Q: I have a question concerning conditional baptism. I looked in your book for priests on Celebrating Initiation and The Catechumenate Answer Book but couldn’t see any mention of it. So I looked up Canon 869 which quotes the RCIA Appendix by saying the minister “should administer it in a private form.” However, the Australian version of the same segment says: “the minister should explain beforehand the reasons why this is being done and a nonsolemn form of baptism is to be used.” #393
I am presuming that “nonsolemn” means it is not only shorter but also private, as quoted in the canon. Would this be correct? Also, there doesn’t seem to be a special rite for conditional baptism as I think there used to be: (i.e. “If you are not already baptized, I baptize you …..etc) Is this correct?
Finally, if a baptism is celebrated privately due to the fact that there is no proof of baptism or the baptism that was performed is not recognized by the Catholic Church, can it stand alone so that the person can later be confirmed with his or her peers if he or she has been journeying with others preparing for full communion, or should it follow the baptism and if so, should it also be within a Eucharist so that the person can then go to Holy Communion – or can that also wait until the one baptized can join his or her peers? It would seem that if all three sacraments are celebrated together, but “privately,” that it presumes that only a very few would be present and therefore hardly what the occasion calls for!
A: Yes, I interpret “non solemn” to mean “private”.
I try to avoid conditional baptisms. They are supposed to be done rarely only after a vigorous investigation has exhausted possibilities of resolution, but we’ve discovered that about 60% of the parishes in the US do a conditional baptism in a typical year. I try to make a decision yes or no, and then proceed accordingly. But if you must have a conditional baptism, then, yes, it should be private.
You’re right that there is no special formula for a conditional baptism. During the ceremony, the minister explains why he is going to baptize conditionally, and then he baptizes with the usual formula.
There is no official answer to your questions about what happens next, so to be on the safe side, I think the priest should request permission to confirm from the bishop, and to separate the confirmation from the baptism, treating the person more as a baptized candidate than a catechumen.