In preparing a handout for RCIA, I am brushing up on the matter and form of each sacrament.
With baptism in particular, many questions can arise about the matter of the sacrament. Can we baptize with beer – in a pinch? What about coffee?
The following is taken from the very useful moral manual, Moral Theology, by Fr. Heribert Jone (page 321):
Certainly valid matter: rain and sea water; spring, well, and drain water; water from melted ice, snow, or hail; mineral and sulphur water; dew and water from sweating walls and recondensed stream; distilled water if by distillation only foreign matter is removed; muddy water or water mixed with any other substance as long as the water certainly predominates by far.
Certainly invalid matter: milk, blood, amniotic liquid, tears, saliva, foam, fruit juices, wine, beer, oil, thick broth, ink.
Doubtful matter: thin soup, weak beer, coffee, tea, water from dissolved salt, sap from vines and other plants, rose water and similar liquids extracted from vegetative matter.
It is important to note that doubtful matter may be used ONLY in cases of extreme necessity. Let us pray that we never find ourselves needing to use this knowledge!