How can one tell if one needs to convert in order to be a Catholic or if one is already Catholic?

Would one's or one's ancestors' conversion to another religion or their lack of knowledge about Catholic change anything?

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    Being Catholic is not a matter of one's birth (race, caste, etc.). People must go through a process of learning and examination before they are officially baptized and accepted as members of the Church. Even children that are born to Catholic parents must learn (catechism) and then go through a Confirmation ceremony (typically in early teens). This is a confirmation of the vow to live within the Church that was made on behalf of the newborn baby by its Godparent(s). Dec 30, 2022 at 22:14
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    Being a Christian is primarily about being in an active relationship with God our Father, first through reconciliation once our sin is dealt with, and then through listening to him speak (in the scriptures), praying to him, and living like his children. If you don't know if this applies to you, then the answer is it must not.
    – curiousdannii
    Dec 30, 2022 at 22:44
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    @RayButterworth Catholicism practices infant baptism routinely so "a process of learning and examination" is not a strict requirement. Adult converts would do so. Despite common believe "confirmation" in Catholicism does NOT mean the person confirming the promises made by godparents -- that is, there is no "rejection" which amounts to a negation of those promises.
    – eques
    Dec 31, 2022 at 16:19
  • @eques, so someone that (for whatever reason) doesn't go through the catechism/confirmation process is still officially Catholic even though they either have no knowledge of the religion or have decided to reject it? Dec 31, 2022 at 16:40
  • @RayButterworth correct.
    – eques
    Dec 31, 2022 at 16:45

2 Answers 2


Unless one has been baptized into the Catholic Church or was previously validly baptized and then received into communion later, one is not Catholic. You cannot inherit it explicitly.

Thus, if you don't know already somehow, only people who knew you as a child might be able to tell you if you had been baptized and if so, by whom -- this is not an impossible situation although it's also not especially common.

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    Note there should be records of any baptism. I'm not sure how the CC handles inquiries re records of baptisms. Dec 31, 2022 at 0:48
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    @OnlyTrueGod indeed there are, but they are kept first at the parish that did the baptism and secondarily at the diocese that parish is located in, so if you don't know where you may have been baptized, it's hard to just find those records.
    – eques
    Dec 31, 2022 at 12:44
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    In event of doubt, there might be a need for a conditional baptism.
    – Mary
    Jan 1 at 19:31

How can one tell if one needs to convert in order to be Catholic or if one is already Catholic?

The answer is quite straightforward: ask your parents whether you were ever baptized in a Catholic church as an infant. The parish should have kept a baptism record. The diocese for that parish should have the record or at least help you to locate your baptism record.

  • If you find out you have been baptized, you can be practicing Catholic again by going to confession and receive communion regularly.

  • If there is no record of baptism, you can become a Catholic by participating in your parish's RCIA program which will prepare you for baptism, confirmation, and first communion.

  • If you are still not sure, including not knowing the parish where you might have been baptized, you can be conditionally baptized after going through RCIA.

Could one's Catholic status be obtained or lost by inheritance?

No. Being a Catholic is an individual decision, not inherited. If your parents or grandparents later converted to another religion or to become Catholic, their conversion doesn't affect your status at all.

Would one's lack of knowledge about Catholicism change the status?

If you have been baptized (maybe as an infant) you are a Catholic regardless whether you know about Catholicism or not. Ideally, your parents should have prepared you for confirmation & first communion when you reached the age of reason. But if that didn't happen, you are still a Catholic. If you don't go to church you are a lapsed / non-practicing Catholic.

Would one's conversion to another religion change anything?

What is clear is that you are no longer in full communion with the Church (see Canon Law 751). But it is possible you are still considered a Catholic. See the 2022 Catholic Answers article 'Once a Catholic, Always a Catholic'? by Jimmy Akin.

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    Just in case the OP can't find out if they were baptized, a conditional baptism may be done. It might be worth adding to their answer
    – Belinda
    Jan 1 at 9:36
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    @Belinda Thanks, added to the answer. Jan 1 at 18:53

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