Gatekeeping Baptism

Duly vested, Don Camillo approached the font.’What do you wish to name this child?’ he asked Peppone’s wife.

‘Lenin Libero Antonio,’ she replied.

‘Then go and get him baptized in Russia,’ said Camillo calmly, replacing the cover on the font.

The priest’s hands were as large as shovels and the three left the church without protest. But as Don Camillo was attempting to slip into the sacristy he was arrested by the voice of the Lord.

‘Don Camillo, you have done a very wicked thing. Go at once and bring those people back and baptize their child.’

‘But Lord,’ protested Don Camillo, ‘You really must bear in mind that baptism is not a jest. Baptism is a sacred matter. Baptism is…’

‘Don Camillo, the Lord interrupted him, ‘Are attempting to teach me the nature of baptism? Did I not invent it? I tell you that you have been guilty of gross presumption, because, suppose that child were to die at this moment, it would be your fault if it failed to attain Paradise !’

‘Lord, do not let us be melodramatic,’ retorted Don Camillo. ‘Why in the name of Heaven should it die? It’s as pink and white as a rose !’

‘Which means exactly nothing!’ the Lord admonished him. ‘What if a tile should fall on its head or it should suddenly have convulsions? It was your duty to baptize it.’

Don Camillo raised protesting arms: ‘But Lord, just think it over. If it were certain that the child would go to Hell, we might stretch a point; but seeing that despite being the son of that nasty piece of work he might very easily manage to slip into Paradise, how can You ask me to risk anyone going there with such a name as Lenin? I’m thinking of the reputation of Paradise.’

‘The reputation of Paradise is my business,’ the Lord shouted angrily. ‘What matters to me is that a man should be a decent fellow and I care less than nothing whether his name be Lenin or Button. At the very most, you should have pointed out to those people that saddling children with fantastic names may involve them in annoyances when they grow up.’

‘Very well,’ replied Don Camillo. ‘I am always in the wrong. I must see what I can do about it.’
from “The Baptism”, The Little World of Don Camillo by Giovanni Guareschi

I was a bit surprised to read Dr. Ed Peters’ posts on the set of baptisms at which Pope Francis recently officiated, in which one of the babies baptized was the child of two parents who are not married in the Church. Peters is cautious about the precedent being set. In his first post on the topic he wrote:

First, unlike the foot-washing episode last Holy Week (here and here), the pope’s actions today occasion no reason to think that canon or liturgical law has been—what’s the right word?—disregarded, for no canon or liturgical law forbids baptizing the babies of unmarried couples, etc. Indeed, Church law generally favors the administration of sacraments and, in the case of baptism, it requires only that there be “a founded hope” that the child will be raised Catholic (1983 CIC 868 § 1, 2º). A minister could certainly discern ‘founded hope’ for a Catholic upbringing under these circumstances and outsiders should not second-guess his decision.

But here’s the rub: a minister could also arrive at precisely the opposite conclusion on these facts and, equally in accord with the very same Church law, he could delay the baptism. I know of many pastors who have reached this conclusion and who used the occasion of a request for a baby’s baptism to assist the parents toward undertaking their duties in a more responsible manner, including helping them to regularize their marriage status in the Church, resume attendance at Sunday Mass, participate fully in the sacraments, and so on.

Now, if the pope’s action today was as reported (again, we don’t know that yet), pastors who delay a baby’s baptism in order to help reactivate the Faith in the baby’s parents are going to have a harder time doing that as word gets out about the pope’s (apparently) different approach to the rite. Whether that was the message Francis intended to send is irrelevant to whether that is the message that he seems to have sent.

In his second post he elaborates on why he is more concerned about the situation of parents married outside the Church than about single mothers — Pope Francis being famous for having emphasized back in Argentina that priests should not refuse to baptize the children of single mothers:

Quite simply, being an unwed mother is not sinful. Besides the fact that the acts by which a single woman became pregnant (assuming they were objectively sinful in the first place) could have been repented of long before the baby comes for baptism, a variety of circumstances could result in there being no sin associated with the pregnancy whatsoever, let alone with motherhood! I don’t know what priests might be like in Argentina, but I am very sure I have never heard of an American priest withholding baptism from a baby based solely on the fact that the mother of said baby was not married. A pastor could well arrive at a founded hope that the child of such a mother could be raised Catholic and proceed with the baptism in accord with Canon 868.

But the situation of Catholics actually married outside the Church is quite different. Setting aside my concerns that canonical form itself has become a pastoral stumbling block, I know how the law on canonical form currently reads and that, in the great majority of cases in which canonical form is violated, the Catholics involved are in objective grave sin and give scandal by their state. From that fact, it seems quite plausible to me that a pastor might delay the baptism of the child of such parents until, also in accord with Canon 868, a founded hope that the child could be raised Catholic is attained.

Certainly, I recognize that baptism of an infant should represent (on the part of the parents) a serious intention to raise their child as an active and believing Catholic. But it seems to me important to be clear on why that is. By being baptize, an infant is made a member of the Church, of Christ’s body on earth. To attain the purpose for which we are all created (to know, love and serve God, and to be happy with Him one day in heaven) the child must be shown how to live the faith and instructed in the faith’s beliefs. Parents who do not make an effort to bring up their children in the faith they were baptized into do those children a great wrong. And so, it makes sense to use what leverage the Church has to try to make sure that the parents understand those responsibilities before baptizing their child, and that the parents commit to making that effort.

However, baptism is not a reward for being committed to raising your child in the faith. And at the end of the day, while it’s important that the Church strive to draw from the parents a commitment to raise their child in the faith, it seems to me that the Church also has a solemn duty to baptize those who come (or are brought) to it seeking baptism. This is where I found myself kind of perplexed by Dr. Peters’ take:

Final point: Lost in this whole discussion has been, I fear, any recognition of the fact that, while baptism is of great value, it is also to take on very serious, life-long duties. Imposing via baptism those burdens on a child who is at heightened risk of not receiving adequate assistance in the Faith, and on some parents who in public respects seem ill-equipped to live the very Faith they want passed on to their children, is itself pastorally problematic, no?

Now, maybe I’m an odd mix of old fashioned and new, but it seems to me that the value of baptism should much outweigh its obligations when thinking this through. While the Church emphasizes God’s mercy and thus trusts that God must deal mercifully with those who, though unbaptized, have to the best of their ability lived a good life: we also say that the only way that we know people receive the graces necessary for salvation is through baptism.

This is one of the reasons that we’ve always made sure that our children are baptized as soon as possible after birth. (William at just five days.) No, I don’t believe that if our child somehow died without baptism, that God would consign him to limbo or to hell. I believe that God’s love and mercy finds ways to work in such situations. But I would much, much rather that they be baptized. If we are right in believing that baptism washes away original sin and infuses the soul with God’s grace, then it makes a difference.

As such, it seems to me presumptuous and risky to take the approach that since we can count on God’s mercy and love towards those who aren’t baptized, we should hold off baptizing a child we’re not sure will be properly raised in the faith so as not to impose the obligations of being a Catholic on that child. It seems to me that in doing so, we put that child’s soul at risk. We deny the child the graces of the sacrament, we leave him with the stain of original sin. Even if his upbringing is not as well formed in the faith as we could hope, it seems to me that we must believe that the graces of baptism will make a different in that child’s life, and a difference that we should not deny.

So while it seems entirely appropriate to take action to try to impress on parents who bring their child to be baptized that they must raise their child in the faith, I am very skeptical of the idea of telling parents (whatever the state of their marriage or lack thereof) who bring their child to be baptized that we refuse.

More to explorer


  1. These are complicated and painful, certainly for me, issues.

    My wife abandoned our marriage decades ago for a lover with whom she still remains. Her annulment was denied but its “promise” hastened the end of our life together. I will never recover from this trauma, which never ends for me. I reject comfort from superficial platitudes, even well meant. Now, I am having to defend our marriage again, as she claims she deceived me into marrying her…without proof or corroborating witnesses. In years past, such a case would never have been allowed to be heard without substantial evidence, so long after our wedding day, now 34 years. Now, a mere accusation and a nullity case ensues.

    When my wife’s case was retuned to Iowa and into the hands of a corrupt(objectively, not subjectively or in anger) Judicial Vicar, she was pregnant and this gave her “cover” to civilly marry her lover. Our children were forced, one in tears, to attend. This child was lost in a spontaneous miscarriage but the pair persisted and had two daughters.

    There has never been an intention by my wife, to abide by the validity of our marriage once she had another bed to sleep in. This, in my estimation, should have prevented the baptism of their two children, in the face of the unrepentant adultery of both of their parents. But the Church saw otherwise. I was prevented from any say in the sacraments of our children, yet I was the faithful spouse.

    Now, these two children, are our children’s siblings. They are loved by God. They are also loved by me. All of our children know this and have since our chidlren were children. Our kids were 9, 7, 6 3 and 1, when I was forced from our home. I stayed broke and heartbroken working to be in their lives, whenever it was convenient for my wife to let me have them.

    For me, these circumstances are a constant hurt, in fact one of the two little one’s(about 16then) said as much, to one of my daughters and I felt compelled, another time when I saw her, after I heard she was brough to tears over the reality of my love for her and her thinking that her very existance caused me pain, to tell her that my love for her was not influenced or contingent upon the circumstances of her birth. She had a choice similar to mine in all of it. None. I reminded her that what was between her father and mother and myself, was not of her doing and she should not bear that burden. I do not know if this helped her, but it is certain that she knows my love for her is real.
    Her older sister knows as well but I do not Know her as well as the younger.

    I am strongly at odds with baptism of such children and I believe that all it does is encourage adultery and all the sins attendent to it. This is something the Church must face and come to terms with. I would not stand in the way of the baptism of an older child, provided they understood what the catholic Church taught and were clearly instructed as to the gravely sinful and unrepentant nature of their parents relationship. I would ask them if they understood and rejected their parents choices. If they did, I would fully agree that bthey should be baptised. if they did not, I would not agree with their baptism. It is that simple for me.

    It is not me who put these precious lives in this position. It is their parents and the Catholic Church for all the encourgaement of their adultery that it has done in refusing my many overtures to priests and bishops to intervene on behalf of our valid marriage. I am almost completely disgusted with the catholic Church and certainly with Pope Francis. But, what all of our chidlren have seen is my faithfulness to them and to the vows which brought them into existance. They have seen, all too often, the pain of my struggle in sobbing tears and explosive rage and everything in between. But, always, I come back to the foot of the Cross, because their is nowhere else to go, but there, with Christ, in his agony.

    I am writing this for numerous reasons. I do not think there are easy answers. But, I know, what is being done now, is insufficient to address issues of infidelity, divorce, remarriage and nullity, and is gravely wrong. It is destroying faith, lives and marriages. I wish I had easy answers. My answer was easy, stay faithful. By doing so, I kept our children from having to make choices between their mother and “the woman in my life”, cause there was and is none. Nor did I create children whom I placed in untenable positions due to my “thinking with my crotch.”

    My walk is very lonely. Few, even those who know me well, hold positions similar to my beliefs. Those who know me well, however, are merciful for the most part. In addition, they have seen my own choices for mercy upon others in a variety of circumstances, which makes me, in their eyes, worthy of their mercy, in return. They have seen me struggle but come back to the same ways, time after time. They know I live by choice, not only by passion. They know I am a sinner but they know I am Catholic and try to live it.

    I have little faith. I live as I was taught in a Catholic Church where I do not “feel at home”. My wife and her lover are more welcomed then I am. Theory matters nothing. Practice is everything when you are abandoned and rejected.

    The Catholic Church is in error. It is not the adulterers, muderers, rapists, thieves….who are rejected. It is those who are abandoned, who are rejected. Thier is much concern for rape victims, mugging victims, murder victims, …. Those who are divorced and abandoned…..deserved it.

    That is the real story. God help those poor souls. Only those who walk, separately, with them know their agony. When their marriage is valid and they know it but they have to face the Catholic Church
    after already being completely destroyed in family court, as a respondent, their suffering is unbearable and it NEVER, EVER, EVER, EVER ends!

    Please, do not tell me to trust in God. Few, but God has that right, any longer. Thank you.

    I loveall of “our” children. But, I still would not permit baptims of children from circumstances such as ours, except in danger of death. Then I would, gladly baptize them myself, for they are innocent. But, until they are capable of understanding the circumstances they are ‘trapped in” by their parents,
    it does harm to the valid marriage and to the faith of a terribly persecuted abandoned spouse. The Catholic Church has no business heaping burning coals on them. They are already being scouraged and crucified with Christ, often to the limits of their abilities.

    May, God forgive me if I am wrong.

  2. “May, God forgive me if I am wrong” God will forgive you if you are wrong Karl, but God will not forgive you for keeping the little, innocent children from HIM. “Suffer the little children to come unto me.”Karl, when you deprive the little children of the truths of the Faith and the knowledge of the saints, and the sanctifying grace of the Sacrament of Baptism for their rational, immortal, innocent souls, you presume on God to do your will instead of you doing God’s will. I will hear no more of your complaint. You do not own your children, God does and you defy God’s will in depriving these innocent persons the Sacrament of Baptism because of the crimes and sins of their parents. The children’s souls are not guilty of anyone’s crimes and sins except their own. The virtue of Justice requires that these children receive the waters of Baptism as priest, prophet and king. The salvation of your immortal soul hangs in the balance. Go read the Book of Jonah. Jonah said to God, “I am so angry, I could die” and God answered Jonah: “And should I not be concerned over Ninive, the great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot distinguish their right hand from their left, not to mention the many cattle.”
    You need, Karl, to stop telling God how to be God.

  3. “I tell you that you have been guilty of gross presumption, because, suppose that child were to die at this moment, it (it?) would be your fault if it (it?) failed to attain Paradise !’ ‘Lord, do not let us be melodramatic,’ retorted Don Camillo. ‘Why in the name of Heaven should it (it?) die? It’s (it’s?) as pink and white as a rose !’
    “It”, “It”, “It”, the child is a sovereign person and must be referred to as WHO, WHO, WHO, in the name of the Holy Spirit. “WHO is like unto God” The pronoun He, He, He denotes the person. The pronoun “she” is not necessary for the pronoun “he” suffices

  4. Karl, I am so sorry to hear of your situation and hope that the many sufferings you have undergone will be offered up and bring souls to Christ.

    Personally I can’t think of any good reasons to withhold baptism from a child although Holy Communion is a very different matter.

  5. *pertly* Perhaps if parents being married inside of the Church is of such value, those in charge should impose on the priests to have some sort of route for such marriages to occur.

    I’ve mentioned here before the months I spent trying to even talk to a priest about being married in the Church. Even when directly addressing a priest about the number we’d been given to leave a message at getting no response, we were told to call again.

    The issues with getting a child baptized are no better, especially if– heaven forbid– you actually try to find a Godparent you trust to raise the child in the faith, rather than teach your baby that abortion and contraception are perfectly OK. It’s going on years that I’ve spent trying to get our children baptized– largely because rural communities get priests that shouldn’t be inflicted on anyone. (The Godmother owns a business. The priest wants free product, and lots of it. The business cannot run that way. The priest stonewalls my children being baptized until the Godmother provides free product. No, the Bishop doesn’t care, or he’d have responded to the last dozen complaints.)

    Then again, what does it matter when our churches can’t be bothered to teach anybody the faith in the first place?


  6. Karl,

    God is good. God will not be mocked.

    Your wife and her “husband” can deceive the Church, but they cannot deceive God.

    Don’t be surprised, if those children of your wife grow up one day and realise how very wrong their mother and father were- and they were born out of circumstances of deception. The truth will hurt them- even if society and the Church smiles on their parents “marriage”, Gods truth always prevails, in our vale of tears.

    You have done all the right things before God and stayed faithful to Him. Offer up your pain and bitterness to Him- daily. Renew it every morning. For your children and their pain. Even for your wife who has hurt you.

    I really believe good will come from this, even if it isn’t apparent now.

    God IS Justice.

    God is all-knowing.

    God is all good.

    God will not be deceived.

    Jesus was betrayed till the end- by those He loved. And he was blameless and innocent.

    Remain a rock of Truth and a Light of Gods Love for your children.

    And allow yourself to feel utter joy that you are these things to your precious children.

    God Bless you always.

  7. Karl

    Looking at the statistics from our marriage tribunals, It is a curious fact, though true, that there must always be a considerable number of Catholics who could not say off-hand whether they were married or not. It is only when the question has been decided in a marriage tribunal and all avenues of appeal have been exhausted that their doubts can be removed. But although they do not know if they are married, and no one could tell them with certainty till the decree has been pronounced, it is nevertheless true that they must be either one or the other. There is no half-way house.

  8. Dear Mary,

    “You need, Karl, how to stop telling God to be God!”

    Exactly as our precious daughter, Holly, has said, to me, although she substituted Dad, for Karl.

    Thank you, Mary.


  9. This reminds me of how once one could only receive communion once a day even if one attended more than one Mass. It seems silly but a priest explained what seemed a good, pastoral reason for the rule. I can’t remember it exactly.

    He also explained an even deeper, theological reason for denial of baptism if there was doubt about parents raising their children in the faith. I cannot recall it either nor find it on the almost all-knowing Google.

    So I’m not really clear if the reason I vaguely remember outweighs the “Mercy of God” argument. But there was(is?) a reason the Church has this rule to begin with which may in fact have been (is?) a good one.

  10. Karl,

    Our Lord reminded us when he taught us to pray, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”….

    When one hesitates to forgive (even what seems to be unforgiveable), it is comparable to hugging a burning ember against one’s chest. God wants you to relinquish this cross to Him by forgiving your wife.

    Karl, let go and let God. He will bring you Joy and set you free. Pax.

  11. Karl: Get those beautiful souls God has entrusted to you baptized, then to the Sacrament of Holy Eucharist. If you prevent the children from coming to Jesus, God will prevent you from coming to Jesus.

  12. I agree with you, Don.
    I loved your reminding us of Don Camillo. Growing up in an Italian-American household, I was introduced to Don Camiilo shortly after Guareschi’s book “The Little World of Don Camillo” came out in 1951. I highly recommend reading it with its delightful pencil drawings of a competing little angel and a little devil. While the films are good, the book is better.

  13. If the sacrament of Baptism is to remove original sin and the baptized receives graces, why deny an infant Baptism under any circumstances? The child is innocent, despite the circumstances of it being brought into the world. Just as abortion is wrong despite the circumstances of the baby’s conception, even if he or she is conceived through a sinful and criminal act of rape or incest. The child is innocent. Refusing to baptize a baby seems hypocritical to me and is in opposition to the teachings of Christ.
    The Church may be concerned with the scandal of the parents’ marriage or lack of it, but there are other ways at its disposal to combat that. The child does not share in their sin.
    If the parents are requesting Baptism to make themselves look respectable, that is on their consciences. Case in point: My ex-sister-in-law had a clergyman from officiate at the third marriage of her and her current spouse and used her and my brother’s children as witnesses.

  14. In one of his many books, Pope Benedict points out that when the priest or deacon asks the parents what they ask of Christ’s Church, the actual ritual response is: faith.

    We have always believed that the infant is baptized (in connection to faith) into the Faith of the Church of those who are present. Certainly the priest or deacon but also at least one of the godparents needs to be a baptized-confirmed practicing Catholic. If only one of the parents is Catholic, no matter how good or bad a Catholic-that is or should be enough of a foundation to go forward with a baptism.

    While the priest or deacon does have a responsibility in administering the sacraments, he is not a policeman etc. The Pope has been saying this over and over [and he was a bouncer when a layman lol!] Certainly if two Christians (not Catholic) came to a priest to have their child baptized, he would not go ahead-or if two non Christians came to have their child baptized (as unlikely as it might be) he would refuse. However, if at least one of the parents is indeed Catholic what they are asking for is faith: the faith in Jesus Christ that leads to salvation. In their request they are showing evidence that they want this for their child, and for themselves even if not yet consciously. In the conversations leading up to the baptism, the priest or deacon can build on that and attempt to make their own desire for faith conscious to them

    On the other hand, if, as some (not in here) say, the priest or deacon should stop such a baptism, more than likely not only would the Catholic parent(s) walk away from the Church but take the child with them-always telling them that the Church refused to baptize them when they were an infant

    In the Gospels, Jesus gave us a principle to base such decisions on. He said, “The Sabbath is made for man not man for the Sabbath”. Update it: “the sacraments are made for (the salvation of) man, not man for the sacraments”

  15. Karl, I am responding on the subject of your marriage. I, of course, no nothing of your marriage but I do know something of marriage and annulment. I believe that our Church, meaning the institution, made up of the religious and the lay people, have failed us greatly – and continue to do so on marriage preparation. Over much time we got used to a culture that pretty much supported keeping marriage together without much more than expectation, and when that began eroding and it was no longer expected, we never adjusted to a world that did not support marriage and family as it once did. (And had become so sexually preoccupied and deviant.) So we send couples to the altar who often don’t really believe in the indissolubility of marriage and are generally marrying for the wrong reason. A person who at the time of the marriage vows who does not believe in marriage or really agree with the sacrament; a person who believes divorce is an option; a person who has a serious addiction; a person who plans on actively preventing children, those just going through the motions for whatever reason – these people are lying in some degree and incapable of participating in the sacrament. (Not to mention the premarital sex issues.) And because we allow this to continue without seriously addressing these issues, I believe that a more liberal granting of annulments is warranted . However, we then should put a serious preparation in place and make it crystal clear to couples if they do not accept our teaching after presenting the beautiful explanations, a sacramental marriage is NOT for them. They should leave now and we should not marry them. And now most annulments would not be warranted.
    It is possible that your wife fit one of the above at the time of your marriage and your personal commitment and even children do not make a marriage. Then again, she may have believed and had a valid marriage. But your faith on the day of the marriage does not cover you both. I know this is not easy and you can probably tell that I would jump at the opportunity to run a diocesan marriage preparation program. Not the silly three day or one day gloss overs that never address the serious issues and circumstances. May peace the world cannot give, but He can, find your heart.

  16. Kevin,

    Beautifully said. I was “married” in the past to a woman who had no intention I’d being faithful and who wanted us to contracept. Although I didn’t know these facts at the time it soon became clear.

    My marriage annulment was a painful process yet it taught me a great deal.

  17. Dr. Peters has a followup post that I basically agree with.

    An excerpt:

    May I say again, I think both prelates’ actions were, if it comes to that, defense-able. It’s the defenses of these actions that concern me.
    Let’s start with the Francis baptism.
    A typical defense of Francis’ decision to baptize the baby of a Catholic couple apparently ‘married’ outside the Church runs thus: “Through Baptism the child receives grace and becomes a member of the Church. That is a pearl beyond price for any child. Whatever else may happen to that child in this Vale of tears, the Church did her best to give the child a grand start in life.”
    Now, every assertion in this passage is true. The problem is, this rationale is severed from the Church’s appreciation of the grave responsibilities (on children, parents, the whole community) that come with Baptism. Indeed, as phrased, this defense justifies baptisms that anyone (I hope!) would shrink from. Consider a bizarre hypothetical.
    If one were to walk through a Muslim neighborhood and sprinkle water on some kid playing in the street, pronouncing baptismal form correctly, would that baptism be valid? Of course. Would “the child receive grace and become a member of the Church”? Absolutely. Would that new status constitute a “pearl beyond price for any child”? Undoubtedly. Would it be true to say that whatever else may happen to that child in life, the Church gave “the child a grand start in life”? Indeed.

    But, seriously, who in their right mind would countenance such a baptism? If no one, then I trust it’s because it’s obvious that at least some other factors must be considered before pronouncing for the liceity of any given baptism. And, if any other factors should be considered, why not the very factors that Church herself has already set out in the canons on Baptism, including (among many others) the “founded hope” requirement in Canon 868? Argue, if one will, about whether couples married outside the Church can provide a “founded hope” that their child will be raised in the Faith, but don’t exclude the requirement from consideration—not, that is, unless one is prepared to defend the use of super-soakers in Muslim neighborhoods.
    Bottom line: Whether Francis wants to baptize this baby or that, whether O’Malley wishes to be blessed by this person or that, is up to them; they are prelates who understand well sacraments and sacramentals, and they can decide what kind of message (if any) they want to send by their choices. Their defenders, however, should know about sacraments and sacramentals, too, and should not confuse other Catholics by offering misleading defenses of such deeds.

  18. Hmmm, I guess we can assume that Dr. Peters reads PopeWatch:

    “But, seriously, who in their right mind would countenance such a baptism?”

    In regard to the ludicrous strawman situation that he constructed, no one. The actual situation that occurs frequently is that people, or a person, with an imperfect attachment to the Church come forward and request baptism for their child. In such a case I believe the child should be baptized, primarily for the child, but also to encourage the parents to raise the child in the Faith.

  19. I think we’re all on the same page in believing that the Baptism is licit and even proper, but Dr. Peters has raised several valid concerns. As he says in this follow-up post, though I didn’t quote here, the “grandma baptism” may be well and good, but we’re potentially leaving the child on an island without any hope of a legitimate Christian influence forming their faith.

  20. Mathew 5:32:

    But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and doubts on the wedding day, and retroactive second thoughts on child rearing, and insufficient time in pre cana, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

    New, New Revised Standard Version.

  21. Yes that’s right Paul- HOPE( and that is no small thing! We do have the gift of Hope, and sometimes our actions are Acts of Hope:
    “O my God, relying on Your almighty power and infinite mercy and promises, I HOPE …
    … through the merits of Jesus Christ, my Lord and Redeemer. Amen.”

    We sometimes have to leave somethings up to God to carry through His intentions. I think of the mother I know who died when her child was only 7. She knew she was dying and knew that she was going to have to rely on God and other people to step up…

  22. Kevin, Thank you for your comments, and I agree that many Pre-Cana courses do not prepare couples for marriage. A one day course, if similar to what my husband and I attended 37 years ago, is just checking the box. Judging by the many bridal magazines in the book stores, nowadays the emphasis is on the production of the ceremony and not the sacrament of Matrimony.

    Back to baptism, my Catholic grandfather was a country doctor in the first half of the 20th century. For a home delivery, usually a difficult one, on a farm he performed a conditional baptism as soon as the baby’s head crowned.

  23. Mathew 5:32:
    But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and doubts on the wedding day, and retroactive second thoughts on child rearing, and insufficient time in pre cana, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
    New, New Revised Standard Version.

    I can’t comment sufficiently, I am laughing way to hard!

  24. CAM: I remember being fortunate at the age of sixteen years to baptize my brother who was born prematurely at home. I was too scared to feel privileged. I remembered and did what the good sisters had taught to me. He died nine hours later. The priest said that he was indeed baptized. My sister, a nurse, told me that nurses at the hospital routinely baptize babies born through miscarriage.
    The opportunity to baptize another is a gift from God, a very powerful gift.

  25. Ms. De Voe writes: “My sister, a nurse, told me that nurses at the hospital routinely baptize babies born through miscarriage. The opportunity to baptize another is a gift from God, a very powerful gift.”
    Hence the great sorrow of aborted babies and those who, born alive are left to die; most if not all denied baptism.

  26. “Hence the great sorrow of aborted babies and those who, born alive are left to die; most if not all denied baptism.”
    The will to live is the right to life. A child with a will to live must also have a will to live in Christ or baptism of desire. Let us hope and pray.

  27. I am late to the discussion, but would like to point out that, in addition to Dr. Peter’s point, Canon Law #867 requires that the parents be “properly prepared” for the Baptism of their child and #865 states that for adult Baptism the individual “must have be tested in the Christian life”. It seems reasonable that the same might be asked of the primary sponsors of a child. And if so have the parents passed the test? Are the canonically unwed parents “prepared”? Were there Godparents so prepared and easily accessible to the child who might serve that purpose, and accept that responsibility?
    Finally, the baptism wouldn’t have been refused, but simply deferred. And, of course, where there is a realistic danger of death the usual policy is suspended, and the Baptism carried out immediately by any adult using the correct form & water.

  28. I would like to comment on Limbo. The fact of Limbo is rejected because it seems to be cruel and unusual punishment for the unbaptized. They are doing hard time for no crime that they have committed. Days turn into weeks into months into years into centuries with no hope in sight. There are other facts that are not mentioned. First, since the fall of Adam, perhaps hundreds of thousands of years before Christ, all souls were in Limbo, waiting, maybe much longer than any wait we will have before Christ comes again. Secondly, except for Christ and the Blessed Mother, all the Blessed in Heaven are still waiting for the final completion of the personal resurrection of their bodies, the final judgment, and the end of time. Thirdly, at this final judgment, there will only be two groups, the blessed and the damned. the sheep and the goats. Those presently in Limbo will certainly be among the sheep. Their wait for this event will certainly be much less “time” then those who waited for Christ. It will be no longer than the waiting of the Saints in Heaven for the final event. Finally, we have no idea of how “time” is experienced for those who live outside of this temporal world. Limbo may be experienced as just a moment, not an eternity. With these facts in mind, I don’t see the need for an a priori rejection of Limbo.

  29. I just want to say that a priest is not needed for a valid baptism. So really no one ever be denied. If people really are concerned about the salvation of babies they can baptise the baby in the bathtub. My dad did this for my nephew and I gave him a high five!

  30. Karl, I personally have been through a extremely painful ongoing familial separation due to a family member’s sin. I am not separated or divorced as I have never been married but the suffering I went through was like the emotions of divorcing a whole side of my family. The Lord told me to separate myself from the evil that was taking place or it would destroy me. I cannot describe the suffering, depression, fear, desire for revenge, anger that I was suffering only because I would not excuse gross sin nor cover it up. But there is hope. We do not truly heal from such wounds over night nor can we forgive such injuries & ongoing pain just once in my experience. I repeatedly cried to God, offered my anger up to Him, ask for His guidance, acknowledged that He was God & that justice is in His hands–not mine, shared & prayed with a few close people I trusted ( but even in trying to help me they often hurt me b/c they didn’t understand that they could not solve the hurt/need & heal the wound–that God would have to do it in His way & in His time. AND PRAISE GOD HE DID. He enabled me to survive when I thought there was no way I could do so. I prayed several passages of scripture on a regular basis that addressed what my need was at the given time s.a. Praying and thanking God for the gifts of the fruit of the Holy Spirit–love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, kindness, messiness–when I had no joy or strength I knew that the Holy Spirit in me did have joy & that through the power of the Holy Spirit working in me that I could rely on His joy, & His peace, and His love. The Bible says that God does not sleep and that even though young men will grow tired and weary that God does not. People who have never lived such a wound as you describe have no idea that forgiveness & peace are a day by day commitment & often a moment by moment commitment on the part of the one needing healing. It took me 10 years to not be depressed at holidays & birthdays. It took me 14 years to be as comfortable with the situation as I probably will ever be. The Lord peeled off layers of fear (often that this individual who was caught uP in gross sin would eventually destroy the family members from whom I was separated,) depression over the situation, righteous anger that turned into sinful wrath & horrible hurt that I knew of no way to bear, etc, over a period of years–like one would peel an onion. As soon as the Lord would remove one layer of this wound, He would begin working on me to bring me to the place where I was strong enough to have the next layer removed. I literally prayed the scripture that says that God has not given us a spirit of fear but a spirit of love & of a sound mind so many times that I couldn’t possibly tell u how many–I would thank God for the spirit of love and ask Him for that sound mind that I was promised in scripture. When I felt hatred, Ivtalked to God about it–& told Him that I knew that the Bible says that if we say that we love God–whom we can’t see–& hate our brother whom we can see–that we are a liar. I would tell God that I hated this individual &?that I knew ur was sin to do so, & I would tell God that She was going to have to helP me–AND HE DID! But this type of healing takes time & cooperation with the Holy Spirit of God. May God bless u. There is hope brother!!

  31. “And, of course, where there is a realistic danger of death the usual policy is suspended, and the Baptism carried out immediately by any adult using the correct form & water.”
    “…suppose that child were to die at this moment, it would be your fault if it failed to attain Paradise !’ ‘Lord, do not let us be melodramatic,’ retorted Don Camillo. ‘Why in the name of Heaven should it die? It’s as pink and white as a rose !’
    ‘Which means exactly nothing!’ the Lord admonished him. ‘What if a tile should fall on its head or it should suddenly have convulsions? It was your duty to baptize it.’”

  32. I know well that I am not alone. I have for a long time supported people going through much worse things. But, I am quite grateful for such encouragement, sincerely. Compared to some, my life is a cake walk. However, I can not yield.

    Children should not be baptized from adulterous, unrepentant couples, unless those children are given up for adoption and the adoptive couple seeks their baptism, with the proper disposition. To do otherwise, as Francis seems to imply, is purely evil. The only person for whom I would yield that position would be Christ and I would have to know it was Him.

    I do not stand with Francis.

  33. Karl,

    I see the point that the others are making & as a recent convert to Catholicism I do not have great depth/insight into the discussion of valid baptisms that would go into cannon law, etc. that being said, I have complete faith in my head pastor of the local parish where I attend & his teachings on why Catholics do what the do–beliefs, etc. even a quick glimpse at the New Testament will tell you that FAITH & OBEDIENCE are the currency in God’s kingdom. No amount of going through the motions, or wishful hoping–nor anything else will take the place of faith in the spiritual realm. My head pastor was the one who taught us about baptism during our RICA. He said that what is going on in the spiritual realm during a child baptism is that the faith of the parents ( or whoever) present during the baptism is what activates the action of the Holy Spirit in the spiritual realm re: grace for the child–until the child gets old enough to use their own faith & can choose to continue in the faith if their own free will later in life–which is outwardly symbolized by confirmation. That being said–if there was anyone there who had the faith requisite for grace to be given to those baptized babies, then I would be satisfied with that child’s baptism. Does God hear us & will he answe & can we have enough faith to move heaven when there is sin in our life –obviously yes or we would never have any prayers answered. The problem for me with what I know of these “baptisms” from what you have said is that those who were in the position to provide the necessary faith for things to move in the spiritual realm while the physical baptism is taking place –are content to live in open sin & rebellion against God’s standards. There is a passage of scripture that teaches specifically that if one can live in such an ongoing situation–that they do not have a relationship with God & are not going to heaven when they die. My point is–if I were one of those children & grew up to understand whose “faith” my grace in baptism as a baby had depended upon–I WOULD WANT TO BE RE-BAPTISED WHERE MY OWN FAITH COULD BE DEPENDED UPON. I sure would hate to knw that my grace in baptism was dependent upon the “faith” if such a couple. God isn’t fooled–nor is He impressed or moved–by outward show.

  34. Barbara Gordon

    The faith which operates in infant baptism is the habitual faith infused by the sacrament. Hence, the traditional question and answer:-

    “What do you ask of the Church of God”

    The Fourth Lateran Council declares that “”The Sacrament of Baptism . . . no matter by whom conferred is available to salvation,” and Pope Nicholas I had earlier taught that baptism administered by a Jew or a pagan is valid and this is so, where only the baptiser and baptised are present.

  35. Karl writes,
    “…Children should not be baptized from adulterous, unrepentant couples, unless those children are given up for adoption and the adoptive couple seeks their baptism, with the proper disposition….”
    Would you deny baptism to a child born as a consequence of rape?

  36. Michael Payerson-Seymour:

    Could you please define for me the term “habitual faith of the sacrament” for me–using plain English as if I were a three year old?

    And also if I understand what you are saying–then no actual faith by anyone involved (for example a nonbeliever baptizing a baby–the baby doesn’t have a clue why water is being poured on them) is necessary for the child to receive grace in the spiritual realm?


  37. Barbara,

    My brain is in work mode at the moment and I don’t have time to look up the proper terminology from my catechism days, but in rough terms I think part of what is causing confusion here is this:

    In baptism the soul is cleansed of original sin and infused with God’s grace. This happens regardless of the disposition of the person performing the baptism, the recipient, or the parents/godparents. What is necessary is simply the proper matter and form (water and words). This is where a non-believer could, an emergency, be asked to perform a baptism, though the situation would be unusual. (Example: A rabbi is picking through the wreckage after an earthquake and finds a mother and child pinned under rubble. The mother asks the rabbi to baptize the baby. This baptism would “work”, even if the person performing it was not a Christian.)

    However, in our lives as Christians, one of the key questions in regards to our salvation is: What, if anything, do we do in our lives to cooperate with God’s grace. We’re not saved by magic. We need to believe in God and act in accordance with his will. If someone is never taught about God and never acts in accordance with virtue, the grace that person has received through baptism will remain, mostly, “dormant” through out lack of cooperation with it. That dormant grace may provide God with a foothold of sorts in our souls, providing a channel through which we receive promptings to seek God, but it certainly won’t save us without our cooperation.

    This is why someone who was baptized at the request of unbelieving parents might get less (though not no) benefit from the graces of baptism. But that person would not need to be re-baptized if, through the promptings of grace and interaction with other Christians, that person later was drawn to the faith and began to actively practice it. That faith and practice would constitute cooperation with the graces of baptism that were already there.

  38. Barbara Gordon

    In Baptism, we receive the infused habits or virtues of faith, hope and charity (“habits,” in Aristotle’s sense of a disposition, difficult to remove) As the Council of Trent says, “whence, man, through Jesus Christ, in whom he is ingrafted, receives, in the said justification, together with the remission of sins, all these (gifts) infused at once, faith, hope, and charity.” Of course, in infants, these are virtual only, until they attain the use of reason.

  39. Great explanation Michael Payerson-Seymour. 🙂 Now what “Faith” is the the parents (or whoever) has brung the child for baptismasking the church for? Faith for themselves? Faith from those physically present at the time? Faith for the child that will lead the child to act of their own will later in life to obey God & establish a relationship with Him for their own salvation? None of the above? All of the above? All of the above plus some?

    Thank you.

  40. “Would you deny baptism to a child born as a consequence of rape?”

    Under what circumstances? This seems a loaded question? Did I not say before that I, myself, would baptize a child who was in the danger of death?

    That should give you some idea of where I come from on this.

    Did I also, earlier, not explain that my wife gave birth to two children through her, continuing, unrepentant adultery? Did I also not mention that I love those young women?

    That should give you an idea of how I think.

    I have not studied Sacramental Theology, in which, I presume, all of this is discussed and adequately addressed. If my position is contrary to what is, legitimately taught as an article of faith to be accepted under the teaching authority of the ordinary magisterium(if I am saying this peoperly, only God and some of you many know) because I have NOT intensely studied it, thoroughly, I believe, to reach proper moral certainty on this specific issue, I would “back off’, thinking an infant in circumstances like the two chidlren were that I have described, in their infancy, were in, then.

    I hope that helps and am not trying to be cynical but honest and accurate.

    Understand that, not only lust and anger can get in the way of the pursuit of truth; so can pain and confusion caused by the distraction of what I have experienced for the last, more than two decades, at the hands of hierarchical pastors who simply have left me to die while nutring adultery and the annihilation of our marriage, by accpeting and supporting my wife and her lover, in their unrepentant adultery.

    If Francis wants us to have compassion and understanding for them and for militant, abusive same sex attracted people, can I have some understanding as well? Please?

    Thank you.

    The thought has just crossed my mind. Right now.. Please stay with me on this one.

    My wife claims, currently, in nullity proceedings that she deceived me into marriage.
    This is her testimony in person and in writing before the Catholic Church. This reality can be proven, if the information would be released by the Church. I am not bearing false witness.

    Should the Catholic Church find in her favor, that our marriage was invalid because I was sufficiently deceived into marrying my wife, this would mean that our valid marriage never took place. It would also mean that I never gave consent to being married to her and that, under that deception of marriage I did not adequately consent to sleep with her, although I did and she became pregnant as a result, on numerous occasions. We had six children together, one of whom we lost early in my wife’s fourth pregnancy.

    So, this means that I WAS RAPED, unless one differentiates between rape by force and rape by deception, because somehow deception is more civilized? In either circumstance their is no consent to the sex act, by definition!

    I would consent to their baptism. I was and am their father and I would do my best to raise them as Catholics.

    As I am thinking this, I am now in very much turmoil, internally, because my wife stood their at their baptisms and IF THE CHURCH RULES OUR MARRIAGE WAS INVALID, I made those baptismal promises with an unrepentant rapist, by my side and the Catholic Church allowed her to have the complete say in their sacramental,lives an minors, while I had the door slammed in my face.

    Yet, I was abandoned and I have honored our vows and I have worked to stay in our chidlrens lives and I love the two girls from my rapists second marriage.

    Just put yourself in my shoes to understand, what I have lived through and what, right at this very moment, I must come to terms with and be willing to forgive.

    If you can take all of this in, you will know of my character, as imperfect as I am.

    I want only what is good for every person involved in this horrendously painful unending nightmare. I do so by choice, not by inertia. My violation is incredible, at the hands of my wife and her lover. At the hands of the state, and at the hands of the hierarchy of the Catholic Church.

    If this is not obvious, I cannot paint a clearer picture for you. And I still, do not mean this commentary in any way to be insulting to you. It is just, quite overwhelming to me and heartbreaking, among numerous other emotions.

    This is what results from divorce, from the pastoral practices of the Catholic Church as they have existed for decades and from the annulment process.

    Those who say it is a healing process have avastly different experience than I have ever had or will like have, unless the Catholic Church drastically reforms.

    Thank you.

  41. “Children should not be baptized from adulterous, unrepentant couples, unless those children are given up for adoption and the adoptive couple seeks their baptism, with the proper disposition. To do otherwise, as Francis seems to imply, is purely evil. The only person for whom I would yield that position would be Christ and I would have to know it was Him.
    I do not stand with Francis.”
    Karl: Why are you punishing innocent children by withholding the Sacrament of Baptism from them for the crimes of their parents?

  42. I am not punishing the children. The Catholic Church is in manifest, grave, scandalous error for not formally excommuniating such parents for their open scandal. Consequently, the laxity of men like our Popes and Bishops is ounishing those children. Those parents, by not yielding their child to another who truly loved them, through, adoption, are punishing their own children. Both of these cases I have just mentioned are child abuse.

    Mary, I disagree with you, with whom I usually agree. I see pure evil in the Catholic Church and it seems to, deliberately, ignore the example it is setting in its laxity.

    The Popes should be openly corrected by their people for this. As should our bishops. But few do, except in rare instance.

    It is not me who is “punishing” these kids. I am their advocate.

  43. Karl: Baptism is an exorcism. Why do you excommunicate your children and all children for the deeds of their parents? It is you Karl who indulge in and profit from all this bellyaching against the church and the people involved. Get a life. Get a Catholic life.

  44. I apologize for not having the vocabulary to put the Word of God and the Fear of the Lord into anyone with the temerity to deprive children of the Sacrament of Baptism until he gets his way. First, Karl told that it was the “adulterers” who refused Baptism to the children. Now, Karl admits that it is he who refuses to Baptize the children, or is Karl casting his lot in with the adulterers. One would think that Karl would get on his knees and get the children Baptized no matter who says what.

  45. THANK God.
    Thank God that He is the final judge and not man/woman.
    He knows hearts.
    He knows love and who loves and who doesn’t.
    Thank God He is Our Final Judge.

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