Question 241:

Baptism is said to remove all sins. Is this also true for murderers, child abusers and drug dealers?



Yes. Baptism results in the forgiveness of all sins without exception. We add the following principal information on Baptism:

“What is Baptism?

Baptism is the way from the realm of death into life; the door into the Church and the beginning of a lasting communion with God. (YOUCAT: Jugendkatechismus der Katholischen Kirche. Aschaffenburg: Pattloch, 2011, n. 194)

“This is how Baptism is conducted: The person to be baptised is immersed into the baptismal font three times or has water poured over their head three times, while the following words are being said: I baptise you in the name of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Here a short introduction into the meaning of this basic sacrament of the church.

1. The biblical basis

Peter’s sermon at Penetecost in Jerusalem goes straight to the heart of many listeners. They ask him and the other disciples: What shall we do? According to the Lords Commandment (Mt. 28:19) Peter replied: Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:37-38).

John the Baptist had called to Baptism through water and repentance to prepare for the coming of the Messiah, and Jesus, too, wants to receive this Baptism from John in the river Jordan as the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (1 John 1:29), Baptism (Greek: baptizein) means immersing. Jesus, who let himself be immersed (baptised) into death for the salvation of the world (cf. CCC 1225), gave us Baptism by the Holy Spirit so that all people can be born again through water and the Holy Spirit to enter the Kingdom of God (cf. John 3:5). (See: I believe: Kleiner Katholischer Katechismus. Königstein, 2004, p. 121.)

When a person who was not baptised later gives his life to Christ (martyrdom) he receives a Baptism of blood. There is also a Baptism of desire when non baptised people do good, support their neighbour and thus - sometimes without being aware of it - enter into the fellowship of Christ. We also believe that God in His mercy does not leave children who died before being baptised. (see: ibid., p. 124)]

“[…] the new Community of God, the Church, does not only grow among the Jews In Acts (8:26-40). St Luke tells the story of Philip, one of the seven deacons. Following an intuition he starts out towards Gaza. On the way he meets a noble man from Ethiopia who was returning from Jerusalem where he had been praying in the temple; sitting in his carriage this man reads Isaiah’s prophesy (Isa 53:7-8). Philip hears what the stranger is reading and asks him: Do you understand what you are reading? - How could I, he replied, if no-one teaches me? Philip enters into his carriage and explains to him how the words of the prophet have been fulfilled in Jesus Christ: He came to reconcile people with God. He was rejected and accepted suffering, he did not fight against death on the cross. Like a sacrificial lamb he was slaughtered. But God resurrected him. He is alive, and we are the witnesses. He is the Saviour and the Redeemer. He who believes that Jesus is the Messiah and the Saviour and who is baptised becomes a new person, a Christian. On their way they reach a spring. The Ethiopian says: Here is water. What is there to prevent my Baptism? The both go into the water and Philip baptises the man: I baptise you in the name of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Spirit. This man became the first African Christian” (ibid., p. 121f.).

2. A brief summary of the doctrine of the Church

“Baptism is the sacrament common to all Christians. The Church administers baptism by the command and authority of Our Lord who said: “Go, make disciples of all the nations; baptize them in the name of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Mt 28.19). The ordinary minister of Baptism is a Bishop, priest or deacon. “In case of necessity, any person, even someone not baptized, can baptize if he has the required intention. The intention required is to will to do what the Church does when she baptizes, and to apply the Trinitarian baptismal formula” (cf. CCC 1256).

Baptism is valid for all eternity. No one can take it away or repeat it, for it marks, or seals, the Christian with the inedible spiritual mark (or character) of his belonging to Christ. No sin can erase this mark, even if sin prevents Baptism from bearing the fruits of salvation (cf. CCC 1272).

Baptism establishes a personal relationship with each of the three persons of the Blessed Trinity. The Holy Spirit fills us with sanctifying grace, which makes us ‘partakers of the divine nature’ (2 Pt 1:4). That means that we are adopted sons of God, in Jesus Christ, who is himself the Only Son of the Father. Sanctifying grace brings with it the three theological virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity, enabling us to know God in a fashion similar to that in which he knows himself, to love him as he loves himself and to hope to live forever in communion with him, just as he desires. Sanctifying grace also includes the gifts of the Holy Spirit, through which we are given the power to live and act under the prompting of the Holy Spirit (CCC 1266). Baptism also makes us sharers in the priesthood of Christ, in his mission of priest, prophet and king – that means it enables us to offer ourselves with him to the Father, to bear witness to the Gospel and to consecrate the world to God. This is known as the common priesthood of the faithful.

Baptism wipes away Original Sin, it achieves the forgiveness of all our personal sins and makes us children of God and brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ himself – members of the Church. It also makes us brothers and sisters of one another, so that we truly pray: ‘Our Father, who art in Heaven…’.

Baptism is a beginning, a sort of advance gift from God: we must spend our whole lives to make it bear fruit. If we remain faithful to Christ, in faith, hope and charity, then the grace which we have receive in Baptism works and grows in us. And so Baptism finds its complete fulfillment in the holiness to which we have all been called and which is brought about progressively through the growth of the life of God in us.” (“I believe. A Little Catholic Catechism”. Königstein:CAN, 2008, pp. 122f.)

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Prof. Dr. Christian W. Troll,

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