Baptism Valid?

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I was reading how so many of the early Church Fathers wrote with such strong convictions about there being ‘no salvation outside the church’. Some specifically state that Baptism is not recognized outside the Church also. Can you explain to me how the Church sees this now and why we ‘no longer’ hold to their views on Baptism regarding validity? I ask this because I am a Convert and was kind of ‘worried’ when I read their quotes. The Church accepted my Baptism as being valid?

Dear Rick,

Relax, the Church has recognized the validity of your Baptism since around 256 at least. It is a dogma of the Catholic Church that for the valid dispensing of the Sacraments it is necessary that the minister accomplish the Sacramental Sign in the proper manner. The minister must further have the intention at least of doing what the Church does. And the validity and efficacy of the Sacrament is independent of the minister’s orthodoxy and state of grace.

In the controversy about the baptism of heretics, Pope St. Stephen I (256) decided, on appeal to tradition, against Bishop St. Cyprian of Carthage and Bishop Firmilian of Caesarea, that Baptism administered by heretics is valid.

The error of the Donatists, who demanded not merely orthodoxy, but also the being free from all grievous sin, for the valid administration of the Sacraments, was rejected by St. Opatus of Milevis and especially by St. Augustine, on the ground that the primary minister of the Sacraments is Christ.

You can read more on this in “Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma” by Ludwig Ott—available through our on-line catalogue on this web site or by phone: 888 291 8000.

Fr. Vincent Serpa, O.P.
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