Friday, January 28, 2011

Can An Unconscious Adult Be Validly Baptized?

Q - Can a person, who is beyond the age of reason, be validly baptized?

A - Thanks for the question. This one stumped me in class last night, for the first time in a while. It is good to be stumped. It makes me do my homework. Here is what I found in the Code of Canon Law:
Can. 865 §1. For an adult to be baptized, the person must have manifested the intention to receive baptism, have been instructed sufficiently about the truths of the faith and Christian obligations, and have been tested in the Christian life through the catechumenate. The adult is also to be urged to have sorrow for personal sins.

§2. An adult in danger of death can be baptized if, having some knowledge of the principal truths of the faith, the person has manifested in any way at all the intention to receive baptism and promises to observe the commandments of the Christian religion.
Therefore, an adult who has shown an intention to be baptized, and not recanted that intent, can validly be baptized while unconscious.

A person who has not shown such intent, cannot be validly baptized, because a baptism cannot be validly received if a person beyond the age of reason does not consent to it.

Once again the beauty of free will is upheld as a great gift by the Church.

I hope this helps.


Curtis said...

Canon Law is referring to the liceity of the sacrament, not the validity. However, I think that is what the question meant to say.

The Catholic Encylopedia records that, for insane persons who were once sane, they can be baptized if they desired baptism when they were sane, or even if they desired the things necessary for salvation (I guess like a generally spiritual person known to be not overtly hostile to Catholicism). If their desire is in doubt, a conditional formula may be used.

The only case that is definitively ruled out is the case where, say, a Muslim, a Hindu, a Jew or a known atheist falls unconscious or goes insane. He shouldn't be baptized, even conditionally, if he loses lucidity while loyal to his former creed.

Marcel said...

Curtis - Actually, intention is necessary for validity as well.