Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Unusual Baptism Involving Lemon Cola (this is not an April Fool's Joke!)

In Norway, interesting news has emerged that a baby was baptized with lemon cola, instead of the obviously usual water. Apparently this was done because the water pipes had frozen and they could not get any water for the sacrament. I do not know what denomination this was, as the story does not indicate this. They only mention that there was a priest, named Paal Dale, who did the baptism.

It seems statistically probable that the priest is of the national Church of Norway, in which case he would not be Catholic. 83% of the population belong to the national church.

How does this action square with Catholic teaching on baptism? Well, surprisingly it could be valid given certain circumstances. First of all, no water could be available with which to perform the baptism. Secondly, the baby would have to be in some kind of proximate danger of death. A substance other than water in baptism should not be used if there is not a serious reason. Since I do not know the circumstances of this baptism, I cannot say if it followed to rules or not.

Another interesting piece of information is that although this was not done in a Catholic Church, if it was validly done and in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, then it would be considered valid, and if the child was to later become Catholic, he would not have to be baptized again. If, however lemon cola was used and it was not necessary, they may opt to do a conditional baptism, which basically says we are not 100% certain that the baby was baptized, but if not, we will now. If he was baptized already, this "new" baptism will not have an additional effect, but if he was not correctly baptized the first time, this will bring him into the Body of Christ. If a priest is not available, anyone can validly baptize a baby and, in fact, should.

To get more detail on the use of liquids other than water for baptism, I went to, and found a Question and Answer which referenced the Code of Canon Law. It states the following:

The code of canon law explains that "true, clean, and natural water" is necessary for baptism (canon 849). Liquids can be assessed in three categories: Those that are certainly valid, those that are doubtfully valid, and those that are certainly invalid.

Certainly valid liquids include water as found in rivers, oceans, lakes, hot springs, melted ice or snow, mineral water, dew, slightly muddy water (as long as the water predominates), and slightly brackish water.

Doubtfully valid liquids are those that are a mixture of water and some other substance, such as beer, soda, light tea, thin soup or broth, and artificially scented water such as rose water.The last category is of liquids which are certainly invalid. It includes oil, urine, grease, phlegm, shoe polish, and milk.

The rule of thumb is that, in emergency situations, you should always try to baptize with certainly valid liquids, beginning with plain, clean water. If plain water isn't available, baptize with a doubtfully valid liquid using the formula, "If this water is valid, I baptize you in the name of the Father. . ." If the danger of death passes, the person should later be conditionally baptized with certainly valid water. Never attempt to baptize anyone with a certainly invalid liquid.

The link to this Catholic Answers Q&A can be found here:

Here is the full Lemon Cola Baptism story from Reuters (on Yahoo):

Tue Mar 31, 2:22 PM

OSLO (Reuters) - A Norwegian church used lemon-flavored cola instead of water in a baptism ceremony after its taps were temporarily turned off because of freezing temperatures, daily Vaart Land said Tuesday.

Priest Paal Dale from the town of Stord, about 150 miles west of the capital Oslo, improvised during a recent cold-spell by dabbing the lemon fizzy water on a baby during a baptism ceremony, it said.

"It had gone flat," Dale was quoted as saying by the newspaper. "Only the lemon smell made this unusual."

Dale said the child's family were informed about the switch only after the ceremony because the priest "had a need to inform" them about the lingering lemon scent.

"They didn't say much, but I assumed they smelled the aroma as well," Dale told Vaart Land.
(Reporting by Wojciech Moskwa)


  1. Funny, except for the fact that this was a Lutheran church and a Lutheran priest.

    A translated excerpt:
    >> He refers to Luther's small catechism, where it is said that baptism "is water which is sanctified by God's command and united with God's word"

  2. Yeh, I figured it was. I assumed it wasn't Catholic. Thanks for the information.

  3. It is fun to read this sort of articles and blog posts about this incident in international forums..
    I was there when it happened, and I can confirm that this was in fact a lutheran (or wathever its called) baptism..
    The Lemon Cola was actually mineral water with a little lemon taste, Bon Aqua Lemon. I don't know if its sold other places than in Norway. But anyways. Would you say this is accepted water?
    There was a lot of snow that day, this is actually some weeks ago. Would it be okay to melt some snow and use that?
    Or would it perhaps be better to go to the nearest lake or seashore (it's not far away) and get water?

  4. Wow, thanks Bjarne for the additional information. That clears things up a lot. As my article indicated, there are degrees of validity for the substance of baptism, with clear water being, of course, being the best selection, since that is what is always referred to in Scripture. However, in cases of emergency, other liquids can be used. Now that you've clarified (excuse the pun) the substance that was used, I can say it is more valid that a lemon-flavoured cola. A clear liquid such as the one you described would probably fall under the category of possibly valid.

    It is also important to note what you said concerning snow. If there is snow available that can be melted into water, then that should definitely be used over a substance like the one described. Snow melted is almost all water, so that would be a good choice. In fact, I think it falls under the category of certainly valid.

    One would not be required to go all the way to a lake or seashore to get water, since melted snow will do just fine, however, if it is accessible, I would recommend that as your primary option.

    The goal is to baptize with water, but not necessarily to have 100% pure H2O. Therefore, I think if the substance is water, even if it contains imperfections like melted snow might, it is still totally valid.

    Thanks for your questions and feel free to send comments to my other posts as well.