“Ask a Priest: What If Relatives Are Blocking Me From the Church?”

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Q: A few years back my dad baptized me in the Name of the Father, in the Name of the Son and in the Name of the Holy Spirit (I asked him to), and I now wonder if it’s considered valid? The reason I asked my dad to baptize me was because I desperately wanted to be baptized as Jesus said to do. But my entire family was (and sadly still are) Jehovah’s Witnesses and wanted me to be baptized into the JW organization, and I knew they were wrong. My dad was the only one who listened, and he agreed I should be baptized in the Trinitarian formula. My dad passed away in 2019 from cancer (I cry every day still), and I live with my aunt due to disability. I know my aunt and her family care about me, but in the end they are JWs and try to get me to be one. I want to be Catholic and have studied Catholicism as best I can for a couple of years now (I do have a hard time learning, but I still try). I am sad that I may never be confirmed Catholic due to the fact of my family’s forbidding it. I also can’t drive, and they would never take me to a Catholic parish. So, I pray and try to be a good example. I’m sorry for babbling. My overall question is, is at least my baptism considered valid since it was done in the Trinitarian formula with the right intent? Thank you for any help. – C.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: My heart goes out to you! Your great desire for baptism and your perseverance in the face of so much opposition to become a Catholic is inspiring.

I’m sorry to hear about your situation and about the passing of your dad. May Our Lord rest his soul.

First off, your relatives have no right to block your religious decisions. You have a right to pursue your interest in the Catholic faith.

If you were a minor (which apparently isn’t the case, judging by the original e-mail), you would want to reach out to Child Protective Services. This would help put your family on notice that what they are doing could be considered a form of abuse; that is, denying a legitimate request for spiritual counseling and help.

As an adult, you could discreetly reach out to the nearest Catholic parish and explain your situation. Perhaps someone could arrange a ride for you so that you could attend an RCIA program and even get to Mass occasionally.

As for the baptism, it’s hard to say whether it was valid. The wording of the formula you mention – with the triple use of “in the name of” — implies a baptism in three names rather than one name (see the Catechism, No. 1240). This could be problematic.

For the moment, though, you have certainly expressed a baptism of desire (for more reading see this post).

The best thing would be to speak with the local Catholic pastor. If there are doubts about the validity of what was done, a conditional baptism could be carried out. This means that you would go through a baptismal rite just in case the first baptism wasn’t really valid. This could happen if you decide to join the Church later (as the end point of the RCIA).

In the meantime, it would be good to continue to study the Catholic faith. There are lots of materials online, including the Compendium of the Catechism.

Also helpful is the Catholic Answers site, which has insightful articles about the Jehovah’s Witnesses, including their beliefs and ways to challenge and evangelize them.

You might want to intensify your prayers for your JW relatives. Jesus loves them, too, and wants them to come to the fullness of the truth. Count on my prayers.

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One Comment
  1. If mobility is an issue of getting to a Catholic parish on one’s own, but one is an adult (as Father assumed by your words you are) Then. . . consider if you work a computer in your room, to watch EWTN programs to
    learn of the Catholic faith. If you are free to call whomever you wish on phone, in privacy of your quarters or when relatives are not present . . .call and speak to a local parish priest. MAYBE he can get a church member, parishioner, to come and drive you to church… meeting him outside on driveway or sidewalk. Don’t even mention where you are going… just say a friend is coming and you are spending a few hours with him. Go to
    church, spend day with friend as often as possible. Maybe discuss with parish priest other alternative housing; a priest is connected with social (non government) assistance in matters of place to live.

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