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In the comments on my post "Baptism for the Dead: It's Not for Catholics Anymore," a reader writes:
Does the Catholic Church recognize other chuches' baptisms as valid and saving ordinances? What about method of baptism--i.e., sprinkling, immersion?

I know that they don't accept LDS baptism but I am interested to know about other churches that have "valid" baptism in the eyes of the Catholic Church.
When the reader refers to "LDS baptism," he means a baptism performed by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly known as the Mormon church. Ordinances is a Mormon term for religious rites that must be performed in order to achieve salvation.

To put the question in Catholic terms, what conditions must be met in order for a Christian baptism to be considered valid?

The Sacrament of Baptism has two essential elements: the pouring of water over the head of the person to be baptized (or the immersion of the person in water); and the words "I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." Thus, to answer the reader's second question first, immersion--the form in which Christ Himself was baptized--is acceptable, though Catholic baptism (and most mainline Protestant baptisms) are normal performed through pouring or sprinkling of water.

In addition to the two essential elements, however, the person performing the baptism must intend what the Catholic Church intends in order for the baptism to be valid. In other words, when he baptizes "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit," he must mean in the name of the Trinity (not of three separate deities, as the Mormons do), and he must intend to bring the person being baptized into the fullness of the Church.

Since Eastern Orthodox and Protestant denominations meet the two essential elements as well as have the proper intention, their baptisms are considered valid by the Catholic Church.

You can find out more about "the door of the Church" in my article on The Sacrament of Baptism.

If you have a question that you would like to have featured in our Friday "Reader Questions" series, send me an e-mail at catholicism.guide@about.com. Be sure to put "QUESTION" in the subject line, and please note whether you'd like me to address it privately or on the Catholicism blog.

November 15, 2008 at 2:41 pm
(1) Catholic says:

I have a question on Baptism. I know that the Catholic Church considers both form of baptism to be valid (Immersion or pouring/sprinking on the head).

My question is concerning the traditions of the Eastern Catholic Church. I have seen a few baptism in Eastern Catholic Church where the baby is immersed in water (just above the waste) and the Priest will move the child in the shape of the cross 3 times as he says “I baptise you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost”. Does it effect the validity of the baptism because the child is immersed, but no water flows on the child’s head?

October 18, 2010 at 3:48 am
(2) Peter says:

“he must mean in the name of the Trinity (not of three separate deities, as the Mormons do).”

You mean that the non-recognition of LDS baptism is based on a misunderstanding or misrepresentation of LDS doctrine?

Mormons believe that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are one God. That’s spelled out repeatedly in the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants. See Alma 11:44, 2 Ne 31:21, Mormon 7:7 Mosiah 15:1-4 ; Doctrine & Covenants 20:28 (“Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are one God, infinite and eternal, without end”).

The difference between your doctrine of the Trinity and our doctrine of the Godhead is much narrower than you have construed. The difference is this: You believe in one God in three persons. We believe in three persons in one God. That’s a significant difference, but not the difference that you stated. The counting is the same: ONE God, and three persons.

January 9, 2011 at 12:13 am
(3) Whit says:

Hmm, I’m not a Catholic, but I am a member of a Protestant denomination, the United Methodist Church, which has declared that Mormon baptisms are invalid. I would say that the doctrine of the Trinity, along with the doctrine of Christ, are probably the two most tightly defined doctrines in the Christian tradition. Even slight deviations from the orthodox formula of “one God in three persons” are heretical- just as it is heretical to assert that Jesus Christ had a nature that is both divine and human, rather than that Jesus had two natures, one divine and one human.

March 1, 2011 at 10:53 pm
(4) Mary Graboski says:

I have a question about a baptism that was performed on our adopted child, now please be assured that we have a certified birth certificate from our state and the adoption papers saying he was adopted to us. Having said that the priest that baptised him refuses to put his adoption name on the baptismal certificate his reason being and I quote ” I don’t care what those legal papers say his natural parents have all the rights. ” The reason he was adopted by us is that he was physically abused at age 1 in 2006 by his natural father, then the state put him in our care. March 20,2009 we were able to adopt him with the signature of his natural mother and father but now we are facing this problem concerning his baptism which I feel could cause him problems in the future. Please tell us what can be done God Bless.

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