I was just reading this answer which stated that a person could be Catholic without having gone through confirmation:

Catholics recommend that this is done to infants. 1

If that is the case, that a Catholic baptism alone makes a person a Catholic, and if they are generally baptized as such as infants, it would stand to reason that there would be many people who may be technically considered Catholic by no choice or even memory of their own. Is that actually the case?

So, if a person were baptized Catholic as an infant, for instance, perhaps lost his parents or was adopted, and then later grew up not knowing this, if this fact were somehow brought to his attention and those of the Catholic assembly, would they be considered Catholic, up to such point that the person intentionally renounced this?

As a follow up question, if this is actually the case, are there some people who the Catholic Church believes to somehow have a better standing with God, from childhood, through no thought or action of their own? If it's not up to the child, and if it does bestow some favor, then would there be any reason not to try to force every child into this if the opportunity arises? If not, is it withheld to punish the child for the sake of the parents' choices?


  1. http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/para/1250.htm
  • Hi, your follow up question probably need to be asked separately. I have offered you an answer based on my experience in RCIA, the Catechism, and the Code of Canon Law. are there some people who the Catholics believe to somehow have a better standing with God officially no, with the exception perhaps of martyrs, but that really needs to be a separate question. Commented Jun 21, 2017 at 15:32
  • @KorvinStarmast In your response, you say "Baptism seals the Christian with the indelible spiritual mark (character) of his belonging to Christ." This seems to supply what I meant by "better standing with God", but your quote marked 1279 seems to further indicate the many blessings granted by this act given without volition of the recipient. So, it seems to answer that particular question sufficiently. Certainly, at least the removal of original sin is better with God than having original sin.
    – DKing
    Commented Jun 21, 2017 at 15:55
  • Better standing as compared to what? I was reading that as "compared to other catholics" which would mean "no, all baptized catholics receive that mark" so maybe I just misunderstood. Commented Jun 21, 2017 at 15:59
  • @KorvinStarmast I meant as in "compared to people who have not had this act done to them". I was curious as to what benefits Catholics believe are given to somebody without their consent or knowledge, and if there were, why wouldn't they give that benefit to everybody. I feel that among the answers given are sufficient explanations to not warrant a separate question. All of them add some interesting information, which is appreciated.
    – DKing
    Commented Jun 21, 2017 at 16:13
  • The act is Baptism. OK. We are dealing in a non sequitur. Catholics don't look at baptism in a Negative way - "without consent or knowledge" - it is a welcoming into the faith community; a Positive Thing. The parents are doing a Good Thing, not a negative thing. The assertion of negative purpose is a Neo-Protestant(non Trinitarian) attitude that seems explicitly tied to the denigration of infant baptism as a matter of principle, and also can link back to various arguments over whether full immersion is required or not ... which as I recall goes back to some early church disagreements. Commented Jun 21, 2017 at 16:25

4 Answers 4


Those who baptize infants are bound by Canon Law to raise those children Catholic. A Catholic parent must

Can. 1125 1/…do all in his or her power so that all offspring are baptized and brought up in the Catholic Church.

Thus, unless the Catholic parents utterly fail in their duty, it is nearly impossible for a child to be baptized Catholic and not realize once the child reaches the age of reason.

Secretly baptizing foster children, for example, is prohibited by the Church for the reason that it cannot be assured that the child will be brought up in the Catholic religion.

Can. 868 §1. For an infant to be baptized licitly [i.e., lawfully]…2/ there must be a founded hope that the infant will be brought up in the Catholic religion; if such hope is altogether lacking, the baptism is to be delayed according to the prescripts of particular law after the parents have been advised about the reason.

Thus, to answer your questions:

a Catholic baptism alone makes a person a Catholic

This isn't quite correct. Catholic baptism + raising the infant Catholic makes the infant Catholic. If the infant is baptized Catholic but not raised Catholic, how is this any different from if the infant were baptized outside the Catholic Church? Anyone, inside or outside the Church, who can apply water and say the baptismal formula can validly baptize.

Catholic teaching is not that baptism alone makes one a member of the Church. As Pope Pius XII's encyclical Mystici Corporis Christi said,

  1. Actually only those are to be included as members of the Church who have been baptized and profess the true faith, and who have not been so unfortunate as to separate themselves from the unity of the Body, or been excluded by legitimate authority for grave faults committed.

Baptism and profession of the Catholic Faith are both required to be members of the Church. Since infants lack the use of reason, the Catholic environment in which the infant is brought up substitutes for the inability of the infant to profess the Faith. After the infant grows up and attains the age of reason, he can formally make this act of faith in the sacrament of Confirmation.

  • If the child is not raised to be Catholic does their baptism still cleanse them from original sin?
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Jun 20, 2017 at 0:21
  • 1
    @curiousdannii Yes, if it's a valid baptism.
    – Geremia
    Commented Jun 20, 2017 at 2:39
  • @Geremia Thank you for your answer. I'm still a little confused about how this fits with the other answer, though. So, it wouldn't be just baptism, but also to profess Catholicism? So, a baby wouldn't truly be a member until such time as they are able to make a profession? What difference would this profession be to Confirmation?
    – DKing
    Commented Jun 20, 2017 at 14:06
  • "So, a baby wouldn't truly be a member until such time as they are able to make a profession?" Infants baptized Catholic are members of the Church. See the last ¶ of my answer. "What difference would this profession be to Confirmation?" I mentioned confirmation as an example. Certainly someone who reaches the age of reason could publicly profess the Faith before being confirmed.
    – Geremia
    Commented Jun 20, 2017 at 20:15

About "involuntary Catholics"

While that distinction isn't recognized by the Church, it's an understandable condition to consider. It all starts with baptism, as with the previous answer that you linked to.

Baptism provides a permanent mark on the soul

Semel catholicus, semper catholicus (per Canon Law)

(Canon 11) The law recognizes as Catholic anyone baptized in the Catholic Church or received into it1.

If you are baptized Catholic, but naught else is done to raise you in the faith, the Church will still consider you Catholic (per Canon 111, among other considerations). This is directly related to the indelible spiritual mark on your soul that occurs during the baptism.

CCC 1272 Incorporated into Christ by Baptism, the person baptized is configured to Christ. Baptism seals the Christian with the indelible spiritual mark (character) of his belonging to Christ. No sin can erase this mark, even if sin prevents Baptism from bearing the fruits of salvation. 83 Given once for all, Baptism cannot be repeated.

It is important to recall that the Catholic Faith is not a single event; the intent of being brought into the Catholic Faith Community (at whatever age) is to live our lives in the Catholic faith community (the church is the body of Christ) and to (as best we can) configure our lives to Christ.

Would they be considered Catholic, up to such point that the person intentionally renounced this?

Yes (and even if they renounce their baptized faith ;-) ) .

The Church will not renounce its connection to that person, though a person may leave the faith community by word, deed, or both.

1279 The fruit of Baptism, or baptismal grace, is a rich reality that includes forgiveness of original sin and all personal sins, birth into the new life by which man becomes an adoptive son of the Father, a member of Christ and a temple of the Holy Spirit. By this very fact the person baptized is incorporated into the Church, the Body of Christ, and made a sharer in the priesthood of Christ.

Your question appears to be referring to a Lapsed Catholic

Lapsed Catholics are all over the place. In the past few years I have (as part of the RCIA ministry) been of assistance to help some lapsed Catholics return to the Faith, to get confirmed, and to convalidate their marriages. (I am not a clergyman of any sort; lay person, volunteer, catechist).

A lapsed Catholic is a baptized Catholic who is non-practicing. Such a person may still identify as a Catholic and remains a Catholic according to canon law.

The canon law support to the answer may seen a little indirect, but it provides a clear idea on how the Church sees the relationship between the Baptized and the Church.

Can. 11 Merely ecclesiastical laws bind those who have been baptized in the Catholic Church or received into it, possess the efficient use of reason, and, unless the law expressly provides otherwise, have completed seven years of age. {standard age of reason}

While there are a variety of reasons that people profess to leave or ignore the faith they were baptized into, the Church has an outreach program called Catholic Come Home. A core message is:

Regardless of why you left or got out of the habit of going to Mass, you can always come home and return to the practice of the sacraments and the fullness of relationship with Jesus Christ and the Church he founded. We are Catholic. Welcome home.

1 New Commentary on the Code of Canon Law, ed. by John P. Beal, James A. Coriden, Thomas J. Green, Paulist Press, 2000, p. 63 (commentary on canon 11

Even the form of censure known as excommunication does not in itself make a person an ex-Catholic: excommunicated persons are "cut off from the Church", barred from receiving the Eucharist and from taking an active part in the liturgy (reading, serving at the altar, etc.), but they remain Catholics.[11] They are urged to retain a relationship with the Church, as the goal is to encourage them to repent {via the sacrament of penance and reconciliation} and return to active participation in its life.


From a Catholic perspective:

@Geremia's answer is great. I would like to supplement it a little by bringing up a distinction which might help clarify the answer he gives. There is a difference between formal (or technical) membership in the Catholic Church, and a more intentional living out of the Catholic faith.

Whereas Baptism in a Catholic Church formally unites a person to the Catholic Church --- as per CCC 1213, mentioned in the linked previous answer --- Catholic Baptism in itself will not make a person an intentional Catholic.

Yes, Catholic Baptism technically makes a person Catholic as far as Canon Law is concerned. And yes, as mentioned in CCC 1213, Baptism in itself has some deep spiritual consequences as well, because it incorporates those baptized into Jesus Christ and opens the doors for the reception of further grace. But the (mighty) seeds of the Catholic Faith that Baptism has created need to be watered and nurtured with a Catholic teaching and Catholic upbringing in order to end up with a healthy (and intentional) Catholic member of the Body of Christ. If those seeds of the Catholic faith are not properly fostered, one runs the risk of undeveloped seeds that slowly become putrid, or of seeds which could germinate in twisted ways. Hence the emphasis in Catholic Law about "having a founded hope that the infant will be brought up in the Catholic religion". (Note, this directive does not apply in danger of death; when in danger of death the union with Christ is the over-riding concern).

In my opinion, the quote from Pope Pius XII which Geremia points to is using the term "the Church" in its mystical sense --- as in those who truly are members of the Body of Christ --- and not in the temporal (and canon-legal) sense of technically belonging to the organized body of believers known in this world as the Catholic Church.

But, if Catholic Baptism truly does incorporate a person into the Body of Christ, as the Catechism teaches, how is it possible that Pope Pius XII can talk about someone not really belonging to the Church (for example, by not professing the true Catholic Faith)? Well, it must be that somewhere along the line the newly-baptized person must have fallen away from the mystical Body of Christ by purposefully refusing to profess the true Catholic Faith --- or worse, purposefully professing something against true Catholic Faith. After all, the Catholic Faith does teach that salvation can be lost. Presumably, a Catholic upbringing would help a person to not lose their Catholic Faith, or not to lose their Catholic Faith entirely, or would even help a person to return to Catholic Faith if/once lost. After all, the Catholic Faith does teach that salvation can be regained --- though Confession is outside the bounds of this question.

Hopefully this answer can harmonize both the teaching of the Catechism, Canon Law, and the teaching of Pope Pius XII, as quoted by Geremia.


This is the basis of all religions. A Catholic man and woman will not give birth to a muslim Child. The Child will be indoctrinated to be Catholic. Had the Child been adopted to a Protestant couple, the Child would be Protestant. The majority are born into a religion (or the lack of thereof) or are heavily influenced by the surroundings (which is why religions are concentrated geographically).

Religion is rarely a choice, so yes, most Catholics living today and in the past are involuntarily Catholic. Whether or not they "like" to be Catholic or not, it is rarely a choice made through rational thinking and the possibility to "browse" and see what is the most believable option.

  • Welcome to Christianity.SE. For a quick overview, please take the Site Tour. For more on what this site is all about, see: How we are different than other sites. Commented Jun 22, 2017 at 13:45
  • To clarify, it's not true of all religions. As a contrast, in my faith, you are not considered to be a believer until by God's grace, He has saved you from your sin, given you the indwelling Holy Spirit, and you make a public profession of that fact, which is preceded by true repentance and followed by evidence of the change God has done in your life to make sure it's not just a self-willed decision. In my experience, most converts come after many years of trying other beliefs. Even in denominations which do believe in baptismal regeneration, not all permit baptism without a profession.
    – DKing
    Commented Jun 22, 2017 at 14:08
  • @dking: You may be confusing "involuntary" with "forced and pretending" which is not the argument here.
    – JanneK
    Commented Jun 22, 2017 at 14:13
  • @DKing If a person sincerely states to be a "born and raised <insert a religion here>", it is irrelevant what the definition, rules or rituals follows with it. There was nothing that differentiated your religion in this regard. If someone is born into it, someone is born into it. Since people are obviously susceptible to all the different religions that exist, and all religions can spread the same way, it follows that all religions can be as involuntary as the next.
    – JanneK
    Commented Jun 22, 2017 at 15:10
  • Religion is rarely a choice That's a stretch. Try telling that to me (no church for about 4 decades, came to the faith as an adult) or to the people who come into our church from no religion or from other denominations. Since 2008, in our parish alone, we averaged 17 new members per year (adult) to include lapsed catholics who received confirmation. Each Lenten season, we'd be at the Cathedral with over 200 candidates/catechumens. (All adult) I find your assertion to be at odds with my experience. No down vote as your opening paragraph is on solid ground. Commented Jun 22, 2017 at 15:38

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