(Re)Joining the RC church

I’m not planning to do this, but was wondering: What steps would I, a person who was baptised RC as a baby, but never took part in any of the other ceremonies need to take to become a Catholic in good standing. Would it matter if you’d been baptised in another Christian church since the original baptism?

You would need to go through RCIA classes to prepare you to receive the other Sacraments. The other Baptism in another church immaterial; in fact, the Catholic Church recognizes the valid Baptisms of other Christian denominations.

I hope you do consider it, though. You are welcome! :slight_smile:

The subsequent baptism is a nullity as far as sacraments go. The Catholic Church takes the position that baptism may be conferred only once, as it leaves an indelible mark on the soul.

If you, as an adult, chose to embrace another faith, you may have (from the Church’s point of view) committed the sins of heresy or apostasy. You may need to reaffirm your faith and intent to return to the Church before you may be absolved of those sins via the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

There is no additional ceremony that makes you a Catholic in good standing. However, there is the Sacrament of Confirmation, which also is received only once because it also leaves an indelible mark on the soul. A baptized person continues his path of Christian initiation by being Confirmed. Confirmation endows the recipient with the gift of the Holy Spirit and more closely links the recipient to the Church. It’s traditional to prepare for Confirmation with study, which for adults is an RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) course of study.

IANAP, but I am Catholic, so I hope most of what I say is right. As you have not taken part in First Communion or Confirmation within the Church, you will probably need to go through a course called Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA). This course is really set up for those converting to Catholicism, but it provides the structure you would need to re-join.

IF you were planning on doing this, you would want to talk to a priest or pastoral associate at a church you feel comfortable in as a first step.

The baptism part really does not matter, as we believe a first, valid baptism cannot be undone, so the second one was mere ceremony (that sounds more doctrinaire than I mean it to).

Edit: Sorry for the redundancy

Now, truth be told, you are a Catholic in good standing… just not a very close one. You can be Catholic without having been confirmed, although it’s generally expected.

Thanks for the quick replies all.

At what age would a person be considered an adult in the Church’s eyes? I was baptised for the second time at age eleven or twelve, which was considered old enough to make that choice in that particular Church. Plus, going off of **Ellen’s ** post, is another Christian denomination considered a different faith?

The Sacrament of Confirmation used to be touted as becoming an adult in the church, but I see now, as my own children are being Confirmed this year, that they are moving away from this model. As Bricker says, “Confirmation endows the recipient with the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Our parish says the Bishops are going to start asking that Confirmation be inserted before Holy Communion, so as to make the Eucharist the main or pre-eminent Sacrament, that every other one is preparing the individual for. But, traditionally this has not been the case and it’s caused a lot of confusion and consternation in my parish.

As far as other Christian denominations – I don’t know if there is a list somewhere, but I know other baptisms in other Christian denomiations are considered valid by the Church. Your main deonimations, I’d imagine, Episcopal and Lutheran for sure, and most likely Presbyterian, Methodist, Christian. I’d say that probably Scientology is out. :wink:

The other implication of this is that, even if you were never a Catholic but got baptised in any other Christian church, you’re still baptized. If you then convert to Catholicism, you will go through other ceremonies and sacraments, but you won’t be baptised again, because you already have that indelible mark on your soul.

The rest of the procedure, other than the Sacrament of Confirmation (which is typically done sometime in the early teen years, depending on local custom and the bishop’s schedule) mostly consists of a year or so of preparation (Bible study, contemplation, etc.), culminating in a ceremony (not a sacrament) at the Easter vigil mass where the priest basically says “Congratulations to these new members; let’s all welcome them”.

My husband rejoined as an adult, but he had been confirmed and could produce the paperwork from his childhood parish to prove it, so he didn’t have to do the full RCIA thing, although there were a few informal meetings with the priest, including a “what a Catholic marriage means” one where I had to tag along.

One other thing: In order for him to be eligible to take the Eucharist, we had to go through a “blessing” ceremony, which was essentially a second wedding, conducted in a Catholic Church, by a priest. We’d been married in one of those not-a-real-churches 15 years earlier (Presbyterian).

I should have been more clear than simply saying “an adult.”

The age of reason, at which children have moral responsibility, is seven. However, that does not make all acts committed by a seven-year-old as culpable as if committed by a 27-year-old.

When a person joins another church, and rejects the Catholic Church, they commit the sin of heresy or of apostasy. These are similar but not identical: a heretic is one who obstinately denies a revealed truth of the faith. A apostate denies the whole faith. At the risk of gravely oversimplifying, joining another Christian church would likely be heresy; joining a non-Christian church would likely be apostasy.

For these actions to be major sins, however, they must have been done with full advertance of the will and with understanding of the gravity of the action. This condition is what makes age relevant, especially since by canon law, no canonical penalties may be applied to someone younger than 16. A 14-year-old may commit a mortal sin, and must avail himself of the Sacrament of Reconcilation. To achieve reconciliation, the penitent must repudiate the sin he has committed and have the purpose of amending his life and turning back to God. But that 14-year-old would not have to follow the process for lifting a canonical penalty that might apply to his sin.

This is relevant to both heresy and apostasy, because both of these may be punished by the canonical penalty of latae sententiae excommunication. But that does not, so far as I can see, apply here.

So my best guess is that because this involves a choice made when you were eleven, the only thing that would be required is to approach the Sacrament of Reconciliation – that is, go to confession – wanting to repudiate joining the other church and desiring to turn back to the Catholic faith.

As Outpits indicates, though, this isn’t best done by slipping in to Father’s confessional booth at 3:25 Saturday afternoon for a quick mea culpa. It would be better done by making an appointment and speaking to your pastor at length; he will be in the best position to judge what should happen.

To my knowledge, your priest should not have required this (though he may have strongly encouraged it). Holy Matrimony is another sacrament which can be performed outside of the Catholic Church, and indeed can be performed and received by non-Christians. When you and your husband were wed in each other’s eyes, you were also wed in the eyes of the Church, assuming no barriers to a valid marriage, regardless of the situation of the wedding.

Strange. My brother got married last year in a CoE ceremony, but he and his wife (who is CoE) needed to complete a course and apply for special dispensation from the diocese for the marriage to be valid in the eyes of the RC church.

Thanks for the informative replies everyone.


You’re confusing the existence of a validly contracted marriage, for the purpose of things like determining an existing impediment to a second marriage, with a sacramental marriage.

When cher3 and her husband wed in a Presbyterian church 15 years prior, they presumably did so without a dispensation from his bishop; he, as the Catholic, thus violated one of the six precepts of the church – to obey the laws of the church concerning matrimony, specifically Can. 1124, which forbids marriages between Catholics and baptized non-Catholics without the permission of the bishop or his designee. The marriage thus suffered from a defect of form, although not one of substance. It was this transgression that left him unable to approach Communion, and this transgression that was cured by having the marriage blessed in the Church.

Incidentally, when you say “Holy Matrimony is another sacrament which can be performed outside of the Catholic Church, and indeed can be performed and received by non-Christians,” I believe you offer a statement which needs some clarification.

A sacramental marriage can only exist between two baptized persons. Can. 1086 ß1 provides: “A marriage is invalid when one of the two persons was baptized in the catholic Church or received into it and has not by a formal act defected from it, and the other was not baptized.” There is a dispensation permitted to perform a marriage, but it is not a sacramental marriage.

Can. 1118 lays out the following conditions:

(Note: “unapprised” means “not baptized.”)

I stand corrected. Clearly, the subject is rather more complex than I had understood.