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Joseph S. Papandrea wrote:

Dear Sir,

  • I am wondering what the Catholic teaching on Baptism is?

I know that the Creed says that we believe in one Baptism for the forgiveness of sin.

  • Is it a mortal sin for a friend of mine, that was raised and baptized in the Church, but is now a Protestant, to be baptized as an adult?

I believe that the Church also teaches that a man must know and understand that what he is doing is wrong.

  • What can I do to convince him to stay in the Church?

Biblical quotations would be most helpful.

  • Is it possible that the Church will change its position for ecumenical reasons?

Thanks for your time and consideration!

Sincerely yours,

Joe Papandrea

  { Can a Catholic who has left the Church be re-baptized as an adult in a Protestant denomination? }

John replied:

Hi, Joseph —

Thank you for your question.

Once a person is validly baptized, with the proper intention and formula, no matter what Christian Church he was baptized in, he cannot be baptized again. Remember, when we pour water over someones forehead or immerse someone in water, it is an outward sign of spiritual reality.

Therefore any subsequent sprinkling or immersion will simply succeed in getting the person wet. There is no action of the Holy Spirit to regenerate again and again. Once someone is "born again" in Baptism, they don't need to be "born again" as an adult.

They may however, experience a wonderful conversion which many of us do. Some Evangelicals confuse this experience as being "born again". They also only believe that Baptism is a symbol and that the action of the Holy Spirit has already taken place.

Now as to the sinfulness of the act, it lies more in leaving the Church, providing he understands it is a sin, than in trying to be baptized a second time.

As for Biblical quotes, there are not any which are too explicit. The practice of the early Church is implicit rather then explicit in the Scriptures. A fundamentalist reading the text will simply look for a formula, (i.e. a + b = c ), so they will point to Acts 3 where Peter says repent and be baptized. From there they go on to say an infant can't repent, therefore only adults should be baptized. What they fail to see is that the Scriptures talk about entire households being baptized.
In Galatians, Paul talks about Baptism replacing Circumcision.

Since Baptism is the sign of the New Covenant, Jews converting to Christianity, who had always understood their children to be part of the Covenant, would have baptized their children.

Baptism is a matter of our Sacramental Theology. The essence of what the Church teaches can never change for any reason be it ecumenical or any other reason. We are bound by the Revelation of Christ.

We could no more change our teaching on Eucharist, Holy Orders and so on. The way we practice these may change, but the essence will always be the same.

Hope this helps,

Under His Mercy,

John C. DiMascio

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