Q. My Lutheran neighbors have a new baby, and invited me to the baptism. I’m not sure if a Catholic can attend a Lutheran baptism. Can I attend?
A. No matter where it takes place, and who administers it, baptism is valid if it involves immersion, pouring, or sprinkling with water, and a Trinitarian formula, which is almost always expressed with the words, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” Those who use that formula, but specifically deny the Trinity and therefore mean something different by those terms, do not baptize validly, but almost all Protestant denominations in the United States do believe that God is the Trinity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Even a person of no faith, if they intend by baptism what the Church intends, baptizes validly. When a child or adult is baptized in a Lutheran Church, they are freed from original sin, and become a member of the Body of Christ— even though their communion with the Church is not full communion.
The Vatican’s Directory for the Application of Principles and Norm on Ecumenism says that, “Catholics may, in common celebration with other Christians, commemorate the baptism which unites them, by renewing the engagement to undertake a full Christian life, which they have assumed in the promises of their baptism, and by pledging to cooperate with the grace of the Holy Spirit in striving to heal the divisions which exist among Christians.”
Ordinarily, godparents, or baptismal sponsors, should be members of the same religious tradition as the one who is being baptized. However, there are circumstances in which a Catholic may serve as an official “witness” in the course of a non-Catholic baptism, in order to support the baptism of the child and to commit to helping them grow in deeper relationship with Jesus Christ. However, these circumstances should be discussed with a pastor if a Catholic is asked to serve as a godparent in a non-Catholic baptism.
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Write to Ask the Register using our online form, or write to 3700 Sheridan Blvd, Lincoln NE 68506-6100. All questions are subject to editing. Editors decide which questions to publish. Personal questions cannot be answered. People with such questions are urged to take them to their nearest Catholic priest.