It looks like the 'intent' of the baptizer requires some sort of assent to Trinitarian beliefs in order for a baptism to be considered valid by the Catholic Church (see Would a person baptized by a Biblical Unitarian church be considered a Christian by the Catholic Church?).

Given Trinitarianism did not develop as an explicit theology for hundreds of years after Jesus' ministry, and a plausible historical view is that early baptisms weren't done with the intent to baptize in a contemporary Trinitarian sense, and the words in Matthew 28:19

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit

don't seem to require Trinitarian intent (and that, ex., Biblical Unitarians have no problem with that formulation in baptism,) what are the main arguments the Catholic Church puts forward for requiring Trinitarian intent on part of the baptizer in order for there to be a valid baptism?

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    – curiousdannii
    May 17, 2022 at 21:59

1 Answer 1


Here's quoting a prominent Roman Catholic commentary on Matt. 28:19. Note the common Roman Catholic hermeneutic is to interpret Scriptures relative to how church fathers interpreted them rather than the possible ways to interpret Scripture today. Thus, Matt. 28:19 did not need to be a baptismal formula for Matthew if early church fathers latter took it to be so.

  1. The apostolic commission is couched in the terms of the experience of the early Church. Brief as it is, it is an unusually clear presentation of what the apostolic Church understood itself to be. The Church acts in virtue of the commission that Jesus has received-a commission that is without limit. By his authority they may make disciples of all nations; there is no longer any question of the restriction of the mission to Jews. baptizing them: Their work is to baptize and to teach. Baptism is a rite of initiation; to baptize “into the name” is to signify that the person baptized belongs to the Trinity of persons whose names are invoked in baptism. It seems unlikely that the Trinitarian formula was the earliest baptismal formula employed, and Mt here reflects a more mature practice. -- Brown, R. E., Fitzmyer, J. A., & Murphy, R. E. (1996). The Jerome Biblical commentary (Vol. 2, pp. 113–114). Prentice-Hall.

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