you believe doesn’t matter. The baptism either happened or it didn’t. Sacraments are either real or they aren’t. If the sacraments have real ontological consequences and if this baptism wasn’t valid, then it’s a shame and something should be done to rectify it. Something should be done to rectify it based simply on the fact that the validity has been called into question. That something could be an explanation from a higher-up pointing out that these baptisms are valid and that no one need worry. Or that something might be a conditional baptism. Or it might be that a higher-up says they weren’t valid and that another baptism is necessary.

    I believe that the answer to this question is a very important one in this whole conversation.

    Indeed it is. I believe the arguments had in this thread point to the very real fact that our faith is sorely misunderstood. We are not superstitious. The sacraments are not magic. But they are, “efficacious signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us. The visible rites by which the sacraments are celebrated signify and make present the graces proper to each sacrament”

    In other words – they are real. If we don’t believe that, are we really Catholic?

    (I’m not saying you, Jim, are contending any of these points. I realize I went further than the simple question you asked. But I believe others in this thread could benefit from contemplating this)

  68. Jim says:

    Jim M. here: Thanks, Ben for a very enlightening response. You have many valid points to back up your statements. I agree that it is all up to our merciful God, and not up to us at all, except in speaking out for the Truth. We can only pray for the best possible outcome in these situations. Not sure of your age (your pic looks young), but with men like you speaking out for the Faith, our future in this diocese may very well be in good hands! God Bless you!

  69. Dr. K says:

    Jim M. here: Hmmmm…I didn’t realize that Dr. K and Ben are one in the same person. Maybe Ben can answer at some point…

    Jim M., am I not entitled to my own opinion? I realize you asked Ben, but I am free to offer my own thoughts. And since I am, I exercised that privilege.

  70. Jim says:

    Jim M. here: Yes, Dr. K you are certainly entitled to your opinion, but I was surprised that you answered my letter, when I had asked for Ben’s response. This is your domain. You can do whatever you want.

  71. Bruce says:

    Butt dippings are not valid baptisms. It is clear. Try again, please.

  72. annonymouse says:

    Pope Bruce has spoken. Unfortunately for his black and white world, it is not so clear. What is clear is that baptism is valid either by immersion (undefined) or by sprinkling (pouring) on the head, with water, with the proper formula (Father Son and Holy Spirit). Any more than that is everyone’s own projection, everyone’s own scrupulosity.

    We will be judged by what is in our hearts, not by what percentage of our skin was covered with water at our baptisms.

  73. annonymouse says:

    Sorry, 132229, the “butt baptism” debate doesn’t even come close in gravity to the same sex “marriage” debate, on which Holy Mother Church has firmly, clearly and definitively spoken. “Gay marriage” involves the public and societal embracing of a gravely sinful act, contrary to God’s natural law.

    How can you even begin to equate these two?

  74. wineinthewater says:

    I’ll offer another voice to this, even coming late.

    Contrary to what has been asserted, nothing has been provided that states that the use of this form will result in an invalid baptism. The catechism is authoritative, but not comprehensive. It defines the normative, but defining the normative does not invalidate everything out of the norm. And in this case, the catechism does not say that what it is describing is the exclusive form. The opinions of priests, even the opinion of the “baptism guy at the CDF,” and the Catholic Encyclopedia do not constitute the magisterium.

    So, in the absence of actual authoritative Church teaching on this, what do we do? I think that there is one thing here that is *very* illustrative. Many of the sources noted have mentioned that if the water does not touch the head, then the person should be baptized conditionally. St. Thomas provides a great example here:

    Reply to Objection 4. Unless death be imminent, we should wait until the child has entirely come forth from the womb before baptizing it. If, however, the head, wherein the senses are rooted, appear first, it should be baptized, in cases of danger: nor should it be baptized again, if perfect birth should ensue. And seemingly the same should be done in cases of danger no matter what part of the body appear first. But as none of the exterior parts of the body belong to its integrity in the same degree as the head, some hold that since the matter is doubtful, whenever any other part of the body has been baptized, the child, when perfect birth has taken place, should be baptized with the form: “If thou art not baptized, I baptize thee,” etc. (Summa Article 11)

    If the lack of water touching the head made the baptism invalid, then there would be no conditional baptism, there would be a baptism. If we knew, from the magisterium of the Church, that such baptisms were invalid, then we would simply have to baptize such people. We know that “Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier” baptisms are invalid and so we baptize, we do not conditionally baptize. We know that Mormon baptisms are invalid and so we baptize, we do not conditionally baptize. We only conditionally baptize when we do not know. Considering that pretty much all of the sources offered prescribe conditional baptism, I think the only conclusion that we can draw is that we simply don’t know if they are valid. To say that they are categorically invalid is to go beyond what the Church actually teaches.

    But St. Thomas gets at the heart of it in another way: “some hold that since the matter is doubtful…” We do not know that the Sacrament is invalid. However, we also don’t know that the baptism is valid. That is huge. A significant part of our Sacramental theology is that we can have certainty that they are efficacious. When we do something that makes a Sacrament doubtful, we have struck at the heart of the Sacrament. I think that this is the heart of the issue.

    And so, this is a deplorable practice. Not because we know that it makes the Sacrament invalid, but because we *don’t* know that the Sacrament is *valid*. That is enough. We don’t need to go making assertions of invalidity that are unsupported by the magisterium to condemn this practice. That it introduces doubt into a Sacrament condemns this practice all on its own.

  75. Ben Anderson says:

    good analysis, wineinthewater. yes, the burden of proof should be on those who say it’s no big deal.

  76. annonymouse says:

    I just listened to Father Poblocki again. He appears to be oblivious to the fact that immersion baptisms are not only allowed, they are PREFERRED by the Church’s teachings.

    Just goes to show that even the most faithful among us have something to learn.

  77. Bruce says:

    Stripping a baby and dipping his butt in water and then parading him around a church is the most homosexual-pedophile-friendly thing I have ever heard.

    The Church should know better. If I were with SNAP, I would have videotaped it and gave the footage to MSNBC as proof the Church molests children.

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