When there is a single pouring rather than a threefold pouring

VALID but illicit: No need for conditional baptism.

All these texts show that the triple immersion/infusion pertains to liceity rather than validity.


“Trine immersion is universally observed in Baptism: and consequently anyone baptizing otherwise would sin gravely, through not following the ritual of the Church. It would, however, be valid Baptism.

St Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica III 66.8

“It is necessary in baptizing to make use of a threefold ablution in conferring this sacrament, by reason of the prescription of the Roman ritual. This necessarily refers, however, to the liceity, not to the validity of the ceremony, as St. Thomas (III:66:8) and other theologians expressly state.”

William Fanning, ‘Baptism’, The Catholic Encyclopaedia 1918

“Although it pertains to the lawful administration only [ie, it does not affect validity – editor], it is probably a grave obligation.”

Nicholas Halligan OP, The Administration of the Sacraments, Alba House 1964, pp 33-34

“The proximate lawful matter in the Western Church consists in the triple infusion, i.e., the one bap­tizing pours water three times on the head of the one being baptized while pronouncing the form. This practice obliges under mortal sin. [Ed: That it is required for liceity, not for validity.]”

Heribert Jone, Moral Theology, The Newman Press 1962, n. 467.4

One such ceremonial washing suffices for validity and in case of necessity even for liceity.”

Thomas Donlan OP et al, Christ and His Sacraments, The Priory Press, Dubuque, Iowa, 1958, pp 335-7

“In Christian antiquity a triple immersion or triple infusion of water took place, so that St. Basil said that this rite was received “from the tradition of the Apostles.” However, this rite was not thought to be necessary for the essence of the sacrament, as is clear from the declaration of St. Gregory the Great to St. Leander.”

Joseph A. de Adalma SJ et al, Summa Theologiae Sacrae IVA (1956), Keep the Faith Press 2015. 45, p 146.

Back to the Proximate Matter of Baptism


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