Apologize and Don't Be Sorry!

A site dedicated to thinking through the common objections to the Catholic Faith as well as questions of a general religious nature.

Location: Prague, Oklahoma, United States

Just your basic 21st century priest trying to bring the Gospel to everyone who will give it a fair hearing.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Requirements for Baptism

Dear Father Tharp:
My teenage daughter has a 6 month-old baby and she is no longer an active practicing Catholic. The father of the baby is in the picture, but he is not Catholic. Our priest published in our bulletin that the requirements for baptism of an infant is that one of the parents must be an active practicing Catholic. My daughter wants to have the baby baptized, but she is not practicing the faith. I am so worried about my granddaughter not being baptized. Would the Church decline to baptize an infant because the parents are not active Catholics?
Name and City Withheld.

First, I applaud your intention and concern for the welfare of your granddaughter. Baptism is the gateway to the other sacraments and the beginning of our life in Christ. It has been a venerable tradition of the Church to baptize both adults and infants, so that the free gift of God’s grace may be poured out on all. The logic of baptizing infants stems from the fact that like our earthly life, our supernatural life comes not by our willing it, but by gracious willing of God. As St. John reminds us, “Love consists in this: it is not we who loved God, but God loved us and sent His Son to expiate our sins” (I John 4:10).

However, at the same time, we must remember that the Sacraments aren’t magic. They require our free co-operation. It is here that the problem concerning your granddaughter’s baptism arises.

The insistence of your pastor that your daughter be a practicing Catholic before granting the baptism of your granddaughter is found in the Code of Canon Law. The Code of Canon Law gives the Church a way to insure that the Sacraments are celebrated in such a way as to prevent them being treated lightly or in a manner unbecoming to their nature. The Code also gives direction on matters of Church governance as well.

The Code initially lays out the responsibility of parents to see that their children are baptized soon after birth (Canon 867, paragraph 1). This same canon assumes that the parents have already spoken to their pastor and received proper preparation for the Sacrament. At the same time, the Code recognizes that for the baptism to take place “...there must be a realistic hope that the child will be brought up in the Catholic religion. If such hope is truly lacking, the baptism is, in accordance with the provisions of particular law, to be deferred and the parents advised of the reason for this” (Canon 868, paragraph 1, degree 2). Given the situation you describe, the burden for raising the child in the Catholic religion falls squarely upon your daughter. That she is not practicing the Faith at this time, the pastor can assume, quite reasonably, that the hope of the child being raised Catholic is slim. The sad fact is the person withholding the baptism from your granddaughter is not your pastor. It is your daughter.

Speaking from my own limited pastoral experience, if I were the pastor in this situation, here are my concerns given this case. First, as your daughter is not practicing the Faith, I would be dubious that she understands either the nature of Baptism or obligations placed on her by her own Baptism. If she doesn’t understand these things, how can she form her child in the practice of the faith? Second, I would be curious to find out what the father of the child thought. Since he is not of the Catholic faith, I would be concerned that he might be more of an impediment than an assistance to the rearing of this child in the Faith.

In closing, I sympathize with you. It must be distressing to see one’s children forego the practice of the Faith that you took such pains to raise them in. You must take St. Monica as your guide and example. It was through her prayers and sacrifices that brought one of the greatest doctors of the Church, St. Augustine, into the Church.


Blogger John B. said...

All I have to say at this point is: WOW! what a nice blog layout! One of the classiest and nicest layouts I have seen.

I think you have lost all of the previous comments, however, as I had already commented on this post before.

10:50 AM  
Blogger Christina Martin said...

You said it is the child's mother withholding the baptism, not the pastor... good answer!

I wonder, is it permissible (as an exception)to allow another person (such as the grandmother)to take responsibility for the child's Catholic upringing, if the mother of the child grants permission?

6:52 PM  
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8:49 PM  
Blogger WAM said...

Many problems exist with this response. 1. Reading the Canon completely, there must be a finding that "such hope is truly lacking." Since the baby can't speak for herself, that puts the burden on the Pastor to learn the truth. I do not see where the Pastor indicated that he would interview the 16 year old mother or the father. There might be some good reason that the mother is not attending Church regularly. 2. Where the other parent is "in the picture" and not Catholic, most likely the child will be Baptised in the Christian faith, just not in the Catholic Church. Baptism is the first step toward the formation of faith. By adopting such a dismissive attitude toward the mother, there is a very good chance that the child will be Baptised Methodist, Presbyterian, Luthern or in some other Prostestant religion. Thus, the Pastor and the Church missed the first best opportunity to solify this child's development within the Catholic community. 3. It is true that if the Pastor spent the time to investigate the facts, and found that the Baptism was viewed by the family as a blessing for the child or merely some "magical" event, then the Pastor would properly decline to perform the Baptism.

8:00 AM  
Blogger Christie Gregor said...

I really hope at this point, there is an exception to
the rule...since the
baby has his/her own
human rights to be
baptized too...however,
it is unfortunate that
both the baby's biological
parents are not practicing Catholics in order for the Sacrament of Baptism to be administered. Since the grandmother has so much
concern for the baby...hope
she can be the proper and
nearest relative to be given
the privilege to be the witness
for the baby's Catholic baptism. There should be room for love in the Catholic church...not only to administer the laws. God is love, after all and in His eyes, we are all His children!

God's blessings and peace to all!
Christie Gregor
Say It With God’s Word

12:28 AM  

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